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From ZWNEWS, 11 July

The saddest and scariest thing

By a special correspondent

Timothy, a Zimbabwean farmworker, hobbled to the homestead door supported by a friend. Somewhere in his mid-thirties, he looked more like 60, thin, wasted and probably suffering from AIDS. He needs money, the friend said, he has to go to see the n'anga. Timothy drew his fingers across his throat. If he didn't go now, he told the farmer, he'd die. Someone had put a spell on him.

It is the saddest and scariest thing to live in a country ravaged by AIDS. Population growth is forecast at zero percent next year, so fast are people dying. Two thousand die here from AIDS every week. Six out of Harare's seven cemeteries are now full. Attempts are being made to persuade families to bury more than one person in a single grave, to save space. What makes things worse, however, is the superstition, blind faith and tradition that stop some Zimbabweans taking responsibility for protecting themselves from the pandemic. With an estimated one in four Zimbabweans now living with HIV, spells are a useful thing to blame. And it's not just, rural poorly-educated people like Timothy who believe in them. Chenjerai "Hitler" Hunzvi, the Polish-trained doctor who led independence war veterans in the invasions of hundreds of white-owned farms here last year, is said to have accused some of his colleagues of putting a spell on him two days before he died in June. Hunzvi is widely believed to have had AIDS, although the official line remains that he died of malaria.

Chipo, a domestic worker on the same farm, believes it's up to God whether or not she gets AIDS. She's a devout Christian, sings in the church choir, but has a little problem keeping her second husband on the straight and narrow. Give him a bit of chibuku (beer) and he starts womanising in the farm compound, though he does repent afterwards. Chipo's two brothers have died of AIDS. She knows what AIDS can do - but she stays with her husband. Meanwhile, the farmer has employed a carpenter, to keep up with the demand for coffins.

Then there are the wife-bequeathing traditions, still strong in rural Zimbabwe. The Daily News recently carried the story of the Kambwembwe family in eastern Zimbabwe. 20-year old Tembo was left three years ago to support 23 people - three widows and 20 children - after first his father and then his uncle died of AIDS. Tembo's uncle had inherited his brother's wife. To be fair, the government is making an effort to educate people. Recently, it banned traditional ceremonies in which those wanting a cure cut themselves to let "spirits" out. They were sharing blades, the government said, and spreading HIV. And it warned against people getting over-excited at last month's announcement AIDS drug prices were to go down. The drugs only put off death, but did not cure the disease, the health minister said.

But in a more sinister development, theories blaming white colonials for the AIDS virus have been allowed to creep in. Listeners to a talkshow last month on the state's tightly-controlled ZBC radio were reminded by the programme's guest, a prominent traditional healer, that the AIDS virus was developed by Rhodesian soldiers as a weapon of warfare during the 1970s. The theory is not a new one. In 1998, Mugabe's Zanu PF government said it was investigating allegations Rhodesian soldiers had developed biological weapons of warfare. The theory got the support it was looking for in the 1999 publication - by an ex-Rhodesian Army soldier - of a thriller which told how biological weapons, like AIDS, had been developed during the apartheid regime in South Africa for use by Ian Smith's soldiers. Read not as fiction but as fact, Ben Geer's "Something More Sinister" gives Mugabe's supporters an added opportunity to blame whites not just for the economic crisis pulling the country down and for last week's widely-followed industrial stayaway, but also for the pandemic robbing Zimbabwe of its youth and its hope.

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MDC member’s widow tells High Court of horrifying torture details

The High Court yesterday heard horrifying stories of how alleged Zanu PF supporters in Mberengwa West tortured an MDC member’s wife, forcing her to drink their urine. Mavis Tapera, whose husband Fainos Kufazvinei Zhou of the MDC died after a severe beating by Zanu PF supporters, told High Court judge Justice Ben Hlatshwayo that suspected Zanu PF supporters ordered her to drink her urine and forced an iron rod into her private parts before they abducted her husband whom they beat to death. Tapera broke down several times as she narrated her ordeal. The court heard that Zhou died a painful death after he was allegedly assaulted and tortured by Zanu PF supporters led by Wilson Kufa Chitoro, alias Biggie Chitoro, in the run-up to last year’s parliamentary election. Tapera was giving evidence in an election petition in which Mfandaidza Hove of the MDC wants the court to nullify the victory of Zanu PF’s Joram Gumbo.

