By Alex Bell
30 January 2013
Finance Minister Tendai Biti is extending Zimbabwe’s begging bowl to the
international community, after dramatically stating the government only had
a about two hundred dollars left in its coffers.
Biti said on Tuesday that that the country only had US$217 left in its
public account after paying civil servants last week.
“The government finances are in a paralysis state at the present moment. We
are failing to meet our targets,” Biti said.
The government has repeatedly stated it does not have enough money to fund a
constitutional referendum or the elections expected this year. Biti said
Tuesday that this left him no choice but to ask donors for cash.
“We will be approaching the international community,” he said.
Biti reportedly then said that about US$30 million had been paid into the
government account the next day. He told the UK’s BBC that he made the
revelation in order to emphasise that the government was unable to finance
elections, not that it was insolvent. Biti told the BBC’s Focus on Africa
radio programme that his statement had been deliberately taken out of
“You journalists are mischievous and malicious – the point I was making was
that the Zimbabwean government doesn’t have the funds to finance the
election, to finance the referendum,” he said.
He added: “To dramatise the point, I simply made a passing reference
metaphorically that when we paid civil servants last week on Thursday we
were left with US$217… but even the following day we had US$30 million in
There is scepticism about Biti needing to beg for cash for elections when
the country appears to be doing very well in the mining sector. A top mining
official told the AFP news service this week that Zimbabwe sold almost
US$685 million worth of diamonds in 2012 and it wants to more than double
its output this year. The Chamber of Mines has also indicated that Zimbabwe’s
total mineral exports from 2012 are worth US$1.8 billion.
The ZANU PF indigenisation drive has also secured US$2 billion that has been
channelled into an ‘Empowerment Fund’. This fund is controlled by the ZANU
PF-led Empowerment Ministry, and is not being made available to the MDC-T
run Finance Ministry.
Zimbabwean economist John Robertson told SW Radio Africa on Wednesday that
although the mining sector is exporting, the profitability of the companies
is low. He said the key issue is the lack of tax being paid by all sectors,
and it is tax the government needs to shore up its account.
“The government income from taxation is far less because the industrial
sector is far smaller, and profitability has been badly damaged by years of
no investment,” Robertson explained.
He said the economy is still suffering from years of mismanagement, and “12
years of extremely bad polices that destroyed the country productive
capacity.” He said the seizure of commercial farms under the land grab
campaign saw the destruction of Zimbabwe’s production base, while driving
unemployment to very high levels.
“When the agricultural sector failed following the confiscation of land, a
great many jobs were lost and when we moved into the hyperinflation period,
that further limited possibilities of company profits and further reduced
employment. So all sources of tax very were badly damaged and this is what
we are facing,” Robertson explained.
Zimbabwe's finance minister has announced that the country only has £138.34
left in the state bank accounts.
By Dan Newling, Cape Town8:40AM GMT 30 Jan 2013
Tendai Biti made the announcement at press conference on Tuesday, declaring:
"Last week when we paid civil servants there was $217 in government
Mr Biti went on to tell the shocked news reporters that they were
individually likely to have healthier bank balances than the state's.
"The government finances are in paralysis state at the present moment," Mr
The confession is the culmination of years of ruinous economic policy by
Zimbabwe's despotic president, Robert Mugabe, who has ruled the southern
African country since independence from Britain in 1980.
A decade ago Mr Mugabe, now aged 88, launched his controversial policy of
expropriating white-owned farmland and handing it to blacks.
The policy, which saw 4,000 white farmers forcibly kicked off their land,
was economically disastrous. It also demolished investor confidence in the
country, paralysed production, and prompted international sanctions.
As a result, Zimbabwe – which was once the fertile "bread basket" of
southern Africa and possesses fantastic mineral wealth – is now one of the
continent's poorest countries.
Three-quarters of the population live on less than £1 a day and over half of
the work force is unemployed.
In 2008, hyperinflation in the country reached the astronomical figure of
230 million per cent – meaning that paper money became worthless almost as
soon as it was printed. The former British colony now uses US dollars.
Speaking on Tuesday afternoon, Mr Biti claimed that the state's dire lack of
cash means it does not have enough money to organise the constitutional
referendum and election that are planned for later this year.
"We will be approaching the international community to assist us in this
regard," Mr Biti said.
Following a disputed election in 2008, Zimbabwe is now ruled by a coalition
of Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic
However, the arrangement is marred by political infighting and is widely
considered to be ineffective.
Mr Mugabe is aged 88 and is reported to have pancreatic cancer. He however
insists that he is the only person who can rule the country effectively.
Rather than acknowledge his own role in the country's economic collapse, Mr
Mugabe blames the West, which has imposed economic sanctions in protest at
his autocratic rule.
By Alex Bell
30 January 2013
The new constitution, that is set to be ‘adopted’ on Thursday by the
parliamentary team responsible for it, is facing serious criticism for
enshrining into law discrimination and illegal land seizures.
The COPAC team, which spent years fighting over the document, have indicated
they will on Thursday officially ‘adopt’ the new draft that was finalised by
the government’s political leaders. The document has already been formally
approved by all parties in the coalition government, but still needs to be
given the nod by Parliament before it is put forward for a public
But while talk turns to potential dates for a referendum and the election
that will ultimately follow, there is little debate about the actual
contents of the new charter, which critics say is fundamentally flawed.
Already, some quarters of Zimbabwean society are campaigning for a ‘no’ vote
for the document, mainly because it is the result of a negotiated political
process and not the will of the people.
A key concern is the fact that discrimination has been enshrined in the
draft, despite this being contrary to the basic human rights the charter is
supposed to protect.
Chapter 56, section 5 states: “Discrimination on any of the grounds listed
in subsection (3) is unfair unless it is established that the discrimination
is fair, reasonable and justifiable in a democratic society based on
openness, justice, human dignity, equality and freedom.”
