The ZIMBABWE Situation
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Zim govt slaughters elephants for army

by Cuthbert Nzou Friday 09 January 2009

HARARE - Zimbabwe's cash-strapped government has resorted to slaughtering
elephants to feed thousands of hungry soldiers, sources told ZimOnline.

The state Parks and Wildlife Management Authority has since last week
supplied elephant meat to army barracks across the country that have run out
of food, our sources who are senior officers in the army said.

Zimbabwe is battling acute food shortages after successive poor harvests
since 2000 while nearly a decade of severe economic recession has left
President Robert Mugabe's administration without hard cash to import food
and other basics for the army and country.

Apparently, the government sees supplying elephant meat to soldiers as
killing two birds with one stone as it enables it to cull excess animals
while also ensuring its army has food, according to sources.

"Soldiers started eating elephant meat last week," said a senior officer at
Cranborne barracks, a few kilometers outside Harare city centre.

The senior officer, who did not want to be named because he did not have
authorisation to speak to the press, said six elephant carcasses were last
Friday delivered to the army barracks, adding that the meat delivery was a
welcome relief.

Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi yesterday declined to comment on the
matter or to discuss the availability of food at army barracks in general.

Parks director-general Morris Mutsambiwa yesterday would not take questions
on the matter. Responding to questions from ZimOnline through his personal
assistant, Mutsambiwa said: "I cannot comment on that issue at the moment."

The army is credited with keeping Mugabe in power, always quick to use
brutal tactics to keep public discontent in check in the face of an economic
and humanitarian crisis marked by acute shortages of food and basic
commodities, amid a cholera epidemic that has killed more than 1 700 people
since August.

But a recession that began when the International Monetary Fund cut
financial support to Harare in 1999 and which worsened following Mugabe's
controversial land reforms that destabilised the mainstay agricultural
sector has gradually crippled the veteran President's ability to keep the
army well fed and happy.

For example, the army has, in addition to shortages of food, also struggled
for basics such as boots and uniforms for troops while the bulk of military
equipment and hardware is said to be ages old and in need of replacement.

Sources said for the better part of last year barrack canteens were serving
only plain sadza (a thick porridge made of ground maize) because army
authorities were unable to buy more food after funds allocated to the army
were quickly exhausted mainly due to Zimbabwe's runaway inflation.

Secretary for Defence Trust Maphosa last year told the parliamentary
portfolio committee on defence and home affairs that the government was
fortunate that it was not being sued by soldiers for failing to provide
adequate and nutritious food to the army as is required by law.

In an unprecedented show of discontent, some soldiers last year rioted in
Harare, assaulting civilians, stealing cash from street currency traders and
looting shops.

However, analysts rule out the possibility of a military coup against
Mugabe - at least for now - because all top commanders are still relatively

But some say that worsening hunger could at some point force the underpaid
ordinary soldier to either openly revolt or to simply refuse to defend the
government should Zimbabweans rise up in a civil rebellion. - ZimOnline

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Zimbabwe Opposition Sets Jan. 18 Meeting On Future of Power-Sharing

      By Ntungamili Nkomo & Bennedict Nhlapho
      08 January 2009

Zimbabwean opposition leader and prime minister designate Morgan Tsvangirai
on Thursday completed what party sources say was a consultative meeting with
his party's top leaders in South Africa, setting a Jan. 18 meeting of his
Movement for Democratic Change formation's national executive to decide
whether to pursue or abandon power-sharing talks.

Talks on entering into a national unity government with the ZANU-PF party of
President Robert Mugabe have been stalled almost since a Sept. 15 accord was

One MDC insider dismissed a report in the state-controlled Herald newspaper
as to a rift in the party on how to proceed, saying the session of the
standing committee, which includes Tsvangirai and his inner political
circle, bolstered party cohesion. Sources said the meeting examined
strategies in the event President Mugabe should unilaterally form a
government without Tsvangirai's participation, or if a new presidential
election should be called.

An MDC spokesman officially denied the meeting took place, but party sources
said that the standing committee endorsed Tsvangirai's long-held position
that MDC demands for cabinet seats and other key posts must be equitably
distributed for the party to join the proposed unity government, which Mr.
Mugabe aims to put in place by the end of February.

The Jan. 18 national executive meeting will set the official position, the
sources added.

While noncommittal about the Johannesburg meeting, Tsvangirai MDC Spokesman
Nelson Chamisa told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe
that his party remains united and resolute on its power-sharing demands.

Also in Johannesburg today, Civicus, a world alliance of civil society
organizations, released a damning report and film on what it described as
state-engineered suffering in Zimbabwe.

Civicus undertook a week-long fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe that ended on
Christmas Eve, correspondent Benedict Nhlapho reported from Johannesburg.

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Daily cholera update and alerts, 08 Jan 2009

 Full_Report (pdf* format - 100.6 Kbytes)

* Please note that daily information collection is a challenge due to communication and staff constraints. On-going data cleaning may result in an increase or decrease in the numbers. Any change will then be explained.

