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Independent groups report election law breaches in Zimbabwe campaigning

International Herald Tribune

The Associated PressPublished: March 13, 2008

HARARE, Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe's only television station - which is
government-controlled - gave the ruling party campaign more than 20 times
the coverage the opposition got last month, independent media monitors said
Thursday, accusing state controlled media of "flagrant violations" of laws
meant to ensure March 29 general elections are free and fair.

The Zimbabwe Media Monitoring Project group said that in February state
television aired 202 minutes on the ruling ZANU PF party's election
preparations compared to nine minutes on the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change and 26 minutes on former ruling party loyalist and finance
minister Simba Makoni's presidential challenge and his expulsion from the
ruling party.

"ZBC, the national public broadcaster, now behaves as if it is ZANU PF's own
private radio television station in flagrant violation" of domestic laws and
regional African norms on fair coverage of election campaigning, the group

Henry Muradzikwa, director general of the state broadcaster, said there was
no bias against ruling party opponents but political advertisements had to
be paid for in advance, an arrangement opponents failed to honor while the
ruling party paid fees "up front." He did not elaborate on news coverage.

An independent group of lawyers, meanwhile, protested what it called voter
intimidation by military chiefs. Zimbabwe defense forces commander Gen.
Constantine Chiwenga and the head of the prisons service Maj. Gen. Paradzai
Zimondi were reported to have vowed they would not recognize or salute
anyone but Mugabe as head of state.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said in a statement it was also concerned
by reports members of the armed forces were sent on vacation to their rural
homes to campaign for Mugabe's ruling party.

Chiwenga has described Makoni and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai as
"sell outs" who did not fight against colonial era forces ahead of
independence in 1980.

Police commanders also have publicly pledged their allegiance to Mugabe, the
nation's longtime ruler, and warned police against voting for Mugabe's

Such statements created an environment of fear and intimidation ahead of the
polls, the lawyers group said.

Under election law, "it is a criminal offense to intimidate people with the
effect of compelling them or attempting to compel them to vote for a
particular political party or candidate," it said.

In a statement Thursday, the International Bar Association condemned what it
called a series of attacks by Zimbabwe's on the Law Society of Zimbabwe,
citing articles in state-run newspapers accusing the lawyers group of
working with the West to get around a government ban on European election

"These are ominous words in light of the Mugabe regime's record of brutality
against the political opposition and human rights defenders," said Mark
Ellis, executive director of the International Bar Association. "The true
objective of this vindictive government campaign is to justify a clampdown
on independent lawyers in the run-up to the election."

The 84-year-old Mugabe faces his biggest poll challenge March 29 in the
campaign of, Makoni, 57, who draws support from ruling party rebels and
disillusioned supporters of the fractured opposition amid an economic
meltdown. A nation once known as the region's breadbasket is experiencing
the world's highest official inflation of 100,500 percent, chronic shortages
of most basic goods and collapsing public services.

Most observers link the political and economic turmoil to the often violent
seizures of thousands of white-owned commercial farms that began at Mugabe's
orders in 2000. Mugabe blames the crisis on economic curbs imposed by
Britain, the former colonial power, and its Western allies, which accuse him
of violating human and democratic rights.

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Zimbabwe's President Mugabe gives electorate buses

Earth Times

            Posted : Thu, 13 Mar 2008 17:01:11 GMT
            Author : DPA

Harare - Fighting for re-election in just over two weeks, Zimbabwe's
President Robert Mugabe on Thursday handed out 23 buses to villagers in
northern Zimbabwe, state radio said. Mugabe told at a campaign rally in
Mashonaland West province that the 40-seater buses should ease transport
problems in the area. He also reminded voters of the problems they faced
during the colonial era, according to the report.

The 84-year-old president commissioned 300 buses last weekend and
promised an equal number would arrive soon.

Mugabe, in power since independence in 1980, is fighting for his
political survival in the March 29 poll against two strong challengers:
Morgan Tsvangirai of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC),
and former finance minister Simba Makoni who has several powerful backers.

Since the launch of his electoral campaign, Mugabe has already handed
out 500 tractors, scores of computers to impoverished ruling schools, a drum
of diesel to each traditional chief and tens of thousands of ox-drawn

His deputy information minister Bright Matonga last week warned voters
in Mhondoro, Mashonaland West province, against "Western-sponsored parties
that are trying to buy votes with money and food," state media reported.

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Kombi owners threatened

Sent: Thursday, March 13, 2008 9:58 PM
Subject: zimbabwe situation

I would like to share with you an astonishing observation from Harare. Most Kombis in Harare now bear campaign posters for ZANU PF.  When I first noticed it I thought may be the owners or workers were sympathetic to the party and so were simply carrying out simple campaigning roles for their party.
However on enquiring I was told that rank marshals were actually forcibly putting up these posters on the vehicles with the added threat of untold consequences if they were removed. Is anybody listening out there!!!!

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Infighting Over Makoni Paralyses CIO Ahead of Election

SW Radio Africa (London)

13 March 2008
Posted to the web 13 March 2008

Lance Guma

The head of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) Happyton Bonyongwe
is said to be embroiled in bitter infighting with his deputy Maynard
Muzariri, over alleged support for Simba Makoni. A report by the ZimOnline
news website says Bonyongwe supports Makoni's rebellion from Zanu PF, while
Muzariri remains loyal to Mugabe.

The friction has created a power struggle that has paralysed the CIO, with
both chiefs spying on each other instead of carrying out their duties. Its
alleged that in January CIO officials based in Harare submitted a report
linking Bonyongwe and retired army general Solomon Mujuru to Makoni's
project, but that State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa who received it
withheld it from Mugabe.

ZimOnline report that Muzariri's camp in the CIO then approached Emerson
Mnangagwa, who leads a faction opposed to Mujuru in the party, and sought to
have the report submitted to Mugabe. Mutasa meanwhile argued the report was
biased and ordered a fresh one to be compiled. 'Mutasa said he wanted
neutrals in the CIO to compile a comprehensive report on alleged Bonyongwe
links to Makoni' said the website, quoting a source. But Mugabe got wind of
the infighting and summoned Bonyongwe to explain allegations that he edited
out vital information from intelligence reports, compiled by his juniors on
the activities of the Makoni group.

