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Zim opposition activists murdered

Zim Online

Monday 18 June 2007

By Brian Ncube

BULAWAYO - Two Zimbabwe opposition activists abducted from the rural Matobo
district by suspected state secret agents were found dead last Thursday, in
a development certain to spread fear across the opposition supporting
southern half of the country.

The battered bodies of Edward Ndiweni and Albert Sibanda, who were both
members of the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC party, were discovered by villagers
dumped at an abandoned former white-owned farm, about 15 kilometres from the
deceased men's home village.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena confirmed the discovery of the bodies of
the murdered MDC activists and said investigations into the matter were in

"I can confirm that the two were found dead on Thursday . . . police are
still investigating the case and we hope we will be able to account for
those responsible," said Bvudzijena.

However, MDC Member of Parliament for Matobo Lovemore Moyo immediately
blamed the abduction and subsequent murder of the two activists on agents of
President Robert Mugabe's government which he said was out to crush the
opposition and all dissenting voices ahead of elections next year.

"It is unfortunate that the government's intolerance of dissenting voices
and its disrespect of the MDC as an opposition party has led to this (murder
of Ndiweni and Sibanda)," said Moyo.

Information Minister and government spokesman Sikhanyiso Ndlovu was not
immediately available for comment on the matter.

Zimbabwe holds joint presidential and parliamentary elections next year
which some analysts have warned the government could lose, citing an acute
economic crisis and food shortages fuelling public discontent against Mugabe
and his ruling ZANU PF party.

Ndiweni, Sibanda and three other MDC activists were abducted from their
homes at different times on May 25 by six armed men who were driving an
unmarked red Toyota Corolla car that did not have vehicle registration

They were taken to a farm not far from their homes but not the same one were
the bodies of the two murdered activists were found. For three days, the
opposition activists were severely assaulted and tortured by their captors
who accused them of campaigning for the MDC and seeking to topple Mugabe's

The rest of the MDC activists were later released except for Ndiweni and
Sibanda whose whereabouts remained unknown until their bodies were found
dumped at a farm.

Ndiweni and Sibanda, aged 39 and 42 respectively at the time of their
deaths, join a growing list of activists of the opposition murdered by
unknown people - but suspected to be members of the government's feared
Central Intelligence Organisation - since the party's formation eight years

The MDC, which poses the greatest threat to Mugabe's government in next year's
elections, says state security agents have abducted scores of its activists
and arrested others on false charges in a bid to cripple the party ahead of
the polls.

The Harare administration denies targeting opposition activists for arrest
and insists anyone suspected of breaking the law is liable to arrest
regardless of their political affiliation. - ZimOnline

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Power-short Zimbabweans switch to gel stoves

Zim Online

Monday 18 June 2007

By Nqobizitha Khumalo

BULAWAYO - For 35-year Mfundo Dhlamini, the constant power cuts experienced
by most Zimbabweans around the country over the past few months have proved
to be a real godsend.

At his modest home in Bulawayo's working class suburb of Pumula South, a few
customers are milling outside waiting to buy some gel stoves that he imports
from neighbouring Botswana and South Africa.

A severe power crisis, that has seen some homes go for more than 10 hours
without electricity, has seen the gel stove sell like hot cakes in some
suburbs of Bulawayo.

"The stoves are popular because they do not emit any smoke. Most households
here are buying these stoves as they do not have to resort to using firewood
which is now very expensive," says Dlamini.

At a modest Z$500 000 per unit and Z$75 000 for a satchet of gel that is
used to power the stoves, the gel stove has proved to be quite convenient
for most households that are too poor to install generators in their homes.

"The stove is cheaper than using firewood when cooking because a bundle of
firewood that is used for cooking a single meal costs $60 000 while with the
gel stove you can cook up to fifteen times using one satchet of gel," said

Esnath Moyo, a 33-year old mother of three who is a neighbour to Dlamini,
purchased one of the gel stoves and had nothing but praise for the gadget.

"Before we bought the stove, we were relying on firewood to prepare our
meals. But now even when there is a drizzle outside, one can still cook
comfortably inside the house without worrying about smoke," said Moyo.

Zimbabwe is in the grip of a severe economic crisis that has manifested
itself in rampant inflation of over 4 500 percent and severe power

The cash-strapped Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) has been
switching off power supplies to some suburbs around the country for as long
as 10 hours on end in a bid to ration the little that is available.

The power crisis is only one among a long list of hardships that Zimbabweans
have become accustomed to as the southern African country grapples with a
severe economic crisis described by the World Bank as the worst in the world
outside a war zone.

It is however in this highly depressing economic environment that Dhlamini,
who was laid off soon after Zimbabwe's economic crisis began in earnest
around 2000, has cut his own niche.

"Business has never been this good because nobody wants to use firewood and
paraffin anymore," he says with a chuckle.

"There are lots of opportunities to expand this business and I am actually
overwhelmed by some business orders. I am now planning to expand the
business to some areas as far as Victoria Falls and Hwange."

Dlamini says he has over the past two months generated a profit of about Z$5
billion, money that he never dreamt he would make when he was still formally
employed some seven years ago.

A sleek Toyota Corolla parked in his yard seemed to confirm his new-found
status amid the rubbles of poverty in Pumula.

Respected economist John Robertson said the gel stove was probably the only
reasonable energy option for hard-pressed Zimbabweans as the indiscriminate
cutting down of firewood had a detrimental effect on the environment.

