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SADC summit doomed as ZANU PF rejects MDC demands

By Tichaona Sibanda
23 January 2009

There are fears the SADC summit set for Pretoria next week is doomed before
it even starts, after ZANU PF hardened its stance and declared it will not
meet any of the demands of the MDC-T, on the formation of a new government.

The regime's chief negotiator, Patrick Chinamasa, was speaking at a press
conference in Harare Friday. He added that a number of the issues were
better handled by an all-inclusive government. However Chinamasa misled
reporters by proclaiming that demands made by the MDC were new. The MDC has
since the power-sharing deal in September last year emphasized that it will
not join a unity government whilst there were outstanding issues to be

On Thursday MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai had told reporters their demands
should be met first, before a unity government is formed. He explained that
efforts to implement a power-sharing deal with Robert Mugabe had stalled
over the failure to address issues related to the allocation of key
ministries, allocation of provincial governors and the release of detained

Hebson Makuvise, the MDC chief representative in the UK, said Chinamasa was
not being flexible or reasonable by uttering such statements. He said such
rhetoric usually comes from people who lose an election, adding that
Chinamasa insinuated during the briefing that their demands were new, when
they were not.

'This is not power-sharing and these are not new demands as Chinamasa
incorrectly states. They want to impose individuals who lost elections on
the people of Zimbabwe. Speaking of governors, the majority of them lost in
the elections and Mugabe wants to give them another life at the expense of
the MDC. We will not accept that and any other normal thinking person will
do the same,' Makuvise said.

Disagreements over these issues led to the break down of Monday's talks,
chaired by South African President and SADC chair Kgalema Motlante.

Chinamasa said when Mugabe made the appointments of governors late last
year, he was not under an obligation to consult anyone and so the
appointments were legal and could not be terminated.

'Our position is that we will not meet any new demands made by the MDC.
There is no way we can terminate their (governors) mandate before the expiry
of their tenure. But if a vacancy occurs in an all-inclusive government it
is natural that the president consults over new appointments,' he said.

The MDC argues ZANU PF is being intransigent and unreasonable by grabbing
all governorships, even in provinces where they lost dismally.

The MDC-T had suggested that they should be allocated five posts of
governors in Manicaland, Masvingo, Bulawayo, Harare and Matabeleland North -
these are the areas where the party received the majority of seats on a
province by province basis in the elections for parliamentary seats.
MDC-T also say MDC-M should have Matabeleland South, and Zanu-PF should have
the four remaining provinces.

On the MDC's demand to share ministerial posts equally, Chinamasa said, 'the
issue had already been dealt with by SADC. We are not going to agree to a
reopening of the subject on allocation of ministers. Instead, we will abide
by the SADC resolution and co-minister the Home Affairs Ministry.'

But analysts point to the fact that Mugabe unilaterally grabbed the
influential posts, without consulting Tsvangirai or Mutambara, as stipulated
in the Global Political Agreement.

The GPA also states that the MDC-T should appoint half of Zimbabwe's
ambassadors. But Chinamasa said; 'We will not recall them, but if a vacancy
occurs then the all-inclusive government will make new appointments.
So any hopes for a breakthrough during Monday's extraordinary summit in
Pretoria look dim. Many politicians in the region now believe that if SADC
fails to resolve the stalemate, fresh elections internationally supervised
by the United Nations, might be an option to be considered.
Tony Leon, Foreign Affairs spokesman for South Africa's opposition
Democratic Alliance, was on Thursday critical of both his government and
SADC's† efforts to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis. He labelled the SADC bloc a
'toothless bulldog.'

He told journalists that Zimbabwe needed to hold properly convened,
internationally certified, national elections.

'You cannot use flawed electoral outcomes as the basis for a post-settlement
government of national unity. It actually suggests that somehow democracy is
not fit for Africa... that you can't actually have a democratic election,'
Leon said.

The EU is set to adopt tougher targeted sanctions against Mugabe's regime
during their regular monthly meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels, on

The 27-nation bloc last beefed up targeted sanctions in December. At that
time the list of people covered by restrictions contained 168 names and 40
companies. 50 new individuals and companies are going to be added to this

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Council staff down tools in Harare

††††January 23 2009 at 03:36PM

Harare, Zimbabwe - City workers in Zimbabwe's capital began an
indefinite strike on Friday, demanding to be paid in hard currency.

The strikers - including mortuary attendants and trash collectors -
were reporting for work but would not perform their duties, said Cosmas
Bungu, head of the municipal workers union in Harare.

"We can't afford to continue to receive our salaries in Zimbabwe
currency, which is not buying anything," Bundu said.

Last week, Zimbabwe's central bank released a new 50 billion note in
the country's currency. It was worth only $1.25 on the black market.

Zimbabwe faces the world's highest official inflation. The city
workers join teachers, doctors, nurses and even bus drivers in demanding to
be paid in US dollars or South African rand. State newspapers this week
started charging in US dollars and even the Zimbabwe soccer federation has
asked to be able to charge in hard currency.

The crisis comes amid a power-sharing deadlock that has left the
country leaderless since a disputed March election.

The impact of the municipal workers strike may be muted because so
many city services had already collapsed because of lack of materials or
funds. Trash has been piling up and water treatment plants are crippled,
contributing to a spreading cholera epidemic.

The United Nations said on Friday the number of cholera cases recorded
since August reached 50 003 on Thursday. The death toll through Thursday was
2 773.

The UN said that despite a huge international campaign by aid agencies
and donors, supplies of clean water are erratic, many cholera treatment
centres lack food and medicine and Zimbabwean doctors and nurses struggle to
get to work, in some cases because their salaries don't cover bus fare.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies,
meanwhile, said its response was being hampered by lack of funds.

In December, the international Red Cross appealed for about $9-million
for what it expected to be a seven-month fight against cholera in Zimbabwe.
Donors have come up with only about 40 percent of that.

"As it stands now, we won't be able to continue our operations beyond
the next four weeks," Tony Maryon, the head of the international Red Cross
team in Zimbabwe, said in a statement on Friday. - Sapa-AP

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Prison service fails to produce activists for remand court hearing

By Lance Guma
23 January 2009

Zimbabwe's prison service on Friday failed to produce abducted activists
Chris Dhlamini and 6 others, for a remand hearing at the magistrate's court.
Defence lawyer Alec Muchadehama says he was given no explanation and is now
worried about the welfare of his clients. Dhlamini, the MDC director of
Security, and Ghandi Mudzingwa, a former aide to Morgan Tsvangirai, are
facing dubious allegations of bombing trains and police stations. Pascal
Gonzo who worked with another fellow abductee, Jestina Mukoko at the
Zimbabwe Peace Project, is facing allegations of assisting some activists to
evade arrest by the police.

The state is insisting on continuously placing the activists on remand
whilst in custody, whereas the defence team wants them to either drop the
charges or set a trial date. As with previous 'cooked-up' cases the state
has always sought the maximum possible time in custody, without making any
effort to put anyone on trial. Muchadehama said the no-show of his clients
was consistent with this pattern of retribution and the regime was simply
focusing on punishment via custody, rather than trying to seek a conclusion
to the cases. On Friday there was no one from the prison department to even
explain why Dhlamini and the 6 others were not brought to court.

Over 30 MDC and civil society activists face a range of charges and Mugabe's
regime has ensured a messy legal game, which has seen applications and
counter-applications at the magistrates, High and Supreme Courts.
Muchadehama explained that the work load he faced included bail
applications, orders seeking medical treatment and the complete dismissal of
the cases. Other factors are the different charges which have split up the
activists into different groups, which all have their own set of
applications at the different courts. Muchadehama says he will back in court
on Monday† 26th January, to try to complete Friday's aborted remand hearing.

The opposition accuses Mugabe's regime of creating an elaborate plan to
blame the MDC for so-called 'banditry' as an excuse to justify a crackdown
on them. Former television newsreader Jestina Mukoko was abducted from her
Norton home early in the morning last year, and was missing for several
weeks. The regime only produced her towards the end of the year and claimed
she was arrested for trying to recruit MDC insurgents, that were said to be
training in Botswana. Several other abducted activists were then tortured
into making video confessions which were handed over to the SADC secretariat
as 'evidence'.

The state meanwhile continues to defy all court rulings that ordered the
release of some of the activists for medical treatment.

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MDC star rally set for Sunday in Chitungwiza

Friday, 23 January 2009

The MDC leadership will on Sunday address a star rally at Huruyadzo
Shopping Centre in St Mary's, Chitungwiza as the party kicks off a
nationwide campaign to report back to the people on key issues affecting the

The Chitungwiza rally will also focus on the state of the dialogue and
the challenges facing the people such as the massive starvation. The
leadership will also talk about the cholera outbreak, the collapse of basic
social services such as education and health and the way forward

This is the first MDC rally in the year of its 10th anniversary where
we will start celebrating 10 years of our existence; a decade of courage,
conviction and commitment.

As a party of excellence, the leadership will continue to report back
to the people on issues affecting the nation and the challenges we are
facing so that together, we chart the way forward.

Real power belongs to the people.

MDC Information and Publicity Department

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EU extends list of banned Mugabe allies and companies

Fri Jan 23, 2009 2:26pm GMT

By Ingrid Melander

BRUSSELS, Jan 23 (Reuters) - The European Union will add over 25 individuals
and 36 companies to a list of banned allies of Zimbabwe's President Robert
Mugabe on Monday because of their links to suspected human rights abuses, EU
officials said.

The sanctions list will for the first time include companies registered in
the 27-nation European Union, including in Britain, two EU diplomats said,
without naming the firms.

The EU officials said the assets of the firms, shell companies that the EU
considers support Mugabe's government, will be frozen.

"They are Zimbabwe-based but registered in Europe, they are used by the
regime to channel money out of the country," an EU diplomat said. "This is a
big step regarding the Zimbabwe sanctions."

The moves, due to be finalised at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in
Brussels, will bring the bloc's Zimbabwe sanctions list to more than 200
people and 40 companies, by adding government members and relatives of
Mugabe allies.

Zimbabwe is in the grip of a deep humanitarian and economic crisis. In the
once prosperous southern African country prices double every day and more
than 2,000 people have died in a cholera epidemic.