It's thought Mugabe will not need to fire Bonyongwe as the CIO's chief's
contract expires in April and all Mugabe has to do is refuse to renew it.
The infighting has however raised expectations amongst opposition activists,
who are hoping Zanu PF will not be able to rig the coming elections. The
argument being raised is that one of the key security arms they rely on to
rig the poll, is now in a state of paralysis because of the infighting. It
is also hoped that even if they attempt to rig, there will be sufficient
moles in the system to alert the opposition.

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Mugabe Threatens to Repossess Farms


'Those who have multiple farms ... we will address that after the elections'

      Qhubani Moyo

      Published 2008-03-13 13:45 (KST)

INYATHI, Zimbabwe -- Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has warned that
his government will re-possess land from multiple farm owners after the
joint March 29 elections in a bid to right the chaos that hit the farming
sector after the land reform programme.

"Those who have multiple farms, those quarrelling over a farm, we will
address that after the elections as well as giving out leases to regularize
what we have given out. We will do some cleaning up," Mugabe told a
gathering of cheering supporters at a campaign rally in Inyathi yesterday.

The ruling Zanu-PF's campaign rally was at Sobomvu Secondary School in
Inyathi, Matabeleland North province of southern Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe holds
harmonized presidential, senate, ward and house of assembly elections on
March 29.

President Mugabe will fight for his post against opposition Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC) leader, Morgan Tsvangirai and Simba Makoni, an
erstwhile member of the ruling Zanu-PF.

Both Tsvangirai and Makoni in their campaign messages have said once
elected into power, they will address land disputes and multiple farm
ownership cases.

Mugabe's statements follow last week reports where former white
commercial farmers were said to be mulling to file a joint application later
this month challenging the seizure of their farms by the Zanu-PF led
government at the Southern African Development Community (SADC) tribunal.

The farmers are represented by the Justice for Agriculture (JAG), a
grouping of former white commercial farmers.

Top government ministers and ruling Zanu-PF officials grabbed multiple
farms at the height of the chaotic land reform programme in 2000 that saw
white commercial farmers being forced off their land by landless blacks.

Agricultural production plummeted to low levels since then, resulting
in the country battling yearly food crisis as the new farmers failed to
produce adequate food for the nation due to either lack of farming expertise
or farming inputs.

International food monitoring agencies have said that thousands of
Zimbabweans this year face food shortages following indications that the
country will again fail to meet its targeted harvest estimates.

But Mugabe told the cheering supporters at the campaign rally in
Inyathi yesterday that no-one will starve. "No one will starve. The
government has imported maize from Malawi, South Africa and Zambia," said

The country has since the turn of the millennium after food shortages
set in relied on food imports from neighbouring countries to avert food
shortages and boost national reserves.

However, the maize imports by the government always seem to be failing
to satisfy demand a situation mirrored by constant mealie-meal shortages,
the country's staple food.

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Zimbabwe's Mugabe in bid to win support of critical church

Yahoo News

by Fanuel Jongwe

HARARE (AFP) - Gilbert Mhangwa shakes his head dejectedly as he walks away
after turning up for a service at Harare's Anglican Cathedral, only to find
the entrance blocked by a gang of youths.

A few metres away, riot police brandishing batons disperse disgruntled
parishioners who later stage an impromptu prayer session outside the
imposing granite-block building.

"We are not enjoying our full rights as Zimbabweans," complains the Right
Reverend Sebastian Bakare, the new bishop of Harare.

The cathedral in downtown Harare, normally associated with soothing Sunday
morning hymns, is at the centre of a power struggle between a clique led by
former bishop Nolbert Kunonga and the rest of the church.

Bakare's investiture late January, which would have normally taken place in
the cathedral, was moved to a sports arena on the outskirts of the city
after gangs aligned to his predecessor Kunonga barricaded the cathedral

A close ally of President Robert Mugabe who has often showered praise on
Zimbabwe's veteran leader, Kunonga has refused to vacate the church and
surrender church property to his successor despite two court orders.

Kunonga, who was once referred to as "my spiritual father" by Mugabe and
officiated at the president's swearing-in in 2002, was stripped of his title
last after he attempted to pull his Harare diocese out of the Anglican
Church's Province of Central Africa over its stance on homosexuality.

He then formed the self-styled Anglican Church of Zimbabwe in January, while
insisting he was still the legitimate head of the diocese.

Analysts say Mugabe, who has himself called gays "worse than dogs and pigs",
is protecting Kunonga, one of his few supporters in the church.

"It's typical of ZANU-PF," said Bill Saidi, deputy editor of the Zimbabwe
Independent. "Wherever it thinks it can get support it shoves its nose. But
the people will not be fooled by religious charlatans like Kunonga."

Mugabe, a Catholic, has often come under criticism from other church leaders
over his government's human rights record tainted by events like the killing
of thousands by a crack army unit in the Matabeleland province in the early
1980s and the demolition of slums which left tens of thousands without homes
in 2005.

But despite being embarrassed by such criticism, Mugabe has nevertheless
treated the church with a degree of respect and meets with religious leaders
despite refusing to do so with opposition parties.

"We can't do without each other, the church and the state," he acknowledged
at a prayer rally two years ago.

"Mugabe knows the church has a moral voice," Jonah Gokovah, of the Zimbabwe
National Pastors' Network, told AFP.

"When the church speaks it's listened to -- that is why the government is
trying to use certain individuals like Kunonga to influence the church to
sing its song."

Mugabe last year warned bishops they had chosen "a dangerous path" after
they published a pastoral letter critical of his government's policies and
deploring the mismanagement of the economy.

"When the church leaders start being political, we regard them as political
creatures and we are vicious in that area," Mugabe said.

