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Poll date: Mugabe 'act of madness'

Zim Standard


THE two MDC formations will this week convene top level meetings to
decide whether or not to boycott the 29 March elections.

Party sources said yesterday the announcement by President Robert
Mugabe of the election and nomination dates had changed their "game plan",
leaving them with no choice but to call for urgent national council meetings
to decide the way forward.

Nelson Chamisa, the spokesperson of the Tsvangirai formation said in
announcing date while negotiations were taking place, Mugabe had committed
"an act of madness".

"Mugabe has lost a chance to see an amicable resolution of the crisis
through dialogue. This is a final nail into the coffin of the dialogue,"
said Chamisa.

All along the formations had pinned their hopes on the Sadc-initiated
dialogue, believing that Mugabe would agree to postpone the elections to

They argued this would allow time for such contentious issues as the
new constitution to be addressed.

The Morgan Tsvangirai formation launched "Freedom Marches" to force
Mugabe to accept a new constitution.

But the president on Friday proclaimed 29 March the date for the
presidential, parliamentary and council elections.

He set 8 February as the nomination day.

The announcement in an Extraordinary Government Gazette gives the
opposition 12 days to decide whether or not to take part.

They also have to come up with a common position on a "united front"
to challenge Mugabe.

This can only be finalised after the factions have agreed to go into
the elections.

Welshman Ncube, the secretary general of the Arthur Mutambara
formation said their national council would meet this week to decide on

"Collectively (with the Tsvangirai faction) we have to come up with a
position. The question is: how could Mugabe unilaterally announce the
election date when the dialogue was still going on? By calling for an
election he has repudiated the Sadc dialogue," said Ncube.

But it’s not everyone who thinks Mugabe alone has to be blamed.

National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) Chairman Lovemore Madhuku said
Mugabe had done what they along expected him to do under the current

"The opposition must take some blame. For months, they have been in
bed with Zanu PF, when everyone knows that it cheats. When they went into
the talks, they sidelined the civil society. When we criticised them after
sponsoring the 18th Amendment, Tsvangirai said they had agreed with Zanu PF
to have a new constitution.

"They made us believe there was progress, and look at the kind of
progress we have."

Apart from the Freedom March, violently suppressed by the police, on
Friday police left activists of the Restoration for Human Rights (ROHR) with
fractured limbs after they had marched into the streets of Harare to protest
against the violation of people’s rights.

Over 20 activists had to seek medical attention.

By late yesterday, Stendrick Zvorwadza, the Vice-President of the ROHR
was still held being by the police. He was arrested on Friday afternoon as
he led the protestors who called on the police to respect citizens’ rights.

Civil society organisations, through the Zimbabwe Election Support
Network (ZESN) said it would be difficult for Zimbabweans to go to the polls
in March.

"As it is, politically and administratively, the situation is inimical
to the holding of credible, undisputable, legitimate, free and fair
elections," ZESN chairperson Noel Kututwa, told journalists last week.

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Scores of babies die in hospital's 'death bed'

Zim Standard

  By Bertha Shoko

HARARE Central hospital’s neonatal unit is a death bed. Many mothers
walk in there with their children alive but leave with corpses," a senior
doctor at the hospital said last week.

"I tell you those who come out alive only do so by the grace of God —
nothing to thank the specialist or nurse for."

This is how the doctor summed up the state of affairs at the huge
referral hospital’s neonatal unit, which caters for seriously ill babies or
those with varying complications, particularly premature and underweight

Doctors say it is in this unit that sick babies are supposed to
receive specialist care to restore their health.

But this isn’t the case anymore at Harare Central, The Standard was

"My experience here in this neonatal unit has been full of pain,
anguish and despair," said a doctor. "It has become routine to hear the
shrieks in our corridors as mothers learn of the death of their children.

"This is how serious it has become. I am not surprised anymore to find
at least 10 dead children in the tray every day, at the beginning of my
shift, because the neonatal unit at this hospital is essentially dead and
nobody wants to do anything about fixing things in this country."

The Standard spoke to the senior doctor while following up a report
that ten babies in incubators had died after the nationwide power cuts on
Saturday a week ago.

Upon digesting that information, doctor laughed, startled.

After gaining his composure, he said Harare hospital had more than 50
incubators. Only three worked – on and off. There was no way ten babies
could have been packed into three incubators. An incubator has room for only
one baby.

He challenged the newspaper to investigate the story further. A can of
worms opened up. Harare Central hospital’s neonatal has a serious shortage
of essential but basic medicines. Life-saving machines and equipment have
not been working for months, and in some cases for years.

The neonatal unit is reportedly seriously understaffed, with
experienced nurses and doctors quitting for greener pastures, to be replaced
by greenhorns.

The hospital has been operating without a neonatalogist, a specialist
in illnesses affecting new-born babies, since 2003.

"In the absence of this specialist, you have a critically ill child
and an inexperienced nurse or doctor with absolutely no idea what is going
on and how to save the child. This is why children are dying like flies here
at this hospital," said a source.

It’s been reported there is only one radiologist for Harare and
Parirenyatwa hospitals and the army.

"What it simply means is that if a child needs an urgent X-ray, they
can’t get it," one source said. "While they pick up the phone to call the
radiologist the child will be dying slowly."

The three incubators have reportedly outlived their life span,
although they are functional. So, if there are ten seriously ill premature
babies, seven will die.

But the unit has no fully functional monitoring equipment either, such
as a pulse oxy-meter (oxygen check) and Electronic Cardiograph (ECG), which
helps monitor how well the heart is functioning.