Ben Freeth, the former Chegutu farmer who is now heads the pressure group
SADC Tribunal Rights Watch, said this week that discrimination has been
written into law to support the government’s ongoing campaign of land
He told SW Radio Africa on Wednesday that such “totalitarian control that
all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others,” has already
been seen in Zimbabwe for many years. But he questioned why it has now been
written into law. He said this move makes sense when further into the
document you read a subsection on Property Rights that states: “the
acquisition (of land) may not be challenged on the ground that it was
discriminatory in contravention of section 56.”
Chapter 72 in the constitution enshrines the right of the state to seize
land, stating that all agricultural land, including forestry land,
conservation land and horticultural land, among others, may be “acquired” by
the State for “public purpose.” Section 2 states: “the land, right or
interest may be acquired by the State by notice published in the Gazette
identifying the land, right or interest, whereupon the land, right or
interest vests in the State with full title with effect from the date of
publication of the notice.”
These takeovers will also be done without compensation, according to the new
charter, and compensation issues cannot be challenged in the courts.
The draft constitution also upholds the standards of the old charter by
insisting that Britain is responsible for compensation for the land seized
as part of the land grab. The draft states that “the former colonial power
has an obligation to pay compensation for agricultural land,” and if this
fails to happen “the Government of Zimbabwe has no obligation.”
This provision flies in the face of international rulings, including from
the SADC Tribunal and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment
Disputes, which have both ordered Zimbabwe’s government to pay compensation
for seized farms. Zimbabwe’s new charter however makes the legal provision
for these rulings to be ignored.
Freeth said these ‘bad’ and unfair laws that do not entrench property rights
have serious consequences for Zimbabwe’s future.
“When the government isn’t there to protect property rights, when the
constitution isn’t protecting property rights and the law is stacked up
against us in terms of protecting our property, then there are huge
consequences. There will be an impact on the economy, on the wellbeing of
the people, on the future develop of the country and it is something very
Freeth warned that without property rights, Zimbabwe cannot grow, cannot
encourage investment and cannot progress. He said for these reasons, “anyone
who does endorse it (the constitution) is actually betraying the future
generation of children in Zimbabwe.”
Wednesday, 30 January 2013 10:36
HARARE - Instead of the joyful scenes that normally characterise the summer
rains in Zimbabwe, the heavy downpour the country is experiencing since
January 7 has brought misery to communities.
An estimated 4 475 people across the country have been affected, with their
houses having either been submerged in water or destroyed.
The rains have caused major damage to agricultural lands, destroying maize
crops (the main staple), as well as disrupting public services such as road
transportation and education prompting organisations such as the Zimbabwe
Red Cross Society to respond.
The main provinces requiring assistance are Matabeleland South, Matabeleland
North, Manicaland, Mashonaland Central, Masvingo and Midlands, according to
Red Cross marketing and public relations officer Takemore Mazuruse said the
organisation has activated its emergency and disaster response systems to
address the present needs, at the same time preparing for eventual disasters
and outbreaks like malaria, cholera and other water-borne diseases.
“As a disaster relief organisation, we have a mandate to complement
government efforts in alleviating human suffering wherever it is found and
however, it is caused. We are a member of the Civil Protection Unit (CPU)
and we are currently working with other stakeholders from government in our
on-going disaster and emergency response activities around Zimbabwe,” said
The floods have heavily affected families and some of the stories make sad
Four people died in Triangle when a dam wall gave in and the floods swept
through a residential area while in Wedza, Biggy Hombarume 54, and his son,
a form three student at Bonongwe Secondary School, drowned in a dam filled
to capacity during a fishing expedition recently.
In Zaka East constituency, six people from the Maturi family died after
being trapped in their collapsed houses while in Chivi district’s ward 24,
five villages — Chikandigwa, Tsikisai, Jahwa, Cheka and Zifunzi suffered
The Chivi storm disaster, which occurred in the evening of January 15,
affected 11 households.
Urban areas have not been spared from the disasters, with many losing their
household goods and basic supplies to the incessant rains and flooding and
the situation remains dire.
Reports and assessments by humanitarian groups show that Masvingo Province
is the hardest hit.
Currently, Red Cross interventions towards improving the water and
sanitation situation include providing tents, blankets, shelter, buckets,
water purification tablets and black polythene to construct temporary squat
holes, kitchen sets as well as food baskets for the affected families.
Red Cross said its field officers are working with CPU in assessing the
situation while other volunteers are educating and preparing communities in
flood prone areas about the impending disasters and how to monitor water
levels. Provincial programmes manager for Masvingo Fungai Maregedze said
they had done the necessary groundwork for a comprehensive response
particularly in Chivi, Zaka, Bikita and Chiredzi districts.
“From the reports that we have received from district administrators for the
affected areas and assessments that we have carried out on our own, many
lives are in danger particularly given that the rains are not going to stop
anytime soon,” said Maregedze.
“In some cases, homes have been completely destroyed exposing families to
the rains and other eventualities. So far we have responded in Chivi, some
parts of Zaka and Bikita while other assessed areas like Chikombedzi and
Chiredzi district will also be getting assistance,” said Maregedze.
In Manicaland, the Red Cross has responded in Nyanga where families are
staying in local schools following the destruction of their homes.
Water sources like the borehole at Nyangombe have been destroyed while
others have been contaminated.
Red Cross volunteers and field officers are monitoring and assessing the
situation in Chipinge, particularly around Checheche, Chibuwe and Kondo.
In Mutema district in Chipinge, tarpaulins, blankets, water purification
tablets and black polythene for temporary latrine structures have been
provided to affected families.
Red Cross “Action Teams” in Matabeleland North are assessing the situation
in Tsholotsho, at the same time providing the required support to affected
As the woes mount, many are now praying for the rains to stop so that
normalcy can return. - Mugove Tafirenyika
At least 10,000 students in Chiredzi and Mwenezi districts in Masvingo
Province are out of class as two weeks of heavy rainfall have destroyed
Heavy rains pounding Masvingo may be a blessing to farmers, but not for
students in the two districts where some schools have been destroyed by the
Speaking with VOA Studio 7 by phone, Masvingo Education Director Ms. Clara
Dube called the situation "catastrophic" and said the Ministry of Education,
Sport, and Culture is now seeking help.