** Daily information on new deaths should not imply that these deaths occurred in cases reported that day. Therefore daily CFRs >100% may occasionally result

1- Highlights of the day:

- 632 cases and 28 deaths added today (in comparison 709 cases and 26 deaths yesterday)

- 52.7 % of the districts affected have reported today (29 out of 55 affected districts)

- 88.7 % of districts reported to be affected (55 districts/62)

- All 10 of the country's provinces are affected

- Matate area in Gokwe South (4 households affected), Rumour in Munyati Area of Kwekwe , Makuwerere and Rambire in Mberengwa.

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Cholera Sweeps Away Families In Chipinge, Manicaland Province, Zimbabwe

      By Patience Rusere
      07 January 2009

The district of Chipinge in Zimbabwe's Manicaland province is one of the
latest localities to be hit hard by the cholera epidemic which continues to
claim many lives.

Sources familiar with local conditions said Wednesday that the disease has
spread fast and left entire families dead despite relief efforts by
international organizations.

As of Wednesday about 45 people had died of cholera in Chipinge, according
to the latest epidemic statistics from the World Health Organization.

Nationally, fatalities totaled 1,753 out of 35,330 cases through Tuesday,
the U.N. agency said.

The Red Cross said only 43% of those hit by cholera nationally have reached
a treatment center where they could receive medical assistance.

Chipinge South Member of Parliament Meki Makuyana of the Movement for
Democratic Change formation led by Morgan Tsvangirai said the disease
reached Chipinge last month and is now killing people in their homes as many
are unable to get to a medical facility.

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Zimbabwe tinkers with aid assistance figures

January 8, 2009

By our Correspondent

BULAWAYO - The United States government says Zimbabwean authorities are
tinkering with details of cholera deaths and aid support given to it by the
American government.

In a confidential report obtained by The Zimbabwe Times, the US government
discloses that it has parceled out to Zimbabwe US$6,2 million in aid through
its agencies based in Zimbabwe.

The report further states that the US government had granted a further
US$220 million in emergency assistance to Zimbabwe, including nearly 180,000
metric tons of food aid throughout the year 2008.

So far, the Zimbabwean government has been silent on such donations,
preferring to publicize donations made to it by its friends in the Southern
African region, mainly the South African government.

Reads part of the report: "Following recommendations from the United States
Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Disaster Assistance
Response Team (DART), $6.2 million has been provided in emergency assistance
for Zimbabwe's cholera outbreak.

"Through implementing partners, USAID/OFDA will provide emergency relief
supplies to affected populations and will support humanitarian coordination
and information management and Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH)

The report further states that information dissemination was very minimal,
saying such minimal flow of information had played a greater role in the
continued spread of the cholera epidemic.

Adds the report: "USAID/OFDA will support information coordination through
the U.N. health and WASH clusters to improve data collection, analysis, and
dissemination, allowing humanitarian organizations to direct expertise and
resources where most needed.

"USAID/OFDA's WASH interventions will emphasize community health and hygiene
promotion and education activities, provision of water purification tablets,
provision of clean water through water tankering, and rehabilitation of
boreholes. USAID/OFDA WASH activities will target areas with high reported
cholera rates, particularly high-density, peri-urban districts. In addition,
USAID/OFDA will support hygiene promotion activities at a national level to
mitigate the spread of the disease."

According to figures released by the United Nations, since August 2008, the
cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe has spread through nine out of Zimbabwe's 10
provinces, with the highest caseloads in Harare , Beitbridge, and Mudzi

The UN disclosed that as of December 17, cholera had caused more than 1100
deaths, with nearly 20,600 cases reported.

The report revealed that efforts to expedite further research into the
continued spread of the cholera epidemic were being hampered by the
Zimbabwean government's lack of cooperation to UN proposals.

For example, the ministry of health and child welfare had proposed that it
would facilitate work permits for experts who were to conduct investigations
into the spread of the cholera epidemic.

However, the ministry failed to undertake its promises as the said UN
experts failed to access the said permits.

States the report: "At the December 16 U.N. health cluster meeting, the
Government of Zimbabwe (GOZ) Ministry of Health and Child Welfare (MOHCW)
representative promised to expedite importation of urgent medical supplies
and issuance of temporary work permits for humanitarian staff, according to

"However, Government of Zimbabwe staff issuing work permits are not
scheduled to meet until February 2009, potentially impeding relief agencies'
continued work in the event that temporary work permits expire or remain
pending. "

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Tutu to join churchmen in fasting for Zimbabwe

09 January 2009

Wilson Johwa

Political Correspondent

CIVIL society organisations in SA are to press the government and the
Southern African Development Community (SADC) to hasten resolution of the
crisis in Zimbabwe.

Helping to co-ordinate the campaign, expected to start in the next 10 days,
is Kumi Naidoo, honorary president of the global alliance for citizen
participation, Civicus.

Naidoo said Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu had committed himself to a
weekly fast, together with Bishop Paul Verryn of the Central Methodist
Church. Tutu is a member of the Elders, whose delegation was denied entry
into Zimbabwe late last year.

"We need to up the ante a bit in terms of the types of activities that put
pressure on the government," said Naidoo, who is also co-chair of the Global
Call to Action Against Poverty.

Together with Pastor Raymond Motsi of the Bulawayo Baptist Church, Naidoo
has committed himself to a hunger strike.

