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

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      Zim divides world

      Nelson Banya
      3/10/2005 7:22:53 AM (GMT +2)

      GLOBAL opinion on Zimbabwe's forthcoming elections is sharply divided
with only three weeks left before the crucial March 31 parliamentary polls -
offering little hope for the former British colony's full re-admission into
the international community.

      The poll, which could turn out to be a two-horse race between the
ruling ZANU PF and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), is becoming an
emotive issue, sparking divergent ideological flames despite indications
that the elections could be a less chaotic affair.
      Leading the onslaught against Zimbabwe is the United States and the
European Union (EU), which heightened pressure on Harare in recent weeks
through the publication of a damning report on the country's human rights
record and renewed targeted sanctions against President Robert Mugabe and
his lieutenants. The US and its EU allies have already pre-judged that the
elections would not be free and fair, which has raised the ire of the
Zimbabwe government.
      However, despite increased isolation that has virtually dried foreign
aid into the country, the government is not without allies, mainly on the
African continent and across the Third World, contributing to the lack of
international consensus on the Zimbabwean crisis.
      Zimbabwe's powerful ally, South Africa, has steadfastly stood by its
neighbour in the face of mounting domestic and international criticism of
President Thabo Mbeki's seemingly ineffective quiet diplomacy.
      Mbeki, who has expressed confidence in Zimbabwe's much maligned
election process ahead of the poll, remains the preferred mediator in the
Zimbabwean crisis. At the same time, Zimbabwe has continued to enjoy
support, mainly from the southern hemisphere, at key international fora, be
it the International Monetary Fund (IMF) executive board, which is currently
considering the country's fate in the 184-member group, the European Union
and African, Caribbean and Pacific trade talks or the United Nations'
Commission for Human Rights, among others.
      Zimbabwe, whose government stands accused of alleged bad governance
and human rights abuses, has largely escaped censure at these bodies due to
the polarisation of views on the country.
      University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure
said the international community's stance on the Zimbabwean political crisis
mirrored the polarisation within the country itself.
      "The polarisation we see within the international community, where the
South Africans, for instance, are saying one thing and the Americans the
other, replicates the polarisation within the country itself, but then that
can be expected, considering that the international community is by no means
      "Whether those respective positions are accurate is another matter,
but the lack of consensus on the Zimbabwe question has been a major
stumbling block to getting to a universally agreed resolution to the issue,"
Masunungure said.
      Analysts have grappled with the vexatious issue of how the
polarisation has come about.
      Others have proffered ethnical explanations that the white west is
pitting itself against a black government, which dared to expropriate land
previously held by a white minority. As a result, they say, states have been
divided along ethnical lines in their position on Zimbabwe.
      Others have offered a historical rationale for the phenomenon, saying
South Africa and other regional states which share a common history of white
colonial rule cannot be seen to be deserting a fellow liberation movement in
      Whatever the reason, Masunungure said, the differences in how to
approach the Zimbabwean crisis only served to worsen the problem.
      "The polarisation has compounded the problem," he said, adding that
the invitation of election observers reflects the siege mentality that had
resulted from an inadequate international response to the political crisis.
      "The government will invite institutions it perceives to be
sympathetic to what it is doing and shun perceived enemies. Institutionally
there is something tragically wrong about the selection of observers because
it is improper for a government that is itself the result of a political
process to invite observers to validate that process.
      "The so-called independent electoral commission should have done that
because it has a veneer of autonomy. A gladiator cannot choose the referee,"
Masunungure said.
      Since 2000, when the current political and economic crisis deepened,
the country has held two hotly contested elections and several by-
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      elections- characterised by violence and intimidation.
      The Harare government has drawn widespread criticism and outright
condemnation, mainly from western countries led by the United States and
Britain, which have accused the ZANU PF government of holding on to power
through repression. The government denies this allegation.
      The two states, supported by the EU, have proceeded to apply targeted
sanctions at President Mugabe and his ruling inner circle, following what
they declared a flawed presidential election in 2002.
      The government, on the other hand, has dug in and accuses its western
critics of siding with the small white Zimbabwean population, which lost
prime farmland in the government's land reform, launched in 2000 after years
of piecemeal redistribution to landless blacks.
      The ensuing years have seen an unprecedented diplomatic war, which
culminated in Zimbabwe pulling out of the Commonwealth, a grouping of former
British colonies.
      For its part, Harare has softened its hard-line stance adopted at the
peak of the land and election controversies and has even implemented poll
reforms, which, however, opposition groups and critics have dismissed as
inadequate and half-hearted.
      The government, however, views these measures as steps towards a
return to universal international acceptance of the political process and
its own legitimacy.
      While the increased isolation has clearly hurt Harare, which is having
to battle its worst economic crisis in history without meaningful aid and
financial support from multilateral institutions such as the IMF and the
World Bank, the government is not without allies, mainly on the African
continent and across the Third World.
      This has been the major reason why there has not been international
consensus on the Zimbabwean crisis, its genesis and what needs to be done.
      South African foreign affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma last
week told US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice - who branded Zimbabwe an
"outpost of tyranny" that prospects for a free and fair election were good.
      "Now that has been made clear by the ruling party, by the government,
by the police that there should not be violence, and we understand the
police are taking measures against those who are, so we think that will
really remove the big problem that there was in the last elections," Zuma
      The US state department's public response to Zuma's assertion was: "We
will just have to wait and see."
      South Africa's position is doubtless shared by most observers invited
by the government to observe the poll. Apart from states deemed acceptable
to Harare, as well as liberation war movements from the southern African
region and other African regional blocs, the government, which has been
accused of inviting only its allies to observe the election, has also
promise to allow diplomats accredited to Zimbabwe to observe the poll.
      It is this latter section, which is likely to produce adverse reports
on the electoral process, in the absence of the Commonwealth group and the
Southern African Development Community (SADC) parliamentary forum, which
raised the government's ire in 2002 by refusing to endorse the election

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      SADC livid over poll snub

      Njabulo Ncube
      3/10/2005 7:23:48 AM (GMT +2)

      THE Southern African Development Community (SADC), with its eyes
firmly focused on Zimbabwe's month-end parliamentary polls seen as a litmus
test for the regional bloc's Mauritius Protocol, is seething with anger amid
indications that Harare will not invite the SADC Parliamentary Forum to
observe the elections.

      The forum's secretariat in Windhoek yesterday was reluctant to comment
on the latest developments clouding Zimbabwe's crucial polls.
      But sources in the local non-governmental sector sector said eyebrows
had been raised on why the government had omitted the parliamentary forum
from the list of invited organisations yet the same grouping, led by Speaker
of Parliament Emmerson Mnangagwa, observed
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      the Malawi elections last year.
      The same source added that the government in 2002 invited the forum in
its own right, adding that failure to accede to the forum's request gave
credence to claims that the government was livid over the regional
grouping's damning report over the disputed 2002 presidential polls.
      In the disputed 2002 presidential polls, the parliamentary forum,
unlike other African missions invited to observe the epic race between
President Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC), issued an adverse verdict on the conduct of the
      The parliamentary forum proceeded to publish a damning report accusing
the ruling ZANU PF of engaging in state-sanctioned violence to burgeon
opposition supporters into submission. On its part, the government dismissed
the report as biased and based on the whims of hostile Western powers who
reportedly sponsored the forum.
      Sources in Gaborone, Botswana, the seat of the SADC secretariat, and
Windhoek, Namibia, the seat of the parliamentary forum, yesterday revealed
the grouping was still awaiting a response from the Zimbabwean government,
with the election less than three weeks away.
      The same sources said the forum wrote to President Mugabe two weeks
ago seeking permission to observe the elections.
      SADC civic groups and the MDC charge that the government is punishing
the parliamentary forum for giving the 2002 elections the thumbs down when a
number of invited regional delegations had declared President Mugabe's poll
victory as legitimate.
      Sources said Botswana's Finance Minister, Duke Lefgoko, had been
pencilled in to head the parliamentary delegation, which had been set to
leave for Harare before the end of next week. Lefgoko was part of the
forum's 2002 mission.
      "It does not hold water for the government to say that the forum
should come under SADC. These are two different entities," said Reginald
Matchaba-Hove, chairman of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network.
      Government spokesperson George Charamba, who was quoted in the state
media saying the invitation extended to SADC covered all its ancillary
bodies and that the parliamentary forum should not expect special treatment,
was not immediately available for comment yesterday.
      The African National Congress, South Africa's ruling party, and the
Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) have also expressed outrage at the exclusion of
the SADC parliamentary forum.

