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Tsvangirai meets Generals in groundbreaking meeting

By Tichaona Sibanda
30 July 2009

The Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and the country's powerful service
chiefs met on Thursday in Harare, the first such meeting at the highest
political level since the formation of the inclusive government.
A highly placed source in government told us the two hour meeting, which was
chaired by Robert Mugabe was 'very cordial.'
Up until Thursday, there has been fierce resistance to the formal
constituting of the National Security Council (NSC) among the service
chiefs, who see the establishment of the new security organ as a threat to
their hitherto unchallenged power.
Dismissing advance predictions that the meeting would be confrontational or
tense, our source told us the meeting was 'very good,' and that Tsvangirai
and the service chiefs joked with each other after the meeting.
Minister of State for Security Sydney Sekeramayi said the meeting was warm,
cordial and inclusive, and placed national interests ahead of everything
else, which was the point of convergence for all participants.
In a statement Sekeramayi said the central theme of the meeting was the
common need for Zimbabwe to have peace in order to create a conducive
environment for economic development.
The NSC replaces the shadowy Joint Operations Command (JOC), a committee of
the security chiefs said by analysts to be the real power behind Mugabe.
Parliament passed the National Security Council Bill in February, which
analysts believe once it's up and running will tame the excesses of the
country's security forces.
A retired army colonel told us the service chiefs stand to benefit more if
they work with the inclusive government. More importantly, added the
colonel, as the relationship between Tsvangirai and the Service Chiefs
improves so will their hold on power loosen.
"Today was an informal meeting, but I bet as they meet more frequently the
issues of violence, the past and their immunity will be brought up in future
meetings,' the Colonel said.
The NSC consists of Mugabe as Chairperson, his two deputies Joice Mujuru and
Joseph Msika, Tsvangirai and his deputies Arthur Mutambara and Thokozani
Khupe, Finance Minister Tendai Biti, Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa,
Security Minister Sydney Sekeramayi and the two Home Affairs Ministers Giles
Mutsekwa and Kembo Mohadi.
Significantly, the service chiefs are relegated to the role of ex-officio
members of the council. The service chiefs are Zimbabwe Defence Forces
Commander General Constantine Chiwenga, army Commander Lt Gen Phillip
Sibanda, Air Marshall Perence Shiri and Commissioner-General of Police,
Augustine Chihuri.
Commissioner of Prisons Retired Major-General Paradzai Zimondi and the
Director-General of the Central Intelligence Organisation, Happyton
Bonyongwe, also sit on the council.

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Generals 'not obliged' to salute Tsvangirai

By KITSEPILE NYATHI, NATION CorrespondentPosted Thursday, July 30 2009 at


Zimbabwe's Defence Minister says army generals are not obliged to salute
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai despite the power sharing agreement with
President Robert Mugabe.

The generals who include army commander General Constantine Chiwenga, police
chief Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri and air force commander Air
Vice Marshal Perence Shiri have been avoiding an encounter with the Prime
Minister since he agreed to join the unity government in February.

According to the September 15 power sharing agreement, Mr Mugabe and Mr
Tsvangirai share executive powers putting them at par.

But there are persistent rumours that the generals who were reported to have
seized control of all government operations when Zimbabwe ran without a
government for most of last year after disputed elections, are opposed to
the coalition.

Not legally obliged

Defence Minister, Mr Emmerson Mnangagwa, a strong ally of President Mugabe
told parliament the service chiefs were not legally obliged to salute any
person outside their military structures.

But he said there might be a moral obligation to salute senior civilians in
the country, which includes the Prime Minister.

He was responding to a question from an MP from Mr Tsvangirai's party on why
service chiefs had not attended the Prime Minister's swearing in and whether
they would salute him.

Mr Mnangagwa said President Mugabe was being saluted by service chiefs and
their subordinates because he was the commander in chief of the army.

"There are two positions: the legal and the civil position. At law, no
officer will commit any offence for not saluting a person who is not in the
military structure, but morally they should salute senior members of
society," he said. Zimbabwe's uncomfortable coalition has been rocked by
power struggles from the day it was inaugurated.

Last week, Mr Mugabe's loyalists accused Mr Tsvangirai of trying to usurp
the veteran leader's powers by trying to change rules guiding operations of

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Zimbabwe gems classed as 'blood diamonds'

Diamonds exported from Zimbabwe should be classed as "blood diamonds" and
banned because of Robert Mugabe's human rights abuses, according to
international inspectors.

By Peta Thornycroft in Harare And Sebastien Berger
Published: 6:34PM BST 30 Jul 2009

Monitors from the Kimberley Process, the international watchdog set up to
monitor the trade, made the recommendation to the scheme's bosses after
visiting the country earlier this month.

They focused on the Marange diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe, where mining
is controlled by the country's military and police, and around 200
independent miners were massacred last year.

Mr Mugabe's regime uses the profits from the area to buy the loyalty of
police and military commanders and units, according to a report by Human
Rights Watch earlier this year.

In the Kimberley Process monitors' interim report, obtained by the Daily
Telegraph, they say: "Violence undertaken by the Zimbabwe Republic Police
and Zimbabwe National Army in removing illegal panners and then attempting
to maintain control of the area is unacceptable within the Kimberley process

The team was headed by a Liberian deputy minister, and their conclusions are
the strongest condemnation yet of Mr Mugabe's regime by an African-led
international mission.

They have recommend suspension of Zimbabwe from the Kimberley Process
Certification Scheme for "at least six months, but until such time as the KP
team determines that minimum standards have been met", adding that the area
must be "demilitarised" and adequate security installed.

The move would make Zimbabwe only the third country ever to be suspended
under the Kimberley scheme after Ivory Coast and Congo-Brazzaville.

Blocking exports will be a major blow to Mr Mugabe's efforts to retain the
support of the military commanders who are still key to the country's
future, despite the formation of the unity government with the former
opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

Abuses in the Marange area, in Chiadzwa district, are still continuing - a
traditional leader was forcibly evicted from his home this week for having
co-operated with the inspectors.

Chief Newman Chiadzwa, 54, said police and soldiers forced him and his wife
to leave.

"First they took the vehicles, now the rest of my goods," he said. "They
told me that I had to go because I co-operated with the Kimberley Process.
Now there will be no one to protect people in the area."

Zimbabwe's security services have denied any violence has taken place in the
diamond fields.

The campaign group Global Witness welcomed the recommendations, but added
that there were still several steps to go through before a ban was imposed,
and that there was a risk smuggling, which is already rife, would increase.

"There are a lot of vested interests in the senior levels of the Zimbabwe
government in these diamond fields," said its campaigner Elly Harrowell. "We
need neighbouring countries, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana to take a
strong stance on this."

