4:27 a.m. July 26, 2007
HARARE, Zimbabwe - Nearly 5,000 store owners, managers and business
executives have been arrested since the government began its campaign to
slash prices last month, state media reported Thursday.
The government ordered that prices be slashed by around 50 percent to
curb inflation, officially at 4,500 percent but estimated to be twice as
Already scarce staple foods, gasoline and many basics have disappeared
from shelves because store owners say they can't afford to sell at the new
The Herald newspaper said that at least 23 owners and managers of
shops and gasoline stations had been arrested for overcharging Wednesday,
bringing the total to 4,926.
A senior police official, Bothwell Mugariri, told the newspaper - a
government mouthpiece - that the latest to be arrested were rounded up in
Harare's central business district and would appear in court Friday.
Most of those arrested - among them several of the country's top
businessmen - have been briefly jailed.
President Robert Mugabe told parliament Tuesday that his government
was committed to its program to restore "price stability" and protect
ordinary consumers from "inexplicable and astronomical" price increases by
Foreign investment, loans and development aid to Zimbabwe have dried
up amid years of political and economic turmoil after Mugabe's government
began often-violent seizures of thousands of white-owned farms in 2000.
Mugabe rejects criticism that the meltdown is the result of
mismanagement and instead blames Western sanctions.
International Herald Tribune
The Associated PressPublished: July 26, 2007
HARARE, Zimbabwe: A judge ruled police faked evidence against opposition
activists accused of mounting a gasoline bombing campaign and freed them
after five months in jail, the activists' lawyer said Thursday.
A day earlier, police assaulted scores of reform campaigners who staged a
demonstration in Harare, victims said. Many were hospitalized, several with
broken bones, according to witnesses and an independent victims care group.
Attorney Alex Muchadehama said 13 activists of the main opposition Movement
for Democratic Change, including opposition lawmaker Paul Madzore, were
released Wednesday after High Court Judge Lawrence Kamocha threw out all key
Kamocha ruled police failed to show the location on maps of a farm where the
suspects were allegedly trained in terror tactics and concluded in his
written judgment "it turned out to be nonexistent."
He also said two men police had called key witnesses but did not produce to
testify were "fictitious persons who did not exist."
Muchadehama said Kamocha was still to consider release applications for two
other activists held on different charges of allegedly recruiting
pro-democracy militants for terror attacks.
No comment was immediately available from police or the government.
During the trial, defense attorneys Muchahedama and Andrew Makoni themselves
were arrested after they described evidence given in court as having been
faked. Their arrests led to a protest demonstration organized by the
Zimbabwe Law Society outside the Harare High Court in May. Police declared
the lawyers' protest illegal and injured a number of lawyers breaking it up.
Muchadehama said 34 opposition activists have been detained since March on
allegations of involvement in a series of petrol bombings of police
stations, a store owned by a ruling party official and a train. Four police
were said to have been injured in the bombings, which the government
described as an "orgy of terror" and blamed the opposition.
The opposition has routinely denied taking any violent action and accused
the government of stage managing the bombings to discredit it. Government
opponents, meanwhile, have been subjected to police beatings and raids on
No opposition activists have been convicted in the alleged campaign of
anti-government violence and only two suspects linked to the 13 men freed
Wednesday are still in jail.
Zimbabwe is in the midst of an economic and political crisis, with inflation
officially at 4,500 percent but estimated to be twice as high, and
government opponents under intense pressure. Mugabe rejects criticism that
the meltdown is the result of mismanagement and often-violent seizures of
thousands of white-owned farms he ordered beginning in 2000, instead blaming
The National Constitutional Assembly, meanwhile, said about 160 of its
supporters campaigning for constitutional reform outside the Parliament in
downtown Harare were arrested Wednesday for staging an illegal protest.
Demonstrators who included six women carrying babies on their backs were
forced onto trucks and taken to the central Harare police station where they
were assaulted, said Lovemore Madhuku, head of the reform group.
He said the intensity of the police beatings - now customary for
protesters - was "10 times more than before."
In March, Morgan Tsvangirai and other opposition leaders were hospitalized
after being assaulted by police who broke up a prayer meeting declared
A woman protester, speaking on condition of anonymity from her hospital bed
Thursday, said the group was released without charge after more than four
hours of beatings with riot sticks, fists and kicking and stamping. Hospital
officials said she was being treated for severe bruising and trauma.
The infants were separated from their mothers and cried at one end of the
cells while the beatings went on.
None of the group was charged under sweeping security laws or fined for
violating a blanket ban on demonstrations.
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs -
Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Date: 26 Jul 2007
MHONDORO, 26 July 2007 (IRIN) - The effects of the government's month-old
price-control policies, which have brought widespread shortages of basic
commodities, are also beginning to tell in the education, health and social
The government launched "Operation Reduce Prices" in late June in an attempt
to cap escalating prices as businesses tried to cushion themselves against
the world's highest inflation rate - over 4,000 percent - although some
independent economists estimate the actual inflation rate at about 20,000
President Robert Mugabe accused manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and
other service providers of trying to undermine his ZANU-PF government by
sowing discontent among the electorate ahead of next year's scheduled
presidential and parliamentary elections.
However, the price-control operation, managed by industry minister Obert
Mpofu, who heads the Cabinet Task Force on Price Monitoring and
Stabilisation, also has high-profile detractors, with Reserve Bank governor
Gideon Gono warning that price slashes would fuel the inflation rate.
Shortages of bread, cooking oil and beef have forced a church-run
Presbyterian High school, in the Mashonaland Central Province's Mhondoro
district, about 60km southwest of the capital, Harare, to set up a makeshift
"The pupils are now having potatoes and tea in the morning because there is
no bread to give them. During lunch and supper, unlike in the past, when we
alternated between rice and sadza [thick mealiemeal porridge, a staple
food], and beef or chicken, we have had to resort invariably to the potatoes
and beans," a senior schoolteacher, who declined to be identified, told
The boarding school used to source beef and poultry from local businesses,
but these have stopped since the government enforced price cuts, as
suppliers would have to sell at a loss.
This mirrors action taken by Irvines, the country's largest chicken and egg
producer, which became one of the first companies to stop operations last
week after a hoarde of people, under the protection of police and soldiers,
descended on their outlets and bought cartons of eggs and trolley-loads of
frozen chicken at the government's new reduced prices.
Hunger distracting learners
The Presbyterian school teacher said the institution was considering
approaching freshwater fishermen to sell them their catch as an alternative
source of protein, but it was doubtful whether they had the capacity to
"supply adequate amounts" of fish.
"Morale has evidently gone down, not only among the pupils, but the teachers
and kitchen staff, who have to deal with the unforeseen effects of the
shortages of foodstuffs. It is difficult to teach in such an atmosphere, and
we fear that the pupils might stage a protest," the teacher said.
Onismus Chakanetsa, a parent of a pupil at the nearby Musengezi High school,
told IRIN: "When I visited my daughter recently to find out how she and
others were coping after she complained of a poor diet, I got to learn of
reduced concentration in class and, in some cases, open rebellion, as pupils
deliberately chose not to attend classes."
The school authorities told Chakanetsa, an engineer, that supplies of
cooking oil and sugar were low, and procuring fresh supplies was proving to
be difficult, but he said "there is much irony in it because we are being
asked to top up school fees".
While education facilities are considering additional levies to keep up with
hyperinflation, the official daily newspaper, The Herald, quoted Mugabe as
saying on Wednesday that if the price control taskforce was unable to reduce
school fees, ways would have to be found to regulate or compel schools to
charge reasonable fees.
According to the World Food Programme (WFP), Zimbabwe enjoys an adult
literacy rate of 80 percent, but the country's economic meltdown in recent
years has caused an exodus of teachers seeking better employment
opportunities in neighbouring countries, such as South Africa and Botswana,
or further afield in Britain.