The planned campaign is expected to impress upon the continent, as well as
South African society, including members of the African National Congress ,
the wider implications of the crisis in Zimbabwe.

Naidoo was part of a delegation that spent Christmas in Zimbabwe where he
met scores of Zimbabweans and compiled some of the testimonies into a film,
Time 2 Act . Copies of the film will be given to President Kgalema
Motlanthe, to other SADC heads of state and to the African Union .

In the film are descriptions of the humanitarian crisis. For instance, a
woman speaks of overcrowding in the mortuaries, which has pushed the cost to
$300 a body. Someone appeals for bolder regional action, saying: "Please
SADC take our problems seriously, don't neglect us."

Naidoo said many of those interviewed could not understand SA's position on
Zimbabwe, especially its stance at the United Nations Security Council,
where it voted against tougher action on the authorities in Zimbabwe.

"Overall we were struck by how much worse it (the Zimbabwe situation)
actually was in terms of the humanitarian crisis and on the political
repression again significantly worse."

The team found a breakdown in the school system. Garbage collection had also
come to a standstill in the major centres, further contributing to the
cholera outbreak.

Even respect for the dead had gone. "One of the mortuaries was closed while
we were there and what it means is that families have to put some sand
inside the house, put some water in that sand and put the (deceased) family
member there," Naidoo said.

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Harare Municipal Authorities Dispute State-Media Report On Residential Rates

      By Jonga Kandemiiri
      08 January 2009

A state media report that the Harare City Council is lifting residential
rates by 10,000 percent has sparked concern among citizens of the Zimbabwean
capital, but officials said the tax rise only affects motor vehicles and
street markets and other increases are being discussed.

The state-controlled Herald newspaper reported Thursday that residents could
be paying as much as Z$560 billion a month compared with the Z$20 million
they paid in December, which would be far more than the average worker wage
of Z$30 billion a month (US$10).

The Combined Harare Residents Association said such an increase in
residential rates would merely add to the hardships facing residents.

But Harare Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Chiroto told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of
VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that it is not true that the council has raised
rates for residents and he took the state-controlled Herald newspaper to
task over its report.

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Finally, an urgency to aid Zimbabwe

By Alexander Noyes
January 9, 2009

THE TRAGIC cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe may prove to have a silver lining.
For nearly a decade, Zimbabwe has been growing increasingly desperate, but
international response to the crisis has been dilatory and wholly
ineffective. In the last few weeks, however, UN Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon addressed the Security Council regarding Zimbabwe, and the United
States and Britain announced they would no longer support any power-sharing
agreement that left Robert Mugabe as president. The cholera epidemic
provides the international community with an opportunity to act and protect
the citizens of Zimbabwe.

Even by Zimbabwe's standards, the past several months have been particularly
dire. The political situation has been steadily declining since the
power-sharing agreement was signed in September with Morgan Tsvangirai and
the opposition. Mugabe has refused to cede control of key security sector
ministries and has continued a campaign of violence against human rights
activists and the opposition.

Hyperinflation has led to the collapse of not only the economy but the
entire social sector. Water shortages and cutoffs have fueled the cholera
epidemic, which has already claimed more than 1,700 lives and infected over
34,000 people. Health experts warn the outbreak could put half the country's
population at risk.

If there were any lingering doubts about the utter failure of Mugabe's rule,
the spread of cholera has again displayed him to be unable to fulfill the
most basic precept of government: the responsibility to protect its
citizens. The UN General Assembly and the Security Council have endorsed the
responsibility-to-protect doctrine, deciding that if a state lacks the
capacity or will to protect its people from mass atrocities then it is the
responsibility of the international community to do so. The international
community - led by the United Nations with strong South African and US
support - must step into the leadership vacuum in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe is fast becoming a failing state, yet the international community's
response remains tepid. The Southern African Development Community's
mediation effort, led by former South African president Thabo Mbeki, is
widely considered a disappointment, with Mbeki refusing to condemn Mugabe's
most egregious actions. Mbeki has insisted on engaging in backroom "quiet
diplomacy" and repeatedly discouraged international sanctions. The fruit of
his efforts, the flawed September agreement, appears to have no chance of
implementation. Yet Mbeki continues to lead the mediation. Clearly a new
negotiation framework is needed.

Under the auspices of the UN, a prominent figure such as Kofi Annan should
lead a renewed diplomatic effort to end the crisis. Annan played a critical
role in the Kenya negotiations in early 2008, which are seen as a successful
example of how the responsibility-to-protect norm can be implemented. With
the promise of immunity and credible threats of serious measures from the UN
Security Council, Mugabe and his associates could be convinced to step down
peacefully. If they still refuse to give up power, coercive force should be
carefully considered.

Once Mugabe is out of the picture, a new negotiated transitional government
should be put in place until internationally monitored elections can be
held. The transitional government will require vigorous support from the
international community, with the African Union, South Africa, and other
SADC countries all playing essential roles.

Reports of the Security Council's recent closed-door session have been
disheartening, as South Africa blocked the proposal of a nonbinding
statement condemning Mugabe for his mishandling of the cholera epidemic. As
more and more Zimbabwean refugees flow across their shared border, it is
clear that South Africa's own interests, including its territorial integrity
and capacity to protect its own citizens, are inextricably linked to ending
the crisis in Zimbabwe. South Africa must recognize this and recalculate its

A robust response to the crisis in Zimbabwe is long overdue. The unfortunate
cholera outbreak provides the international community with the imperative to
act. It must do so.