Ms. Dube said perhaps 30 schools were destroyed or so badly damaged that
they are unusable. The worst affected are satellite schools built in
resettlement areas to cater for those who got plots under the land reform
Limpopo valley in Chikombedzi was the worst affected area. Some of the
schools destroyed there include Davata, Mabalauta, Ruware, and Judia primary
Mwenezi was hit, as well, losing schools such as Rutenga, Mwenezi Boarding
School, Mazetese, and Maranda, according to the provincial education
Speaking with VOA Studio 7, several parents said they blame the government
for not building proper schools in the resettlement areas.
Parent Tongai Muzhanyi and Silas Muchindo of Mwenenzi called the situation a
Not only were school structures ruined, but materials - such as books - were
badly damaged. Some of the schools had computers donated by President Robert
Mugabe. Those are almost certainly destroyed and at least 20 blair toilets
donated to the schools by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai were also
reportedly washed away.
Parents said the land reform program did not provide adequate infrastructure
to resettled people. Most of the schools, they said, were constructed of mud
and thatched grass.
The provincial education director said it is unclear how long affected
students will be out of school, as the government is ill-prepared to handle
a disaster of this magnitude.
Wednesday, 30 January 2013 10:36
HARARE - Police have expressed alarm over the proliferation of explosives in
the hands of civilians and warned members of the public to exercise caution.
Last week, a deadly blast resulted in the death of six people in
National police spokesperson, Charity Charamba, yesterday said cases
involving explosives are increasing around the country with the Chitungwiza
case being the latest such incident.
“People are getting excited and they are buying explosives on the belief
that they contain mercury, that belief is very mistaken. Those devices are
designed to explode and cause damage, injury or death,” said Charamba.
Since the explosion that razed three houses to the ground and left several
families homeless nine days ago, law enforcement agents have been mum on the
matter but Charamba said: “Preliminary investigations suggest that an
explosive material could have caused the blast."
“We are appealing to all of you to take heed that explosives are designed to
explode, possession of explosives is illegal and they are highly dangerous
and fatal,” said Charamba.
The Daily News was the first to report that an explosive, possibly a bomb,
caused the horror blast in Chitungwiza.
Charamba said in less than a month, police have recorded three cases
involving explosives and five people have been arrested so far.
The police confirmation that an explosive caused the Chitungwiza comes amid
revelations that the five people died while fetching mercury which is
contained in bombs for resell to gold miners.
Although the use of mercury in gold processing is illegal because of its
toxic nature to both humans and the environment, it remains a popular
product among gold dealers.
However, police said they are on high alert to curb the rush for dangerous
“Please report to the nearest police station once you have information about
people selling explosives,” she said.
Earlier this month, police arrested three people after a grenade exploded at
their house in Waterfalls injuring one person.
A week later, Charamba said police in Manicaland arrested two people who
were trying to sell a mortar bomb to members of the public claiming that it
“Those selling were alleging that the mortar bomb contained mercury which
people believe fetches a lot of money on the black market and it can make
them millionaires overnight. There is nothing like being a millionaire but
death,” warned Charamba.
“We all need to be very cautions; members of the public should be wary of
people who come to them selling explosives,” said Charamba.
Last week, the entire nation was left shell- shocked after a traditional
healer Speakmore Mandere, a businessman, an infant and two others died
instantly in the explosion.
A week later, another man died and the family claimed it was due to the
after effects of the bomb.
The presence of a traditional healer fuelled speculation that the blast was
traceable to black magic.
Police say experts from the army bomb disposal and forensic department are
still examining evidence collected from the scene to get to the root cause
of the explosion that shocked the entire nation. - Xolisani Ncube
By Tichaona Sibanda
30 January 2013
The MDC led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is in favour of holding
harmonized elections in July this year, the first time the party has
categorically put a timeframe for the poll.
After debating the issue of elections at its weekend retreat in Nyanga, the
party’s national executive said its preference is to have July elections.
The party’s secretary-general, Tendai Biti, said they thought this month was
ideal as it was one month before the United Nations World Tourism General
Assembly. This event in Victoria Falls in August will be jointly hosted by
Zimbabwe and Zambia.
‘We think that in all fairness it will be very important for the country to
have the reforms and have the elections before the UNWTO, so as far as we
are concerned as a party, July will be a good month to have this election,’
Biti said in Harare on Tuesday.
Biti however stressed that the leaders of the three parties in government
would make the final decision on when the polls would be held. If principals
from ZANU PF and the MDC led by Welshman Ncube agree to this suggestion, it
means the country has less than six months to prepare for this crucial poll.
It will be the first general election since the 2008 disputed poll that
claimed the lives of more than 500 mainly MDC-T supporters, and displaced
tens of thousands more.
But it’s the level of preparedness that has many, including politicians and
analysts, questioning whether the country is actually ready for the vote,
with some suggesting a postponement to after the UN general assembly event.
Dewa Mavhinga, a UK based senior researcher with Human Rights Watch’s Africa
Division ( Zimbabwe and Southern Africa), said the level of preparedness has
become the subject of local and international debate and, if there’s one
thing Zimbabwe must avoid, it’s a repeat of the deadly 2008 violence.
‘A new constitution is not a magic wand; partisan officials who brazenly
support ZANU-PF will not turn over a new leaf over night. There is much more
to be done to prepare Zimbabwe for genuinely free and fair elections that
are without violence.
‘This includes a full restoration of the rule of law and respect for the
constitution. Police must begin to show absolute zero-tolerance to political
violence through arresting all perpetrators of abuses and holding them
accountable, otherwise the new constitution will just be a beautiful
document paving the way to hell,’ Mavhinga said.
