The ZIMBABWE Situation
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Worrying signs of growing violence and intimidation

Injury inflicted by soldiers in Dombashawa

This security update email follows on from our earlier post about soldiers attacking civilians. One victim of such an attack is depicted above.

  • Areas where violence against the MDC has been taking place - Masvingo, Muzarabani, Mberengwa, Chililmanzi, Mutoko, Cashel, Shamva (some houses burned).
  • Dombashawa - last week and this week soldiers from the 1 Mech Bat, ZNA have been beating up MDC people in that area. They are using iron bars and bayonets. One young man had his hand slit, between second and third fingers. His father was slashed on the head with a bayonet (requiring 6 sutures) and was stabbed in the left arm and right hand. The soldiers are in groups of 15 to 20, some in uniform, some in civilian clothing. One of the assailants said “you are MDC and your Prime Minister promised us better pay, where is it?”.† (one victim depicted in photo above)
  • Mutoko - a small group of MDC members visited the Zanu PF people in the area requesting that they return the livestock that was stolen from them last year. In most cases the ZPF people agreed, receipts were signed, with three witnesses. It was all very amicable. Now the Police are charging those MDC members with Extortion! This occurred in Ward 17. The Junta Commander Air. Comm. Bramwell Katsvairo is still in the area - he was in charge of the groups perpetrating violence and mayhem pre and post elections last year. He meets with groups of ZPF youth each night between 7pm and 10pm. During the day, these youths go around intimidating MDC members.
  • Marondera - The Prime Minister a few weeks ago held a well attended meeting in Marondera (as part of a round the country trip). Following this visit it is reported that the CIO in Marondera are saying “things are getting out of hand, we will have to tighten things up, they (MDC) must remember this is the capital of Mash East”.
  • Marondera - three white commercial farmers are being indicted to appear in court for “remaining on their farms”.
  • Odzi - A ZPF member Mike Madiro (ex Provincial chairman) this week evicted all his farm employees saying that their political allegance was dubious. They are not homeless and join the 90% unemployed.
  • Mudzi - reports from this area are that a number of MDC members houses have been burned. Police have been told they are not to attend the scene. (further investigations are being carried out by MDC members).
  • Mudzi - report today of the suspected abduction of MDC member John Sixpence from his home in Kambudzi village, Chimkoko. (Chimkoko was an area very badly affected by political violence last year).

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WOZA members beaten & arrested during peaceful demo

By Alex Bell
17 June 2009

A peaceful march by members of pressure group Women and Men of Zimbabwe
Arise (WOZA) ended in chaos in Bulawayo on Wednesday afternoon, after the
group came under attack by police officials.

The WOZA march, organised to commemorate International Refugee Day on
Friday, consisted of four different groups marching simultaneously from
different points across Bulawayo. The groups were set to converge outside
the offices of the state-owned Chronicle newspaper, which WOZA leader Jenni
Williams said was a 'test' challenging media freedom. She explained that
they wanted to test if there was any real change on the ground in Zimbabwe,
adding that one of the protest groups even started its march outside
Bulawayo Central Police station to test the reaction of the police.

But when three of the protesting groups arrived at the newspaper's offices,
they were set upon by police officers who viciously started beating people
and arrested many involved in the march. The fourth group was stopped
en-route to the offices and also faced attack by the police who also made a
number of arrests. By Wednesday evening nine WOZA members were confirmed to
be at Bulawayo Central Police Station facing unknown charges, while WOZA
officials were still trying to track down a number of their members who had
not returned home.

Three people meanwhile received medical treatment for more serious injuries
sustained at the hands of the police, including an elderly woman who was
pushed to the ground. Several other people sustained bruising and other soft
tissue injuries after being beaten with police batons.

Williams explained that WOZA traditionally marks International Refugee Day,
saying Zimbabweans are "refugees in their own country because they are
displaced, unsettled and insecure." In an earlier statement the group lashed
out at the unity government for allowing a clampdown on informal trading,
which is the only means of survival for most families in a country where
unemployment is well beyond 90%. Williams continued that informal traders
are repeatedly harassed by police and their produce is often looted and

"In a country where all goods and services are now charged in foreign
currency, the inability to earn forex places the vulnerable even more at
risk and forces more and more Zimbabweans to flee their country of birth to
try and provide for their families," Williams said.