"A pulse oxy-meter helps to determine how much oxygen is in a ill
child. If there is not enough, it’s a sign the child may not be breathing
properly and needs help," he said, adding "Children are dying because of all
these anomalies."

Then there are shortages of antibiotics.

"I tell you this unit as good as dead. They must just close it because
it’s a serious cost to the nation. We tried our best to engage the health
minister (David Parirenyatwa) and he has done nothing. He is not willing to
trade in his Mercedes Benz for three incubators that could save hundreds of

Parirenyatwa said yesterday: "What I will tell you officially is that
Harare Hospital’s neonatal unit is continually being looked at for
upgrading. I think the staff there are doing the best they can."

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Zanu PF women in $10b swindle case

Zim Standard


THE police are investigating how three senior Zanu PF officials
swindled $10 billion intended for a women’s project in Mashonaland East

They are Mudzi West legislator Aqualinah Katsande, Zanu PF chairperson
of Goromonzi district, Keresenzia Nyakudya and Biata Nyamupinga, an aspiring
candidate for Mashonaland East province.

She is the wife of Zimbabwe’s deputy ambassador to Australia, Felix

The trio were arrested last week at a restaurant in The Avenues in
Harare but released after a few hours.

Police spokesperson, senior assistant commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena
initially said he would look into the matter. But by the time of going to
the press, efforts to contact him again were futile.

But a senior policeman in the Serious Fraud Squad section who
requested anonymity confirmed the arrests.

It is alleged that after the Zanu PF congress last month, the Reserve
Bank of Zimbabwe gave $10 billion to each province for women’s projects.

The Mashonaland East province’s money was deposited into a CBZ account
under the Mashonaland East Women’s league.

It is alleged that these three women would then use the party’s name
and influence to withdraw cash from the bank.

The money would then be used to buy foreign currency on the
black-market. Their base of operation was Nyamupinga’s clothes shop called
Pretty Fashions in the Central Business District.

The women were arrested following a tip-off to the police.

Katsande and Nyamupinga refused to be interviewed on the case, but a
sales representative at Pretty Fashions confirmed the police had searched
the shop but had not found any money.

The matter was reported to the Minister Without Portfolio Elliot
Manyika and RBZ Governor Gideon Gono.

Efforts to get comments from the two were fruitless.

"We have sent some boys to Mash East province and all I can say is
there is progress being done and we are in the right track," said a police

The three are believed to be close to the Vice President Joyce Mujuru.

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'Free elections' like chasing a ghost, says AU official

Zim Standard


A representative of the African Union (AU) has warned of a repeat of
the Kenyan post election violence if the voting process is not properly
managed in Zimbabwe’s forthcoming harmonised polls.

Pansy Tlakula, a Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression in the AU
commission on Human and People’s Rights, spoke at a conference for lawyers,
journalists and human rights activists last week.

She called for a delay in the announcement of the election results
until participating parties had been notified of the outcome.

She said this could help avoid a situation where moves by Kenyan
President Mwai Kibaki to have himself sworn in soon after the election
results were announced sparked violence that has claimed hundreds of lives.

Tlakula, the South African Independent Electoral Commission’s chief
elections officer said although free and fair elections were ideal, they
were not always possible.

"It’s like chasing a ghost," she said. "Elections will never be free
and fair and there are no mechanisms to make sure that they are not rigged.
They do not always produce a true reflection of the voting patterns due to
human error and my advice is that there must be a delay in the announcement
of results until participating parties have agreed on them to avoid a repeat
of the Kenyan experience."

The conference was held under the theme, "Towards a free, fair and
credible election in 2008.

Last week, the US smbassador to Zimbabwe , James McGee said he doubted
the country was ready for the elections given the economic environment and
the government’s unwillingness to accept support from other countries.

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Heavy rains destroy homes

Zim Standard


TENDAI Makurari has to crouch to get in and out of what remains of his
three-roomed house.

This has been his home since childhood, but the 34-year-old widower
who lives in Epworth — a poor, dilapidated and semi-rural settlement, about
20km southeast of Harare — could be forced to relocate.

Makurari recalls how last December he woke up to find himself being
carried out of the house that had been demolished by heavy rains. "I am
lucky to be alive," he said. "I don’t know what happened. I just found
people carrying me outside and having a terrible backache."

He says one month later, Maku-rari is still in great pain. Being
unemployed and with three children to look after, he cannot afford to pay
for medication. In his physical state, he cannot even walk to the Epworth

Makurari is not the only one facing this plight, largely unnoticed by
both the media and authorities in Harare.

Residents say hundreds of housing units in the suburb have been
destroyed since the onset of the rains last November, creating what
threatens to be a major crisis.

Most houses in this suburb are built of mud bricks on shallow
foundations. They are susceptible to collapse after heavy rains.

The government has shown little commitment to resolve their plight.
This has left many young lives in danger. Following the collapse of their
houses, some mothers now sleep in the open with their young children.

"It is very cold, but we just have to sleep here till the rains stop,"
said Linda Matanda, a mother of two, of Dombo location, "so that we can
rebuild our houses. But there are many mosquitoes here and we are afraid of

Another heartrending case was that of four-year-old Nokutenda Dura of
Black Tiger location. She was trapped in her grandmother’s house after it
collapsed. She is now crippled.

Her grandmother, Mbuya Manyangadze, said: "I thought I was going to
lose my granddaughter. I had to rush with her to Epworth polyclinic and she
was transferred to Harare Hospital. I spent over $30 million on her

In areas such as Dombo, Mhiyepiye, Black Tiger, Kwajacha and
Pamunyuku, several houses have collapsed and some are on the verge of
collapsing. If the rains persist more houses will be destroyed.