Tapera said: "They came to my home at night and asked my husband to come out. One of them used his knife to tear apart my petticoat." Tapera showed Hlatshwayo the shredded petticoat. "I was wearing only my pant when they took me out of the house and started assaulting me. They beat me on the buttocks, using logs. One of them asked me whether Morgan Tsvangirai had bought me the pant that I was wearing," she said. "He then forced an iron rod into my private parts," Tapera said. "He asked me to imitate the sexual motions that I go through when I am in bed with my husband. It was painful but I was ordered to stop crying."

She said the alleged Zanu PF supporters then asked her to surrender MDC T-shirts and membership cards, but she could not do so because she did not have them. Tapera said her late husband and his brother, James, were later taken to Texas Ranch the same night on 4 July, last year. She said after a brief walk to the farm, she was ordered to go back home. "When I returned," she told the court, "the two men forced me to smoke a cigarette. They also urinated into a container and forced me to drink from it. I had no option because they threatened to force me to eat their stool if I refused." She said the family looked for Fainos and James for three days. On the fourth day a certain war veteran, identified only as Ngoni, had told them that the two were at Texas Ranch under Biggie Chitoro. "I borrowed $400 to visit my husband, who was at Hove’s home. When I reached Hove’s home my husband had just died. I observed that he had wounds all over his body as if he had been assaulted with a hot iron bar. He had injuries on his buttocks," she said. The hearing continues today.

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From The Cape Argus (SA), 10 July

SA's stance on land reform is 'unchanged'

Lusaka - South African officials at the OAU summit have distanced themselves from suggestions that Pretoria supports Zimbabwe's controversial land grab from white farmers. Reports from the Zambian capital said South African authorities had endorsed a resolution praising Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's efforts to seize white farms without compensation. Reacting to the reports, Foreign Affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa dismissed them "as lightning (and) thunder signifying nothing". He said South Africa's stance on Zimbabwe's land reform remained unchanged, stressing that "land redistribution in Zimbabwe should be done within the framework of the law and the constitution of that country". South Africa would support efforts of a committee to help Zimbabwe in its dialogue with the European Union on the land issue, Mamoepa said.

On Monday, African foreign ministers agreed to establish the committee consisting of South Africa, Nigeria, Algeria, Cameroon, Kenya and Zambia. In the resolution, drafted on Monday, African foreign ministers also accused Britain of contributing to the instability, conflict and economic despair plaguing Zimbabwe by refusing to back the land reform efforts in its former colony. It also condemned Britain for refusing to honour commitments to help fund land reform it had made before Zimbabwe's independence in 1980. The ministers said it was Britain's responsibility to resolve the issue. "The land question in Zimbabwe remains essentially a bilateral dispute between Zimbabwe and Britain." The ministers praised President Mugabe's efforts to seize farms without compensation and noted with concern "British moves to mobilise European and North American countries to isolate and vilify Zimbabwe". The resolution was expected to be formally adopted by the heads of state tomorrow.

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ZIMBABWE: Government sets up task force to tackle food shortages

JOHANNESBURG, 11 July (IRIN) - The Zimbabwean government has set up an
inter-ministerial task force to ensure food security in the country and to
advise the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) on the way forward, the official
newspaper 'The Herald' reported on Wednesday. The newspaper also announced
the second bread price increase in two months, of between 15 and 20
percent. A loaf of bread now costs between 35 and 45 Zimbabwe dollars (US
$0.60 and US $0.80).

Analysts told IRIN that the task force indicated that President Robert
Mugabe's government was at last acknowledging that the country faced an
impending food crisis. "It's an admission that there's a huge problem, it
was not addressed before, largely I think to stop hoarding," a
Harare-based economist said. The government admitted last Thursday for the
first time that the country faced food shortages later this year and may
need international aid.