Alexander Noyes is a research associate for the Center for Preventive Action
at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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South Africa 'betraying generation' with Zimbabwe inaction

By Africa correspondent Andrew Geoghegan

Posted 4 hours 52 minutes ago

Headhot of South African Bishop Paul Verryn

Methodist bishop Paul Verryn says Zimbabwe is the scene of a slow genocide. (Reuters: Juda Ngwenya)

Former anti-apartheid activists in South Africa have launched a stinging attack on their leaders over their handling of Zimbabwe.

They say they are ashamed that the South African Government has not intervened to resolve the humanitarian crisis which has seen thousands of Zimbabweans fleeing across the border into South Africa.

Bishop Paul Verryn heads the Methodist Church in Johannesburg where he has welcomed thousands of Zimbabwean refugees.

He has been appalled by their stories.

"We are witnessing a slow genocide in Zimbabwe. And what will it take for the international community, West, East and African, to come to the place where we say, 'That's it'?" he said.

"This is a bunch of thugs and a gang that is ruling a country. And the only reason I say that is because of the stories I hear in my armchair in my office that leave me at the end of the day confused and traumatised."

Bishop Verryn was joined in his church by several human rights advocates who have recently returned from Zimbabwe. They were shocked by what they saw.

Kumi Naidoo, a former anti-apartheid activist, says a lack of action by South African leaders has "betrayed an entire generation".

He is one of a growing number of civic leaders who have been highly critical of the South African Government and its regional organisation the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for failing to intervene in the Zimbabwe crisis.

"The culpability and the responsibility cannot be left at (Zimbabwe President Robert) Mugabe alone," he said.

"It has to be shared right now by the leadership of SADC that has basically allowed Mugabe to get away with murder."

Mr Naidoo is the honorary president the World Alliance for Citizen Participation. He says the situation has made him ashamed to be a South African.

"When people repeatedly say 'How can you let us down, how can you abandon us, how can you tolerate abduction, torture, complete collapse of services?' I felt ashamed as a South African not to be able to give an answer," he said.

"And if we can tolerate it on our borders, then sadly it means we will tolerate it at home, and that would just be a betrayal of the history and legacy of the liberation struggle in this country."

Bishop Verryn agrees with that assessment.

"The deep anxieties I have about my own nation is that it seems as if we have forgotten so quickly what it really feels like to be vulnerable," he said.

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Reflections on a Year of Pain

Posted By Alex Magaisa on 8 Jan, 2009 at 8:33

THE commencement of the year traditionally carries an abundance of dreams,
promises and resolutions. The apparent newness of the calendar year coming
so soon after the merriment of the Festive Season always conjures beautiful
visions. That is as it should be.

But clearly, it is not so in Zimbabwe and for its people. For those through
whom the Zimbabwean thread runs, the New Year is no more than a change in

For my part, I took a decision a week before Christmas, to disengage
completely from most things Zimbabwean, at least for a fortnight. I was
tired. I was tired of the bad news from home. I was tired of the stories of
dissipating hope. I looked back at the year and noted how fast it had passed
us by. How the hope that was so beautifully sown in March became a nightmare
hours after what ought to have been a momentous election. I saw how the
seeds of violence were sown, nourished and nurtured in the run up to the
June 27 run-off election that became the greatest non-event of all time. I
thought of the embarrassment we all felt at the time.

I remembered the hopes that were again sown in July and September when our
politicians signed deals after weeks of secret and protracted negotiations.
I looked back and saw the flicker of hope laced with caution; a cautious
optimism that battered Zimbabweans have learned to carry in their psyche
through harsh experience. Then I recalled the dithering; the hassling over
cabinet portfolios; the growing divide between the politicians whilst the
ordinary people sunk deeper in the murky waters.

And how just a few weeks before Christmas, events took a nasty turn when
political and human rights activists were violently abducted and caused to
disappear, conjuring memories of a bitter past, especially for those of my
colleagues from Matabeleland who in the 1980s had suffered and endured
violations of a similar and grave character. I was exhausted and for the
first time in years, the optimist in me had begun to give way. I realised
that thinking about everything that had happened and was continuing without
fail was becoming a very cruel game against my faculties.

And so I disengaged. It's difficult to imagine living without the internet,
let alone for someone whose work entails continual presence in cyberspace. I
have often wondered how it was before the internet - how those far away from
home would have to wait for days or weeks before getting the newspaper from

Then again, I sometimes wonder if the internet can be nuisance; if we all
too often permit it to take over our lives. And that sometimes there is far
too much information it's hard to separate fact from fiction, especially
when it comes to my beloved Zimbabwe.

A combination of factors conspired to cause me to experiment a life without
the internet. I have to confess, there were times when the urge to log in
and check email; there were occasions when the temptation to Google news on
Zimbabwe was far too much to resist.