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      Election resurrects inter-party talks ghost

      Staff Reporter
      3/10/2005 7:24:20 AM (GMT +2)

      KEY players in the watershed March 31 polls, the ruling ZANU PF and
the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), have upped their campaign tempos,
as it also emerged this week the victorious party would be under pressure to
revive the failed inter-party talks.

      Highly placed sources said regional leaders, out to have free and fair
polls, were stealthily pushing the twin objectives of ensuring a
violence-free campaign on one hand and thereafter roping the feuding parties
back to the negotiating table on the other.
      The plan, which might hit a brick wall should ZANU PF or the MDC
secure a two-thirds majority, might help stem the political crisis that has
stalked the country since the disputed 2000 and 2002 elections, they say.
      "The plan is bound to work this time around. Both parties have a lot
to lose should they continue to pull in different directions," said a
      Inter-party talks between ZANU PF and the MDC were put in the deep
freezer in mid-2002 mainly because of the intransigent positions taken by
the feuding parties.
      South African President Thabo Mbeki had tried to play the midwifery
role in striking a negotiated settlement to Zimbabwe's multi-layered crisis,
but his June 2004 deadline also failed to thaw the freezing political
      Despite the grand plan to heal the political sores, which have
lengthened efforts to resuscitate the economy, ZANU PF and the MDC are, for
now, focused on throwing everything they have into the March 31
parliamentary polls that have courted the world's attention.
      The MDC, which would be seeking to upset ZANU PF's 25-year-grip on
power, said it has entered the race "with a heavy heart" and "under protest"
citing government's failure to fully adhere to principles and guidelines of
holding democratic elections in the region.
      Preparations for the elections, which would also pit other fringe
political parties against the MDC and ZANU PF, have so far been peaceful
with no major incidences of violence reported.
      The main opposition party would again be riding on the politics of the
stomach in the wake of imminent food shortages, which could be aggravated by
poor rains this season.
      ZANU PF is using the land reform and current efforts to turn around
the economy to woo
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      From Page 1
      voters, while blaming the current economic challenges on interference
from the MDC and its foreign allies out to effect a regime change.
      Internal fights that have rocked both ZANU PF and the MDC, which have
led to the mushrooming of independents candidates, could turn out to be
their biggest undoing.
      Both parties, said analysts, would also have to fight voter apathy to
enhance their chances of winning.
      ZANU PF secured 62 seats in the previous 2000 parliamentary elections,
while the MDC bagged 57 of the 120 contested seats. The MDC mopped up all
seats in the towns, banishing ZANU PF to rural areas and went on to contest
the ruling ZANU PF's victory in 37 constituencies.
      The MDC has since dropped its 2000 election petition challenge saying
it had merely become an academic exercise given Parliament would be
dissolved on March 30 ahead of the 2005 general elections.

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      ZBH poll coverage 'trick' exposed

      Njabulo Ncube
      3/10/2005 7:26:25 AM (GMT +2)

      THE Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), enjoying rare election
coverage on public radio and television, has written to the chairman of the
Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH) protesting over alleged manipulation of
the airwaves.

      The main opposition alleges the country's sole public broadcaster was
deliberately distorting its election programmes on television and radio to
give an unfair advantage to the ruling ZANU PF.
      This comes at a time when the government-controlled broadcaster has
been in the news saying that the opposition party was not utilising the
amount of airtime allocated to it.
      Allowing all political parties airtime is one of the stipulations of
the Southern African Development Community protocol on free and fair
      "We hereby lodge a formal complaint concerning the manner in which you
handled our programmes on national television and radio. We are concerned
and aggrieved by your continued sabotage of the party. You seem to be going
out of your way to ensure that MDC efforts are thwarted," wrote Welshman
Ncube, the party's secretary general, to ZBH chairman Rino Zhuwarara.
      "Yesterday (Monday), ZTV featured an interview with MDC legislator and
secretary for economic affairs Tendai Biti. As you are aware, in the major
cities, the programme was clear only in Harare and Masvingo. In areas such
as Gweru and Mutare the interview was not clear, as there was severe
interference in the form of feedback from radio. In Bulawayo there was
complete loss of transmission.
      "As far as the MDC is concerned this was deliberate sabotage. It
appears to us that the blackout and severe interference was not
coincidental," said Ncube in his letter to Zhuwarara.
      The Financial Gazette's correspondent in Bulawayo, Charles Rukuni,
said transmission on the day in question was lost during the ZBH's News
      "We, therefore, call upon you to desist from such actions, which are
clearly designed to undermine the MDC campaign. We also ask for unequivocal
assurance that this will not happen again. Furthermore, we request, and
justifiably so, that yesterday's (Monday) programme be re-screened so that
those who failed to see it can do so. We hope to hear from you in the next
48 hours."
      Zhuwarara said although he was still to receive the letter of
complaint from the MDC, he was the wrong person to address the issues raised
by the opposition.
      "This is an issue of Transmedia, not ZBH. What we do is record the
programmes and we are not allowed to distort them," said Zhuwarara. "Talk to
Trasmedia. They are the people involved with transmission."
      Efforts to get a comment from Transmedia proved fruitless yesterday.
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      Zambia maize exports ban poses threat to Zimbabwe

      Chris Muronzi
      3/10/2005 7:26:53 AM (GMT +2)

      A BAN on maize exports by Zambia could worsen the food situation in
Zimbabwe, which needs to import grain to stave off shortages this year.

      Industry players told The Financial Gazette that in the absence of
contingent measures, the country, which has been importing grain from within
the Southern African Development Commu-nity, might experience famine in
areas affected by poor rains.
      Lusaka slapped a ban on maize exports last week to ensure the
Zimbabwe's northern neighbour has enough stocks of the staple to feed its
own population.
      Zimbabwe, whose dependency on the northern neighbour for grain has
risen over the years following disturbances in agricultural production
triggered by, among other things, its land reform, had not anticipated
Zambia's new regulations.
      Grain Marketing Board (GMB) boss Samuel Muvuti refused to comment on
the issue, accusing this paper of demonising the parastatal to further
"imperialistic agendas".
      He said: "All you want is to demonise this parastatal. Forget that
story . . . I know where you are coming from with that."
      The Millers Association of Zimbabwe conceded, however, that the
country could suffer reduced maize supplies because of the ban.
      "In the absence of an alternative source, one would want to think that
it could cause problems for the country's food situation. I am sure there is
a contingency plan on the part of the GMB," said Mike Manga, president of
the association.
      GMB, which is tasked with the marketing and procurement of grain, is
reportedly running around to stave off looming grain shortages in the face
of relatively low rainfall and the cumulative effects of persistent grain

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      Election? What election?