The task force has been set up as part of ongoing measures to streamline
the operations of the GMB and to strengthen its capacity to effectively
manage grain reserves in line with the projected shortages, information
minister Jonathan Moyo was quoted as saying in a statement issued on
Tuesday night. Economists believe that along with the establishment of the
task force will come legislation enforcing monopoly pricing of grain. "At
the moment those with an option are selling their grain privately. That
may soon be stopped and it will drive down the price producers get. This
will lead to less grain on the market and less planting next season,
aggravating the shortages," IRIN was told.

The task force includes Land and Agriculture Minister Joseph Made,
Transport Minister Swithun Mombeshora, and Minister of Finance Simba
Makoni. Moyo said the task force would liase with other actors and
stakeholders in both the public and private sectors and recommend measures
to ensure food security in the country. Zimbabwe is currently facing a
maize shortfall of over 500,000 mt after a production of 1.57 million mt
this year.

Meanwhile Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said on Wednesday
his party was seeking help to avert food shortages that could compound
social unrest in the country as the price of bread rose again. Speaking at
a press conference, Tsvangirai said his Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) had approached aid organisations "to ensure that there is actually
some strategic humanitarian relief in place".

Around 80 percent of Zimbabwe's workers stayed at home last week to
protest a hike in the price of fuel that has sent commuter fares and food
prices soaring. Tsvangirai added that the crisis stemmed from the
government's failure to purchase maize from the country's small-scale
farmers, coupled with disruptions on commercial farms by land invasions.
Tsvangirai warned donors to guard against food aid being hijacked for
political gains by the ruling party.

He said that in their canvassing of donor organisations, his party had
made it clear they did not want the ruling ZANU-PF government to be
responsible for distributing relief food. "We know ZANU-PF has been using
food relief for political purposes," claimed Tsvangirai. "If you want food
relief you buy a ZANU-PF card." But analysts told IRIN that it would be
very difficult to organise food aid to Zimbabweans in the huge quantities
required without involving government. "Humanitarian aid is going to have
to come in, but there are no distribution structures that are free of
government," one analyst said.

"The government is running out of places to borrow money, all it can
really do is increase the money captured from exporters, but that source
is rapidly dwindling," an economist said. "The government now has very few
options, as there is no foreign currency to buy-in grain, this could turn
very easily into a political crisis later this year and early next," the
economist added.
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Tsvangirai set for crucial court battle

July 11 2001 at 11:55AM

Harare - Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, accused of acts of terrorism that could bar him from next year's elections, will challenge his prosecution on Thursday in a test case for freedom of speech in Zimbabwe.

Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was granted the right by the high court in May to refer his case to the supreme court to argue that a terrorism case against him was an attack on his right to free speech.

President Robert Mugabe's government said it had accepted the high court ruling, and would try to convince the country's highest court that Tsvangirai had a case to answer.

On Tuesday, Tsvangirai said he was ready, but had no doubt the supreme court would uphold his rights and rule as unconstitutional the law on which his prosecution was based.

"Our supreme court has a history of fairness, of protecting the rights of all Zimbabweans, of dispensing justice and that is the reason we have been calling for the protection of their integrity," he said. "We are going to argue our case there... not outside."

Tsvangirai is being prosecuted for telling MDC supporters in a speech last year that Mugabe might be overthrown violently if he did not retire. - Reuters

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Police chief to sack opposition supporters

July 11 2001 at 09:53AM

Harare - Zimbabwe's police chief has vowed to dismiss members from the force who support opposition politics, the state-owned Herald reported on Wednesday.

"Those officers who believe they can abandon the government of the day in order to support the opposition are misguided and they will be kicked out of the force," Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri told the paper.

An undisclosed number of officers have already been fired on those grounds, the police chief said.

Chihuri is a self-declared supporter of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) of President Robert Mugabe.