Despite international pressure for a deal, power-sharing talks between
Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai are deadlocked in a row over
cabinet posts.

The EU ministers will also look to step up pressure on Mugabe by urging a
probe into whether diamond sales are being used to support his government, a
draft obtained by Reuters showed.

The draft urges the Kimberley Process, an international certification scheme
set up to ensure diamonds do not fund conflict, "to take action with a view
to ensure Zimbabwe's compliance with its Kimberley obligations".

Countries can be suspended from the Kimberley certification scheme if they
do not abide by its rules.

The World Diamond Council industry body has put Zimbabwe's production of
rough diamonds at 0.4 percent of world output, mostly exported with the
Kimberley Process certificate. However in December it raised concern about
possible illegal exports "for the personal gain of a few".

EU sanctions on Zimbabwean officials were initially triggered by the the
seizure of white-owned farms under Mugabe's land distribution, and his
disputed re-election in 2002.

Critics doubt international sanctions have any effect on Mugabe, who has
held a firm grip over power in Zimbabwe since the country's independence
from Britain in 1980. Mugabe accused Western sanctions of having ruined his
country's economy.

South Africa will host a special regional summit on Monday to discuss the
crisis in Zimbabwe.

A September power-sharing deal has stalled amid disputes over who should
control key ministries. Regional leaders face mounting international calls
for stronger action to end the crisis. (Additional reporting by Bate Felix
and Mark John)

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Zimbabwe cholera epidemic could top 60,000--Red Cross

Fri Jan 23, 2009 3:37pm GMT

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's cholera epidemic is "far from under
control" and could exceed 60,000 cases over the next week, the Red Cross
warned on Friday.

Torrential rains are expected to spark major flooding and exacerbate the
water-borne outbreak that has killed 2,773 people among 50,000 infected
since August, the United Nations said.

"The outbreak in Zimbabwe is only increasing in scale, it's claiming more
lives," Dr. Tammam Aloudat, senior health officer at the International
Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told journalists in

The World Health Organisation (WHO), a U.N. agency, warned in December that
up to 60,000 people could be infected if the country's worst cholera
epidemic spiralled out of control.

"It is difficult to predict where the outbreak will peak. It might even go
beyond that nightmare scenario," Aloudat said.

Asked whether there was any chance that the outbreak -- which registered
1,000 new infections in the past 24 hours -- could be stopped before
reaching 60,000 in the next week, he replied: "Very little chance".

In a statement, the Federation voiced alarm at the high 5.7 percent
mortality rate, calling it "an indication that the outbreak is still far
from under control".

"Overall, this signifies a 20 percent increase in cholera deaths over the
past week and rings alarm bells about the need to push back this epidemic
and better fund the humanitarian effort on the ground," the agency said.

Donors had only contributed 40 percent of the 10.2 million Swiss francs
($8.82 million) it appealed for a month ago.

Critics blame the crisis on the policies of President Robert Mugabe, a
charge he denies. A power-sharing deal signed by the veteran ruler and his
opposition rival Morgan Tsvangirai on Sept. 15 appears to be unravelling.

"The lack of funding is probably a mixture of several aspects, most
importantly we've seen the funding drop when Zimbabwe dropped off the
television screens," Aloudat said.

"It is not about the politics or persons here. It is about the ability to
reach people who are now dying of cholera and need assistance now," he

Cholera, an intestinal infection that spreads through contaminated food or
water, can lead to severe dehydration and death without prompt treatment.

It is both preventable and treatable under normal circumstances, but
Zimbabwe's health sector has nearly collapsed as a result of its economic

Most of its 235 cholera treatment centres remain ill-equipped to handle
patients, according to the WHO.

"Two out of three cases occur in the community, away from the treatment
centres because people aren't able to reach them, or when they do they have
little medicine or personnel," WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told reporters.
(For more information on humanitarian crises and issues visit ) (Editing by Jonathan Lynn and Richard Balmforth)

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Countrywide strikes on the increase as demand for forex grows

By Alex Bell
23 January 2009

A growing number of working groups across the country have downed tools in a
bid to have their salaries paid in foreign currency - this as the full
dollarisation of the economy is expected to be officially confirmed next

Zimbabwe's monumental hyperinflation has seen the local currency become
completely valueless and widespread dollarisation is already in place in
almost all sectors of the economy. But the drastic move, which has confirmed
Zimbabwe's status as a failed state, is set to become official when acting
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa announces the budget next Thursday.

According to reports, the government plans to raise revenue by proposing the
payment of taxes in foreign currency, a move which experts say will
officially dollarise the economy. But how this would be possible, when most
people still only earn Zim dollars, has not been fully explained. The
country's armed forces are still being paid in the worthless local dollar,
resulting in a growing number of strikes and increased lawlessness from
Robert Mugabe's once loyal uniformed men.

Last year saw a number of unprecedented riots involving soldiers, who looted
shops and attacked foreign currency dealers after not being able to access
their money from cash strapped banks. The past few weeks have seen more
spontaneous protests across the country by angry and impatient soldiers,
raisings fears of a possible mutiny. On Tuesday, a gang of 15 armed soldiers
looted the shop of an MDC MP in Harare, and made off with more than R6000
worth of goods. The gang reportedly told the shocked shop attendant that
they were 'hungry' because they hadn't been paid in foreign currency. The
attack came just days after a separate uniformed gang, wielding the same
excuse, raided a farm belonging to Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono and
forced farm workers to load their truck with chickens.

At the same time, doctors, nurses and teachers have already been on strike
for several months demanding the payment of their salaries in forex. State
medical staff are the only group so far that has been offered foreign
currency payments, after the government received a financial bailout package
from the United Nations. The government recently turned down a similar
rescue package that would have seen teachers being paid in foreign cash, and
teachers have since vowed not to return to work until their demands for
monthly salaries of more than US$2000 are met. The strike is likely set to
further delay the already postponed opening of schools for the new year, and
teachers' union officials have said the education sector is not ready for
the 2009 academic year.

The ongoing strike by teachers and health workers has since been joined by
strikes from other working groups, including railway workers in Bulawayo and
municipal workers in Harare. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU)
has previously warned that more strikes were imminent; saying the continued
payment of workers' salaries in local currency was 'unbearable'. The union
has been pushing for wage negotiations to be conducted in foreign currency
and has warned the working sector 'will withdraw its labour' if there is no

Meanwhile, maintenance workers from the Zimbabwe National Water Authority
(ZINWA) have also downed tools this week over their appalling working
conditions, that have left them vulnerable to the devastating cholera
outbreak. The workers went on strike on Monday after their employer failed
to provide them with proper protective clothing, despite the cholera
epidemic that has left close to 3000 people dead, according to official
figures. The water-borne disease is highly contagious and in a country with
a collapsed health system, exposure to unclean, contaminated water can mean
a death sentence.

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Bank: Zimbabwean currency nearly worthless

Published: Jan. 23, 2009 at 2:53 PM

HARARE, Zimbabwe, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Zimbabwe's central bank said the country
should adopt the South African rand to use in conjunction with the
near-valueless Zimbabwe dollar, reports said.
Reports of the bank's admission that the Zimbabwean dollar has collapsed
come from those who have seen a 105-page recovery plan believed to be the
work of Reserve Bank Gov. Gideon Gono, SW Radio reported Friday.

Movement for Democratic Change Shadow Secretary for Finance and Economics
Tapiwa Mashakada said the move would create a consumer-driven economy that
relied on imports, driving unemployment -- already at 85 percent -- even

With the price of staples doubling every 24 hours, many stores already do
not accept Zimbabwe's currency, the report said.

Steve Hanke from the CATO Institute pegged the annual inflation rate at 6.5
quindecillion novemdecillion percent - meaning 65 followed by 107 zeros, the
report said.

President Robert Mugabe is under pressure to pay government employees in
foreign currency, the report said. Some agencies that do business with the
government, such as the Zimbabwe National Water Authority, are demanding
payment in foreign currencies, the report said.

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ZIMBABWE: So How Does One Budget in a Collapsed Currency?

By Ephraim Nsingo

HARARE, Jan 23 (IPS) - In November 2007, Zimbabwe's then Minister of
Finance, Samuel Mumbengegwi struggled through the reading of the 2008
budget, his tongue tripping over figures in the trillions and quadrillions
of Zimbabwean. So embarrassed was Mumbengegwi that he even shied away from
announcing the total budget figure of 7.84 quadrillion Zimbabwe dollars,
then a record amount.

Now for the first time since independence, Zimbabwe has started a new year
without a national budget.

"It is a mission impossible to make a budget under the current conditions,"
said University of Zimbabwe business lecturer and economic commentator Tony
Hawkins. "The budget will be meaningless because there is a meaningless
currency. In a situation where you do not have an effective government, like
we do now, a budget will not make any difference."

Despite the insistence by Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon
Gono that the economy has not been dollarised, most Zimbabweans are now
using either U.S. dollars or South African rand for their transactions.

"This is a sign of a collapsed economy," says Hawkins. "How much will the
budget amount to in local currency? During the presentation of the last
budget, the minister could not remember the numbers, imagine what will
happen now."

With a 100 trillion Zimbabwe dollar note now in circulation, Zimbabweans now
have quintillions and sextillions in their accounts. Gono has over the past
few months been introducing new notes almost every fortnight. This year's
budget, if presented in local currency, would range in the millions of
quintillions or sextillions.

Rodgers Matsikidze, a commercial lawyer based in Harare, told IPS that the
government is now caught up between a rock and a hard place.

"The problem is that the budget would be exhausted the very day it would be
tabled because of hyperinflation," said Matsikidze. "At the same time, there
are no legal instruments to legalise the current government expenditures.
Government is required by law to seek parliamentary approval for whatever
expenditures, but this has not been the case."

Acting Minister of Finance, Patrick Chinamasa said he was "going to move a
motion on the Finance Bill and the Appropriation Bill in Parliament very
soon". He would not give further details on the exact date of the
presentation or the currency to be used.

But a top official in his Ministry, requesting anonymity, said it was
"unlikely the budget would be presented any time soon" because of the "chaos
associated with the current hyperinflationary environment".

"The only logical way would be for the government to budget in US dollars on
South African Rand," said the official.