"The gel stove is a good option in the current circumstances as paraffin is
expensive and causes pollution. Firewood poachers have also caused great
damage to the environment particularly in areas around Harare," said
Robertson. - ZimOnline

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MDC official still detained in Harare

Zim Online

Monday 18 June 2007

By Wayne Mafaro

HARARE - Zimbabwean police were on Sunday still detaining a South
Africa-based opposition official, Nicholas Nqabutho Dube, who was arrested
last Friday for being in possession of a passport belonging to Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) leader Arthur Mutambara.

Gabriel Chaibva, the spokesperson for the Mutambara-led MDC, said Dube was
still in police custody with the opposition leader also still stranded in
South Africa as the police had refused to release his passport.

"Police have refused to release Dube as well as Mutambara's passport despite
consenting to do so before Justice Felistas Chitakunye on Saturday. The
Attorney General's office had also consented to Dube's release," said

Chaibva said the police had however refused to execute the consent order
saying only senior police inspectors Mabunda and Bothwell Mugariri could do

Mabunda and Mugariri were however said to have claimed to be out of town and
would only be back in Harare today.

Dube was arrested on Friday after he was found in possession of Mutambara's

Mutambara, who was due to leave for the United Kingdom on Saturday, had sent
Dube with his passport to the British High Commission in Harare to
facilitate the issuance of a visa to enable him to travel to Britain.

Sources within the MDC said Mutambara was due to travel to the UK together
with Morgan Tsvangirai and other opposition leaders to drum up support for a
negotiated solution to Zimbabwe's seven-year old political crisis. -

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Coup plot could be pre-emptive strike by Mugabe

17 June 2007

By Fortune Tazvida

Five men have been arrested and charged with treason for allegedly planning
a military coup to topple President Robert Mugabe. According to court papers
all 5 deny the charges and appeared before a Harare Judge on Friday whilst
applying for bail. The court denied them bail and postponed the case to 22

Military analysts who spoke to Nehanda Radio however say the entire case
leaks like a sieve and might be another pre-emptive strike by Mugabe to
flush out perceived political opponents he does not trust. State prosecutors
said the group wanted to replace Mugabe with former intelligence supremo
Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is the current Rural Housing and Social Amenities
Minister.  Former soldier and coup plot leader Albert Matapo would have
become Prime Minister.

The facts however do not stack up. Mnangagwa has not been arrested despite
being fingered in the plot. Other reports had claimed former army general
Solomon Mujuru was under house arrest and was the chief architect of the
coup plot. That, analysts say is the precise problem. Mujuru and Mnangagwa
lead two rival Zanu PF factions wrestling for control should Mugabe step
down. It is highly unlikely they could engineer a joint coup and this leaves
room for the theory Mugabe does not trust both of them and needed a plot to
flush out any secret plans either camp might have been harbouring.

Mnangagwa has meanwhile arrogantly told local newspapers that the coup plot
link to him was 'stupid'. The state charge sheet says, 'The accused wanted
to use soldiers to take over the government and all camps, and be in control
of the nation after which he (Matapo) would announce to the nation that he
was in control of the government and would invite the Minister Mnangagwa and
the service chiefs to form a government.' The military coup is said to have
been planned way back in June 2006.

Defence lawyer Jonathan Samkange however says all five were arrested early
this month during a meeting that intended to form a political party. 'They
are denying the charges because as far as they are concerned they never
plotted a coup but were in the process of forming a legitimate political
party," Samkange told journalists. The five arrested face the death penalty
if convicted.

Nehanda Radio: Zimbabwe's first 24 hour internet radio news channel.

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Zimbabwe's political dialogue overshadowed

Financial Times

By Alec Russell in Johannesburg

Published: June 17 2007 18:45 | Last updated: June 17 2007 18:45

Long-awaited talks between Zimbabwe's ruling party and the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change were overshadowed on Sunday by speculation of
an intensification of infighting in President Robert Mugabe's inner circle.

After two false starts, delegates from the two factions of the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change and Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF met in South Africa
to discuss Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis.

These were the first substantive talks between the two parties since an
abortive mediation effort four years ago, and reflected a new drive by South
Africa to make tangible progress in their mediation attempts.

But greater drama appeared to be taking place across the northern border in
Zimbabwe, where the capital, Harare, and the second city, Bulawayo, were
rife with rumours of fresh turmoil within Zanu-PF.

Five men including a former army officer, Albert Matapo, were charged with
treason late last week accused of plotting to overthrow Mr Mugabe, it
emerged over the weekend. They deny the charges and are due to appear in
court again on Friday.

During the initial hearing prosecutors said the plotters planned to install
Emmerson Mnangagwa, a senior cabinet minister who heads one of two factions
vying to replace Mr Mugabe, as president and that Mr Matapo would have been
prime minister.

The allegation, ridiculed by Mr Mnangagwa in a comment to a local newspaper,
has fuelled a febrile atmosphere in Harare that is rife with unsubstantiated
rumours that senior Zanu-PF officials are under house arrest.

Analysts speculated the coup allegation could have been part of an attempt
by the second Zanu-PF faction, which is led by Joyce Mujuru, vice-president,
and her husband General Solomon Mujuru, a former army commander, to
undermine Mr Mnangagwa's position, or indeed a ploy by Mr Mugabe to
wrong-foot would-be successors.