Jameson Timba, chairman of the Association of Trust Schools, which
respresents private schools, told IRIN the food shortages were "something we
would expect to have an adverse impact on schools", although he had yet to
receive complaints from schools belonging to the association. "In our case,
the schools are owned and managed by businesspeople and we would always make
contingent plans to address the problem."
In spite of countrywide shortages of commodities, those with money can still
access what is available on the parallel market, but at much higher prices
than before the crackdown. The poor continue to be affected most acutely.
In Chitungwiza, a dormitory town about 35km from Harare, parents were told
the creche would close in August. "We used to ask parents to buy groceries,
including rice, drinks and toilet paper, which we kept on our premises, but
at the beginning of this month most of them could not find ... [these
items]," Grace Mudiwa, the owner, told IRIN.
Hospitals and clinics running out of food
A kitchen worker at a government hospital in Chitungwiza, who declined to be
identified, said the food shortages were so bad that there were "realistic
chances of starvation" among patients, prompting local musicians to organise
a charity show this weekend to raise funds for the hospital.
"The situation has always been bad, with relatives of patients being asked
to bring food to those in the wards, because of lack of money, but the
shortage of basic commodities has heightened the plight," the hospital
employee told IRIN.
Residents in an old age home in Chitungwiza are being fed only a breakfast
of porridge with a scant sprinkling of sugar. "It is better to die than
experience this kind of hunger," said Adam Joseph, 75. "These days, we are
mainly fed on porridge and, even when we get our sadza, the rations are now
very small; I am always hungry and my cough has worsened."
Mugabe admitted in his speech at the opening of parliament that the
government had been paying lip service to the welfare of old people, and
announced a bill to promote their wellbeing.
With the government adamant that the price blitz would continue until
inflation was arrested, Dan Toole, director of the UN Children's Fund
(UNICEF) emergency programmes in Zimbabwe, said earlier this month the
humanitarian situation would worsen.
"What we know in Zimbabwe is that malnutrition is growing rather radically -
20 percent of the population currently needs food assistance - and that food
assistance is yet to come in ... There is a shortage of medicine; there is a
shortage of doctors and nurses, and thus the healthcare system has been
According to The Herald newspaper, 4,926 businesspeople have been arrested
since the start of Operation Reduce Prices, after they had failed to cut
their prices by 50 percent, and there is an accelerating trend of stores
shutting down, despite the government threatening action against those who
Two of Zimbabwe's largest supermarket chain stores, OK Zimbabwe and Bon
Marche, closed some of their shops last week after being forced by
government officials to cut their prices.
Nhamo Marandu, a spokesman for OK Zimbabwe, told IRIN the shutdown of stores
was a consequence of power outages. "We could not open some of our outlets
because of the ongoing power cuts. We have generators which we could use
but, again, we have no fuel to power the generators."
Other businesses have found various reasons not to open. In Harare's
upmarket First Street area, a sign on one shop reads: "We have gone abroad
for a family wedding."
A senior official of a manufacturing company told IRIN: "Following the
government directive for manufacturers and retailers to halve their prices,
it is no longer viable to run a business in Zimbabwe because of the huge
losses incurred as a result of the order to cut prices."
This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations
26 July 2007
SOUTH African shopkeepers are benefiting from a flood of people crossing the
border to stock up on goods no longer available in crisis-hit Zimbabwe, but
there could be trouble in store on the inflation front.
"We've seen a huge escalation in the number of Zimbabweans in the last four
weeks. The conditions of (supermarkets) over there is shocking," said Pieter
Koekemoer, manager of a supermarket on the Zimbabwe-SA border town of
He said Zimbabweans are coming to Musina to buy basic necessities like rice,
milk, bread and the staple maize meal, and he has had to take on extra staff
to keep up with demand.
What's good for trade in Musina may not be so good for the Reserve Bank as
it struggles to keep a cap on South African inflation. It will add to
red-hot consumer demand which is already being blamed for driving inflation.
This has breached the upper-ceiling of the central bank's 3-6% CPIX target
band for three months in a row.
Statistics show South African spending continues at a brisk pace. Retail
sales for May grew by 9,5% year-on-year from 5,9% in April, appearing to
shrug off 2 percentage points of interest rate increases since June last
Higher borrowing costs have done little to dampen the spending spree and the
Reserve Bank has warned that it will act to rein it in.
The Reserve Bank again lifted rates by 50 basis points 9,5% in June and has
hinted that it may be the start of a fresh monetary tightening cycle. There
may be little the bank can do, though, if a new wave of consumers is helping
to keep South African sales ticking - and may continue to do so for a long
time given the economic troubles of once-thriving Zimbabwe.
It is not just Zimbabweans who are flocking to SA.
"Retailers at the border are reporting up to 75% growth in turnover, their
stock is flying off the shelves," said Munyaradzi Mandizha, editor of a
newly-launched newspaper targeting the cross border trading industry.
"The copper belt in Zambia is booming, and those who would have sourced
their supplies from Zimbabwe are now coming to South Africa. So, we expect
more and more traders to come to here, from as far as Kenya," Mandizha said.
Zimbabwe has been battered by crippling shortages in foreign currency,
petrol and food. Economists put inflation for May at 4,500%.
Research conducted by British-funded ComMark Trust last year found that
cross-border shoppers could be pouring up to R20bn a year into SA's economy,
but industry players say this could be a conservative estimate.
One bus company official said the number of buses ferrying shoppers from
Zimbabwe has doubled in the past year, and the shrinking manufacturing
industry in that country has forced Malawians and Zambians to come further
south for supplies.
Joyce Essel-Mensah, manager of tertiary sectors at Statistics SA, said the
activity in the border towns is just the tip of the iceberg because most
shoppers travel to the financial hub of Johannesburg.
"Most people go up to Johannesburg anyway because it is cheaper. Very few
shop in the border towns," she said.
Analysts said the demand from SA's neighbours could help explain the
strength in retail sales, even though it may not be the main contributor.
"There's bound to be a big impact in some areas, especially the lower end of
the retail market, if you consider that some Zimbabweans in South Africa
have started sending groceries instead of money," said T-Sec economist Mike
Thu 26 Jul 2007, 14:19 GMT
HARARE (Reuters) - A former British special forces officer on Thursday asked
a Zimbabwe high court to quash his extradition to Equatorial Guinea, where
he is charged with plotting to overthrow the oil-rich African nation's
Simon Mann, jailed in Zimbabwe in 2004 for trying to buy weapons without a
licence in a plot against Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema
Mbasogo, said he would be tortured and face an unfair trial if extradited.
A magistrates court ordered that he be returned to Equatorial Guinea after
his release in May, but Mann's lawyer said on Thursday that the lower court
had not considered what he described as compelling evidence during the
"There is no basis for the conclusion that it (the lower court) arrived
at," Jonathan Samkange, Mann's lawyer, told two high court judges during a
hearing in the capital Harare.
"It is my respectful submission that the appeal be allowed and that the
appellant be released immediately," said Samkange, who added that Mann, 54,
was too ill to be extradited. Mann is currently being held at a maximum
State prosecutor Joseph Jagada said there was no reason not to send Mann,
described as the brains behind the coup plot, to Equatorial Guinea.
Prosecutors have said that officials in the central African nation gave
assurances Mann would get justice.
The hearing ended on Thursday without a ruling.
Sixty-six other defendants arrested with Mann after their plane stopped in
Harare served less than one year in jail after pleading guilty to charges of
violating Zimbabwe's immigration and civil aviation laws.
Harare was said to be the first stop en route to the launch of the coup in
Equatorial Guinea, Africa's third biggest oil producer.
Eleven other people, including some foreigners, are serving sentences
ranging from 13 to 34 years in an Equatorial Guinea jail in connection with
the coup plot.
Mark Thatcher, the son of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was
accused of helping to fund the foiled coup and pleaded guilty to taking
part. He avoided jail in a deal with prosecutors in South Africa, where he
Daily Mail, UK
Last updated at 17:55pm on 26th July 2007
The editor of an independent Zimbabwean news service based in South Africa
was in serious condition after being shot in Johannesburg.