"The problem is, if they budget in foreign currency, that would effectively
mean the economy has been dollarised and have a lot of implications. The
best way out of this would be to continue in the current quasi-fiscal
approach, led by the RBZ, until the constitution of the inclusive
government. It is sad the ordinary person ill continue to suffer most."

The official confirmed a 2009 budget was drafted last year, "but the figures
became meaningless even before the announcement".

"We have spent the past few months changing figures, and it now seems the
only way out is charging/BUDGETING in one of the stable currencies currently
being used in the country. Hopes were every high that the inclusive
government would be constituted by now, and put in place proper modalities
to present a budget, but it looks like we will have to wait longer."

Fambai Ngirande, the Advocacy and Public Policy manager for the National
Association of Non Governmental Organisations (NANGO) told IPS said the
delay in publishing a budget had left Zimbabwe "sitting on a precarious time
bomb", that could only be resolved through "strong governmental efforts to
revitalise social service delivery and activate social safety nets fail to
materialise expeditiously".

"It is the purpose of the budget to state how the government hopes to fund
whatever expenditure it spells out. If there is need for international
cooperation to meet some of the requirements, then the budget should state
that," added Ngirande.

Although NGOs were working hard to solve the current crisis, Ngirande said
without a national budget, "meeting the food, health and basic needs of more
than half the country's population should clearly be the responsibility of
the presently absent, people mandated and accountable government".

An independent economic analyst, John Robertson, said "the major crisis the
country faces now is with the means of production, that have completely been
destroyed". He said the budget should prioritise salvaging the country's
comatose economy.

Once the mainstay of the economy, agriculture has been taken a nosedive over
the last decade. Government blames declining productivity on natural causes
like drought and targeted sanctions against senior government figures.
Independent analysts believe the collapse is a result of the government's
fast track land reform programme that displaced most productive commercial

The export of tobacco, minerals and industrial products used to be pillars
of the Zimbabwean economy. In the mid 1990s, Zimbabwe used to export
hundreds of millions kilos of tobacco, contributing up to 25 percent of the
country's foreign currency earnings.

This came to an end when government embarked on an often violent land reform
programme at the beginning of the new millennium, displacing the majority of
the close to 2,000 commercial farmers specialising in tobacco production.
Last year, between 50 and 70 million kilos were harvested. The last
significant tobacco harvest was in 2000 when 236 million kilos of tobacco
was harvested.

Capacity utilisation in the manufacturing sector is now estimated to be
below 10 percent due to low capitalisation and disproportionate exchange
rates. Earnings from manufacturing exports fell by 75 percent between 2007
and 2008.

The mining sector has also been brought to its knees by the continued
crisis. Several gold mines have closed and platinum and chrome mines
suspended operations in the last quarter of the year on the back of
depressed world market prices. This downward trend led to the suspension of
Fidelity Refiners and Printers - the only official buyer and exporter of
minerals in Zimbabwe - from the London Bullion Market Association due to
below-par gold deliveries.

"Unless the means of production are addressed, there would be no budget to
talk about. The budget can only be sustainable if there are put in place
sustainable means of production. This can only be possible once the issue of
governance has been addressed," stressed Robertson.

The Parliament of Zimbabwe resumed sitting on Jan. 20. The new session
started off with debate in the House of Assembly on the current crisis in
the country, particularly the collapse of social services such as education
and health. Legislators explored possibilities for tackling the current
cholera outbreak, which aid agencies - working with the government - say has
killed more than 2,000 people.

The new Parliamentary session was also expected to expedite debate on the
proposed Constitutional Amendment No.19, which legalises the constitution of
an envisaged inclusive government. Debate on the issue was however shelved
after parties to an agreement that created it disagreed on some of its
aspects. Southern Africa leaders meet next week to find a solution to the

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We have big zeroes, and we have teeny weeny little zeroes too

January 23rd, 2009

24  Billion Zim dollars

Remember the post we did on all the big zeroes we have to deal with all the time - here’s one for you about the teeny weeny little zeroes we have to confront too!

A work colleague walked into my office to see this pile of money on my desk - Z$24 Billion - counted and piled ready to pay a single bill. He stood for a moment then reached for my calculator; “Do you want to know what that’s worth?”† he asked cheekily.

Tappity-tap-tap on the calculator, and then he triumphantly shouted, “That pile of money, at today’s rate, is worth US$0.001!” And then he walked out, laughing his head off.

But it’s not very funny, is it.

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Zimbabwe's new economic frontier

Photo: Antony Kaminju/IRIN
What have you got?
HARARE, 23 January 2009 (IRIN) -

As the official Zimbabwe dollar withers away as a unit of value – despite the recent launch of a trillion dollar note – alternative currencies are emerging in the hyperinflationary whirl.

If you are lucky, in your wallet you may have US dollars, South African rand, Botswana pula or Zambian kwacha. But also accepted on the informal-turned-formal market are petrol coupons or pre-paid phone cards – almost anything denominated in a convertible foreign currency.

And then there is old-fashioned barter, which has made a comeback. In Mashonaland Central Province, in the north of the country, a full-grown cow can be had for five 50kg bags of maize-meal – the equivalent of roughly US$165. A goat is a snip at just one 12.5kg bag – about US$8.50. In both rural and urban areas, even second-hand clothes have an exchange value.

How is value determined? "Value is based on how much you need something," said one NGO worker.


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

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Country Grinding to a Halt

Striking workers demand pay in dollars and rands as local currency
effectively worthless.

By Jabu Shoko in Harare (ZCR No. 177, 23-Jan-09)

Private- and public-sector strikes are adding to Zimbabwe's woes as pressure
mounts for workers to be paid in foreign currency in the wake of the
dollarisation of the country's economy.

With the Zimbabwe dollar continuing to lose value every day due to
hyperinflation and the general mismanagement of the economy by President
Robert Mugabe and his subordinates, labour unions are putting pressure on
the cash-strapped government and on weary private-sector employers to pay
their workforce in US dollars or South African rands, the two currencies
that have replaced the worthless local currency and are widely used, even in
remote areas.

For the past three weeks, workers at government parastatal the National
Railways of Zimbabwe, NRZ, have refused to work, protesting over low pay and
poor working conditions, joining thousands of employees in the private
sector who have not bothered to report for duty in the new year.

On January 21 the country's postal service, ZimPost, ground to a halt as
workers went on strike, demanding that they be remunerated in US dollars or

Not to be outdone, employees of the Zimbabwe National Water Authority, the
country's sole supplier of water, which has been blamed for the erratic
supply of clean water, stopped working on January 22 and in Harare and
Bulawayo local-government employees have withdrawn their labour, effectively
crippling service delivery in the country's capital and second-largest city.

Other government departments and parastatals are reportedly on go-slow
strikes, while the nation's teachers as well as doctors employed in public
service have vowed not to return to their posts until government accedes to
their demand to be paid in foreign currency.

Takavafira Zhou, president of the militant Progressive Teachers Union of
Zimbabwe, PTUZ, told a public meeting on January 22, called to discuss the
chaos in the country's education sector, that when schools eventually open
(the start of the school year has already been postponed once) the union's
members will refuse to enter their classrooms until their demands are met.

And Kudzai Chimedza, president of the Hospital Doctors Association, told the
privately-owned Zimbabwe Independent on January 23 that even junior doctors
would not resume work unless working conditions and salaries improved.

Major hospitals were forced to close down last year after healthcare staff
downed tools in protest over low salaries and poor working conditions, an
action which coincided with the outbreak of cholera that has reportedly
killed more than 2,000 people.

Executives of PUTZ, which has continued to be a thorn in the government's
side and is accused of having links with the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change, MDC, spent last week addressing meetings all over the
country to lobby teachers not to report for duty until the government met
their demands.

In a rare show of solidarity the Zimbabwe Teachers' Association, ZIMTA, a
rival organisation which, rightly or wrongly, is thought to be close to the
ruling ZANU-PF, is also mobilising its members.

"We are demanding salaries in foreign currency, which is definitely in order
following the developments in the market," Sifiso Ndlovu, acting chief
executive of ZIMTA told IWPR. "How can we survive without this

Failure to address the salary issue, Ndlovu said, would obviously have a
negative impact on service delivery in education.

"Schools may fail to open, teachers will fail to attend classes and children
will lose important learning time, with serious repercussions for the
standards and quality of education," he said.

The start of the new school year has been delayed by two weeks because last
year's public examination papers have not been marked, as markers, too, have
demanded payment in foreign currency. The schools were initially scheduled
to open on January 13 but this has now been put back to January 27.

Lovemore Matombo, president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, ZCTU,
the country's largest labour confederation, told IWPR that paying workers in
foreign currency would cushion them from the spiraling prices of goods and

"The general council of the ZCTU has resolved that all our affiliates and
the .workforce should negotiate wages in terms of the US dollar, failing
which we will withdraw our labour," said Matombo.

Taking a cue from the ZCTU, Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, ZUJ, president
Matthew Takaona wrote to all media houses on January 20 informing them of
the body's resolution on wage negotiations.

"For the compelling reasons cited by the ZCTU General Council, it is
instructive that all works councils comply and all workers be paid in
foreign currency," reads part of Takaona's letter to media employers.

According to respected Harare economists John Robertson, it might simply
prove impossible for government and companies to accede to the demands for
payment in foreign currency. "Business can't borrow foreign currency to pay
salaries," he said, pointing out that loans were given for investment not to
fund expenses.

He warned that the country should brace for more strikes unless a political
solution was found to the myriad economic woes and said the challenge was to
generate the necessary foreign currency through exports, which is currently
not happening.

"These strikes point to the desperate need for answers from government, and
not simply the usual threats," he said.

According to Robertson, it became inevitable that there would be an
increased demand for foreign currency after the government, in September
last year, licensed about 1,000 shops to receive payment for their goods and
services in foreign currency.

Many of the country's industries have reportedly failed to open this year
because of uncertainty about the economy. Industrialists had pinned their
hopes on the successful formation of a government of national unity which
would satisfy the three parties to the power-sharing agreement, Mugabe and
the two MDC factions let by Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara.

These hopes were scotched by the abortive talks in Harare on January 19,
which broke up once more over the failure of the parties to agree on the
allocation of ministries.