Kimberley Process was set up after trading in conflict diamonds fuelled and
funded staggeringly brutal civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone in the

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Suspending diamond trade will "worsen things"

Business News
Jul 30, 2009, 12:53 GMT

Harare - The Zimbabwean government said Thursday its suspension from the
rough diamond trade, as called for by a watchdog body fighting trade in
so-called conflict diamonds, would 'not solve anything' and would only
'worsen things.'

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), a 49-member body
representing 75 diamond-producing countries, visited Zimbabwe earlier this
month to inspect allegations of gross human rights abuses by the military in
the eastern Marange diamond fields.

In its interim report, the Process recommended Zimbabwe be suspended from
trade in rough diamonds among KPCS members for at least six months, until
better controls on the diamond trade were in place, Zimbabwe's
state-controlled Herald newspaper reported.

Kimberley Process members account for 99.8 per cent of global diamond

Reacting to the threat of suspension, Mines Minister Obert Mpofu told the
German Press Agency dpa: 'It - suspension - will not solve anything. The
country needs money and exports of diamonds would have helped a lot. It will
only worsen things.'

The report's conclusion was 'confrontational,' he said, adding the
government had not had enough time to act on the team's first
recommendations after its visit, when it called for the military to be
immediately withdrawn from Marange.

The government at the time agreed to comply, but said the withdrawal would
only be carried out on a phased basis until the Marange area, site of a
diamond rush since 2006, were properly secured.

The Herald quoted the Kimberley team as recommending the 'initiation of
procedure to implement suspension of Zimbabwe from importing or exporting of
rough diamonds within the KPCS for a period of at least six months, but
until such time as a KP team determines that minimum standards have been

Human Rights Watch, in a report in June, accused the military of killing
scores of wildcat diamond diggers during a crackdown on illegal mining in
the Chiadzwa fields in Marange late last year and says members of the
military are now lining their pockets with the gems, robbing the
cash-strapped government of much-needed revenue.

HRW and other groups have been calling for the definition of conflict
diamonds - diamonds that pay for conflicts - to be expanded to include
diamonds mined in conditions of gross rights abuses.

The government says there were 'no killings' in Marange.

During their visit the Kimberley Process team met with diamond diggers,
their families, local residents, politicians and human rights activists.

Team leader Kpandel Fiya, Liberia's deputy minister of mines, was reported
by several media as later telling Mpofu in a report the team had noted
'unacceptable and horrific violence against civilians by authorities in and
around Chiadzwa.'

The team had documented 'wounds, scars from dog bites and batons, tears, and
ongoing psychological trauma,' Fiya had said drawing comparisons with
Liberia, where diamonds fuelled a 15-year civil war.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti, of the former opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC), had pleaded with the Process to give Zimbabwe more
time to put in place proper controls before taking action.

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Zimbabwe: The price of reconciliation
Thursday, 30 July 2009 13:15 UK

Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai
Some Zimbabweans remain sceptical about the 'unity' government

By Andrew Harding
BBC News, Harare

As Zimbabwe launches a debate about "national healing" after years of political violence, the country's prime minister has told the BBC that those found responsible for a wave of killings and torture should "not necessarily" be sent to jail.

At the same time, some victims have expressed concern they will never see justice or compensation.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was speaking in Harare where the new unity government has just unveiled an "Organ for National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration" or ONHRI.

They wanted to silence me at all costs
Josphat Chidindi
MDC activist


Mr Tsvangirai, who has himself been severely beaten by members of President Robert Mugabe's security forces, stressed that he was "not just saying - forgive, heal and reconcile".

But he said "justice needs forgiveness… and if we do retributive justice, the danger is that we may slide back" towards violence.

What reconciliation?

John Nkomo, a senior figure in Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF, and chairman of ONHRI, said that "anyone who has broken the law should be put on trial".

But he also argued against a rush to judgment.

"Yes, people were killed; yes, people fight; yes, they may still be fighting, but… this nation is going through a process and these tensions, unless properly managed, could create more tensions for us and we don't want that."

Emmanuel Chiroto
Emmanuel Chiroto says the people who killed his wife are still at large

None of this seems likely to reassure Emmanuel Chiroto.

One year ago, a group of Zanu-PF militia abducted his wife, Abigail, from their home on the edge of Harare.

Mr Chiroto, an MDC activist, had just been elected the city's deputy mayor. His wife's badly beaten body was found on a roadside soon afterwards.

"I've got the names of six people responsible," said Mr Chiroto, wandering round the ruins of his home, which was firebombed during the attack.

"They live round here. I see them often. But none of them have even been picked up for questioning."

Last week he says he received two threatening phone calls from a male voice saying: "You're forgetting what happened to your wife. Our intention was to kill you."

"We're told things are changing," Mr Chiroto said. "The unity government is in place. But personally I find it very difficult to forgive people who are still boasting about it."

Our presence in Zimbabwe this week, is a welcome, constructive, and important first step
Jon Williams
BBC world news editor

Another MDC activist, Josphat Chidindi, was attacked with an axe on 25 June this year by two men who, he says, were the same Zanu-PF militants who had nearly killed him a year earlier.

His right arm was nearly severed and remains heavily bandaged.

"They wanted to silence me at all costs," he said, dismissing talk of reconciliation in Zimbabwe as "nonsense".

"I want these men to face trial, but I don't think justice will be done as long as Zanu-PF is part of this inclusive government… There is no future to talk about," he said.

Many human rights activists also appear to be sceptical about ONHRI's work.

Maria Mache, from the Crisis Coalition, dismissed it as "a farce".

"We want the perpetrators of violence, those who abducted others, who did so many atrocities in Zimbabwe to be brought to book. We can't talk about reconciliation until there has been transitional justice," she said.

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Zim's Daily News receives govt licence

JASON MOYO | HARARE, ZIMBABWE - Jul 30 2009 17:52

Zimbabwe's banned independent Daily News has been licensed, in a develoment
that will be seen as a major step towards reform in the country.

The newspaper and its sister paper, the Daily News on Sunday, were banned in
2003 after refusing to register under the country's repressive media laws.
But a high court later ruled that the government reconsider a fresh
application from the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), publishers of
the papers.

A special committee set up by the government to hear the application on
Thursday wrote to ANZ to inform them that their application had been

"This letter serves to advise you that your application for registration as
a mass media service provider was successful. The special board committee
mandated by the then minister of information to adjudicate on your
application is satisfied that you have complied with the provisions of the
Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA)," Edward Dube,
head of the committee writes.

ANZ, Dube says, "is therefore advised to contact the relevant authority for
their licence".

Dube has also written a separate letter to the Ministry of Information
informing the government of his decision.

There was no immediate comment from the ministry as to whether the paper
would in fact be allowed to operate.

Under consitutional amendments agreed as part of the formation of the unity
government, the Media and Information Commission, the body that was
previously tasked with licensing media in Zimbabwe, is to be replaced by a
new commission jointly appointed by the parties to the government.

