By Alex Bell
07 January 2009
Seven activists on Wednesday appeared in the Harare Magistrates Court in
connection with a series of minor bomb blasts in the capital last year. They
became the first group of the more than 40 abductees, to be formally charged
by the state.
The seven, including the Tsvangirai MDC head of security Chris Dhlamini and
Tsvangirai's former aide Gandhi Mudzingwa, all pleaded not guilty to the
charges of terrorism, banditry and insurgency laid against them on
Wednesday. Defence lawyer Andrew Makoni explained that the case was further
deferred to Thursday and said a new application has been filed on behalf of
the seven, listing their complaints about their treatment during their
unlawful detention. Makoni argued that despite the charges, the defence is
still fighting for the group's remand to be refused, saying there is "no
evident reason or knowable suspicion for the group to be placed on remand."
In court lawyer Alec Muchadehama said the group had been 'severely tortured'
by state security agents after their abductions, and explained that not a
single member of the group had been lawfully detained. He said: "No arrest
took place. Each one of them is a victim of abduction and forced
disappearance by state agents. None of them was arrested in terms of the
The group could face the death penalty if they are found guilty of being
involved in two minor blasts at Harare police stations and a blast at a
railway line in Norton last year. The questionable circumstances surrounding
the blasts, which at the time were linked to a ZANU PF attempt to implicate
the MDC, and the subsequent abductions and charging of the seven activists,
has raised questions over whether the bombs were in fact set off to create
convenient evidence in the current case.
Adding more fuel to the fire is speculation this week that a so-called
'assassination attempt,' targeting Air Force Commander Perrence Shiri last
year, was in fact an elaborate hoax by Robert Mugabe's ZANU PF as part of it's
ongoing effort to build a case against the MDC. Shiri was supposedly wounded
in the hand after being shot at while driving from his farm in Shamva in
December. In the days that followed, state-controlled media launched a
propaganda assault on the MDC, reporting that the attack was a "build up of
terror attacks targeting high profile persons, government officials,
government establishments and public transportation systems".
The deliberate manipulation of events to build a case against the MDC has
been clearly evident in the case launched against abducted human rights
activist Jestina Mukoko and her eight co-accused. The group is yet to be
formally charged after being accused of attempting to recruit fighters to
train in neighboring Botswana to overthrow Mugabe. Their case was postponed
for the second time this week on Tuesday, and the group is set to remain in
custody until their next Magistrate's Court appearance on the 14th January.
Lawyers are still pursuing applications in the High Court for the abductees
to receive proper care outside of the Chikurubi prison where they are being
held. But despite evidence of being tortured and seriously injured during
their detention, a High Court judge over the weekend refused to handle the
medical affidavits, citing a 'legal irregularity'.
Such legal irregularities have been prominent since the abductees' first
court appearances last year, as the state has continued to play a legal game
with the defence and the abductees. Mukoko and the other abductees that have
been accounted for meanwhile have been shuttled to and from solitary
confinement; all while being denied medical treatment. This includes the two
year old son of Violet Mupfuranhehwe who is held in solitary confinement
with his mother, and who is also yet to receive proper medical care after
being beaten in a very cruel effort to glean information from his mother.
And while such a high stakes game is being played in court, it would appear
that the safety and whereabouts of at least 10 other abductees remains
either a closely guarded secret or a mystery. The MDC has said that more
than 40 people were abducted last year, and despite Tsvangirai issuing
Mugabe with what has proved to be a fruitless ultimatum to produce the
abductees by the 1st January, only 30 people were eventually produced.
HARARE (AFP) - Seven Zimbabwean opposition activists accused in a series of
bombings have been "severely tortured" by state security agents, their
lawyer told a court Wednesday, urging a probe into the alleged abuse.
The activists include the director of security for the opposition Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC), as well as a former adviser to party leader
"From November 20, they were severely tortured while in police custody and
and some of them were denied critical medication," lawyer Alec Muchadehama
told a magistrate's court.
"No arrest took place. Each one of them is a victim of abduction and forced
disappearance by state agents. None of them was arrested in terms of the
law," he said.
"What we are seeking is that the court must urge the state to investigate
the allegations of torture and report on the next remand date. If nothing
happens we reserve the right to approach international courts for redress."
The accused were among 18 opposition and rights activists taken from their
homes in separate incidents since October and detained at unknown locations.
They only began appearing in court on December 24, and stand accused of
bombing two police stations in Harare as well as two bridges outside the
capital "for the purposes of causing insurrection in Zimbabwe."
They denied the charges.
Doctors who examined them at Chikurubi maximum security prison, where they
are detained, said they suffered various injuries. One appeared to have
damaged kidneys and required urgent medical treatment, the doctors said.
Another risked becoming deaf without urgent treatment for a ruptured
membrane in one ear, while a third was phychologically traumatised and had
developed a fear of water and open spaces.
The arrest of the activists has heightened fears for a September
power-sharing deal signed by Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe, which
has stalled over disputes about dividing control of key cabinet posts.
The hearing continues Thursday.
By Tichaona Sibanda
7 January 2009
Will they or won't they? Only the top leadership of the MDC who are meeting
in Johannesburg have the answer to this four month-long guessing game that
has kept Zimbabweans on tenterhooks, since talks to form a new government
stalled last year.
All eyes are now fixed on the 'no holds barred' meeting between Morgan
Tsvangirai and his top strategists and transition team, which is going on in
South Africa to decide whether the MDC should join a unity government with
arch-enemy Robert Mugabe.
A source told us the indaba would also discuss the humanitarian crisis and
human rights situation in the country, before taking a final decision.
The meeting would try to hammer out a consensus on the strategy to be
adopted, if they were to join an inclusive government. They are expected to
draft a second strategy if they decide against joining. It's believed that
whatever is decided would have to be approved by the MDC's national
council - the party's top decision making body.
Another source said the three day meeting has to take tough decisions on how
far it could go in its opposition to joining the government, amid growing
apprehension among party activists of Mugabe's threats to call for an early
election. Mugabe uses the military to run his election campaigns and there
are fears that another election with Mugabe still controlling this apparatus
will be just as bloody as the last election.
By joining a unity government, Tsvangirai as Prime Minister will be the
deputy chair in a newly constituted National Security Council (NSC), taking
over from the Joint Operations Command. Currently JOC comprises military
commanders with strong links to Mugabe and ZANU PF. But the NSC would have
more civilians from all parties. Some party leaders believe this would
dilute the power Mugabe has wielded in the JOC.
'The meeting will review the chain of events on the controversial agreement
since 15th September with ZANU PF and is expected to chart out its strategy
to deal with the situation. These talks are timely and important. Whatever
decision is going to come out of this meeting has a huge bearing on the
political landscape in Zimbabwe,' our source said.
Meanwhile reports say Tsvangirai has urged South African President Kgalema
Motlanthe to arrange and mediate a confidential meeting between himself and
Mugabe, in an effort to solve the long-stalled power-sharing agreement
signed in September 2008.
Tsvangirai has said he wanted renewed talks on the power-sharing deal but
underscored that such talks should be under the chairmanship of Motlanthe,
amid reports that SADC leaders are urging Tsvangirai to return to Harare for
such a meeting.
January 07 2009 at 11:10AM
Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has urged President
Kgalema Motlanthe to arrange and mediate a confidential meeting between
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and himself to try to clinch the
long-stalled power-sharing agreement.
The request from Tsvangirai, leader of the main faction of the
Movement for Democratic Change, to Motlanthe apparently underscores his lack
of confidence in the mediation of former president Thabo Mbeki.
Tsvangirai disclosed his request to Motlanthe in a letter written to
Mugabe last week in which the MDC leader declined Mugabe's request to return
home and be sworn in as prime minister.
Tsvangirai is due to start a high-level meeting with senior executives
of his party in Johannesburg today.
Tsvangirai wrote that he wanted renewed talks on the power-sharing
deal but underscored that such talks should be under the chairmanship of
"I have written in the same vein to President Motlanthe suggesting he
convenes a confidential meeting in South Africa between you and me, under
his chairmanship, so that we can iron out these matters to the satisfaction
of all parties.
"I am sure you are anxious to proceed to the successful implementation
of the Global Political Agreement, but the issues are so profound that we
must act in a logical sequence," Tsvangirai wrote.
Mugabe had written to Tsvangirai inviting him to take the oath of
office even before a constitutional amendment giving effect to the unity
deal had been finalised. Mugabe's letter, together with Tsvangirai's
long-withheld passport, were delivered to him on Christmas Day in Botswana.
Tsvangirai responded: "You are aware that the MDC justifiably rejected
the recommendation of SADC and that the position regarding fundamental
issues of principle has not yet been resolved.
"It is, therefore, presumptuous to conclude that the MDC accepts the
allocation of ministers as per the schedule that you unilaterally gazetted.
"When the Constitutional Amendment No 19 Bill has been passed into law, the
roles of President and Prime Minister will stand properly defined in law.
"Otherwise there is no basis for appointments. In the absence of these
processes, I find your proposal to appoint me Prime Minister irregular."
Tsvangirai wants Mugabe's appointment of 10 provincial governors
nullified and discussions and agreement on "equitable allocation of
ministries", as well as the composition of a new National Security Council,
due to replace the Joint Operations Command (JOC ), before he takes up his
post in a unity government.
Motlanthe had hoped that persuading Mugabe to release Tsvangirai
passport would sway the latter to join a unity government before the
resolution of all outstanding issues such as allocation of posts.
Meanwhile, a Zimbabwean court yesterday ruled that a leading human
rights advocate and eight other activists should remain in custody.
The State has charged Jestina Mukoko, who leads a local rights group,
and the other activists with recruiting or trying to recruit people for
military training to topple Mugabe's government.
The arrests have raised tensions in Zimbabwe.
Defence lawyers had argued that the activists had been abducted, not
legally arrested, and that Zimbabwe's High Court had already ordered that
they be freed.