Through Wednesday's protest, WOZA said it was reminding the inclusive
government and the world that the people of Zimbabwean remain the victims of
an ongoing crisis, saying: "it is time to put the needs of the people

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Tsvangirai 'warmly welcomed' in Norway on 5th leg of tour

By Tichaona Sibanda
17 June 2009
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his delegation have been warmly
welcomed in Oslo, Norway where the Norwegian premier has promised to
increase aid to Zimbabwe.
The Prime Minister of Norway, Jens Stoltenberg, told Tsvangirai on Wednesday
that funds from his government will mainly go to areas to do with education,
health services and promoting democracy. The Norwegians pledged $8 million -
to total about $40 million the country has spent in Zimbabwe so far this
As has become the norm with each government that Tsvangirai has visited, the
funds will not be channelled through the inclusive government's financial
system, but through the UN, the World Bank and non governmental
Tsvangirai was accompanied to the talks on Wednesday by ZANU PF Foreign
Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi. Norway does not have any targeted
sanctions against individuals in Zimbabwe.
Norway's deputy minister of Foreign Affairs Raymond Johansen, who was in
Harare last month, had invited Mumbengegwi to visit Oslo with Tsvangirai.
In Norway Tsvangirai had started the day with a breakfast meeting with Erick
Solheim, the Minister of International Development. Later he held talks with
Stoltenberg, who told journalists during a media conference that Tsvangirai
has shown leadership and 'great courage as a leader and as head of
The Norwegian premier said they admired his efforts to unify the MDC and the
new government, adding 'we need his leadership in challenging times ahead.'
Stolternbeg also said Norway supports the government of national unity and
is prepared to start bilateral cooperation with the Government.
Meanwhile the European Union has so far refused to give visas to Foreign
Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi and Justice Minister Patrick
Chinamasa. Both ministers are on the targeted sanctions list of the EU.
Chinamasa, Mumbengegwi and Finance Minister Tendai Biti are meant to join
Tsvangirai in Brussels, Belgium for a meeting. Biti is reported to have
traveled to Brussels on Monday night.

Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi, who accompanied Tsvangirai to the United
States, was barred from meeting US President Barack Obama last Friday, much
to the chagrin of his party. It's not clear yet if Mzembi will be allowed
into Brussels, as he is also on the EU targeted sanctions list.
Tsvangirai is expected in Brussels Wednesday evening and during his stay in
Belgium he will address the 27 heads of the European Union.
†Meanwhile ZANU PF Minister of Mines Obert Mpofu, has been refused a visa by
the British government to attend a mining conference in London which starts
next week Monday.

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Norway increases aid to Zimbabwe

OSLO, June 17 (AFP)

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg announced Wednesday an increase in
aid to Zimbabwe bringing this year's total to 200 million kroner (22.5
millions euros, 31.2 million dollars).

Stoltenberg made the announcement during a visit by Morgan Tsvangirai,
Zimbabwe's longtime opposition leader turned prime minister in a unity
government with arch-rival President Robert Mugabe, who has been in power
for three decades.

"The aid will go partly to non-governmental organisations and partly to the
United Nations" and the World Bank, Stoltenberg said at a press conference
with Tsvangirai in Oslo.

"The main priority is basic health, primary education and transition aid,"
he said.

The Norwegian premier stressed that the international community would only
substantially increase aid if Zimbabwe showed progress in democratic

Mugabe and rival Tsvangirai on February 11 formed a power-sharing government
tasked with steering Zimbabwe back to stability after disputed elections
last year further plunged the country into crisis.

Tsvangirai has been on an international tour seeking to raise funds to help
Zimbabwe emerge from years of hyper-inflation and a breakdown in basic
services that has forced millions of Zimbabweans to flee the country.

He met with US President Barack Obama in Washington who pledged 73 million
dollars in aid, stressing however that it was to go directly to Zimbabweans
and not the government given continued concerns about the Mugabe regime.

Germany meanwhile has promised 20 million euros through the World Bank.

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EU lifts travel ban on Mugabe ministers to boost relations

Africa News
Jun 17, 2009, 16:46 GMT

Harare - The European Union (EU) has temporarily agreed to lift a travel ban
on two Zimbabwean cabinet ministers from President Robert Mugabe's party,
following Mugabe's threat to call off re- engagement talks with Brussels,
officials said Wednesday.

'This was a temporary visa waiver. It was a decision made after a
consultation of all EU partners (in Zimbabwe) and Brussels,' said Stephane
Toulet, the deputy French ambassador to Zimbabwe.