Media freedom is a key condition by Western governments, who have held back
crucial aid until more reform is seen. This week, the BBC and CNN were
allowed to report from inside Zimbabwe for the first time in eight years.

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Campaign to prevent mass Harare evictions to get underway

By Alex Bell
30 July 2009

A campaign to prevent the threatened mass evictions of thousands of people
in Harare is set to get under way this week, after the Combined Harare
Residents Association (CHRA) and other key stakeholders came together
against the planned action.
The groups, including the Zimbabwe chapter of rights group Amnesty
International have objected strongly to the plans by the Harare City Council
to carry out forced evictions of people in informal settlements around the
city. The pending evictions have generated restlessness and panic among
residents of Harare who feel that the move is unfair and violates residents'
right to shelter.  Last week, Amnesty International expressed concern for
the estimated 200 people in an informal settlement in Gunhill, and thousands
of informal traders across the city that are being targeted for evictions.
Amnesty explained that most of the people being targeted were already
victims of 2005's 'Operation Murambatsvina'.
"Four years on, the authorities have failed to provide an effective remedy
to the victims, and as a result many continue to be at risk of being
forcibly removed from both their homes and their informal businesses,"
Amnesty said.
 Earlier this month the Deputy Mayor of the Harare city council stated that
the city authorities had considered evicting people from 'illegal
settlements and market places to restore order.' The Deputy Mayor claimed
that the targeted people were posing a health hazard and violating city
CHRA's Chairman Simbarashe Moyo on Thursday said 'the most worrying issue'
is that contrary to the arguments regarding health hazards, which the group
said is 'reasonable' in the light of the recent cholera outbreak, there is
no clear plan of resettlement of the affected people in compliance with
international norms on evictions. Moyo added that there has been a total
absence of consultations and agreed solutions with the members affected, and
the evictions are coming as mere directives.
"Effectively, this is a disregard for human rights," the CHRA official said
Moyo continued that the association has received reliable information that
the City of Harare has not made any plans for alternative accommodation for
the affected residents.
"One of the Harare City Councilors only highlighted that the settlers might
be put at Caledonia Farm in Mabvuku, a place that neither has sanitary
facilities nor readily built houses," Moyo explained.
He continued that, if the city intends to go ahead with the evictions, it
must at the very least give three months notice to the traders affected, and
the city must make suitable alternative arrangements for the evictees.
In this regard, representatives from CHRA, Amnesty International, the
Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Traders Association, the Zimbabwe Congress of
Trade Unions (ZCTU), the Zimbabwe Chamber of Cooperative Housing, and
representatives from the Gunhill settlements and Newlands Arts and Crafts
met to deliberate on the issue and came up with a strategic campaign against
the threats.  The strategy will include an aggressive media campaign through
opinion letters and alerts, as well as letters of petition addressed to the
Ministry of Local Government, Harare Councilors and Parliamentarians.
A meeting is also set to go ahead with the city's Mayor and his deputy next
Wednesday to discuss the issue.

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Important Notice to residents who have received letters of final demand

CNewLog2145 Robert Mugabe Way, Exploration House, Third Floor; Website:

Contacts: Mobile: 0912 653 074, 0913 042 981, 011862012 or email,,



Important Notice to residents who have received letters of final demand

30 July 2009


Following the City of Harare’s move to threaten residents who have failed to pay bills with legal action, the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) has approached its partners; the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) to get advice on how best this issue can be dealt with.


We would like to advise all residents who have received such letters to please bring copies to our offices in the city centre so that they can be forwarded to the lawyers in preparation for possible legal proceedings. Meanwhile, ZLHR is drafting a standard letter in response to the final demand letters and CHRA will do mass production of the letter for distribution to residents. Four copies will be produced for each complainant; one will be submitted to the City of Harare, one to the Ministry of Local Government, One to ZLHR and CHRA will retain the other copy for its records.

Meanwhile, residents should not pay money for services that they have not received. The following reasons have been put forward in support of this position;

·  The Council has breached its implied contract with residents whereupon Council has failed to provide services that are commensurate with the charged rates.

·  The rates that are being charged by the Council are not affordable to residents

·  Residents are entitled at law and have a legal right to administrative action that is lawful, reasonable and fair. The City Council’s billing system is highly inconsistent and this has resulted in residents being unfairly charged exorbitant amounts of money.


CHRA will continue to fight for the residents’ cause and advocate for good, transparent and accountable governance as well as lobbying for quality and affordable municipal (and other) services on a non partisan basis.


CHRA Information, making the implicit, explicit

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MDC Minister accused of cell phone theft appears in court

By Violet Gonda
30 July 2009

Harare Magistrate Kudakwashe Njerambini reserved a bail ruling for MDC-T
national youth Chairman and Deputy Youth Minister Thamsanqa Mahlangu to
Friday. The official, who was arrested for allegedly stealing a mobile phone
belonging to war veteran leader Joseph Chinotimba, appeared in court on
Thursday with his co-accused personal assistant Malvern Chidamoyo. The two,
who were arrested on Tuesday, are being charged with theft.
Prosecutor Chris Mutangadura opposed their bail stating that the Deputy
Minister is likely to run away because of the embarrassing nature of the
trial. However Defence lawyer Charles Kwaramba is arguing that the Deputy
Minister is not likely to run away from an offence which, if convicted, he'd
likely face an option of a fine or pay twice the value of the item that was
allegedly stolen. The lawyer's argument is that if his client was convicted
he is not likely to face imprisonment saying the cell phone in question cost
less than US$5 or five loaves of bread. He said this was not an inducement
for running away.
Kwaramba told SW Radio Africa on Thursday: "Will a Minister run away from
his Ministerial responsibilities? Would he run away from being a legislator
from Nkulumane? Would he run away from his family so as to run away from
this offence, which at face value would not lead to anything drastic if the
correct things are done in court?"
Mahlangu is accused of stealing Chinotimba's phone at a conference in Harare
two weeks ago. Two women, who were arrested last week in connection with the
alleged theft, will reappear in court for their bail ruling on Friday.
The Deputy Youth Minister's lawyer confirmed that his client handed over the
phone to his boss ZANU PF's Saviour Kasukuwere a few days after the issue
arose, and after the two women linked to the alleged theft had been
Kwaramba said Mahlangu didn't want the Minister to hear about the matter
through rumours, but he wanted to report to him what actually transpired.
When asked why Mahlangu didn't hand in the phone to conference organisers
when it first came into his possession, the lawyer responded by saying, "it
is a long and complicated matter that would be cleared in court."
Meanwhile, Chinotimba has filed a civil claim against the Deputy Minister
and his three co-accused persons to the tune of US$19.5million, for loss of
business. The defence lawyer said he will respond to the summons, and
maintains the self styled war veteran is 'playing to the gallery' and trying
to humiliate his client.
While the outcome of the case against the MDC official is before the courts,
some observers say whatever the merits of this case ZANU PF as a party has a
record of dubiously manipulating events for their political ends. Whatever
the facts might be in this case ZANU PF is likely to capitalise on it to
advance its quest for parliamentary majority despite a clear selective
application of the law.