One of his most outspoken critics, Pius Ncube, was shortly afterwards forced
to step down as archbishop of Bulawayo in September after state media
published photographs of him in bed with a married woman.

Ncube was a constant thorn in the side of Mugabe's government, calling for
people to rise up against his rule and once declaring his readiness to "go
in front of blazing guns".

But despite Ncube's downfall, church groups such as the Christian Alliance
of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe National Pastors Conference and the Zimbabwe
Catholic Bishops Conference have remained critical of Mugabe's government.

The church groups have been countered in recent years by organisations such
as the Destiny for Africa Network which have sprouted in recent years to
rebut Mugabe's critics and castigate his opponents.

Exhorting Zimbabweans to vote Mugabe and his ruling party in general polls
next month, the Reverend Obadiah Msindo, a leader of the Destiny for Africa
Network, likened the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic
Front (ZANU-PF) party to the biblical Moses.

"ZANU-PF is a revolutionary party that has a special message to deliver
Zimbabweans into a land of milk and honey," Msindo said in message broadcast
on national television.

"We are inspired by his excellency's vision for total black empowerment."

Bakare criticised such church leaders saying they were departing from from
their mission by aligning themselves with political parties.

"If you are a leader in church and you have no mission or you don't
understand your mission, you are likely to be co-opted even by political
parties and they can make use of you," he told AFP.

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EU, UN urged to respond to Zim crackdown

Mail and Guardian

      David Cronin | Brussels, Belgium

      13 March 2008 09:00

             Zimbabwe's crackdown on political dissent may need to be
discussed by the United Nations Security Council, a prominent Southern
African human rights activist declared this week.

            Opponents of President Robert Mugabe and his ruling
Zanu-PF party have reported large-scale harassment and intimidation in the
tense period leading to elections due later this month.

            With little prospect of the poll being conducted in a free
and fair manner, political activists are calling on international bodies to
explore new ways of applying pressure on Mugabe, the octogenarian who has
led Zimbabwe ever since winning independence from Britain in 1980.

            John Stewart, vice-chairperson of the Zimbabwe Human
Rights NGO Forum, urged the European Union on Tuesday to consider invoking a
clause relating to democratic principles in the Cotonou agreement, which
underpins the bloc's relations with Africa.

            The Cotonou Agreement is a treaty between the EU and the
group of African, Caribbean and Pacific states (ACP countries). It was
signed in June 2000 in Cotonou, the largest city in Benin in West Africa, by
79 ACP countries and the then 15 EU member states.

            In 2002, the EU decided to impose sanctions on Mugabe and
his inner circle -- such as freezing their assets and banning them from
travelling to Europe -- after initiating a "political dialogue" under
article 8 of that accord.

            But Stewart argues that the EU should also study the
possibility of invoking article 9 of Cotonou. This states that democracy
should be built "on the basis of universally recognised principles" and that
signatories, including Zimbabwe, should ensure respect for human rights and
the rule of law.

            According to Stewart, the level of state-approved violence
in Zimbabwe is now so serious that the EU's military officials should be
addressing it.

            "I am not advocating sending a Belgian platoon to
Mozambique's border with Zimbabwe," he said later in the week. "But this is
an issue of peace and security. It needs to be talked about."

            Stewart, who was visiting Brussels, added that an analysis
of the EU on Zimbabwe may lead to the country's situation being discussed by
the UN Security Council.

            A day earlier, the EU's foreign ministers issued a
statement expressing concern that Zimbabwe's presidential and parliamentary
elections scheduled for March 29 were at risk of being unfair. The EU had
received no invitation to monitor the poll's conduct, the ministers

             Although Stewart said he was "glad" that Zimbabwe remained
on the EU's agenda, he argued that the ministers' statement "misses the
point". It is futile, he suggested, for the EU to call for free and fair
elections "when there is no question this is going to happen".

            Those wishing to observe the election have been told they
need special permits from the government. Wilbert Mandine, a former
magistrate now working for the Zimbabwean branch of the Media Institute for
Southern Africa, noted that only one organisation has so far been permitted
to monitor the poll.

            Unless more permits are granted, nearly all of the 11 000
polling stations in the country are not likely to face any scrutiny, he

            And although Zimbabwe has a law stating that the media
should cover election campaigns fairly and impartially, Mandine alleged that
television coverage is "tilted in favour of the ruling party".

            At the end of February, the launch of Zanu-PF's manifesto
could be seen live on the Zimbabwean Broadcasting Corporation. Yet the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change did not receive the same treatment
when it formally began its campaign a day later.

            Takavafina Zhou, president of the Progressive Teachers'
Union of Zimbabwe, was arrested and tortured when he took part in a "Save
our Education" protest in Harare last month.

            Labelling Mugabe a "crocodile liberator" and a "grasping
kleptocrat", he said: "We were promised paradise in 1980. What we have
managed to get is a bullet in the head and a diet of starvation."

            Zhou accused the regime of operating a policy of
"systematic torture" against teachers for about eight years. As a result,
the number of teachers has shrunk from 150 000 to 70 000.

            "Just last year, we lost 25 000 teachers and this year we
have lost 8 000," he said. "Of those that remain, they are 100% mentally
resigned, although they physically remain in the classroom. That is a
dangerous situation for any profession."

            While Zimbabwe used to be known as the breadbasket of
Africa, its economy has declined dramatically over the past decade.
Inflation has rocketed, unemployment has reached 80% of the workforce and
45% of the population is undernourished because of food shortages.

            Maureen Kademaunga, a gender and human rights officer with
the Zimbabwe National Students' Union, said demonstrations by students have
been brutally attacked. In one instance last month, a woman who was nine
months pregnant was beaten up.

            All universities in the country are now closed and are not
due to reopen until after the elections. In effect, this has disenfranchised
students, particularly those from rural areas who have returned to their
families. Zimbabwe only allows people to vote in areas where they are
registered, but Kademaunga said that poverty means students often cannot
afford to travel.