Police in Zimbabwe have been consistently accused of neglecting their duties. Violent attacks on the opposition by ruling party supporters left at least 34 people dead in the run-up to last year's general elections.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) claims another five of its supporters were killed in politically-motivated attacks last week.

Dismissing pro-opposition supporters from the police force was acting in "the interests of the majority", Chihuri added.

The ruling party scraped a narrow victory over the MDC in last year's elections, winning 62 of the 120 contested seats against the MDC's 57.

Presidential elections are due early next year in which 77-year-old President Mugabe will be standing as the ruling party's candidate. - Sapa-AFP

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11/07/2001 17:32  - (SA)
Zim, Britain 'need' talks

Lusaka - South African President Thabo Mbeki said on Wednesday that African leaders had rejected a tough ministerial declaration on Zimbabwe, which accused Britain of seeking to isolate and vilify its former colony.

The draft declaration by African foreign ministers on Sunday had also named South Africa, Nigeria, Algeria, Cameroon, Kenya and Zambia to a committee to support Zimbabwe in future talks with the European Union and other parties on land reform.

But Mbeki said at the closing session of the annual summit of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) that a milder declaration had been adopted instead.

"The (new) declaration says that Britain and Zimbabwe need to get together and continue to search for a solution (to the land problem). That supersedes the ministerial draft," Mbeki said.

"The new declaration was promoted by Nigeria which felt that there was a need to continue the mediation which it started between Zimbabwe and Britain last year," Mbeki added.

The southern African country has been wracked by violence since land invasions began last year, disrupting economic activity. President Robert Mugabe says land redistribution is necessary to address a century-old imbalance in land ownership in the country.

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Zimbabwe to press ahead with controversial export incentives
Basildon Peta
July 11 2001 at 12:40AM

Harare - The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe was pressing ahead with an export incentive scheme introduced last month to help boost the country's foreign currency reserves, it said yesterday.

This was despite media reports that the new scheme had been scrapped by President Robert Mugabe's Cabinet.

The Reserve Bank said the scheme would involve a currency swap arrangement between the central bank and exporters.

It said last week that the exporter would swap foreign currency for Zimbabwe dollars - at the exchange rate ruling at the time of the transaction - with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. The Reserve Bank would give the exporter a percentage of the amount swapped in Zimbabwe dollars as an incentive.

However, the State-owned Herald newspaper reported on Monday that the government had scrapped the scheme as it amounted to the devaluation of the Zimbabwe dollar "through the back door". The newspaper did not explain how the measures would amount to devaluation.

However, it is understood that the measure which had created problems was the one allowing the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to give an extra percentage of the amount swapped in Zimbabwe dollars as an incentive to the exporter.

It had been viewed as an indirect attempt by the central bank to compensate exporters who had been clamouring for devaluation.

Mugabe has already spurned suggestions from Simba Makoni, the minister of finance, and other Reserve Bank technocrats. to devalue the dollar

Makoni publicly said that Zimbabwe's exchange rate of US$1 to Z$55 was discredited as no one was trading at that rate. The black market was offering rates of US$1 to Z$175

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July 09, 2001

White Farmers Freed in Zimbabwe

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) - A farmer and opposition activist who was trapped in his office over the weekend while armed ruling-party militants lit fires around the farmhouse and assaulted workers said Monday that he would only abandon the property if the law required it.

About 60 militants occupied Iain Kay's homestead in the Marondera district about 60 miles east of Harare on Friday. The farm is among more than 4,000 white-owned properties targeted for confiscation under a government land-reform program to resettle landless blacks.

At least one militant had a Kalashnikov assault rifle, another had a shotgun and others carried axes, clubs and knives, Kay said. Kay, 52, his 22-year-old son and two neighbors barricaded themselves in the farm's office with a pistol and a rifle for protection.

The militants, beating drums throughout the two-day siege, assaulted 18 of Kay's workers, one seriously.

"They wanted to drive us off the farm," said Kay, an activist in the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. He said the four men decided not to give in and told the militants "if the law demanded it, we would leave."

Police were called Friday but did nothing until district political leaders persuaded the militants to withdraw late Sunday, neighbors said. On Monday, Kay said, militants prohibited workers from moving tractors out of his yard to resume work.