Speaking about the elections Hopewell Gumbo, a social and economic justice
activist, said: ‘But there are technical challenges like finance which are
not guaranteed, the voters role which is a source of contention is in
shambles and time is too little to have adequate preparations if elections
are to be conducted around the proposed dates.
‘Added to that is the implication of the violence residue and actual
reported of incidents where people like Jabulani Sibanda (war vets leader)
are threatening people. That in itself is not conducive for an election,’
THE new constitution which paves the way for an election this year curbs
presidential powers and strengthens cabinet and parliament, which have been
weakened under veteran President Robert Mugabe's rule.
According to a final copy of the draft charter obtained by Reuters on
Tuesday, the president will be required to exercise power in consultation
with the cabinet, with decrees requiring its majority backing.
The current constitution allows the president to issue decrees alone that
can have the force of law for up to six months.
The new document also limits the president to two, five-year terms, starting
from the next election. However this will not be applied retrospectively, so
Mugabe - who has been in power for 32 years - could technically rule for
another two terms.
Last week, the country's two most powerful parties - Mugabe's Zanu PF and
the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) of rival Prime Minister Morgan
Tsvangirai - said they supported the draft, virtually ensuring its passage
through parliament as early as next week.
If passed by parliament, it will be put up for a national referendum between
March and April, a crucial step before elections required for this year
under the power-sharing deal struck between Mugabe and Tsvangirai after
disputed 2008 polls.
Presidential powers to declare public emergencies and dissolve parliament
have been diluted in the draft by requiring two-thirds of lawmakers to back
any such measure in a vote.
Parliament can also be dissolved only for "unreasonably" failing to approve
the national budget.
Although the current constitution requires parliamentary approval in the
declaration of emergencies, it requires only a simple majority. The
president can currently dissolve parliament without parliamentary approval.
Some civil rights have also been expanded in the new document, with clauses
on freedom of the press, access to information, political choice and
activity as well as prisoners' rights.
The draft retains the ban on same-sex marriage in the conservative southern
African state. It also keeps the death penalty, but only for "murder
committed in aggravating circumstances" and makes exceptions for women and
people aged below 21 years or those above 70 years old.
The current constitution allows execution of anyone above 18 for murder.
Mugabe, 88, has ruled the country with mostly a free hand since its
independence in 1980 from Britain and has been accused of hanging on to
power through vote-rigging. He says he will contest the next election
despite questions over his advanced age and concerns over his health.
The president forced the deferment by at least 10 years of a clause in the
new charter requiring candidates to nominate running mates who would
automatically succeed them should they be unable to continue in office.
Until that clause comes into effect, the party holding the presidency can
name a successor at the time that a incumbent is unable to continue.
Some in Zanu PF want Mugabe to hand over the reins to a younger leader, but
he has steadfastly refused to discuss succession, an issue that has stoked
factional disputes within the party.
The charter had looked in doubt last year when Zanu PF tried to oppose curbs
on presidential powers and a strengthening of parliament.
Funding problems and constant bickering between the coalition parties have
delayed the adoption of a new constitution, initially scheduled to be
completed in 2010.
Mugabe, who had previously threatened to call a vote before a new
constitution had been agreed, has been held back by regional leaders eager
to avoid a repeat of the violent and disputed 2008 poll that was condemned
by much of the world.
The veteran ruler and his Zanu PF face a stiff challenge from the MDC, which
says it will breathe fresh life into an economy that shrank by an estimated
40 percent from 2000 to 2010 due largely to Mugabe's seizure of white-owned
commercial farms and what critics say has been economic mismanagement.
Sandra Nyaira, Sithandekile Mhlanga, Tatenda Gumbo
WASHINGTON — Zimbabwean women are praising the new draft constitution,
calling it the most progressive document the country has ever produced since
attaining independence in 1980.
Complaining that they are often mere political pawns used by male
colleagues, these activists hope women will now have a bigger say in the way
the country is run, as the charter reserves at least 60 seats in the House
of Assembly for women.
Women’s groups that campaigned for equal representation in parliament said
they did not get everything they wanted in the draft, but are pleased that
most of what they advocated for has been included.
For example, Chapter 6 (Part 4) of the draft constitution stipulates that
210 members will be elected by secret ballot into the house and an
additional 60 women members will be brought into parliament by the political
COPAC Co-chairman Douglas Mwonzora said Zimbabwean women should take
advantage of the provisions being ushered in by the new constitution, which
appears likely to be approved in an upcoming referendum as the main
political parties say they will urge their members to vote ‘yes.’
Commenting, Maureen Kademaunga of the Zimbabwe Young Women's Network said
women’s groups will do all in their power to ensure that the draft is
adopted since it is strongly in their favour.
Meanwhile, the parliamentary select committee tasked with writing the new
constitution on Tuesday started revising changes that were effected in the
draft charter by the principals, in preparation for tabling a motion on the
document in parliament on February 5.
Believe Gaule, deputy select committee co-chairman of the MDC formation of
Industry Minister Welshman Ncube told VOA the process will be completed on
Thursday, the day his committee is expected to adopt the document.
However, not everyone is so pleased with the new draft constitution. The
National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) will meet this weekend to launch its
‘NO’ vote campaign, hoping to defeat the draft in the upcoming referendum.
The NCA leadership will meet Saturday and then convene a full conference
next week, after the leadership reviews the final document in detail, said
NCA spokesman Madock Chivasa.
NCA maintain they will push for a ‘NO’ vote regardless of the contents of
the final draft because the COPAC process was - in their words -
“illegitimate, undemocratic and not people driven”.
The organization said it would like to see people and democratic
organizations continue to push for what it calls a truly democratic
constitution drafted by the grassroots.
By Tichaona Sibanda
30 January 2013
Giles Mutsekwa, the MDC-T’s national Housing Minister, is one of many
cabinet ministers in the inclusive government who is facing an acid test in
the party primaries.
Mutsekwa, the current MP for Chikanga-Dangamvura in Mutare, wants to stand
again for parliament. But he’s one of three party heavyweights in the
eastern border city vying for the same seat in the primaries.