The number of shanty settlements in Epworth has increased after the
devastating effects of Operation Murambatsvina in 2005.

Attempts to get a comment from the suburb’s local board were futile.
The Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) says its efforts to engage
the government on the residents’ plight have been in vain.

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Suspected MDC supporters excluded from govt support

Zim Standard


BULAWAYO — Mberengwa East rural farmers with suspected links to the
MDC were recently removed from the list of beneficiaries of the government
farm mechanisation programme, reportedly on the orders of the Member of
Parliament, .

Rugare Gumbo, the Minister of Agriculture, two weeks ago allegedly
ordered officials from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to give farm equipment
sourced by the central bank under the agricultural mechanisation scheme only
to Zanu PF supporters belonging to his faction.

This is said to have occurred at Mataga growth point where RBZ
officials were distributing the equipment to Ward 1 and 2 rural villagers in
Mberengwa East.

The Standard established that the distribution degenerated into chaos
after Gumbo forced RBZ officials to set aside the original list in favour of
one compiled by Ward 2 Chief Bhera Matarutse, a Zanu-PF supporter.

The original list was drafted by Zanu-PF councillors of the wards.

"The move effectively resulted in most of us suspected to be MDC
sympathizers losing out on the farm equipment," said one villager.

There were reports that the change ordered by the MP resulted in a
number of Zanu-PF supporters suspected to be linked to a faction opposed to
Gumbo being sidelined as well.

Gumbo could neither confirm nor deny the allegations, saying only: "I
only went there as the MP to see how and whether the distribution process
was going on smoothly."

But Zanu-PF Ward 1 Councillor, Smart Hove said: "Gumbo ordered the RBZ
officials to stop using the old list of beneficiaries and use a new list
which he had compiled with Chief Matarutse and as a result even Zanu-PF
members opposed to Gumbo were scrapped from the list of beneficiaries."

Zanu-PF Mberengwa East is fraught with divisions emanating from the
expulsion of a Zanu-PF member, Goodwill Shiri, after he stood against Gumbo
in the 2005 parliamentary elections as an independent candidate in protest
over alleged rigging of primary elections which he had lost.

Since then two camps – one led by Gumbo and another led by the
Zvishavane-Mberengwa Senator, Richard Hove, viewed as a close associate of
another Zanu PF heavyweight, Emmerson Mnangagwa — have been at loggerheads.

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NRZ 'go-slow' disrupts passenger, freight services

Zim Standard

  By Leslie Nunu

BULAWAYO — National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) workers have been on a
go-slow for the past fortnight over a 1 000 percent pay review.

Their action has disrupted passenger and freight services.

NRZ sources said the protest, which began soon after the Christmas
holidays, was causing frequent delays in inter-city passenger train
services, some of them for seven hours.

Disgruntled workers told The Standard the management was sticking to a
150 percent salary offer that has been repeatedly turned down by the unions
who are citing hyperinflation.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently put the rate of
inflation at 150 000 percent, the world’s highest..

"What management is offering is an insult," said one worker. "As long
as they stick to that offer we will not commit ourselves to our work because
it is not motivating at all."

NRZ, like most companies, is reportedly broke after it was forced to
slash its tariffs by the government during a controversial price blitz last
year. The lowest-paid worker earns $20 million a month.

Sources said in a desperate move to minimise the effects of the job
boycott and a massive brain drain, the NRZ has been relying on artisans from
the army and police officers.

"The working conditions are very bad," said another employee, "as some
people work 12-hour shifts every day without taking leave."

NRZ spokesman, Fanuel Masikati said he was not aware of the go-slow,
as management and the unions were still negotiating.

"It will be premature if I talked about what is taking place at the
talks," he said. "As far as I know there is no go-slow because we are
operating normally."

Last year NRZ made a $12 billion profit after a lean 23-year period
where a series of losses were blamed on low tariffs imposed by the

Due to escalating commuter bus fares, many urban workers now rely on
so called "freedom trains" introduced by the government in Harare and
Bulawayo the wake of severe fuel shortages to mitigate a serious transport

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Bulawayo could run out of drinking water

Zim Standard

  By Kholwani Nyathi

BULAWAYO — Despite almost two months of torrential rain, Bulawayo
might soon run out of drinking water, The Standard learnt last week.

The city has been facing severe water shortages since the end of 2005
after consecutive droughts and rising demand.

Since the end of last year, Zimbabwe has had heavy rains, with
December being recorded by the Meteorological Services Department. as the
wettest month in 127 years.

The rains raised water levels at Bulawayo’s supply dams from an
all-time low of less than 20 percent in November to last week’s 60, 2

But the council warned recently its "water shedding" would be
intensified because it was running out of funds to buy water treatment

The city of close to two million people has been without a regular
supply of aluminiun sulphate, a key chemical for water treatment, since
early last month.

This prompted the authorities to cut further supplies to industry and

In August last year the government stopped the council from
introducing a supplementary budget, citing a July decree which ordered
businesses to slash prices of goods and services by 50 percent.

"The situation is untenable," said council spokesman, Pathisa Nyathi.
"Last month the problem was that we could not procure the chemicals because
local manufacturers had closed for the Christmas holidays when our
supplementary budget was finally approved by the government.

"This time the chemicals are available on the market but we have no
money because our budget for this year has not been approved and we are
still charging last year’s rates."

In previous years, the council was allowed to introduce new tariffs in
the western suburbs and also to charge new car licence fees in January while
awaiting approval from the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and
Urban Development for other aspects of the budget.