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MDC MP Meke Makuyana released from jail on bail

By Tichaona Sibanda
30 July 2009

MDC MP for Chipinge South Meke Makuyana who was earlier this month sentenced
to 18 months in jail after being found guilty of kidnapping was on Thursday
released on $100 bail.
Pishai Muchauraya, the MDC spokesman for Manicaland province told us
Makuyana denies the charges and has since appealed against both conviction
and sentence.
The Chipinge South legislator was sent to prison for kidnapping two ZANU PF
supporters in the run-up to the 2008 harmonised elections. Chipinge
provincial Magistrate Samuel Zuze convicted Makuyana, along with Councillor
Chisumbanje Hardwork Masaiti, and two MDC-T party supporters Wedzerayi
Gwenzi and Simon Chaya, after a full trial.
The four pleaded not guilty. Meanwhile, police in Mutare have arrested and
detained Jack Robert Saunyama the MDC-T Provincial Security Officer.
Muchauraya said Saunyama is being accused of having committed crimes to do
with 'public violence,' saying it was easier for the ZANU PF led courts to
convict people under this charge.
"This has become the latest state apparatus to eliminate all prominent MDC-T
members in Manicaland where ZANU PF lost dismally in the March 2008
election," Muchauraya said.
He added; "MDC-T scooped 20 seats out of 26. Most of the defeated ZANU PF
members were either ministers or central committee members, the likes of
Joseph Made, Oppah Muchinguri, Enock Porusingazi and Patrick Chinamasa."

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Victims of Murambatsvina Sitting On A Time Bomb

MASVINGO- July 30, 2009- Over 300 victims of Zimbabwe's Murambatsvina
(Drive Out Filth) Operation in 2005, settled in Masvingo are sitting on a
health time bomb if authorities do not move in quickly to avert the pending

The victims, beneficiaries of the Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle's
government housing programme, which was meant to provide alternative
accommodation, are living under un-hygienic conditions with no proper sewage
facilities. At least five households are using one blair toilet.

Masvingo City Mayor Alderman Femias Chakabuda confirmed the fears of a
major disease outbreak. "It is not a secret that those houses were built
haphazardly and the city council is not able to develop anything there. We
can not even put roads or sewer. The occupants there are depending on blair
toilets but we have observed that the toilets are already full and the place
is very filth.
"The city council is not responsible for the upgrading of that area
but we are forced to demolish those structures at some point if we want to
save the whole city from impending health disaster," said Chakabuda.
The area was the most hit by the the recent cholera outbreak that
killed about 4 000 people and infected over 100 000 people nationwide.

"We are ...not going to wait for history to repeat itself, as council,
we shall see the best way of removing those people from that area (Runyaro
West) as soon as possible," said Chakabuda.
The United Nations Director of Habitat, Anna Kajumalo Tibaijuka, said
Operation Murambatsvina left more than 700 000 Zimbabweans without shelter
and sources of income. Tibaijuka is expected to visit Zimbabwe in October to
attend a housing conference.

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Cautious optimism returns to Zimbabwe
Wednesday, 29 July 2009 22:57 UK

The Zimbabwe Government has told the BBC there is no ban on its operations and it can resume reporting, legally and openly, in Zimbabwe. The BBC's Andrew Harding returns to an optimistic Harare.

The shelves are tightly stacked in a supermarket near Harare, July 2009
The BBC's Andrew Harding finds the shelves tightly stacked in a supermarket near Harare

It is five months since I was last in Zimbabwe, and there is no doubt that the mood has changed.

I'm here officially now, rather than sneaking around under cover, and of course that alters one's perceptions.

Our presence in Zimbabwe this week, is a welcome, constructive, and important first step
Jon Williams
BBC world news editor


But there's more to it than that.

Almost everyone I've spoken to over the past few days has, with varying degrees of caution, confessed to feeling at least a twinge of optimism about this battered nation.

"If things keep on like this, I think there might be a bright future," said Edmore Mashinga, who manages the meat section of a supermarket on the edge of Harare.

Last year the shelves were almost empty and, with hyperinflation raging, a kilo of tomatoes cost 61 billion Zimbabwe dollars.

Now the national currency has been abandoned, the US dollar is king, and the shelves and aisles are full.

"I earn $250 a month," said Mr Mashinga. "It's a lot more than before, but still not enough because I have a big family."

Meat on the menu

In a poor suburb closer to the city centre, an enthusiastic crowd quickly surrounded us.

Many were wary about giving their names - fear of President Robert Mugabe's security services remains very strong. But here's what some of them had to say:

An enthusiastic crowd greets the BBC in a poor suburb of Harare
People in a suburb of Harare say change is happening very slowly

"We can afford to get meat and bread now. The schools were closed for a long time. Now there is a change and a future. Ask anyone - even the kids."

"I think life is getting better because last year, even if you had cash, you could buy nothing because there was nothing in the shops."

"Things are not yet improving. It is only stabilising. We are getting some food in the shops, but to get money is a problem. Industry is still down. At the moment only a small percentage (of the population) is working."

"Prices are very high. People don't really know the true value of the (US) dollar. Things are changing slowly. Very slowly."

'Trench warfare'

When it comes to optimism, there is no-one more bullish about Zimbabwe than Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai attends the national dedication ceremony to promote peace and national healing, reconciliation and integration in Harare on July 24, 2009
Mr Tsvangirai has recently lost his wife but remains an optimist

He's had a gruelling few months since we last met secretly in Harare on the day after his inauguration.

He has lost his wife and a grandchild.

He has had to fight what one western diplomat called "trench warfare" against hardliners seemingly determined to undermine the power-sharing deal with President Mugabe's Zanu-PF.

Six of his MPs are being prosecuted. His finance minister was sent a live bullet in the post this week. But he remains relentlessly upbeat - like a super-tanker refusing to be pushed off course.

"We were diving into the unknown," he said, describing the shock of sharing government with the party whose thugs had beaten him and terrorised his supporters.

'No hardliners'

"Sometimes it is frustratingly slow, but there is a working relationship. Let me say the hardliners have come to accept that change is irreversible."

"This is a process that has gathered its own momentum. Zimbabwe is changing. There's so much interest in investing in this country. All those are positive signs."

In another small sign of change, we were given a rare invitation to President Mugabe's stronghold - the imposing headquarters of Zanu-PF in Harare.

John Nkomo, national chairman of Zanu-PF
Zanu-PF chairman John Nkomo says there are no hardliners in his party

The party's urbane national chairman, John Nkomo, seemed as upbeat as the prime minister.

Often described as President Mugabe's right hand man, he rejected any suggestion that members of his party were trying to derail the power-sharing government.

"I don't think there are any hardliners in Zanu-PF," he said.