SW Radio Africa is reliably informed that Mutsekwa is being challenged by
Brian James, the suspended Mayor of the city, and former footballer and
popular lawyer Arnold Tsunga.
The three are among a thousand party officials who have submitted their
applications as prospective candidates for the 2013 harmonized general
elections. Some of the applications are from party cadres based in the
diaspora, like the UK based duo of popular radio disc jockeys Ezra ‘Tshisa’
Sibanda and Eric ‘the general’ Knight.
Others from the UK are Taurayi Chamboko, a police officer with the
Bedfordshire Constabulary, Rodwell Mupungu, eyeing the Ruwa seat, and
Herbert Munangatire Jnr who is contesting one of the seats in Robert Mugabe’s
home district of Zvimba.
MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said his party would conduct primary
elections in February, adding that the deadline for receiving applications
from prospective candidates countrywide was Thursday.
An insider at Harvest House disclosed that there’s going to be an intriguing
fight to represent the party during the primaries. No date has been set yet
but officials believe the exercise may be held towards the end of February.
‘Everything will be clearer on Friday when we get all the applications and
see who is being challenged and who is not. It’s safe to say most of the
sitting parliamentarians are facing competition from other members in party.
‘There are reports that other MP’s have decided to switch constituencies
perhaps fearing they won’t get the two thirds majority confirmation to
retain their seats. It’s going to be very intriguing and I personally see
some big guns losing in the primaries,’ a party insider said.
By Violet Gonda
30 January 2013
Two senior MDC-T officials, Tendai Biti and Nelson Chamisa, have been
criticized by the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) for allegedly
making threats to sue the Zimbabwe Independent, over a story it published
claiming the two were involved in a serious ‘bust-up’ last week.
The Zimbabwe Independent newspaper claimed Biti, who is the party’s
secretary-general, ‘fiercely clashed’ with Chamisa, the organizing
secretary, at a standing committee meeting over primary election application
forms. MPs Tabitha Khumalo and Albert Mhlanga also reportedly exchanged
blows as intra-party fighting rages on.
The paper claimed: “The ministers’ fight” was seen as part of a wider MDC-T
factional and succession battle, as Biti and Chamisa are allegedly ensconced
in two warring camps.”
But the MDC-T denied the report as false saying it was “clearly written with
the evil intentions of causing mayhem, discontent, and despondency within
the MDC family,” ahead of elections.
Biti and Chamisa also put up a united front at a press conference in Harare
on Tuesday, dismissing the newspaper’s story as ‘hurtful and ‘fiction’.
Chamisa is quoted as saying the party had instructed its lawyers to take
measures against the journalist who wrote the story and the publication
VMCZ chairman Alec Muchadehama said: “While it remains the legal right of
these two leaders of the MDC-T to do so, it is unfortunate that they have
joined the undemocratic tendency by politicians and influential people in
Zimbabwean society to issue veiled threats against the media.
“It is a tendency that has in general led to the arrests of many media
professionals for merely doing their work in the public interest. It is also
a habit that has regrettably led to an unfortunate and repressive but broad
culture of criminalizing freedom of expression and media freedom in
Chamisa disagreed with the VMCZ statement saying there had to be a
retraction of a ‘false story’ that was attributed to ‘unknown sources’.
He told SW Radio Africa: “What we want is a retraction, given the same
prominence, and if that fails we also have rights in as much as we respect
the rights of those people who wrote those malicious statements. So we
should not look at rights from one side.”
Chamisa denied threatening the media, saying they merely made a ‘polite
The minister said his party was also fighting for democracy and balanced
unbiased reporting: “A certain wrong was committed against us and we feel
that as people who fight for democracy justice is supposed to be on both
“In as much as we respect the individual rights of anybody to write about
anybody they should not write fiction,” Chamisa added.
The Zimbabwe Independent editor-in-chief, Vincent Kahiya, refused to comment
saying: “I will only comment if I see a formal letter from the MDC wanting
us to either retract or suing us.”
When asked if the paper still stands by its story, Kahiya responded by
reiterating that his paper will wait for an official document from the MDC
indicating their intention to sue “and when we see those papers we will make
an appropriate reaction.”
Journalists at the Zimbabwe Independent, who spoke on condition of
anonymity, said both Biti and Chamisa had called the newspaper and
threatened to sue if there was no retraction. The journalists said they
stood by their story.
Muchadehama deplored threats against the media and said there are mechanisms
through which policy makers or public figures can seek fair redress from
media houses, if they feel aggrieved by a story, such as seeking a right of
reply from the media organization and also pursuing the matter with the
Media Complaints Committee of the VMCZ . He said the latter would be at “no
legal cost to themselves nor with the threat of the arrest or cumbersome
lawsuits of media professionals.”
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe dropped 16 places to number 133 out of 179 countries on
the World Press Freedom Index report released by the France-based Reporters
Without Borders. Zimbabwe, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and
Swaziland are the only countries from Southern Africa who are below 130.
Activist Mike Davies said: “The press freedom index does not take into
account the quality of reporting. We need a ‘freedom from bad journalism
index’, for that and I am sure Zimbabwe would be in the lower third there as
The Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency puts the country’s unemployment rate
at only 10.7 percent, but outside experts say the real figure is closer to
75 percent or higher.
Thousands of Zimbabweans have lost their jobs since last year as firms
across the country close their doors or scale down operations. While the
impact from these business actions affects many in their communities,
retrenched workers are often the hardest hit.
Forty-seven year-old textile machinist, Thomas Moyo, has been out of work
for more than nine months. He says he is surviving thanks only to the grace
of God and good Samaritans.
Mr. Moyo says he never believed that he would one day lose his job, but that’s
just what happened last year when managers at Archer Clothing (Pvt) Limited
told him and 700 other workers to go home.
The clothing firm, which had operated in the city of Bulawayo for more than
four decades, retained only a few workers as it was placed under judicial
management to address operational problems.