But following the introduction of the National Incomes and Pricing
Commission (NIPC) in the middle of last year, the ministry’s role is now
limited to recommending the budget.

"The NIPC seems to be taking its time," said Nyathi. "In the meantime,
our proposed tariff and rates charges are frozen, yet prices are going up
every day. We are already facing the awkward prospect of a supplementary
budget before the initial budget is introduced."

He said the council was literally living from hand to mouth, with a
grant from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and a loan from
Delta Beverages late last year having saved the city from running dry for

A $51, 7 billion dividend from its Bulawayo Municipal Undertaking
(BMCU) gave the council a temporary reprieve, as it managed to import
chemicals from South Africa.

Efforts to get a comment from NIPC chairman, Godwills Masi-mirembwa
were unsuccessful.

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Mutare prosecutor in trouble over new party

Zim Standard


THE Attorney General’s Office has ordered Manicaland area prosecutor,
Levison Chikafu, to explain his links with a new opposition party, the
Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

Chikafu, cleared of fraud and corruption last year, is the brains
behind the LDP, scheduled to be launched before the March harmonised

In a letter dated 12 December 2007, acting director of public
prosecution, Florence Ziyambi, said the AG’s office wanted to establish the
authenticity of newspaper reports that Chikafu had formed a political party.

Ziyambi said the formation of a political party was an act of
misconduct and violated Section 24B of the Public Service Regulation of

The letter read in part: "Formation of a political party or a movement
by a member delegated by the AG to appear on his behalf as a prosecutor in a
court or by a member appointed for the purpose of giving legal advice to the
government is in violation of Section 24B of the Public Service Regulation
of 2000."

"In light of the above this head office requires a written response to
the allegations so that our office’s name cannot be brought into disrepute."

Ziyambi ordered Chikafu to respond by 28 January.

Chikafu’s attorney, Chris Ndlovu of Gonese & Ndlovu Legal
Practitioners, said his client had a constitutional right to form or to hold
political opinion of his choice.

"Their demands are a violation of Mr Chikafu’s Constitutional right to
freedom of association or the right to hold political opinion," said Ndlovu.

Ziyambi could not be reached for comment.

Chikafu rose to prominence two years ago after he charged Minister of
Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Patrick Chinamasa with attempting
to defeat the course of justice by allegedly attempting to pressure a key
witness in a case against Minister of Security Didymus Mutasa, to withdraw.

He took up the case after other prosecutors recused themselves,
fearing to prosecute Chinamasa who, as head of the Ministry of Justice, was
their boss.

Chinamasa was however acquitted by the court.

Chikafu also dominated the headlines when he courageously pushed the
police to arrest Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) agent, Joseph
Mwale, for allegedly petrol-bombing a vehicle carrying two opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party activists, Talent Mabika and
Tichaona Chiminya, in the run-up to the 2000 general election.

The MDC activists died as a result of the bombing, but Mwale remains
employed by the security agency and has never faced trial amid reports top
politicians have shielded him.

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Nightmare of long-distance bus travel

Zim Standard


AN old woman lies under an old long- distance bus at a service station
in Harare’s medium density suburb of Houghton Park.

Looking sickly and worn-out, she raises her head as a car stops
besides the bus.

Mbuya Kurai (58) says she is not sick, but "just hungry and tired".

She is waiting for the bus, which she boarded the day before at Mbare
Musika, to be allocated fuel so she can travel to her rural home in Buhera,
over 200 km south-east of Harare.

"I haven’t eaten for the past two days," she said, her voice faint,
"and I am now hungry. I don’t have money to buy food here."

Mbuya Kurai had come to Harare to collect the few belongings of her
deceased daughter, who lived in Kuwadzana.

She only had enough money to take her back home.

A number of well-wishers had been giving her their leftover food but
it is not enough.

She is one of the hundreds of travellers who spend days sleeping at
garages, waiting for buses to be allocated fuel.

Bus operators are required to load passengers first at Mbare Musika
before they are given subsidised fuel from National Oil Company of Zimbabwe
(Noczim) at the designated garages.

"The passengers have no choice but to wait at the garages as most of
them cannot afford to travel on Kombis which charge more five times the
actual fares," said one driver.

Garages where buses are allocated fuel include, in Harare, Exor
Service Station in Sunningdale and BP Shell in Waterfalls.

The fuel is not always readily available, so long distance bus
operators are forced to spend days queuing for fuel at the designated

That wait can last two or more days. Last week, waiting passengaers
spent several days virtually living in the buses.

When The Standard news crew visited some of the garages last week the
situation was described by some as "pathetic".

There were not enough toilets and running water at the garages. So.
passengers relieved themselves behind buildings and open spaces, posing a
health hazard, not only to themselves but to residents of nearby suburbs.

There are rubbish bins and big green flies, dubbed "Green Bombers"
hover around the litter thrown around. During the night, mosquitoes "feast"
on the passengers as some of the buses have no window panes.

Young children are the most affected. Some constantly cry because of
hunger and thirst.

"I am going to Murambinda and this is my third day here," said 22-year
old Fadzanai Chisvo. "As you can see, my baby is only six months old and he
is very hungry. I don’t have money to buy food. I have been breastfeeding
him but now there is no milk left in my breasts,"

Another traveller, Sekuru Munyoro who intended to travel to
Zvishavane, said: "If I had extra money, I would have boarded a kombi. I am
really hungry and I am now sick."