      Nelson Banya
      3/10/2005 7:27:58 AM (GMT +2)

      ZIMBABWE trudges towards yet another election burdened by a growing
list of ills, ranging from a failing economy, a public health delivery
system that has virtually collapsed, an inefficient transport system, rising
unemployment and a tenuous food situation, among other things.

      But the buzz that has characterised the past two elections since the
formation of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the ruling ZANU PF's
biggest challenger since independence in 1980 is not evident this time
around and political analysts fear widespread apathy by an electorate that
has seemingly surrendered to fate.
      Yet this could be the most issues-driven election, after the highly
emotional affairs that 2000 parliamentary election and the presidential poll
two years later were.
      The Zimbabwean economy is in a parlous state. The gross domestic
product (GDP) has shrunk by as much as 30 percent since 2000.
      Although inflation has come off somewhat in the past 12 months, it
reached a peak of 622.8 percent in January 2004. The Zimbabwe dollar has
been in free-fall, particularly in the run-up to March 31. The managed
auctions for foreign currency, introduced by the Reserve bank of Zimbabwe
(RBZ) in January 2004, have come under strain in recent weeks.
      The local unit trades at around $6 000 to the greenback at the
auctions, but overwhelming demand in the face of diminishing supply has
rekindled the parallel market for hard currency, where the US dollar trades
at as much as $13 500 to the local unit.
      Soon, the authorities will have to review the price of fuel and
inflationary pressures, which saw a marginal percentage point increase in
January, will bubble up.
      The ZANU PF government, which is blamed for the country's economic
crisis, is upbeat about prospects of a turnaround, despite the worsening
      ZANU PF projects a return to positive GDP growth this year, within the
three to five percent range, although independent projections by the
International Monetary Fund (IMF) point to a more modest growth, 1.8
      After years of contraction, the ruling party will doubtless take
credit for any margin of positive growth.
      The ruling party has also promised exchange rate stability, a
sustained reduction in inflation levels, increased investment as well as
manufacturing and mining output.
      The MDC, on the other hand, has also promised economic recovery, a
return to macro-economic stability and growth.
      The opposition party is also running on the critical issues of jobs,
food security and housing, among others.
      While Zimbabwe clearly finds itself at a defining stage in its
history, the pervasive apathy that could yet be the overriding factor in
this election begs the question: are our politicians far removed from the
harsh realities confronting the masses everyday?
      A cursory look at the two major parties' manifestos would reveal a
certain degree of commitment towards meeting the country's aspirations.
      The MDC has come up with a social democratic blueprint, which the
party's secretary for economic affairs Tendai Biti this week said would see
the party returning to the days of a big welfare state.
      The MDC, Biti said, would commit itself to providing free primary
education, with 15 percent of the national budget going that way. An MDC
government would also create a National Aids Trust to harness resources to
deal with the pandemic.
      On the other hand, ZANU PF, which has increasingly become
ultra-nationalist in light of what it perceives to be a direct attack on its
survival by hostile foreign powers, mainly Britain and the United States,
following the launch of the land reform exercise, has declared the polls an
"anti-Blair" election.
      While critics point that the ruling party has, since 2000, been
spoiling for a fight with the western powers as a diversionary tactic,
President Robert Mugabe has maintained that the British and US governments,
which declared his re-election in 2002 illegitimate, have continuously and
actively worked for his ouster. As a result, President Mugabe maintains, the
two powers are as much a factor in Zimbabwe's politics as any proximal
      Analysts have frequently pointed out, however, that both ZANU PF and
the MDC had contributed to the waning interest in matters political.
      The fifth parliament, sworn in after the hard-fought 2000
parliamentary contest in which ZANU PF won 62 seats and the MDC 57, brought
with it much promise and excitement but, according to critics, the country's
most balanced parliament since independence generated more heat than
lighting, with the two parties eager to score political points at the
expense of real issues.
      ZANU PF members of parliament, on the one hand, became obsessed with
toeing the party line and rubberstamping legislation, while the MDC
legislators revelled in playing the role of spoilers in a display of sheer
partisanship. Public despair grew relentlessly all the time, and both
parties could yet pay the price of squabbling while the nation smoulders.
      It has been noted how cases of political violence, which had become
the bane of Zimbabwean elections since 2000 when the MDC emerged as ZANU PF's
stiffest challenger, have drastically gone down.
      While several reasons have been proffered for the refreshing
phenomenon, apathy appears to have played a big part.
      Political activists are no longer as charged as they were in the past
two elections and while it is a truism that no politician is worth dying or
killing for, the experience of the past five years - in which activists have
toiled for precious little in the way of tangible rewards - has brought this
home in the clearest possible way.
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      Cherry-picked observers start trooping in

      Njabulo Ncube
      3/10/2005 7:29:19 AM (GMT +2)

      INTERNATIONAL and regional observers cherry-picked by President Robert
Mugabe's government to observe Zimba-bwe's parliamentary elections started
trickling into the country this week but government critics fear their
arrival, three weeks before the polling day, could be too late for them to
effectively gauge Harare's compliance with set guidelines.

      Under the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mauritius
Protocol on free and fair elections Zimbabwe, as the host state, is obliged
to invite foreign observers at least 90 days before elections.
      But the government, a signatory to the Mauritius Protocol, sent
invitations to 32 selected observer missions in February, less than 40 days
before the March 31 polls.
      Critics accuse the government of inviting only "friends" to observe
the elections, in which the ruling ZANU PF seeks to garner a two-thirds
majo-rity to tinker with the constitution and effect some changes, among
them the re-introduction of a bi-cameral parliament.
      South Africa's ruling African National Congr-ess (ANC) is among the
circle of friendly obser-vers Harare has invited, whose pre-election period
has not been characterised by violence as was the case in 2000 and 2002
      All in all, Zimbabwe has invited 23 African countries, five Asian,
three Americas and only Russia from Europe.
      Apart from the ANC, the government has also invited some liberation
organisations, among them the South West African People's Organi-sation
(SWAPO) of Nami-bia, the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA), Front for
the Liberation of Mozamb-ique (FRELIMO), MPLA of Angola and Tanzania's
Chama-Chama Mapinduzi (CCM).
      The government has also invited the African Union (AU), Community for
Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Non Aligned Movement (NAM), the United
Nations (UN) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
      It has effectively left out countries and organisations which did not
declare the 2002 preside-ntial elections as free and fair.
      Analysts who spoke to The Financial Gazette said the three-week period
leading up to the polls was inadequate for obse-rvers to effectively rule on
the legitimacy of the elections. They said cou-ntries and organisations
invited by the government were not known to produce adverse reports on
Zimbabwe and the ruling ZANU PF.
      "We would have preferred the invitations to have gone out as per the
SADC Mauritius agreement so that observers scrutinise the pre-election
period way before the actual polling day," said Reginald Matchaba-Hove, the
chairman of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), a coalition of
local civic organisations with interests in Zimbab-we's electoral processes.
      "The pre-election period is different from the eve of the election.
Observers should have been here three months ago to get a feel of the
electoral playing field, which has been a cause of concern for the
opposition and other stakeholders."
      Information obtained by The Financial Gazette indicates the
hand-picked observer missions, including regional liberation organisations,
started trooping into the country on Tuesday this week, the first being an
African National Congress (ANC) delegation led by James Motlatsi.
      Apart from the ANC observer mission, South Africa will in the next two
weeks dispatch a 20-member parliamentary observer team and a national
delegation to be led by Membathisi Mdladlana, the country's Labour Minister.
      By virtue of its present position as chair of the SADC organ on
defence, security and politics, South Africa is also heading the regional
grouping's observer mission. South Africa's Home Affairs Minister, Nosiviwe
Mapisa-Nqakulai, will lead the SADC observer mission. Mapisa-Nqakula is not
new to Harare. She observed the disputed 2002 presidential poll widely
condemned by the West and the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) as flawed, citing violence and alleged intimidation of opposition
supporters. Her 70-member entourage is scheduled in Harare next Monday.
      Eldred Masunungure, who teaches political science at the University of
Zimbabwe (UZ) said jetting into a country, which for the past five years has
fought a political impasse pitting President Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai of
the MDC, on the eve of the polls did not augur well for SADC, which crafted
the principles and guidelines of staging democratic elections.
      Masunungure said three weeks was insufficient for observers to fully
grasp Zimbabwe's political situation, adding that the foreign contingent
needed ample time to assess Zimbabwe's pre-election period.
      "It is impossible to observe an election in two weeks and proceed to
come up with a credible report on its fairness or unfairness.
      "The observers need more than two months. The elections are not about
the election day but the campaigns and electioneering as well," said
      "The pre-election period is equally important. Without prejudging
their reports, what we might end up having is a partial and not a global
picture of the reality of the election. Two weeks is inadequate for them to
come up with a fair, balanced and comprehensive report. They need to know
what has been going on prior to the elections."
      Matchaba-Hove said the list of countries and organisations asked to
observe the polls was also suspect in that a majority of them had in the
past endorsed alleged excesses of ZANU PF rule.
      "Invitations should have gone to as many countries and organisations
as practically possible. This includes inviting people with ideas different
from ZANU PF," said the ZESN boss, in apparent reference to Harare's refusal
to allow the SADC Parliamentary Forum to observe the elections. Unlike other
African observer missions, the SADC Parliamentary Forum produced a scathing
report condemning violence and other unfair practices during the disputed
polls which saw President Mugabe (81) winning another term in 2002.
      Masunungure added: "The criteria used to select 32 countries out of
200 countries that constitute the international community is baffling. It's
all friends invited to a party."
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      Stealing the bricks