The accused's lawyer, Jonathan Samkange, told Reuters news agency that the
five had been detained two weeks ago while holding a meeting to form a
political party, and were not plotting to topple the 83-year-old president.

The reports reinforced the impression in South Africa that the future of
Zimbabwe, which is in turmoil with inflation widely believed to be far more
than the official rate of 3,700 per cent, may be decided within Zanu-PF and
not at the mediation talks.

Arthur Mutambara, the leader of one of the MDC's two wings, last night
expressed doubt that Mr Mugabe's negotiators were doing more than going
through the motions. Earlier in the weekend Zimbabwean officials confiscated
Mr Mutambara's passport, preventing him from going on a tour to Europe to
raise support for the MDC. "It shows Mr Mugabe is not serious about
dialogue," he told the Financial Times. "He is negotiating in bad faith."

A senior South African cabinet minister backed the idea that the spark for
change would come from within Zanu-PF and not the MDC. But he cautioned
that, short of a coup, the crisis could continue, with Mr Mugabe in control
for several more years.

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Zimbabwe inflation now 4,530 per cent, leaked figures show

Monsters and Critics

Jun 17, 2007, 13:03 GMT

Harare - Independent press reports in crisis-hit Zimbabwe Sunday claimed the
annual inflation rate had hit a record high of 4,530 per cent, but the
authorities still refuse to make an official announcement.

Leaked figures from the official Central Statistical Office (CSO) showed the
annual inflation rate jumped to 4,530 per cent in May from 3,713.9 per cent
in April, the privately-owned Standard newspaper said.

The paper said the CSO would not explain why it had not yet released the
figures, a week after they were due.

Zimbabwe's inflation figures are supposed to be announced on the 10th of
each month, give or take a day for weekends.

'I will not announce when we will announce the figures,' CSO acting director
Moffat Nyoni told the newspaper.

Zimbabwe's inflation has been on a relentless upward climb since the turn of
the century, causing President Robert Mugabe's government intense

Critics blame the economic crisis on Mugabe's controversial policies,
including his takeover of thousands of white-owned farms in the last seven

But Mugabe insists the crisis is a result of Western sanctions. Britain, the
European Union, the United States and other Western nations have imposed
travel bans and asset freezes on Mugabe and more than 100 members of
Zimbabwe's ruling elite.

This is not the first time the release of inflation data has been
inexplicably delayed, leading to accusations of attempted cover-ups by the

Month-on-month inflation slipped to 55.4 per cent in May, down from 100.7
per cent in April, the Standard reported.

© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur

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Zimbabweans turn to wheeling and dealing to top-up salaries

 HARARE, June 17 (AFP)

Zimbabwean schoolteacher Sylvia Ngandu is unapolegetic about juggling her
responsibilities in the classroom with her other job selling fruit and
vegetables in order to make ends meet.

"At first the school head threatened me with suspension for bringing stuff
to sell during work hours," says Ngandu as she describes her 'remote
control' method of teaching at a primary school near Harare.

"But he stopped bothering me when I told him I was doing it to raise my bus
fare to come to work or else I would stop coming to work as soon as my
salary ran out."

Ngandu says she goes to the marketplace every morning to buy merchandise for
the day before proceeding to work.

After leaving their class with work to do for the day or assigning a
12-year-old prefect to take charge, she then pops out to do a job that used
to be derided as only fit for semi-literate women and school dropouts.

"I sell anything from apples to bananas and oranges," she adds.

With world-record inflation now perched at over 3,000 percent and wages
perpetually lagging behind spiralling prices of basic foodstuffs, stories
such as Ngandu's are becoming ever more commonplace.

As the saying goes, most Zimbabweans are going to work to "steal or deal."

"Deals are a way of life these days / you don't rely on your salary alone,"
according to the lyrics of a popular song.

The cost of basic foodstuffs and services required monthly by a family of
five was estimated at 1.7 million Zimbabwean dollars in March. The monthly
salary for an average urban worker ranges from 90,000 dollars -- not enough
to buy a two-litre bottle of cooking oil -- 500,000 dollars.

The price of a 10-kilogramme packet of the staple maize meal is 114,000
Zimbabwean dollars and a loaf of bread costs 18,000 dollars.

It's not uncommon therefore to visit an office where the receptionist pulls
a bag from under his or her desk to display goods they are selling.

The office workers-cum-small-time traders sell anything from second hand
clothes or scarce commodities like sugar and cooking oil, and often have a
credit facility for their colleagues.

Others double as cross-border traders and street vendors over weekends and
holidays or, like Tatenda Nyati, an IT specialist with a construction
hardware firm, work on a freelance basis after office hours and at weekends.

"I found my salary was no longer enough to cover all my expenses for things
like food, transport, clothes as well as support my siblings as required
under our customs so I started my own company," Nyati said.

"I sell computer hardware and I am hired during weekends to do maintenance
work for other companies. I find I earn more money on a single weekend
contract that I earn from my real job."

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) says wages are so low that
employers could be said to be enjoying slave labour.

"Workers are subsidising their employers through finding other sources of
income to raise bus fare," ZCTU president Lovemore Matombo told workers at
last month's May Day celebrations in Harare.

Independent economist Daniel Ndhlela said that while individuals appear to
benefit from moonlighting, the practice is hurting an economy already
saddled with a battery of woes including dwindling investment and low
production as input costs shoot through the roof.