"President Mugabe… is a principled man. Once he agrees on a programme he wants it implemented. It is in the interest of the whole of Zimbabwe that the agreement succeeds."


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Red Cross, UN: Zimbabwe prone to new cholera epidemic

Health News
Jul 30, 2009, 14:56 GMT

Geneva/Harare - Zimbabwe will likely face another cholera epidemic come the
rainy season, Red Cross and United Nations officials warned Thursday, noting
that no real improvements have been made to the country's dilapidated water
and sanitation systems.

They also issued a call to neighbouring countries to take preparatory steps
in order to mitigate the spread of the disease, should it strike again.

Earlier, the Ministry of Health in Harare announced that the worst African
cholera outbreak in 15 years had ended after 10 difficult months. The next
rains are expected in late October.

'The epidemic has successfully been contained and has ended,' Zimbabwe's
Health Minister Henry Madzorera was quoted by the state-run Herald

Since the end of last year, cholera, an intestinal disease which is
transmitted through dirty water, affected approximately 100,000 people and
killed over 4,200.

'Our concern is that the issues that drove the outbreak - the worst outbreak
in 15 years in Africa - have not been addressed in any way,' said Matthew
Cochrane with the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent

Speaking with the German Press Agency dpa by telephone, he warned that the
'ground is ripe for future outbreaks.'

The head of the World Health Organization's cholera task force, Claire-Lise
Chaignat, concurred.

'It is very likely the problem will start again in the rainy season,' she
said from Geneva.

'The water and sanitation situation has not improved and it is not likely to
improve rapidly,' Chaignat added.

Basic infrastructure has suffered from neglect for over a decade as Zimbabwe
sank into deep economic woes, with unchecked hyperinflation.

An appeal by the Red Cross for 3.5 million dollars to dig clean water holes
and improve basic infrastructure gathered less than 100,000 dollars in
donations, the organization said.

Given that cholera was now endemic to Zimbabwe, and noting the failing
infrastructure, Cochrane said there was 'no reason to believe we won't be
back to where we were a few months ago again.'

Over the weekend, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said Harare would be able
to provide clean water to all its residents by September.

However, the rural areas are likely to face serious problems.

The WHO's Chaignat appealed to the government in Harare to start working
with the communities on prevention and education.

'The ministry of health has to work with the communities to diminish risky
behaviours,' she said, 'It is about how to make water safe and delivering
hygiene and food safety messages.'

Moreover, basic improvements would have to made to the sanitation systems.
Positioning ahead of time rehydration salts, waters purification

tablets and other tools for rapid response would help mitigate a crisis once
the cholera returned.

'There are small things that can be done that can make a huge difference,'
Chaignat said.

Zimbabwe and its neighboring countries should maintain surveillance
mechanisms, especially along border areas, and be ready to respond to any
outbreak immediately, according to WHO recommendations.

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Neglect Sanitation at Your Peril

By Ignatius Banda

BULAWAYO, Jul 30 (IPS) - A functioning public toilet has become a rare sight
in Bulawayo. Across this southern Zimbabwean city of about two million
residents, public toilets have all but stopped functioning, the buildings
now more useful as platforms for graffiti and campaign posters than as
public conveniences where people answer the call of nature.

Some daring members of the public relieve themselves outside the locked
doors of the colonial-era facilities in what some see as a form of protest
against the city authorities who have for years explained the closure of the
toilets as due to a lack of funds to maintain them.

Human waste can be seen drying on the doorsteps of most public toilets in
the city's poor, high-density townships. The remaining few that are not
padlocked have turned into health hazards, emanating a warning reek of human
waste as you approach.

In the city's central business district, alleys have been turned into open
latrines with no signs that the local authorities are making any efforts to
address the poor hygiene and sanitation threat.

This has become unacceptable, says resident David Sibanda, who admits he is
one of many who have been forced to turn to the alleys to relieve himself.

"Toilets stopped functioning more than a decade ago and the health hazard
posed by people relieving themselves in the open has been immense," Sibanda
told IPS.

Despite community-sponsored initiatives to assist Bulawayo's cash-strapped
council in rehabilitating all kinds of social amenities, these efforts have
not extended to public toilets.

Sibanda himself is part of a group of unemployed young men who have been
repairing roads filled with potholes and demanding payment from motorists.
But he wouldn't think of extending this scheme to any of the estimated 100
public toilets scattered across the city. "Toilets carry with them a certain
stigma and people just do not want to be seen working there cleaning up
other people's mess," he says.

A health threat

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) says that a staggering two
million tonnes of human waste is deposited in water courses each day across
the world; half of the population of the developing world is exposed to
polluted sources of water that increases disease incidence.

Health experts say the absence of proper public toilet facilities in African
cities like Bulawayo provides a ready springboard for the spread of

Sihle Mthombeni of the city's health services department is concerned.

"People use alleys and, as it is obvious that because there are no taps or
running water within these unconventional toilets, people thus expose
themselves to a whole lot of diseases from dysentery to acute watery
diarrhoea (AWD) and even cholera," Mthombeni told IPS.

"With the resources we have, it is difficult for us to even start campaigns
about public health safety when the council is known to be broke," she said.

The cholera outbreak that hit Zimbabwe beginning August last year and
claimed over 4,000 lives has been blamed on poor sanitation, with residents
failing to observe basic hygiene like washing their hands after visiting the
toilet. Yet the absence of toilets which would provide running water has
become a part of the spread of the disease.

Not making council's agenda

Thaba Moyo, Bulawayo's mayor, recognises that there is a major public health
threat: Zimbabwe is on another cholera alert with the approach of the rainy

The cholera outbreak that raged through the country in late 2008, and
continuing problems with water-borne diseases like diarrhoea, have been
blamed on local authorities failing to put in place measures that would
ensure safe hygiene and sanitation.

Moyo says it has been difficult to rehabilitate public toilets and other
amenities that stopped working before the turn of the millennium as the
municipal council lacks adequate resources.

"We are aware of the problem, but there appears to be consensus that the
council has more pressing matters than discuss the state of public toilets,"
said Moyo.

According to Winos Dube, chairman of the Bulawayo Residents Association
(BURA), this issue has been tabled in the past but found no takers.

"This was once was one of the best urban councils, with clean public toilets
but no one has taken care of these facilities for years now, and residents
are left with no choice but to relieve themselves anywhere," Dube told IPS.

"We as an organisation have lobbied council to rehabilitate all social
amenities that were fully functioning as far back as 1980 (when the country
got independence) but we are always told the same thing that council does
not have money," he said.

"The council public toilets in the city centre where people paid a fee have
also been closed without any explanation from the municipality."

For many here, the dilapidation of these colonial symbols is a pointer to
the failure of post-independence administrators who have failed to allocate
adequate budgets to social services - albeit as part of efforts to
streamline public spending under the instruction of international lending

Now the country is in the grip of a severe economic crisis, and toilets must
compete against other urgent needs like agriculture or education for scarce
resources. But in the long term, the city - and the country - neglect
sanitation at a huge human cost as public health is compromised.