      3/10/2005 8:08:56 AM (GMT +2)

      WE warned in our editorial of December 31 2004 that despite the
impressive gains realised so far through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe's
well-thought out and effective anti-inflation measures, government, known
for its intransigence, was most unlikely to play ball and adopt austerity
measures to put a fresh heart into the sickly economy.

      Our argument was not without foundation. Despite the consensus that it
is critical to see the RBZ measures through to their full expression, it is
difficult to instil fiscal discipline in a government facing a tough
election. Moreso one which has a history of profligacy. In any case
politicians will do anything to get votes - forget the oft repeated
self-serving platitudinous cliche of "doing things for the greater good".
There is no such thing. That is why politicians throughout the world are
known to even lay down lives not necessarily for their respective countries
but for their bloated self-interest.
      It was once observed of former US President Franklin D. Roosevelt that
if he became convinced that coming out for cannibalism would get him votes
he so sorely needed, he would immediately begin fattening a missionary in
the White House backyard.
      So it is with the Zimbabwe government which has decided to dole out a
whopping $156 billion this year to ex-political prisoners and restrictees, a
staggering 25 years after national independence! The recipients will get
$1.3 million each per month. Contrast this with the $2.5 million-$3.5
million given to graduate teachers in whose hands lie the scholastic
development of Zimbabwe's children upon which the salvation of the nation is
very much dependent!
      Not only that but the timing of these payouts is both curious and
suspicious. Moreso coming as they do, on the eve of a crucial parliamentary
election, making it extremely difficult not to have the inescapable
conclusion that this was done for political expediency.
      Now, it does not need a rocket scientist to know that such unbudgeted
expenditures would have a far-reaching negative inflationary impact -
reversing all the real gains achieved so far in the fight against
inflation - the country's enemy number one. Indeed, it would be unfortunate
to see the government reducing the RBZ efforts to naught, presenting a
sadder spectacle of a flower that withers on the stalk before coming to
fruition, especially as the central bank has thus far surprisingly breached
its self-imposed inflationary targets.
      That the inflation scourge has been a millstone around the nation's
neck is beyond argument. And Zimbabweans need no reminding of the havoc it
wrought on their lives. We are all aware of the sad story of how the
bleeding national ulcer, among other factors, reduced the economy to a
recessionary heap - a prolonged period of negative growth. All sectors of
the once reassuringly resilient economy, now trying to bottom out of a
seemingly deep trough, felt the inflation pinch. Jobs went up in smoke and
productivity gains were undermined. From housewives concerned with the price
of bread, gilt-edged stock investors interested in real returns to large
businesses - the untenable inflation situation was felt across the whole
spectrum of Zimbabwean life.
      As pointed out in our editorial earlier on alluded to, businesses were
finding it increasingly difficult to plan as they had to factor in inflation
in their models while consumers had resigned to large automatic price
increases month-by-month if not day-by-day. Not only that but the high
inflation, way out of line with the situation obtaining in Zimbabwe's
trading partners, touched off an accelerated depreciation of the Zimbabwe
dollar, which explains why there was a flight of speculative funds as a bet
on the fall of the value of the unstable local unit.
      That is until the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe adopted tough remedial
action to curb what has become a suppurating national ulcer. The central
bank recognised that taming inflation, which over the years had seemed like
a finite game, had to be priority number one. It is not difficult to see
why. Inflation lay at the heart of the country's economic dilemma. Holding
the line on inflation, which stunts economic growth, was therefore key to
economic stability. Even the most influential person in the global financial
markets today, Alan Greenspan of the US Federal Reserve, once said that
inflation interferes with the efficient allocation of resources by confusing
price signals.
      And the central bank has made good its commitment to fight inflation
with missionary zeal. This, it has admittedly done with distinction hence
the critical acclaim it has received for its achievements. Reducing
inflation from an all-time high of over 600 percent in January 2004 to 133
percent in January this year was no mean achievement by whatever definition.
      Be that as it may, Zimbabwe is still not yet out of the woods. Yes,
battles have been won but the war is far from over. Not by a long shot. And
this explains why fears of inflationary pressures are not yet receding.
Hence the clarion call for the RBZ not to take its foot off the pedal.
      But the central bank can only do so much. All stakeholders have to
play their role. It is time for pragmatism and not populist policies.
Government should therefore not ignore the voice of reason and influence of
realities for political capital. Instead of its intransigent and unrealistic
approach where it seeks political solutions to the country's economic woes,
government has to be at one with the RBZ. Otherwise its populist actions are
stealing the bricks from the anti-inflation wall.
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      Student's lament

      3/10/2005 7:40:10 AM (GMT +2)

      EDITOR - I just want you to come and witness how we are suffering at
the University of Zimbabwe campus. For resident students to get any meal at
all one has to stand in a queue in the dining hall for at least one hour
before one is served with a poor quality meal and apart from that one has to
walk from complex 1,2,5 to the dining hall, a distance of about three

      Apart from that non-resident students have to pay $10 000 for a plate
of sadza and one piece of meat. If the student comes from Chitungwiza or
Ruwa he or she has to have at least $120 000 for transport and lunch just
for a week. To make matters worse, we are only getting just a $1 million for
15 weeks.

      Blaz wa blaz
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      Fired Chronicle editor to get $900m windfall

      Rangarirai Mberi
      3/10/2005 7:32:27 AM (GMT +2)

      THE Zimbabwe Newspapers (1980) Limited (Zimpapers) board has ordered
an immediate review of its retrenchment policy, having realised it would
have to pay sacked Chronicle editor Steven Ndlovu $900 million in severance
pay, and spend billions more to fund a planned sweep of editors loyal to
fallen Information Minister Jonathan Moyo.