"All the accused should remain in custody pending determination of the
matters in the superior courts," said magistrate Olivia Mariga in her
Mariga postponed proceedings to next Tuesday.
"The court is of the view that remand proceedings should be postponed,
as the defence is pursuing applications in superior courts," Mariga said.
The activists' lawyers have lodged applications in the high court,
seeking to set aside a magistrate's earlier ruling that their clients be
placed on remand.
They are also seeking permission for their clients to get medical
treatment from doctors of their own choice.
This article was originally published on page 2 of Pretoria News on
January 07, 2009
By Tichaona Sibanda
7 January 2009
Robert Mugabe has appointed eight cabinet ministers, to replace those who
lost their seats during last year's harmonized elections.
The state-controlled Herald reported Wednesday that the appointments were
temporary and added that Mugabe was expected to form an 'inclusive
government' at the end of February.
The ZANU PF leader agreed in September last year to share power with the two
formations of the MDC, but the agreement has stalled over a dispute over the
allocation of cabinet posts.
Mugabe last week formally dismissed ministers who lost their parliamentary
seats in the March vote. Analysts speculated the move was part of
preparations for unilaterally naming a new government.
The MDC MP for Makoni Central John Nyamande, the legislator who defeated
Patrick Chinamasa in the elections, was very critical of Mugabe's
appointments saying; 'He just can't manage to reshape his government without
Nyamande said it was infuriating that many under-performing ministers like
Aeneas Chigwedere, Chinamasa and Joseph Made, remain in place despite grave
doubts about their abilities.
'If you study Mugabe's reshuffles in the last eight years, they've all been
disasters. People in his party say he is a man of political talents, but his
reshuffles suggest otherwise,' Nyamande said.
A source told us many ZANU MPs have an axe to grind with Mugabe as a result
of his botched reshuffles, as he religiously reappoints losing MPs back to
cabinet. The source added this may encourage the predators circling around
Mugabe to strike sooner rather than later.
Mugabe uses his executive powers to appoint his 'blue eyed boys' who've lost
parliamentary elections to become a non-constituency MP or senator. Anyone
outside parliament cannot be appointed a minister in Zimbabwe, so Mugabe
uses his patronage system to reappoint those losing candidates back to
cabinet, by first reappointing them as non-constituency MPs.
According to the Herald the Minister for Indigenisation and Empowerment
Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana, has just been appointed the Acting Minister of
Information and Publicity, taking over from Sikhanyiso Ndlovu.
Ndlovu failed to secure a House of Assembly seat in Pelandaba-Mpopoma where
he represented ZANU PF in the March 2008 harmonised elections. He was
without doubt, one of the most under-performing ministers in this past
Mangwana is the Chivi Central MP and once acted as Minister of Information
and Publicity following the death of Tichaona Jokonya in 2006.
The other appointments are: Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi as the
acting Minister of Mines and Mining Development, taking over from Amos
Midzi, who lost the Epworth seat to Eliah Jembere of the MDC-T.
Minister of Economic Development Sylvester Nguni is the acting Minister of
Agriculture, following the departure of Rugare Gumbo. Gumbo lost in Zanu-PF
primaries to former ZBC journalist Makhosini Hlongwane in Mberengwa East
The Minister of Small to Medium Enterprises Development, Sithembiso Nyoni,
becomes the acting Minister of Women's Affairs, Gender and Community
Development, taking over from Oppah Muchinguri. Muchinguri lost to Trevor
Saruwaka in Mutasa Central constituency.
Mashonaland East Governor and Resident Minister Aeneas Chigwedere, remains
the Minister of Education, Sport and Culture. Manicaland Governor and
Resident Minister Christopher Mushohwe will continue as acting Minister of
Transport and Communications.
ZANU PF chief negotiator and non-constituency senator Patrick Chinamasa is
now the acting Minister of Finance, taking over from Samuel Mumbengegwi, who
lost to former Masvingo governor, Josiah Hungwe in Zanu-PF primaries in
Chivi Senate constituency.
Controversial former Agriculture minister Joseph Made, now a
non-constituency senator, becomes the acting Minister of Water Resources and
Infrastructural Development, taking over from Munacho Mutezo.
From Bloomberg, 7 January
Zimbabwe's stock exchange failed to resume trading since reopening on Jan. 5
after the holiday break, said Emmanuel Munyukwi, the bourse's chief
executive officer, without providing a reason. "We don't know exactly when
trading will resume because we are still investigating various issues,"
Munyukwi said by phone today from Harare, the capital. Munyukwi couldn't
provide further details because he's still on vacation, he said. Trade on
the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange ground to a halt after the country's Securities
Commission on Nov. 20 ordered stockbrokers to submit audited financial
reports of their net worth by the end of December 2008. The commission on
Dec. 16 warned broking firms they would be closed if they failed to meet the
deadline. Zimbabwe has world's highest inflation rate, which the government
estimates at 231 million percent, spawned by a decade of economic recession
that caused shortages of food, fuel and other basic commodities.
Investors with cash in Zimbabwe prefer to buy shares to avoid their money
losing value, helping some individual stocks on the Harare-based exchange to
post increases of as much as 100,000 percent a day last year, according to
Imara Holdings Ltd., a Gaborone-based brokerage. Kingdom Stockbrokers, a
Harare-based broking firm, said trade hadn't resumed on Jan. 5 as a result
of central bank measures announced on Nov. 17. "Trades on the bourse are
supposed to be backed by a letter of confirmation from bank CEOs, something
which will prove difficult to implement as CEOs would argue that their hands
are already full at the moment," Kingdom said in an e- mailed statement
today. Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono in November accused
banks in the southern African country of using fraudulent checks to
artificially inflate share prices. Companies whose shares trade on the
Zimbabwe bourse include Old Mutual Ltd., a unit of U.K. insurer Old Mutual
Plc, Econet Wireless Holdings Ltd., Zimbabwe's biggest mobile-phone
provider, and Kingdom Meikles Africa Ltd., which has interests in the
leisure, banking and retail industries.
Wed Jan 7, 8:26 am ET
HARARE (AFP) - Zimbabwe has delayed the opening of schools by two weeks,
state media reported Wednesday, amid fears that teachers may not show up for
classes due to the country's worsening humanitarian crisis.
Schools were set to open next Tuesday for the new academic year, but
education secretary Stephen Mahere said in the government mouthpiece Herald
newspaper that classes would not resume until January 27 because last year's
exams were not yet marked.
"This decision has been necessitated by the need to facilitate completion of
the marking of 2008 public national examinations involving a significant
number of teachers," he said.
The delay also gives the education ministry time to consider requests by
schools to charge fees in foreign currency, the newspaper said.
Teachers went on strike several times last year over pay, as Zimbabwe's
stunning hyperinflation reduced their salaries to a pittance.
This year, striking teachers warned they would not return to work if they
were not paid in foreign currency. They are demanding a monthly salary of
"The position is that if there are no salaries in US dollars, it will be a
problem or difficult for teachers to return to work," said Oswald Madziva,
the national co-ordinator of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe
"Postponing the school calendar shows that government has admitted that
things are not in order," he told AFP.
Some teachers fled their classrooms amid the violence surrounding a
presidential run-off election in June, while others stopped showing up as
they resorted to selling goods on the streets in a desperate bid to survive.
Inflation was last estimated in July at 231 million percent, but outside
economists say it is now likely in the trillions.
The central bank prints ever larger banknotes, sometimes several times a
month, but still cannot keep pace with soaring prices. Many shops now demand
foreign currency for their goods, effectively shutting out ordinary
The Times newspaper in South Africa said that many schools also lacked basic
supplies and even running water amid a cholera epidemic that has claimed
more than 1,700 lives since August.
A rumour has been circulating that ZESA (Zimbabwe Electricity Supply
Authority) would soon be demanding payment for all bills in forex. I've
heard this from two sources. If true, it would mean that all Zimbabweans
would have to settle their electricity bills in forex. OK for those who have
access to forex, but not OK for the majorty who have no access to real cash
A friend of mine checked it out, and was told that this was not true.
However it is well known that ZESA is on its knees, their experts trained in
dealing with huge power lines leaving the country in their droves, so this
friend asked one ZESA guy how he was coping.
He told her they were still being paid in Zim dollars but inflation and the
cash shortages at the banks meant it was worthless to them. Most would have
no choice but to take their skills elsewhere to a country which had real
money so they could support their families. ZESA knows this. It also knows
that when they lose these skills the light go out in Zimbabwe - in homes,
hospitals, industry everywhere.
Their solution? This guy told my friend that his last 'paycheck' was in the
form of fuel coupons - one hundred litres worth. The fact that a government
parastatal recognises the no-value status of the local currency is telling!
How far did 100 litres take you, my friend jokingly asked him? It covered
one weeks' worth of the cost of living, leaving the rest of the month a
massive struggle. Zim dollars are not good enough, and 100 litres is not
enough. Mr Go'no-solutions needs to wake up fast.
This entry was written by Still Here on Wednesday, January 7th, 2009 at 7:53
By Lance Guma
07 January 2008
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) has expressed concern that the
charging for mobile phone services in foreign currency by all the major
networks is seriously impeding the right of Zimbabweans to communicate. Many
people interviewed by Newsreel say they can no longer buy airtime for their
phones because the little forex they manage to get has to be used to buy
scarce basic commodities.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe recently granted the mobile networks permission
to charge in foreign currency. This was after the networks complained that
they lost money to hyper-inflation by producing monthly phone bills. MISA
noted the inability of subscribers to buy airtime for their phones and said
this added to 'the appalling state of fixed and mobile telephone networks in
Zimbabwe which has seen subscribers failing to communicate as and when they
desire, despite the high tariff charges.'
Although Zimbabwe's economy has virtually been 'dollarised' the majority of
workers still earn the near worthless Zimbabwe dollars. MISA say they want
the 'Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ)
to act with the full understanding that communication is a human right and
not a privilege and that telecommunications remain key pillars of freedom of
expression and access to information.'