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R200m transferred to Zim

    July 30 2009 at 04:52PM

About R200-million of the R300-million allocated by the South African
government to Zimbabwe has been transferred, the Department of International
Relations and Co-operation said on Thursday.

Briefing the media on international developments, director-general
Ayanda Ntsaluba said government was encouraged by reports the money had been
used for its desired purpose, to help with humanitarian and economic

This included water resources and supply as well as sanitation and
supplies to clinics.

"We are really trying to focus on what can help the people of
Zimbabwe," said Ntsaluba.

He said international investment had been increasing despite
"misgivings and reservations" by some countries about political instability.

"It seems to us that the leaders of both parties [President Robert
Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai agree] that the inclusive
government is the sure way to help Zimbabwe out of its difficult problems.

"Our sense is that things are beginning to move in the direction,
[but] there is still a long way to go," said Ntsaluba.

Ntsaluba said Tsvangirai had requested a meeting with President Jacob
Zuma to discuss some of the problems still experienced by the country.

Ntsaluba said the proposed meeting would also discuss Tsvangirai's
experience abroad as part of his European visits.

"I am sure that our president, as chair of the Southern African
Development Community, is concerned about addressing these issues before
they derail [progress made]," he said.

The inclusive government was formed in February 2008 after a political
stalemate following the March 2008 elections.

Since the election, the country has been plunged into an economic
humanitarian crisis characterised by poverty, food and fuel shortages and an
outbreak of cholera. - Sapa

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Zimbabwe's new Anglican leader urged to 'heal' Harare diocese

From The Anglican Journal (Canada), 29 July

Harare - Zimbabwean Anglicans are urging the new leader of the Anglican
church in their country to move to reconcile the strife-riven diocese of
Harare which has been locked in a battle with excommunicated former bishop
Nolbert Kunonga, a close supporter of Robert Mugabe, the country's
president. The new bishop of the Anglican diocese of Harare, Chad Nicholas
Gandiya, was consecrated on July 26 at a gathering of more than 10,000
people, Harare diocese information officer Precious Shumba told Ecumenical
News International. "The dean of the Anglican Province of Central Africa,
Bishop Albert Chama, presided over the ordination and he urged the new
bishop to heal and reconcile the diocese of Harare which was riven by
division," Ms. Shumba said. Bishop Gandiya succeeds Sebastian Bakare, a
retired cleric who served as the diocese's interim bishop from December 2007
when Bishop Kunonga was deposed.

The church said Bishop Kunonga had illegally separated from the Province of
Central Africa by installing himself as archbishop of Zimbabwe. Bishop
Kunonga said he believed the church that deposed him was too cozy with
homosexuals. As an avowed supporter of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and
his Zanu-PF party, many Anglicans say Bishop Kunonga has supported the
intimidation and persecution of Anglicans in Zimbabwe who have opposed his
leadership and that of Mr. Mugabe, in the devastated country. Bishop Gandiya
became Harare bishop despite a bid by Bishop Kunonga to block the
consecration, claiming he is still the legitimate head of the Anglican
church in Zimbabwe. Bishop Kunonga approached the Zimbabwe High Court on
July 24 seeking a ruling to stop Bishop Gandiya being made leader of
Zimbabwe's Anglicans. "The consecration can only be done in the case of the
death of the incumbent bishop," Kunonga was quoted as saying by the
government-owned Sunday Mail newspaper in advance of the ceremony.

Bishop Gandiya, the former Africa regional desk officer for the
Britain-based mission agency USPG: Anglicans in Mission, was on May 2
elected to serve as the bishop of Harare. At the time of his election,
Bishop Gandiya said he might acquire a "crown of thorns" when he became
leader of Zimbabwe's Anglicans. Yet he said he could succeed if all
Anglicans pray for him. Since being deposed, Bishop Kunonga and a small
group of followers claimed ownership of Anglican church buildings in Harare,
denying access to the majority of the city's parishioners led by Bishop
Bakare and calling in riot police to forcibly evict them during services. In
some incidents, parishioners were attacked by supporters of Bishop Kunonga,
forcing them to hold church services in the open, or in buildings provided
by other churches until the High Court ordered the two groups to share
church facilities. Bishop Gandiya was born in Manicaland, eastern Zimbabwe,
in 1953, studied for the priesthood at St John's College, Nottingham, and
took higher degrees at the University of Zimbabwe and Michigan State
University in the United States.

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Zimbabwean farmers evicted without payment

Updated on 30 July 2009

By Channel 4 News

Many of Zimbabwe's farmers are still waiting for compensation following
government land seizures, writes Helen.

One of the questions on a recent questionnaire sent to evicted, dispossessed
commercial farmers asked in part: Would you consider farming on another
property as long as the previous owner has been fully and fairly compensated
and had voluntarily relinquished his title?

It's a question that raises heated debate and has been raging on in one form
another for the last nine years since government land seizures began. The
last time I heard the topic being discussed was a fortnight ago outside a
small local church on a cold and windy Sunday morning.

A young man in his early 30s who is currently a farm manager on one of the
few remaining white-owned commercial farms that is still functioning, is
desperate to start up on his own.

He's got training, hands-on experience, expertise, a bit of capital to start
up with - but no land.

If this was anywhere else in the world the young farmer would simply go and
get a mortgage and buy a farm. Not here!

The young farmer was talking to Joe, an evicted farmer, outside church.

"How would you feel if I leased part of your farm from the war veterans who
seized it from you nine years ago?"

Joe, who has not received any compensation for the farm that was taken by
the Zimbabwe government, and who still holds the legal title deeds to the
farm, shook his head in immediate response to the question.

"Don't do it," Joe said. "That is still my property and will be until I am
paid compensation and hand over the title deeds. How can you even consider
paying rent for something that you know is stolen property? And to the very
people who you know stole it from me?"

"I just want to farm," the youngster said. "Season by season I'm wasting my
life and my skills."

"I understand," Joe replied, "but think about it. If you lease my farm from
the war veteran who seized it then basically you are rewarding the

The young farmer listened in silence as other dispossessed farmers gathered
and joined in the conversation.

"The people who settled on our farms haven't got title deeds so they have no
legal right to lease out our properties," one said.

"It's not just no title deeds, most of the settlers haven't even got leases
for our farms," another said.

"All they've got is 'offer letters' from the government and you can't lease
an offer letter!"

"It's even against Zanu PF's own unconstitutional laws to sublet the seized
farms!" a third ex-farmer said.

"No bank will ever lend you money to put in a crop on a farm without title
deeds," was another comment, and "you can't sell produce that's been grown
on land under dispute."