For someone who has religiously followed the story of Zimbabwe and devoutly
written about it, the urge to explore cyberspace had a magnetic effect that
I found hard to resist, not least when I saw pictures of Jestina Mukoko and
her fellow abductees being shepherded into the Rotten Row Courts in Harare
during what was supposed to be a season of merriment.

My heart suffered and more than once those pictures welled my eyes with sad
tears. How could people be so cruel? Do they really sleep at night? Where do
they come from - those who apply such pain on others? Do they not have
parents, children or siblings? Do they really have families to whom they go
after 'work' knowing what they know and knowing the pain their actions cause
to others?

I was reminded of the boys who many years ago in my days of youth made a
sport of killing defenceless little birds, little eaglets. Back then I had
watched helplessly, alongside my friends as the vicious boys celebrated
their sordid acts even whilst the mother eagle soared above them, crying
cries only a mother can cry - cries for her little babies at the end of a
tortuous examination.

I was tired but I have to admit that I became a Robinson Crusoe of
cyberspace with hopes of a possible miracle - that somehow something would
happen to Zimbabwe whilst I was a castaway - something that would bring a
smile upon my return from what was essentially an 'internet coma'.

I have returned from my hibernation and there is no miracle. Things are just
as they were when I left before Christmas, only worse. I can understand why
those who departed this world five years ago, if they were to return today,
they would find things have not changed much as far as Zimbabwe is
concerned. They might even regret it because things have only got worse.

At this rate, I quite understand why if time favours us we will be here
again this time next year, saying exactly the same things that we are saying
today. After all, we have said the same things over and over again. How many
times have we heard or said, 'Ha-a gore rino hariperi' (this year will,
surely, end with a positive outcome). It has happened year after year.

I wish to thank you, dear reader, for your company in 2008. When I set out
to write this column it was because I believed in the power of the word; it
was because I felt that no matter where you are, the word can always be
said, read and heard and that on fortunate occasions it can have a desirable

Those of you accustomed to the style and approach in this column will know
that there are no sacred cows - that I regard politicians as a tribe - and
whatever tongues they use, whatever colours they exhibit, we must always
maintain our guard and keep them on their toes. They should never take us
for granted.

When I critique the actions of Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF, it is not because
I hate them; not even that I prefer Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara
and their respective MDCs. And when I critique Tsvangirai and Mutambara, it
is not because I hate them. It is because they are all politicians who seek
to gain our trust and confidence but in doing so, that they must never take
us for granted.

I believe that our politicians can only grow and learn from their mistakes
and when they stumble citizens must tell them so that in future they can
avoid the pitfalls. I just consider mine to be small voice among many more
intelligent and eloquent ones. I am just privileged that my voice has space
in a popular news portal. It does not mean I get it right all the time. Not
even that people should believe it, no. Most probably, I get it wrong most
of the time. That is why you comments and correspondence are always welcome
because I learn as much from you and the views that you express.

I don't do praise-singing and I don't expect any, though it's always warmly
received. I would like to thank all those that have read the column and
those who have gone on to write to me. I have had some of the most wonderful
correspondence with many readers of the column and it is those conversations
that fuel the desire to go on and best of all, give me hope, even during
those times when things seem so desperate, as they do presently. There are
those who will be unhappy that I have on occasions not responded to their
emails. I apologise for the lethargy on my part but I hope you also
understand that sometimes work and other commitments do get in the way. Do
not tire. As they say, 'Hope springs Eternal'.

Alex Magaisa is based at, Kent Law School, the University of Kent and can be
contacted at

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'It Feels Like We Are Under Siege'

Zimbabwe's Jailed Activists Symbolize Breakdown of Power-Sharing Deal
By Karin Brulliard
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, January 9, 2009; Page A12

HARARE, Zimbabwe -- At 72, Fidelis Chiramba had spent a decade as a rural
opposition party organizer, and late 2008 seemed to bring the truest promise
yet for the democracy he wanted. In September, Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's
autocratic president for nearly three decades, shook hands with his rivals
and agreed to share power.

But one dark October morning, Chiramba was seized by several men in four
cars, his wife said. Soon, dozens of civil rights and opposition activists
had vanished, according to human rights organizations and lawyers. They
remained missing until late December, when authorities marched Chiramba and
17 others into court on accusations of plotting to overthrow Mugabe.

The allegation is widely viewed as an invention. But the activists remain
behind bars, and Chiramba's wife has come to think his hope was an illusion.

"Only God's will can change this country, because this government is
adamant, " Sophia Chiramba, 69, said in an interview in Harare, the capital.
"It is not willing to change. We human beings have tried. But I believe
there's a limit."

As defense lawyers have futilely petitioned courts for their release, the
jailed activists have become the latest symbols of the demise of what seemed
to be a breakthrough power-sharing deal and, critics say, of Mugabe's
resolve to keep control of the crumbling nation using the repressive tactics
that characterize his government.

"It feels like we are under siege," said Fambai Ngirande, advocacy and
public policy director for a Harare-based umbrella group of nongovernmental
organizations. "That's how repression works. You cow people into submission.
You crack down heavily on any form of dissent. And meanwhile, you're pumping
out propaganda."