            Dewa Mavhinga, a human rights lawyer, argued that food
aid, on which four million Zimbabweans (in a population of 12,5-million) are
dependent, is being used as a political weapon. In rural areas, Zanu-PF has
taken charge of food delivery and has been accused of denying vital supplies
to those it views as opponents.

            A spokesperson for Zimbabwe's embassy in Brussels said he
had taken note of the EU's statement this week, but refused to comment
further. -- IPS

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SA to talk with Harare on indigenisation bill

Business Day

13 March 2008

Hopewell Radebe

Diplomatic Editor

THE government yesterday tried to reassure the domestic business sector
likely to be affected by Zimbabwe's Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment

It said it would talk to its Zimbabwean counterparts to find an amicable way
to avert possible negative effects on operations.

At a media briefing in Pretoria yesterday, Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz
Pahad said there was still a long way to go before the bill was passed by
Zimbabwe's two houses and implemented.

The government would, however, meet business leaders in SA to see how the
country's interests in Zimbabwe could be protected in light of the proposed
new law giving Zimbabweans a controlling share in businesses.

President Robert Mugabe approved the bill last week. It requires locals to
own a 51% stake in all Zimbabwean companies.

The law has raised fears among foreign-owned companies in Zimbabwe that the
government seeks to nationalise or take control of their business, in a
manner reminiscent of the repossession and distribution of farm land a few
years ago.

"We are studying this bill more carefully and then we will initiate
discussions with the South African business community, to get an
understanding of how they interpret the bill and how we work together to
protect, in the broad sense, South African interests in Zimbabwe," Pahad

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Zimbabwe Central Bank Raises Gold Price Sevenfold, Herald Says


By Brian Latham

March 13 (Bloomberg) -- Zimbabwe's central bank raised the gold price paid
to producers sevenfold, the state-controlled Herald said, citing the Reserve
Bank of Zimbabwe.

Miners will get 700 million Zimbabwe dollars a kilogram (2.2 pounds), the
Harare-based newspaper said on its Web site.

The central bank has raised the price three times this year in an attempt to
keep mines open. The Zimbabwe dollar trades at 40 million to the U.S dollar
on the black market compared with an official rate of 30,000 Zimbabwe
dollars per U.S. dollar.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Latham via the Johannesburg
bureau on

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'Our country needs all our citizens'


      Graeme Hosken
    March 13 2008 at 09:18AM

Millions of Zimbabweans, living in South Africa or seeking asylum
here, are being called on to return home to vote in that country's upcoming

As part of a pro-democracy campaign in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the
Western Cape, hundreds of Zimbabwean election education volunteers have been
hitting the streets to persuade their fellow citizens to vote.

The non-political, pro-democracy organisation, the Peace and Democracy
Project (PDP), on Wednesday launched its Pretoria campaign outside the home
affairs department offices in Marabastad. PDP aims to persuade all
Zimbabweans living in South Africa to return home to vote.

It estimates that while there are more than 3.5 million Zimbabweans in
the country legally, millions more are here illegally.

To the sounds of blaring Zimbabwean musicians encouraging their
countrymen to vote, PDP volunteer Dianna Basiria said: "It is vital for
democracy in our country that all Zimbabweans vote, regardless of who they
vote for.

"We don't support any political party. We just want Zimbabweans to go
home and take action and vote.

"We have set up outside the home affairs department office because we
want to encourage those Zimbabweans who are seeking refugee status in South
Africa to go home to vote.

"Our country needs all our citizens to go home to vote so that we can
again become a great African nation.

"We need to show the world that democracy and peace exist in
Zimbabwe," she said. Basiria said the PDP had stationary as well as mobile
voter education stands across Gauteng and several other provinces.

"We are travelling across South Africa to ensure that all Zimbabweans
hear the message about how important it is to vote in this election.

"We are offering those who want to return home to vote free transport
as an incentive.

"Those who don't want to vote are being encouraged to get their
relatives who are still living in Zimbabwe to vote," she said.

Basiria appealed to those Zimbabweans living in Pretoria who wanted to
vote in the elections to visit the voter education stand on the corner of DF
Malan Drive and Struben Street. - Graeme Hosken

This article was originally published on page 2 of Pretoria News on
March 13, 2008

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Polling station row spills into High Court

New Zimbabwe

By Lebo Nkatazo
Last updated: 03/13/2008 12:07:46
ZIMBABWE'S opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) on Wednesday
filed an urgent court application to compel the country's electoral body to
increase the number of polling stations, a lawyer confirmed.

"We are, among other issues, seeking an increase in the number of polling
stations and the stationing of opposition members in the National Command
Centre," a lawyer for the MDC at Harare law firm Coghlan & Welsh, said.

The MDC moved after an independent election monitoring group warned that
thousands of voters in Zimbabwe's cities - strongholds of the opposition -
may not have time to cast ballots in the March 29 elections because too few
polling stations have been provided.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) said it feared a repeat of the
2002 presidential elections when tens of thousands of voters were turned
away across the country after polls closed.

A list of polling stations released by the Electoral Commission, whose
members are appointed by President Robert Mugabe, showed "a significant
discrepancy" that favoured the ruling party in its rural strongholds, the
network said.

The ZESN group said Harare has 379 polling centres for about 760,000
registered voters, leaving an average number of 2,022 voting at each station
over 12 hours. If there is maximum turnout, that gives each citizen an
average of 22 seconds to vote.

In one city district, it came down to nine seconds if all 4,600 registered
voters showed up.

In contrast, most rural polling stations would handle only about 600 voters
each, the network said.

The MDC wants at least 12 polling stations in each ward. In areas like
Chitungwiza, some wards have just two polling stations. The party also wants
to be informed and be present throughout the postal voting process by
members of the armed forces, lawyers said.

Over four million Zimbabweans living outside the country are barred from
voting in the elections. Postal voting is restricted only to serving members
of the armed forces in foreign postings and embassy staff.

President Robert Mugabe has also barred election observers from western
countries, accusing them of pre-determining the election as not free and
fair in their pursuit of a "regime change" agenda.

