The ZIMBABWE Situation Our thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.

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From Business Day (SA), 26 June

Zimbabwe prominent in Mbeki's talks with Bush today

Harare - The Zimbabwean crisis will feature prominently in President Thabo Mbeki's talks with US President George Bush in Washington today. Diplomatic sources said that although Mbeki would be explaining the Millennium Africa Recovery Plan (MAP) and discussing bilateral issues with Bush, the Zimbabwean crisis was high on the agenda. It is said to be Mbeki's foremost concern as he seeks to drum up support for his recovery plan. He will soon present his plan to the G-8 summit.

Mbeki and the other main movers of the recovery plan, Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo and Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, are said to be anxious to deal with Africa's remaining despots. The reformist leaders believe that a new political and economic order on a continent synonymous with tyranny, wars and poverty is not possible if dictators remain in the saddle. Mbeki has been criticised for his quiet - some say inaudible - diplomacy on Zimbabwe. Of late, though, he has turned up the volume. His government has condemned farm invasions, company raids, lawlessness and attacks on the judiciary and media.

Presidential spokesman Bheki Khumalo said Mbeki would also visit US Vice-President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, senior White House officials and members of Congress. Mbeki seems determined to dig Mugabe out of the economic and political hole he has dug with acts of misrule and arbitrary land seizures. Two weeks ago Mbeki was in Britain on a state visit and the Zimbabwean issue surfaced at his meetings with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. His overtures to Blair led to the establishment of a Commonwealth foreign ministerial team to mediate in the stand-off between Britain and Zimbabwe over land reform and issues of governance.

Mugabe has welcomed the move to reopen lines of communication with London. He has confirmed that he is prepared to re-consider his land policy, provided the British "change their hostile attitude" towards Harare. Before his visit to the UK, Mbeki had succeeded in persuading Mugabe to soften his hitherto hostile rhetoric against London and Washington to avoid throwing a spanner into his talks with Blair. Mugabe had spurned international efforts to pull him out of the quagmire. Now, however, he seems to have extended an olive branch to the British.

Commonwealth foreign ministers from Nigeria, SA, Australia, Britain, Jamaica and Kenya will visit Zimbabwe ahead of the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Brisbane in October. Zimbabwe's foreign minister is a member of the team, which will hold its first meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, soon. The latest diplomatic breakthrough is largely the product of Obasanjo's diplomacy. Last week Mugabe was in Kenya for talks with his Kenyan counterpart, President Daniel arap Moi, on the land issue and to garner support for what is increasingly looking like a rescue plan. Moi, though, unlike Mugabe, has taken a tough line on land invaders. Pretoria is steadily tightening the screws on Mugabe as it steps up efforts to contain the unfolding Zimbabwean catastrophe.

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From The Star (SA), 27 June

Mbeki, Bush agree to work together for Africa

Washington - President Thabo Mbeki and his United States counterpart George W Bush agreed on Tuesday to work together for a prosperous and democratic Africa. Bush and Mbeki said in a joint statement that they had affirmed their support for the core goals of the Millennium Africa Recovery Plan (MAP), the blueprint to promote development, democracy and peace on the continent. These goals included conflict resolution, good governance, sound economic management and fighting infectious diseases such as HIV/Aids.

On the HIV/Aids pandemic and other infectious diseases, the two presidents said additional efforts to combat these diseases were urgently needed. "We renewed our commitment to working together against them and the conditions that enable the diseases to proliferate." On the crisis in Zimbabwe, Mbeki and Bush said it was their mutual desire for a "peaceful, democratic, prosperous Zimbabwe in which human rights and the rule of law are respected". Bush said he looked forward to the opportunity of visiting South Africa to continue building and fostering the growth of the relations between the two countries. Mbeki was scheduled to meet Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Washington on Wednesday to discuss the crisis in the Middle East.