Very soon the conversation turned to eye witness accounts and anecdotes.
There are thousands of them after nine years of lawlessness on Zimbabwe's

There are accounts of war veterans subletting the farms they seized to
politicians and army and police personnel. Stories of the same farm being
given to more than one beneficiary. Tales of scrap metal dealers,
electricians, wheeler dealers and dubious businessmen going onto seized
farms and dismantling whatever equipment they can find. Digging up water
pipes, lifting irrigation pipes, removing borehole rods and water pumps,
disconnecting MCB's, removing transforms and much more.

The looted farm fixtures have then been sold and the proceeds shared with
the land occupiers. It's a clear case of dealing in and selling stolen
property and there are many thousands of examples.

At the end of 15 minutes the young farmer asked again: "So what do I do? All
I want is to farm."

There was only one answer and that is to wait. As eager as everyone is to
get back to producing, prospering and getting the country working again, the
absolute chaos on Zimbabwe's commercial farms remains at the centre of

Growing food without law and order in a country which does not respect legal
property rights is like playing Russian Roulette.

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Trials Strengthen Mugabe's Hand

Published: July 30, 2009
In a curious case blending the disappearance of a cellphone with allegations
of political maneuvering, an official from Zimbabwe's Movement for
Democratic Change was set to appear in court to face accusations that could
further strain the country's frail coalition government, according to the
state-run Herald newspaper on Thursday.

Thamsanqa Mahlangu, the deputy youth minister, was arrested this week,
accused of stealing a cellphone from an ally of President Robert Mugabe
while sharing a lunch table with him at a political unity event. The
accusation relates to a purely criminal charge, but it also seems likely to
revive accusations by President Mugabe's adversaries that he is seeking to
reassert his absolute grasp on power, using criminal cases against
legislators to deplete the ranks of opponents in Parliament.

Last February, Mr. Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement
for Democratic Change, formed a so-called unity government in the face of a
protracted and profound post-election crisis. Since then, five legislators
from Mr. Tsvangirai's party have been convicted of a variety of charges,
forcing them to leave Parliament and threatening the party's slender
majority. If Mr. Tsvangirai's followers lose their majority, Mr. Mugabe's
party would have the power to pass or block legislation without seeking the
agreement of its supposed coalition partner.

According to The Herald on Thursday, Mr. Mahlangu was accused of stealing a
cellphone belonging to Joseph Chinotimba, a leader of the so-called war
veterans who fought on Mr. Mugabe's side in the guerrilla war that led to
independence and later spearheaded a campaign to drive white farmers off the
country's most productive farms.

The Herald said Mr. Mahlangu would appear in court on Thursday, but there
was no immediate confirmation when the case would be heard.

The two men were said to have been sharing a table in a hotel V.I.P. lounge
during an event called National Vision 2040 on July 17. Mr. Chinotimba
"allegedly left his Nokia 2310 with a Net One line on the table as he went
to collect his food." Two other people, Geraldine Alvina Phiri, 21, and
Patience Nyoni, 27, were also implicated in the alleged theft and appeared
in court on Wednesday.

Mr. Tsvangirai's party emerged as the strongest in parliamentary elections
in March 2008 and claimed also to have won the presidential vote. But Mr.
Mugabe insisted on a runoff in June, even as he was left as the only
candidate when Mr. Tsvangirai withdrew, citing widespread political violence
widely ascribed to Mr. Mugabe's followers.

Since the formation of the power-sharing government, Zimbabweans say there
has been some easing in their economic plight, with inflation cut to 6
percent from almost incalculable levels and pay raises for government
employees. Additionally, the BBC reported Thursday, the government seems to
have eased some of its draconian restrictions on foreign journalists,
permitting a BBC reporter to work openly in the country. It was not
immediately clear if the easing applied to other media organizations, but
the Information Ministry said it also was talking with CNN to permit it to
resume reporting from Zimbabwe, The Associated Press reported.

At the same time, there are persistent reports of a resurgence of violence
against Mr. Tsvangirai's followers. Reuters quoted witnesses as saying gangs
of young people loyal to Mr. Mugabe had begun harassing and beating Mr.
Tsvangirai's supporters ahead of by-elections to choose successors for the
imprisoned lawmakers.

In the elections last year, Mr. Tsvangirai's party won 100 seats in the
210-member lower House of Assembly, supported by a smaller faction of the
party with 10 seats. Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party - the dominant force in
Zimbabwean politics since independence from Britain in 1980 - won 99 seats.
The jailing of legislators, who must quit Parliament if sentenced to more
than six months, has whittled Mr. Tsvangirai's majority.

Apart from cases already heard or before the courts, 16 other Tsvangirai
supporters face charges which they deny. They include the finance minister,
Tendai Biti, who faces treason charges. None of Mr. Mugabe's supporters,
accused by human rights groups of waging a campaign of terror during last
year's election season, have been prosecuted.

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President Zuma, please get serious!

July 30, 2009

By Denis Worall

OVER the past fortnight Robert Mugabe has arrested and generally harassed
Opposition MDC Members of Parliament and senior Party members.  In fact,
under the heading "Mugabe's dirty ploy to poach power" The Sunday
Independent suggests very plausibly that this is Mugabe's strategy to regain
a parliamentary majority.

This is obviously and blatantly contrary to both the spirit and the letter
of the power- sharing agreement of September 2008.  In response my good
friend Peter Fabricius in his widely-read column "Window on Africa" says:
"Tsvangirai seems to be holding back, perhaps feeling this would be an
admission that he erred in going into this government.  Tsvangirai cannot
keep up the pretence for ever.  Mugabe is still playing the only game he
knows, which is clinging to power by hook or by crook.  Tsvangirai must get
tougher and smarter."

While appreciating Peter's sentiment, the fact is that it is not up to
Tsvangirai to stop the farce in Zimbabwe but the SADC and, more
specifically, the South African government.

I had the pleasure of meeting Morgan Tsvangirai in London at the end of
June, when he keynoted a Zimbabwe Mining Investment Conference.  He came
across extremely well and the capacity audience was unanimously impressed by
the sensible content of what he had to say, his style, and the strength of
his personality.  There is no question that this man is the best possible
leader Zimbabwe could have in present circumstances; and it is a tragedy and
almost entirely due to the South African government that he is being
frustrated and that the people of Zimbabwe are being denied international
funding and the benefits which Tsvangirai's leadership could bring them.