This state of affairs however is not expected to worry the Mugabe regime who
are acutely aware that information remains a powerful tool for exposing the
excesses of any government.
There have also been reports that police in Bulawayo arrested over 100
street vendors, shop owners and transport operators who had charged for
goods and services in forex, without central bank authority. The Zimbabwe
Times website quotes a worker at the Bakers Inn outlet along Fort Street
saying they were forced to close their shop while police arrested their
manager. They were later told to pay a fine of US$20 000.
At the centre of the problem is that to get a licence to sell in foreign
currency from the central bank costs between US$20 000 and US$100 000. This
has effectively sidelined small businesses who don't have the resources to
apply and also cannot afford to sell goods in the worthless local currency
that daily falls in value. It's a 'do or die' situation were the small
dealers have no option but take the risk of selling their wares in forex.
Meanwhile the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions has denied state media
reports that they are opposed to workers being paid in foreign currency. A
statement from Acting Secretary General Gideon Shoko said; 'The ZCTU
position is clear and says that all workers should be paid in foreign
currency given the fact that shops are now selling their goods in foreign
currency, even those that have not been licensed to do so. Workers are even
forced to pay rentals and fares in foreign currency.'
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
Consumers are unlikely to benefit from the extension of the mandate of the
National Incomes and Pricing Commission, a Consumer Council of Zimbabwe
official has said.
CCZ regional manager for Matabeleland, Mr Comfort Muchekeza said there was
need to show how consumers stood to gain from the extension of price
controls, judging from past failure by the commission to enforce price
The Minister of Industry and International Trade, Cde Obert Mpofu last week
extended the mandate of the NIPC to monitor and control prices by another
six months to 30 June.
The price control extension sees schools and businesses having to apply to
the NIPC prior to any increases that they would want to effect.
Basic goods such as bread, cooking oil, salt and sugar have been earmarked
as products under control.
Mr Muchekeza said previous efforts to control prices had not helped
"We witnessed a significant leap in prices late last year in spite of the
controls, some prices would jump from $100 million to $15 billion and
consumers need to know what benefits they will realise from controls this
He called for a sterner and yet reasonable approach to deal with defiant
"We need to have the proper mechanism that monitors a business' costs on
transport, duty and then derive the proper percentage mark-up on it," he
"At all costs we must avoid a situation where we incarcerate defiant
businesses, because with that approach we will not be able to lure investors
into the country."
Calls have been growing from various quarters for the Government to do away
with the price controls and to adopt a free market approach, as price
controls have not been reflective of the hyper-inflationary environment.
A free market economy is based on supply and demand with little or no
Mr Muchekeza dismissed this ideal of having a free market economy pointing
out that while it was the best in terms of encouraging competition, Zimbabwe
at present lacked the capacity to adopt it.
"The problem is that organisations at the helm of setting prices do not want
competition, a free market only works well in the presence of competition
where we will see an improvement in product quality and a fall in prices,"
He cited the flat price of 10 rand for a loaf of bread by manufacturers as
an example that no new competitor was entering the bread sector and offering
a different price.
Published by the government of Zimbabwe
7 January 2009
Harare - HARARE City Council has increased rates by a shocking 10 000
percent with effect from this month, a development that will see some
residents forking out as much as $560 billion a month.
The council also raised licence fees for flea markets, curio stands, flower
markets, food courts, porters, grinding mills, wholesale and retail markets.
Mbare (National) residents are now expected to pay an average of $200
billion monthly in rates to council, up from about $10 million.
In some suburbs residents have received invoices demanding $560 billion in
rates from $23 million the previous month.
Licence fees for large stalls at Mupedzanhamo Flea Market have been
increased to $644 billion with those for small stalls being pegged at $552
Curio stand fees have been increased to $506 billion, while wholesale
markets will attract a monthly fee of $690 billion, retail markets $276
billion and flower markets $69 billion.
Following the increase, food court owners are now expected to pay a trillion
dollars, phone shops and weekend flea markets $138 billion, other flea
markets $322 billion and cloakrooms $828 billion.
Grinding mill owners are expected to pay $782 billion, porters $368 billion,
firewood vendors $69 billion and a "simple structure" $138 billion.
To be put on the housing waiting list one has to pay $17 billion and $13
billion for renewal.
One resident, Mr Sam Geza, yesterday castigated council for the massive
increase in rates which he branded "unreasonable".
"What it means is that landlords would simply pass over the increased costs
on to their tenants. This is shocking; where does council think we will get
such huge amounts from?" he said.
He said only a few workers earned over $500 billion a month and would
struggle to pay such rates.
At Mupedzanhamo Flea Market those interviewed expressed displeasure at what
they described as council's "insensitivity" to the prevailing economic
challenges facing business, residents and the country.
"Following the sharp increases in stall fees, we would be left with no
option but to revise the price of our wares and people will not buy them. As
things stand, we risk losing business," said one distraught trader.
7th Jan 2009 15:15 GMT
By Patrick Chikwande
THE recently gazetted exorbitant accreditation fees for journalists and
media organisations are 'null and void' according to the laws of Zimbabwe,
lawyers said Wednesday.
Zimbabwe journalists working for foreign owned media organizations are
mandated to pay US
$4,000 dollars annually to practice in the country while their media
organisations are expected to pay a total US$32,000 dollars as application
and accreditation fees.
The new fees were reported in the state-owned Herald newspaper on Monday
citing a government gazette.
However, lawyers argued that the Media and Information Commission (MIC) is
no longer existent to announce accreditation fees.
The fees come hard-on-the-heels of threats by the Zimbabwe government to
close foreign news bureaus for Reuters, AP and AFP following the publication
of stories that quoted President Robert Mugabe as saying cholera had now
been contained in the country in December.
Writing in his column, the acerbic Nathaniel Manheru, believed to be
Mugabe's spokesman, George Charamba, said there was no need to have these
organisations, including the BBC, represented in Zimbabwe when they did not
respect their reporters on the ground. Zimbabwe did not need them, he
Said Manheru of the cholera stories he said were penned elsewhere and not by
local agency reporters: "It is also a loud way of telling those in authority
in Zimbabwe to please declassify them as bona fide news organisations,
indeed a statement to say we can cover Zimbabwe from our head offices,
without local staffers. The message has gone home and is well taken."
The fees have been seen by many in the media as the first step towards
making life difficult for the foreign media bureaux.
The Zimbabwe parliament amended the Access to Information and Protection of
Privacy Act (AIPPA) which dissolved the Media and Information Commission
(MIC) and created the Zimbabwe Media Commission and Zimbabwe Media Council
(ZMC) respectively, which are yet to be constituted.
Speaking at a media briefing, Dzimbabwe Chimbga, a lawyer from the Zimbabwe
Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said: "I don't see how you (journalists)
should comply with a law that is non-existent. On the face of it, it is null
and void. MIC is non existent."
Another lawyer, Selby Hwacha of Dube, Manikai and Hwacha legal
practitioners, in a statement said: "Legally therefore all accreditations or
registrations through or to the erstwhile Media and Information Commission
are unlawful. By carefully structured application, an order can be sought
which entitles journalists to practice until a correct body is in place."
Meanwhile the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) has called for the
parliament of Zimbabwe to urgently review the legality of the gazetted fees.
"The parliament of Zimbabwe must urgently review the legality of the
gazetted fees for registration and accreditation of journalists given the
ostensible fact that the bodies it brought into legal being (the Zimbabwe
Media Commission and the Zimbabwe Media Council) remain unconstituted yet
the Amendment Act of AIPPA was passed into law through due process in March
2008," MISA said in a statement.
MISA said the new fees for foreign media organizations and local journalists
working for them 'smack of machinations to frustrate and make it difficult
to operate in Zimbabwe.'
President Robert Mugabe's government enacted AIPPA in 2002 forcing media
organisations and journalists to register with a government appointed body.
This resulted in several newspapers being closed down and some
correspondents of foreign newspapers being deported.
BULAWAYO, January 7 2209 - Some of the equipment donated by
neighbouring countries to help fight the cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe has
been either stolen or vandalised, health officials have revealed.
A number of countries from the region gave the country different
kinds of equipment to fight the disease, but it has emerged that some of it
did not reach intended beneficiaries, with Bulawayo residents yet to receive
water treatment tablets.
"Once we get the tablets we will hastily distribute them to residents
so that they also can treat water at household level," said a council health
In Beitbridge, some taps and pipes donated by South Africa's
Department of Water Affairs have either been stolen or vandalised.
Some pipes were reportedly stolen from where they had been erected
while some are no longer functioning due to vandalism, a situation which has
raised the concern of council authorities.
The equipment, which included water tanks with a capacity to hold 10
000 litres of water, taps and water treatment tablets, was donated by the
South African government at the height of the cholera outbreak.
The disease, which was first detected in August last year, has since
claimed more than 1 500 lives countrywide, mostly in urban areas. The
outbreak has largely been attributed to poor sanitation, inadequate water
supplies and constant sewer bursts.
Beitbridge Town Council chairperson Samuel Mandebvu, confirmed that
some of the donated equipment was already missing and some of it,
"We are really concerned about the vandalism and theft of water taps
as the equipment is meant to assist the entire community especially during
this time of cholera," he said.
HARARE, January 07 2009 - Lawyers representing human rights activist,
Jestina Mukoko, have filed a constitutional court challenge as they
intensify efforts to secure her release.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), said the constitutional
challenge, which cites Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and
four other senior police officers, requests the court to protect and enforce
Mukoko's rights, which should have been protected in terms of the
Constitution of Zimbabwe.
"A Constitutional Court challenge is also filed on behalf of Jestina
Mukoko (ref: Jestina Mukoko v Commissioner-General of Police & 4 Others SC
293/09) seeking the bench to protect and enforce various of her fundamental
rights which have been breached during the course of her abduction and
detention, and which rights should have been protected in terms of the
Constitution of Zimbabwe.