A renewed effort to salvage the deadlocked power-sharing deal take place in
South Africa on Tuesday January 27.

Robertson warned that should the three politicians fail once more to reach
agreement, the country can expect yet more industrial action.

Jabu Shoko is the pseudonym of an IWPR-trained journalist in Zimbabwe.

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Momentum Builds for Zimbabwe Intervention

WASHINGTON, Jan 23 ( - Calls are growing for the international community to do more about Zimbabwe, and now global human rights leaders including Desmond Tutu are engaging in a "relay fast" and other nonviolent acts to pressure neighboring countries -- particularly South Africa -- to support the Zimbabwean people's struggle for democracy and human rights.

"SADC and African governments must act resolutely to protect the people of Zimbabwe who are being subjected to a passive genocide. The suffering of the people of Zimbabwe cannot be ignored any longer," says the Save Zimbabwe Now! Coalition in a petition calling for immediate action to resolve the East African nation's political, economic, and humanitarian crises.

In addition to the petition and fast -- which human rights leaders including CIVICUS's Kumi Naidoo and Nomboniso Gasa of the South African Gender Commission are joining for 21 days apiece -- Save Zimbabwe Now! has launched letter writing campaigns and will hold public meetings and rallies throughout Southern Africa.

The coalition of human rights activists is demanding that the regional economic alliance South African Development Community (SADC) and African political leaders abandon the notoriously fruitless policy of "quiet diplomacy" toward Zimbabwe.

Instead, they say, the SADC and other continental powers should staunchly condemn the political violence and the Robert Mugabe regime's violation of regional and international treaties and conventions on human and democratic rights.

One such treaty is the Memorandum of Understanding, signed by Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and the two factions of the leading opposition MDC party paving the way for talks to resolve the country's political impasse.

The international community must also address Zimbabwe's crippling humanitarian crises: primarily widespread food scarcity and hunger, the near-collapse of the country's health system, and the cholera and AIDS epidemics, the Coalition says, adding that Zimbabwe's neighbors in particular must provide humanitarian assistance and refuge to those fleeing the country.

"The act of purposefully going without food is also symbolic. It recognizes the worsening food shortages in Zimbabwe, and the deepening humanitarian crisis. It acknowledges the (mis)use of food as a tool in the ongoing political turmoil. Most importantly, it expresses solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe, as many struggle to meet the most basic of daily needs -- food," said a written statement released by Save Zimbabwe Now! earlier this week.

Tutu, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his efforts to help end apartheid in South Africa, believes international activist pressure can yield results for Zimbabwe too. "If we would [only] have more people saying 'I will fast,' maybe one day a week -- just to identify myself with my sisters and brothers in Zimbabwe," Tutu pleaded on South African radio recently. The 77-year-old archbishop will be going without food one day a week until the Coalition's demands are met.

Save Zimbabwe Now! is also calling for a halt to the government's intense assault on civil and human rights activists, marked by a series of abductions and torture of those criticizing the government.

New Mediator Needed?

Many of Save Zimbabwe Now!'s demands are directed at the SADC, but some human rights groups are so disappointed with the regional body's efforts to date that they are suggesting the African Union (AU) take control of mediation efforts in Zimbabwe.

"During the recent Citizens‚€™ Continental Conference held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia...the participants called upon the African Union to formally recognize that the SADC mediation is challenged and has not achieved the desired results and that the resolution of the Zimbabwean crisis should be done under the direct authority of the AU," wrote the 16-member Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum in an email to supporters Wednesday.

Human Rights Watch, which is based in New York and monitors abuses around the world, agrees. "Ongoing human rights abuses have not ceased and those responsible have not been held to account," the group said Thursday, calling on the African Union to "insert itself formally into the mediation process and set basic principles, specific human rights benchmarks, and timelines for resolving the crisis."

Human Rights Watch also urged the AU to suspend Zimbabwe from the grouping of nations if -- within a specific time frame -- it does not meet specific human rights and good governance benchmarks.

The African Union will begin a week-long summit meeting in Addis Ababa Monday.

Call to Americans

Zimbabwe- and U.S.-based groups are also urging Americans to stand up on behalf of Zimbabweans.†

Following a December holiday visit to his home country, Washington, DC-based Zimbabwean Briggs Bomba relayed to reporters the requests of civic leaders and activists in Zimbabwe.

Groups like Zimbabwe Crisis Coalition, Women of Zimbabwe Arise, Zimbabwe Peace Project, and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights all need help spreading the word about the problems Zimbabweans are facing, said Bomba, who works with the nonprofit pressure group Africa Action.

Indeed, noted Bomba, campaigners in Zimbabwe believe human rights defender Jestina Mukoku finally surfaced after more than three weeks of disappearance only because of intense international pressure from human rights groups around the world.

The grassroots and community organizations that Bomba connected with in Zimbabwe are also strapped for funds to enable basic operations such as accessing and sending e-mails and traveling to connect with other organizations and provide services within the country.

These groups "bring an important perspective and feeling to the table and are absolutely vital to the democratic and social justice struggle in Zimbabwe," said Bomba. "They are severely crippled by lack of basic resources for communication, transport, and other needs."

Ordinary Zimbabweans Make Their Plea

The idea for the global hunger strike was born when activists from South Africa were in Zimbabwe in December to produce a film about the struggles faced by everyday people and local community organizing groups.

The short video features ordinary Zimbabweans, church leaders, trade unionists, community workers, and human rights lawyers, suggesting that immediate and decisive action from South African leaders and the wider international community is needed.

"Here we are not free. We do not get enough food to eat. We do not get enough clothing. We do not get any care at schools. We do not get comfortable at home. When we wake up, we do not get any food to eat. We only get water and go to school," said one young person interviewed in Part I of the film (see video below). "Water does not give us strength to learn," he added. "There are not doctors at the hospitals. We need doctors also. We need teachers -- we need qualified teachers."

The film, entitled "Time 2 Act," can be viewed below and will be distributed to the leaders of South Africa, the SADC, the AU, and South Africa's ruling party the African National Congress, said the producers.

Time 2 Act - Part 1 of 3

Time 2 Act - Part 2 of 3

Time 2 Act - Part 3 of 3

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Mugabe should face trial for crimes against humanity

The Boston GlobePublished: January 23, 2009

Life expectancy in Zimbabwe under President Robert Mugabe fell from 62 years
in 1990 to 36 in 2006. And, as described in a recent report by Physicians
for Human Rights, this man-made catastrophe has only gotten worse in the
last two years. To end their agony, Zimbabweans need new leadership.

Although the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai lamented a deadlock Monday
in power-sharing talks with Mugabe, a peaceful transfer of power is still
the best hope for Zimbabwe's rehabilitation. But even if Mugabe cedes power
after 28 years, the international community will still confront a haunting
question: How can Mugabe and his henchmen be held accountable for the
catastrophe they created?

This question is broached in a preface to the report signed by Desmond Tutu,
South Africa's retired archbishop; Mary Robinson, former president of
Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; and
Richard Goldstone, former UN chief prosecutor at the International Criminal
Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. They cite "growing evidence
that Robert Mugabe and his regime may well be guilty of crimes against
humanity." And they call for urgent intervention by Zimbabwe's neighbors and
all UN member states to prevent more deaths.

Physicians for Human Rights sent a delegation to Zimbabwe last month. The
team found that the Mugabe regime destroyed the country's healthcare system
and pursued policies that ruined what had been a vibrant agriculture,
depriving all but a tiny elite of proper nutrition, water, and a sustainable
livelihood. One result has been a cholera epidemic and the spread of other

The rights group is calling for the UN to pass a resolution instructing the
International Criminal Court in the Hague to investigate Mugabe and his
cronies. The group argues that Mugabe's depredations meet the requirements
for an ICC prosecution for crimes against humanity.

The need for judgment is the same as it has always been: to prevent the next
despotic regime from doing to another people what Mugabe has done in
Zimbabwe. At present, comparable crimes are being committed by the military
junta in Burma and the genocidal regime in Sudan. The best hope to save
lives in the killing fields of Darfur or the forests and rice paddies of
Burma may be to make an example of Mugabe.

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Disqualified candidate seeks nullification of Mugabe's election

Friday, 23 January 2009

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe's controversial re-election last year came
under renewed scrutiny at the Supreme Court on Thursday when judges heard an
application seeking the nullification of the election process as well as a
power sharing pact signed on September 15.

Advocate Justine Chiota brought the matter before the full bench
citing the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and the three principals to a
SADC negotiated power sharing agreement -- President Mugabe, Morgan
Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara as respondents.

Tsvangirai and Mutambara have not opposed the matter while the ZEC and
Mugabe want the application to be dismissed.

Advocate Chiota says in court papers he was unconstitutionally barred
by the Nomination Court to contest the first round of elections on March 29
last year and as such, the June 27 run-off and its outcome must be erased.
Chiota also argues that ongoing power sharing talks between Mugabe and his
opposition rivals are unconstitutional.

President Mugabe's lawyer Advocate Archibold Gijima protested at the
citing of his client in his personal capacity, saying as a sitting head of
state he should be cited in his official capacity.

"The person cited is the sitting president. There is an issue that he
should be cited in his official capacity. If one looks at the order sought,
it seeks to rubbish everything that the head of state has done and is
doing," Gijima said.

The Supreme Court postponed hearing the arguments for two weeks after
Chiota indicated he intends to bring senior lawyers from South Africa.

Mugabe was sworn-in after Tsvangirai, who won the first round of
voting but fell short of getting an outright majority, pulled out of the
run-off citing violence against his supporters.

The two political rivals have failed to reach an agreement over the
formation of a unity government due to bickering over cabinet posts. -

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Hardliners call tune in Harare talks bid

23 January 2009

Dumisani Muleya

Harare Correspondent

A SUMMIT to salvage Zimbabwe's power-sharing deal hangs in the balance as
the two main negotiating parties continue to pull apart under the pressure
of hardliners' demands.

Insiders of Zanu (PF) and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) warned yesterday that camps within both parties considered the unity
deal as "dead".

The extraordinary Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit in
Pretoria has been called especially to discuss the stalemate that stands in
the way of the formation of a unity government.

But hardliners from both parties do not expect a solution after the collapse
of talks on Monday in Harare.