"At the national level, there is disaster," Ndlela told AFP.

"We are down 20 to 30 percent in efficiency both in the public and private
sector because employees are doing other things and the national product is
going down as well.

"Formal employment is not paying so everyone is dealing outside in order to
survive. We have become vendors of Chinese products while our factories and
our factories are suffering as a result."

Zimbabwe's economy has been on the decline since the turn of the century,
with four out of five people unemployed and 80 percent of country's 13
million population classified as poor.

Apart from doing extra jobs most families resort to skipping meals and many
walk or cycle up to 30 kilometres (19 miles) to work in order to stretch
their income to the next payday.

For most families milk for their tea, margarine and jam have become luxuries
and a square meal is a rare treat.

Langton Bhowa, a security guard in the upmarket Avenues section of Harare,
says the state of the economy makes it imperative to earn a bit on the side.

"I make an additional 450,000 dollars a month from selling cigarettes and
mobile phone recharge cards to passers-by," he says.

"That is more than double my salary of 200,000 a month and that is how I
manage to come to work everyday."

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Age of the political farmer - beware!

17th Jun 2007 18:33 GMT

By Chenjerai Chitsaru

YEARS ago, before the land reform programme swung into its present format of
performing with distinction on television and nowhere else, a very senior
politician acquired a huge swathe of land in Mashonaland Central.

He performed this feat with the help of a loan from.let us just say.the
government. After what most people believed to be a decent period, there
were questions of accounting, not in terms of money, but in terms of

The project was a disaster, although nobody lower in rank that the senior
politician, could pronounce this publicly. There is a very high price to be
paid for this sort of iconoclasm in Zanu PF. It was then the politician
asked for more money to continue where he had left off -which was precisely

Someone leaked this vital news to an independent newspaper, which ran the
story. There followed frantic efforts to deny anything of the sort had
happened, followed by the almost ritualistic condemnation of a media in the
pay of the imperialists.

The brief lesson is that politicians make the worst farmers. There is much
evidence that this vital lesson has not been taken to heart by the
politicians: they continue to insist that, particularly at this moment in
our lack of development on the land, they make the best farmers.

In pursuit of this stubborn ideology, President Robert Mugabe recently
presided over the colourful unveiling of the distribution of many, many
tractors and harvesters to .more politicians. There were a few genuine
farmers, to be sure, but they were far outnumbered by the politicians.

A brief history: throughout the region, Zimbabweans are well-known for their
absolute obsession with hard work, particularly on the land. There may not
be meticulous method to their work on the land, but they have been known to
put so much labour into it, even the land has apparently, even grudgingly,
had to acknowledge this by yielding bumper crops, even if that is mostly

Most such farmers have not turned into politicians, chiefly, I believe,
because they are skeptical of achieving good harvests when all you have
invested are just words and more words.

There are no statistics readily available, but it would not surprise me if
we were told that, in Zimbabwe today, there are more political farmers than
there are farming politicians - if you assume that there is a vast
difference between the two.

There is no need to point out that the political farmers are mostly members
of Zanu PF, that the few MDC farmers were probably conned into it and have
been regretting it ever since.

Moreover, Mugabe's attempts to sound conciliatory at the aforementioned
ceremony in Harare fell flat on its face when some of the MDC members, among
them Arthur Mutambara, snorted back with "what balderdash!" or words to that

It did sound as if Mugabe was getting increasingly desperate to present an
image of the elder statesman in his relationships with the MDC and its
leadership. From his usual "Go hang!" reaction he sounded, at the ceremony
in Harare, as if he could actually sup with the MDC leaders - and not throw

Incidentally, Mugabe himself, a teacher almost his whole adult life before
turning to politics, is now a farmer - and a successful one at that, if we
are to believe what he himself has said.

His wife, the former State House secretary, is also a farmer. I am not sure
that they deserve to be called farmers: they may indeed own vast pieces of
land on which crops are grown, but are they real farmers or just the sort of
Zimbabwean version of "the landed gentry"?

So, most of the people on whom the country will rely to grow its food are
politicians, and a selection of bankers, including Gideon Gono. Most of
these people were not farmers before they became politicians or bankers or
whatever else they were before the land reform fiasco provided them with
this golden opportunity to strike it rich as gentleman or lady farmers.

There could be real farmers out there, people not affiliated to Zanu PF,
non-politicians and people who can work miracles on the land, with their
green thumbs. Unfortunately, because of the fixation in Zanu PF with party
propaganda, such people would not be given publicity on public television:
what value would they be if there was no opportunity to say they owed their
success to the party?

The tragedy of Zimbabwe lies in a group of people in love with their own
propaganda. For some reason, they believe that their path is right or even
So, even when the European Union refuses Forbes Magadu a visa to travel to
Europe for a meeting at which other African countries will attend, they
express consternation: how dare you?

Even when John Howard said he would not allow the Australian cricket team to
tour Zimbabwe, they were aghast - or seemingly so. Howard has always been a
hardliner as far as Zimbabwe is concerned. Mugabe called him a racist a long
time ago; he was determined to pay him back for that insult.

Two victories - at the United Nations and at the African Development
Bank-Chinese government conference in Shanghai - seemed to make the
government believe they had turned a corner.