The driver of a bus which plies the Harare-Bulawayo route, said the
situation deteriorated at night, with children crying and making a lot of

"Sleeping in a bus is not comfortable, my friend," he said, "and just
imagine a young child sleeping here for more than three nights."

Vendors have also taken advantage of the situation and are selling
food to the passengers at exorbitant prices.

A plate of sadza costs between $4 million and $5 million, well beyond
the means most of the passengers.

Noczim acting director for marketing and distribution, Lovemore
Mandugu, claimed the situation was under control "as bus operators were
getting fuel on a daily basis".

"We are giving buses fuel every day," he said. "We may have problems
of fuel shortages now and then but as for now, the situation is under

The chairman of the Zimbabwe Passenger Transport Organization (ZPTO),
Milla Musanhi, said the situation had improved.

"There was no fuel at Noczim distribution points in Harare since last
year, but following our meeting with the Ministry of Energy and Power
Development recently, the situation has now improved, beginning this week,"
he said.

Although Musanhi sounded upbeat, the situation on the ground remained

"They must be lying," said Mbuya Kurai, "because we wouldn’t be here
if the situation had improved. I have been here for the past two days. I
hope I will not spend another day here,"

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Monetary crisis needs cool heads all round

Zim Standard


THE monetary/banking crisis, now mired in tit-for-tat exchanges
between the central bank governor and the bank executives, can be resolved
only if cool heads are maintained by all concerned.

The recent cash crisis caused so much misery it should never be
repeated, if the two sides put national interests above their own personal

Gideon Gono publicly accused the banking sector of colluding with
unidentified "cash barons" in a racket on the parallel market.

Last Monday, when a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee had expected him
to address these issues before it, he begged off.

The banking and the monetary crises are linked, inexorably. Almost as
soon as Gono became central bank governor, there was tension, culminating
with a number of bank executives fleeing the country for fear of prosecution
over alleged misconduct.

The situation continued to deteriorate until we had the unusual
spectacle recently of the governor publicly accusing the bankers of raiding
the parallel market with depositors’ funds.

So far, none of them has been charged, nor have the police launched
investigations into the alleged racket.

Under the law, the governor has specific powers to curb illegal
banking practices. It has always been assumed the bank executives who fled
the country became aware the charges against them might be proven in a court
of law.

Or is it likely they feared something else, something linked to the
overzealousness of the governor to "clean up" what he perceived as the mess
in the sector?

All that may now be water under the bridge. Yet nothing has been
solved. Gono’s declared No. 1 enemy, inflation must be grinning from ear to
ear. His fight against that scourge has been a disaster.

In view of this undisputed fact, accusations of arbitrary price
increases by manufacturers and retailers sound bizarre. Charges of
profiteering in an environment with the highest inflation rate in the world
are difficult to prove.

What Zimbabwe’s economy requires is a fresh look. When he started his
turnaround campaign, Gono spoke with boyish animation of "a return to the
basics". Once or twice, much to his credit, he criticised some of the
government’s peculiar economic measures, mostly because there was an almost
palpable political element in them.

Lately, however, he has begun to sound like a Zanu PF megaphone. To
his diehard critics, his verbal sparring with the bank executives has all
the quality of Zanu PF’s constant public denunciation of the MDC, or the

If he moderated his language and perhaps indicated publicly that he
and the bank executives were on the same battle – and not acting on opposite
sides – we might begin to see a change in our economic fortunes.

Like the private sector in general, the banking executives must feel
thoroughly unwanted by the government.

At every turn, the government seems determined to show them that it
can run the economy without them, or without the entire private sector.

This is a pipedream, from which the closet Marxist-Leninists in Zanu
PF have not woken up. The Zimbabwean economy has always been anchored on a
resilient and innovative private sector.

All attempts to "Zanunise" it have ended in disaster.

The present pathetic state of the economy is evidence enough that only
free enterprise can restore Zimbabwe to the status it enjoyed as one of the
most promising developing countries in Africa, along with South Africa.

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Crooked polls...just like death, taxes

Zim Standard

  sunday opinion by Bill Saidi

IF I were an incurable cynic, I would declare that last week my worst
fears were confirmed: there can never be a free and fair election..

Although politicians are human beings and may end up in Heaven or
Hell, they must possess an indefinable quality which drives them to be
Numero Uno, even if they are not Italian and would flunk an entry test into
the Cosa Nostra, or have any biological or ideological links with Benito
Mussolini, the creator of fascism.

Their game is not called "dirty" for nothing. In theory, the
Zimbabwean politicians are not responsible for the electoral machinery. All
the legwork is left to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).

The chairman is Mr Justice George Chiweshe. It could be argued that
being a war veteran does not necessarily disqualify him as an unbiased ZEC

But it could be argued he was chosen, by President Robert Mugabe,
because he is a war veteran. It’s not a legal requirement.

There has been no evidence that war veterans, pound for pound, are
more honest or otherwise, than other citizens.

So, why did Mugabe choose Chiweshe? If anyone says it was a
coincidence, then there could be slimy things crawling in that box they call
their brain, masquerading as the medulla oblongata.

Most people who know the domination of the Zanu PF hierarchy by people
politically diagnosed as "control freaks", doubt that the party could allow
an election to go ahead, unless it could win it hands down.

Advocate Pansy Tlakula, a much-travelled South African is her country’s
chief elections officer. She unloaded this truth on a group of journalists,
lawyers and human rights activists at a workshop in Harare last week.

The subject of free, fair and credible elections is topical today. Our
own are due at the end of March, to which most people with an ounce of
fairness in their corpuscles will react with Grrrr!!!