      The Financial Gazette has also heard that the board has resolved to
shed what they believe to be non-core relics of the Moyo administration, as
Herbert Nkala's board moves to pare costs and refocus the group that Moyo
had carved into a personal propaganda instrument.
      The board's decision could spell trouble for The Southern Times, a
publication Moyo had hoped would dilute the regional influence of South
Africa's Sunday Times.
      Under Zimpapers' current retrenchment policy where a retrenched worker
is entitled to a package of two months' salary for every year worked, Ndlovu
would have been paid $900 million, before taxes.
      Ndlovu is also understood to have demanded to take with him, in
addition to the cash, his company-issued Nissan "Wolf" Hardbody. However,
the board declined to hand it to him for free as the vehicle was only
acquired last year. Ndlovu was instead given the option to buy the vehicle
at its book value of around $200 million.
      The cost of letting Ndlovu go immediately awakened the board to the
huge amounts they would have to pay if they follow through with a widely
expected reform of the top editorial structures at Zimpapers, a management
source familiar with the matter said yesterday.
      "Letting the editors go on the current policy would blow a hole in our
finances at a time the company is returning to profit," the source said,
estimating the probable cost to be over $3 billion. This would match an
exchange loss of $3.5 billion that Zimpapers took in the financial year to
December 2004. Other editors targeted for the sack have worked longer at
Zimpapers than Ndlovu, and are on bigger salaries, which means their claims
would be much higher than Ndlovu's $900 million, a factor which has
apparently spooked the board into trying to change its policies.
      Ndlovu yesterday declined to comment on the matter, while Zimpapers
chief executive officer Justin Mutasa was said to be away.
      However, an expert in personal tax told The Financial Gazette that
Zimpapers would risk legal trouble if they hold back on Ndlovu's package,
saying the company should have changed its regulations prior to dismissing
the employee, and not after they took the decision to give him the sack.
      Zimpapers a fortnight ago fired Ndlovu, who had stayed fiercely loyal
to Moyo even as his fall became increasingly imminent late last month.
Ndlovu's demise raised the spectre of more sackings at Zimpapers, whose
board is now apparently seeking to rid the company of Moyo's once fearsome
      Although The Southern Times is a joint venture between Zimpapers and
New Era, the state-owned publisher of Namibia, The Financial Gazette
understands that Zimpapers' commercial printing division Natprint was being
forced to print the Southern Times at no cost to the paper.
      Natprint recorded a $6.8 billion loss in the last financial year.
Sections of the board believe that The Southern Times, together with a
string of other unprofitable rags, are an unnecessary burden that the group
can do without.

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      Black market booming again

      Charles Rukuni & Felix Njini
      3/10/2005 7:32:56 AM (GMT +2)

      THE foreign currency black market, which was temporarily dampened by
the introduction of the managed auction system last year, has resurfaced
with a vengeance, prompting Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon
Gono to issue a stark warning to financial institutions.

      Rates on the black market have soared to more than double the auction
rate as demand outstrips supply. Even the so-called "World Bank" in Bulawayo
is failing to cope.
      While the United States dollar was trading at $6 053.64 at the auction
on Monday, it was selling for as much as $13 500 on the black market the
same day.
      The rand, which was going for $1 043.50 at the auction floors is now
fetching around $2 500 on the parallel market. The British pound, which is
fetching $11 000 on the official market is now attracting rates of up to $23
      The Botswana pula traded at $1 388.10 at the auction but sold for as
much as $3 000 on the black market.
      The proliferation of the illegal foreign currency trade comes amid
suspicions from monetary authorities that some financial institutions are
actively participating on the parallel market.
      Gono, who has wielded the axe against illegal foreign currency trading
and imprudent banking practices last week, warned financial institutions
against "imprudent operations" lashing out at what he termed "heartless and
selfish pursuit of super profits".
      "We are deeply concerned by the resurgence of active parallel market
trading in the economy, a result of heartless and selfish pursuit of
super-profits by a few at the expense of the entire economy's stability,"
Gono said.
      "We have also seen some of the players in the financial sector soiling
their hands in these illegal practices, all for want of above-the-moon super
profits," he said. The central bank governor warned of the pain suffered by
some players in the sector caught on the wrong side of the fence.
      "The central bank will, therefore, take stern measures against any
licensed operators in the financial sector found directly or indirectly
flouting exchange control regulations.
      "Equally, as monetary authorities, we wish to warn retailers and other
members of the corporate sector and the public that the bank is carrying out
strict exchange control surveillance to smoke out illegal dealers, and all
defaulters will be brought to book without fear, favour or hesitation," Gono
      Increased demand for foreign currency and a fixed foreign currency
allocation from the auction floors had seen the local unit on a free fall
over the past six weeks, market watchers said.
      The allocation has remained static at US$11 million despite bids
shooting up from US$29.4 million on January 3 to a peak of US$101.3 million
on February 14 2005. A staggering 4 277 out of 4 404 bids were rejected on
February 17. On Monday 3 066 out of 3 206 bids were rejected. The illegal
foreign currency trade has proliferated despite the central bank's assurance
to the nation that foreign currency inflows into the country were improving.
      Last year a total of US$1.7 billion found its way into the country
compared to US$301 million in 2003.
      The central bank expects inflows to reach US$3.1 billion this year, 77
percent of the 1996 peak of US$3.9 billion.
      Foreign currency shortages have worsened since the announcement of the
extension in foreign currency proceeds repatriation periods by the RBZ in
the fourth quarter monetary policy review statement late January.
      Since February, exporters can now hold on to 70 percent of their
foreign currency for 90 days, up from 30 days previously, in their foreign
currency accounts and sell the balance at the ruling auction rate.
      Analysts have noted that even if exporters exceed the mandatory 90-day
remittance period, the penalty is only 15 percent of their export proceeds,
which they would be required to dispose of at the official rate of $824 to
the US dollar.
      Since the announcement of these changes, the market has witnessed an
unprecedented increase in the demand for foreign currency against a
background of static supply compared to the previous period.
      For instance, the amount of bids that averaged US$53 million during
the last quarter of 2004 against an average supply threshold of US$10.5
million, increased to US$53.5 million in January 2005.
      However, since February 2005, the average demand has shot up to
US$94.37 million, as the demand has now breached the US$100 million mark,
against a static supply of US$11 million.

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      30 percent fall in cotton price

      Felix Njini
      3/10/2005 7:34:31 AM (GMT +2)

      A GLUT of cotton on the international market may see a 30 percent
slump in the price of the product, reducing Zimbabwe's foreign currency

      Industry players told The Financial Gazette that international lint
prices had fallen from US73 cents per pound in 2004 to US49 cents in 2005.
The price is expected to pick up to around US60 cents in the coming year.
      A boom in cotton output from China, the United States of America and
Australia has seen production rising by nearly 21 percent, according to an
official with the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (Cottco).
      "International lint prices are significantly lower (30 percent) than
last year's due to increased world production," said the Cottco official.
      Zimbabwe produced 331 000 tonnes of cotton in 2004, but players expect
a 30 percent fall in output this season. Exports of cotton, which was fast
taking the place of tobacco in terms of foreign currency earnings, last year
earned the country more than US$150 million.
      Apart from the slump in the international cotton price, local farmers
have also been hit by the sliding value of the local currency against the
United States dollar.
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      Interfoods selloff sets tongues wagging

      Staff Reporter
      3/10/2005 7:31:48 AM (GMT +2)

      INTERFRESH Holdings Limited's disposal of its manufacturing
subsidiary, Interfoods, as part of its restructuring is now mired in
controversy after it emerged the company was sold to one of the group's
non-executive directors, Michael Shongwe Ndoro.