"The application further seeks to have her released and not further
prosecuted on the same charges pending a full investigation into her
abduction and prosecution of all those involved," ZLHR said in its abductees
daily update released Wednesday morning.
Mukoko, a former newscaster has been detained for more than a month
since her abduction from her Norton home.
The police, who initially denied knowledge of her whereabouts, accuse
the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) director of recruiting Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) supporters to undergo military training in Botswana.
7th Jan 2009 15:51 GMT
By NORDIC MINISTERS
NORDIC MINISTERS IN JOINT STATEMENT: "THE MISRULE OF ROBERT MUGABE MUST COME
TO AN END AND RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS BE REINSTATED IN ZIMBABWE"
THE Nordic Ministers for Foreign Affairs met in Copenhagen on December 18th.
They decided on the following joint statement on the situation in Zimbabwe.
The Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) have a
long tradition of engagement with Zimbabwe and other countries in Southern
Africa. Our strong partnership with countries in the region has historically
been built on mutual trust, dialogue and the upholding of common values such
as democratic principles and respect for human rights.
Against this background, the Foreign Ministers of the Nordic countries are
appalled by the grave humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe which continues to
deteriorate by the day. The suffering of the people of Zimbabwe has recently
been further aggravated by the outbreak of cholera. This curable disease has
already demanded far too many lives. The neighbouring countries and
particularly adjacent communities are affected by the cholera epidemic in
Zimbabwe as the disease easily crosses borders. The Nordic countries will
continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of in Zimbabwe.
The authorities in Zimbabwe alone bear the responsibility for the tragic
situation the country is currently faced with.
Violence and intimidation against the critics of the regime in Zimbabwe
continue unabated. The recent disappearance of human rights defender Jestina
Mukoko and the arrest of several members of the MDC are frightening examples
of the human rights violations. The Nordic countries are worried about the
fate of Jestina Mukoko and others and strongly demand that universal human
rights be respected in Zimbabwe.
The political agreement between Zanu-PF and MDC of 15 September 2008 gave
rise to some hope for Zimbabwe's future. Regrettably three months have
passed without the creation of a coalition government. The Nordic countries
call on the parties to reach an agreement without delay respecting the will
of the people of Zimbabwe expressed in the elections of 29 March.
Negotiations must be conducted in a sincere manner by all sides. In this
respect the unilateral decisions to appoint new provincial governors and to
confirm the appointment of the Governor of the Reserve Bank go against this
The Nordic countries call for an end to the misrule of Robert Mugabe and of
the disrespect for democratic principles and human rights - which are core
issues underlying the Nordic engagement and support for the liberation
struggles in Southern Africa.
The Nordic countries reiterate the importance of strong, energetic and
persistent involvement in efforts to solve the crisis by the SADC, the
African Union and the UN. The Nordic countries remain committed to
supporting the economic and social recovery of Zimbabwe aiming for the
sustainable development of the country once a reliable and credible
government has been formed and once tangible signals have been shown in key
areas, in particular human rights.
How Zimbabwe's President plans to tackle his enemies now
Those of us who believe in freedom in Zimbabwe should brace ourselves.
According to police sources, we can expect a wide series of high profile
arrests this month, as Robert Mugabe moves finally to eliminate all official
opposition to his reign as the country's dictator.
A senior member of the Harare CID, the law and order section, based at
police general headquarters in Harare, has told me of plans to detain a
number of national executive members of the Morgan Tsvangirai-led Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC).
The charges against them will vary, but they will include treason, attempted
murder, terrorism, sabotage and malicious damage to property. The charges
will be backed up by a well-prepared case using fabricated evidence and
bribed or threatened witnesses.
The so-called evidence is being gathered by an unholy alliance of the police
and the spy agency, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), and the
general thrust of the charges will be to link the MDC with terrorism.
Members of the military will also be heavily involved, with troops
testifying that they were hired by the MDC to bomb police stations and to
attempt to assassinate senior government officials and military commanders.
Some soldiers will also testify that they were paid by the MDC to take part
in the military riots that shook Harare last month.
"The idea is to build a strong case which will accuse the MDC of
deliberately trying to spark public unrest, as an excuse to depose the
President," the officer told me.
The MDC is aware of the plans. Its national spokesman, Nelson Chamisa,
described any such charges as "trumped up". Perhaps so. But that doesn't
mean they won't stick. Justice in Zimbabwe is a tender plant, and Mugabe and
his men plan to stamp all over it.
Posted on Wednesday, 07 January 2009 at 10:54
A comment on Dr Gideon Gono's book, Zimbabwe's Casino Economy
- John Robertson
To close off this very difficult year I gave myself the very difficult task
of reading Gideon Gono's book and writing some comments for you. My effort
is attached and my only hope is that reading it will not be as painful for
you as reading the book itself.
We have to hope for an early breakthrough, especially now that the Zimbabwe
dollar has become virtually worthless. Immediate challenges for government
are to get Parliament sitting again so that a Budget can be passed and the
whole revenue and expenditure process can be put back onto a legal footing.
For at least this reason, we should see some strenuous efforts being made in
January, but the points in my summing up paragraphs on the last page of the
attached will still need urgent attention.
Whether they get the right kind of attention, from locals as well as
foreigners, might well determine our future!
My most sincere thanks to you for all your support during the year and my
warmest good wishes go out to you for a better 2009.
Five Curious Years result in a curious book - John Robertson
If you could start a sincere discourse in which you could honestly declare -
* that you have received the President's personal guidance at
least twice a week for five years
* that you proudly hold a conviction that every one of the
President's policy pronouncements met the highest possible
moral, academic, philosophical and practical standards of excellence
* that you hold a firm belief that the only reason for their failures
has been the imposition of sanctions, and
* that Zimbabwe's survival of the international sanctions
onslaught has led directly to your having achieved major
breakthroughs in economic theory -
- you too could write a book that would put an extraordinarily up-beat spin
on Zimbabwe's recent history. You might also be able to persuade yourself
that, now that many banks in developed nations are having to be rescued, the
brilliance of Zimbabwe's monetary policies is no longer in doubt.
But first you would have to successfully impose a few new definitions on
certain English words that would completely destroy your claims if their
original meanings were to be used.
The word "sanctions" is the main one. This word has to be redefined to mean
any response from abroad that is not wholly supportive of Zanu PF-policy
decisions, that does not respect the sovereign rights of the party's
leadership to choose any policies they wish, or that shows an unwillingness
to completely overlook Zimbabwe's failures to fulfil contractual
This means that if any government, donor agency, international bank or
development institution finds that it is not in agreement with Zanu PF
policy objectives, or is agitating for long-overdue debt repayments, or is
dismayed by the conduct of party officials, that body can be accused of
And if any lender expresses concern that new loans to Zimbabwe might not be
repaid, and therefore sets tough conditions or refuses to lend Zimbabwe the
money, it too can be accurately accused of imposing sanctions.
Points carefully overlooked - Dr Gono's book is laced with numerous examples
of carefully overlooked points - are that lenders are fully entitled to base
their lending decisions on the assessed credit worthiness of borrowers,
whether that assessment is based on past performance or current earnings
Zimbabwe's score is dismal on both counts. Consequently, loan refusals are
hardly surprising. In such cases, refusals are standard practice for any
banker. As for the donors, NG0s and aid agencies, Zimbabwe's government
disqualified itself from receiving direct assistance by adopting and
endorsing conduct that violated human rights.
The conduct concerned includes violent ruling party-supported actions that
hit directly at civil liberties and made direct and deliberate attacks on
entirely legal political movements that tried to attract support for
alternative political and economic policies. These attacks severely affected
investor confidence and further damage was done when the Zanu PF policies
began to sharply reduce Zimbabwe's foreign earnings by forcing the closure
of most of the farming companies that produced most of the country's
Unfortunately, these were the earnings that had supported Zimbabwe's access
to credit. Continuing flows of revenue were needed to repay the banks
offering continuing lines of credit for flows of imports, and export
earnings were also needed to service longer-term debts. The rapid fall in
earnings caused Zimbabwe to become a poor credit risk, so lines of credit
But as an expression of his commitment to support every Zanu PF policy
decision to the hilt, Dr Gono has passionately declared that the land reform
policies that led to this decline are irreversible. This has done nothing to
persuade potential lenders that Zimbabwe has improved its prospects of
settling debt. They quickly decided that Dr Gono's position on land reform
meant that the lost revenues flows would not be restored, so new loans
should not be offered.
Land reform has become a curious title for a process that caused Zimbabwe's
most productive land to almost stop producing. As it was highly productive,
this was not the land that needed reform. The rest of it did, or more
accurately, the farmers on the rest of the land needed reform. In choosing
not to reform these farmers, but merely to move them to the land from which
good farmers were evicted, the ruling party caused this land to become far
Whatever anyone would prefer to believe, the simple fact is that this land
has stopped delivering the former volumes of crops and the former foreign
revenues that helped sustain the whole country.
To be more specific, this land is no longer delivering the food, the jobs,
the exports, the range of industrial inputs or the taxes that used to
support or fund a large proportion of Zimbabwe's total economic activity.
And ever since this land reform programme started, Zimbabwe has had to
import large quantities of food that, with its loss of export earnings, it
could pay for only by cutting other imports.
To now claim that aid agencies, international banks and donor countries must
happily and unconditionally accept the obligation to restore Zimbabwe's
spending power is to exhibit a special form of arrogance. Zanu PF is
effectively declaring that those capable of offering assistance have
obligations and those who need help should never have to account for the
actions that placed them in need.
Further, if the donor countries and aid agencies don't deliver on these
obligations, Zimbabwe's leadership will be acting reasonably when it accuses
them of imposing sanctions. In his book, Dr Gono inflates that accusation
into a claim that these unkind donors and institutions have engaged in
"sanitised terrorism" that is being carried out to demolish the whole
However, another of the points that Dr Gono fails to mention is the fact
that, far from imposing sanctions, aid agencies are now actually supplying
food to about half Zimbabwe's population.