ZimOnline said three assailants approached Abel Mutsakani as he parked his
car at his home in western Johannesburg on Monday night. One of the three
pulled a gun and shot Mutsakani, rupturing his lung and leaving a bullet
lodged near his heart.
"He is in a serious but stable condition," said deputy editor Abel
South Africa is notorious for its violent crime, with 19,202 murders and
20,142 attempted murders reported by police last year. Armed robberies and
carjackings are common, with Johannesburg being one of the worst hit cities.
ZimOnline said the motive for the attack was unclear as the assailants fled
without stealing anything.
Johannesburg police have opened an attempted murder investigation.
Mutsakani was the managing editor of Zimbabwe's best-selling daily
newspaper, The Daily News, when it was banned in September 2003 under
Zimbabwe's tough media laws.
Mutsakani moved to Johannesburg and set up ZimOnline with fellow Zimbabwean
journalists, providing often critical coverage of the social and economic
meltdown and political repression in Zimbabwe, where most of the remaining
media is state-controlled.
Scores of journalists have been arrested, threatened and assaulted since
sweeping media curbs were enforced in 2003.
One independent journalist died after allegedly being abducted and assaulted
and a second suffered a broken finger and other injuries after being beaten
in police custody in the wake of a clampdown on pro-democracy activists
earlier this year.
A freelance television cameraman, Edward Chikombo, was found murdered after
he went missing from his Harare home on March 29, although there was no
evidence to prove that authorities were behind his death.
Scores of National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) activists demonstrating for
a people-driven new democratic constitution were arrested in Harare on 25
July 2007 while several others were assaulted by the police leading to the
hospitalisation of the pressure group's National Director Earnest Mudzengi.
Several other arrests were effected throughout the country amid reports
that close to 100 other activists including Mudzengi have been admitted to
hospital following clashes with the police during the demonstrations.
Police have since sealed off the NCA offices in Harare barring members of
staff from entering the premises.
MISA-Zimbabwe could not immediately ascertain the condition of the
hospitalized NCA activists.
MDC PRESS STATEMENT
The National Organizing Secretary for the Youth Assembly of the Mutambara
formation of the MDC, Farai Garanewako and 7 others were this afternoon
arrested in Gweru during a peaceful demonstration for constitutional
reforms. Although the demonstrations were peaceful, information received
indicate that the youths were brutally assaulted by the police before being
bundled into police trucks and taken to various police stations where they
were detained. The demonstrations were organized under the auspices of the
National Constitutional Assembly and our members participated in the
demonstrations in view of our strategic partnership with the NCA in our
struggle for constitutional reforms in the country.
We have said before that the solution to the crisis in our country is not
the arbitrary arrests, torture, brutalization and detention of peace loving
citizens by the police, but the genuine and sincere commitment to addressing
the fundamental socio- economic and political issues that have afflicted our
country over the past seven years as a result of the Mugabe regime's
misrule and corruption which has plunged the country into anarchy and state
sponsored lawlessness. We call on the regime to seriously reflect on the
future of the country and put national interests before self serving
personal egos that will see more Zimbabweans die through starvation, hunger
and diseases because the country is not able to cater for their wellbeing.
It is disturbing to note that only the youths from the MDC formation led by
Professor Mutambara and those from the NCA took part in these noble and
peaceful demonstrations. Is this not the time for all democratic forces in
the country to carry out self introspection and see whether their actions
are adding value to the struggle for justice and peace in the country? It
is equally high time Zimbabweans reject those leaders who are fighting for
personal glory at the expense of the nation.
MDC National Youth Secretary for Information and Publicity
By Violet Gonda
26 July 2007
Elections are due next year and reports of arrests and victimisation of
opponents have started to emerge. The Mutambara MDC reports that their
Secretary for Information and Publicity for the Youth Assembly, Brighton
Chiwola was arrested on Thursday for taking pictures at a voter registration
center in Hatcliffe.
Chiwola is also the personal assistant to the MP for Harare North, Hon Trudy
Stevenson and a resident of Hatcliffe.
The opposition party also echoed complaints from the Zimbabwe Election
Support Network (ZESN) over the way the whole voter registration exercise
has been handled. Commenting on the Hatcliffe incident, the Mutambara MDC
said: "Chaos reigned supreme as hundreds of potential voters who had spent
days in the voter registration queues were jostling to register on the last
day of registration today (Thursday)."
The opposition party said frustrated crowds started pushing and shoving to
try and beat the queue, resulting in riot police being called in. "Elderly
people and young women with children strapped at their backs were thoroughly
beaten up and many suffered bruises as they scurried for safety," the MDC
said in a statement.
It's reported the youth secretary was taking pictures when a member of the
CIO arrested him. His exact whereabouts are unknown.
Gabriel Chaibva, Secretary for Information and Publicity said: "Such action
by the state's security agency, of arbitrary arrests and detention are
reminiscent of apartheid era security operations, where black people were
arrested and detained without trial on mere suspicion of harboring
Meanwhile ZESN issued a statement recently expressing concern over the slow
pace of the voter registration exercise in some parts of the country. The
group said: " In spite of the fact that the exercise has been going on for
the past four weeks most people were still unaware that they could register
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
You might be interested to know that in June my own inflation figure in my
business was 22 000 per cent - up from 14 000 the month before. In July,
after two weeks of mayhem in the retail sector during which I was raided 7
times by the "Task Force" my margins fell by 50 per cent, stock levels
declined and sales fell by about 40 per cent by week two. The butchery
closed and has remained closed because we simply cannot get any meat from
the CSC - the sole supplier. Today we sent our Butchery staff home after
paying them for July, on unpaid leave until we can reopen the Butchery. Most
others are in the same boat.
Our bakery is still functioning but margins have declined, in the case of
bread by more than 50 per cent. Many bakeries are now closed because they
have no fuel to fire the ovens and no fuel to run their trucks. Our problem
is raw materials, we use electricity for power and do not deliver but the
bigger bakeries with automated equipment are in big trouble.
This week we have reports that the regime is commandeering live cattle for
slaughter at CSC works and imposing a price on the cattle. At a communal
sale in the South East the communal farmers selling cattle were forced to
sell at a maximum price of Z$5 million per animal - we were paying in June
up to Z$25 million. The communal farmers protested by were not allowed to
remove their stock from the sale.
There is no chicken or pork on sale today nor any eggs. Suppliers said they
were trying to get some sense out of the authorities with little success.
They hope to resume some sort of supply next week. Manufacturers of all
foods report production levels of 10 to 20 per cent of normal. Vegetable Oil
prices have been increased by 400 per cent but are still below cost, the
same applies to milk and certain other products.
Maize meal, sugar and flour are unobtainable. I was in Zambia on Tuesday and
found markets there full of Zimbabwean foods - all available without
restriction at prices about three times those prevailing in Zimbabwe. Fuel
is completely unavailable - if you can find a back street operator we are
paying about double what we paid before the clamp down on prices (Z$240 000
to Z$400 000).
26th July 2007
Financial Gazette (Harare)
26 July 2007
Posted to the web 26 July 2007
IN recent weeks senior government officials have been outdoing each other to
prove how serious government is with its threat to nationalise businesses
that defy its price reduction directive.
At every available opportunity, President Robert Mugabe, his deputy Joseph
Msika, and several other government ministers have, with repeated abandon,
boasted how government will immediately seize all companies that fail to
heed its order to have prices of goods and services revert to those
obtaining as at June 18, 2007.
Unfortunately, the public media has failed as expected to place these
government threats under scrutiny. In the interests of democracy and good
governance, it is always necessary to thoroughly examine, critique and
expose weaknesses or advantages in any government policy pronouncements.