Disagreement has centred on the allocation of ministries in a unity
government, in particular the home affairs portfolio. Both parties' leaders
make optimistic statements in public, but in private powerful factions in
both parties express the view that the agreement is dead in the water.

Analysts also say the talks are "not deadlocked, but dead".

Insiders in President Robert Mugabe's Zanu (PF) said yesterday their party
was already preparing for the formation of a new government next week, and
it would be "with or without the opposition".

"The talks are all but over. As the president (Mugabe) said, we are beyond a
negotiating stage, and no concessions will be made by us," said a senior
Zanu (PF) negotiator, who belongs to the party's dominant faction.

Zanu (PF) has two main factions, one led by Mugabe confidant Emmerson
Mnan-gagwa and the other by retired army commander Gen Solomon Mujuru.
Senior officials from both sides do not for the most part want the agreement
because it leaves them without positions and benefits.

Already nine cabinet ministers have lost their posts in anticipation of a
power-sharing government. A Zanu (PF) politburo member whose government
position is under threat said: "We do not want the agreement. It is a waste
of time."

Mugabe seems to have been swayed by hardliners who do not want the talks to
succeed. He said Monday was the last chance for the MDC, and he was no
longer going to make concessions.

While Mugabe blamed the MDC for the failure to break the deadlock in the
talks, the opposition blamed him for the virtual collapse of the talks.
Senior MDC officials who belong to a "hawkish" faction led by Tendai Biti
are also saying privately that the agreement has broken down beyond revival.

An official in Biti's camp said talks had failed. "People can pretend there
is still some light at the end of the tunnel, but the only light is that of
an oncoming train."

However, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai said yesterday he was hopeful the SADC
meeting could end the deadlock.

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Cholera from Zimbabwe spreads in Kruger's rivers: spokesman


Rivers in South Africa's famed Kruger game park are contaminated with
cholera floating downstream from Zimbabwe, but the virus poses no threat to
visiting tourists, a spokesman said Friday.

"It's in the rivers, but there is no threat for people unless they go and
drink from the river or swim in it, which they are not allowed to do," park
spokesman Raymond Travers told AFP.

"Each camp has its own water reservoir, treated with chemicals. There's no
danger of cholera coming into the drinking water."

The deadly but treatable disease spreads in dirty water. More than 2,700
people have died of cholera in Zimbabwe along with dozens of others in
neighbouring countries.

In South Africa, more than 2,600 cases have been reported and 31 people have
died -- including 19 in the rural province of Mpumalanga that is home to

South Africa's biggest wildlife reserve attracts 1.3 million visitors every

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SA accountable for Zim?

Article By:
Fri, 23 Jan 2009 14:43
The Danish Foreign Affairs Minister Per Stig Moller told his South African
counterpart, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, that his country was "very concerned"
about the situation in Zimbabwe.

The cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe and spread of the water-borne disease into
South Africa will come under the spotlight at SA-Denmark bilateral
discussions in Pretoria on Friday.

This was especially regarding the cholera outbreak.

"I think it is very dangerous to have a black hole today in the continent...
where troubles spread," he said.

The agenda for Friday's meeting also includes discussions on the global
financial crisis, climate change and renewable energy, and the new United
States administration headed by President Barack Obama.

"We wish him [Obama] well, but also hope that all of us will be able to
weather the storm of the global financial crisis and its consequences," said

"For all of us it is a historical change... [Obama] is hopefully looking for
change and hope," she said.

Moller noted he was also hoping for positive change from the new US
administration, and said he felt buoyed that Obama, last year, had said the
financial crisis could not be solved without finding solutions to the energy

"That has always been Denmark's stance," he said.


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Campaigning against the dollarisation of education

ZINASU President Clever Bere
ZINASU President Clever Bere

These images are taken from a media release circulated by ZINASU

The first image is the ZINASU President Clever Bere followed by Courage Ngwarai Legal affairs secretary and Blessing Vava Spokesperson addressing scores of students at a general meeting at Great Hall at the University of Zimbabwe on Wednesday the 21st of January.

Courage Ngwarai - Legal Affairs Secretary
Courage Ngwarai - Legal Affairs Secretary

The meeting culminated in a demonstration that saw students marching to the Vice Chancellor’s office Professor Levy Nyagura to seek audience on the state of affairs at the University. The students vowed to resist paying fees in foreign currency as the college adminstration is proposing. The situation at the University remains tense as armed riot police officers with, AK47 assault rifles, dogs and Israeli water cannons are camped on campus to instill fear in the students.

Blessing Vava - Spokesperson
Blessing Vava - Spokesperson

The students will not be intimidated by such acts of cowardice by the regime, no amount of gunfire and tear gas smoke will stop the students from reclaiming their birthright.We are going to fight relentlessly until our demands are met. The campaign against dollarisation of education has gained momentum and is spreading to other regions as soon as colleges and schools open.

”The fear of man shall prove to be a snare but he who trusts in the LORD shall be kept safe.” Proverbs 29 v 25

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Opportunism in the Zimbabwean struggle

January 23, 2009

By Tendai Biti

WHEN a struggle becomes long, and the end becomes as illusionary as a
mirage, opportunism, hypocrisy and mendacity creep in.

In all these situations, principles are sacrificed on the altar of
self-interest. The struggle, already arrested by exhaustion, becomes
commodified and bastardized.

History also shows that those struggles that have survived have only done so
because a few have stayed the course and have refused to be seduced by
myopic soft-landings.

It is this sort of mentality that has given rise to a new school of thought
that seeks to revise our recent history and has peddled myths about the
limited options available to the people of Zimbabwe and has, therefore,
sought to compromise the one thing that can never be compromised. This is
the sacrosanct principle that it is only the people that have an inalienable
right to decide their course and their destiny.

The revisionist school of thought and its disciples constitute a bunch of
tireless, airport lounge activists and a beehive of "people representatives"
who are nothing but a cocoon of neo-liberal, elitist mafia.

Oftentimes, their ideology is betrayed by a series of pseudo-intellectual,
high-sounding superfluous blur and the sepulchral mucus oozing from this
camp. It is a pure distillation of anger and frustration masquerading as
political strategy.

Let us begin with the fiction and contention that there was no winner in the
29th of March election.

But indeed there was a winner! We contested this election without resources,
without access to the media, without access to vital electoral information
and data.

Contrary to the provisions of the Electoral Act, we were not availed the
voters' roll, neither did we know the number of polling stations. The law
kept being changed in the course of the game and it was more like playing
tennis with a continuously moving base line.

For instance, the law made it clear that every candidate in the four-in-one
harmonized election would be entitled to an agent inside the ballot booth
but this was ignored. On the 20th of December Mugabe himself signed a law
that kept policemen outside polling booths but by the 10th January he had
reversed that law through a presidential decree.

Furthermore, as we exposed at the time, all State agents manning the polls
were carefully handpicked to exclude anyone thought to be sympathetic to us.
Indeed, over 5000 teachers were excluded as a result of this. What monstrous

Beyond legal shenanigans was the massive vote buying spree authored and
executed by the insufferable onyx, Gideon Gono. In March, trillions of
dollars were splashed in the so called Phase Two of the farm mechanization

On the ground, hundreds of our meetings were denied. Indeed we went to court
on this and other issues and not once did this fantastically marinated
judiciary pronounce judgment in our favour. At the same time, Zanu-PF
gallivanted freely across the countryside. Mugabe roamed the thirsty
countryside in three state of the art helicopters whilst Tsvangirai and the
rest of us drove like maniacs in dilapidated jalopies in the dusty and
cracked cheekbones of Zimbabwe's countryside.

In short, the political, legal and contextual frame-work could and did not
justify an incontestable election. The fact that the election was run by a
totally partial body, that there was no access to the media, that there was
proscription of free movement, the abuse of state resources and the denial
of access to information is evident of the fact this was a limping election
whose ethos fell below international standards.

The achievements of the MDC and indeed of the people of Zimbabwe were
Herculean. That the opposition in all its forms won this election under
these circumstances was hardly surprising. The result would certainly have
been more emphatic was it not for the gerrymandering of constituencies by
deliberately creating more rural constituencies and indeed the absence of an
even and equal playing field. Moreover, Zanu-PF narrowed the gap in two
constituencies i.e. Red cliff and Gwanda South which it won in the violent
27th June event.

To suggest that the MDC did not win the election on the 29th March is
intended to obfuscate the Zanu-PF decline while inflating the over-inflated
egos of some who were severely defeated in that election! Their
self-proclaimed mantra as kingmakers is a by product of this myopic venery.
More importantly, it underlies a deep and inveterate contempt and disrespect
for the people .It is the people that decide their fate and not some overfed
Google-addict sitting on a table. Politics is not a chess game of fluent
gambits or over elaborate flip-charts.

A second fraud is to try and equate Tsvangirai with Mugabe. This, with all
due respect, is sick populism intended not to defile Mugabe for he has done
that on his own, but to ridicule and demonise Tsvangirai and the MDC.

The attack is personal and is no different from the daily diatribe of
defamatory vituperations churned in the Herald. In short, to both Mugabe and
others, Tsvangirai is the red flag that has generated anger and hatred of
satanic proportions.

Is it an accident that a rocket scientist can be so ahistorical and so
revisionist as to equate the sins of this regime with any other person?† Can
the failure of this agreement be visited upon our shoulders?

One thing has to be emphasized for the benefit of those conducting the
symphony of hatred and discord at Herald House. Tsvangirai is the undisputed
and uncontestable leader of the MDC. Not only that, he is the leader of this
struggle. Every struggle has a face and a leader.

Thus, Vladimir Lenin was the face of the Bolshevik Revolution despite the
array of luminaries in the Bolshevik party. Equally, Nelson Mandela is the
face and leader of the struggle against apartheid despite giants like Albert
Luthuli, Govan Mbeki, Sisulu, Oliver Tambo and others.

For the record, it is Mugabe alone and his acolytes who have been
responsible for the castration of Zimbabwe's manhood. It is not land reform
or so-called sanctions that have created the phenomenal decline of this
economy to levels unheard of in modern economics. Gukurahundi and
Murambatsvina, the post 2000 violence and the post 29th March violence are a
progeny of this violent "thugocratic" state run by a securocracy or, as I
described recently in Parliament, a "juntacratised" State.