Yet they seem to have this great talent for not being able to look beyond
their noses: if their human rights had been even only slightly more humane
than they are today, they would have former allies lining up to help them
implement their land reform programme with a chance of success.
They would not have had to rely on political farmers, top officials of Zanu
PF with only enough farming know-how to fill a thimble. Even as
resource-endowed beneficiaries they have made little difference to our food

And if that is not what the land reform programme was intended to achieve,
then what is the fuss about?

A number of critics of the critics of the land reform programme have
challenged the so-called detractors to offer any viable alternatives to what
the government has done or is continuing to do.

Well, here is one: let real farmers farm on the land. Let people who have
knowledge about the way of the earth till the land. For once, stop insisting
on introducing a racist element in the allocation of land. Stop harping on
the need to redress the imbalances of the past.

Nobody in their right mind disputes this. What has to be looked at is
Zimbabwe in the new millennium. A few short years ago, Zimbabwe could feed
itself and sell the surplus for precious foreign currency. Its people lived
well, the infrastructure in the country worked well, the currency was robust
and well-respected all over the world.

All that was eliminated, not by an unavoidable act of war, but by politics
of expediency. The country has suffered enormously and may take years to
There are no statistics on the number of people killed as a direct result of
that political inebriation; but there must have been deaths attributable to
this madness.

What Zimbabwe must look forward to is the replacement of the present crop of
"liberation" leaders by citizens who believe that governance is about people
and not just politics or political advantage.

In most African countries today, politics has little to do with the ordinary
people. It's a game played by politicians, people who are mostly interested
in scoring points, never mind how many innocent lives are lost in the

For Zimbabwe, it must be particularly painful that, instead of insisting on
the land being worked by real farmers with little or not interest in
politics, the government decided to give the advantage to the political

This is a lesson which future generations could ignore only at their country's

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Zim opposition leaders coming to UK, Canada

The Southern African
Sunday, 17 June 2007
TORONTO - The Save Zimbabwe Campaign (SZC), an umbrella body under
which opposition forces and civic organisations in Zimbabwe rally, has
organised rallies to be addressed by Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
leaders in England and Canada.
According to London-based pressure group, Zimbabwe Vigil, both leaders
of the two factions of MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara are
scheduled to travel together to the two western countries starting in London
on Thursday until Saturday and proceeding to Canada next week.

It is not clear what messages the two leaders will convey to exiled
Zimbabweans, but with preparations for next year's joint presidential and
parliamentary elections already underway, it is safe to assume the two will
be seeking support from the exiles.

In turn exiled Zimbabweans, whose strength is estimated at between 3
and 4 million scattered all over the world, want to be allowed to vote and
this would probably be their main message to the MDC leaders.

Zimbabwe Vigil says Tsvangirai and Mutambara will be accompanied by
Christian Alliance convenor, Levee Kadenge; National Constitutional Assembly
chairperson, Lovemore Madhuku; Zapu Party leader, Paul Siwela and Zimbabwe
National Students' Union president, Promise Mkwananzi.

The SZC came into prominence in March when it organised a prayer
meeting that resulted in the police arresting and torturing Tsvangirai and
other opposition leaders.

The torture was condemned worldwide and brought more global awareness
of the Zimbabwe political and economic crisis.

It led to an emergency summit of Southern Africa Development Community
leaders after which South African president, Thabo Mbeki was chosen to
mediate between President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu PF and the MDC, in
hope to stave off a civil unrest that could spill into the region.

The talks have been progressing slowly against a tight deadline of
March 2008 when a free and fair election is supposed to be held under terms
agreed by both parties.

President Mugabe has refused efforts by the opposition and other
players to have the elections moved further into 2008 to allow more time for
the talks, arguing that his party is ready for elections anytime and the MDC
should also be ready if it is a serious political force.

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Culture and HIV: The Seke Rural Community


In some areas of Zimbabwe, gender disparities help fuel misinformation
about HIV

Fungai Rufaro Machirori

     Published 2007-06-17 10:10 (KST)

One thought-provoking saying reads, "Emancipation from the bondage of the
soil is no freedom for the tree." What this means is that while a tree might
seem shackled to the ground by its root connections -- and therefore
imprisoned by the earth -- uprooting it from the soil will not liberate it,
but rather ironically, kill it.

And as with the tree and the soil, there are many symbiotic relationships,
at times restrictive, yet also life giving. The relationship between a
culture and its people is one. Culture offers life-sustaining and defining
elements -- a sense of identity, belonging, a common and collective
understanding of values and traditions, a history, a present, and, of
course, a future. And though there are always contentious matters to be
dealt with within different cultural groupings, "uprooting" people from
their cultures often renders them lost, and therefore dead.

Recently, the Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Information Dissemination
Service, in collaboration with the Seke Rural Home Based Care Project,
engaged the inhabitants of Seke in a dialogue project to discuss how culture
and gender relations were helping to perpetuate the spread of HIV and AIDS
in that area. Seke is a rural Shona community 45 kilometers southeast of
Zimbabwe's capital city, Harare.

Rather than try to provide solutions to the rate of HIV spread in the area
to the exclusion of culture and cultural practices, the project was carried
out as a way of trying to discover how emancipation from certain
gender-biased cultural norms could help to make this community's culture
more accommodative and adaptable to all its people. This, it was hoped,
would provide concrete solutions to curbing the spread of HIV and AIDS
within the Seke rural community.

