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Mbeki mediation an exercise in futility

Zim Online

by Patricia Mpofu  Friday 25 January 2008

HARARE - The banning of an anti-government march and police attempts to
thwart a court-sanctioned opposition rally were the clearest indication yet
of the futility of President Thabo Mbeki’s 10-month push for a democratic
solution to Zimbabwe’s crisis, civic leaders told ZimOnline.

The police earlier this week banned at the last minute an opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party protest march that they had
initially allowed.

When a magistrate’s court ruled on Wednesday that the MDC could proceed with
the rally – the police had sought to ban – armed police descended on the
opposition party’s supporters walking to the rally venue, beating them up
and arresting several of people including party organising secretary, Elias
Mudzuri.  He was later released.

The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) political pressure group said the
police’s actions exposed the ineffectiveness of legal reforms agreed by the
MDC and President Robert Mugabe’s governing ZANU PF party under Mbeki’s

“The ‘reformed’ Public Order and Security Act (POSA) remains as fascist and
repressive as ever. The amended version of the Act erodes freedom of
association and expression,” said Lovemore Madhuku, chairman of the NCA that
campaigns for new and democratic constitution for Zimbabwe.

The reforms to the POSA, that police had used in the past to ban opposition
gatherings, as well as two other tough laws governing the media and
elections, were lauded as a key step towards opening up of democratic space
and ensuring free and fair elections in March.

Under the amended POSA, the opposition can appeal to the courts against
banning of their activities by the police. Previously, appeals were directed
to the Minister of Home Affairs.

Madhuku said the police’s beating of MDC supporters on their way to a
court-sanctioned rally showed that it remained dangerous for the opposition
to organise and that truly democratic polls remained impossible in the face
of  “deepening structural repression in the country.”

Mbeki has since last April led efforts by Southern African Development
Community (SADC) to break Zimbabwe’s eight-year crisis by facilitating
dialogue between ZANU PF and the MDC.

After a surprisingly fruitful start which saw the parties reaching several
agreements including key a constitutional amendment allowing holding of
parliamentary and presidential elections this year, the talks appear to have
virtually collapsed following differences over a new constitution and the
date for polls.

The MDC wants a new constitution agreed by negotiators implemented before
polls that it says must be postponed to allow democratic reforms to take
root before voting. Mugabe has ruled out postponing elections and says
whoever wins the polls must decide when to call a referendum to decide on
the new constitution.

University of Zimbabwe political scientist Eldred Masunungure said Wednesday’s
events appeared to suggest that Mugabe and ZANU PF might have negotiated in
bad faith.

“My reading of the situation is that the MDC has exposed ZANU PF’s
insincerity in the whole talks. The ruling party seems not to be willing to
meet its part of the bargain in the whole deal,” said Masunugure, adding
that Mbeki would find it difficult to revive talks after the way police
treated the MDC.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, a loose coalition of more than 300 civic
society organisations, said in a statement that the brutal attempts by the
police to crush the MDC rally showed nothing had changed on the political
field, with police and other state agents continuing to be used against
Mugabe’s political opponents.

Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe economic recession – blamed on
repression and wrong policies by Mugabe –and seen in hyperinflation, a
rapidly contracting GDP, the fastest for a country not at war according to
the World Bank and shortages of every essential commodity.

Analysts say free and fair polls in March are a prerequisite to any plans to
resuscitate the southern African country’s once brilliant economy. -

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Zimbabwe tourist arrivals from Europe, US fall by 21 percent

Zim Online

by Thenjiwe Mabhena Friday 25 January 2008

HARARE – Zimbabwe’s troubled tourism sector continued to sing the blues last
year with arrivals from Europe and the United States declining by a massive
by 21 percent as tourists continued to shun the country.

In a provisional report due for release next week, the Zimbabwe Tourism
Authority (ZTA) said there had been a huge decline in tourist arrivals from
the two traditional source markets because of the country’s negative image.

The report titled, “Visitor Arrivals by Source Market – 2007,” said tourist
traffic from Europe had plunged to 76 435 last year from 96 849 registered
in 2006 while traffic from the US had fallen from 44 746 to 33 897 visitors.

ZTA chief executive Karikoga Kaseke said the authority was fighting to
regain lost market share in Europe and America. “We are still working on
that market. We will not surrender that market," he said.

Tourism, which was among the biggest foreign currency earners for Zimbabwe,
is a shadow of its former self after President Robert Mugabe embarked on a
controversial land reform programme eight years ago.

The government’s violent land seizure programme coupled with political
violence drove away tourists amid a severe economic recession described by
the World Bank as unprecedented for a country not at war.

The report however says tourist arrivals from Asia had risen by 9 percent
from 37 035 to 40 484 during the past year with Japan and China contributing
the largest number of visitors to Zimbabwe.

Harare has since 2000 pursued a “Look-East” policy after the West imposed
targeted sanctions on Mugabe and his senior lieutenants in protest over his
human rights record and repression against political opponents.

Economic analysts however say although the number of arrivals from Asia had
grown, the Asians are not high spenders and their increased numbers do not
translate into increased tourist revenue for the country.

The ZTA report comes amid fresh travel warnings issued by the US and Britain
two weeks ago urging their nationals not to travel to Zimbabwe because of
“an increased potential for political violence.”

Zimbabwe is due to hold presidential and parliamentary elections next March
amid fears that political violence could flare up during the polls.