Now where does Tsvangirai fit into all this?

The answer is simple. It is not Tsvangirai who is frustrating the
consummation of this deal but rather Mugabe himself. In this regard let's
put into perspective the MDC position on the dying dialogue.

It is that there must be a satisfactory legal framework to underpin the
agreement. Secondly, that there must be an equitable distribution of
ministerial portfolios - in short, responsibility with authority.

Thirdly, there must be defined the constitution and composition of the
National Security Council. In view of the "juntacritisation" of the State
surely this overseeing body is essential to ensure the gradual weaning of
State Institutions from the breast of Zanu-PF.

Fourthly, there must be an equitable and fair distribution of key public
positions including governors, ambassadors and permanent secretaries.

Lastly, there must be a reversal and cessation of all breaches of the MOU
and the GPA. This includes the unconditional release of Jestina Mukoko,
Gandi Mudzingwa and all abductees and the reversal of all executive
appointments unilaterally made after 21 July 2008.

Surely there is nothing extraterrestrial about these demands. The demands
are not domiciled at Albus Dumbledore's† Hogwarth School of Magic and
Wizardry. There is nothing British or American in the same. In fact the
demands are a logical platform if not precondition for any viable Government
of National Unity.

That however is not the view of others. Just get in there and sort
everything while you are inside! In short, put your eggs in the basket of
hope and faith. More plaintively, trust Zanu- PF.

Trust is exactly what we did when we signed the GPA on the 11th September
and attended the glittering ceremony of a doctored document of the 15th
September when so many issues were outstanding. We genuinely assumed that
Zanu-PF was ready and bona fide. Alas, we were naive. We ignored the
fundamental construct that Zanu-PF sees itself as being endowed with a
divine right and obligation to rule Zimbabwe . The sense of entitlement
common in many nationalist parties is disproportionately overdeveloped in
Zanu-PF, particularly when one considers the role of the peasant countryside
in the war of liberation.

The sense of entitlement is the tumour at the epicenter of Zanu-PF's power
retention mantra which is the sole reason for its existence and not any
other ground norm. Thus, engaging the MDC through the GNU is a strategic
retreat in the power retention project. A retreat that is necessary for the
party to regroup following what Mugabe has called the "lapse" of the 29th

The events of the last three months following the execution of the GPA have
shown beyond reasonable doubt that no self respecting person can ever trust
Zanu-PF. Daily have been episodes of the clear lack of paradigm shift on the
part of Zanu-PF.

First has been the interference and frustration of food and humanitarian
assistance in breach of agreements. Second has been the unleashing of a
fresh wave of violence, this time characterised by an evil spate of extra
legal abductions. The case of Mr and Mrs Chinanzvavana,† Gandi Mudzingwa,
Chris Dhlamini,† Jestina Mukoko and others reflects beyond a shadow of doubt
the mindset of this voodoo regime and its lack of bona fides.

The reappointment of Gideon Gono as Reserve Bank governor and the
appointment of Johannes Tomana as Attorney General add to the body of
incontrovertible evidence of this lack of paradigm shift. Quite clearly,
these are the things that others will not talk about. But that we are
expected to gloss over these issues and pretend they don't exist eludes our

One can understand the desperate shrill of some to make this agreement work
despite the clearly foreseeable Golgotha . After all this is the one
God-given† opportunity of holding public office to many of us who cannot in
the immediate to short-term† win any election

What is clearly as hypocritical as it is obnoxious is the populist attack on
the West. Two things are particularly appalling.

First, is the attempt to frame an anti-Mugabe position as being mothered and
authored by the West. Therefore we in the MDC can't think for ourselves but
must wait for Condoleeza Rice and Jendayi Fraser.

What philistine madness!

Second, for some having cut our teeth in the West and some of its best
universities to try and reinvent ourselves as latter-day Che Guevaras is a
humourless banality. It does not fool any one. Not at all.

The struggle for democratisation in Zimbabwe has been a long and arduous
one. Indeed the struggle for independence itself was a first step in this
gravel road. This generation has a duty is to fulfil the unfinished business
of that struggle. On this we stood with Joshua Nkomo, Edgar Tekere and
Ndabaningi Sithole as they were persecuted by Mugabe.

We were there when thousands were violently displaced killed and maimed
during Gukurahundi, Murambatsvina the post 2000 violence, the Final Push and
other great demonstrations.

We were proudly there in Hillside at the National Working People's
Convention on 26 February 1999. We were also there on that sunny, lovely
Saturday afternoon at Rufaro stadium on 11 September 1999 when Gibson
Sibanda arrogantly told Mugabe that: "We have accepted your invitation to
form our party. This is our party."

We were there inside Matapi police station as Isaac Maphosa told us the
results of the Constitutional referendum on a smuggled mobile phone. And
yes, we have buried comrades, from Tichaona Chiminya, Talent Mabika, Trymore
Midzi, Nomore Sibanda and the irresistible Learnmore Jongwe.† Tonderai Ndira
still looms large in our dreams,† the peerless Gertrude "Diesel" Mthombeni
will not leave our hearts and the pillar of our struggle, Isaac Matongo,
continues to lift us on his bulky shoulders.

That is our history. No one then can bastardize the same and seek to frame
it on a template of a neo-liberal, British or American creation or
construction. That is the greatest insult to the people of Zimbabwe and to
our history as a social liberation movement completing the unfinished
business of the liberation struggle.

Finally, a myth has been peddled that there is no other strategy or option
other than that of a GNU. This can only be a Freudian dislocation. Dialogue
and the GNU are the conscious by-product of a roadmap we crafted in May
2006. They are the baby and not the mother.

They are a means and not the end. They are an adjectival issue and not the
substance. The substance is to achieve democratic change in Zimbabwe through
peaceful, democratic, constitutional and non-violent means. To then suggest
that this can only be achieved through a GNU chaired by Mugabe is somewhat

In short, we remain committed to the cause of change in Zimbabwe as we
remain committed to the GPA, subject to the resolution of our demands.
However, we are not naÔve to allow Zanu PF to trap us in the cul-de-sac of
any sterile processes.

Our party might be 10 years old, but our experience is of gerontocratic

(Tendai Biti is the Secretary-General of the MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai.)

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Tshwane Metro Police deny MDC right to protest at the venue of Sadc

meeting on Monday
Friday, 23 January 2009
The Provincial leadership of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
in SA is dismayed by the Tshwane Metro police's failure to give the party a
go ahead to stage a massive demonstration in Pretoria.
We intended to present a petition to SADC Heads of State on Monday who
are scheduled to hold an extra ordinary meeting to try and resolve the
Zimbabwe political crisis. No reason was given by Metro Cop Boss for Events
Inspector De kork. We approached a Pretoria Magistrate, Nair seeking an
urgent permission to protest, but our application was turned down again. No
reason was supplied again.
Denying millions of Zimbabweans an opportunity to show case their
cause to SADC heads is shocking. We expect the SA government to support
Zimbabweans in their struggle against Mugabe dictatorship. I suppose anybody
should be allowed to demonstrate if his/her† life is† in danger. Zimbabweans
are being butchered, kidnapped, detained without charge, starved (scotched
earthly policy) and deported from Zimbabwe by the Mugabe regime, but some SA
government departments still see no no to accord us an opportunity to
We have already hired dozens of busses to ferry thousands of people to
the venue of the meeting. Numerous other progressive organisations including
South Africans are lined up to participate in a rare display of unison.
We want this opportunity to tell the world and the SADC Heads that
Thabo Mbeki should not be allowed to continue mingling in the affairs of
Zimbabwe against the wishes of the Zimbabweans. Zimbabweans have the right
to reject his further mediation efforts in as much as his own party declined
his continued leadership. Zimbabweans do not have the luxury of waiting
anymore as the dictator makes its mind. We can't afford to continue
starving, denying our children their right to education and health as Mugabe
needlessily cling to power. SADC should accept that they have failed to deal
with the problem in Zimbabwe and allow other partied to be involved.
We urge the Metro Police to be considerate. We call upon the Metro
police to immediately okay our demonstration.
We are however intending to go ahead with the demonstration.
by† Sibanengi Dube
MDC† publicity (SA)

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Witnessing Poverty Firsthand

By Darah Protas Posted: 01/22/2009

Seated underneath a tree between two thatched huts, College junior Daniel
Turton watched as a mother and her two children approached him and took a
seat next to him. A baby desperately suckled on her mother's empty breast as
a young boy rested at her feet with his head on her thigh. In comparison to
the size of his head and feet, his curved legs - which protruded out of his
tattered shorts - looked gaunt.

Like nearly everyone else in Zimbabwe, the mother and her children suffered
from malnourishment. In an attempt to briefly assuage their hunger, Turton
handed out cookies and water to the starving villagers.

"His tiny, deformed legs seemed like twigs that could barely support the
weight of his body," Turton recalled. "It was heartbreaking [to watch the
breastfeeding] because you could see this child's hunger and persistence.
Nutritionally, this woman's body couldn't provide and the child couldn't get
what it wanted or deserved."

Although Emory does not have a study abroad program in Zimbabwe, Turton
visited the country when he was studying abroad in Capetown, South Africa,
last semester. Despite his friends' many warnings, he traveled with a
political opposition activist and an Austrian journalist and witnessed
firsthand the hunger, poverty and disease that pervade in the country.

In addition to risking exposure to cholera and having to survive in a
country with virtually no food, gasoline or clean water, Turton risked being
arrested and detained in Zimbabwe because his traveling companions were
government targets. According to Turton, Zimbabwe has been charging
journalists as criminals in order to suppress stories from getting out about
what is actually happening in the country.

Despite the many dangers of traveling to Zimbabwe, Turton said he took the
risk "out of sincere desire to learn more about [him]self and the human

One of Turton's traveling companions, Brahm Hanekom, is the head of an
organization that works to aid African refugees. Hanekom wanted to visit
Zimbabwe to set up contacts for future delivery of food and aid and to
document the severity of the situation. Hanekom could then use the evidence
of suffering to put pressure on the South African government to help the
Zimbabwean refugees. Hanekom asked Turton to come on the trip to videotape
the interviews and to take photographs.