This reaction must be premised on the conduct of elections in Africa,
but particularly those in Kenya last month. More than six hundred people had
died, at the last count, in the aftermath of the announcement of Mwai Kibaki’s

Advocate Tlakula said she had observed many elections, including one
in the United States, and another in Nigeria. Her experience is invaluable.
She says she saw irregularities being perpetrated. So, her conclusion cannot
be taken lightly, or with a pinch of salt, as they would if they were
uttered by a politician.

My own conclusion: crooked elections are inevitable, like politicians,
like death and taxes.

The one rider she made, which raises the prospect of free, fair and
credible elections in the foreseeable future is this: if mechanisms are
installed to reduce the number of loopholes through which chicanery can be
perpetrated, there is a chance that an election could be free, fair and

Moreover, I have always admired the gutsy manner in which Margaret
Dongo fought and triumphed against her election loss as an independent
candidate against a Zanu PF candidate in The Nighmare Nineties.

Many people associate her victory on appeal against the result to a
Judiciary with the cojones to call the government’s bluff. This is not to
suggest that since then the Judiciary has undergone a metamorphosis
equivalent to castration.

It’s just that in The Nightmare Nighties, Zanu PF had discovered it
could be toppled in an election with even the elementary requirements of
accepted universal standards. So, it set about — as the Costra Nostra
might — to contaminate the entire system, to suit its own purposes.

Dongo returned to Parliament as an Independent and gave her former
colleagues on the government benches a taste of their own medicine — she
could be acerbic, sabrous and unfeminine in her language. She had joined the
struggle in her mid-teens.

Today, the only woman with whom she could be compared is Priscilla
Misihairambwi-Mushonga — in her first stint in the House. Dongo spent time
in the United States, studying for a degree. Perhaps she has now mellowed,
although most people would still expect fireworks from her if she ever
returned to the House.

Meanwhile, back to the elections and death and taxes. Not all
Parliaments in the world are populated by Members or Deputies or Senators
fraudulently elected.

But even if only a handful of them entered the august House by hook
and crook, this — to the purists of the democratic ethos — should be
unacceptable. Yet throughout the world, there are so-called democracies
teeming with crooked people, or people with a crooked pedigree.

The argument, among some, is that this is a far better system than
that other one — the dictatorship, where the trains run on time, as they did
in Mussolini’s era.

In Zimbabwe today, we have the worst record in almost every field of
human endeavour, including rugby, cricket and soccer. Nobody else did that
to us, except the ruling elite. Which part of that history is difficult to

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Healthcare hell


It's murder to get sick in Zim, writes Cathy Buckle, who has just gone
through the experience.

Cathy Buckle
27 Jan 2008 06:27

Only once in the last seven days has there been electricity, water and
telephone services at the same time and that was for less than two hours one
afternoon. In the past week electricity has been off for 18 hours a day,
every day, and water cuts last for days at a time. This is now the norm of
life as everything is approaching, or has already reached, a state of
complete collapse. All attempts at normal day to day functioning are
virtually impossible.

This week I had a first hand encounter with the precarious state of
Zimbabwe's health delivery system and it made me very aware of why we have
the lowest life expectancy in the world. My body had been aching for two
days and I was racked with fever: dripping with sweat one minute and shaking
with uncontrollable cold the next. I knew I needed help and was fortunate to
be able to see a doctor - this is a luxury most Zimbabweans rarely have. The
first sign of abnormality came after the blood test when the doctor
apologised for not providing a plaster - something so simple but now
unobtainable. It was an insignificant inconvenience. Far worse lay ahead.
There are four pharmacies in the town and none had the common drug that had
been prescribed to treat malaria. An alternative drug was proposed but none
of the chemists had this one either. Malaria: so common, so deadly, no drugs
for treatment - this was chilling.

My next stop was the hospital, by now I was weak and disorientated and had
only got this far thanks to the help of a friend with a car - another rare
luxury unavailable to most. Only four patients occupied beds: few can afford
the hundreds of millions of dollars needed per night. The hospital also
didn't have the prescribed malaria drug, or the alternative that I needed.
Finally a course of injections was made available but only if I could pay
cash upfront for the vials so the hospital could immediately try and replace
them. How many others before me had been down this road and not been so

Over the next five days I visited the hospital every morning for another
precious injection. For three days and nights the hospital had no running
water at all. When the doctor did his rounds, nurses trickled water from a
jug over his hands after he had examined each patient. A local farmer had
helped and provided a bowser of water but this was being carried in, by the
bucket load, to flush toilets, clean human waste, wash dishes and equipment
and sponge down patients. The hospital, like the rest of the town, was only
getting electricity in the middle of the night; water was being boiled
outside on open wood fires. A generator was dealing with emergencies, the
cost of running it phenomenal.

Every day I felt so privileged to be receiving treatment from nurses working
under such appalling conditions. They have left home without a hot meal or
cup of tea in the morning. They will return home to carry water from wells,
cook outside on open fires and prepare for another day of much the same. And
yet always they were polite, professional, helpful and gentle. On my last
day I asked the nurse when she would have time off - I seemed to have seen
her there every day. She told me they were short staffed because so many
nurses had gone. "Gone to the Diaspora," she said. "To Canada, Australia,
New Zealand, the UK, South Africa, Botswana - anywhere." I asked the nurse
what made her stay and she said it was very hard to go. As hard as it to

Until next time, thanks for reading,
love cathy.

Copyright cathy buckle 26 January 2008

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Zimbabwe opposition reunites

The Telegraph

By Stephen Bevan in Pretoria
Last Updated: 11:52pm GMT 26/01/2008

The two warring factions of Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the
Movement for Democratic Change, have agreed to reunite and back a single
election candidate against President Robert Mugabe.