Political violence, mostly blamed on Mugabe’s ruling ZANU PF party
supporters, has been a constant feature of Zimbabwe’s polls since the
emergence of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party
in 2000.

Once one of the country’s fastest growing economic sectors, tourism has
virtually crumbled as visitors shunned the country because of lawlessness,
political violence and its poor human rights record.

Mugabe however blames the tourism slump on negative reporting by
international media out to tarnish Harare’s name as part of a wider
Western-led campaign to sabotage Zimbabwe’s economy. – ZimOnline

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Harare pledges to act to save farming season

Zim Online

by Own Correspondent Friday 25 January 2008

HARARE – Zimbabwe’s Agriculture Minister Rugare Gumbo said the government
was doing everything it could to procure fertilizer to reverse the effects
of rains that have incessantly pounded the country, threatening to turn the
2008 season into a complete write-off.

Gumbo said the Harare administration, blamed by critics for poor planning
and failing to avail adequate seed and fertilizer despite warnings of above
normal rains this season, was also encouraging farmers to keep planting in a
bid to save the season from going to waste.

"Normal planting is done between October and late December, but I don't
think we're having a normal rainfall season . . . so if the ground is wet,
why not plant maize?” Gumbo told reporters in Harare.

Heavy rains have been pounding most parts of Zimbabwe and much of southern
Africa since December.

The rains have caused floods that have left at least 21 people dead in
Zimbabwe while villagers in Muzarabani district in the low-lying Zambezi
Valley and the southern province of Masvingo have seen property, livestock
and crops washed away.

Last week, Zimbabwe’s Agricultural Technical and Extension Services (AREX)
said the rains were adversely affecting farming operations with most crops
now showing signs of nitrogen deficiency due to water logging while the
country did not have adequate ammonium nitrate fertilizer required to treat
the problem.

Gumbo said the Harare administration would act to ensure availability of
fetiliser. He said: "(The) government is doing everything in its power to
make sure fertilizer is made available to our farmers."

Zimbabwe, once a regional breadbasket, has grappled food shortages since
2000 when President Robert Mugabe launched his haphazard fast-track land
reform exercise that displaced established white commercial farmers and
replaced them with either incompetent or inadequately funded black farmers.

An estimated four million Zimbabweans or about a third of the country’s 12
million population are in need of food aid, according to international
relief agencies.

Chaos in agriculture because of farm seizures also hit hard Zimbabwe’s once
impressive manufacturing sector that had depended on a robust farming sector
for orders and inputs.

Most of Zimbabwe’s industries have since the beginning of farm seizures
either scaled down operations to about 30 percent of capacity or shut down
altogether, in a country where unemployment is more than 80 percent.

The Harare administration has declared the 2008 season the “mother of all
farming seasons” to revive agricultural production and end food shortages.

However, agricultural experts say predictions of a bumper harvest this year
were misplaced after what it described as pathetic preparations for the
season that saw the government fail to ensure adequate seed and fertilizer.
Too much rain that the region is experiencing will only help to further cut
down yields. - ZimOnline

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Is Zimbabwe the next Kenya?

Zim Online

by Tapera Kapuya Friday 25 January 2008

JOHANNESBURG - Kenya has been experiencing a wave of violence that
should serve as a lesson to Zimbabwe’s pro-democracy movement, as these
problems are rooted in the same democratic deficits.

Much of the media coverage on Kenya seems to have been consumed by a
focus on the ensuing violence with very marginal efforts to investigate
issues at the centre of this conflict: the absence of democratic
institutions and the shortfalls of ‘executive’ fundamentalism.

With Zimbabwe facing elections in March, a look into the Kenyan
scenario would be helpful in avoiding a repeat of the crisis experienced in
east Africa.

This is necessary in order to build agency around a proper
constitutional reform process, whose outcome will insulate Zimbabwe from the
problems those in Kenya are going through.

Since the Kenyan election, over a thousand people have died and 250
000 more have been displaced. As in most post-colonial conflicts, much of
these tensions have taken an ugly ethno-tribal character.

According to observers, the elections themselves were held in a manner
that can be deemed ‘free and fair’. In the run-up to the vote, all political
parties had relative space to organize and campaign.

Kenya has a growing free media, and unlike Zimbabwe does not have such
notorious legislations such as the Public Order and Security Act or the
Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

The election day itself was rather peaceful. The opposition, the
Orange Democratic Movement, won the majority of the parliamentary seats.

Problems were then reported in the tallying of the vote, throwing
President Mwai Kibaki’s victory into dispute. The chairperson of the Kenya
Electoral Commission has since acknowledged that there was manipulation of
the vote.

Independent observers have suggested that the election was too close
to call. The US Ambassador to Kenya, Michael Rannesberger, is quoted saying
whoever won the election, did so by a margin between 23 000 to 100 000

And that is where part of the problem lies.

Kenya like Zimbabwe, has its Lancaster House Constitution, drawn in
1963 as a settlement document when the British colonists were withdrawing
from the territory to allow for Kenya’s independence.

Consequently, this constitution, now with its fair share of
amendments, has not bode well for a transformational state, therefore
allowing for dictatorial tendencies to set in.

The Daniel arap Moi regime would master repression under the shoulder
of constitutional righteousness. As it relates to elections, state
administration and governance, Kenya has a winner-takes-all system.