At least 36 people have died and thousands more have been left homeless in political violence since the land occupations began in March 2000. Human rights groups say most of the victims were opposition supporters.

In the past year, Kay has been assaulted and hospitalized twice.

The land occupations triggered political violence surrounding parliamentary elections last June. The violence has continued ahead of presidential polls scheduled for early next year.

The government has described the occupations as a justified protest against the disproportionate ownership of the most fertile farm land by the white descendants of colonial-era settlers.

The opposition says President Robert Mugabe encouraged the occupations and stepped up plans to confiscate farms to bolster flagging support for the ruling party in its traditional rural strongholds.

Mugabe's party won a slender majority of 62 of the 120 elected parliamentary seats in the June polls, after controlling all but three seats in the previous parliament.

Kay's wife, Kerry, head of a white farmers' charity for black AIDS orphans, said the district was emotionally drained by the weekend standoff.

"There is no law here. We will keep working for peaceful change. All this is being perpetrated by a small group of evil people trying to stay in power," Kerry Kay said.

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Right About Risks; Wrong About Remedy

Business Day- (Johannesburg)

July 11, 2001
Posted to the web July 11, 2001


"What about Zimbabwe?" has become the rallying cry for critics of President Thabo Mbeki's campaign for the Millennium Africa Recovery Programme (MAP).

How, they ask, can he gallivant around the globe declaring that African leaders are prepared to hold each other accountable to standards of democracy and human rights while refusing to intervene to halt abuses of power in Zimbabwe that threaten SA's economy and security.

Mbeki's detractors are right about the risks but wrong about the remedy. Threats of mass violence in Zimbabwe causing millions of refugees continue to spook South Africans, foreign investors, and others with stakes.

Yet none who have urged intervention have offered a plausible plan to restore law and order that would not exacerbate SA's race and class divisions or irreparably harm the Southern African Development Community.

Mbeki, meanwhile, has rightly chosen to focus national and global attention on next year's presidential poll in Zimbabwe.

"Power to the People" is a slogan Mbeki can use effectively at home and with other African leaders. Yet unless the current lawlessness and economic chaos are curtailed, free and fair elections and external funding for effective land reform and development will be impossible.

The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) signalled its concern this week by naming a committee consisting of the leading proponents of MAP SA, Nigeria and Algeria with Zambia, Kenya and Cameroon, to seek European Union (EU) help to fast-track Zimbabwean land reform. Yet this step must not detract from SA's complementary but wider bid to back free and fair elections.

At Mbeki's recent series of meetings with western leaders, all voiced their support for SA's handling of the Zimbabwean problem and, in an extraordinary show of confidence, seem willing to follow Pretoria's lead.

When Mbeki and other OAU leaders seek western aid for Africa's revival at the July 20-22 Group of Eight summit in Genoa, Zimbabwe is sure to be an issue.

To signal SA's willingness to provide leadership, Mbeki ought to appoint a special envoy for Zimbabwe with a small team of advisers who will work with Mugabe's government, the OAU committee and the EU, the main bilateral and multilateral donors, and representatives of local and international civil society, in order to ensure that all commitments are met. Ensuring free and fair elections and lawful land reform will entail a far bigger international presence in Zimbabwe, and international financial commitments, than either Mugabe or the donors have accepted.

Managing such a process is never easy, but it has been done effectively. President Robert Mugabe's capacity to resist such an initiative should not be exaggerated. With evidence of collapsing political support everywhere apparent, we now hear he may fear prosecution if forced from office.

Yet Mugabe is not Yugoslavia's former strongman Slobodan Milosevic, and in Africa former autocrats have been allowed comfortable, secure retirements. If Mugabe does accept defeat graciously, finding a safe haven should be no problem. First, however, SA must lead an international effort to moderate Mugabe's behaviour in ways that will serve democracy in Zimbabwe, SA's security and the dream of an African renaissance.

Stremlau is head of international relations at the University of the Witwatersrand.

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