"The situation in Zimbabwe doesn't make headlines in the U.S. like the Gaza
situation or the president," Turton said."But it is of extraordinary
importance not just for humanitarian reasons but because the country is on
the verge of collapse and none of us should be taken by surprise if this

Starvation, Past and Present

Although Zimbabwe is currently in the midst of economic devastation and a
cholera outbreak, it used to be the breadbasket of Africa. According to
former U.S. Ambassador to Zambia and Emory economics professor Gordon
Streeb, agriculture was the backbone of Zimbabwe. Then the government began
implementing land reform legislation in the nineties, which handed farmland
over to officials who knew nothing about agriculture.

Streeb said that this was the point when the economy began to decline and
hyperinflation set in. The economic decline, coupled with President Robert
Mugabe's oppressive rule, drove out investors. By this point, not only was
Zimbabwe not growing its own food, but it was also not importing food due to
a lack of investors.

When Turton was in Zimbabwe, the rains had already come, and the crops
should have already been planted. But there was not money for fertilizer, so
the crops were never planted.

"People are hungry now, and it's going to get worse," Turton said. "They
should be harvesting in April, but there won't be anything to harvest."

But some hold a different view of Zimbabwe's future. Sita Ranchod-Nilsson,
the director of the Institute for Developing Nations, has trouble imagining
Turton's prediction for the future of Zimbabwe.

"It's hard to imagine things getting worse," Nilsson said. "People are
literally starving. People are digging up roots to eat and boiling grass
just to have something in their stomachs."

What Money Can't Buy

Not only is food scarce, but the food that is available cannot be bought
with Zimbabwe currency. Zimbabwe's money is nearly worthless, and if one
wants to buy food, they must exchange their Zimbabwe money for U.S. dollars
or South African money. People can exchange their Zimbabwe currency for
foreign currency on the streets - the main venue for Zimbabweans to exchange
money because banks are close to being nonexistent.

"Last week Zimbabwe published a one billion dollar bill as a new piece of
currency," Ranchod-Nilsson said. "That buys two loaves of bread."

Francis Musoni, an Emory graduate student from Zimbabwe, helps his parents
obtain foreign currency and food whenever he goes back to Africa. Although
Musoni was able to leave his homeland, his parents - among many others - are
not able to because leaving the country is a complicated and expensive
process. In order to leave Zimbabwe, Musoni said, one must provide the
government with proof of a legitimate reason for leaving, enough money to
support themselves and their family, a place to stay, and a visa, which cost
between 500 and 800 USD, more than most Zimbabweans cannot afford.

When Musoni worked as a university lecturer in Zimbabwe, he was making 50
USD a month. Combined with his wife's salary of 30 USD a month, they were
barely able to afford enough food each month.

According to Ranchod-Nilsson, teachers have stopped going to school because
they aren't being paid and children are too hungry to attend.

"There has to be a massive infusion of aid to get them healthy to the point
that people can work and children can go to school," Ranchod-Nilsson said.

In Zimbabwe, goods are hard to come by. Turton gave something, whether it
was food or money, to everyone he met. He even gave a soldier his own shoes
and wore flip-flops for the rest of the trip.

"We brought cash with us knowing we wouldn't keep it," Turton explained.
"They're willing to take anything because they can't get anything."

This shortage of food and other goods is not new to Zimbabwe.

"I remember when I was there seven years ago you couldn't buy basic things
like socks and underwear and clothing and the like, not to speak of food,"
Streeb said.

A Diseased Country

Toilet paper is also nearly impossible to obtain in Zimbabwe, Musoni said.
This is a problem for those infected with cholera and suffering from severe

Because of the mass amounts of fluid lost through diarrhea, cholera victims
often die of dehydration. Cholera is relatively easy to treat; it requires
simply replenishing the body's water supply via intravenous fluids or orally
consuming water. However, the country's water supply is contaminated, and
the healthcare system has collapsed, which prevents people from receiving
treatment. As of last Friday, the cholera outbreak has killed 2,225 people
in Zimbabwe, according to the Associated Press.

According to Streeb, when the government took over the country's water
supply, it was poorly managed. The water supply became contaminated with
sewage, causing the cholera outbreak. Along with that, the healthcare system
was collapsing.

"The health situation has totally spiraled out of control," Streeb
explained. "And on top of that, it's a country with a very high HIV/AIDS
incidence. And so it would be hard to have a much worse situation in terms
of the health conditions and the ability to deal with the health crisis."

Streeb estimated that one-third of Zimbabwe's population has left the
country, many of whom are the more intelligent and professional people like
doctors, which adds to the country's problems.

When Turton visited a hospital in Zimbabwe, he learned that the hospitals do
not have enough food to feed their patients or the proper drugs to treat
"People are dying in their homes and on the streets because they are being
turned away from hospitals," Turton said.

The hospital conditions are so desitute that the government sent out orders
to all medical facilities instructing hospital workers not to speak to the
press, Turton said. But two hospital workers that Turton met allowed him and
his friends to interview them. They all went back to the homes of the
hospital workers, closed the blinds and conducted the interviews.

"Of course you're nervous and under stress the whole time," Turton
explained. "The government is trying to control what information gets out. .
I could have been detained."

Streeb said he thinks Mugabe is to blame for the country's severe decline.

"It is traditional to point fingers, but most of those things are covers for
what has happened with the destruction of the agriculture sector," Streeb
explained. "Once the economy began to spiral down and the Mugabe regime
became more and more repressive and brutal, it drove out investment."

But Musoni said that he does not think Mugabe should shoulder all the blame,
adding that Mugabe has "lost control of virtually everything in Zimbabwe."
""He is being pushed around by people who have become more powerful than he
is," Musoni said.

During his trip, Turton interviewed many soldiers and police officers. One
of the soldiers told Turton that he received instructions from the
government to go into rural opposition areas before the upcoming election to
intimidate the villagers and force them to vote for Mugabe. The soldier, who
used to be a school teacher, beat the villagers and forced them to chant
Mugabe's party's slogan, attend political rallies and vow allegiance to the
current government.
Throughout his trip, Turton said he felt an air of defeat among all the

"The situation is so desperate; people are so famished and their dignity has
been stolen from them," Turton explained. "There is this resigned feeling."

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A letter from the diaspora

23rd January 2009

Dear Friends.
Along with billions of others worldwide I watched the television coverage of
President Obama's inauguration. An estimated two million people were there
in the bitter sub-zero temperatures to witness this truly historic event.
They had waited all night, huddled in blankets to see the first African
American installed as President of the most powerful nation on earth. They
had to see it for themselves, they said, or they would never believe it was
true; the 'dream' of Martin Luther King was one big step closer to reality.
It was awe-inspiring to see the huge crowds stretching down the Mall in
front of the Capitol - built incidentally by African slaves - an endless sea
of waving flags and cheering people. 'O-bama,O-bama,O-bama, they chanted and
then there was absolute silence, not a single sound from that vast crowd as
he started to speak. From his very first words, "My fellow citizens" we knew
that we were witnessing a democratic transition of power. This was the
people's victory, a victory of "Hope over fear".
For Africans watching, and I count myself a white African, the event itself
and the words President Obama spoke had a tragic resonance. It was
impossible not to apply his message to our own situation in Zimbabwe, every
phrase, every nuance of meaning seemed to strike directly at the very heart
of our own tragic situation where a dictatorship rules through violence and
fear. Obama seemed to speak to oppressed people all over the world while at
the same time honestly acknowledging America's mistakes of the past: "the
greed and irresponsibility on the part of some that had brought about the
economic collapse, the worn our dogmas that for far too long have strangled
our nation." One after another, the phrases leapt out of the new President's
speech, " All are equal, all are free, all deserve a chance to pursue
happiness." He spoke of power and the need to establish trust between those
who wield power and the people they govern. Power that does not entitle
governments to do as they please, he said, but to establish, "Vital trust
between the people and their government.the rule of law and the rights of
man.ideals that still light the world." And in words which could have been
addressed directly to our own dictator in Harare he said, " To those leaders
around the globe who seek to sow conflict or blame their society's ills on
the west, know that history will judge you on what you can build not on what
you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit, know
that you are on the wrong side of history, but we will extend a hand if you
are willing to unclench your fist."
Was Robert Mugabe watching as President Obama spoke these words? Certainly
his state broadcasting corporation did not give the Zimbabwean masses a
chance to see this momentous event on their screens. They totally ignored
President Obama's Inauguration and showed an old movie instead - but then
reality is not something the regime knows much about. And having lambasted
the US as the wicked western imperialist power in the past, what will they
find to say now about a country " whose patchwork heritage" of men and women
of different races and religions has freely elected the son of a Kenyan
father and a white mother to govern them for the next four years? Zimbabwe
too has a patchwork heritage, men and women of different ethnic backgrounds
which, as Obama pointed out is a strength not a weakness. It is Mugabe and
Zanu PF who have divided us; like the racist colonial regimes of the past
they have used race and ethnic difference to divide us one from another.
There has been no national vision, no leadership from the top, no honest
admission of mistakes made and none of the "humility and restraint" that
Obama spoke about. All we have seen and continue to see is arrogance and
brute force. Witness Grace Mugabe's outrageous attack on a hapless
photographer who spotted her leaving a £2000 a day hotel in Hong Kong and
dared to take a picture of her. Her guards held the man down while she beat
him about the face with her diamond encrusted hands. No "tempering quality
of humility and restraint" there.
For me the over-riding memory of President Obama's Inauguration is not just
the power and eloquence of his speech, though that was memorable enough, it
was his appeal to all that is best in human nature, all that is noble and
good. He reached out to every man and woman and spoke to their "willingness
to find meaning in something other than themselves". No doubt in the years
to come the new President will make mistakes, maybe not fulfil all his goals
but feeling the love that poured out to him from the millions of people,
black, white and every colour in between, standing there in the bitter cold
of that January day he can be sure that he has the trust and affection of
the people he governs. Can Robert Mugabe say the same? Can he unclench his
fist long enough to take the hand of friendship held out to him by this
fellow African in the White House? Sadly, from everything we know of Mugabe,
we can say that is highly unlikely. Neither is it likely, judging from
various comments I have read this week, that Zimbabweans themselves will do
more than grumble and blame the politicians, Morgan Tsvangirai in
particular, for failing to bring about change. They appear to have forgotten
that it was not Morgan Tsvangirai who destroyed our economy; it was not
Morgan Tsvangirai who made us a nation of near-starving beggars or almost
destroyed the rule of law through subornation of the judiciary and police
force. It was not Morgan Tsvangirai who made the name Zimbabwe synonymous
with human rights abuse and wrongful arrest. It was Robert Mugabe whose
corrupt and totally incompetent government brought about this tragic
transformation of our once prosperous land, forcing millions of Zimbabweans
into exile. Instead of blaming the opposition leader, would it not be more
honest for us to admit that it is in part our own failure to support the few
brave men and women who have overcome their own fear and dared to hope for a
better Zimbabwe. Have we, the people done enough to bring about the
longed-for change? In the words of an earlier President of the United
States: "Ask not what your country can do for you but rather what you can do
for your country."
Yours in the (continuing) struggle, PH.