Now Moyo, father of five, is living from hand to mouth. He says he struggles
just to buy food and send some of his children to school.
“As we speak right now I don’t have any food for my family. We are suffering
because we now depend on neighbours at times do not have extra food for us,”
Moyo is not alone. Sixty-seven year-old Martin Cooper was of an age when
many men retire. But Cooper says retiring was not an option as poverty has
kept him tied to his job.
Two weeks ago, Zeco (Pvt) Ltd - citing what it called operational
challenges - retrenched Cooper and 17 other workers. Cooper claims that he
was let go with the company owing him $9,000 in unpaid wages.
He says he has now been reduced to a beggar and doubts he will be able to
find a new job because of his age.
Labour unions fear the labor situation in Zimbabwe will only worsen as more
workers are expected to lose their jobs in 2013.
The secretary general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, Japhet Moyo,
says at least 4,600 workers in Zimbabwe lost their jobs last year, and that
figure only accounts for those working in the modest formal sector.
Mr. Moyo blames the government for failing to craft and implement policies
that encourage job growth.
Labour expert Davies Ndumiso Sibanda is convinced that the job market will
shrink further because the nation is not attracting foreign direct
investment or accessing cheap loans abroad"
Kezilina Ndlovu, general secretary of the National Union of the Clothing
Industry, agrees, saying the import of cheaper Chinese fabrics have
devastated Zimbabwe’s textile industry, forcing companies to retrench
thousands of workers.
Businessman Bulisani Ncube says job losses have been worsened by the
government’s failure to implement a $40 million cheap loan scheme created in
2011 to save distressed Zimbabwean industries.
Labour expert Davies Ndumiso Sibanda is convinced that the job market will
shrink further because the nation is not attracting foreign direct
investment or accessing cheap loans abroad.
Some of the companies that have retrenched workers during the past year or
so include Bascode and Tashas supermarkets, Cairns Foods (PVT) Ltd, National
Blankets, Ascot and Archer Clothing, Zeco and Kango Products.
Joining the queue is Hunyani Printopack, which is set to shut down its plant
in Bulawayo within the next two weeks and relocate to Harare. This will send
250 workers home.
These workers will swell the ever-increasing numbers of jobless people in
the country. In Zimbabwe’s second largest city, Bulawayo, the future looks
particularly bleak as the unemployed fight for the few remaining openings.
According to the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce, more than 20,000
workers have lost their jobs in the city since 2009.
By Violet Gonda
30 January 2013
Thousands of people travelled to Buhera West in Manicaland province
Wednesday for the burial of University of Zimbabwe political science
lecturer Professor John Makumbe, who died at the weekend.
The 63 year fearless human rights campaigner and a prominent figure in
Zimbabwe’s civil society, died of a heart attack on Sunday. He was buried at
his rural home in Marenga on Wednesday.
The outspoken critic of President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU PF party was
set to contest in the parliamentary race on an MDC-T ticket.
MDC-T national organizing secretary, Nelson Chamisa, said more than 5,000
people from all over the country attended the burial. Prime Minister Morgan
Tsvangirai gave a speech and there were solidarity messages from the
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions president George Nkiwane and Bishop
Magaya, representing the Christian Alliance.
There were also speeches from representatives of some of the organizations
the civic leader worked with, such as the University of Zimbabwe and the
anti-corruption organization – Transparency International Zimbabwe.
Family and friends described Makumbe as an outstanding individual who found
humour in the most trying circumstances. They said he was a courageous man
who was honest and spoke the truth as he saw it.
“It was indeed a good atmosphere. The church was there in a big way because
he was a born again Christian and that really was a good indication of the
man that he was,” Chamisa said.
He added: “People were saying he was very humble and had helped virtually
every sector of our society.”
They said Makumbe’s dream was to see real change and real transformation in
Zimbabwe and that his spirit and desire for a new Zimbabwe would live on.
The professor leaves behind his wife Virginia and three children.
January 30, 2013
Peter Chingoka, the long-standing chairman of Zimbabwe Cricket, has claimed
that racism remains a major problem in the sport and has in certain areas
actually grown worse in recent years.
In a statement issued last week, Chingoka said that at the ICC Under-19
World Cup in Australia last August white batsmen alleged that blacks were
bowling bouncers at them in the nets and black bowlers countered that white
fielders where reluctant to cut off runs made off their deliveries.
Chingoka has called a stakeholders' conference to discuss the situation
straight after the tour of the Caribbean.
"There have been reports of black and white players using separate buses on
senior team tours," he said. "Our domestic leagues have not been spared
either, as there has been a marked increase in the number of disciplinary
hearings initiated by allegations of racism.
"In view of the unfolding media debate and the unacceptable incidents
referred to above, it would appear that there is still some progress to be
made in addressing the imbalances of the past and re-integrating the sport
to accommodate all Zimbabweans, regardless of colour, social background or
"Cricket is a game for all and we have no reservations in saying that
discrimination, where it is proved to exist, and whether brought about
intentionally or as a result of other factors, should not be tolerated in
any way or form."
In recent weeks there has also been a stand-off between ZC and the Sports
and Recreation Committee over who should be eligible to be a national
Tony Hawkins | 30 January 2013
Now that the three political parties making up Zimbabwe's unwieldy coalition
government have settled their differences over the country's new
constitution, the stage is set for elections probably in the second half of
2013. The constitutional draft goes to parliament in the next fortnight with
officials promising a national referendum by the end of March.