The United States reacted to its exclusion by expressing "strong regret".

The US government said in a statement: "The U.S. shares the concerns of many
Zimbabweans and international observers about the pre-election environment,
reports of inadequate elections preparations, evidence of irregularities
associated with registration and inspection of the voters' rolls, and
concerns that the violence and human rights abuses of the past year will
affect the campaign and election-day voting."

At a press conference in Harare Wednesday, SADC executive secretary Tomaz
Salamao, said he was hopeful that the poll would be free and fair.

"Zimbabwe has built in us, SADC citizens, a habit of peaceful Zimbabwe,
tolerant Zimbabwe, and a welcoming Zimbabwe," Salamao said.

" As we come and observe elections in Zimbabwe, we do so with confidence
that the tradition of peace encapsulated in the unquestionable political
maturity and tolerance shall once again, guide Zimbabweans as they go to the

President Mugabe -- presiding over a decaying economy with 100 000 percent
inflation -- faces a challenge from his former finance minister Simba
Makoni, standing as an independent, and opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the polls.

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Kenyan Opposition Leader Says Mugabe a Disgrace

SW Radio Africa (London)

13 March 2008
Posted to the web 13 March 2008

Lance Guma

Kenyan opposition leader, Raila Odinga, has said Robert Mugabe is a disgrace
to the African continent and that, 'time has really come for him to try to
move on and let other people govern.'

In a recent interview with the Mail and Guardian newspaper Odinga said he
had little regard for Mugabe despite the fact the Zanu PF leader was once
his hero. 'We parted ways once he began to use a big stick to deal with his
political adversaries,' Odinga explained. 'I don't think its right for
someone to hold a country hostage for generations. I think it is not right
for Africa.'

The Orange Democratic Movement led by Odinga, recently signed a deal with
President Mwai Kibaki's party to end months of ethnic violence that killed
over 1500 people. Allegations that elections held in late December last year
were rigged in favour of Kibaki created the tensions that led to the
bloodbath. Although Zimbabwe is thought to be an unlikely ground for such
ethnic fighting, concern remains over how the population would react to
another stolen election.

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Redcliff MDC MP Abedinico Malinga Dies in Car Crash

SW Radio Africa (London)

13 March 2008
Posted to the web 13 March 2008

Tichaona Sibanda

The MDC MP for Redcliff in the Midlands province, Abedenico Malinga, has
died. The legislator from the Mutambara faction died Thursday after he was
involved in a car crash along the Gweru to Kwekwe highway.

Malinga becomes the third parliamentary candidate and the second sitting MP
from the faction to die in the space of three weeks. The Mutambara MDC first
lost its candidate for Gwanda, Glory Makwatu a week after the nomination
court, then a few days later their MP for Mpopoma, Milton Gwetu, died of a
suspected heart failure.

Professor Welshman Ncube said they were in 'total shock' over Malinga's
untimely death.

'This is very, very painful. It's a sad experience and I'm completely at a
loss of words to describe this tragic moment. We are all numb with shock,'
Ncube said.

Several other people, including the MDC MP for Mkoba in Gweru, Amos Chibaya,
where in the same vehicle with Malinga when it veered off the road and hit a
tree just as they were approaching KweKwe. Chibaya is believed to have
sustained serious head injuries. He was admitted to a hospital in KweKwe.

According to police Malinga, who was driving, tried to avoid a head-on
collision and seemed to have lost control as the vehicle veered off the road
and smashed into a tree.

The MP survived the initial impact. He was rushed to hospital with multiple
injuries but died an hour after being admitted. Ncube said Malinga's death
has traumatised so many of their members that they still cannot believe he
has died.

'The man was a hardworking, charming, disciplined and principled MP. As with
the other two deaths we expect the Redcliff election to be postponed to a
later date,' Ncube said.

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The Matrix of White Farmers and Vote Buying

13th Mar 2008 09:10 GMT

By Phil Matibe

ZIMBABWE President Robert Mugabe told villagers at a campaign rally in
Mahusekwa district that Zambian officials were delaying delivery of more
than 300 000 tonnes of maize purchased by his government.

According to the Minister of Agriculture, Rugare Gumbo, "ZANU (PF) has
dispatched youths from the ruling ZANU PF party to Zambia to help load maize
it badly needs to placate a hungry electorate ahead of elections in two
weeks time."

What happened to the Mother of all Harvests, Operation Maguta, Vision 160,
and the RBZ - 21 trillion dollar Agricultural Support Enhancement Facility?

Most white farmers who were unceremoniously stripped of their birthright and
expelled from their homes sought refuge in the neighbouring SADC country of
Zambia. The government of Levy Mwanawasa gave them fifty-year leases and
these ex-Zimbabwean farmers immediately embarked on an agrarian revolution
that permitted Zambia to become a net exporter of grain for the first time
in thirty years.

The same displaced white Zimbabwean farmers are now growing maize in Zambia,
which is then bought by ZANU (PF) using Chinese and Iranian loans, to be
distributed to potential rural voters in Zimbabwe. In return the famished
voters are coerced to vote for Mugabe and retain him as President for
another five years.

 "Do not escape a flood by holding on a hyena's tail"

ZANU (PF)'s insidious plan is hypocritical and deserves to be condemned by
all rational Africans who were hoodwinked into believing that the Mugabe's
land reform programme was a necessary act of redressing a colonial wrong.

Zambia and Malawi receive the same rainfall pattern as Zimbabwe, influenced
by the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). Our neighbours produced more
maize in the same year that ZANU (PF) blamed everything from imaginary
Western sanctions to sabotage by monkeys of the country's sole fertiliser

Zimbabwe has harvested 30 000 tonnes of wheat instead of 400 000 tonnes, 600
000 tonnes of maize instead of 1.8 million tonnes and 60 million kilogrammes
of tobacco, instead of 200 million kilogrammes, the worst agricultural
season since 1980. Ninety percent of all agricultural land is now in the
hands of ZANU (PF) members.