This is a role that any media which claims to be credible must play without
fear or favour. Such a process is a necessary tenet in any nation that
claims to be democratic and transparent. It is a process that improves
quality of leadership because of the way it puts those in government under a
constant credibility test by exposing their hypocrisy and lies where this is
In so far as government's latest threat to businesses is concerned, there is
evidence especially judged not only from our recent history, but also our
law, together with several other factors, that forcibly taking over
businesses may not be an easy ride after all. Many factors, some legal, some
political and some that are economic pose a huge impediment to any intention
on the part of government to launch another senseless onslaught intended to
dispossess be it industrialists, wholesalers, retailers or other providers
of goods and services.
The major question is who is likely to be the major target for such
government indiscretion. Will it be foreign-owned conglomerates including
those owned by the Chinese, or will this extend even to indigenous
entrepreneurs who in recent years have been beneficiaries of government's
black empowerment programmes? If the intended or threatened nationalisation
is to target indigenous businesses, what effect does that have on the
recently introduced Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Bill?
Talking of foreign-owned businesses; will such a draconian policy not likely
damage permanently the little foreign investment that remains in the
country? What about the effect of such a move on our efforts to capture
direct foreign investment to provide capital to tap our natural resources,
improve infrastructure and boost employment?
To any sane observer, the consequences of such a move are too ghastly to
imagine for they are not just economic, but political and social as well.
Zimbabweans certainly do not need another Chimurenga. More so a Chimurenga
that is violent, anarchic and contemptuous of the rule of law as was the
case with the land invasions -- a situation that will certainly draw the
whole world spotlight to us again.
The negative publicity, the embarrassment and isolation that we have
experienced so far are by themselves too much to bear and we do not deserve
any more of this chaos and pariah status. Any attempt by government to go
ahead with forcible seizures of businesses is certainly going to have many
repercussions across the board thereby worsening our already precarious
economic and socio-political situation.
Talking of law, does government have in place a legal framework that will
enable it to undertake this controversial act of forcible property seizures?
I do not think so. Other than Constitutional Amendment No. 17 that permits
compulsory acquisition of agricultural land, there is presently no enabling
law, be it in the Supreme law itself or any other subsidiary legislation
that permits for compulsory acquisition of private property. However history
has taught us that for political expedience, government can literally go
made and do the unexpected.
The nation witnessed these tendencies when, during the land grab orgy, white
farm owners were dispossessed when there was no sound legal framework in
place. Against such a historical fact that the whole world knows about, the
possibility of our government unleashing renegades to harass, intimidate and
dispossess industrialists, wholesalers or retailers, exists in reality.
Specialist service providers like lawyers, doctors and accountants may
survive such an onslaught simply on the basis of the uniqueness of their
services that cannot be otherwise run by any government-sponsored renegades
In the event that government decides to exercise a semblance of democracy
and legality, they will have to first address the legal question.
Accordingly, the constitution, and particularly the Bill of Rights and its
provisions concerning protection against compulsory deprivation of
privately-owned property might have to be amended. Such an amendment will in
essence have to empower the state to repossess say OK, Delta Corporation,
Anglo-American Corporation and many other businesses of varying sizes and
from various sectors of the economy.
Most importantly, such a law will have to pass the major constitutionality
tests, which is that it must be a law that is in the public interest and
also acceptable in an open and democratic society. Unless, government
otherwise now accepts that ours is an autocratic regime, having that law
pass these tests will not be easily surmountable. Further, passing a
constitutional amendment may not happen overnight. In any event, businesses
will not simply sit back and allow government to pass such a law without
stiff resistance. Furthermore, a majority of parliamentarians who are
capitalists in their own right and who are members of ZANU PF will be
expected to vote in support of such a law. In truth and in reality, these
may never render their weight to a legal instrument that may cause them to
be victims of state orchestrated deprivation. Unless, of course, such a law
is going to be solely crafted for perceived government enemies.
The story does not end there. It is obvious that in one way or another the
Companies Act will also have to be amended to align it with whatever
constitutional amendment government would have put in place. This process
alone is laborious and requires wide legal and non-legal consultation.
My view therefore is that while government may have the ability to
nationalise businesses, there are many factors militating against such a
move. Accordingly, the threat to nationalise may remain just that -- a
threat. Indeed, if government were keen on nationalising, as it claims, the
case of private abattoirs would have presented it with an excellent
opportunity to translate its threat into reality. That government only
revoked licences is confirmation of the hurdles it sees in proceeding with
any compulsory acquisition of business. Rather, what government is capable
of doing is to withdraw licences and indulge in malicious arrests.
Cabinet Ministers, and in particular the Minister of Industry and
International Trade who issues many of these licenses, may abuse his powers
in the manner witnessed with private abattoirs. However, even though this
can be so, affected business can approach the courts for relief. How this
process will save their enterprises is a game of luck since another hurdle;
that of contempt for court orders by government officials is likely to face
lVote Muza is a legal practitioner with Gutu and Chikowero.
Institute for War & Peace Reporting
His intervention results in UN agencies being offered exemption from ban on
purchase of fuel with foreign currency.
By Norman Chitapi in Harare (AR No. 123, 26-July-07)
Zimbabwe's Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono last week intervened to avert a
possible pull-out of United Nations agencies who had threatened to leave the
country because of the government's decision to scrap a scheme which allows
fuel purchases with foreign currency, according to diplomats.
Gono organised a meeting between the UN agencies and President Robert
Mugabe, who reassured them that a particular international fuel procurement
company would be exempt from the ban of July 18 - which removes one of the
last ways available for people to buy fuel, a diplomatic source told IWPR.
"All United Nations agencies - United Nations Development Programme, World
Food Programme, United Nations Children's Fund, World Health Organisation -
wanted to pull out. A meeting had to quickly organised with the president
who reassured them that they would not be affected and would continue to get
their fuel from their suppliers," said the source.
The source added that some embassies were threatening to relocate to South
Africa. "The fuel directive was the last straw. We are already working under
very difficult circumstances," he said.
Zimbabwe has been facing an acute fuel shortage for the past eight years,
part of a wider economic crisis, which many blame on the Mugabe government.
The scheme allowed fuel purchases with foreign currency coupons either from
private oil companies or individual importers. All businesses have now been
ordered to redeem fuel coupons within two weeks.
Diplomats and employees of international aid organisations also rely on the
scheme to purchase fuel.
The government gave no reason for its decision to end the scheme, but has
accused people of buying coupons and reselling them at astronomic prices,
thus contributing to skyrocketing inflation.
The decision follows a June 26 government directive in which Mugabe ordered
retailers to slash prices by 50 per cent to June 18 levels, in a bid to
Gono, whom analysts say is growing increasingly frustrated with government's
ad hoc economic policies, reacted with anger to the announcement that the
fuel scheme would be scrapped.
"Everything needs to be properly dissected, looking at the pros and the cons
so that we do not make rushed decisions," he said.
"We have hindered people from going about their normal business."
The announcement has prompted panic-buying, as motorists scramble to fill up
their vehicles and other containers. Some companies, which already had huge
reserves for their own use and for their employees, brought up to five
210-litre drums to service stations to redeem their coupons.
"This is nothing short of madness," said Nhamo Msando, a motorist at the
Caltex service station in the suburb of Bluffhill, commenting on the huge
containers people were bringing to collect their allocations. "Where are
expected to stock all this fuel?"
"The number 18 will soon become a swear word in Zimbabwe," chipped in
Stephen Moyo, who had three drums on the back of his truck. "On June 18 it
was the price of basic commodities; today it is fuel. What will they have
for us on August 18?"
An owner of a construction company said the fuel move would prove
detrimental to the economy, "I rely on these fuel coupons. I have projects
in Ruwa, Norton and all over Harare. I was so angry when I read the minister's
announcement. Out of everything that has happened, this has angered me the
"How does government expect us to conduct business without fuel? And again,
it has made an announcement before putting in place contingent measures to
ensure that there is a constant supply of the fuel."