This system is what we have in Zimbabwe. What this means is that, even
if one wins an election by one vote, the opinions of the section of the
voters who would have lost will not find political representation or

It is a system that excludes ‘losers’ and, as we are learning from
Kenya, this provides a base for fuelling other deep seated tensions. It
questions the legitimacy of the winner as a representative of all interest

As with Zimbabwe, Kenya’s presidential system places more power in the
executive, including power to legislate.

The executive has a monopoly over national resource distribution, with
the legislature being reduced to a powerless club of sessional critics or
patronage-driven loyalists.

With a Constitution that bestows enormous powers on the executive, and
because there are no constitutional provisions to ensure equitable
distribution of the country’s resources, perceived loss of the vote carries
a heavy meaning for those who lose.

In regions and amongst groups perceived to be less prioritised by the
victors, this arrangement fuels anger. It means another five years of being
isolated, another five years of exclusion, another five years of poverty.

The disproportionate powers the executive have compromises the other
arms of government.

The legislature and judiciary become overly dependent on the
executive, undermining their role to provide for checks and balances.
Executive accountability is eroded.

Corruption and its attendant defense systems set in: with regionalism
and identity cleavages taking centre stage in issues of national importance.

Democratic transformation in Kenya, as in Zimbabwe, gained its
momentum in the demands for Constitutional reform, with Kibaki defeating Moi
on the need to draft ‘a people driven Constitution’.

Kenyans are yet to see it, two Presidential terms down the line.

Most of those in civil society would be absorbed into the luxurious
benefits of the State and soon forget the principled demands of
institutionalizing democracy, and facilitating the writing down by the
people of a framework under which they want to be governed.

The results are what we are seeing today: those who feel excluded are
resorting to extreme measures to reclaim the vote. The death toll keeps
rising as neighbor turns against neighbor, and identity replaces values in
deciding who is a friend or foe.

The primacy of identity politics becomes a breeding ground for the
most deprived tendencies. It fosters an identity based nationalism which
regresses democratic values necessary for nation building.

As we have seen in Kenya, the electoral loss/victory soon takes the
form of one identity grouping having defeated the other and the nation
dividing along ethno-tribal lines. Ethnic identity is now equated with
political identity.

Is Zimbabwe the next Kenya?

A similar threat confronts Zimbabwe, risking the negation of genuine
national debate on democratic transformation.

Given our history, and the need to foster a common identity in our
diversity, a political system and Constitutional framework that allows for
this is critical.

The incumbent regime has set the country back into the
socio-psychology of identity in determining who can participate in national
discourse. Our white population has been effectively emasculated from being

Even in the most liberal of opposition spaces, they are regarded with
suspicion and are politely censored from making public representations.

Zimbabweans of Indian descent or those of mixed-race have been purged
from public political participation. Amongst the black population, it has
begun to matter whether one is Zezuru, Karanga or Ndebele.

As if this is not enough, gender, even within these clusters of
divisions, has been so entrenched to qualify exclusion, with our women
compatriots having to endure structural abuse to assert the mere fact that
they too are citizens.

Human character is secondary in the estimation of man and women.

These identities inform people’s perceptions of who is excluded or
included in the economic, social or political benefit – be they in the
patronage of the State, or in civil society and opposition or business.

The violence that is manifest in Kenya, though based on identity, is
reflective of failures in the country’s Constitution and institutions to be
responsive to the crises of nation building.

Many Kenyans have doubts about the validity of the country’s
Constitution, especially the process under which it was written. This is of
relevance to Zimbabwe, where sadly, the Kenyan case history could be
vengefully repeating itself.

The MDC has consistently argued that a new Constitution must be put in
place before the elections. Yet it seems to be doing everything to confirm
its participation in the electoral process before this key demand has been

Gabriel Chaibva, spokesperson of one faction of the MDC, in a recent
interview with the Voice of America was categorical about participating in
the March elections.

Nelson Chamisa, the spokesperson for the other faction of the MDC,
suggested the same in his widely condemned rally speech where he threatened
Kenyan-style protests should Mugabe do what he knows best: manipulate the

Despite this grandstanding and pontification about a new Constitution,
the MDC – in itself a product of the Constitutional movement – does not seem
to place value in the importance of a democratic, public participatory
process of Constitution making.

The Constitution it is fighting for in the talks is a product of ‘four
wise men’, determining the permanent fate of 12 million of their fellow

The Constitution they are proposing has not been seen or shared by

Our experience has been a bitter one: reforms made in the dark,
excluding national dialogue are partly the reason why we are where we are
today: a reason for us to be very afraid of the Kenyan ‘demons’ visiting us.

But what is even more frightening, if it is to be believed, is the
revelation by Nathaniel Manheru a columnist for government controlled Herald
who wrote in last Saturday’s edition that the so called ‘transition’
constitution agreed by ZANU PF and the MDC is nothing more than the 2000
government draft that was rejected in the referendum eight years ago.

The South African experience offers us learning curves on the issue of
national reconstruction. Emerging from its brutal past, as the rest of
post-colonial Africa, South Africa underwent a process of Constitutional
building that pitched public participation at the centre of Constitutional

Public opinion and debate would take place, with its Constitutional
Assembly, civil society and political parties opening the nation to dialogue
with itself.

What resulted was amongst other things, an electoral and political
system that is modestly inclusive, guaranteeing proportional representation,
and allowing all views brought to an electoral contest and receiving
electoral support, to find a measure of expression.