The farmers that Mugabe ridiculed, robbed, and abused, are now the saviours
of his political fortunes by growing and supplying the proverbial African
currency for vote buying - maize.

It certainly does not rain mealies.

Phil Matibe can be contacted on

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De facto bloodless coup

13th Mar 2008 09:26 GMT

By Phil Matibe

IN 2002, the then Commander of the Defence Forces (CDF), General  Vitalis
Zvinavashe, warned that the army would not salute opposition candidate,
Tsvangirai, should he win the presidential poll as he had no liberation war
credentials. This undemocratic, ill-fated assertion is tantamount to a coup

On March 5, 2008, the current CDF General Constantine Chiwenga said that the
army would not recognize a government led by President Mugabe's challenger,
opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, should he win the presidential
elections because the Movement for Democratic Change is agents of the West.

On March 3, 2008, the Commissioner of Prisons (Para-Military Force)
Major -General Paradzayi Zimhondi said, "If the opposition wins the
election, I will be the first one to resign from my job and go back to
defend my piece of land. I will not let it go. We are going to the elections
and you should vote for President Mugabe." General Zimhondi must resign
immediately. His primordial viewpoint is dangerous and forms the embryonic
stage of a military coup.

ZDF generals not only subvert the constitution but persistently violate the
provisions of the Defence Act. Such a brazen assault on our fundamental
values and contempt of Zimbabwean laws, provide credence to the supposition
that the general's unambiguous warnings of not being prepared to salute a
president without liberation war credentials, are counterpart to a
pre-emptive military mutiny. This saber rattling by diabetic 60 year old
army generals should cease forthwith. These generals agitate for wars that
they are not going to fight.

The ZANU (PF) Commander-in-Chief is now 84 years old, his youngest foot
soldiers (war veterans) are now 55 years old. What kind of insurgency are
these generals proposing should ZANU (PF) and Mugabe lose the elections? Who
are they going to fight? "Ndiwo anonzi manatsa mukanwa echembere, kurota

ZDF generals, their ZNA and AFZ subordinates now present a sufficient threat
to the outcome of the forthcoming presidential elections.  Their collective
inflammatory statements are an act of self preservation designed to outflank
the forces of democratic change. We must jointly counter attack with our

The President of Zimbabwe is the Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces
and it is therefore an unconditional imperative that he depoliticises the
military, firmly adheres to the canons of constitution, respects the
covenants of the Defence Act and repudiates his commanders for inciting
civil strife.

On February 26, 2008, the Commissioner of Police, Augustine Chihuri, issued
a veiled threat to the public which literally amounted to a "shoot to kill
policy." All members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police have been given the
green light to shoot unarmed, peaceful protesters should the elections be
deemed flawed. This directive is designed to instill fear in the hearts of
the electorate.

Twenty-eight years ago the ZANLA high command took power in Zimbabwe  and
morphed into a quasi-civilian administration by absorbing ZANU(PF)
technocrats and academia, ultimately forming the present day government of
Zimbabwe . ZANU (PF) is a Para-military organisation. ZDF generals have
tasted absolute power, are now addicted to it. They have become embedded in
the well orchestrated orgy of looting and pillaging which has manifested and
devoured our once vibrant economy. ZANU (PF) retained its private army and
is willing to use it to buttress its unpopular regime.

Are we prepared to be ruled by the same corrupt clique for perpetuity
because they fought for our liberation? Was it not their own patriotic
desires and sacrifices that compelled them to fight for our freedom? We have
been brutalized, reduced to a beggar-nation, and have already repaid these
so-called liberators through war veteran's compensation funds, housing
funds, land allocations, scholarships, and various other state funded
handouts. Enough is enough.

Zimbabwe does not belong to ZANU (PF), ZANLA veterans, or ZDF officers who
have now literally eaten their legacy. Real heroes died fighting the
Rhodesians, while most cowards, thieves, and fraudsters, survived only to
form the present day government which is raiding and pilfering our national

Generals Mujuru, Zvinavashe, Chiwenga, and Air Marshals Tungamirai and
Shiri, whilst still serving as active members of the armed forces, and in
violation of the Defence Act, were and still are politburo and central
committee members of ZANU (PF). At a time when Zanu (PF) embarked on
barbaric acts of brutality against the people of Matabeleland, these
generals were enthusiastic participants and contributed to crafting the
template for violent repression that continues to be in use by the
government and ZANU (PF) today.

Army generals and all uniformed forces officers are ultimately subordinate
to the constitution. Court-marshal offences for insubordination should be
leveled against all army officers who continue to utter and issue divisive
statements that are meant to incite sedition.

In the name of political fair play and in harmony with the philosophy of
human decency Zimbabweans hereby appeal to the communal conscience of our
generals and ask for restraint.  Furthermore the nation demands a retraction
of these inflammable statements and shall seek to censure any army generals
and officers whose utterances encourage insolence.  Let us rely on reason
not rhetoric.

Zimbabwe cannot be held ransom by a group of individuals whose time for
retirement is long overdue.  March 29, 2008 shall mark both the end of an
error and the end of an era. "Handifi ndakabata kumeso kunge mwana wegudo"

Asesabi lutho - Chatinotya Hapana

Phil Matibe can be contacted on

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Mujuru meets Mugabe, disowns Makoni

13th Mar 2008 10:25 GMT

By a Correspondent

HARARE - Retired General Solomon Mujuru has finally spoken. According to
President Robert Mugabe, the witty Mujuru visited him Monday and disowned
Simba Makoni, the former government minister and Zanu PF politburo member,
now running for president against Mugabe and MDC's founding President,
Morgan Tsvangirai

Speaking to the state media after a rally in Chirumhanzu, Mugabe said
Mujuru, long said to be Makoni's Godfather, had said he had refused to join
Makoni because this would divide Zanu PF and render his wife, Joice's
career, untenable. Joice Mujuru is one of Mugabe's deputies.

Mugabe said Mujuru, who is related to Makoni because their children married
each other, had made it absolutely clear that he had nothing to do with the
Makoni project.