The meetings, held in two phases between November 2006 and March 2007, were
structured in a way that ensured that both men and women were able to air
their opinions in a free and conducive environment, by holding separate
discussions for each of the gender groups. At the end of each phase, a
report-back meeting was held in order to review the suggestions and comments
made in the gender-specific discussions.

The results of the discussions were telling. The men, who were generally
conservative in their thinking, advocated a complete return to what they
termed "our culture" to overcome HIV and AIDS, while the women felt strongly
that their marginalized status would change and HIV infection rates decline
through a departure from certain cultural practices.

Among the over 60 male participants, there was a widely held perception that
the law was a Western imposition and an obstacle to people fully practicing
their culture.

"Laws don't mean anything because the government doesn't understand our
culture," declared one of the participants. The culture that the men
referred to incorporates practices such as wife inheritance, appeasement of
spirits through the pledging of young girls, female virginity testing and
polygamy -- most of which are outlawed by Zimbabwe's formal legal system.

And for good reasons are these practices illegal. Not only do they have a
severe bearing on the ability of women to enjoy equal status within their
communities and societies, but they also rob them of the ability to ensure
their security from abuse -- physical and psychological -- and exposure to
the risk of HIV infection.

Take, for instance, the practice known in Shona as kuripira ngozi -
appeasement of angered spirits through the offering of a young virgin girl
to the aggrieved family as compensation. In the Shona culture, an angry
spirit is not easily appeased. The "unsettled" spirit of a man or woman
(murdered or ill-treated in life) may return to claim the lives of the
transgressor, or the transgressor's family members. Fearing such
consequences, the wrongdoer might offer a virgin girl as a wife for the
deceased's family. Girls as young as 10 years old have been used for this

The trauma of being permanently removed from her family and the shock of her
new sexual responsibilities combine to make this practice insensitive and
completely gender-biased. Not only is it a total denial of the rights of the
girl child, but it exposes innocent girls to the risk of HIV infection, for
it is not a common practice for the sexual partner to whom the young girl is
being pledged to undergo HIV testing prior to engaging in sexual relations
with her.

The same usually holds true in the practice of wife inheritance. If a woman
is widowed and offered to her deceased husband's male relative as a wife,
she is often not afforded the right to demand to know this relative's HIV
status. In such cases, the role of lobola -- bride price -- in conveying
ownership of a woman by the male's family often puts paid to this, as she
cannot make nay decisions contrary to those that have been made on her

One male participant offered his view of the current status of women pushing
for equal rights with more than a hint of sarcasm: "At one time, many women
held a global conference in Beijing to declare their independence from men.
Why can't we have our own conference as men and declare a return to culture.
Let us stop this nonsense!"

With such staunch male attitudes on the role that culture should play, it
was a complete turn of opinion to hear the women speak. While they
understood the importance of culture, they also showed an understanding of
its practices that were subordinating women.

"Traditional healers teach people that if you have sex with a young girl,
you will be cured of AIDS," said one woman. "Unfortunately, when a girl is
raped, she will in turn infect her future partner." Implicit in this
observation is that the cultural practice of having sex with a virgin to
cure HIV does not work, and is instead helping to fuel the spread of HIV.

In this safe atmosphere where there was no fear of rebuke, the women aired
their sentiments freely, advocating more access to HIV testing and freer
channels of communication between themselves and their men to broach such
subjects. One participant stated how dangerous it was to negotiate for safer
sex with a husband. "You can talk about everything else except bedroom
issues," she noted. "You can't talk sex -- you just have sex as he wishes
every time." To this, the over 80 participants offered a deafening round of

Further, the women also noted that culture discourages them from seeking
protective measures from such abusive subordination. They noted that divorce
was not often a plausible solution to their problem because as one
participant noted, "Your husband will tell you that you can't refuse to have
sex because he paid lobola for you."

This group of women reflected a yearning for equality as well as an
understanding of a loss of control over their sexual and reproductive health
rights -- a problem exacerbated by their lack of social and economic

In general, however, these women were not seeking total abandonment of the
culture that they have been reared in, but rather a way of incorporating
progressive policies and legislation into culture in order to make cultural
practices truly reflective and accommodative of all. With a tree that finds
itself in soils that are too acidic, the solution is not to pull its roots
out of the earth, but rather to correct the soil's balance through the
addition of corrective nutrients. The same principle applied to the Seke
rural community's report-back meeting where it was finally agreed that
compromises needed to be made in terms of countering certain inhibitive
cultural practices.

Testing was to be encouraged prior to wife inheritance and husbands and
wives were encouraged to be more open with each other on sexual issues.
Also, it was agreed among the men and women that pledging very young girls
for appeasement should be avoided.

Condom use in marriages was reluctantly accepted by the men.

"How can I use condoms on my own wife?" one man admonished. "I will not use
condoms because we trust each other." At this, a roar of approval erupted
from a number of men in the audience, while the women remained silent, but
visibly concerned.

For the residents of Seke, particularly the women, it seems that a
modification of culture and the emancipation from the bondage of certain
gender-biased practices is a necessity for building an AIDS-free
community -- otherwise, they will continue to suffer under the yoke of
discriminatory views and opinions.