Greater devolution of power in provinces and local municipalities has
created a system of greater accountability and service delivery. There is
freedom of electoral contest and democratic expression.

The result has been limited violent contestation of election results
and a harmonious existence of political formations and civic groups despite
their competing ideologies or perspectives.

Those who lose an election will still salvage their proportional
representation of the vote.

The National Constitutional Assembly has advocated for a similar
system of Constitution making based primarily on the principles of ‘public
participation, openness and transparency’.

Its 2001 draft addresses some of the key issues of proportional
representation and institutions that safe-guard democracy: Electoral
Commission, Human Right Commission, Gender Commission etc.

The draft also argues for a strong legislature and judiciary and the
effective separation of powers between the varying arms of the State.
Parliament, elected through a mixed system of constituency based and
party-proportional representation would elect the leader of government who
would account to it.

This system was drawn out of the views gathered from ordinary
Zimbabweans, by both the NCA and the government’s own Constitutional

The government draft presented to the referendum in 2000 ignored all
these views, and was wisely rejected.

In arguing that elections should be deferred until such a time as
there is a Constitutional and electoral framework, the NCA aims to pre-empt
the possibility of national degeneration.

The Kenyan scenario points to the things we can avoid and toward the
importance of working on developing and putting in place structural systems
that ensure barbarism and exclusion are not part of our politics.

The democratic movement must learn that short-cuts to freedom lead to
spurious regimes and the entrenchment of anti-democratic practices.

The MDC, carrying with it the mantle of the nation’s hope for change,
must rethink its options.

The current opportunism and intellectual laziness that is becoming so
pervasive should be stopped and must give way to the principled call for a
just and free nation.

* Tapera Kapuya is with the National Constitutional Assembly. He
writes in his personal capacity. He can be reached on:

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Zimbabwe Cash Crisis Eases But Local Currency Value Heads South


By Jonga Kandemiiri
24 January 2008

Shortages of cash which had hobbled Zimbabwe's economy for weeks were
reported to ease late this week with fewer customers in line at banks to
withdraw money, while the Zimbabwe dollar sharply declined against the U.S.
dollar and other currencies.

Eyewitnesses said customer queues had disappeared from larger commercial
banks in Harare though they remained at building societies or savings and
loan institutions. In Bulawayo, the country's second largest city in the
west of the country, and in Mutare on the Mozambican border, improvement was
reported though queues remained.

Meanwhile, there appeared to be much more cash in circulation on parallel or
informal currency markets, gauging by a large surge in the exchange rate for
the U.S. dollar from around Z$2 million per greenback recently to more than
$6 million. Scarcity of local currency since late 2007 had depressed the
rate for hard currencies.

Some observers speculated that representatives of the central bank were
purchasing foreign exchange in parallel markets to meet government
requirements - for instance to purchase electricity, fuel, water
purification chemicals, and other critical items.

Harare economist John Mufukare told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that the cash
crisis may have abated simply because many individuals took all their money
out of the banking system recently after withdrawal limits were
significantly raised.

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Air Zimbabwe fares up 300 percent

New Zimbabwe

By Lebo Nkatazo
Last updated: 01/25/2008 06:26:31
AIR Zimbabwe has increased its fares by 300 percent with immediate effect,
it was confirmed Wednesday.

Last month, Air Zimbabwe increased its fares by 100 percent.

The Harare-China flight now costs Z$4 515 400 000, up from Z$1 145 400
000 -- representing a 294 percent increase.

Passengers for the Harare–Johannesburg route who were forking out Z$155,6
million will now have to part with Z$549, 6 million.

Locally, the Harare–Victoria Falls flight now costs $273 million, up from
$111,9 million marking a 114 percentage increase.

Air Zimbabwe has made proposals to the government, seeking to be allowed to
charge fares in foreign currency. The airline says 70 percent of its
outgoings are paid in foreign currency, and accepting fares in the unstable
local currency means the airline cannot meet its debts.

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Communications
chaired by Zanu PF legislator Leo Mugabe (Makonde) has supported the idea.

“The committee established that the national airline has been facing serious
viability problems caused mainly by inadequate resources, in particular the
mismatch between revenue and expenditure,” the committee said in a report
seen on Tuesday.

The report adds: “The airline has been charging fares for regional and
international routes in local currency, whilst other airlines charge for the
same in foreign currency.

“The committee noted the huge financial requirements for Air Zimbabwe and
sympathises with the corporation. The committee supports the proposal for
Air Zimbabwe to charge fares in foreign currency for regional and
international routes.

“This is one avenue where it can strike a balance between revenue and
expenditure. The committee also feels that this can generate funds to
improve the standards at the airline, improve its image and attract more
clients. The foreign currency can be used for the procurement of spares and
other requirements.”