Said Mugabe: "One who is talked about (as supporting Makoni) is General
Mujuru. He came to me on Monday and said that when Makoni first came to him,
he had in mind the formation of a new party, but he discouraged him and told
him doing that would divide Zanu-PF.

"He wanted to make it clear to me that he did not support Makoni at all. He
said if he supported Makoni, imagine what the position of 'my wife', who is
Mai Mujuru, would be? It would be untenable, so he said no. He said Makoni
had an idea to form a new party, and he said: 'If you form a new party you
would be dividing the party, you would be dividing Zanu-PF.' That's what he
told me."

Makoni, upon launching his bid to become Zimbabwe's next president, had said
that he was supported by heavyweights in Zanu PF. He did not give names but
speculation was rife that Mujuru, the Zanu PF kingmaker, was the brains
behind the project to get rid of Mugabe after having failed at the Goromonzi
Zanu PF congress to stop Mugabe from remaining at the helm of government and
party some two years ago.

The only heavyweight who has come out in the open to align with Makoni is
Dumiso Dabengwa, who has been attacked by Mugabe as aone betraying the
liberation struggle by siding with Makoni, whom he says never went to join
the liberation struggle like Tsvangirai. Nathaniel Manheru, though to be
Mugabe's spokesperson George Charamba, wrote on Saturday that Dabengwa was
never a soldier on the front anyway during the liberation struggle but only
an intelligence person trained by the Russians.

In trying to belittle Dabengwa, Manheru also ropped in Mujuru, whom he
attacked toungue-in-cheek for not being senior in Zanu PF at all, saying
Ambrose Mutinhiri and others had started asking questions since they went to
join the war in 1964 while Mujuru went for training in 1968/9.

Mugabe said Dabengwa had decided his fate by joining Makoni.

"He has already decided his fate, he has decided his fate, he is gone, he is

The Zanu PF politburo meets Wednesday to discuss the Dabengwa defection and
Makoni issues, among others.

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Mugabe Turns Back on Makoni Allies

13th Mar 2008 08:48 GMT

By Hativagone Mushonga

HARARE - Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe now trusts no-one and is
sidelining his top army and intelligence officers whom he suspects of
involvement in Simba Makoni's bid to oust him in the presidential election
later this month, say senior ZANU-PF sources.

The sources say that Mugabe is relying on junior officers or brigadiers to
report to him instead of to army chiefs. Director-general of the Central
Intelligence Organisation, CIO, Happyton Bonyongwe, and his deputies have
not been spared, either. Their junior intelligence officers are now said to
be reporting directly to Mugabe.

Bonyongwe might face the axe because Mugabe is no longer sure where his
allegiance lies, given his close links to former army commander General
Solomon Mujuru, believed to be the chief architect of the Makoni project,
say the sources. CIO director Elias Kanengoni - convicted of the attempted
murder of political activist Patrick Kombayi in 1990 - is tipped to take
over from Bonyongwe.

Kanengoni and his accomplice Kizito Chivamba were sentenced to seven years
behind bars for shooting and injuring Kombayi, then the national organising
secretary of the now-defunct Zimbabwe Unity Movement, ZUM. However, the pair
never spent a minute behind bars as Mugabe immediately pardoned them.

Mugabe's close security unit has now been tasked with attending public
meetings and press discussions organised by Makoni, who shocked the ruling
ZANU-PF party when he announced on February 5 his intention to challenge
Mugabe in the March 29 election to the presidency, parliament and local
government. This unit reports directly to Mugabe and not to the CIO
director-general and his deputies.

Although the army chiefs' tenures were extended, they are still being linked
to the Makoni election challenge, which claims to have the backing of at
least 90 per cent of ZANU-PF's politburo members and senior army and top
central intelligence officers who want to oust the 84-year-old leader.

It is not clear why Air Marshal Perence Shiri's term of office, which
expires in April, was not extended together with those of other service
chiefs but he is believed to be a close ally of Mujuru. Both hail from the
same rural area in Chikomba in Mashonaland East.

The tenures of General Constantine Chiwenga, chief of the Zimbabwe Defence
Forces, and Lieutenant-General Phillip Valerio Sibanda, Zimbabwe National
Army commander, were extended to 2013.

A politburo member requesting anonymity told IWPR that if Makoni did not
have the backing of Mugabe's top intelligence officers, his announcement
would not have shocked Mugabe and ZANU-PF the way that it did.

"Where was Mugabe's intelligence when the idea was mooted to front Makoni?
Several meetings were held over a very long period with most of Mugabe's
trusted comrades. What angers the old man is that he was being surrounded by
people who were plotting to get rid of him.

"I don't think many can truly stand up now and deny that they were never
involved at one stage or the other. When Makoni's people are talking about
having the backing of senior army and intelligence officers, this is not a
figment of their imagination.

"Truthfully, I don't think the old man trusts anybody. People know that now
and that is why they are all rushing to denounce Makoni and distance
themselves from him. I know that the ones doing so and making the most noise
are the guilty ones and they feel the need to exonerate themselves fast
before President Mugabe turns on each one of them."

At a recent rally in Bulawayo, former home affairs minister Dumiso Dabengwa
came out in support of Makoni. He is the biggest heavyweight yet to have
openly backed him.

Press reports have linked the following to the Makoni project - Mashonaland
East governor Ray Kaukonde, former Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander Vitalis
Zvinavashe, and former Masvingo provincial chairman Dzikamai Mavhaire.

Women's League head Oppah Muchinguri has distanced herself from Makoni and
is said to be part of Mugabe's new inner circle. Despite reports that they
were backing Makoni, ZANU-PF chairperson John Nkomo and Vice-President
Joseph Msika have distanced themselves from him.

Zvinavashe, who retired a few years ago and is a successful businessman and
a member of the ZANU-PF politburo, has always made public his feelings on
the need for new leadership. "When we went to war we did not fight for a
single person but for all of us. But what the president is doing now defeats
the whole purpose of our having gone to war," he told a Zimbabwean news site
in January.