Had he raised that subject, he might have had to try to explain why Zanu PF
considers aid to be a threat if it arrives in the form of food for
distribution directly to communities that the aid agencies themselves have
identified as vulnerable. Much as Zanu PF would prefer not to discuss this
issue, the facts here have become obvious: Zanu PF wants to be in control
over the distribution of all aid so that beneficiaries only of its choice
will receive it.
This is because part of Dr Gono's general thesis is that the aid workers
have been complicit in conspiracies to bring about "illegal regime change".
If a careful analysis of the dozens of references to "illegal regime change"
were to be made, an honest conclusion would have to be that Dr Gono believes
every suggestion criticising a Zanu PF policy and observing that better
alternatives should be adopted, can be described as an illegal effort to
unseat the government.
Only one explanation for this belief can exist: Dr Gono is clearly convinced
that Robert Mugabe is the only person with any legitimate right to claim the
role of Head of State. On his apparent contention that this is an absolute
truth, Dr Gono can claim that all challenges to President Mugabe's authority
are illegal, and many are bordering on being acts of treason.
Whether linked to sanctions or to regime change, the word "illegal" is
another that has been given a new definition.
So great is the conviction that Zanu PF has sole rights over the country,
the party wants to be able to demonstrate that its supporters'
needs will be met, even if only by ensuring that opposition party
supporters' needs will not be met. Zanu PF claims to feel insulted when the
donors of food, medicine and aid of any other kind bring in the items as
direct imports and carry out the distribution themselves. This sidesteps the
preferred course of handing the money over to ruling party officials and
trusting them to spend it in the country's best interests. For "country",
read Zanu PF. This is another of the word definition changes.
Dr Gono is accurate in describing the land reform programme as the starting
point for explanations of Zimbabwe's current difficulties, but most
references to land reform are accompanied by words such as historic,
irreversible and inevitable. With considerable eloquence, Dr Gono shows that
he unconditionally throws his weight behind the entire programme.
None of his references mention the fact that land reform closed down
Zimbabwe's biggest industry, or that this industry had been a highly
successful contributor to the country's economy largely because of the
adoption of methods and technologies that had evolved all over the world in
very recent years.
When the country was colonised, most of these farming techniques did not
exist. For that reason, Zimbabwe's high-tech, capital-intensive commercial
agricultural sector is no more an expression of colonialism than General
Motors or IBM are expressions of the colonial history of the United States
More importantly, as the effect of land reform has been to reduce farming
activity to patches of small-scale subsistence cropping, often using
out-dated cultivation practices and almost always on a small fraction of the
land that was "recovered" from large-scale commercial farmers, the whole
programme has been a disaster. Dr Gono's unconditional support for it,
whatever the cost, is therefore misplaced.
He, of all people, should be looking for ideas that work.
A more accurate description of what is needed to solve the whole land issue
could be approached by starting with the fact that commercial farmers and
communal farmers worked to entirely different systems, Commercial farming
companies could lodge title deeds with banks in support of loan
applications. With this financial backing, they could make use of rapidly
advancing technologies and invest in developing their own skills.
Because the land was marketable and the market value of land was known, bank
loan applications were readily approved. These loans allowed the companies
to buy expensive inputs and equipment, to learn how to apply the latest
scientific breakthroughs and to pay wages to their employees through the
year, even when they had no current income in the months between harvests.
The system worked because the sale of successfully grown crops allowed the
farming companies to settle their debts and immediately start making plans
for the next season. Imaginative development works that often took many
years to complete could be funded by additional loans. Dams and irrigation
schemes not only helped companies remain efficient during poor seasons, they
also added to the collateral value of the property being pledged in support
of the loans.
The system also worked because of - not in spite of - the fact that the
companies had placed the ownership of their land at risk to obtain the
loans. To avoid any prospect of foreclosure, they had to be successful. So
they worked as hard as they could to ensure success.
But this system was thrown out with the cancellation of property rights, the
destruction of the market for agricultural land, the forced dissolution of
the farming companies and the allocation of the land
- free - to resettlement farmers. With no title deeds to offer the banks and
the disappearance of the land's market value, the resettlement farmers could
not borrow money against it.
The inputs they needed had to be given to them as handouts , or they had to
be heavily subsidised. But getting help in the form of money to pay wages
proved impossible. The farmers ended up cultivating only the small areas
they could manage with the help of wives and children, in much the same way
as they had in the communal areas. But on their new plots, they did not have
the help of a support network of their extended families and friends.
Success in the normal sense eluded them, but they measured their success by
a different standard. Bank foreclosure was not a possibility, but each faced
a real threat of dispossession from more senior member of the party. For
some this was best avoided by making their plot look less desirable by
producing mediocre crops, but others felt that demonstrations of fierce
loyalty to the party would better protect them.
Neither of these helped crop yields, but farmers claiming they suffered no
threat of dispossession could claim to be successful.
The word "success" has therefore been redefined. Its new meaning permits the
use of phrases such as "the successful land reform programme".
But the vast majority of farmers did not achieve real success. Even backing
from the business sector became less effective as the services of
agricultural suppliers, with their bulk depots, workshops and technical
experts, went into a steep decline. This soon added to the difficulties
faced by communal farmers too, as it impacted on their access to inputs and
their costs. These directly affected their levels of output and made food
shortages very much worse.
The basic fact here is that two very different systems were at work and they
delivered very different results. But for some reason, Zimbabwe's
politicians believed they would be praised and rewarded for choosing to
destroy the agricultural system that stood out as the most successful in
Africa, and for replacing it with expensive and severely disruptive
extensions of the subsidy-dependent less successful system.
The rewards and praise have not been forthcoming. To the ruling party, this
is clear evidence of disrespect for the sovereign rights of the country's
leaders to formulate the policies it thinks fit without risking
international censure. This lack of respect amounts to sanctions that,
according to Dr Gono, have been motivated by an eagerness to promote regime
change. These sanctions, he claims, are a form of economic terrorism, the
purpose of which is to sabotage the ruling party's glorious efforts to
overcome the evils brought to this country by colonialism.
The hidden claim that is implicit in the principal arguments put across by
Dr Gono is that any decision ever taken by President Mugabe is never ever to
be questioned, Whatever the decisions, Dr Gono's position would clearly be
that he - and everybody else - has an obligation to accept all of them
without question and find ways to make them work.
A distillation of page after page of his basic thesis would be that
President Mugabe's decisions have always been right and that every one of
them would have worked brilliantly but for the imposition of sanctions. The
"illegal" sanctions, he claims, were all designed to bring about "illegal"
regime change by causing the collapse of the Zimbabwe economy.
But despite the virtual collapse of the economy, it is clear that Dr Gono
would argue that the sanctions have failed. Because President Mugabe is
still the Head off State, he has survived them. So Zanu PF can claim to have
triumphed against the "economic terrorism" attacks launched against them by
the most powerful countries in the world.
According to Dr Gono, this proves that Zimbabwe's state of collapse is
nothing about which Zimbabweans should be embarrassed as it is the fault of
those who imposed the sanctions.
Zimbabwe's leaders are not the first to create a mythical threat and follow
this with the generation of highly intrusive and oppressive regulations and
punishments, which they claim to be essential to combat the threat.
Triumphant claims can then be made that the non-existent threat has been
contained. Typically, the full depths of the dishonesty are achieved the
reinforcement of the oppressive regulations and punishments, supported by
the claim that these remain necessary because, without vigilance, the threat
would certainly return.
Whether the threat was identified as the certainty that the sun would not
rise tomorrow unless an unfortunate family submitted to demands that their
child should be sacrificed, or is now identified as the certainty that
Zimbabweans will face hunger and deprivation unless the world calls off
sanctions and stops trying to depose its rightful leader, the real menace
amounts to something rather different: the determination of the governing
authorities to ensure absolute obedience by imposing and enforcing
But just as sacrificing children had nothing to do with making sure the sun
would rise and everything to do with holding the Aztec population in
subjugation, calls for the removal of wrongly defined sanctions has nothing
to do with enriching the Zimbabwean population. It has everything to do with
controls and restoring the leadership's access to the foreign funding needed
to enforce them.
In one of the more colourfully misleading paragraphs in his book, Dr Gono
claims: "The country perspired under the gruelling yoke of colonialism for
close to one full century. Before attaining political independence in 1980,
the country went through a bloody armed struggle, as the impoverished
indigenous population resisted, and fought and won over colonial forces."
From this, he goes on to describe the many reasons why colonial distortions
called for the adoption of unconventional measures. However, it is the
carefully overlooked distortions that have emerged since independence in
1980 that are very much more in need of attention. Today, the population is
more impoverished than it ever was during the colonial era, and as for the
"gruelling yoke", all the evidence suggests that the colonial authorities
were never as harsh on the population as Zanu PF is today.
The colonial era created the most diversified economy and the best education
and health services of any country in Africa. The result was one of the most
developed of all the Third World's countries. As for the "bloody armed
struggle", this was sponsored and funded by the USSR and Communist China for
their own ends. One day, an accurate history will show that indigenous
people opposed the incursions in numbers that greatly exceeded the total of
the so-called "colonial whites". It is perhaps for this reason that Zanu PF
has recently passed legislation prohibiting any possibility that any other
political party might obtain support from abroad, the way its supporters
Dr Gono's major fear is that the sanctions claims will be proved wrong and
cause his whole thesis to completely fall apart. So in efforts to prevent
debate that might draw people towards such a dangerous conclusion, Dr Gono
makes numerous pre-emptive strikes that are designed to demolish the courage
of his critics. He does this by suggesting that any who deny the existence,
or the penetrating damage of his long list of sanctions will risk being
ridiculed for their stupidity, or worse still, they will risk being accused
of economic sabotage.