A political analyst said the government was leaping from one problem to
another without any idea of what they want to achieve.
"It is a rollercoaster and we are on autopilot. The government cannot hope
for economic recovery through these disruptive measures," he said.
Norman Chitapi is the pseudonym of an IWPR reporter in Zimbabwe.
Financial Gazette (Harare)
26 July 2007
Posted to the web 26 July 2007
WHEN an unauthorised camera invades a bishop's bedroom, as was done in the
case of Archbishop Pius Ncube, we must all be outraged.
It is time to show courage. I am outraged, and all men of goodwill must show
their outrage. If the readers are tempted to laugh at the pornographic
pictures sent all over the world by Zimnews, just think: Who among us is
safe? There is a way in which we can all show our displeasure at this
Delilah-Samson concoction of the state agencies. We should send our
contributions to Tawanda Mutasah, a friend of Archbishop Ncube, a man who
already has shown courage.
I first heard of the story on July 7, a week before the story broke. Mukuru
had joked about the pious priests who say they are holier than others. "We
hear they have girlfriends and have fathered children," was the way the
story was reported here. Apparently, in an unholy rush to publish, nobody
had considered the fact that the scoundrel Tekere had entered into the
Archbishop's inner sanctum without his permission. If the Archbishop's
bedroom can be violated with the connivance of the state, we have nothing
but a lawless state before us. The second issue is the way Zimpapers arrived
at the Bishop's office ahead of the court officials. Then there was the case
of the veritable Delilah confessing everything before state television
cameras. Then there is the outrage of publishing the Archbishop's private
parts and sending these photos around the world. Do these scoundrels have
any limits to what they can do? I shall address this issue below.
Somebody ought to prosecute to the full extent of the law the scoundrel who
broke into the bishop's bedroom and set up camera devices without the
permission of the bishop or a judge.
Let me borrow from a lesson I was taught by Bishop Abel Muzorewa. In his
quiet way, the bishop was referring to the regime that represents
Zimbabweans as a people. He said that the dividing line between humans and
animals is that sense of shame, or normos (Greek for rule). When a person
completely ignores all the rules of the game, he functions outside humanity,
anomie. The government, by orchestrating this matter, completely lost all
the rules of the game. For example, where is the shame, when government
newspapers display indecent pictures in family oriented newspapers? The
editors should have read the little book of ethics journalists keep on their
desks. There are certain things journalists don't do, full stop. The whole
story was unbalanced, being based on evidence orchestrated by the Bishop's
The whole story smells of official misdeeds in pursuit of a personal
vendetta. Readers are not fools, and they as well as anybody else, can
figure out a pre-judicial story orchestrated by state organs. There are
serious moral and legal issues in the way this story was handled by the
The first is the prejudicial involvement of Mukuru, who is head of state.
The state, through the attorney general, should apply the laws of the
country without fear or favour. If however, the state becomes interested in
certain persons and not others involved in the same breaking of laws, that
is called selective enforcement of laws. What is good for the goose is good
for the gander.
The most crucial issue, in my mind, is the lowering of the level of debate
in a society. If the authorities stoop to low down activities, such as
entrapment of citizens and derive great pleasure in spreading pornographic
stuff, our country will be regarded as a joke in the affairs of the world.
Zimbabwe has a record in this regard. By disgracing our leaders and dragging
them through the mud, we disgrace ourselves.
The example often used is when the bailiff confronts a mad man who has
exposed himself. By bringing a blanket to cover the exposed body of the mad
man, the bailiff maintains the high moral ground of the society. If the
bailiff sets out to march him down Main Street in his nudity, the society
would be outraged. Society, feeling that its moral tone had been lowered,
not by the mad man, but the bailiff, would require that the bailiff be
punished for moral insensitivity.
The second issue is that the state is not an anomalous enzyme, fabricating
and subdividing itself in any direction without rules. The state should be
put in its place. There are limits to power.
Lastly, men of goodwill should send a donation for the defence of Archbishop
Ncube to their nearest Catholic Bishop. My donation is in the mail. An
outpouring of support in this way will send a message: Enough is enough.
This is the Zimbabwe we do not want.
Financial Gazette (Harare)
26 July 2007
Posted to the web 26 July 2007
THE cabinet taskforce on pricing and incomes stabilisation has begun
engaging manufacturers who had stopped production due to a clampdown on
industrial operations launched to force prices down.
Sources said the government was growing increasingly agitated by empty
supermarket shelves and was planning to force manufacturers to increase
production ahead of an election next year.
Chairman of the taskforce and Industry and International Trade Minister
Obert Mpofu said the latest engagement with manufacturers was meant to
address the challenges that industry had experienced due to the government
clampdown on industry.
"We have enforcers on the ground who are assessing the situation and they
will make recommendations to the cabinet taskforce. There are various
committees representing various sectors of the industry and they make
reports from time to time on things like the pricing formula which the
businesses were using and what they intend to use," Mpofu said.
The government has threatened to withdraw permits and licences of businesses
found defying the price freeze on products imposed last month.
Most shops are now without most basic commodities such as maize meal, sugar
and salt. Consumers who resorted to a buying spree after the crack unit
descended on market players with its order, forcing all goods in warehouses
into supermarket shelves, are now on a desperate hunt for basic foodstuffs.
Last week President Robert Mugabe accused manufacturers of withholding
products to create artificial shortages and stoke civil unrest.
"They are withholding products, thinking there will be a gnashing of teeth
to force people to revolt against government. It is not our teeth that will
be gnashing, it is theirs," President Mugabe said.
As a result, associations have sounded a warning to their members to take
heed or face the consequences.
The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) has asked its members to
comply with the government decree while awaiting authority to increase the
price of maize meal products.
"In the interim, while awaiting response from government, may all members
operate within the confines of the law. Production must not stop, as the
nation needs us. Any acts of violation will meet equal if not greater
disdain," GMAZ last week wrote to its members.
ZIMBABWE ELECTION SUPPORT NETWORK
Professor Jonathan Moyo (Political Scientist and Independent MP)
Dr Lovemore Madhuku (NCA)
Representative of Law Society of Zimbabwe
Dr Joseph Kurebwa (Political Scientist, University of Zimbabwe)
Mr Noel Kututwa-(ZESN Board Chairperson)
Venue: The Rainbow Room, New Ambassador Hotel
Date: Wednesday 1 August 2007
Admission: Free for all
NB: Please note that this event has been cleared by the police.
BULAWAYO -Water supplies are running out in Bulawayo, where it rains on
average 15 days each year, with residents going for almost two weeks without
the precious liquid.
The five dams that supply the city with water are almost dry, three are
totally empty, two of them are only 10 percent full or empty, and the
supplies are steadily shrinking.
Unless the government builds a pipeline to bring fresh water from the
Zambezi River 200 km to the west, its taps will eventually run dry.
More than 1,5 million people now live in Bulawayo, which was little more
than a sparsely populated city when Zimbabwe gained independence from
Britain in 1980.
The country's second capital was deliberately sited close to the watershed
dividing the headwaters of river tributaries forming part of the Zambezi
River system to the North and the Limpopo River system to the South, which
contains a vast reservoir of fresh water.
Over the past 27 years the tributaries have supplied Bulawayo's inhabitants
with drinking water.
The problem is, Bulawayo was only planned to be a small town of 500,000
inhabitants but growth has been rapid and largely unplanned. It is now five
times larger and the reservoirs supplying it are rapidly drying up.
While water still runs for most of the time in the taps of the wealthy
suburbs, it is in chronically short supply in the dusty shantytowns where
most of Bulawayo's population lives. Successive droughts since the 1992 dry
spell and takeover of water supplies by quasi'government body ZINWA have
destroyed the fragile livelihoods of the marginalized Ndebele people who
form the backbone of Bulawayo's 1,5 million population
Huge areas of shanty dwellings clustered around the second capital have no
running water, no mains electricity and their homes ' built out of wrecked
cars, tyres, cardboard boxes and anything else they could find - have been
wrecked during the brutal army-led Operation Murambatsvina.