Under the plan, Morgan Tsvangirai, the party's leader, would be their
presidential candidate in the elections that Mr Mugabe announced on Friday
would be held on March 29.

Both factions of the MDC have been calling for the elections to be
postponed until after the introduction of a new constitution, which has
already been agreed between their negotiators and the ruling Zanu-PF party.

They also want a new and independent electoral commission and voters'
roll, and the redrawing of electoral boundaries - moves that, they say, are
essential for free and fair elections. However, Mr Mugabe has refused,
accusing the opposition of being unwilling to face him at the polls. His
decision to bring the election date forward will be the final nail in the
coffin of mediation efforts between the MDC and Zanu-PF, undertaken by South
Africa's President Thabo Mbeki.

The MDC will formally decide whether to take part at the end of this
week, when its supreme decision-making body, the national council, meets.
Meanwhile, however, the two sides, one led by Mr Tsvangirai, the other by
Professor Arthur Mutambara, have reached broad agreement on reunification in
the face of fierce repression and deteriorating living conditions.

Roy Bennett, the white former MP who is treasurer of the main faction
of the Tsvangirai-led MDC, confirmed that they had reached agreement on all
but a few issues.

"It will be a united front that faces any election, if we go into the
election," he said. "Most of the fundamentals have been agreed to."

Another senior official in the Tsvangirai faction, speaking
anonymously, said it was a done deal. "We have agreed to reunite but we
can't say officially because there are certain processes that have to be
gone through," he said.

The MDC split in 2005 when Mr Tsvangirai brushed aside its national
council and decided not to take part in elections to Zimbabwe's senate. In
February 2006, the breakaway faction elected Prof Mutambara as its
president. However, he was unable to turn the breakaway MDC into a credible
electoral force in its own right and it has steadily lost support.

Gabriel Chaibva, spokesman for the Mutambara group, said: "There is
willingness to chart the way forward as one party adopting one candidate."

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Getting Harder To Keep Children In School


By Tonderai Kwidini

HARARE, Jan 26 (IPS) - Alois Mufundisi, a media professional, earns 200
million Zimbabwean dollars, about 50 U.S. dollars on the thriving parallel

On paper this amount appears huge, but in real terms it is just enough to
buy essential foodstuffs for half a month. He is barely able to keep his
three children in school. Seven years ago he could manage without any
problem. Now he has to do private jobs to supplement his income.

"Sometimes I can’t sleep thinking about where I can get my next dollar. It
really pains me to think that I may not be able to pay for basic things such
as my children’s education," said Mufundisi.

With hyperinflation at 8000 percent according to the Central Statistical
Office (CSO), keeping children in school has become difficult in Zimbabwe.
Educational standards have been on a free fall since the beginning of an
unprecedented economic collapse that started in 2000, with often-violent
seizures of thousands of white-owned commercial farms in the former regional

"During our time education was free," said Mufundisi. "My parents could send
me and my siblings to boarding schools on my father’s civil servant salary,
but now I am in danger of not being able to do the same for my children."

Schools opened in Zimbabwe on Jan. 15 and teachers in Harare have reported
growing absenteeism. To make matters worse the country is facing acute
shortages of food, hard currency and fuel in the economic meltdown that
began in 2000.

Once Africa’s best, Zimbabwe’s educational system is now in crisis. Tens of
thousands of teachers in state schools are constantly on a ‘go-slow’ action
demanding a wage hike. There is an exodus of teachers to better paying jobs
outside the country. The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) -- 
one of two teachers’ representative bodies -- estimates that more than
15,000 teachers left the teaching profession in 2006.

Those who stay behind spend most of the time moonlighting. Even head-
teachers at private schools -- where quality of education is better -- are
demanding bribes of up to 200 South African rands or 50 U.S. dollars in hard
currency to enroll children.

"I had to pay money in foreign currency to secure a place for my daughter at
a private school in Harare," Mufundisi told IPS.

A teacher at a rural Zimbabwe school who spoke to IPS on condition of
anonymity said, "I am quitting and going to South Africa. I have sold so
many text books from my department library to supplement my meagre salary, I
have to make a move before I am caught."

President Robert Mugabe’s investment in education after Zimbabwe’s
independence in 1980 has generally been seen as the highlight of his
increasingly autocratic 27-year rule, although he inherited most of the
infrastructure from the former white colonial government.

PTUZ estimates that between four and five children share a textbook. There
are often four children to one desk in the poorly equipped classrooms.

Students are fainting in class from hunger. Girls are missing school during
the menstrual cycle because they cannot afford to buy sanitary pads. School
dropout rates have shot up. Children are quitting school to supplement
family incomes as vendors, commuter omnibus conductors, even sex workers.

A price-freeze ordered by the government in June last year left store
shelves bare of most basic commodities, but the freeze was eased in phases
to restore the viability of producers and businesses. However, supplies of
goods have remained erratic.

Some Zimbabwean residential schools -- hit by severe food shortages -- were
reported to be insisting that students bring their own supplies, according
to Zimbabwean private media. The PTUZ said several boarding schools had cut
short the last term of 2007 after running out of food.

The union secretary general Raymond Majongwe told IPS, "Our reports indicate
that many schools will not open. These are clearly signs of the virtual
collapse of the education system."