Because the three parties - President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF, Prime
Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC-T and the small MDC splinter group led by
industry minister Welshman Ncube - support the draft, the referendum is
likely to be a nonevent. Some civil society groups may campaign against its
adoption, but the probable outcome is voter apathy and a low turnout,
meaning that the constitution will be approved, though only by a minority of
The draft vividly illustrates the chasm between Zimbabwe's political classes
and the real world. Here is a low-income country, in which two-thirds to
three-quarters of the population live below the poverty line, preparing to
adopt a constitution that will increase the number of parliamentarians by a
fifth to 350 people for a population of 12,9m. It has an external debt of
US$12,6bn - 116% of GDP - more than half of which is in arrears. In his 2013
budget, finance minister Tendai Biti complained that two-thirds of the
budget was spent on 230000 civil servants, leaving one-third for 12,7m
The increased number of MPs is mirrored by the creation of provincial
assemblies and a plethora of commissions and authorities in a country that
already spends more of its GDP (17%) on public-service salaries than any
other country in Africa bar one (Lesotho) and more than double the regional
average (7,3%). While the politicians and constitutional lawyers are
planning to spend money that the country does not and will not have,
ministers are appealing to donors to foot the bill for both the referendum
Though the draft is an improvement on the status quo, the cost of government
is set to rise steeply and those focus ed on raising living standards and
national welfare worry that such trappings of constitutionalism are no
guarantee of enhanced delivery on the part of the increased number of
politicians, bureaucrats and official agencies.
Adoption of the new constitution will pave the way for presidential and
parliamentary elections. In a country with few - and infrequent - opinion
polls, political analysts are reluctant to predict the outcome, especially
as much could happen over the next six months to influence voter
On the face of it, Tsvangirai's MDC is the front runner, notwithstanding the
prime minister's inept performance since his appointment four years ago. For
Mugabe, who turns 89 this month, it will be a last chance to rescue his
reputation and rehabilitate himself in the eyes of erstwhile supporters in
the international community. To achieve this, he needs elections that are
seen to be free and fair. His dilemma is that if voters really do have a
free choice, they are unlikely to back his party, which was responsible for
the economic misery of the lost decade between 1998 and 2008.
Whatever the outcome at the polls, 2013 is set to be a difficult year for
business. The empowerment lobby within Mugabe's party sees indigenisation -
local, black ownership of 51% of all foreign businesses - as a vote-winner.
It is being helped by some of the target businesses that have signed
indigenisation "agreements" with empowerment minister Saviour Kasukuwere,
enabling him to claim that his National Indigenisation & Economic
Empowerment Board now owns $4bn of mining company assets.
It doesn't, of course, since the agreements involve "vendor financing". In
the case of the recently announced Zimplats agreement, the vendor - Implats,
which owns 87% of the Zimbabwe platinum group - is to "lend" $971m at 10%
over an unspecified period to three indigenisation entities, Kasukuwere's
board (31%), a community trust (10%) and employees (10%). The loan is to be
repaid from future dividends earned by Zimplats, which at present is not
paying dividends at all.
The numbers don't make sense. It is simply not possible for one government
ministry to contract billions of dollars in offshore loans without full
cabinet approval and especially the agreement of the ministry of finance. If
the deal were to be approved politically, it would put paid to Zimbabwe's
chances of securing a debt-restructuring agreement with its foreign
creditors, to whom it is in arrears of almost $7bn. Despite this, mining
companies prefer to go along with the charade, which, aside from assisting
Mugabe's party at the polls, raises all sorts of questions about corporate
governance. Are the shareholders whose shares are being sold being told the
full story? It seems unlikely.
But until the polls are held, such political theatre will dominate the
business headlines, especially now that Kasukuwere has set his sights on the
foreign banks, Barclays, Standard Chartered and Stanbic. This year will be
an uncomfortable one for businesses longing for an end to years of political
and policy uncertainty.
OPEN LETTER FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SADC Tribunal Rights Watch
30 January 2013
We have all waited long for Zimbabwe’s new constitution. I wish to focus on
a fundamental and principle part of this long and wordy document which, at
164 pages, stretches to the length of a short novel. Before doing so, it
is perhaps pertinent to quote James Madison, one of the American founding
fathers, who wrote: “It will be of little avail to the people that the laws
are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they
cannot be read, or so incoherent if they cannot be understood…”
The part that I wish to focus on is the issue of discrimination and
property rights. Law is essentially about fairness - and discrimination is
about unfairness. So it is important that when we vote for the new
constitution, we consider the issue of “fairness” very carefully.
Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the American Declaration of
Independence, wrote: “All too will bear in mind this sacred principle, that
though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be
rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights,
which equal laws must protect, and to violate would be oppression.”
While Jefferson stresses that the minority must have equal rights, we
need to be aware that property rights are something that affect us all.
The word “property” comes from the same root as the word “proper” and
so has a moral root to it. The agricultural economist Symond Fiske points
out that “wherever communities are poor, it is always because people and
their governments have been trying to take a short cut to wealth and
affluence. Instead of formulating and heeding codes that respect ownership,
they harass, raid and discourage folk who do…. In reality the only
difference between theft and redistributive taxation is the size of the
In Zimbabwe, the “gang” that is stopping property rights from being
protected - or enhanced and made sacrosanct - has been operating for some
James Madison stated that “Government is instituted to protect property
of every sort… This being the end of government, that alone is not a just
government,… nor is property secure under it, where the property which a man
has in his own personal safety and personal liberty is violated by arbitrary
seizures of one class of citizens for the service of the rest.”
We all know that such seizures have characterized the whole of the
twenty-first century in Zimbabwe. My children have never known anything
different. In Zimbabwe’s case, the systematic seizure of land from
commercial farmers has not in most cases been “for the service of the rest”
since a significant number of the beneficiaries have been the ZANU PF elite
and many farms have been conveniently parcelled out as part of President
Mugabe’s patronage system.
The new constitution - which our political leaders have negotiated and
endorsed – includes the preposterous, quintessentially Orwellian law in
section 56  that “discrimination… is unfair unless it is established that
it is fair…”
Thus it leaves the door wide open for not only the taking of
agricultural enterprises, but also for the taking of businesses, mines,
tourist facilities, banks and even homes….
Furthermore, section 72 [a] and [c] of the constitution reads as
follows: “When agricultural land, or any right or interest in such land is
compulsorily acquired …..[c] the acquisition may not be challenged on the
ground that it was discriminatory…”
There is no constitution that legalizes discrimination and the seizure
of property in this way anywhere in the world. It goes against all human
rights conventions ever signed.