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From The Financial Times (UK), 27 June

Zimbabwe tries to stabilise weakening currency

Harare - Zimbabwe on Tuesday tightened exchange controls in an effort to stabilise its weakening currency, and at the same effectively revalued the exchange rate for the Zimbabwe dollar. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe said in a statement that with immediate effect all exporters must sell 40 per cent of their export earnings to the central bank at the official exchange rate of Z$55 to the US dollar. Until Tuesday, exporters were required to sell 25 per cent of their earnings at the official rate, selling the balance in the parallel market at a premium of up to 150 per cent. By reducing to 60 per cent the proportion an exporter can trade in the free market, the move effectively revalues the "blend exchange rate" for the Zimbabwe dollar from Z$118 to the US dollar to Z$106.

But bankers say the free market premium - the US dollar is trading at around Z$140 in the parallel market - is bound to rise in response to these tighter controls. Simultaneously and bizarrely, the RBZ also effectively devalued the exchange rate by introducing a new export incentive scheme. This allows exporters to swap their hard currency for Zimbabwe dollars for a period of 90 days or longer at the prevailing exchange rate. The central bank will return the hard currency at the end of the swap period with an incentive payment, though the size of this incentive is not specified.

Banks and other foreign currency dealers must sell 40 per cent of the foreign exchange they receive to the central bank to finance imports of fuel and electricity. Another 20 per cent must be sold to the RBZ for allocation to tobacco farmers to finance imports of essential inputs, while 10 per cent is sold to the RBZ to meet the government’s offshore commitments. The balance of 30 per cent is then available for all other imports.

Also on Tuesday, the Ministry of Finance plans to halve the holiday allowance to US$2,500 per adult from $5,000 previously. Although this has not yet been formally announced a finance ministry spokesman said "In time of foreign exchange shortages, foreign holidays are not essential". In any event, he added, domestic tourism needed a boost because of the slump in foreign visitors.

The moves to tighten exchange controls coincide with growing concerns about food shortages in the country later this year due to the sharp reduction in grain production and the ongoing fuel crisis. Oil companies say they are operating with about 40 percent of their 1999 fuel allocations. Earlier this month, Zimbabwe announced a 73 percent increase in the petrol price and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions has threatened to call a two-day national strike in protest again the fuel price hike. Unless the government rescinds the fuel price rise, there will be a national strike next week.

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From ZWNEWS - In the 26 June issue of ZWNEWS, we included an article from The Sunday Herald on the topic of tourism at the Victoria Falls. We are happy to publish the following correction from the manager of the Victoria Falls Hotel :

Dear Sirs
I wish to advise that the report made in ZWNEWS regarding my statement regarding the Terrace and the current low occupancies was in fact made approximately six months ago to a reporter from the New York Times in an interview conducted at the Hotel . To put the record straight the Hotel actually recorded high occupancies in the pre and post -eclipse periods.
Yours Sincerely
Karl Snater
Operations Manager
The Victoria Falls Hotel
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From IRIN (UN), 26 June

Nujoma Says All Foreign Troops to Be Withdrawn From Congo

Namibian President Sam Nujoma said on Sunday that all foreign troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) would be withdrawn by the end of August this year, BBC monitoring reported, quoting the state news agency. The president made the announcement at a reception which he hosted in honour of 300 Namibian Defence Force (NDF) soldiers who returned from the DRC. Some 150 soldiers arrived in Windhoek by air on Sunday, while the rest had arrived earlier at Grootfontein Military base in the north of the country, last week.

"We, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states comprising of Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe decided to positively respond to the request of the legitimate government of the DRC under the leadership of the late President Laurent-Desire Kabila, when his country and people were threatened with death and destruction by the rebel forces supported by Rwanda and Uganda," he noted. Nujoma said that Rwanda and Uganda did not enter the DRC because of their security concerns, but in order to plunder that country's natural resources, as indicated by the UN Security Council's recent report on the country. The Namibian head of state reiterated that SADC Allied Forces in the DRC are committed to work with the UN peacekeeping force deployed there in order to bring about the realisation of the implementation of the Lusaka Cease-fire Agreement signed in Lusaka, Zambia some two years ago.

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From Yahoo News, 27 June

AIDS Misery in Zimbabwe Mirrors Africa's Plight

Nyika - While the world's political elite meets in New York this week to plan the war against the AIDS epidemic, the people of Nyika village in Zimbabwe will be burying more of their dead. Nyika epitomizes the total devastation and human misery brought on by HIV-AIDS affecting a staggering 25 million people across Africa, the epicenter of the global AIDS catastrophe. Even if the U.N. General Assembly agrees on a battle plan at its first AIDS summit meeting that started Monday, it will be too late for most of the people in Nyika.