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Drugs feed perlemoen smuggling

From The Sunday Times (SA), 17 June

Sechaba Ka'Nkosi, Nashira Davids, Bobby Jordan and Biénne Huisman

South African law enforcers have put hundreds of wealthy individuals under
surveillance for suspected abalone poaching. An intelligence report claims
that while several kingpins have been identified, there are hundreds of
divers, professional people and law-enforcement officials helping them
smuggle abalone to East Asia. The report, drafted by the country's leading
anti-crime authorities, says the South Africans involved in the illegal
trade have raked in as much as R3-billion a year in dodgy deals with the
Triads. Abalone, known locally as perlemoen, is being harvested along the
Eastern and Western Cape coastlines and smuggled out of the country in
exchange for drugs and cash. The report - compiled by agencies including the
Scorpions, the National Intelligence Agency, the SA Police Service and the
SA Revenue Service - says most of the suspects live lavishly and own
smallholdings and properties in affluent suburbs such as Dainfern, Sandton
and Bedfordview in Gauteng, Bishopscourt and Kleinbos in Cape Town, and Mill
Park in Port Elizabeth.

They include Chinese nationals who have permanent residence in South Africa,
Cape Flats gangs and members of the apartheid-era security forces. Many live
in high-security housing complexes and use restaurants and import-export
companies to front their illegal trade. "SAPS and SANDF [Defence Force]
vehicles and SAPS radios have been used in the Eastern Cape as escorts and
sometimes to load and transport abalone from the sea to storage facilities,"
the report says. The criminal gangs have electronic countermeasures
equipment. Bribes have even been offered to members of the Scorpions, it
says. The National Prosecuting Authority refused to comment on the report,
but SARS said the crackdown was part of a campaign to improve tax compliance
in the country. "SARS involvement is to support other law enforcement
agencies in combating illicit abalone in the country," said spokesman Adrian
Lackay. "The industry is closely linked to other syndicated crimes such as
money-laundering and drug- trafficking."

The report claims the suspects under surveillance acquired large sums of
money and invested extensively in assets. "The money is also used to buy
vehicles and property registered in the names of friends and family members,
boats, scuba-diving supplies, transportation and the payment of bribes to
corrupt SAPS and MCM [Marine and Coastal Management] officials," says the
document. Among individuals already facing prosecution for dealing in
abalone is flamboyant alleged Cape Flats gang boss Quinton Marinus, arrested
in 2004 with his wife and several others on 108 charges including murder,
money-laundering and abalone- smuggling. The report claims he had close ties
with Chinese citizens. An affidavit by police investigating officer Captain
Christiaan Rossouw pinpoints dates and times when Marinus met up with
Chinese nationals to discuss abalone deals. On one occasion, he was given a
box containing "fattening pills", which allegedly turned out to be 12000
Mandrax tablets. Marinus's trial is set to continue next year.

MCM spokesman Carol Moses said abalone poaching was "mostly linked to
organised crime and syndicates". In one of the biggest busts ever, four
shipping containers packed with 150000 abalone worth more than R11-million
were repatriated from Malaysia and Singapore in November last year. The
renewed poaching crackdown comes days after the Wall Street Journal warned
that Western Cape gangs had become crucial to the expansion of the
methamphetamine trade internationally. The newspaper said gangs obtained
drugs or ingredients used to make them from Chinese sources in exchange for
poached abalone. About 98% of South Africa's methamphetamine addicts live in
Cape Town, regarded as the "tik capital of South Africa". The intelligence
report claims that the mushrooming of the abalone industry has had a direct
impact on other crimes. Charles Goredema, head of the Organised Crime and
Money Laundering Programme at the Institute of Security Studies, said the
Triads, well organised and difficult to detect, were implicated in a broad
range of criminal activities. "This is where collaborative links, either
with fellow criminal enterprises or with corrupted bureaucrats, are useful,"
he said. "There is evidence of merchant shipping that plies the routes
between South Africa, the East African coastline and East Asia being used in
the case of dried abalone. There are also indications of air transportation
of abalone through Swaziland and Zimbabwe."

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Zimbabwe national team coach in vehicle scandal

17 June 2007

By Staff Reporter

Days after Vice President Joseph Msika gave his backing to the underfire
national team coach, Charles Mhlauri now finds himself within the eye of
another storm. He is facing accusations he fitted a number plate from his
BMW vehicle onto a Mercedes Benz C Class he recently imported, in order to
avoid paying import duty.

The Mercedes is yet to be registered in Zimbabwe but the BMW was crashed by
the coach in March as he travelled to South Africa. Its alleged Mhlauri then
took the number plate from the crashed car and fitted it on the new
Mercedes. The car was imported 2 months ago and coincided with the
introduction of a new government directive requiring the payment of import
duty for luxury items in foreign currency.

Press reports say Mhaluri tried to convince revenue authorities that because
he was national team coach he was entitiled to import the vehicle duty free.
Officials at the border gave him the benefit of the doubt but insisted he
provide evidence within 14 days of the car entering the country that he was
entitled to the facility. He failed to get a letter from football
association (ZIFA) proving his claim. The issue has been unresolved for some
time but this has not stopped the dreadlocked coach from driving the
unregistered and uninsured vehicle on the streets of Harare.

Police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Oliver Mandipaka told a state media
newspaper, "A car should have proper documentation and needs to be cleared
by both the police and the CVR to have its own number plates," A
high-ranking official from the Central Vehicle Registry said: "A car should
be properly registered with the CVR and a validation sticker has to be
attached on the windscreen." Mhlauri has meanwhile denied the allegations
saying, 'That's news to me. I never did that. It's a serious offence and how
can a person of my status do such a thing? "Of late, people have been
plotting my downfall and that might be one of the ploys. People are doing
all sorts of things to tarnish my reputation," he said.