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Massive security breach infuriates Mugabe

The Zimbabwean

Wednesday, 23 January 2008 10:07
… relatives fear for soldiers' safety
HARARE - The fate of 30 members of the Presidential Guard is unknown
after a laptop belonging to President Robert Mugabe was stolen from one of
his many safe houses in Harare, we can exclusively reveal.
Serving members of the Presidential Guard, a crack unit responsible
for providing security to the ageing dictator said the soldiers, who were
among those providing guard duties on the day in question, had been arrested
by members of the military intelligence and military police while their fate
was not known.
"There is a lot of panic among senior intelligence officers because if
the laptop finds its way into the public arena, it might expose a lot about
the goings on at State House.
Mugabe was reportedly so furious at the loss of his beloved laptop
that homes of the suspects and those of their friends and relatives,
including business premises, were raided and ransacked to no avail.
A relative of one of the suspects said family, friends and relatives
had already lost hope of ever seeing them alive.
"The soldiers are just being blamed for something that they did not
do. When on guard duties they have no time to be stealing such things. It is
those who hang around the President such as his close security details who
are so familiar with him who could have stolen the laptop," a tearful
relative said.
Mugabe was particularly enraged by the theft as it happened while he
was in the process of analysing reports of the Zanu (PF) restructuring
exercise and preliminary reports of the voter registration statistics,
sources close to the presidential entourage revealed.
Security officers said the soldiers had been locked up or killed as
the theft was regarded as one of the major security breaches, which could
expose Mugabe's public and private life.
Already, the theft of the laptop has brought into the open the fact
that Mugabe does not reside at State House or his palatial Borrowdale
 senior official in the army said Mugabe, who is paranoid about being
stormed by British and US soldiers, had come up with elaborate security
plans which had seen him maintain appearances of living at the Borrowdale
"People just don't know it but Mugabe moves from one safe house to
another. The noisy motorcades are usually decoys, Mugabe now uses shorter,
quieter convoys except when appearing at official engagements. At one time,
the cat was let out of the bag when the official motorcade arrived at the
Zanu (PF) Headquarters long after Mugabe had arrived in one of his more
discreet convoys." - Own correspondent

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Mugabe must go now - Gen Vitalis Zvinavashe

The Zimbabwean

Wednesday, 23 January 2008 10:07


One by one, senior Zanu (PF) leaders are coming out to demand an end
to Mugabe's rule before the elections scheduled for March.
The latest to join the call is former commander of the Zimbabwe
Defence Forces, Gen Vitalis Zvinavashe, who enjoys considerable support from
military personnel.
Zvinavashe, who retired a few years ago, is a substantial businessman
and a member of Mugabe's soviet-style politburo, Zanu (PF)'s highest
policy-making body."When we went to war we did not fight for a single person
but for all of us. But what the president is doing now defeats the whole
purpose of our having gone to war," he is reported to have told one of the
many Zimbabwean websites this week.

Caption: MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai,
addressing party supporters in Highfield on Sunday,
said the MDC would boycott elections if a new constitution
was not enacted ahead of the vote. See story P15

"By clinging to power Mugabe is betraying the essence of the
liberation struggle. I may also want to be president one day, but if one
clings on to power for too long, how do you expect youngsters to be leaders
of tomorrow. The president has played his part and should go immediately, to
give a chance to others whom we feel have the guts to shape a good
Zimbabwe," the general is quoted as saying.
He joins other Zanu (PF) heavies who are in revolt against Mugabe's
continued clinging to power. There have been reports, so far un-denied, that
former army commander, retired Gen Solomon Mujuru, another wealthy
businessman and husband of the deputy president Joice, is backing former
finance minister Simba Makoni in the launch of a new political party.
Other names linked to this initiative include Ibbo Mandaza, the SAPES
Trust executive director and former permanent secretary, Dzinashe
Machingura, the chairman of the Zimbabwe Liberators Platform as well as
retired Major Kudzai Mbudzi, suspended Zanu (PF) provincial spokesman for
As we reported last week, this new party, which is yet to be named and
formally launched, appears to have attracted support from senior members of
the army, the CIO, the police and the civil service.
When he was still commander of the defence forces in 2002, Zvinvashe
issued a statement just before the presidential elections in which MDC
leader Morgan Tsvangirai posed a massive threat to Mugabe, saying members of
the forces would not salute as president anyone who did not have ‘war
His latest statement is expected to embolden other Zanu (PF) officials
who may so far have been afraid to come out and declare their opposition to

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Economic Madness Returns

The Zimbabwean

Thursday, 24 January 2008 17:23 
Economic Madness Returns

Another phase of madness and further economic
destruction is looming as the National Incomes and
Pricing Commission (NIPC) braces for yet another
onslaught on industry and commerce over prices.

NIPC chairman, Goodwills Masimirembwa has issued a
statement promising the "full wrath of the law on all
businesses and individuals overcharging".
 The Zimbabwean has established that teams from the police,
army, municipal authorities as well as Zanu (PF)
activists have been recruited for a countrywide
crackdown expected to start next week.
Masimirembwa told The Zimbabwean that most businesses
"have defied government orders and raised prices by
more than the 600% agreed and passed by NIPC, meaning
the law has to take its course."
He declined to reveal how the law would take its
course, but senior officials in the police and army
speaking on condition of anonymity said the
recruitment of forces was almost complete. "There are
many police and army officers who have already been
confirmed and will participate in the crackdown,
similar to the one conducted last year," a source
said. "NIPC wants it to be done countrywide and seems
to be under political pressure to have prices slashed
Police spokesman Oliver Mandipaka said, "We (police)
are already on the ground in that exercise because
overcharging is unlawful."
The Zanu (PF) regime seems to forget quickly, or is so
desperate to the extent it chooses to repeat an
exercise that brought a lot of mayhem, shortages and
economic decline last year. The crackdown on industry
and commerce over prices last year forced many
closures whilst thousands lost their jobs as the whole
nation grappled with unprecedented shortages of all
Sustained hyperinflation has seen prices consistently
rising beyond the 600% ceiling imposed by the NIPC at
the beginning of this month. Most goods and services
have increased in prices by more than 1000% over the
past month.