Agnes Moyondizvo, a 72-year-old grandmother, cannot remember the last time a week passed in this southern African village without a funeral or a death because of AIDS. "Sometimes I have this feeling that God has abandoned us, and that this is the way we are all going to perish ... At the rate at which this disease is killing us, I don't think there will be any survivors here in two years' time," Moyondizvo said. She has already buried two of her own eight children and three grandchildren in the past three years. In the five days before she spoke to a reporter, five more people died in her tiny village of 40 families, all of them linked to HIV-AIDS. "We still mourn our beloved but very few people shed any tears. Maybe it's because people have cried so much that they don't have tears anymore," she said.

The village cemetery is marked with fresh graves. Loved ones lie beneath freshly dug mounds of earth at family homesteads. Nyika, some 220 miles southeast of the capital Harare, has become home to scores of AIDS orphans and many of the village's small farm plots are lying idle because of a lack of healthy adult workers. More and more villagers are lining up for meagre and scarce aid from the cash-strapped government, according to Moyondizvo. The misery in Nyika is repeated through Zimbabwe and the entire African continent where the vast majority of sufferers cannot get access to proper drugs or adequate health facilities to help treat their condition.

The United Nations meeting aims to lay the basis for a broad multibillion dollar strategy to tackle AIDS worldwide. A plan to rescue Africa from its AIDS crisis is vital to getting drugs to where they are desperately needed and to build a health infrastructure able to deal with this unprecedented calamity. Africa is home to more than 25 million people living with HIV-AIDS. Only a tiny minority can afford drugs that prolong life or treat diseases linked to AIDS. Most are condemned to die in abject conditions, many ostracized by their own communities.

Four of the five countries most hurt by AIDS are in Africa, led by South Africa which has more AIDS sufferers than anywhere else, followed by Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia, according to U.N. estimates. In five African countries - Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe - at least one in five adults are HIV-positive. In the hardest hit, Botswana, people are dying at an average of 23 years earlier than they would be without AIDS. Health officials say Zimbabwe has one of the world's highest rates of AIDS cases, with more than a quarter of its 14 million people estimated to be infected with the HIV virus. AIDS is killing at least 2,000 people a week, and experts predict Zimbabwe could become the first country in the world to record zero percent population growth next year. The United Nations children's fund UNICEF projects that Zimbabwe's average life expectancy would drop to 27 years within the next decade from a current 44 years and 62 years in 1990.

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State seizes church farms

6/27/01 7:48:10 AM (GMT +2)

Daily News Correspondent, Bulawayo

THE government intends to compulsorily seize two Roman Catholic Church farms in Gweru under its fast-track land resettlement programme in a move that is likely to trigger harsh criticism.

The farms are listed as Bembezaan and Rome of Shasha Fountains registered under the Bishop of the Diocese of Gweru.
According to a preliminary notice to compulsorily acquire land released by the Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement, Dr Joseph Made, last week, the two Catholic farms are listed among 577 properties, which include one owned by Vice-President Simon Muzenda and another registered under the name, President of Zimbabwe.
Also on the list are four farms owned by two parastatals, the Cold Storage Company and the National Railways of Zimbabwe, the Bulawayo City Council and Philiat Matsheza, a war veteran and former chairman of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network.
The Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube, yesterday said they would definitely appeal to have the farms struck off the list although he preferred that church officials in Gweru comment.
A man who declined to be identified said by telephone from the Bishop's house in Gweru that the government had informed them the listing was an error and the properties would be delisted.
"We have talked to the government and they have promised to strike the farms off. Negotiations are continuing with the land committee," he said.
The Roman Catholic Church, in which President Mugabe was baptised, has been put under pressure to excommunicate him from the church because of human rights abuses.
The abuses against innocent Zimbabweans has been most prevalent in the invasion and occupation of commercial farms by government-backed war veterans and Zanu PF supporters.
Eight farmers have been killed by suspected war veterans, while Zanu PF was in the forefront of perpetrating terror in the run-up to last year's parliamentary election.
Commenting on the government's intention to take over a Bulawayo City Council farm, the Acting Mayor, David Ndlovu, said the council would appeal against the decision.
"They have told us that listing farms is part of the acquisition process, but they will strike them off when the actual resettlement begins. We are not quite sure why they listed the farm in the first place," said Ndlovu.
Made could not be reached to comment on the listing of the Catholic Church farms or Muzenda's Chomfuli Farm in Gutu.