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has threatened to quit power-sharing
talks because of the disappearances and detentions, which his party has
called a "sinister plot" to decimate critics. Tsvangirai, who outpolled
Mugabe in presidential elections last year, withdrew from a widely condemned
runoff months later, citing political violence. The talks have been stalled
for months over the allocation of key ministries, which Tsvangirai's party
says Mugabe insists on keeping for himself.

The relationship between the parties is "totally artificial," said Nelson
Chamisa, a spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change, Tsvangirai's
party. Chamisa called the accusations "hogwash."

State news media reported this week that Mugabe planned to form a new
government next month, but it was unclear whether he would do so alone. A
constitutional amendment that would permit the creation of a unity
government is set to go to the opposition-led parliament this month, which
could facilitate an agreement. If negotiations die, it is likely new
elections would be called -- an unattractive prospect to the opposition,
dozens of whose supporters were beaten and killed by security forces after
last year's polls.

This round of abductions, as critics refer to them, began when more than a
dozen MDC activists in Chiramba's farming community -- which had turned
against the ruling party in last year's elections -- disappeared. The
seizures drew international attention in early December, when prominent
former newscaster and peace activist Jestina Mukoko was dragged out of her
home by armed men. Two more workers from Mukoko's organization, which tracks
political violence, similarly vanished, as did a top adviser to Tsvangirai
and the MDC's security director.

Many remain missing, according to the MDC. Defense lawyers say police and
prison authorities have defied court orders to release those in custody or
allow them medical treatment for injuries the lawyers say have resulted from

On Wednesday, seven of the detainees were charged in connection with minor
bombings at a police station and a railway line, incidents other opposition
activists had already been acquitted of.

Chiramba, Mukoko and six activists have been accused, but not charged, of
recruiting fighters to topple Mugabe. Zimbabwean authorities say militia
training has taken place in neighboring Botswana. That country, a strong
critic of Mugabe, has denied the allegations, and the 15-nation Southern
African Development Community has dismissed the claim.

"There is an army in Zimbabwe which cannot be confronted with people who are
trained over weekends," South African President Kgalema Motlanthe told
reporters last month.

Prosecutors have presented no detailed evidence of the militia plot in court
hearings, though defense lawyers and MDC officials said the jailed activists
were forced to read scripted confessions on videotape. A state prosecutor,
speaking on the condition of anonymity, said a government spy had gathered
evidence by infiltrating Mukoko's organization.

The timing of the allegations, as power-sharing talks sputter, is the
subject of much speculation among the many who think they are false. Some
suspect Mugabe is laying the groundwork to declare a state of emergency,
allowing him to suspend rights, or launching a new phase of intimidation
ahead of fresh elections. Others say it might be an attempt to force
Tsvangirai to agree to participate in a unity government on Mugabe's terms.

"It is very clear to Mugabe and other rational beings that without
Tsvangirai, the power-sharing deal is dead and the international community
will not touch Zimbabwe," said Eldred Masunungure, a political scientist at
the University of Zimbabwe.

But paranoia has been simmering within the top levels of government,
according to an October report prepared by Zimbabwe's Central Intelligence
Organization, part of which was viewed by The Washington Post. Hinting at
just how little the ruling party trusts its new partners in government, the
report cited a "very high possibility" of unrest fuelled by opposition and
civic organizations, and suspicions about the training of "some people in
unfriendly neighboring countries." The report advised boosted surveillance
of the MDC and arrests of suspects "as soon as possible."

"We know that there is an active process for the regime change agenda. There
are material facts to prove that," Didymus Mutasa, Zimbabwe's state security
minister, said in an interview. Asked what the facts are, Mutasa said:
"These people who have been arrested."

That sounds unimaginable to Nomatter Masuku, 30, whose sister and
brother-in-law, MDC leaders in the same rural town where Chiramba lived,
disappeared in late October and appeared in court last month.

Concillia and Emmanuel Chinhanzvana were fed up with Zimbabwe's rampant
hunger and unemployment, Masuku said, and they thought it was time to give
others a chance to run the nation. Relatives tried to steer the couple away
from politics, telling them it was too dangerous, Masuku said.

They were determined, she said, but hardly the types to plan an
insurrection. "I don't believe they are capable of handling a gun," Masuku

Sophia Chiramba also scoffs at the idea that her husband of 50 years
would -- even could -- partake in a coup.

She visited him in prison in late December, and the guards would not let her
hold his hand, she said. She has given up believing that her husband will
ever again tend to his vegetable garden, which she says has now turned to

"I just said to myself, 'At least I get the chance to see him,' " Sophia
Chiramba said wearily. "Even if they kill him later."

A Washington Post special correspondent contributed to this report.

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'God has a plan for us'

JASON MOYO - Jan 09 2009 05:00

 Jason Moyo speaks to ordinary Zimbabweans about their hopes and fears for
the new year -- and finds surprising levels of optimism

One would expect a man who is lying sick on a narrow bed with a hole in the
middle and a bucket underneath not to feel particularly optimistic about the

But hope springs eternal in the human breast. Tariro is a 40-year-old
geography teacher whose missionary zeal is unshaken by the cholera infection
that has confined him to an improvised ward at Beatrice Hospital outside
Harare. His name is Shona for "hope".