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Sokwanele - Zimbabwean Christmas in Retrospect

Sokwanele - Enough is Enough - Zimbabwe

Zimbabwean Christmas in Retrospect
Sokwanele Article: 24 January 2008

Rural family lifeA month after Christmas it is instructive to look back and enquire how Zimbabweans celebrated – if that is the right word – this traditionally festive season. Christmas in retrospect if you like, through the eyes of a typical Zimbabwean family.

Our collective memory tends to be rather short but in this case we need go back no more than ten years to appreciate what radical changes have come about in the way this event is marked in Zimbabwe. In this short space most of us we have moved from a joyous season of family reunions, music, laughter and good times, to the most dismal of occasions, surrounded by hunger, deprivation and plain, downright misery. And this is not the result of some gradual cultural shift or loss of spiritual vitality, but rather of a sudden and brutal invasion of our way of life brought about by outside forces – to wit the collapse of the economy and unprecedented increase of violence and corruption under ZANU PF misrule.

Just ten short years ago Christmas was something that we all looked forward to eagerly. All those who could – and that was most of the population – arranged a visit to kumusha (the Ndebele word is ekhaya) the rural family home. An opportunity to spend time with parents and other relatives, it was culturally obligatory for all who had the means to make the journey, and no hardship at that. Indeed it was a time of great joy – family reunions, loud music, much laughter and good times for all. Wage earners from towns and cities gladly provided the commodities expected of them – rice (amatshakada), chickens and bottled beers, with sweets, cakes and coca cola for the children. Their rural cousins would slaughter a goat to be eaten with its delicious entrails and sadza or sadza re mapfunde (ground millet). They might also provide traditional beer, utshwala (umqhombothi) o r amahewu – a tasty drink brewed with a mixture of sadza, sugar and crushed millet.

A glorious mixture of food was set out for the assembled family groups, combining the commercially produced favourites such as mayonnaise salad, potato crisps, sweets and popcorn with the traditional delicacies – edible insects like ishwa (inhlwa) and tsambarafuta (amahhlabusi) and wild fruits such as mazhanje and nengeni. Unless it was braai meat cooked by the men for themselves, the meals were prepared by the women. If the family was blessed with a daughter-in-law (umakoti) she would be the one responsible. If several omakoti, they would share the task. Christmas was traditionally a time of plenty, providing rare treats in the culinary line, especially for rural folk accustomed to a simple and more limited diet.

Moreover celebrating Christmas in the rural areas brought alive the deep cultural sense of ubuntu – inadequately translated, “togetherness”. In urban areas the trend is towards separateness and individualism. Rural folk on the other hand gladly pool resources to make Christmas a success. Thus a family with access to electricity or solar energy will most likely offer their home as a venue, enabling a radio or television to be used to provide the background music.

The children would have a good time too, spoilt with new clothes provided by grandparents or more wealthy relatives. The normally strict rules of social intercourse were relaxed to allow plenty of fun for all.

Traditionally the festive mood would be sustained into the new year, often with the slaughter of another goat on new year’s eve and, for a big family, at least five chickens. With few exceptions there was enough for all, and that included any relatives or friends who might drop in on the celebrations.

Ten years ago inflation stood at a modest level of about 10 per cent, and the thirteenth cheque – the annual Christmas bonus – had real value. Workers had sufficient disposable income to afford the occasional spending splurge and this enhanced the “feel good” factor of the Christmas season. Added to which there were no shortages of basic commodities in the shops and fuel was both available and affordable. The “January disease”, when Christmas revellers returned to the harsh reality of accumulated debt and unpaid bills, was a factor but not such as to spoil the fun or cause long-term damage.

The annual visit to kumusha represented a spiritual homecoming for all. There is no doubt that urban life offers a standard of living to many and opportunities that are simply not available in the rural setting. Nevertheless it lacks the warm, romantic and traditional ambience of the rural home. For the simple pleasures of drinking natural, untreated, water and eating wild fruit, of relaxing in rural serenity and of that vital sense of togetherness, there is no alternative to kumusha.

It is a matter of returning, once in a while, to one’s roots and thereby recovering one’s very identity and sense of well-being.

And if the traditional Christmas meant all that, what can be said of Christmas 2007 in Zimbabwe?

It is a world apart from what it used to be at its traditional best, and nothing better illustrates the catastrophic decline the nation has experienced over the last ten years than a comparison between Christmas then and now.

To begin with, families have been torn apart under the impact of the economic melt-down. At a conservative estimate 3 million Zimbabweans or a quarter of the population are now living outside the country. When 85 per cent of the workforce is unemployed and 75 per cent of those Zimbabweans with a job are working outside the country, it has to have a profound impact upon every level of society and every aspect of life. Considering also that it is normally one or both parents who leave the country to earn an income to support the family and the children who are left behind, it comes as no surprise to learn how gravely family life has been disrupted by the crisis.

Parents and relatives, many of whom feel isolated and miserable in their life in exile, will go to great lengths to be reunited with their loved ones at Christmas but this is not always possible. Those who have to spend the season separated from their families will normally try to make contact by phone, but even this may not be possible given the remote location of many rural families and the general state of disrepair and overload of Zimbabwe’s crumbling communication systems.

So the diaspora – the biggest proportional mass movement of a population in peacetime ever in modern history - has had a catastrophic impact on Zimbabwe’s families. Our families are divided, physically, as never before, with incalculable long-term consequences.