'The decision is meant to promote human rights and good governance in
Zimbabwe and to re-engage Zimbabwe with the EU,' said Toulet, whose country
is processing the visas in the absence of a Belgian diplomatic mission in

In 2002, the EU slapped Mugabe and dozens of his cronies with targeted
sanctions, including travel bans, to protest over human rights abuses in

Patrick Chinamasa and Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, Zimbabwe's ministers of
justice and foreign affairs respectively, are on the sanctions list.

The EU had initially declined to give the men visas to join former
opposition leader, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai at talks this week in
Brussels with EU officials. Ministers from Tsvangirai's MDC and a breakaway
faction of the MDC led by Arthur Mutambara are also slated to take part.

On Tuesday, Mugabe had warned he would call off the mission unless the visa
ban on his ministers was waived. A minister from Mutambara's MDC had also
vowed to boycott the trip unless his Zanu-PF opposite numbers were included.

The MDC's number two, Tendai Biti, however ignored the threat and left for
Belgium Tuesday.

The remaining ministers are expected in Brussels Thursday.

Tsvangirai is on a three-week long trip to United States and EU to try
repair relations damaged during the past decade of Mugabe's autocratic rule
and secure aid towards rebuilding Zimbabwe's battered economy.

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Officials try to block Mugabe meeting with Amnesty International's secretary general Irene Khan

They are afraid she could ask "damaging questions"

Amnesty International's secretary general Irene Khan who is in Zimbabwe has
not yet met with President Robert Mugabe as their meeting awaiting approval.

Wednesday 17 June 2009, by Alice Chimora

It emerged today that there is growing worry in the presidency for Khan to
have a face to face meeting with Mugabe. Sources say Zanu PF hardliners are
blocking the meeting fearing that "Khan would ask damaging questions to

Khan, arrived in Harare last weekend and on Monday met influential Defence
Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and also held talks with Presidential Affairs
Minister met Didymus Mutasa and Education Minister David Coltart.

Her visit to Zimbabwe is the first by a top official of the world rights
body in many years. She is on Thursday scheduled to address a press
conference in Harare.

Amnesty, among the most outspoken critics of Mugabe's controversial human
rights record, had said in a statement last week that in addition to meeting
government officials and human rights defenders, Khan hoped to meet the
Zimbabwean leader during her trip to Harare.

Zimbabwe has a long history of gross human rights abuses since 1980.
Hundreds of opposition political activists were killed last year during a
violent general election.

The new Harare administration has established a national healing ministerial
team that will address the violence that characterised the troubled country
especially in the run-up to last year's run off poll.

Political violence that followed then opposition MDC party's shock victory
in presidential and parliamentary elections last year is said to have killed
at least 200 opposition supporters and displaced 200 000 others.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who outpolled the 85 year old Mugabe in last
March bloody election but failed to secure the margin to take power,
withdrew from a June 27 run-off poll saying widespread violence against his
supporters made a free and fair vote impossible.

But Mugabe with the backing of army generals went ahead with the
presidential run-off poll despite Tsvangirai's withdrawal. Later he was
forced to negotiate a power sharing settlement with the opposition after his
victory received worldwide condemnation, leading to the formation of a unity
government in February.

Amnesty International has challenged Zimbabwe's inclusive government to
impose the rule of law in the country and that the administration acts
against state agents and government officials who continue to violate human

But it said it was concerned about the apparent lack of political will by
the power-sharing government to create an environment in which human rights
and media workers could freely do their work.

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Zimbabwe'S civil servants have threatened to go on a massive job action

17 June 2009

By CAJ News

HARARE - ZIMBABWE'S civil servants have given the government an ultimatum to
review their allowances by the end June lest they go on a massive job
action, it has emerged. The public workers' umbrella representative body,
the Public Service Association (psa) has already sent circular to its
members advising them of the intended job action.

The association noted that it had given the government up to the end of this
month to increase their allowances from $100 and announce substantial salary
rates, failure of which would result in a serious national industrial

The circular was issued by PSA president Cecilia Alexander Kowa after a
meeting with the Minister of Public Service Eliphas Mukonoweshuro earlier
this month.

The association said the government should act as soon as it gets funding
adding that it the end of this month would be the deadline for patience in
the civil service.

"The PSA leadership has met with the members in Harare who have resolved to
give Government time up until the July pay sheet to improve on salaries and
conditions of service, therefore the intended job action has been put on
hold until early July 2009.