Mkhululi, a 28 year old unemployed man who lives in Makokoba, one of the
shanty ghettos of the poor city, is incensed that he has to spend his
limited cash on buying water.
"Buying a bucket of water to wash clothes and for the family to wash is mad,
especially for someone who's unemployed," Mkhululi said.
The irony is that these slum dwellers who are forced to buy water by the
bucket from mule and donkey carts have to pay up to 15 times more for the
life giving liquid than the residents of Bulawayo's middle class suburbs who
enjoy the luxury of uninterrupted piped water.
With residents unable to afford enough water to perform their daily
ablutions, diarrhoea epidemics periodically hit the shanty suburbs. These
can prove fatal for the young and the very old. In certain areas, cholera
The state water company ZINWA only allows water to run through the taps for
two hours each day, if residents are lucky.
Things are so bad in Bulawayo that water has to be transported by water
World Vision Zimbabwe, an international charity organization, has been
helping Bulawayo to sink new boreholes in various ghettos. Water experts
here said to date, a total of 80 boreholes sunk 50 metres deep have been
equipped with hand pumps and an additional 50 are to be equipped with hand
pumps by World Vision Zimbabwe. Another 56 boreholes require to be fitted
with bush pump components.
The government has long lied that the government was moving to draw water
from the Zambezi River in an ambitious project that usually springs up in
the run up to national elections. But nobody here believes the lies
anymore. - Chief reporter
Financial Gazette (Harare)
26 July 2007
Posted to the web 26 July 2007
University of Zimbabwe scientists recently announced a breakthrough in
producing a herbal cocktail remedy, named Gundamiti, which they claim
reduces HIV viral load in a patient's bloodstream by up to 90 percent within
two months of therapy.
Yesterday, the scientists met the public during a discussion forum convened
by SAfAIDS. The forum featured the drug's key researcher, Dr Peter Mashava,
and offered independent scientists an opportunity to provide an objective
critique of Gundamiti. The discussion was also convened to afford people
living with HIV, nutritionists and Aids Service Organisations (ASOs) a space
to seek clarification on the status of Gundamiti as a drug, and its future
in HIV and Aids management in Zimbabwe.
Dr Mashava opened the proceedings by presenting his findings in finer
"Gundamiti is based on three plants," said Dr Mashava.
"These plants have different levels of effectiveness (against HIV) but they
work well in synergy."
Mashava explained the plants had been selected after testing 600 species of
plant in Zimbabwe to see which plant would act against HIV. He also outlined
the methodology that had been used to screen the plants, including liver
function tests, kidney function tests and full blood counts on volunteers
who had participated in the trials.
Mashava also announced that while researching on Gundamiti, his team had
discovered a number of other herbs that can be taken separately by people
living with HIV as a remedy for opportunistic infections such as fever,
diarrhea, swelling of the lymph nodes and herpes zoster.
"They (patients) can take Gundamiti for the virus and other herbs for
opportunistic infections," said the scientist.
To critique the presentation was a fellow scientist at the University of
Zimbabwe, Dr Duri. Dr Duri said he would have wished to see the research
widen its scope and include more standard tests. He singled out the
exclusion of Kaposi's sarcoma from the opportunistic infections cited in the
research as a glaring omission, saying the condition was so prevalent as to
Other members from the medical profession and civil society also gave a
critique of Dr Mashava's findings, with the scientists responding to all
questions one by one.
Lynd Francis from The Centre, renowned for its herbal garden, told the forum
that she had been taking Gundamiti for 12 years. She attested to its
"I know thousands of people who take Gundamiti. You don't need to take ARV's
because you'll be using a holistic approach..." said Francis, a proponent of
a holistic approach to living with HIV, which includes herbal remedies.
Dr Mashava said there were plans to scale up production of Gundamiti, but
the only limiting factor was funding. Mashava has filed a patent for
Gundamiti in the African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation
countries and South Africa. The scientist said he had also initiated contact
with the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe to have Gundamiti
registered as a drug. Gundamiti currently costs $600,000 for a month's
"We are hoping to increase production and provide sufficient Gundamiti to
those who want it," he said.
Financial Gazette (Harare)
26 July 2007
Posted to the web 26 July 2007
WEARY after a demanding day at the office, Netsai Framida, a civil servant,
endures the long and winding queue at a Chicken Inn outlet along Leopold
Takawira Street in Harare.
The weight-conscious lady has always been careful about her diet, but a meat
shortage has forced her and others into resorting to expensive fast foods
cynically described as "junk food".
But her weight is not the biggest worry.
"I have been waiting for my order for the past 50 minutes but I have to wait
because my little daughter is now tired of eating vegetables. At her age she
does not understand why our diet has suddenly changed," Framida said,
talking to a colleague.
Fast food outlets have enjoyed roaring business ever since the government
clampdown on businesses for charging high prices on goods and services and
purportedly stoking runaway inflation.
The reason is that the supermarkets are no longer receiving meat deliveries
from abattoirs who have stopped slaughtering beef because farmers cannot
sell at government-determined prices.
The humming refrigerators that used to stock meat in supermarkets are quiet
For the discerning women, fast food outlets had been the place to avoid:
eating a diet consisting of fast foods, they feared, could cause the
waistline to bulge from the high fat content food.
Moreover, the increased risk of heart disease had been a significant fright
factor to many, let alone the high prices for the food.
But long and winding queues have become the order of the day at most fast
food outlets, with retail giant Innscor Africa's subsidiaries Chicken Inn,
Nandos, Pizza Inn and Steers becoming the most prominently patronised places
ever since the meat shortages hit the market.
The same is common for joints such as Tell Sweet Limited's Panarotti's,
Chicken King, Wimpy, Pedros and several restaurants, which had been deserted
by diners due to exorbitant prices.
The government withdrew operating permits for private abattoirs after they
stopped slaughtering cattle following a freeze on prices imposed by the
government last month.
Chicken, pork and related products have disappeared from retail outlets,
resulting in some of the executives of leading suppliers of the products
such as Colcom, Crest Breeders and Irvines being arrested.
Of late, fast foods were synonymous with a certain class in society such as
the "young and the restless" and the middle-income earners.
"Its not that the prices are cheap or that I can afford it but it's for
convenience's sake. Although meat trickles into the shops, it's difficult
for working people to access as demand is higher than supply," explained
Framida, referring to small supplies from the government-owned Cold Storage
Company (CSC) which has been designated the sole meat supplier to spite the
"uncooperative" private abattoirs.
CSC is now the only abattoir allowed to buy cattle from farmers and sell
them to butchers.
Before the price slashes, two pieces of chicken and chips cost $270 000 and
the price increased to $370 000 at one fast food outlet.
The cost is now $215 000 after the price reductions.
"I can confirm that demand is very high mostly because of our reduced prices
and the shortage of meat in the supermarkets. Our supplier continues to
supply us as before. There are however, fears that the chicken might also
run out. It was fortunate that suppliers had bred a lot of chickens but with
the demand and time required to breed chickens, the hype might soon be
over," said a shop manager at one of the leading fast food outlets who
cannot be named for professional reasons.
The government set the price of beef at $90 000 per kg depending on the
CSC, which plunged into problems as early as 1996 when it started losing its
market share after it was stripped of its monopoly, might experience
problems as farmers have refused to sell their cattle at unviable prices.
A parliamentary taskforce looking into the problems affecting the CSC last
year said that the concern was undercapitalised.
The CSC has been struggling since 2001 when it lost its EU beef quota after
the government failed to control outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease and has
been depending on the central bank for its survival.
SW Radio Africa Transcript
Hot Seat interview : Ozias Tungwarara on SADC talks, constitution and elections
Civic leader Ozias Tungwarara was the guest on Tuesday’s Hot Seat programme with journalist Violet Gonda.