He has a surprisingly sunny-side-up view of Zimbabwe's prospects in 2009,
really more defiance than hope.

He is fiercely opinionated; he hates the fact that journalists have taken
images of those stricken by cholera, "as if we are animals", and used them
to "push their agendas". I don't tell him I'm a journalist; after all, I'm
here as part of a group of volunteers.

He reels off Bible verses, chiding me for "lacking faith".

"My friend, God has a plan for us, a plan to prosper us," he says. "My Bible
says gold is purified by fire. We will rise."

Optimism is a scarce commodity in Zimbabwe. And the last place you expect to
find it is at a cholera treatment centre. But even amid the misery there is
a quiet determination to face up to whatever 2009 may bring.

Charity (26) was close to leaving her job as a nurse at Parirenyatwa,
Zimbabwe's biggest public hospital, when the cholera outbreak began.
Instead, she volunteered to join a medical relief agency fighting the
epidemic. She bridles when a cynical colleague calls her an idealist.

"Everyone is always hoping to do things differently at the start of each
year. If politicians come to this clinic and see what ordinary people are
going through, how hard people are working to help each other, they will
turn over a new leaf. I want to make a difference."

Robert Mugabe, addressing a military parade in November, described 2008 as
"the worst year since our independence".

It was a year in which the education and health sectors, once the pride of
Mugabe's huge social investments in the early years of his rule, finally
caved in.

The Reserve Bank itself rejected the Zimbabwe dollar, allowing businesses to
transact in foreign currency. This measure had been unthinkable at the start
of the year; any such suggestion was dismissed as a lack of patriotism and
an act of sabotage.

Many now wonder what surprises await the economy in 2009. But stockbroker
Ben Dabengwa isn't sticking around to find out.

"My plan for 2009 is to raise enough money to get a work permit in South
Africa. I don't see our leaders changing the way they view business," he

It had been a good year for the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, which spun US
dollar profits for investors until the Reserve Bank cut in with tough
measures that have halted the charge in stock prices and sent brokers

Many young professionals are spending endless hours scouring the internet
for foreign jobs. They pay fortunes to shady agents promising to arrange
work permits.

Kurai Muhwati (36), a surveyor, was one of many professionals who had vowed
never to leave Zimbabwe, and when he watched Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai
shaking hands in September, he felt vindicated. But the euphoria didn't last
and Muhwati is chasing a job offer in Qatar.

"Leaving isn't easy. But once you look at yourself and say, 'Will I be able
to feed myself this time next year?', it gets easier."

He believes that even if a political settlement is reached this year, it
will be years before the economy recovers. "And now with all this military
invasion talk, Mugabe won't be going anywhere, even if he had planned to,"
he says. "He enjoys this sort of thing." He fears that the army riots in
December point to unrest in the new year.

But others are staying put, in fact praying for a continuation of the
carnage. At the Keg and Sable, an English-style pub, the city's dealer class
exchanges tales of their latest scams over endless rounds of expensive

Conversation here is serious and passionate; how much longer can he remain
in charge -- Arsene Wenger, that is? There is little talk of politics or
cholera here.

For this lot, Mugabe was talking out the side of his mouth when he said 2008
was the worst year ever. Take, for instance, my college-mate Pride, who left
his marketing job three years ago to develop a small gold claim in Kadoma,
central Zimbabwe.

By law, he should be selling the gold to government, but he sells "just some
of it to keep the books straight". He bought an Audi SUV and moved into a R7
000-a-month apartment. It was the best year of his life.

And 2009? "As long as it's like 2008, I'm happy. Who wants this to end? A
lot of people are making money from this; Zanu, MDC, the rest of us. It's
never going to end.

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Mugabe has been on holiday for 29 years

January 8, 2009

By Sibangani Sibanda

IF there were any lingering doubts in anybody's mind that all systems in
Zimbabwe have collapsed, then the start of the 2009 business year, and the
anticipated start of the school year should dispel them.

If there were any lingering doubts in anybody's mind that President Robert
Mugabe has no interest whatsoever in the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe
and only thinks about his own creature comforts, then the fact that he can
even consider going on leave at such a time should convince even the most
loyal supporters that the man needs to take permanent leave of the high
office he now occupies.

Unfortunately, it does not.

A month ago, our banks were besieged daily by depositors wishing to withdraw
their money - what little of it they were allowed to withdraw. Walk into any
bank today and chances are that you will find more bank officials than
depositors. This in spite of the fact that Reserve Bank Governor Gono has
increased the amounts that individuals can withdraw from Z$500 million per
week to Z$10 billion per month!

What happened?

Last month, there were commodities that one could buy with Zimbabwe dollars.
This month, I cannot think of anything that can be bought in our national
currency. As a result, its value is such that it is not worth going to the
bank even for ten billion, which, today, will not buy one American dollar!
Those who have been following this story will remember that ten billion
Zimbabwe dollars (Z$ 10 000 000 000.00) should, in fact be Z$ 100 000 000
000 000 000 000 000.00 (if you restore the thirteen zeroes that we have
removed over the years to try to hide the effects of our economic
mismanagement!). No prizes for telling me what that number is called. And to
think that only twenty-nine years ago, our dollar could buy an American
dollar and leave some change!