"We have agreed that as soon as Government gets some funds it will improve
on the US$100 allowance. If there is no improvement then, the members
promise to take action," said Kowa in the circular.

Mukonoweshuro this week confirmed that he had met with PSA leaders and urged
them to be patient while the government tries to source resources.

"I appreciate that there is need to review the allowances and the ministry
would not waste time to act on the issue if resources come at our disposal.
At the moment the situation is challenging because the government has not
been able to get funds.

"The civil service is among the priorities of the government's financial
needs and I urge our workers to be patient. We are working tirelessly to
ensure that their demands are met," said Mukonoweshuro.

The shaky coalition government has been canvassing for financial aid from
across the globe to take the ailing economy back on its feet but the efforts
have not been very fruitful.

Civil servants were promised an urgent review of their allowances at the
birth of the unity government but nothing has materialized four months down
the line.

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Zimbabwe May consumer prices drop 1.0 percent m/m

Wed Jun 17, 2009 3:00pm GMT

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's consumer prices fell for the fifth month in a
row in May, declining 1.0 percent month-on-month compared to a 1.1 percent
fall in April, the Central Statistical Office (CSO) said on Wednesday.

The CSO has not released an annual figure since January when the southern
African nation allowed use of multiple currencies.

This has brought relief to consumers and helped snuff out what had become
the world's highest inflation rate, which hit 231 million percent last year
in June.

Prices have stabilised and basic goods are available in shops, but most
Zimbabweans continue to endure hardships because salaries are very low. The
government is broke and only pays workers a monthly allowance of $100.

Consumer rights groups say an average family of five people needs $469 to
survive through the month.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who formed a unity government with
President Robert Mugabe in February, has been touring Europe and America to
drum up financial support for the new Harare administration.

Western donors, who accuse Mugabe of years of misrule and largely shun the
85-year-old leader, have said direct aid to the government would only flow
when there are tangible signs of political and economic reforms.

Some aid has started to trickle into agencies, bypassing the government.
Germany pledged 25 million euros for Zimbabwe on Monday and U.S. President
Barack Obama promised last $73 million to help fight AIDS and good

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MDC Director-General Shonhe remains in custody

By Violet Gonda
17 June 2009

A senior MDC official remains in Harare Remand Prison after he was arrested
on Tuesday in connection with a case involving a group of MDC 'abductees'. A
Harare magistrate reserved a ruling in the case involving the MDC's
Director-General Toendepi Shonhe, on Tuesday on perjury charges.

A statement by the party said magistrate Jackie Munyonga reserved the ruling
to Thursday, after the State opposed bail alleging that Shonhe was facing
serious charges.

Shonhe is accused of lying under oath when he swore to an affidavit that
three members of the MDC had been re-abducted two weeks ago by State
security agents. He is being charged under the Criminal Law and Codification
Reform Act.

The three activists, Lloyd Tarumbwa, Fani Tembo and Terry Musona, had been
taken by the State security agents from their homes in Banket for interviews
at the Attorney General's Office.

The MDC say the charges against the official are 'trumped up' and that
Shonhe had not lied as the youths had been re-abducted two weeks ago,
although they were later released. Luke Tamborinyoka told SW Radio Africa on
Tuesday that the three, who were first kidnapped from their homes last year,
had been taken again by state agents in unmarked vehicles. He said they are
being forced to act as state witnesses in the case of another group of MDC
activists who were accused of plotting to overthrow the Mugabe regime.

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SA rights activist cleared over 'Mugabe go home' poster charges

By Lance Guma
17 June 2009

Efforts by police in South Africa to have a human rights activist charged
for putting up 'Mugabe Go Home' posters at the venue of Jacob Zuma's
inauguration, fell through this week. Kallie Kriel, who leads the civil
rights initiative Afri-Forum, told Newsreel he put the posters on lampposts
at the government Union Buildings last month, to protest the presence of
Robert Mugabe in the country. He argued that Mugabe's regime continued to
commit human rights abuses, despite the formation of a coalition government.

Police in Pretoria sought to have Kriel charged for putting up the posters
but a week ago he submitted to the State Prosecutor that the charges were
politically motivated and violated his constitutional right to freedom of
expression. He further argued that Afri-Forum had followed all the legal
avenues available to stop Mugabe from visiting South Africa. State
prosecutors eventually ruled in his favour and withdrew all the charges

Meanwhile Kriel contrasted Mugabe being allowed to visit South Africa with a
denial of a visa for Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, by the same
government. 'The fact that the red carpet was rolled out for Mugabe in South
Africa, immediately after 18 activists had been arrested in Zimbabwe, sends
a negative message to the world regarding the South African government's
stance regarding human rights,' Kriel stated.