Nehanda Radio: Zimbabwe's first 24 hour internet radio news channel.

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Hick becomes 16th batsman to pass 40,000 runs; first since Gooch 13 years ago

International Herald Tribune

The Associated PressPublished: June 17, 2007

BIRMINGHAM, England: Graeme Hick became the 16th player to pass 40,000 runs
in first-class cricket on Sunday, and the first since Graham Gooch 13 years

The Zimbabwe-born batsman, who played 65 tests for England, hit 49 for
Worcestershire against Warwickshire at Edgbaston to pass the landmark in his
841st innings.

The 41-year-old Hick has been playing in English cricket for Worcestershire
since 1983 and, despite his failure to make an impact in tests, passed
numerous domestic landmarks throughout his career.

Before his highest score of 405 against Somerset in 1988, he became the
youngest player to reach 2,000 runs in a season in '86. He took a record low
179 innings to reach 10,000 in county cricket.

Hick scored only 3,383 runs in 114 test innings for a modest average of
31.32 with just six centuries.

Jack Hobbs has the record number of first-class runs with 61,237 between
1905-34, and is the only player to pass 60,000.

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Zimbabwe Vigil Diary - 16th June 2007

Thunder and lightning after a sunny "Trooping the Colour", the annual
military parade and march-past for the Queen's official birthday, which is
held close to the Vigil.  So there were even more visitors about than usual
while the weather over London became more threatening.  But we put up our
tarpaulin and a day of sudden weather changes ended brightly. Vigil
supporters were buoyed up by a general feeling drawn from contacts at home
that the situation in Zimbabwe is reaching a resolution.

We were pleased to be able to display new copies of our tattered banners "No
to Mugabe, No to Starvation" and "End Murder, Rape and Torture in Zimbabwe".
We are grateful to Addley for her painstaking work in making replacements
for the banners that have been worn out in our 5 years of protest outside
the Embassy.

Apart from these banners, passers-by would have seen posters with newspaper
headlines "Prison Zimbabwe" and "There is no Freedom without Sacrifice".
This last is a quotation from Morgan Tsvangirai who is to speak at a meeting
in Luton next Saturday.  Many Vigil supporters hope to attend but of course
the Vigil will be held as usual.

Drawn by the thrilling music, we were joined by a Nigerian friend who said
how much he wished to carry the passion of the Vigil back to his own country
to show how Africans in the UK can campaign. We were pleased to have people
from all over the place as usual: six from as far away as Glasgow, others
from Huddersfield, Sheffield, Liverpool and Devon and big groups from
Southampton, Crawley and Southend.  There were 20 first timers today.
Towards the end of the Vigil we were joined by people who had attended a
Zimbabwe Youth Forum elsewhere in London. They reported a successful

After the Vigil, women supporters went on to hold a meeting to set up a
women's group.  There was a feeling that there are a lot of issues where
women can make a crucial difference, such as raising funds to help those
back home and destitute refugees in this country.

For this week's Vigil pictures:

FOR THE RECORD: 92 signed the register.

-         Monday, 18th June 2007, 7.30 pm. Central London Zimbabwe Forum.
The speaker is Philip Chikwiramakomo, co-ordinator of WEZIMBABWE. Phillip
will address the forum on the potential role of the diaspora in development
in Zimbabwe. Upstairs at the Theodore Bullfrog pub, 28 John Adam Street,
London WC2 (cross the Strand from the Zimbabwe Embassy, go down a passageway
to John Adam Street, turn right and you will see the pub).
-         Saturday 23rd June, 1 - 4 pm. Rally for MDC President Morgan
Tsvangirai.  Venue: Lewsey Community Centre, Landrace Road, Luton LU4 0SW.
For help with directions, contact Racheal Lupafya 07944 040 482, 07960 087
-         Saturday, 23rd June, 7 pm - 2 am (no admission after midnight).
ZIMARTS 2007, a charity music event organised by WEZIMBABWE featuring: Paul
Lunga, Thabani, Hohodza, Tha Tha Ensemble, Harare, Henry Olonga and Ryan
Koriya. Venue: University of London Union, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HY (to
find the venue, check:
For information on tickets:
-         Tuesday, 26th June, 6 - 7 pm. SERVICE OF SOLIDARITY WITH TORTURE
SURVIVORS OF ZIMBABWE on UN International Day in Support of Victims of
Torture organised by Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, Redress, International
Bar Association, International Rehabilitation Council for Victims of
Torture, Zimbabwe Association and of course the Zimbabwe Vigil. Venue: St
Paul's Church, Bedford Street, Covent Garden WC2E 9ED.  Main speakers:
Chenjerai Hove, John Makumbe. All welcome to join the service and
post-service procession to lay flowers on the steps of the Zimbabwe Embassy.
The service will mirror similar services in Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Between January and March this year the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
documented 254 cases of torture in Zimbabwe.

Vigil co-ordinator

The Vigil, outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, 429 Strand, London, takes place
every Saturday from 14.00 to 18.00 to protest against gross violations of
human rights by the current regime in Zimbabwe. The Vigil which started in
October 2002 will continue until internationally-monitored, free and fair
elections are held in Zimbabwe.

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