Broadcast on 24th July 2007
Violet Gonda: Ozias Tungwarara is the Director of the Africa Governance Monitoring and Advocacy Project - an Open Society Institute project – and he is the guest on Tuesday’s Hot Seat programme. The human rights lawyer gives us his analysis on regional attitudes to the crisis in Zimbabwe and the status of the talks on Zimbabwe. Mr. Tungwarara has worked on human rights and democracy issues at national, regional and international levels. He was the Executive Director for the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association or ZimRights, the advisor to a SADC regional democracy program and a senior program officer with the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. He recently wrote a commentary entitled: ‘SADC and the AU Decide to Side with Mugabe’, where he said President Thabo Mbeki and other African leaders have conveniently allowed themselves to be confused by justifications that amount to no more than political scapegoats.
Violet: Welcome on the programme Mr Tungwarara.
Ozias Tungwarara: Thank you.
Violet: Can you first of all give us your analysis of the progress of the SADC talks?
Ozias Tungwarara: Violet, it’s difficult at this stage to make useful commentary because, as I think you are aware, the talks have really been under the wraps and the parties that have been involved, namely the two factions of the MDC and ZANU PF have made little public comment. I think there are positive sides to that level of secrecy surrounding a sensitive process such as the talks that are being mediated by President Mbeki. But, there’s also the downside that we don’t exactly know what we will end up with. Whether it will be a compromise of a compromise or it will be a genuine robust solution to the challenges that Zimbabwe currently faces. But, having said that, I think from the outside the major concerns that have been rehearsed over and over again is that there seems to be a very narrow agenda that is being pursued. A narrow agenda that has been focusing on the two main political protagonists; MDC and ZANU PF, and this has a tendency to then exclude the larger part of the Zimbabwean community which I think, legitimately, needs to have a say in what solution is going to end up being the solution that is being agreed on.
Because if we are proceeding from the premise that the mediation, the talks and the solution to the Zimbabwe crisis should install or instill a system of democratic system of governance, then definitely, the principles of popular participation and political equality of all citizens needs to be respected, but at this stage, it’s difficult to conclude that those principles have been taken on board in terms of the processes so far.
In terms of progress, there was a lot of talk that President Mbeki was going to give a report back at the end of June on the sidelines of the AU Summit in Accra. I don’t know whether that happened or whether he still thinks it’s un-strategic to go public at this stage. There’s a lot of anticipation that some progress report is going to be given during the Lusaka SADC Summit, but again, nothing authoritative from the office of the mediator or the South African Presidency that has come through to say this indeed is going to happen. But I think, from the perspective of civil society, from Zimbabwean citizens and all those concerned, the major, major issue is that we are fast running out of time if the elections that have been scheduled for March 2008 are going to take place. I think there is need for a clear road map where people can intervene, where people can contribute, and, I think that would be the way to go to make the mediation effective.
Violet: And you know, as you said, earlier on, the talks are shrouded in secrecy and because of this it has become very difficult to actually get information on the progress. Now, it was reported last week that the talks are actually hanging in the balance over the issue of the constitution, which, as you know, is a key issue on the MDC’s agenda. Now, it’s reported that Mugabe is refusing to negotiate a new constitution and is only prepared to amend the current constitution and that the consensus within the ruling party is that the issue of the constitution should evolve from the parliament and not as part of a SADC initiative. But my question then is if a new constitution is a key issue on the MDC agenda and Mugabe goes through with Amendment number 18, would that be game over for the opposition?
Ozias Tungwarara: No, I’m not sure that it would be game over or it would be the death knell to the process of dialogue because a process of dialogue entails give and take. Again, like I said earlier on, it’s difficult to comment on the level of give and take that is happening because, for one, the agendas are part of the secret process that is going on. So, what we know about the positions that have been put forward is either leaked through the press or what people are speculating may be the key issues. But, back on the question of the constitution. I think the constitution is a central part of the problem of governance in Zimbabwe today. And, I think it would be an obvious thing for the MDC to insist on in terms of the initial issues that for one, brought the MDC into existence; the issue that the MDC has fashioned its democracy struggle around. That is that - we need to mitigate the concentration of power in one institution: the Presidency, which is the case in Zimbabwe. One would assume that that’s an issue that one would want to see mediated around but again, it’s obvious that ZANU PF, in its attempt to retain state power at all cost, will see that as a dramatic erosion of its power base. I mean, an amendment of the constitution in the manner that the pro-democracy forces have been demanding, is essentially to say ‘let’s spread around the centers of power which would leave ZANU PF and ZANU PF government very vulnerable in the context of political contestation. So, yes, I think that’s an issue that is going to dominate the discussion spectrum, and, again, this is all that we can speculate, that it will depend on what give and takes are going to be negotiated. And, I don’t think, if ZANU PF for instance, refuse to budge on that issue that will be the end of the talks. Because, I think that other arrangements could be made. For instance, where people go into elections under a transitory or a transitional arrangement and then a constitution is developed after; that’s another option. So, at this stage, I don’t think we should close options basically on the single issue of the constitution.
Violet: But, the MDC had said in the past, that it will only contest or participate in the election if there is a new constitution that will pave the way for free and fair elections. Now, SADC cannot insist on a new constitution and Mugabe has made it clear; in the last few weeks he told supporters that the constitution that Zimbabwe has already is perfectly OK and it serves Zimbabwe well. Now, do you think the opposition should participate in the elections next year even without a new constitution?
Ozias Tungwarara: I think the issue you raise Violet, needs to be looked at in the context of what has happened in Zimbabwe in the past, regarding political contestation and particularly, electoral contests. And, this is that the process has been badly managed in terms of starting right from delimitation, going on to voter registration, going on to issues like the campaigns which have been fraught with violence. My personal view is that what we are seeing on the ground now; in terms of the behavior and attitude of the ZANU PF government; nothing has changed. And, my position would be that it would be futile to go into an election for the sake of wanting to retain whatever small political space there is, because, the same result that we saw in 2000, in 2002 and in 2005, is the same result if the current conditions are maintained. And, there’s nothing to indicate; unless something dramatic happens probably out of the economic meltdown that we are seeing; that the ZANU PF government runs out of resources for political patronage and completely fails to maintain the level of violence that it has maintained in the past. For me, nothing is going to change come March 2008 unless there are specific commitments that are made either in the context of the mediation or by ZANU PF itself coming to its senses that the people of Zimbabwe have suffered enough.
Violet: And, you know, going back to the issue of the mediation, clearly, everyone can see that things are not well in South Africa. You know, we’ve heard reports of ZANU PF not turning up to meetings and Mugabe making his stance very clear, showing that he is not interested in the constitution. And, even this issue of the secrecy behind the talks, others say that Thabo Mbeki put these conditions most likely on the prompting of Robert Mugabe, which clearly shows that Mugabe is in control. Now, do you think Mbeki’s strategy has changed and is it Robert Mugabe who is letting him down this time?
Ozias Tungwarara: Ya, again I think you need to look at the track record of the actors involved in all this. Particularly, those of President Thabo Mbeki and President Mugabe. President Mugabe has gone back on his word on a number of occasions. We remember the agreement that had been cobbled together in Abuja in order to resolve the land issue that leaders like Mbeki and Obasanjo had managed to push through to reach a settlement in resolving the crisis when it was actually beginning to unfold. And, President Mugabe and his government reneged on that agreement. There are other commitments that have been made in the past where they have again gone back. And, when you look at President Thabo Mbeki’s track record in handling the Zimbabwean issue, I think the centerpiece of his approach has been quiet diplomacy which refrains from making public criticism of the excesses that the ZANU PF government is engaging in. There are merits and de-merits to that sort of approach. But I think, largely, to a Zimbabwean citizen, to a lot of people in the region, the quiet diplomacy approach has not produced tangible results in terms of transforming the Zimbabwean crisis, or resolving the Zimbabwean crisis.