Newsreel obtained a copy of Kriel's presentation to state prosecutors and in
it he details how he wrote several letters to Zuma's office and the
Department of Foreign Affairs, regarding Mugabe's invitation. He said
although the President's Office acknowledged receiving them they did not
respond to the contents. Kriel also listed Mugabe's abuses, from Operation
Murambatsvina to the crackdown on opposition activists and the arrest of
journalists. He said the ignoring of a SADC tribunal ruling on the land
issue showed that the coalition would do nothing to restore the rule of law
in Zimbabwe.

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Zimbabwe Business Watch : Week 25

Manufacturing continues to struggle to re-equip and re-capitalise in order
to compete against foreign imports.

Ironically SADC certification allows neighbouring countries duty free access
to the Zimbabwean market which is further punishing local industry. There
are reports of unscrupulous businesses, mainly importers of finished goods,
which are forging Certificates of Origin and supplying product out of Asia.

Interest rates continue to be a major concern as forex shortages push up the
cost to the level that far exceeds the regional average. Various submissions
are being made to the Transitional Government to address the serious
consequences of these anomalies. Business bodies are protesting and
government has offered a sympathetic ear but no decisive action has yet been

Disparities with the regional community abound and Workers Compensation is
said to be 3 to 4 times than that of neighbour, South Africa.

This entry was posted by Sokwanele on Wednesday, June 17th, 2009 at 2:10 pm

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Morgan Tsvangirai to appeal for his people's return to Zimbabwe

June 17, 2009

Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent
Morgan Tsvangirai will deliver a passionate appeal this week to Zimbabwe
refugees and asylum seekers living in Britain to return home to help to
rebuild their shattered country.

In a two-hour address at Southwark Cathedral before evensong on Saturday
afternoon, the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe will argue that his country has
made important progress towards democracy and stability.

He will tell the thousands of Zimbabweans who have fled during Robert Mugabe's
rule that their country needs their skills, youth and vigour to help it move
further along the path to recovery.

Mr Tsvangirai, who is on a three-week world tour to boost his country's
standing in the West, will also meet Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling in an
effort to secure financial support for Zimbabwe and political support for
his party, the Movement for Democratic Change.

Mr Tsvangirai's host on Saturday, Colin Slee, the Dean of Southwark, told
The Times: "He is going around the world to try and persuade governments
that now they have some power sharing at last, the better way out of this
mess for governments is to support the country. They can do this by giving
money. He is coming to the cathedral primarily to meet the Zimbabwean people
in exile. He is going to say to them, 'You have real skills and abilities,
please choose your moment and come home to Zimbabwe to help rebuild your

Dean Slee said many of the asylum seekers were living in difficult
circumstances in Britain. He admitted that like many, he feared a "blood
bath" when Mugabe loses power. He hoped the southern African spirit would
prevail to enable "truth and reconciliation" as happened in South Africa.

Mr Tsvangirai has chosen Southwark Cathedral to deliver his message because
the diocese is linked to four of the five Anglican dioceses in Zimbabwe,
with the cathedral itself linked to a diocese of its own. Anglicans in
Zimbabwe have suffered terrible privations in an episcopal power struggle
that has seen worshippers locked out of churches and intimidated and
persecuted by the regime.

A former Anglican bishop of Harare, the disgraced Nolbert Kunonga, an ally
of Robert Mugabe, attempted to split the church and set up his own province
with himself as archbishop, taking funds and property from the legitimate

Church doors have now been opened, however, and the new bishop, Sebastian
Bakare, who keeps the chains that were used to lock the door of Harare
Cathedral in a bag in his office, led Anglicans in Easter celebrations in
the building this year for the first time in two years.

An appeal set up by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, Dr Rowan
Williams and Dr John Sentamu, has raised £300,000 to help the churches
provide food and health care for the victims of the nation's crisis.

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CHRA, National Residents Association mobilize residents for people driven local governance reforms

17 June 2009

The Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) in partnership with the National Residents Associations Consultative Forum ( NRACF) are conducting a series of ward based public meetings in the towns and districts across Zimbabwe; meant to mobilize the residents to demand the adoption of† the local governance reforms identified and drafted by the Residents Associations under the National Residents Associations Consultative Forum.