Regrettably for Dr Gono, these ploys do not cause the caution of lenders to
become definable as sanctions. Neither do they encourage aid agencies to
offer assistance that can be shown likely to add to the ruling party's
capacity to tyrannize the population, or would directly compensate ruling
party members for the personal inconvenience their damaging policies have
All aid organisations face requests from deserving cases, the needs of which
go far beyond the donor's resources. The donors know they would face
criticisms from their own sources if they were seen to be using their
limited funding to help delinquent governments escape the effects of
self-inflicted problems, especially if they show not the slightest intention
of changing course.
Without question, Zimbabwe needs help, but the country will not be deserving
of help before its authorities have acknowledged the actual causes of the
difficulties and have also made firm commitments to rectify them. And any
effort to identify the actual causes will take the debate right back to land
On the need for land reform, Zanu PF argues that their case is proved by the
facts that the country was colonised and the land taken by the colonisers
had to be taken back.
But this can be restated as a different description that also rests securely
on facts: a very small population saw its land colonised; new productive
methods bought in by the colonisers helped that small population to become
very much bigger - twenty times as big - and now that much larger population
is said to want the land back.
It is worth mentioning here that independent studies have called this
politically charged claim into question. The vast majority of the population
is most concerned about job security, not land, according to an extensive
survey carried out by the Helen Suzman Foundation. Now that the land has
been returned to the people and so few of these same people can be seen to
be trying to work it, the truth of the Suzman Foundation's findings has
become starkly apparent.
But more crucial truths are that the production methods, which were so
successful in building the population's size, are still needed.
This is simply because the population is now far too big to be sustained by
the pre-colonial methods of production. Population growth rates have
increased all over the world in the past century and they have ushered in
dramatic changes everywhere, not just in Zimbabwean. Most populations know
they are in a new world, and they have moved up, moved on with their lives
and moved with the times.
But Zanu PF clearly has no intention of moving with the times. In
particular, it insisted on a return to the pre-colonial land rights
arrangements. These were feudal in nature and depended upon land being
allocated by politicians. Individual ownership rights were not permitted
then and they are not wanted now.
Apart from the fact that taking land off the market will permit those with
influence to get large pieces of it for nothing, the only reason that can be
discovered for attacking this system is that property rights are seen to
confer power onto property owners. Politicians see this as a threat because
they see themselves to have won power in order to wield power, not to share
power with people who have property rights. The answer, therefore, is to
prevent the dilution of the leadership's powers by declaring the land to be
the property of the State.
This is why land that was taken from the destroyed companies has not been
sold to new owners. It has been allocated to people who will never expect to
gain total control over it, but who will remain acutely conscious of the
need to remain supportive of the leadership to remain in occupation.
In other words, patronage figures largely in the system.
In considering more directly the actual content of Dr Gono's book, it is
this un-stated, but very real issue of patronage that underlies the many
unfair, unjust and inaccurate accusations made against any and every
business sector or individual that is not fully supportive of government
One example is Dr Gono's treatment of the banks. He points out that in the
late 1990s the banks were lending about 95% of their loans to farmers, but
by 2003 this had fallen to around 10%, "spelling a very precarious fate for
agriculture as the mainstay of the economy".
He carefully avoids mentioning that the collateral value of the land has
been destroyed, so the security of title deeds to back the needed loans no
longer exists. He offers no thoughts on why he believes the banks should be
happy to lend to people who will not only be unlikely to pay them back, but
might also seek protection from the ruling party to sidestep their repayment
In the same section, Dr Gono makes reference to claims that Zimbabwe has
been isolated, condemned and demonised by the Western world, and that this
has led directly to the withdrawing of development funding and loans. This
justified his perceived need to move away from the conventional
macroeconomic management ideas as "no thinking central banker could simply
stick to the niceties of conventional wisdom and expect a better or
meaningful outcome for Zimbabwe".
The idea that the suspension or absence of external assistance in some way
absolves a central banker from the need to observe the rules of basic
arithmetic has to set a new absurdity record.
Several themes recur throughout the book, apart from the claimed sanctions
and their claimed "devastating" effects on the economy. Shortages that
forced people to seek openings that involved gambling on price, exchange
rate and market movements make up one of them, and yet another is "recurring
droughts", which are also blamed for the low agricultural production
Given the statistical fact that rains in the past ten years have been better
than average and that most storage dams have been full enough to deal with
the crops in the few disappointing years, it might seem that the normal
definition of the word drought has been replaced by any description of a
sequence of wet and dry spells that did not meet various farmers' hopes that
the season would be perfect.
However, while seasons can very seldom be described as perfect, the claimed
frequency of droughts does not fit the facts. The country as a whole has not
suffered a severe drought in the past ten years and apart from a serious
lack of rains in the southern half of Zimbabwe in 2002 and a few
disappointing years, the seasons had every prospect of producing reasonable
But as government officials tried to track the effectiveness of their
policies on those who received subsidies or input handouts, they made a
practice of tracking down the beneficiaries and asking for details of yields
and deliveries to the markets. For many of the farmers, this presented a
problem, mainly because they had cashed in the seed, fertiliser and fuel to
meet needs that were far too pressing to be dealt with by planting crops
that might or might not come up.
Because they could not admit to this unpatriotic conduct, many of them
claimed that they had planted their crops, but were wiped out by drought.
Thousands of separate reports claiming that droughts had affected the length
and breadth of the country were enough to confirm to the authorities that
all their sterling efforts had been rendered ineffective by drought. The
authorities have eagerly accepted the claims because having to admit that
the fault might lie with their policies was a far less acceptable
Dr Gono makes strenuous efforts to justify his claimed ability to "think
outside the box" and to break free of conventional thinking, which he
clearly believes to be too restrictive to be useful, especially in
Zimbabwe's extraordinary circumstances. In Chapter Three, he accurately
describes the workings of a market economy, but his purpose is to draw
together some of its essential strands only so that he can trash them.
He expounds upon the forces of supply and demand, but suggests these can be
damaging and frequently need to be countered by government interventions and
subsidies. The pricing of foreign exchange, he suggests, should certainly
not be left to market forces when the central bank's authority can set its
correct price, while the need to balance liquidity requirements with the
value of productive assets has to be done in a way that will ensure that
prices are not influenced by the levels of liquidity.
He goes further to link these concepts to western thinking and the
Protestant Work Ethic, which is all solid stuff, but it turns out that even
this is designed to set the ideas up for dumping. The capitalist Protestant
Work Ethic is condemned because of its linkage to European or Western
thinking, and the condemning point is that it was the Europeans who did all
the colonising in Africa.
His second point is that the principles of the Protestant Work Ethic are not
working anyway. As proved by the recent banking crises in Britain, Europe
and the USA, they have been abandoned, he says, in favour of the economics
of "manipulative gambling akin to the workings of a casino".
The extraordinary choices of examples, accusations, revelations and
behaviour patterns that he then - in several chapters - expounds upon to
substantiate his claim that Zimbabwe has been failed by the Western
capitalist system is marked by one remarkable omission: the massive
Zimbabwean distortions that have been deliberately generated and imposed by
the authorities in general and the Reserve Bank in particular.
According to Dr Gono, he had no option but to intervene when foreign
currency scarcities caused exchange rate movements to add to costs, but he
does not admit that the never plentiful supplies of foreign currency were
drastically reduced because government policies caused massive shrinkages in
export earnings. The cause of the problem was the loss of exports; the
foreign exchange scarcities were an effect. Another the effect was rising
Bringing in controls and regulations to influence effects rather than causes
simply caused distortions. When one of the treatments of the symptoms was to
demand that government should have access to foreign exchange at
preferential rates, it opened the door to increasingly corrupt
arbitrage-related deals, but when senior politicians and public servants
were granted an even more attractive privileged rate of exchange, the
distortions increased and the opportunities for highly profitable
manipulations multiplied vigorously.
Large-scale business transactions that were dependent upon the existence of
different exchange rates led to schemes and scams that involved imports of
food, fuel, luxury as well as utility vehicles and farm equipment. On the
export side, the access to low-cost US dollars permitted influential people
to acquire fabricated gold products at the same effective discount, and
these were exported along with unknown quantities of foreign currency, but
the Reserve Bank's imposition of low prices for gold from the mines allowed
it to claim some sort of balance.
All of these distortions could have been overcome by adopting a single
market-related exchange rate. Dr Gono's frequently repeated remarks
disparaging the workings of markets seem to place the very idea of having
the market set the rate beneath contempt, but at least part of his antipathy
to the idea seems more likely to come from his unwillingness to accept that
government should have to compete for foreign currency against all other
Of even most importance, however was and is the fact that the people best
placed to manipulate and profit from controls, regulations, preferential
exchange rates and a variety of privileges, such as duty-free imports, are
those closest to him in positions of authority. In launching his frequent
attacks on the business sector, Dr Gono appears all the time to be directing
attention away from the far greater levels of exploitation and obscene
profit-making taking place within the ranks of those who make the rules and
claim the right to privileges.
Part of his problem seems to be that, while such conduct is described as
corruption when carried out by the business sector, the same conduct, if
admitted, would be described as the legitimate exercise of the privileges of
office. As sweeping legislation that would stamp it out cannot be imposed
because so many would claim exemption, and as the controls and regulations
are needed to sustain the privileges for the important few, Dr Gono is left
with the only option of heaping accusations and more controls onto private
A glaring omission in Dr Gono's book is any form of analysis on the possible
effects of the controls. He could have made mention of the extent to which
the wholly unjust price controls imposed at the end of June 2007 forced most
local manufacturers to scale down their operations and many to close
He could have described the way that interest rate controls have completely
destroyed any inclination to save money, and have dramatically changed the
business habits of borrowers.
He could have mentioned the sequestering of corporate Foreign Currency
Account balances by the Reserve Bank and then the official siphoning of
these sums to meet official spending needs. To sustain their operations, the
affected businesses had to bid in the unofficial market for the hard
currency they needed. He could have mentioned that the rising demand forced
up the price of foreign exchange, and then the prices of everything that was
bought with that money.