      Sources told The Financial Gazette this week that former Tedco Limited
boss Ndoro, who has been keeping a low profile of late following his
departure from the listed retail and manufacturing group last year, had
acquired Interfoods for $3 billion, payable over 24 months at a hugely
discounted interest rate of 30 percent per annum.
      It is understood the deal, sealed in October last year, had the full
blessings of the Interfresh board.
      When reached for comment, Ndoro, who was also at the helm of Schweppes
a few years back, said he had recused himself from the board's discussion of
the transaction in the "interest of corporate governance."
      "I can confirm that I bought the company (Interfoods), but I can't
disclose the financial details of the transaction . . . and it was approved
by the board. In the interest of corporate governance, I recused myself from
the board during deliberations on the specific transaction," said Ndoro.
      Interfresh chief executive Evan Christophides said his group had
arrived at the decision to sell off Interfoods after it was projected to
make a $3 billion loss in the financial year to December 2004.
      The subsidiary, which was proving to be a black sheep within the
horticulture group, had recorded another $1.7 billion loss in the previous
year, and management had swiftly suspended exports within the division.
      It has also been established that Ndoro, who previously held a 25
percent stake in another Interfresh subsidiary, Marlon Trading, sold his
stock to the group, which has now established 100 percent control of the
      Ndoro, who was appointed to the Interfresh board in July 2004, makes
up a new-look board for the group, chaired by former Old Mutual executive
Lishon Chipango.
      Interfresh now has in its portfolio citrus, flowers, trading and a
support services entity. All 11 subsidiaries have been under the respective
      Its subsidiaries include Interspan, Transfruit, Intercrop, Wholesale
Fruiterers, Citifresh and Marlon Trading.
      Interfresh has made significant strides offshore, where it has
clinched markets in Europe, the Far and Middle East, Canada and Russia. It
has also successfully penetrated the southern Africa region.
      The group has, however, expressed concern over the listing by the
government of Mazoe Citrus Estates despite repeated pleas that the
development was disrupting production and future investments.
      Over 88 percent of Mazoe Citrus Estates was listed for acquisition,
while 46 percent was resettled at the height of land seizures which began in
      Interfresh says it has financiers ready to inject funds into a dam
project that would augment water supply in Mazoe and pave way for the
opening up of new land to farming.

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      Violence charges baseless: Chihuri

      Staff Reporter
      3/10/2005 8:22:41 AM (GMT +2)

      ZIMBABWE'S commissioner of police Augustine Chihuri says charges by
opposition parties of the resurgence of political violence and selective
application of the law three weeks before parliamentary polls are false.

      Chihuri claimed at a press conference this week police had arrested
more ZANU PF supporters than those of the main opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) since January this year.
      He said the police arrested 67 ZANU PF supporters compared to 42
supporters of the MDC on charges of politically-motivated violence.
      The ZRP boss said ZANU PF had 23 cases while the MDC had 17 cases. He
said it was also a falsehood by the MDC to claim that the Public Order and
Security Act were drafted with the MDC in mind.
      "The accusations that this piece of legislation was designed for any
one political party are false. Are not all political parties holding rallies
countrywide as we speak? Participants (in the election) should not pile
their shortcomings on the ZRP or the law," said Chihuri. The MDC has
prepared a dossier of violence against its members, which includes arrest of
its officials found distributing fliers or putting up posters in public
places by the police.
      Chihuri said police were empowered by the Electoral Act to arrest
anyone putting up posters on premises without the consent of owners of
      "As we move towards March 31 parliamentary elections, there are
distortions that are already appearing in the media both here at home and
internationally with increasing and sickening regularity. It could be
political expedience that peddlers of such information sacrifice fact for
fiction," said Chihuri.
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      In Zimbabwe, the thrill is just not there

      Rangarirai Mberi
      3/10/2005 8:21:34 AM (GMT +2)

      TWENTY-SIX-YEAR-old Colin does not know yet how he will spend March
31 - but he knows he will not spend that Thursday anywhere near an election
      "There's an election this year? Seriously?" he mocks. "Do you know
anybody who is going to vote? I don't."

      Of course, it is unlikely that Colin does not really know that there
is an election this month-end. But content with sitting in this trendy
suburban bar and ordering lagers by the barrel, Colin admits he has no
interest at all in the coming general election.
      He is not alone though. Colin is just one of many of Zimbabwe's young
urban professionals who are spending more time talking about the legendary
arrogance of football coach Jose Mourinho, for example, than they are about
the country's political future.
      It should be a worrying sign for Zimbabwe's political parties,
particularly for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which
had appealed to young professionals in previous elections. But even more, it
should be a worrying trend to organisations involved in voter education.
      Five years ago, Colin voted for the first time in his life, one of the
hundreds of thousands of enthusiastic, young, first time voters that the MDC
successfully pulled to voting stations on promises of a modern and competent
      There was a buzz prior to the general election in 2000 and the 2002
presidential race, a feeling of something big about to happen, that kind of
expectant feeling Bob Marley, the late legendary Jamaican reggae singer,
would have called "a natural mystic blowing through the air".
      The result was the largest voter turnout since independence in 1980 -
at some urban centres, police had to beat thousands of voters away on the
last day of polling in 2002 after voting closed.
      But now, relentlessly cursing at Chelsea coach Mourinho on TV, Colin
wouldn't care less about who wins on March 31. Just as it was ZTV that drove
him mad and sent him running to the polls in 2000, it is something he
watched on the same station recently that finally convinced him to stay away
from the polls.
      "The other night, you had (ZANU PF political commissar Elliot) Manyika
saying we should vote ZANU PF because they have brought inflation down from
623 percent to 132 percent. That's a senior government official's reasoning.
Then you had two more guys, one from the MDC and another an independent
saying nothing; all of them are empty," says Colin, who claims to be an
"independent financial advisor".
      International interest in March 31 has been building up over the past
few months, with scathing criticism of the poll coming from US Secretary of
      Condoleezza Rice and the British House of Commons.
      Regional leaders, such as South African president Thabo Mbeki, have
also spent time talking about Zimbabwe. But in Zimbabwe itself - apart from
the relief at a less violent campaign - the thrill is just not there.
      Political analysts say the average Zimbabwean, whether bravely
fighting off the wolf from the door or battling to keep his business afloat,
has grown weary of Zimbabwean politics - its fraud and
      The trauma of watching the last two elections being flagrantly stolen
through fraud and butchery will take time to heal.
      Watching the perpetrators of that violence not only walking free, but
in fact now claiming to be peace-loving saints, has sapped the zeal right
out of the ordinary person, leaving them with no other wish other than just
to be left alone.
      The voter fatigue is shared among young urbanites, keen only on
getting on with their professional lives, and rural folk, whose lives are a
ritual of receiving food handouts from ZANU PF while evading violence from
the same.
      After the high expectations of 2000 and 2002 collapsed into a painful
anti-climax, it will be difficult for political groups to rally the
electorate around any strong cause.
      The land ticket does not sell much for ZANU PF anymore, so an
"anti-Blair" cause is being chased - hardly a cause to whip up passions.
      The dour atmosphere that has stayed with Zimbabwe only three weeks to
the election has given rise to fears of massive voter apathy at the polls.
Many had expected more enthusiasm for the vote once the MDC abandoned an
earlier threat to boycott the election, but this turn in public sentiment
has never come. It is a vote of no confidence in a political process that
once promised a lot, but one that delivered little.
      At an interdenominational national prayer meeting for a peaceful
election last month, Roman Catholic Bishop of Manicaland, Patrick Mutume,
asked: "Why do we allow those we give power to turn and use that power to
suppress us?
      "We are at fault because we put evil people into power. Why are we
rewarding them?"
      Perhaps his answer lies in the suburban pubs where young men who just
do not care anymore get emotional over English football, in the reeking
poverty of city townships where families know no other struggle apart from
staying alive, and in the countryside, where ZANU PF has long broken
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      Independent candidates body launch flops

      Staff Reporter
      3/10/2005 8:23:13 AM (GMT +2)

      A WEEKEND rally to officially launch a loose coalition of independent
candidates contesting in the March 31 parliamentary election flopped in
Bulawayo, amid reports that about 50 people attended the launch.