Councilors from the respective wards are playing an active role in these public meetings. They (councilors) are working together with the Residents Associations ward leadership to mobilize residents to attend and participate. The Councilors are also helping with the bookings of Community Halls where these public meetings will be held.

The topical issues that will be discussed at these public meetings include;

Residents Associations will also use these public meetings to educate residents on the following;

††††††† Conducting water/electricity meter readings; and service bill interpretation so as to make sure that they are not prejudiced by service providers.

††††††† Senior citizens benefits with respect to service delivery charges

††††††† How to use water & electricity sparingly

††††††† Pollution

††††††† Updating of Residents Associations programmes.

††††††† Recourse for damages incurred as a result of the cholera crisis.

CHRA remains committed to advocacy for good, transparent and accountable local governance and the delivery of quality and affordable municipal (and other) services on a non partisan basis. The National Residents Associations Consultative Forum continues to provide a platform for the coordinated voice of residents on critical issues. †

Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA)

145 Robert Mugabe Way

Exploration House, Third Floor


†Landline: 00263- 4- 705114

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

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Tsvangirai's trip abroad deepens coalition rift

By KITSEPILE NYATHI, NATION CorrespondentPosted Wednesday, June 17 2009 at

HARARE, Wednesday

The refusal by Western leaders to meet ministers from President Robert
Mugabe's party accompanying Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on a tour of
North America and Europe has deepened rifts in Zimbabwe's coalition
government, it has emerged.

Mr Tsvangirai is on a three-week tour of the United States and several
European countries to try to repair relations damaged during Mr Mugabe's
iron fisted rule and to secure urgent aid to repair Zimbabwe's battered

State media first raised questions about the composition of the Prime
Ministers delegation, which they said was dominated by ministers from his
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) when Mr Tsvangirai embarked on the trip
a fortnight ago.
But murmurs of disapproval from Zanu PF intensified after Tourism Minister
Engineer Walter Mzembi --- the only Zanu PF minister in the delegation ----†
was barred from meeting United States President Barack Obama last Friday.

The state media, which is loyal to Mr Mugabe reacted angrily and accused the
US government of bias.

Mr Tsvangirais next important engagement is with senior European Union
officials in Brussels later this week and he will only attend with one
minister each from his party and from a break away MDC faction.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa was due to attend the meeting but has
been refused entry by the EU because he is one of the more than 200 Zanu PF
members including Mr Mugabe under targeted sanctions from the EU and the US
since 2000.

There were reports that Mr Mugabe told his cabinet on Tuesday that the
meeting should be abandoned if Mr Chinamasa was denied entry.

Industry Minister, Professor Welshman Ncube from the MDC break away faction
was quoted as saying he would not attend the meeting unless Mr Chinamasa was
granted a visa.

We are supposed to go tomorrow but it depends on whether the other members
can get the visas, he told the German Press Agency.

But ministers from Mr Tsvangirai's party are already in Belgium for the

Mr Mugabe's loyalists say Mr Tsvangirai is holding a brief from the veteran
leader to call for the lifting of sanctions, which Zanu PF says were crafted
with MDCs assistance.

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Letter from Africa: how the press is challenging Zimbabwe's government

Mugabe's stranglehold on press freedom is showing signs of weakening, with a
new independent paper about to launch

David Smith, Wednesday 17 June 2009 13.01 BST

The mounted head of a buffalo stared down at me beside the smoky,
oak-panelled bar of the New Ambassador hotel. About a hundred journalists
were crammed in, sitting or standing, for a debate of noise and passion with
interludes of loud hilarity. A government minister sat at the bar and joined
in, while another listened as he leaned on a pool table.

It wasn't a scene I had expected in Zimbabwe, where it's often assumed that
President Robert Mugabe has a stranglehold on the media with thought police
in every room. After all, numerous journalists have been intimidated or
jailed, and the only daily newspaper, the Herald, is little more than a
compilation of Zanu-PF press releases.

On a Tuesday night in a 1950s hotel in Harare, however, the Zimbabwe Press
Club was speaking its mind. It had invited Eric Matinenga, a minister in the
unity government, to debate the country's new constitution with Dr Lovemore
Madhuku, a human rights lawyer and chairman of the national constitutional

Madhuku went first, wearing a blazer and striped shirt, clapping his hands
and speaking with fire and brimstone. He declared: "The process is being
done in a very arrogant way. I don't think our politicians are more
qualified to write our constitution than our citizens. When we say we want a
people-driven process, we mean a body that does not answer daily to the
government of the day."