And, on several occasions again, President Thabo Mbeki has made some comments, remarks, reactions that actually defy a lot of logic. For instance, he recognized I think the 2000, 2002, 2005 elections in Zimbabwe as legitimate whereas there was tangible evidence that had been brought to his attention that things were irregular, they had not been conducted in any way that gave people the vote or the opportunity to choose, and yet he decided to take the route that they had been legitimate. So, that casts a bit of a cloud over his ability and commitment to actually resolve the Zimbabwean crisis in an objective manner. I think, on several occasions as well, he has indicated to world leaders; at one time it was to President Bush when he visited South Africa, the other time it was to the former German Chancellor, where he said he had the resolution of the Zimbabwean crisis almost in hand and then it turned out that nothing of that sort was happening. So, a lot of outsiders, people who are not privy to the process, are looking at the mediation process with a lot of skepticism because of what has happened in the past which has not built any confidence. Similar confidence and energy and urgency that was evident in the DRC mediation process, for instance, the Burundi process and other processes that Mbeki has been involved in. In Zimbabwe, people tend to think that Mbeki is definitely taking sides with President Mugabe. So, it’s difficult to have a high level of confidence that the mediation will actually result in a tangible resolution of the crisis.
Violet: Is that what you meant when you said, in your article, that African leaders including President Thabo Mbeki had conveniently allowed themselves to be confused by justifications that amount to no more than political scapegoats?
Ozias Tungwarara: Yes definitely, I think the writing is on the wall for all to see, that you don’t need to murder your country men, you don’t need to torture your countrymen, your sons and daughters, in order to distribute land. And yet, when the issue of Zimbabwe appears on the agenda of SADC and the AU, there is a convenient blinding to the very graphic information and reports that have been tabulated and made available to the leadership about the horrific suffering that Zimbabwean citizens have had to go through; people having electrodes attached to their private parts; people being tortured to death; people being petrol bombed. All that is there for everyone to see. And yet, conveniently, when the discussion comes up, people say that it’s a dispute between Britain and Zimbabwe. We say; ‘please people give us a break.’ If they were sincere in terms of siding with the Zimbabwean people, they would not allow what is happening in Zimbabwe at the level of human torture to take place.
Violet: But what can the regional leaders do?
Ozias Tungwarara: I think the regional leaders need to break the notion of pious solidarity which is based on an out-dated notion of national sovereignty and realize that there is no way that, single-handedly, a land-locked developing country can actually fight the war against global apartheid. I think they need to realize this and realize that what Zimbabwe is doing is actually undermining their collective effort to address the issue of the marginalization of Africa. And the sort of behavior that Zimbabwe and Zimbabwean leaders have embarked upon is counter-productive to the notion of Pan Africanism. So, what they need to do is to be bold enough to sacrifice some of the convenient comforts that they enjoy by not publicly criticizing Zimbabwe’s conduct, and coming out and breaking ranks and saying that ‘this is where the bus stops, this is where the buck stops, this is the conduct that within the SADC instruments, the AU instruments around democracy and governance, these are the standards that we have set and we need now to seriously comply by these standards, otherwise all that we are doing around regional collaboration, around continental collaboration, is only but rhetoric. So the thing is, they need to take the bold step to say clearly that Zimbabwe has breached standards of human rights, to say that this is unacceptable to the regional and continental collective and that unless Zimbabwe takes steps that they outline to address those shortcomings then Zimbabwe should be ostracized from the region and continental community.
Violet: But, what would it take, I’m sorry to go back to the same issue, but, what would it take for the African leaders to take that bold step? Because, if you look at the economic crisis right now, it’s widely believed that government policies are killing the economy and government is taking businesses that are protected by bilateral protection of property agreements and that the region has done nothing about this and yet the region will be affected by these bad policies. So why is it they can’t even take bold steps on this particular issue?
Ozias Tungwarara: I think the problem, Violet, that we largely face when we look at the regional and continental political architecture is that most of the nation states have been captured by the political elite which is not accountable to anyone back home. So, if these leaders when they go out and hold the summits that they do, if they were to come back and actually be accountable to their parliament in terms of what policies they should adopt regarding Zimbabwe, and listen to those advices from say legislature, civil society, opposition political parties players and other players at the national level, I’m sure that they would come to their senses and realize that the track that they have embarked on - of largely siding and silently applauding Mugabe and his actions, are not in line with what the majority of people at the national level actually believe in. And so, what I am saying is that we find that the dominant executive that comprises the regional and continental forum, is largely not listening to the common sense and reasoning that is coming from the majority of their people.
And, I think we probably need to build that
pressure to a level where it is impossible for President Mbeki to come and
continue with his policies without the South African parliament actually coming
up and raising its voice that South Africa needs to take certain visible and
tangible action. And, the same could be done in Namibia, the same could be done
in Botswana, Zambia and so on. A few of the leaders have tried to come up but
probably they are not strategic powerhouses when it comes to regional and
continental politics. So, I think, as civil society, we may want to devote our
energies to create that popular constituency at the national level that will
bring these leaders to really begin to break ranks and to realize what is
happening in Zimbabwe should not be allowed
Violet: And of course there are others who say there is too much talk about the crisis and not enough action. And, it’s said that external pressure is no substitute for the efforts of Zimbabweans. What can Zimbabweans do for themselves?
Ozias Tungwarara: Yes, you are right, the solution about the crisis of governance that we face in Zimbabwe today will ultimately have to be determined by Zimbabweans themselves. But, let’s be realistic, this crisis has gone on for now close to seven years and a lot of Zimbabweans have left the country. A lot of Zimbabweans who remain in the country are solely concerned about issues of survival. The capacity of the opposition political parties that remain in the country, the pro-democracy forces that remain in the country, has been depleted seriously through the high levels of repression that you and I know are pertaining in Zimbabwe. So, we need not simply focus on the solution coming from the inside. I think we need to be realistic, even during the struggle for independence, what forced the issues was the pressure that came from the outside in terms of the combatants who fought the wars of Chimurenga because they had then created space in the friendly neighboring countries that supported our cause. So, I think at this stage, what is important, is to take those strategic choices and decisions that actually maximize the strength of pro-democracy forces in Zimbabwe and not necessarily limit it to the very restrained, constrained environment that Zimbabwe represents today.
Violet: And you know, on the issue of the opposition itself, do you think there needs to be some kind of truth speaking in terms of the MDC because some say it has invested its soul, you know, it’s spirit and work in the talks and seems to have no other political answers. Is the opposition backed into a corner here?
Ozias Tungwarara: I wouldn’t necessarily say they are backed into a corner. I would say they are operating in an extremely difficult environment and I think I would start off by giving credit to colleagues who have been in that struggle for as long as it has taken to be where they are and have stayed the course. And, again, when you look at issues around political formation, around political engagement, I think it’s a terrain that is fluid and shifts. Whereas most of us, at least looking from the outside, would be keen to see a united force moving forward that maximizes on the energies and strengths of those who are fighting for the restoration of democracy in Zimbabwe, I think we need to deal with reality that the differences have to be worked on. I don’t think it should be something that is superficially fostered on people who may not find the need to unite, even if the logic is staring us in the face that at this point in time we need to close ranks and unite. But, I think that it’s a process, it’s a thing that those involved, those who want to assist should work on. And, I think that we should not come up with instant-coffee solutions because it’s those guys that have been in that struggle who know where they have come from and what are the differences that are currently militating against them coming together in a untied force; a logical thing that all of us see. And, like I said, I think that they are operating in very suspicious, very constrained, very dangerous environments where, I think, levels of trust and confidence need to be delicately worked at. Whatever comes up as a unifying factor needs to be solidly grounded so that people don’t again fragment at a crucial stage of the democratic struggle.
Violet Gonda: I have to end here but thank you very much, Mr Ozias Tungwarara.
Ozias Tungwarara: Thank you Violet.
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