      The rally, dubbed the "Solidarity Rally" and organised by the newly
formed Independent Candidates' Solidarity Network, was billed to feature 16
of the 17 candidates contesting in the poll as independents.
      The grouping, reportedly under probe by the government over the source
of its funding, has already established a secretariat.
      Sources who visited White City Stadium told The Financial Gazette that
Jonathan Moyo, the former Cabinet minister who is standing as an independent
candidate in Tsholotsho, did not attend the poorly organised rally that had
been intended to mark the official launch of the independent candidates'
      Moyo, the former government spin-doctor who is pitted against
incumbent legislator Mtoliki Sibanda of the Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) and Musa Ncube-Mathema of the ruling ZANU PF party, is understood to
be sympathetic to the coalition.
      Sikhumbuzo Ndiweni, the coordinator of the grouping, told this
newspaper last week that Moyo "has been helpful". Ndiweni denied that the
former minister of information and publicity was bankrolling the
organisation as widely believed in government circles.
      Charles Mpofu, one of the leading officials of the coalition, which
appears to be a loose grouping of disgruntled former ZANU PF and MDC
aspiring candidates, confirmed the rally "did not live up to expectations".
      Mpofu, who is facing David Coltart of the MDC and Sithembiso Nyoni of
ZANU PF in Bulawayo South, attributed the unsuccessful launch ceremony to
bad publicity and failure by the police to speedily process the organisation's
clearance to stage the gathering.
      "There were about 100 people. This was due to bad publicity by
newspapers and the police, who delayed issuing us with a clearance to hold
the rally," said Mpofu.
      Mpofu was at the venue with Stars Mathe, another former MDC Bulawayo
councillor who is standing in Pumula/Luveve against Esof Mdlongwa of the MDC
and Bathandi Mpofu of ZANU PF.
      Mpofu also confirmed that Moyo was not at the venue. Sources said Moyo
was in Tsholotsho coordinating his election campaign.
      The former government-spin doctor was not immediately available for
comment yesterday.

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      Zimbabweans question value of elections

      Staff Reporter
      3/10/2005 8:24:12 AM (GMT +2)

      ZIMBABWE on March 31 goes to its third election since the political
crisis that started in 2000 shook the once prosperous Southern Africa
      The March parliamentary elections are pitting old foes, the ruling
ZANU PF party, the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and
tribal-based ZANU (Ndonga).

      The last two crucial elections in Zimbabwe, the 2000 parliamentary
poll and the presidential election in 2002 left a trail of destruction and
lingering memories of violence, chaos and fear among millions of Zimbabwe's
      The elections turned Zimbabwe's political system into a power game
between the ruling party and the MDC, resulting in the sidelining of popular
issues and concerns of the general populace.
      All the parties campaigned on the platform that they would improve
living standards of the ordinary people, but the living conditions of many
Zimbabweans have only got worse, leaving many in near destitution.
      A number of Zimbabweans now question the value of elections that have
failed to improve their lot.
      Harare resident and school teacher Mary Mvurumi says she has not seen
life change for the better after an election. She says by-elections have
been held and life goes on as if nothing significant has happened.
      "My income has remained stagnant and I am still living in this shack.
To me, the elections are not significant," says Mvurumi, pointing at one of
the many shacks that litter Dzivaresekwa, one of Harare's sprawling high
density suburbs, about 21 km west of the capital.
      It is people such as Mvurumi that both the opposition and the ruling
party have started bombarding with campaign manifestos and other material to
canvass for support in the coming election but the major question emerging
is: will the ordinary person take the bait and vote for either ?
      Zimbabweans have issues they want addressed, but successive elections
have come up with colourful blueprints for success, which have remained on
paper and not yielded much.
      Political analyst and head of the National Constitutional Assembly
(NCA), Lovemore Madhuku, says the political environment in Zimbabwe does not
give room or space for real concerns and issues to be raised and discussed.
      "The election itself is an issue and I see it as a ZANU PF election to
be held in an environment that does not provide issues or a case for the
election," Madhuku says.
      He says the election is a trap President Robert Mugabe is setting to
preserve his power.
      "At 81, Mugabe has achieved lots on the basis of his iron fist rule
and people have been playing into his traps. That is why the MDC is
participating in the election, another trap," Madhuku says.
      Madhuku says the MDC will not win the election despite its evident
optimism because President Mugabe is setting the rules and virtually running
the electoral system.
      In the run-up to the last parliamentary election in 2000, ZANU PF
promised to tame unemployment by creating 850 000 jobs and five years later,
the jobless rate is said to be 82 percent.
      The MDC has also sung from the same hymn book and promises to provide
more jobs should it snatch power from ZANU PF.
      The economy has continued declining, sapping ordinary people's
interest in Zimbabwe's political life, resulting in the fading of the appeal
that followed the MDC's formation amid much promise.
      Stanley Kwangari, a carpenter at a backyard workshop outside Harare's
central business district, says he was more concerned with his daily
survival, adding that he was not bothered which party was in government as
long as his income pulled him through.
      "See, I have to make money everyday. I am not bothered whether or not
people are going to vote next week. You are right, some have no choice but I
want cash," says Kwangari.
      But political analyst Takura Zhangazha says the ruling party has
scored a victory of sorts in managing to secure the participation of the
oppo- sition MDC in the election.
      "ZANU PF has finally trapped the MDC into participating in the
      Succession politics in ZANU PF have had a bearing on the election. The
ruling party is aiming for a two-thirds parliamentary majority that would
enable it to amend the constitution.
      "The reorganisation in ZANU PF after its national congress was done to
win the election and now the MDC is in," he said, hinting that the move
would serve to legitimise the ZANU PF government, which has grappled with
the curse of discredited elections in the past five years.
      Zhangazha says the forthcoming election would be hit by voter apathy
because the electorate has lost faith in the electoral system.
      "Judging by the conduct of the presidential election in 2002 and
parliamentary by-elections, people have lost confidence in the elections and
lots of work needs to be done to convince people to participate in the March
election," he said.
      He added that civil society views electoral and constitutional reforms
as important and key issues in the conduct of the election.
      To those in civil society, Zhangazha said, the issue of concern as the
election draws nearer was the new non-governmental organisations (NGO) law,
which bars foreign funding for human rights work and demands that the NGOs
register and agree to have their work monitored.
      "Civil society would want the NGO legislation repealed because of its
effects on election monitoring, civic education and voting," he said.
      Others however feel that the government must take firm steps to level
the playing field to secure total participation by the opposition in the
election process.
      Despite the grandstanding by both the ruling party and the opposition
on the coming election, one analyst says the question of legitimacy looms
large over this election and it is a dent the ruling party would want
addressed now.
      Eldred Masunungure, chairperson of the political science department at
the University of Zimbabwe, says ZANU PF is battling for recognition and
legitimacy and would use the March election to mend its reputation.
      "Yes, they are eyeing a two-thirds majority in parliament but I don't
think they would not take the elections as an opportunity to correct their
battered image," Masunungure said.
      He said President Mugabe has dealt with his former information
minister Jonathan Moyo in a manner that shows that he is not interested in
Moyo's combative approach in dealing with the opposition.
      "The ruling party cannot continue trashing the opposition as Moyo used
to do in the past and the focus is on the election as a window of
opportunity to attract international engagement in addressing the Zimbabwe
crisis," Masunungure said.
      The government is under pressure from the opposition to implement a
set of electoral guidelines agreed to by Southern Africa Development
Community (SADC) member states in Grand Baie, Mauritius, last August.
      The guidelines, which include access to the public media by the
opposition, have not been fully implemented by government.
      The government has agreed to single-day voting, the use of translucent
ballot boxes and it has established an independent electoral commission.
      Human rights lawyer Brian Kagoro, who is the chairperson of Crisis in
Zimbabwe Coalition says people's expectations would emerge as the main issue
in the March poll.
      "People are a bit confused with the March election. They are trying to
relate their votes with bread and butter issues. Will people see their votes
make a difference and whether or not the leadership on offer is worth voting
for," Kagoro says.
      He said some people had come to a point where they see elections as
having no bearing on their lives.