He finished to riotous applause and cheers. Then it was the turn of
Matinenga, a member of prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for
Democratic Change. He struck a conciliatory note: "We do not agree with Dr
Madhuku but we respect and defend his right to say it."

Then he tried to reassure the assembled throng: "When you come to
constitution making, it's not about the parties, it's about the people of

There were some feisty questions from the floor, some in English, some in
Shona, and more laughter. One participant said bluntly: "We want a
government of our own choice. If you dilly-dally with the process, you
dilly-dally with the people."

I felt at home in the journalistic tribe and encouraged by the apparent
fearlessness with which they expressed their opinions. But I could see
something more ominous on the wall. There were six framed photographs of
journalists who were no longer alive and a poster that asked: "What happened
to Edward Chikomba?"

Chikomba was a cameraman found beaten to death on a roadside near Harare two
years ago. It was unclear whether his "crime" was to have sympathies for the
MDC or to have smuggled news footage out of the country.

On another day I sat in the ordered chaos of the office of Vincent Kahiya,
the editor of the Zimbabwe Independent. The paper lives up to its name and a
recent editorial talked openly of "Mugabe's disastrous policy failures". It
also, incidentally, referred to "the duplicity of MDC leaders".

But taking a stand comes at a price. Kahiya and his news editor were
recently arrested and spent a night freezing in police cells with no bedding
or food, bad lighting, dirty floors and a broken sewage system. "You ask
yourself, 'Why am I here?" Kahiya said. "'What have I done to be here?'"

He continued: "The whole episode is a clear admission by the unity
government of what it thinks about media freedom in this country. The media
is still regarded as a nuisance unless it sings Mugabe's praises. As a
journalist here you operate with an axe over your head and you never know
when it's going to fall and which story they're going to pick on, because
there are so many media laws they can choose from."

Yet the status quo is about to be tested. Just along the corridor, past
reporters at their computers, Barnabas Thondhlana, one of Zimbabwe's leading
newspapermen, is planning to launch a new daily independent. He has declared
that NewsDay will pull no punches on either side.

"We will praise the government of the day when it has done something good,"
he told me. "We will acknowledge any good Robert Mugabe has done. We will
throw brickbats at him when he's fucked up. We will do the same for Morgan

Thondhlana was at the country's last independent daily, the Daily News, in
2003 when armed police stormed the office, ordered journalists out and
padlocked the door. He looks with envy on the freedom of the press in other
countries. He added: "If the British politicians' expenses scandal had
happened in Zimbabwe, the paper would have been closed down, the reporter's
head would have been on the line and someone would be in jail right now."

Yet, just as firefighters sign up to fight fires and soldiers sign up to go
to war, so journalists thrive on a "busy patch". Vincent Kahiya has had no
shortage of stories in recent years to fill the Zimbabwe Independent. He
mused: "It's a unique opportunity for a journalist to be in this
environment. I once spent a month in Denmark on secondment and there isn't
any news. People write about trees, or the trains being late."

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Noise fear for Zimbabwe elephants
Wednesday, 17 June 2009 15:40 UK
African elephants
The area around Victoria Falls has a large concentration of elephants

Noise pollution from helicopter flights over Victoria Falls could badly affect important elephant herds in Zimbabwe, environmentalists have warned.

They say senior government ministers are backing plans for a four-fold increase in tourist flights.

It is part of attempts to take advantage of an expected tourist boom when neighbouring South Africa hosts next year's football World Cup.

Work has already begun on new helipads but without official permission.

Zimbabwean Environment Minister Francis Nehema says no environmental impact assessment has been made - and without it the scheme cannot go ahead.


"It doesn't matter who you are. We want it done. It is a prerequisite," he said.

Zimbabwean journalist Brian Hungwe says at present just five helicopters fly over the falls at any one time.

That figure is set to grow to around 20, as tourists scramble to secure stunning aerial views of one of the world's most spectacular sights, he says.

But environmentalists fear excessive noise pollution will have an adverse effect on the behaviour patterns of the elephants.

And Deliwe Utete from non-governmental organisation Environment Africa says if the elephants flee it could have worrying repercussions for the resort's entire ecosystem, affecting thousands of wild animals and birds.

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