So, why do we need banks? Depositors are not taking their Zimbabwe dollars
to the bank, in case they do find something they can buy. Those with any
money in the bank will not withdraw it because it is too much trouble, and,
of course, no one is borrowing from the banks because, even if the loan was
approved the money cannot be withdrawn. Companies, by the way, are only
allowed to withdraw Z$50 million per week, which translates to US$ 0.0041667
per week (at the exchange rate of two days ago).

Why would any company, anywhere in the world open for the New Year under
such conditions?

Any companies still operating are doing so in foreign currency and although
those with licenses to do so may have to show the authorities that there
have foreign currency accounts (FCA's), most businesses are selling in
foreign currency without licenses and thus do not need to bank their
proceeds. Governor Gono, whose sole reason for being seems to be to plug all
loop holes created by his crazy fiscal policies has been so successful that
the banking sector can now no longer operate. In December, the said governor
effectively shut the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange.

A few years ago, the Zimbabwe Financial Services sector was hailed by the
International Monetary Fund as the only sector that seemed to be operating
at anything like normal. Today, thanks to Governor Gono, it is on its knees.
Well done, once again, Governor Gono. You have regulated the banks out of
existence! And what is left of the once vibrant manufacturing sector,
already tottering on the brink of collapse, looks like following suit.

But Zanu-PF has been hailed over the years for their achievements in
education and health and other social provisions, I hear you say. The
current cholera crisis has shown the world the state of our hospitals and
our sanitation services so I will not go into that.

Our schools just about survived last year. Teachers stayed at their posts
because they felt some responsibility to get their pupils through the year.
Unfortunately, their need to survive now means that they may not be
persuaded by such considerations.

Government, on its part, seems unsure what to do, so we have had the
ridiculous situation where they announced that schools will reopen on
January 13, then changed their minds. Schools will now reopen on January 27.
At least that gives parents a bit more time to find the money to buy
uniforms and other school requirements, since their Zimbabwe dollar savings
are now worthless and schools are asking for fees in American dollars. The
traditional suppliers of uniforms, it seems, have no stocks either.

So parents are having to source for uniforms from across our borders!

The president, having spent the last twenty-nine years on holiday, (how else
could things have gone so wrong if he had kept his eye on the ball) now
needs four weeks away for rest and recuperation. "His" country is grinding
to a halt. I am not sure that he has even noticed.

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Democracy in Africa

09 January 2009

I WILL be president for all Ghanaians, whether they voted for me or not -
the words of Ghana's new president John Atta Mills as he took office this
week after a tense, yet peaceful election which he eventually won with only
a tiny majority of the votes.

Atta Mills's words seemed to draw on the lessons in democracy of US
president-elect Barack Obama's recent victory speech. And the Ghanaian
elections themselves serve as a timely lesson in democracy for the African
continent. In little more than a year, Africa has seen the travesty of
Zimbabwe's elections as well as the violent chaos that followed Kenya's
disputed presidential elections and the fraud that marred the Nigerian

Ghana might have been expected to erupt too, after the first round at the
ballot box failed to produce a clear winner as stipulated by the
constitution, and the second-round runoff put Atta Mills ahead of rival Nana
Akufo-Addo by a mere 40 500 votes, less than 0,5% of the total. Inevitably,
both sides alleged vote-rigging and it looked like the result might be
contested in court. In the event, however, the process played out to a
peaceful conclusion, with Akufo-Addo conceding defeat and attending the

The victory of Atta Mills and his National Democratic Congress (NDC) ends
eight years of rule by the New Patriotic Party (NPP), whose John Kufuor
stepped down from Ghana's presidency after two terms in line with the
country's constitution. And this is the second time Ghana has seen a
peaceful transition of power since 2000, when then president Jerry Rawlings
lost the election to Kufuor.

The transition demonstrates the maturity of Ghana's electoral democracy, a
maturity that is surprising in some ways, given Ghana's history of coups,
counter-coups and military rule.

Kufuor deserves much of the credit for helping the difficult election
process reach a peaceful conclusion: he behaved like a statesman, not a
politician, intervening to persuade his own governing party to accept
defeat. Ghana's autonomous and competent electoral commission also had a lot
to do with the success of the democratic process. So too did the fact that
it has a strong and independent media, which its leaders have allowed to

Atta Mills is a legal academic and tax expert who was vice- president to
Rawlings and had run unsuccessfully against Kufuor twice before. His NDC
party doesn't differ much in policy terms from the NPP, but it is a little
more populist and he has promised changes that will improve the lives of

That may be a tall order. Ghana's economy is still growing quite strongly
and the discovery of oil is likely to boost the government's coffers in
years to come. However, Ghana is running a fiscal deficit of 10% of gross
domestic product (GDP) and a current account deficit of 20%, imbalances that
"place Ghana among the most vulnerable of rated emerging markets", says
international rating agency Fitch. Public debt has risen sharply in the past
couple of years, to 55% of GDP. The global credit crunch could make it
increasingly difficult to finance that, and Ghana's dependence on
commodities such as cocoa and gold won't help matters.

So being in office will be challenging for Atta Mills. But the fact that he's
there signals clearly that democracy can work in Africa.

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