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Legal fraternity disputes appeal in mercenary case

March 10, 2005, 06:00

Legal experts in South Africa are dismissing Zimbabwe's assertion that
foreign nationals jailed in that country are not entitled to reduction of
their prison sentences.

This follows the appeal filed by the Zimbabwean attorney-general against the
ruling of that country's High Court to reduce the sentences of the alleged
South African mercenaries languishing in Harare's Chikurubi prison. The
attorney-general says the reduction of prison sentences is an exclusive
privilege of the Zimbabwean criminals.

Last week the Zimbabwean High Court made a ruling that effectively reduced
the prison sentences of the 62 alleged South African mercenaries jailed in
that country by four months. They were convicted for breaching Zimbabwe's
aviation, immigration, firearms and security laws. This after they were
arrested at the Harare International airport upon their landing to allegedly
pick up military equipment.

Longer prison terms
They were later linked to a coup plot in Equatorial Guinea allegedly
financed by Mark Thatcher, a Bristish businessman. The High Court ruling
meant that the men who were serving a one-year term would now only have to
serve eight months. It also provided the prisoners with a one-third
remission of their sentence for good behaviour in prison. Coupled with this
reduction, all the men except two pilots who received longer prison terms -
were to be released immediately.

But a week went by with them still languishing in the Chikurubi prison with
no clarity for the delay. It has now emerged that in fact they are still
going to be behind bars for some time as Sobuza Gule-Ndebele, the Zimbabwean
attorney-general is opposing their release. Gule Ndebele says their High
Court got it all wrong when it reduced the prison sentences of these alleged
South African mercenaries because as foreigners they are not entitled to
that privilege.

Legal experts in the country however are dismissing the Attorney General's
claim that legislation dealing with criminals in Zimbabwe makes a
distinction on who should have their sentences reduced, between local and
foreign nationals. Shadrack Gutto of the African Rennaisance Centre at Unisa
and Gail Wanneburg of the South African Institute of International Affairs,
says the reduction of prison sentences is an international phenomenon that
cuts across national jurisdictions.

Wanneburg says the Zimbabwean High Court could not have deliberately ignored
this distinction if it existed, when it made the ruling to reduce the
sentences of the South African prisoners.

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Voter education 'too late for Zim'
Posted Thu, 10 Mar 2005

Zimbabwean civic groups on Wednesday said a drive to educate voters ahead of
crunch polls later this month has come too late as the southern African
country's newly appointed electoral commission began training its own

"It's too late for this year's elections," said Reginald Matchaba-Hove,
chairperson of Zimbabwe's Election Support Network, a non-governmental
organisation dedicated to voter education.

"We however commend the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission's efforts to conduct
voter education to fulfil a part of its mandate," he told AFP, but added
that it was too late to teach people to inspect the voters' register since
it had closed last month.

"We can only conclude that the government is not serious about electoral
reforms. The so-called electoral reforms are there in theory, but they are
useless," he said.

"The voter education will be useful perhaps for future elections,"
Matchaba-Hove said.

This view was echoed by a member of a lobby group advocating constitutional
reform in the country, ruled by President Robert Mugabe.

"Too little, too late" - NCA

"Our view is, 'It's too little, too late'," said Jessie Majome of the
National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), a coalition of Zimbabwe's civic
society and rights groups.

The electoral commission appointed by Mugabe in January conducted one-day
seminars for senior voter educators in Harare and Bulawayo on Wednesday.

The March 31 elections will be watched closely as a test of Zimbabwe's
commitment to adhere to SADC principles of free and fair elections.

The country's last elections in 2000 and 2002 were marred by allegations of
intimidation, violence and electoral fraud.

The voter educators are expected to train facilitators across the country.

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Business Day

10 March 2005
Zimbabwe in bid to 'clarify' SADC stance
Dumisani Muleya

Harare Correspondent

ZIMBABWE's government offered some clarity yesterday on the contentious
apparent exclusion of a key election body from observing this month's

Zimbabwean information and publicity secretary George Charamba said in
Harare yesterday that an invitation to Southern African Development
Community (SADC) observers issued "three weeks ago" had included the SADC
Parliamentary Forum to observe its general election at the end of the month.

The forum declared the 2002 presidential election in Zimbabwe not free and

Charamba dismissed as nonsensical the suggestion that the country had
anything to hide in the March 31 election, or that it had intentionally
excluded the forum.

The forum had not been invited specifically because Zimbabwe interacted only
with "countries, national political parties, and regional, continental and
international bodies" in connection with election observation, he said.

"Zimbabwe has extended a formal invitation to the SADC and this implies an
invitation to any arms of SADC which have a bearing on election
 observation," he said.

"And that includes the SADC Parliamentary Forum unless, of course, the forum
considers itself outside SADC, above SADC or an alternative or even bigger
than SADC, which we do not believe it is."

He also said the forum could not claim to have better eyes than all the
observer missions put together.

However, Charamba said the organisation, consisting of nongovernmental
organisations, opposition party representatives and Zimbabwe's speaker of
parliament and several MPs, was funded by the west, which coloured its views
because of "sponsored bias".

The forum's standards for elections were drawn up in Zimbabwe in 1999.
Zimbabwe's parliament has acceded to them, and speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa
led the forum's poll observer mission to Malawi last year.

Charamba also said that there had been attempts by SADC leaders to rein in
the organisation since it pronounced President Robert Mugabe's hotly
disputed re-election in 2002 illegitimate.

Zimbabwe has invited only friendly states and groups to observe its poll. At
least 23 countries, including SA, were invited from Africa, five from Asia,
three from the Americas and Russia.

The US and European Union countries were not invited although their
diplomats based in Harare have been given a green light to observe the poll.

Zimbabwe's botched effort to prevent the SADC forum from officially
observing the poll threatened to spark a diplomatic row that could have
easily degenerated into a regional confrontation.

Instead of inviting SADC observers 90 days before voting begins, Zimbabwe
invited them only three weeks ago. The SADC observer mission is expected in
Zimbabwe only on Monday.

The 70-member mission, headed by South African Home Affairs Minister
Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, plans to leave on March 15.

Earlier yesterday, before Charamba's announcement, SA's foreign affair
department director-general Ayanda Ntsaluba said in Cape Town that Zimbabwe's
refusal to invite the forum to the election left SA in a "difficult

"I don't know how to respond. It is obviously a difficult situation,"
Ntsaluba said.

He said he was aware that the forum had not been complimentary about the
outcome of the last poll.

Ntsaluba said it was possible for an SADC delegation to be invited without
the forum, "but what makes this difficult is the backdrop". With Bloomberg,

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