The agreement which Tsvangirai entered into with Mugabe in September 2008,
and which laid the basis for the subsequent power-sharing arrangement,
resulted mainly from the pressure of SADC and former president Thabo Mbeki.
And crucial to that understanding is that the African Union (AU) and the
SADC, both extremely concerned to keep the Zimbabwe issue out of
international fora, committed themselves to being the guarantors of the

At a high-powered breakfast on the morning of the conference in London,
Tsvangirai was specifically asked whether he expected the SADC to respond to
his appeal to intervene and resolve the outstanding issues between his Party
and Mugabe's.  He said that he had written to President Zuma and all the
signs were that he would get a positive response shortly.  That, I might
remind you, was in the third week of June.  At the end of July there has
still been no reaction from South Africa or from the SADC.  In fact, the
speculation is that President Zuma will call a SADC meeting only in

What surprises me is how the Zimbabwe issue, with the exception of certain
newspapers, has drifted off the radar.  South African trade unions were very
vocal in 2008 in insisting on action against Mugabe.  That our trade unions
took a lead (as they did in relation to the Government's HIV AIDS programme
or lack of a programme) in insisting on tougher and more creative action on
the part of the South African government was viewed by democratic-minded
people as a positive development.  But even the trade unions appear to have
dropped the issue.

This is regrettable as its importance as far as sub-Saharan Africa is
concerned, and its importance specifically to South Africa, cannot be

President Barack Obama had very good reasons for choosing Ghana to launch
his Africa policy.  But certainly one of the reasons why South Africa would
never have been considered - aside from its voting record in the Security
Council in the last six months of 2008 - is the South African approach to

Alistair Sparks, the veteran South African commentator, said shortly after
Jacob Zuma took office that if he wished to create a positive international
image for the government and for South Africa, he could do no better than
take a strong position on Zimbabwe.  Regrettably, the Zuma administration
hasn't followed this advice and Zimbabwe faces a new and totally unnecessary

(Dr Denis Worrall is a South African lawyer, politician and business

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A letter from the diaspora

Dear Friends.

Well, well, wonders will never cease! There on the main BBC One TV News last
night was the BBC's man reporting legally, repeat legally, from Zimbabwe. He
was doing a piece on the economy and one shot showed supermarket shelves in
Harare crammed with goods, "Imported and local" commented the BBC's man, a
natural mistake, you might say; after all what does a Brit know about brand
names of local goods? Now, it so happened that yesterday I had spent a
wonderful day with members of my extended family who happened to be visiting
the UK. Of course, we spent the day talking about Zimbabwe and exchanging
family news but one of the things I wanted to know was did they still have
to travel from Bulawayo where they live to Botswana to buy their groceries
or could they get stuff easily now and was it local or imported? Hollow
laughter at the mention of locally produced goods! "You know," they told me,
"We even import sugar, sugar of all things, from South Africa and, believe
it or not, we're drinking South African milk."

So naturally, when I saw the BBC piece I started to wonder.was this a
genuine opening up of the media or was it just another PR exercise on the
part of the Zimbabwean 'government' to make the rest of the world believe
that all is now well in this bankrupt country of ours. Anything to spread
the word to potential investors that Zimbabwe is a safe place to invest!

In complete contrast to the rosy picture the Inclusive Government would like
the media to portray, Channel Four had earlier in the week screened an
excellent documentary entitled Bankrolling Mugabe showing how British based
companies located in the City of London were funding Mugabe and Zanu PF and
thereby enabling them to stay in power. The documentary focused particularly
on Billy Rautenbach's vast financial empire with its links to shadowy
companies all used to divert monies to the once ruling party. We saw
Rautenbach's vast farms and his ongoing attempts to turn black African
farmers off their cattle farms and thus extend his own empire. Zimbabweans
know that Rautenbach is not the only white man involved is shoring up
Mugabe; Nicholas van Hoogstraten and Bredenkamp are two other names that
spring to mind. The Channel Four piece was 'undercover', by the way. It
remains to be seen whether ITN will also be allowed to operate legally in
Zimbabwe. I see today that CNN has also been de-listed and can now report
freely from inside the country.

It was interesting to read this morning that the BBC had negotiated their
'deal' with Webster Shamu and George Charamba, two staunch Zanu PF
loyalists. Cynic that I am, I can't help wondering if the BBC haven't been
hoodwinked by the smooth talking Zanu PF stalwarts. Will the BBC now be free
to travel all over the country? Will they be able report on the ongoing
violent farm invasions, or the arrests of MDC MPs - the number now stands at
seventeen since the GPA - or the activities of the Green Bombers in the
rural areas or incidents such as the arrest of protestors for wearing black
clothing during the so-called National Healing exercise? And more to the
point in a country where the rule of law has virtually collapsed, will the
Zimbabwean police respect the agreement that allows the BBC to operate
legally? How long before we see BBC journalists being bundled into the back
of police trucks, I wonder.

The BBC World News Editor's statement on the agreement is very relevant
here. "We are pleased we have been able to reach an agreement," he says. "We
all recognise the realities of the situation. If we look back we will never
look forward." (How's that for classic British double-speak!) "We have
different perspectives on this but we both agree we need to look forward.
The most important thing is not what happened over the past ten years, it is
that we can go into Zimbabwe and report openly" It is that last remark, "its
not what happened over the past ten years" that is most significant. It is
so redolent of the 'sweep it all under the carpet' talk that we are hearing
from both sides of the political divide these days. Such a comment from the
BBC's top man suggests to me that he has been well and truly taken in by the
Zanu PF speak that he got from the likes of Shamu and Charamba. It is
certainly not in Zanu's interest to dwell on the events of the past ten
years: the killings and beatings, the disappearances and brutal repression
of MDC members; that would bring prosecution for human rights abuses much
too close to home for the comfort of the former ruling party.

It was the shot of the BBC's reporter being welcomed into 'Shake-Shake'
House that was the most intriguing. He had been invited into Zanu PF
headquarters by none other than John Nkomo, Mugabe's 'urbane right hand man'
was how they described him. Nkomo's words certainly reflected his urbanity!
"Let me say the hardliners have come to accept that change is inevitable"
then he added the give away line, "There is so much interest in investing in
the country." So that's what this is all about! This is not about opening up
the media because it's the democratic thing to do; it's not even about
making life better for the majority of Zimbabweans. It's about more business
opportunities for greedy politicians and they are using the BBC to make the
country look good in the eyes of the world. "Accepting that change is
inevitable" hardly seems to apply to the likes of Joseph Chinotimba, a
hardliner if ever there was one, as he and his so-called war vets disrupted
the Constitutional Conference! "I don't think there are any hardliners in
Zanu PF" declares the 'urbane' John Nkomo and adds, "President Mugabe is a
principled man. Once he agrees on a programme he wants it implemented."
Well, yes, we can all concur on that one. We have a starving and
impoverished nation to prove it.

So I for one will be watching and listening to the BBC's coverage of
Zimbabwe with considerable interest - and not a little cynicism. I hope my
cynicism will prove misplaced and that we shall see all the media outlets
inside the country being given the same freedom - if indeed it is genuine
'freedom' - as the BBC and CNN. Until AIPPA is repealed and the airwaves are
freed up so that SW Radio Africa and The Zimbabwean are free to do their
jobs inside the country, I remain cynical.
Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH. aka Pauline Henson author of Case
Closed, published by Mambo Press, Countdown and Going Home political
detective stories set in Zimbabwe and available on

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