In short Christmas 2007 revealed a nation in a state of severe dislocation, with family life one of the worst casualties. The diaspora effect was compounded by food, fuel and cash shortages, and by astronomic increases in the cost of transport, making family reunions relatively rare across the country. Instead many found themselves spending days in bank queues to access the small amounts of money they were permitted to withdraw, while others were queuing to purchase any of the few remaining basic commodities on sale.

It used to be said that Zimbabweans would always “make a plan” to overcome any contingency. But what could the average teacher on a salary of $ 15 million (a month) or nurse on a salary of $ 20 million or general labourer with an income of $ 10 million, do when faced with transport costs of $ 18 million (one way) Harare to Bulawayo, or $ 25 million between Bulawayo and Gokwe on a commuter omnibus ?

To add to the general misery a number of the companies operating long distance buses were unable to source the fuel they required. Noczim was releasing fuel to designated retail points on different days – thus, on Sunday Bulawayo-bound buses were refuelling in Harare and on Monday, Harare-bound buses. As a result bus timetables became even more erratic than normal. Scores of commuters literally camped out at Bulawayo’s railway station and other terminuses, waiting - often in vain - for the next train or bus.

Moreover with inflation running at something like 100,000 per cent, the fare for the return journey, after as little as a week’s break, could well push prices even further beyond the reach of many commuters. To risk all then in order to travel back to one’s kumusha could very well leave one stranded out of town, with no money or food.

With acres of empty shelves in the supermarkets and most basic commodities no longer available, there was little or nothing anyone could set aside for Christmas festivities. And what festivities anyway, one might ask, with power and water outages endemic across the country and with four out of five Zimbabweans now living below the breadline and 45 per cent of the population malnourished? Indeed Zimbabweans had little to celebrate this year.

One of the cruel ironies of the present crisis is that the largest source of foreign exchange now supporting the corrupt Mugabe regime, and thereby prolonging the misery of all, is the aggregate of financial contributions remitted to Zimbabwe by the diaspora to support their desperate families. During the Christmas holidays for example when tens of thousands of injiva (Zimbabweans living and working either legally or illegally) in South Africa, return to their home country, the volume of the South African currency (the Rand) they bring into the country is so huge that the black market value of the Rand dips significantly.

And be assured of one thing - whichever way the black market moves, it is the ZANU PF elite, including those working in senior positions in the Reserve Bank, who stand to gain most. They operate through currency brokers who are mostly members of the ostensibly religious sect, the Vapositori. The brokers peg a street exchange value for whatever foreign currency is in circulation and then the political heavyweights who control their activities peg a higher premium transfer exchange rate. The difference between the street value and the premium transfer rate is enough to ensure that the money barons are guaranteed a life of affluence beyond the wildest dreams of the average Zimbabwean. So those driven out of Zimbabwe by the criminal mismanagement of the economy find themselves inadvertently propping up those responsible for these insane policies.

Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace, for example, withdrew USD 100,000 of scarce foreign currency from the nation’s Reserve Bank to finance their lavish three-week holiday and shopping spree in Asia early in the new year. According to The Sunday Independent (SA) they bought the USD 100,000 from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) at the low official rate of Z$ 30,000 to one US dollar before Christmas. The black market rate which is a far more accurate indicator of the Zimbabwe dollar’s real value was at least 60 times higher, prompting a comment from an inside source at RBZ: “You might as well just say he took the money out of the RBZ for free.” So we may take it that the Mugabes’ and their privileged entourage had a very good Christmas, thank you – and all at the expense of Zimbabwe’s long suffering people, most of whom could barely scratch one meal together.

What of those living in exile who could not return to spend Christmas with loved ones? After sending off whatever remittances they can afford to support their families back home, many spent time together with other Zimbabweans in exile, having a drink or sharing a meal. Faced with a growing xenophobia by the “natives” of their countries of adoption (particularly in parts of South Africa), Zimbabweans often tend to congregate in ethnic groups for mutual support and security. Some take on casual work which the locals do not favour, earning themselves handsome overtime wages through the festive season. It is a sort of life but hardly a life to be envied, and most of those caught up in it are sustained only by the hope that one day the ruinous tyranny in Zimbabwe will end and they will be able to return to their true home.

As miserable as Christmas 2007 was for most Zimbabweans, a worse thought for many was whether they would have any job to return to in the new year. Or for the beleaguered business community, whether they would still have a viable business to run. And for all Zimbabweans there now looms the dismal prospect in just a few months time of multiple national elections which will provide – if ZANU PF has its way - nothing more than a farcical endorsement of the status quo.

How much has changed in Zimbabwe in the course of just a few short years. The way Christmas is marked (one cannot say “celebrated”) provides an indication of just how much has been lost, in the way of family cohesion, traditional values and even a sense of national identity. It is as if the nation has been cut loose from its spiritual and moral moorings. Indeed if the ruling party – or as one commentator more accurately calls it, the ruining party – had deliberately set out to cause as much suffering and inflict as much misery on as many Zimbabweans as possible, they could hardly have improved upon the result. The ruining party have destroyed the economy and reduced the majority of citizens to a level of grinding poverty. Theirs has been an all-out assault on the nation’s once-revered cultural, spiritual and moral values. They have all but destroyed family life and created a society driven by fear, greed, corruption and violence.