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UK photojournalist narrates assault by Zimbabwe's first lady

By Violet Gonda
23 January 2009

UK Sunday Times photojournalist, Richard Jones, told SW Radio Africa on
Friday how he was assaulted by Zimbabwe's First Lady, Grace Mugabe. Mugabe
was on holiday in Hong Kong with her family when the incident happened last

The Hong Kong based photographer said he was working on a story for the
British newspaper, contrasting the different lifestyles between Mrs Mugabe
and the Zimbabwe people, when the trouble started.

Jones said he tailed Robert Mugabe's wife when she came out of her hotel and
was walking towards a shopping centre. But she saw him trying to take
photos. He said the First Lady and her body guard rushed towards him and
tried to wrestle the camera away from him. "She was punching me in the face
while he (the bodyguard) was holding me."

Jones said he couldn't understand what she was saying to him as she was
'screaming' at him in another language.

The incident is now being investigated by Hong Kong police. Jones reports
the police are gathering evidence, including CCTV footage, and statements by

Members of the Mugabe regime have a reputation of terrorising journalists,
political and civic activists back in Zimbabwe, and they always get away
with it. But it appears that this time pressure is mounting from the
international community to have this latest incident properly investigated.

The Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents' Club said on Friday it is dismayed by
the 'disgraceful attack' inflicted on one of its members. This is an
influential and respected club for the media, business and diplomatic
community in Hong Kong.

The Club welcomed the ongoing investigations by the police and said: "We
look forward to the widespread publication of its results, regardless of
whether any of the parties involved are protected by diplomatic immunity. In
a city where the rule of law prevails and media freedom is respected, no
person - no matter his or her rank or status - can expect such a matter to
be swept under the carpet."

Jones also said Mrs. Mugabe had a case to answer and that he had every
confidence in the independence of the Hong Kong police.† "The law is very
strong here. You cannot assault a photographer or a journalist going about
their business in a peaceful manner. There is freedom of the press here and
it is a big deal. There is a law and everybody is answerable"

We could not reach Paul Mangwana, Zimbabwe's acting Information Minister,
for a comment.

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Last chance for AU to rein in butcher of Harare

Updated 2 hr(s) 36 min(s) ago
By Juma Kwayera

The African Union and the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) are
under pressure to flex their muscle to compel Zimbabwean President Robert
Mugabe to honour last September's power-sharing agreement with the
opposition to end the current humanitarian crisis.

The AU summit, which meets in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from tomorrow has come
under criticism for not doing enough to hoist the Southern African nation
from slipping further into the abyss. The AU will not escape international
admonition if it tucks the Zimbabwean crisis under the carpet as it wont to

The standoff between Mugabe and his rival, Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai, had by the close of this week fomented fresh
turmoil. The military was reportedly on the verge of mutiny to compel the
government to pay salaries for the disciplined forces, which were in arrears
by as many as three months.

The mutiny could have come at a worse time for Mugabe, now under pressure to
quit to prevent Zimbabwe from further chaos triggered by last year's flawed
presidential election.

That a solution to the crisis remains remote even as Sadc members meet
tomorrow in Pretoria in a fresh attempt to break the impasse was evident
last week when MDC called for a third way to force Mugabe to give up some
executive powers.

But Mugabe has already warned that he will not make further concessions
until Tsvangirai, who according to the September power-sharing accord is
expected to become the prime minister, takes the oath of office.

"This is the occasion when it is either, they accept, or it is a break. If
they have any (other) issues they deem outstanding, they can raise them
after they come into the inclusive government," Mugabe was quoted by the
Sunday Mail ahead of last Monday's meeting that failed to resolve the

On Thursday, Amnesty International Deputy Programme Director for Africa
Programme Veronique Aubert attacked the AU for condoning gross human rights
transgressions in Zimbabwe. "African leaders have squandered numerous
opportunities to end the persecution of government critics in Zimbabwe. They
continue to be deaf to cries for help and have chosen to be unmoved by
ongoing evidence of human suffering in the country," Aubert said.

The Zimbabwe political stalemate has spilled over to the neighbouring states
with South Africa, Botswana and Namibia absorbing much of the humanitarian
pressure generated by Mugabe's reluctance to shed some of the executive

According to the World Food Programme and UNHCR, more than five million
Zimbabweans face a serious food crisis - a direct outcome of the
controversial land policies. The worsening food situation is exacerbated by
a cholera epidemic, which the World Health Organisation estimates to have
claimed more than 2,500 people by yesterday.

At least 42,000 others have been infected with the epidemic, but WHO on
Wednesday sounded an alert that this figure is set to escalate to more than
60,000 in the absence of massive intervention, a capacity the Harare regime

"Shortages of medicines, equipment and staff at health facilities throughout
the country are compounding the health challenges. The outbreak could
surpass 60,000 cases, according to estimates by Zimbabwe Health Cluster . a
group comprising health providers, NGOs and the Ministry of Health," WHO
says in a post on its website.

Unicef Executive Director Ann Veneman, during a visit to Harare where she
donated $5 million (Sh380 million) to roll back the epidemic, said: "The
cholera outbreak is the tip of the iceberg. The economy in Zimbabwe is
crumbling, with the highest inflation rate in the world at 231 million per

To cope up with rising demand for currency, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe
unveiled early this month a Z$100 trillion note - just enough to buy two
loaves of bread. The galloping inflation exacerbated by spiking food
insecurity has snowballed into a social crisis which analysts say could
force Mugabe to relent on his hard-line stance.

With land abandoned and diamond mining undermined by international boycott
on local products, the Zimbabwe government has resorted to printing paper
cash, which has in turn stoked inflation.

The latest Human Rights Watch (HRW) published on Thursday blames the
Zimbabwean authorities for the humanitarian crisis, which it links to the
political imbroglio in the country.

"Endemic corruption within state-run agricultural institutions such as the
Grain and Marketing Board and by Zanu-PF's political elite has also led to
severe shortages of seed and other farming supplies such as fertiliser. Many
of the government's agricultural policies have benefited the pro-Zanu-PF
political elite," HRW says in its 33-page document that calls for AU and
Sadc intervention.

It adds: "The Zimbabwean authorities have diverted state-subsidised maize,
seed, fuel, and cheap tractors meant for local farmers to local Zanu-PF
officials and governors, who have then sold them on the black market at high
prices unaffordable for most Zimbabweans. And the government has done little
to address the corrupt practices that have affected the food supply."

The HRW report supports a UN assessment of the dire situation in Zimbabwe:
"The cholera epidemic is just the latest crisis to hit Zimbabwe, which has
been faced with a worsening humanitarian situation owing to years of failed
harvests, bad governance and hyperinflation, as well as months of political
tensions after disputed presidential elections in March involving the
incumbent Robert Mugabe and the opposition figure Tsvangirai."

The latest assessment of the Zimbabwe political deadlock by the
International Crisis Group (ICG), an international humanitarian
organisation, termed as hopeless in its latest report the current efforts by
Sadc members to bring the two Zimbabwean leaders to the negotiating table.

It pointed out "implementation of the flawed power-sharing deal negotiated
by former South African president Thabo Mbeki following the fraudulent June
2008 presidential election run-off is hopelessly deadlocked."

"Creating a government with two centres of power is inherently unworkable in
the current non-cooperative environment," ICG warned in a report titled
Appoint Neutral Interim Government. The report was emailed to The Standard
on Saturday last week.

The onus of resolving the Zimbabwe impasse now rests with the AU, which
under the chairmanship of Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete has done little
more than pay lip service to the crisis. Having failed to cede ground to
each other in a 12-hour meeting on Monday, it appears the deeply divided
Sadc bloc will take over the mediation mantle from South African president
Kgalema Motlanthe. The bloc tried through former Zambian President Levi
Mwanawasa to break the deadlock, but met with quiet resistance from Thabo
Mbeki, his South African counterpart who was forced out of power late last

The political impasse has made it difficult for parliament, itself
legitimate, to convene and discuss the crisis. Perhaps, the parliamentarians
could start by preparing a constitutional amendment to create a non-partisan
transitional administration to govern for 18 months, under the leadership of
a chief administrator - a neutral Zimbabwean from the private sector, civil
society or an international institution. The person should be chosen by a
two-thirds parliamentary majority, and would be ineligible to stand for
president in the next election or serve as prime minister after it.

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Comment from a correspondent

Dear Editor,

Doesn't it seem odd that The Herald is shouting about corrupt ZPF ministers
stealing farming inputs? After the debacle surrounding Grace Mugabe's
aborted shopping trip, the consequent accusations about Mugabe / Gono
looting the money that South Africa donated for agricultural inputs.
Rumoured to have been looted in order to facilitate the "annual leave"
junket. It occurs to me that this story is a plant to placate any angry SADC
members as to where their money has gone. The Herald never, ever critisizes
ZPF in any way unless they are told to. This is not about a sudden aversion
to the rampant corruption that is the norm within ZPF. This appears to be a
diversionary tactic. Lay the blame at someone else's door. Pretend to be
"outraged" and "determined" to bring the thieves to book. They are so
transparent and fundamentally, rather stupid. If the South African's are
naive enough to believe that their donation has been used correctly then
more fool them.

Ironically & wearily Amused.

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