He could have admitted that these companies were victims of the
officially-approved appropriation of their foreign currency balances, but
instead he hoped to persuade the public that these were the profiteering and
greedy companies that were responsible for Zimbabwe's world record-breaking
He could have acknowledged that a fundamental requirement of sustainable
business is that goods should be sold at prices that exceed their costs of
production, but instead his belief in state intervention had him defending
his extremely low cost BACCOSSI, or Basic Commodities Supply-Side
Intervention loans, which allowed producers to continue selling at prices
below production costs by closing the recurrent revenue / expenditure gap
with borrowed money.
He could have acknowledged that, as a banker, he would not normally approve
such business practice, but has recommended it in Zimbabwe's situation
because the Reserve Bank was able to fund such loans with obscenely high
Statutory Reserve Ratios. These were claiming, interest free, 50% or more of
all typical bank deposits. The low cost loans to agriculture, the ASPEF or
Agricultural Sector Productivity Enhancement Facility, and the PSF or
Productive Sector Facility were funded with money effectively confiscated
from banks in the same way.
He could have admitted that these loans, at deeply negative real rates of
interest, were releasing the borrowers from the need to achieve high
efficiency levels because they were getting the money virtually for nothing.
He invited them to make the most of the inflation that was vigorously
eroding the value of the repayment commitments before they had to be met.
He could have admitted that the whole scheme depended upon inflation
continuing at a very rapid pace, and on depositors being bound, by a lack of
options, to continue depositing money in the banks.
He could have admitted that the whole process has rapidly destroyed the
entire country's savings stock. He could have gone on to say that his
policies have demolished the normal functions of savers and lenders, whose
funds used to be tapped by investors who were engaged in creating new
He could have admitted that, at enormous cost to Zimbabwe, his policies have
brought productive investment almost to a halt. Now almost all business
activity involves importing, buying and selling, not making the goods here.
Zimbabwe is now far less a nation of producers of goods, and much more a
nation of traders.
He could have admitted that as so much of the activity has slipped into the
informal sector, its contribution cannot now be measured, its conduct cannot
be monitored or regulated and its profits cannot be taxed.
He could have admitted that in carrying out his statutory functions in terms
of the RBZ Act, his efforts to regulate the Zimbabwe's monetary system has
rendered the system almost unworkable, that his efforts to achieve and
maintain the stability of the Zimbabwe dollar have resulted in a failure of
world record proportions, and that his moves to ensure the smooth operation
of the payments system have left it operating anything but smoothly.
On top of these, his policy measures to foster the proper functioning of the
financial system have sidelined the banks and seem likely to soon impoverish
what is left of the insurance companies and pension funds.
Dr Gono does have serious grounds for complaining about unacceptable conduct
and had good reason to condemn speculative trading on the Zimbabwe Stock
Exchange, especially when it was intended to generate profits of
quadrillions on the strength of cheques written against insufficient bank
balances. However, his attacks on the stockbrokers, the banks and the
Zimbabwe Stock Exchange seem at this stage to be wholly unfair. People who
wrote cheques for sums they did not have were breaking the law, but the
sweeping accusations against any who were acting on their instructions would
be legitimate only if collusion could be established.
But Dr Gono should also accept that the behaviour would not have been even
contemplated if the distortions caused by the massive imbalances between the
supply and demand for foreign currency were not so serious, if interest rate
returns made the money market as suitable an investment option as the equity
market, if the options facing holders of rapidly depreciating Zimbabwe
dollars extended beyond the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange and if the Zimbabwe
dollar was not crashing in the first place.
The fact that all of these issues have generated antisocial or unpatriotic
behaviour might be reprehensible, but it should not be surprising. People
will always be inclined to protect what they have, and most of what
Zimbabweans have left today has never been more in need of protection.
Perhaps we should not be surprised that Dr Gono has filled his book with
explanations and accusations that are intended to exonerate the President,
the government and the Reserve Bank, but it is this that is most
reprehensible. Attacks on incorrectly identified causes will not solve the
All of the primary causes and most of the secondary ones too have been
deliberately overlooked or hidden because of their political objectives or
origins, but we will not solve the problems until we correctly identify them
and deal with them in more constructive ways.
Sanctions are not among these causes, and neither are droughts, regime
change conspiracies or attempts to sabotage the economy. The reason for the
foreign exchange scarcity is not because the lending and development
institutions have backed off, it is because Zimbabwe almost completely
scuttled its principal foreign exchange-earning sectors. Our sharply reduced
ability to earn foreign exchange certainly made the possible lenders very
reluctant, but they became much more so when a large proportion of the funds
we wanted to borrow had to be spent on goods for consumption.
Also, the country's officially supported behaviour did nothing to inspire
their confidence. The collateral value of agricultural land was destroyed,
removing completely the security that used to back the vast majority of bank
loans. The process caused the dispossession of highly motivated and
productive people, but the allocation of their physical assets to people
with fewer skills and almost no motivation to work hard for assets they got
for free had entirely predictable results: output dropped to levels not seen
since the 1950s.
As this dispossession process was accompanied by wholly unacceptable attacks
on commercial farmers and their employees, and as these were carried out by
militia groups who could carry out violent and disgraceful acts with
impunity because of their backing from the ruling party, reactions began to
surface from the international community. When opposition party efforts to
bring about entirely legal regime change through the ballot box were dealt
with extremely harshly, the international community took exception to the
contempt the Zimbabwean authorities had for their own people as well as for
the international treaties signed by Zimbabwe to uphold human rights.
Political sanctions were imposed on identifiable culprits and their
supporters, but until mid-2008, not a single one of the sanctions had any
bearing on Zimbabwe's economic performance. Since then, the disappearance of
bank note paper is about the only economic sanction that has affected
If you were to remove from Dr Gono's book the paragraphs that rest on his
claims about illegal sanctions, illegal regime change conspiracies, economic
sabotage and droughts, and if you were to also take out the
self-congratulatory explanations of all the policy measures he devised to
deal with unsubstantiated claims that the country was suffering the effects
of ruthless attacks by economic terrorists, I regret to say there would be
not much left to read.
However, he does offer an interesting account of the sequence of events over
the past five years, and provides interesting detail on the banking crises
that led to curatorships, mergers and takeovers. Also, the extent to which
the Reserve Bank has actually become the principal executive authority in
government becomes evident. As tax revenues fell and the separate ministries
became dependent on the so-called quasi-fiscal expenditures for their
funding, the Reserve bank was able to apply increasing amounts of leverage
to direct or regulate almost every facet of public sector activity.
Far from sticking to core functions, the Reserve Bank has become the
country's major procurement agency for just about everything
- cheap handcarts, expensive agricultural machinery, vehicles, food and
Dr Gono has accepted a second five-year term as Governor, but this term is
starting with what seems inevitable - the total collapse of the Zimbabwe
dollar. Nobody wants to be paid for anything in Zimbabwe dollars, and Dr
Gono has even had to use his executive authority to force various
parastatals to accept Zimbabwe dollars in payment for things like
electricity, water and telephone charges. However, public servants including
employees of the Reserve Bank also don't want to be paid in Zimbabwe
dollars, and Zimbabwe's problem is that it is earning even less foreign
currency now, following upon the fall in world metal prices and the
suspension of operations on many Zimbabwean mines.
US dollars are in use all over the country, but their quantity is
insufficient to support salary payments across the board. All the shops that
have managed to acquire reasonable stock have done so by paying foreign
exchange for imports and have no option but to seek payment entirely in hard
currency. Before long, those without it will be unable to meet basic needs.
But US dollars are not accumulating within the country, and they are not
circulating for long as the shops receiving them must send them abroad to
pay for new stocks. The amount coming is has fallen because of the increased
economic uncertainties overseas and in South Africa, so funding from the
Diaspora might not make the needed difference.
The only thing that will is financial assistance from abroad. However, many
changes will be needed before that becomes a possibility. Even Dr Gono's
frequently repeated claim that the developed world's governments should now
take him seriously because they are employing Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe's
strategies to rescue their undercapitalised banks will impress none of them.
While Europe and North America are fearful that they will see annual
inflation rise from 3% to perhaps 8%, Zimbabwe's estimated December figure
of more than one sextillion percent suggests that no useful comparisons can
However, the real difference is that none of these countries deliberately
closed down their biggest industries, destroyed most of their sources of
tax, wiped out their biggest sources of export revenues, rendered their
largest employment sector jobless or absorbed and spent their country's
total domestic savings.
These are the actions that the Zimbabwe authorities did take. And despite
the price being so high, Dr Gono, eagerly supported by the rest of the
government, is still defending the policy choices that caused the damage.
So far, it is clear that we have done nothing to become deserving of the
needed help. I regret to have to close this comment with the thought that Dr
Gono has said nothing in this book that will improve our prospects of
getting that help.
Despite the difficulties, please accept my very best wishes, first for your
survival and, very soon, your increasing prosperity during 2009.
Since Zimbabwe's disputed elections last year, many women have been bravely protesting their country's political and economic free-fall. Now, one of them is awaiting trial and Mugabe preparing to govern alone. Hope is fading fast.
Editor's Note: The following is a commentary. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily the views of Women's eNews.
(WOMENSENEWS)--For all those holding their breath for power-sharing in Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe's recent bluster that "Zimbabwe is mine" weighs far more than any of neighboring South Africa's misguided diplomacy.
The grim reality is that dictators don't like to share.
The power-sharing agreement signed in September among the three would-be leaders of Zimbabwe--Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party, challenger Morgan Tsvangirayi's Movement for Democratic Change and an offshoot faction of the Movement for Democratic Change--is now a tattered piece of paper on the floor, crumpled and much stepped on by muddy boots.
Mugabe, after 29 years of dictatorship, is quite clearly unwilling to relinquish his power. Tsvangirayi has been trying to unseat Mugabe democratically since 2002. His party desires a peaceful and transparent transition.
The stakes are higher now, with an increasingly disturbing disregard of human life by the ZANU PF government. Cholera is a new enemy--a preventable disease that strikes discriminately, killing poor people, who typically live in areas where sanitation systems have broken down or where there is no access to clean water or adequate health facilities.