Christmas 2007 was not a happy time for Zimbabwe’s much abused citizens. And what lies ahead for us all for Christmas 2008 and the years beyond that? Is it conceivable that we will allow Robert Mugabe and his ruining party to continue the rape and pillage of this once-beautiful land? Or are we now sufficiently angry – and determined – to stop the rot?

May the next Christmas be a better one!

The best Christmas present of all for the nation in 2008 would be a radically new government, led by men and women of real integrity, whose ambition is to serve and who have a heart for all Zimbabweans.

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Linda Mbiko: "Johannesburg is a place of gold, but it's not easy to get that gold, even if you dig"

January 2008 (PlusNews) JOHANNESBURG, Linda Mbiko*, a 36-year-old widow,
crossed the border from Zimbabwe into South Africa, hidden in the back of a
truck. She was fleeing poverty and a public health system that had failed to
help her HIV-positive daughter. In Johannesburg, she believed she could earn
enough money to send some home and find treatment for herself and her child,
but without documentation she found the city a hostile place.

“After my husband passed away, I had no one to rely on, I had no food. When
he was working, that little money was something to us. I was staying in
rural areas and the life there was not easy; I had two kids to take care of
and I did not even have parents. Sometimes, I had to sleep without food
because I had no money and even if I had a little money, it was not easy to
get food because there was no food in the shops.
Otherwise I was sick all the time and my child was ill as well, but I was
not sure what it was and it was difficult because if you do not have money,
you are not going to get anything. Only those people who have a lot of money
get treatment.

“In the clinic, they decided to test my child and she was positive. I was
afraid I was as well, but I did not want to believe it. There was no
treatment so I used to get medicine from a tree, which we call Muringa, the
leaves of this tree - if you make it into powder and put it in porridge
people say it helps. That was what we were depending on.

“When I came to South Africa, I was hoping to get a job and take care of my
children, especially this one who is sick of the deadly disease. I was also
hoping to find something which was going to make me last longer because I
was sick. I was thinking, I’ll go to Johannesburg, because it is a place of
gold. But it is not easy to get that gold even if you dig and dig you will
not get it.

“It was different from what I was expecting. I was hoping for a job, a
better life, better accommodation, but when I came here it was not easy. I
had to spend most of my time in the park. You stay in the park because you
have nowhere to go and sleep.

“One day I met a man who offered to help me, but he used me for sex at the
end of the day. Sometimes he locked me in his room, so I stayed for a week
and then I escaped and was back on the streets.

“I got sick and I went to the clinic in Braamfontein [an area in
Johannesburg’s inner city] to be tested. I had to wait for two weeks to get
the results and I did not get counselling. The nurse who gave me the results
told me, ‘Here are your results; you are HIV positive, you can go and die.
You do not have papers, we can not help you.’

“Some other patients told me about a shelter and at the shelter I heard
about the support group. They referred me to Nazareth House [a Catholic
mission in Johannesburg’s inner-city] where I got counselling and ARVs
(antiretrovirals) and they never asked about papers.

“I’m still staying at the shelter, still not working. I don’t have much
contact with my family because they live in rural areas; I don’t know how
they’re surviving.

“The support group has helped a lot, just to unload and give each other
advice. Most are from Zimbabwe and have similar experiences.”


*Not her real name


      [The above testimony is provided by IRIN, a humanitarian news service,
but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations.]

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Zimbabwe's Matabeleland North Province Latest To Be Hit With Floods


      By Sithandekile Mhlanga
      24 January 2008

In the latest flood disaster to hit Zimbabwe, incessant rainfall led to the
inundation of parts of Tsholotsho District in Matabeleland North late this
week, sources said.

No fatalities were reported, but floods destroyed mud huts, livestock and
crops. Local sources said the Harare government has deployed military units
to rescue villagers.

Affected areas included Mhlahlo, Somanje, Matshudula, Mhlabangubo, Masekesa,
Malanda and Dinyane.

Floods hit other parts of Mashonaland and northeastern Muzarabani last
month, leaving some 22 people dead and thousands more homeless.

Correspondent Thabang Mathebula of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe was in
Tsholotsho and described the impact to reporter Sithandekile Mhlanga.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has
sent in a team to help flood victims, according to Regional Disaster
Management Coordinator Farrid Abdulkadir, who said floods in Zimbabwe are
generally in decline.

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Ignoring Regional Ruling, Zimbabwe Supreme Court Clears Farm Eviction


      By Patience Rusere
      24 January 2008

Zimbabwe's supreme court on has dismissed a constitutional appeal by a white
farmer seeking relief from impending eviction from his farm, in doing so
appearing to ignore a recent ruling from a tribunal of the Southern African
Development Community.

Chegutu farmer Mike Campbell was challenging a constitutional amendment that
nationalized all farmland and barred farmers from appealing seizures in

The decision came despite a ruling by a Southern African Development
Community tribunal which barred the Harare government from evicting Campbell
until a further hearing in the matter by the regional tribunal this March.

Chief Executive Officer John Worsely-Worswick of Justice for Agriculture
told reporter Patience Rusere of VOa's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that a senior
ZANU-PF official says he has an offer letter to take over the farm, again
despite the SADC tribunal ruling.

Meanwhile, Registrar Justice Charles Mkandawiri of the SADC tribunal said
that if the Harare government does not comply with the ruling the tribunal
handed down, it will refer the matter to the highest level of the regional

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