Higher education is also in crisis. The Zimbabwe National Students Union
(ZINASU) -- a representative body -- released a report this week stating
that the country has the world’s highest college dropout rate outside a war

The report further states that more than 31.5 percent of students were
forced out of school due to the exorbitant fees being charged in these

"The government only funds about 3 percent of the students in tertiary
institutions. 80 percent are funded by their relatives," stated the report.

"Zimbabwe is facing a sharp decline in public expenditure on higher
education, deteriorating teaching conditions, decaying educational
facilities and infrastructure, perpetual student unrest, erosion of
university autonomy, a shortage of experienced and well trained teaching
staff, lack of academic freedoms, and an increasing rate of unemployment
among the college graduates," the report damningly concludes.


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''It Is All Zero Here. We Have Nothing''


By Stanley Kwenda

HARARE, Apr 12 (IPS) - Chippy Ncube, aged 6, jubilantly hurried home as soon
as she received her school report. She could not hide her excitement at
being the top student in her grade one class when schools closed for the
holidays recently in Zimbabwe.

Such an achievement can only be attained with great effort in a country
where the education system is under severe strain. Chippy deserved it. Her
parents can no longer afford to pay bus fare for her. She has not only had
to contend with walking to school but also to carry a chair along with her
books to school.

The governing body at her school, Blackstone Primary School located in the
capital Harare's Avenues area, sent letters to parents requesting them to
buy chairs for their children. The school can no longer afford basic
infrastructure due to the extreme costs caused by hyperinflation of over
1000 percent.

Chippy's experience represents the state of primary education in Zimbabwe.
Several of Zimbabwe's cash-strapped public schools have requested pupils to
bring furniture from home. The education system is struggling under the
weight of the country's seven-year-long political crisis.

Zimbabwe's school system was one of the best on the African continent after
the country gained independence in 1980. Previously the government provided
furniture and other necessities.

Government provision has faltered and the authorities have imposed a ceiling
on fees to prevent schools from raising money to cover the cost of chairs
and desks.

Blackstone Primary School, a ‘‘whites-only'' school before independence, is
regarded as one of the top primary schools in the country. At first, it was
one of the many schools which benefited from the strides the government made
after independence in building new schools, libraries and providing learning

But Blackstone Primary School has lost its glitter after years of
under-funding. Like all government schools, it lacks everything from
textbooks to toilet paper. Infrastructure at schools is in a state of total

The Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe, one of two teachers'
representative bodies in the country, said the fact that authorities
required parents to provide chairs was testimony to the state of decay in
most public schools. ‘‘It shows the extent of the chaos in the education
sector,'' stated a representative.

Teachers have also been adversely affected. High levels of stress due to low
wages are driving scores of them from the profession. Those that remain are
spending their time selling sweets and other goods to supplement their
meagre salaries instead of concentrating on their core business of teaching.

Zimbabwean teachers on average earn between 400,000 and 800,000 Zimbabwean
dollars. This is between 1,600 and 3,200 US dollars, using the official
exchange rate, and between 25 and 50 US dollars on the parallel market.
According to the government's Central Statistics Office, an average family
of five people requires about 900,000 Zimbabwean dollars per month for basic
goods and services. This is 3,600 US dollars according to the official
exhange rate and 56 US dollars on the parallel market.

Farai Mpofu, a parent, believes it will be a ‘‘miracle'' if Zimbabwe
attained universal primary education by 2015, as per the United Nations'
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

‘‘Education in Zimbabwe is in a bad state. The standards have deteriorated
alarmingly compared to 10 years ago. Because of the harsh economic
environment, teachers are now selling sweets and knitting jerseys,'' said

‘‘The education sector is losing highly qualified teachers to neighbouring
countries. Kids at public schools are left with teachers who have no
interest at all in the job because of low salaries,'' according to Mpofu/

Alice Muchine, a primary school teacher, described the state of primary
education as ‘‘near zero''. ‘‘It is all zero here. We have no resources. We
want textbooks to help the children during reading time. We have no charts
of instruction, or chalk, or syllabuses. We have nothing.

‘‘Most of the parents can no longer pay fees for the kids. The BEAM scheme
only pays for the fees and not for books for the kids,'' said Muchine. BEAM
or Basic Education Assistance Module is need-based financial aid awarded by
the government to orphans. It is limited to school fees and caters for 10
pupils per school.

Tariro Shindi, a student, shares the same view. ‘‘There are a few textbooks
which are shared by four students at any given time. Students are sitting on
the floor. Teachers sometimes abscond and if students do the same, no
questions are asked. Everything is disorganised.''

Last year, the UN launched a national education plan for girls to help
Zimbabwe with achieving the education MDG. The plan also aims to address
emerging HIV/AIDS related and cultural challenges, such as forced early
marriage, abuse and economic exploitation which harm particularly girls.

The UN has also actively supported the ministry of education and other
partners in the launch of a back to school campaign in September 2006. The
campaign sought to re-enrol children who had dropped out of school during
the government's widely condemned Operation Murambatsvina (‘‘Drive Out

Before Operation Murambatsvina, United Nations Children's Fund statistics
indicated that national primary school enrolment rates improved from 92 to
96 percent between 2000 and 2004. Nearly four out of five orphans and
vulnerable children were attending primary school.

Even the most recent data from a UNICEF-led assessment of the impact of
Operation Murambatsvina on children's schooling status across Zimbabwe
showed that 90 percent of children affected by the operation are going to
school despite being forced to relocate.

‘‘Zimbabweans are making many sacrifices so that their children can continue
going to school,'' said UNICEF's representative in Zimbabwe, Dr Festo

According to the US state department, the country continues to boast the
highest literacy rate in sub-Saharan Africa. (END/2007)

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