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Magistrates sue ministry

6/27/01 7:53:04 AM (GMT +2)

Staff Reporter

IN WHAT is probably the first case of its kind since independence, four magistrates have taken the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to court over an alleged unfair labour practice.

Milton Serima of the Harare Civil Magistrates' Courts, Clever Tsikwa of Mbare Magistrates' Courts, Crispen Mberewere of Chitungwiza Magistrates' Courts and Walter Chikwanha of Masvingo Magistrates' Courts, filed an application in the High Court in Harare on Friday.
They are seeking an order setting aside a Public Service Commission (PSC) regulation barring the advancement of magisterial assistants to the grade of magistrate for three years after taking oath of office as magistrates.
The order demands that they be declared magistrates from the date they took oath of office as magistrates. The applicants want the Salary Services Bureau (SSB) to be directed to process their full salary arrears from the date of their appointment as magistrates within 21 days of being granted the order.
Documents produced in court indicate that magisterial assistants earn $7 395 a month, while magistrates get $7 600 a month.
The magistrates cited the PSC, the Ministry of Justice and the SSB as respondents.
Their lawyer, Cosmas Mukwesha of Mtombeni, Mukwesha and Associates, served the PSC, SSB and the Civil Division of the Attorney-General's Office notice of their court application on Friday.
Mukwesha, a former magistrate himself, gave all the respondents 10 days in which to oppose the application.
Tsikwa, in his founding affidavit, said his employer, the PSC, was responsible for authorising the Ministry of Justice to instruct the SSB to effect any advancements in his salary.
He said he was employed by the PSC as a magisterial assistant on 3 February 1997 when he completed the magistrates' course run by the Judicial College of Zimbabwe.
He took an oath of office as a magistrate on 15 December 1997 and became a full a magistrate, Tsikwa said.
"From that day onwards," he said, "I am doing all the duties of a magistrate as stated in the Magistrate Court Act."
He insisted that he had not benefited from his appointment.
"But my appointment to the office of magistrate was of no benefit because I am still being paid as a magisterial assistant, according to PSC regulations.
"It is my contention that this amounts to an unfair labour practice. It is untenable that I am performing all the duties of a magistrate, but I am not rewarded as one."
Tsikwa said he was further disconcerted by the fact that he had long completed his probation.
PSC regulations state that one would act as a magisterial assistant for three years after taking the oath of office for a magistrate. Tsikwa had long completed this period when the advancement of the whole civil service was suspended in terms of the PSC general letter number 14 of 30 May 2000.
While the PSC has the authority to make regulations regarding the promotion of magistrates, these should be consistent with the enabling act, the Magistrate Court Act, he said.

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Peasants Flee Villages Ahead of Elections

Entire villages in Zimbabwe's Mashonaland Central Province have been deserted by peasants fearing political violence ahead of seven crucial parliamentary by-elections. Johannesburg's 'The Star' newspaper reported on Tuesday that villagers in the Bindura constituency had fled their homes and sought refuge elsewhere. A by-election is to be held in Bindura on 28 and 29 July to replace Youth Affairs Minister Border Gezi who died in a car crash about one month ago.

Zimbabwe's independent 'Daily News' reported earlier that Zanu-PF supporters, transported in government-registered vehicles, had descended on the villages in Bindura last week and unleashed a reign of terror on those sympathetic to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The newspaper said the youths had burned thatched huts and looted the villages.

At least one person was critically injured while others were treated and discharged from Bindura Hospital at the weekend, the report said. War veteran Elliot Manyika of Zanu-PF is pitted against the MDC's Elliot Pfebve in the by-election. Pfebve, according to the report, accused Manyika, who is also the governor of the Mashonaland Central Province, of fanning the violence in the constituency. Manyika has denied the allegation.

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