The effects of the epidemic which broke out in November 2008 are devastating. According to the World Health Organization, 33,579 cases of cholera were recorded as of Jan. 4, and at least 1,600 have died.
Extraordinarily, life goes on.
For many Zimbabweans, there is no option except to get on with it. But behind each pleasant greeting and sigh of resignation, there is an increasing unease. No one says a word, but it is felt as people pass each other in the street. There is a distinct sense of expectation unfulfilled.
What follows is based on online radio broadcasts, blogs and journalists who have been reporting in the region.Some Stand Up
But not everyone is content to play-act.
Activists, human rights groups, lawyers and community organizers exist and thrive in the ever-widening cracks in the autocratic regime. Many have peacefully faced a state agent's AK47 armed only with courage and a conviction of what they know is right.
Women have figured more prominently in the resistance over the past 10 years and have become increasingly visible. Often they face the police with the bearing and confidence of mothers, grandmothers and older women who deserve traditional respect.
One of them is Jestina Mukoko. The Harare-based Zimbabwe Peace Project nonprofit group that she heads has been documenting political violence and human rights abuses since 2000.
The project made sure the world heard about Abigail Chiroto, wife of Emmanuel Chiroto, who won the important position of mayor of Harare, the nation's capital, last March, when elections also swept other members of his Movement for Democratic Change party to a majority in the parliament.
Last June, a gang of armed state agents drove three white, unmarked cabs to the Chiroto home. They came to abduct and torture Emmanuel for being a member of the opposition who had unseated a ZANU-PF incumbent. Such practice is now standard procedure in this fallen democracy.Abigail Was Killed
What happened next has come to me through online radio broadcasts, blogs and journalists who have been reporting in the region.
Emmanuel was not home, but Abigail was. As the cars pulled up, everyone on the premises immediately fled, fear in their eyes. Abigail was left behind, frantically searching for her 4-year-old son. The state agents were in no mood for disappointment. They petrol-bombed their house and abducted Abigail and her son. Days later her burned, lifeless body was found at a nearby farm, still wearing a blindfold. Her son is lucky to be alive, but now lives a life without his mother's love and protection. Emmanuel went into hiding.
Mukoko is part of a brave group of women that includes Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu of a group called WOZA, which stands for Women of Zimbabwe Arise. They are boldly pro-democracy and protest peacefully.
Last year, Women of Zimbabwe Arise activists whimsically handed out red roses to police on Valentine's Day in a protest designed to "disarm" officers who routinely use tear gas, fists and clubs to dismiss peaceful protests.Facing Danger
Without women like Mukoko, Williams and Mahlangu, the already dim light of hope in Zimbabwe would have flickered out long ago. But standing up is very dangerous. At 5 a.m. on Dec. 3, 15 armed men in plain clothes turned up at Mukoko's home just outside of Harare. Still in her nightgown, she answered the door. Silently and swiftly she was taken away. Her whereabouts were unknown for three weeks.
Her son immediately alerted civic society groups who demanded her release. The state remained tight-lipped, denying involvement in her disappearance but also refusing to investigate it. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who has been putting pressure on the region to intervene in Zimbabwe, joined others in expressing concern about her wellbeing.
The police had denied knowledge of her whereabouts but on Dec. 24 they brought Mukoko and 31 other activists before the high court on charges of conspiring to overthrow the government, a ludicrous and unsubstantiated claim.
In her first public appearance since the abduction, Mukoko's face and body appeared swollen and bruised. BBC video footage showed her looking stoical as she was led into police custody, showing a peace and calm in the face of those who had brutalized her.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, a Harare-based activist group, demanded her immediate release to receive medical treatment.
Judge Alphias Chitakunye allowed a doctor to examine her but ordered her to Chikurubi maximum security prison to await trial immediately afterward.
Mukoko spoke to her lawyer, respected human rights activist Beatrice Mtetwa, of her ordeal.
Mtetwa knows about police brutality firsthand. She was assaulted while in police custody in 2003. According to South African news reports, Mukoko described being beaten repeatedly on the soles of her feet with a hard, rubber object. She spoke of being interrogated while being forced to kneel on gravel, blindfolded. All the while state agents beat her. They were drunk and their fists struck again and again.
The rule of law in Zimbabwe exists now as a formality without meaning.
Last week, Mugabe dissolved his cabinet in preparation for forming a new, exclusive government. But for Zimbabweans engaged in the daily hustle for survival, government means nothing. Hope is fading. There is nothing left except a strong need for survival, violence and, above all, the perseverance of the women of Zimbabwe.
The author is a writer and sociologist who lives in New York. She is currently working on a memoir about growing up in Zimbabwe. Her name is withheld because criticism of the government puts her at risk of government persecution.
January 07 2009 at 04:07PM
By Christina Taylor
When Miriam left her home and two children in Zimbabwe in October 2008
she thought she would soon return from South Africa with much-needed food.
Instead, unable to afford the bribes necessary to cross back into
Zimbabwe, she was stuck in South Africa for six weeks.
Her 12-year-old daughter Providence and nine-year-old son Victory
remained without supervision, drinking from a dam suspected to be
contaminated with cholera and eating wild fruit that Zimbabweans call
"donkey food" because human stomachs struggle to digest it.
Miriam and her husband, Masiiwa, spent October and much of November in
a small hovel in Masiphumelele until an advert of Masiiwa's, asking for
work, caught the attention of Capri residents Annie and Dave Rattle.
"Six days later, we were on the road to Zimbabwe," Annie Rattle said.
The couple had been looking for a gardener but on hearing of the
children insisted on helping Miriam to fetch them.
"You couldn't bear the thought of those kids starving," she said.
The Rattles and a friend spent R25 000 fetching the children. They
flew with Miriam to Johannesburg, drove to Zimbabwe and paid bribes for the
Rattle said the children had been "starving" when they had arrived.
There was no food in their area and other Zimbabweans had been unable to
"If we hadn't got there when we did I think the children might be
dead," she said.
Rattle and her friend were briefly detained during the trip but, after
help from NGOs and other individuals, managed to get the two children into
South Africa in three weeks.
Miriam and her family now live on a smallholding in Sun Valley in a
caravan that was donated by a friend of the Rattles.
Masiiwa earns R850 a week working two days for the Rattles and another
three for other families.
School for Providence and Victory will have to wait until Miriam, a
former nurse aide, can find work. The Rattles, who already sponsor the
education of their housekeeper's three children, are unable to afford more
Masiiwa, a former teacher of English, religious studies and commerce
in Zimbabwe, said he hoped to resume LLB studies at Unisa and one day return
to his country to "assist those who are downtrodden".
a.. Miriam and Masiiwa have asked that their surnames not be
published. They wish to return to Zimbabwe when it is more stable and fear
for their safety in the meantime.
This article was originally published on page 2 of The Mercury on
January 07, 2009
From The Star, 7 January
Murderous attack on foreigners - but police deny it's xenophobia
Vivian Attwood and Slindile Maluleka
African refugees and asylum seekers are living in terror after three
foreigners died when they were forced from the sixth-floor windows of a
block of flats . allegedly by members of a community policing forum. Victims
say the attacks in Durban's Maude Mfusi Street on Sunday were driven by
xenophobia, but police deny this, saying there had been a CPF anti-crime
drive in the area, The men who died had official refugee status, and were
looking for work to support their families. Zimbabwean Victor Zowa (24) died
on impact. He would never see the son his wife gave birth to in Zimbabwe two
weeks ago, said his brother Raymond. A second, as yet unnamed man, also
believed to be from Zimbabwe, died soon after rescue workers arrived. Said
Omari (22), from Tanzania, died of his injuries in hospital yesterday
afternoon. Several other asylum seekers were injured when the drain pipe
they were climbing down to escape their attackers collapsed.
Human rights activists have called for a full police investigation into the
incident. After several police spokespersons declined to comment on the
incident, KwaZulu Natal police spokesperson Muzi Mngomezulu finally said the
attack was not being regarded as xenophobic in nature. "It was the CPF of
the area who were on a venture for criminal elements because people in that
building are alleged to have committed robbery and housebreaking."
Mngomezulu said a case of murder and attempted murder had been opened. No
arrests had been made. The CPF chairperson for the area, who declined to
provide his name, said he was unaware of the incident because he had been
out of the area. Witnesses said the armed mob responsible for the attack
were locals. They brandished bush knives and knobkerries, blew vuvuzelas and
demanded that the kwerekwere (a derogatory term for foreigners) jump from
the building or they would push them. Those who didn't jump were flung out
and fell to their deaths in a narrow passage six floors down, witnesses
Businessman Omar Osman is the owner of the apartment block, known as Venture
Africa, where the xenophobic attack occurred. The building is a haven for
refugees who are referred there by, among others, Lawyers for Human Rights,
the Menonite Central Committee and Refugee Pastoral Care. According to
Osman, the trouble began on Saturday, before exploding into mayhem on
Sunday. "At about 11.30pm (on Saturday), my manager contacted me to tell me
that armed men had entered the dormitories and were demanding to know who
was a kwerekwere. They said they were working with the police. When I asked
officers at the Broad Street police station . to intervene, the officer on
duty told me: 'They are from the forum. Don't worry about it. After a while
the intruders left, but they were back on Sunday, and it resulted in this
Osman's manager, who has requested anonymity in fear for his safety, said:
"At 10.45pm the gang came back, and started beating men, women and children.
There was a stampede, screaming, the sound of breaking glass. It was a
nightmare. Everyone feared for their lives." The manager called Osman. "He
said there were bodies in the courtyard, that people had been thrown from
the windows," Osman said. He said he didn't understand why the people were
attacked. "These are other Africans. They come here for shelter from the
horrors they have experienced in their own countries, and this is how we
treat them." The SA Human Rights Commission condemned the incident.
Chairperson Jody Kollapen said: "It is clear from the xenophobic attacks
last year that we still have a long way to go."