There is ongoing speculation as to whether some of the members of the
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) - which apparently endorses this
constitution - have now, unwittingly, been incorporated into the “gang” that
Symond Fiske talks of.
I wish to go back in history to look at a success story. Like Zimbabwe,
the United States was a British colony. Like Zimbabwe, it attained
independence – and it wrote a constitution which created the enabling
environment for that country to become the most prosperous in the world.
Within just over a century, the USA had the largest economy in the world and
to this day it is by far the biggest exporter of agricultural produce in the
world, accounting for nearly half of the world’s food exports. It is
important that we learn the reasons for this achievement.
John Locke , one of the greatest and most influential philosophers of
all time, was part of the glorious revolution in England that spurred on the
agricultural revolution and the consequent industrial revolution. Locke,
who is widely believed to have been one of the most significant influences
behind the American Constitution, wrote: “…that being all equal and
independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or
“The Supreme power cannot take from any man, any part of his property
without his own consent. For the preservation of property being the end of
government, and that for which men enter into society, it necessarily
supposes and requires that the people should have property…” John Locke,
Second Essay Concerning Civil Government.
In Zimbabwe, virtually all commercial farmers who happen to have a
“white” skin have been deprived of their property – and in most cases,
nearly a decade later, none have received a cent of compensation.
Furthermore, they are not able to practice their profession on any property
because their properties are now, under Zimbabwe law, vested in the
The problem in Zimbabwe is not only the issue of discriminatory
protection of property rights. The problem is actually that none of us have
property rights. The people in the communal lands have never had property
rights and as a result of Amendment 17, which was added to Zimbabwe’s
constitution on September 14, 2005, the government has sweeping powers to
take away homes and livelihoods at the stroke of a pen, without any
challenge in any court being permitted. All they have to do is publish a
notice in the newspaper and allocate the property to anyone they chose –
which, as has been the case since 2000 - includes themselves. The new
constitution, in glaring defiance of the SADC Tribunal and the SADC Treaty,
endorses the contents of Amendment 17.
History has demonstrated that the State has always been spectacularly
unsuccessful in making the land productive. Not only did Amendment 17
result in the complete abolition of property rights, it also criminalised
all white farmers and their farm workers if they stayed on their land. The
loss of the skills of former farm workers has also had a major impact on
agricultural sector – and the persecution of such people continues through
these laws, with farm workers being evicted by the new “chefs” all the
John Adams, another of the 18th century founding fathers of America, had
this to say: “The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is
not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and
public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. Property must
be secured or liberty cannot exist.”
That moment in Zimbabwe has been with us for some time – and the new
constitution will perpetuate “the moment” indefinitely. When title deeds
are cancelled, we enter the pre-agricultural revolution feudal age. Under
feudalism, whether under a king, a chief, or a dictator, the individual’s
property has never been safe. Consequently, agriculture has never
flourished and throughout the history of feudalism, millions of people have
starved to death.
Fredrick Bastiat , a renowned French economist, statesman and author,
while trying to stop “legalized plunder” by the State in France, wrote in
his book entitled, “The Law”: “We hold from God the gift which includes all
others. This gift is life – physical, intellectual and moral.
“But life cannot sustain itself alone. The creator of life has
entrusted us with the responsibility of preserving, developing, and
perfecting it. In order that we may accomplish this, He has provided us
with a collection of marvelous faculties. And He has put us in the midst of
a variety of natural resources. By the application of our faculties to
these natural resources we convert them into products, and use them. The
process is necessary in order that life may run its course.
“Life, faculties, production – in other words, individuality, liberty,
property – this is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political
leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation, and are
superior to it.
“Life, liberty and property do not exist because men have made laws. On
the contrary it was the fact that life, liberty and property existed
beforehand that caused men to make laws [for the protection of them] in the
Zimbabwe is going against this fundamental principle – and though I am
no prophet, history confirms without exception that it will be to the
detriment of the people of Zimbabwe.
In April 2006, in a paper on Zimbabwe titled “Learning from Failure:
Property Rights, Land Reforms, and the Hidden Architecture of Capitalism”,
Professor Craig Richardson of Winston-Salem University in the United
States, an expert in property rights with a keen interest in Zimbabwe,
“Property rights are analogous to the concrete foundation of a building:
critical for supporting
the frame and the roof, yet virtually invisible to its inhabitants. In fact,
there are three distinct
economic pillars that rest on the foundation of secure property rights,
creating a largely hidden
substructure for the entire marketplace.
• Trust on the part of foreign and domestic investors that their
investments are safe from
• Land equity, which allows wealth in property to be transformed into
other assets; and
• Incentives, which vastly improve economic productivity, both in the
short and long term,
by allowing individuals to fully capture the fruit of their labors.”
Justice George Sutherland of the US Supreme Court told the New York
State Bar Association in 1921 at their annual address that “the individual -
the man - has three great rights, equally sacred from arbitrary
interference: the right to his life, the right to his liberty and the right
to his property… The three rights are so bound together as to essentially be
one right. To give a man his life but deny him his liberty, is to take from
him all that makes his life worth living. To give him his liberty but take
from him the property which is the fruit and badge of his liberty, is to
still leave him a slave,” [p.18].
In Zimbabwe, the “gang,” is clearly bent on perpetuating the slavery of
the people through discriminatory laws and through its constitutional
“right” to take property from its citizens in an arbitrary way, and to vest
the land in the State. This has proved to be a very valuable mechanism of
I cannot, and will not endorse a constitution that will subject the
people of Zimbabwe to continued hunger and slavery. If it were measured
against God’s blue print and all international law, it would never even be
put to the people in its present form. Anyone who endorses the draft
constitution as it stands is, in my view, a traitor to the next generation
of young Zimbabweans.
Spokesperson – SADC Tribunal Rights Watch
The Mike Campbell Foundation
Cell: +263 773 929 138