"By clinging to power Mugabe is betraying the essence of the liberation
struggle. I may also want to be president one day, but if one clings on to
power for too long, how do you expect youngsters to be leaders of tomorrow?
The president has played his part and should go immediately, to give a
chance to others whom we feel have the guts to shape a good Zimbabwe."

Mugabe launched his ZANU-PF election manifesto in Harare on February 29,
questioning the loyalty of some parliamentary candidates representing the
ruling party. The veteran Zimbabwean leader who is seeking a new five-year
term at the polls at the end of the month, described those of Makoni's
backers who were still in ZANU-PF as "two-faced".

At the launch, Mugabe also accused former colonial power Britain of using
Makoni to sponsor a rebellion against him in the ruling party.

"You who are with us here, I hope we can trust you," Mugabe told the crowd
of about 4 000, including ZANU-PF candidates, at the Harare International
Conference Centre.

"The traitors and sell outs, the political witches and political
prostitutes, political charlatans and the two-headed political creatures
must be confined to the dustbins of history."

In giving a vote of thanks at the launch, Vice-President Msika distanced
himself and a few other ZANU-PF heavyweights, including Dabengwa, from
Makoni. But Dabengwa defected to the Makoni camp a day later.

Makoni has repeatedly stressed that he is working with people in ZANU-PF to
bring political change to Zimbabwe. Speaking at the rally in Bulawayo on
March 1, Dabengwa confirmed that Makoni did indeed have the backing of some
of top ZANU-PF officials.

"We gave him our support and we found that there was no way out but to take
this step," he said.

Dabengwa became the first ruling party heavyweight to come out in support of
Makoni. "Our condition today arises primarily from the failure of national
leadership," he said.

Dabengwa, who is 69, said that for a long time he had tried to work with
fellow politburo members to facilitate a "smooth transition" after realising
that the ZANU-PF leadership "was getting old".

He said one such discussion took place in Cape Town, South Africa, where he
met Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa and
Makoni and they agreed that it had become urgent to replace the aging
leadership. Chinamasa's heart must have skipped a beat when he heard his
name - he was always believed to be one of the few remaining staunch
supporters of Mugabe in the politburo.

IWPR's source in the politburo member said Mugabe feared being dumped at the
last minute by his comrades, which might be the Makoni's camp strategy for
getting rid of the president.

Hativagone Mushonga is the pseudonym of an IWPR journalist in Zimbabwe.

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Imminent rout of Zanu-PF

Africa News, Netherlands

  Posted on Thursday 13 March 2008 - 09:10

Zimbabwe - Some political commentators predict that ZANU-PF will have a
serious drubbing in the general elections slated for 29 March, marking the
beginning of the end for the reign of the mighty ZANU-PF party in Zimbabwe.

"The split in the ruling ZANU-PF party, which has seen former finance
minister and politburo member Dr. Simba Makoni entering the presidential
ring as an independent candidate against his former party boss President
Robert Mugabe, a move which triggered many defections of former ZANU-PF
stalwarts rallying behind Dr Makoni bodes ill for the ruling party, for a
house divided against itself cannot stand." Said one Midlands State
University Professor who preferred anonymity for fear of political reprisal.

This split should be seen as a culmination of a protracted succession battle
in ZANU-PF. The emergence of the Yellow Movement as Simba Makoni's political
formation is popularly known, is a clear indication of ZANU-PF's failure to
manage internal divisions rocking the party which, Dumiso Dabengwa, a senior
member of the party blamed on the party's lack of a clear policy on
succession and leadership renewal in a statement at a campaign rally in
Bulawayo to drum up support for Simba's bid for the presidency. Even Simba
Makoni himself maintains that he hopes to draw his largest support from
within ZANU-PF a party he has served for years stretching back to the period
of the liberation struggle..

Simba's critics have charged that his manifesto promises no radical change
from policy directions being followed by the present government. He intends
only to reform the system not change it. This may attract those in ZANU-PF
who are moderate reform inclined but believe a complete changeover to be
detrimental to their own interests. This then means that Simba is most
likely to draw most of his supporters from ZANU-PF elites who have a stake
in the old order and only a few disillusioned members of the opposition
party within the MDC splinter group lead by Athur Mutambara, that is if they
have any significant followership as they claim. The majority pro-change
supporters of the Tsvangirayi lead faction of the MDC are less likely to
find Makoni appealing, and thus are likely to remain solidly behind
Tsvangirayi and to continue growing in numbers as the change sentiment
filters into the rural areas.

If the above argument holds true, then Simba's entry onto Zimbabwe's
political market poses a threat for Mugabe more than it does for opposition
presidential aspirant Tsvangirayi. "In fact ZANU has never been at its
weakest," one student of history at MSU argued. "The situation of Zimbabwe's
ruling party today is reminiscent of the state of disintegration that had
set in the Mwenemutapa Kingdom when hordes of Matebele Impis under their
warrior king Muzilikazi invaded and subdued that once great Mwenemutapa
Empire in the 18th century.

Tyanai Masiya a lecturer in the Faculty of Social sciences at the same
university however, held a different view. He commented that the coming in
of Simba represents an evil omen for change in Zimbabwe. He said Simba is
bound to draw most of his votes from the urban constituency, which
traditionally belongs to the opposition thereby further weakening MDC's
chances of winning this election. "Simba is virtually a nonentity in the
traditional ZANU-PF stronghold - the rural constituency which accounts for
more than 60% of Zimbabwe's registered voters. This therefore means come
March 30, ZANU-PF wins." He said.

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From Harare: Your questions answered

13 March 2008, 13:59 GMT

Esther (not her real name), 28, a professional living and working in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, is writing a diary on the challenges of getting through each day.

Zimbabwe is suffering from an acute economic crisis. The country has the world's highest rate of annual inflation - and just one in five has an official job.

This week Esther answers questions from readers.

Q: I spent many years in Harare and consider Zimbabwe as my second home. I would like to know is University of Zimbabwe, Medical School open and admitting students? How do they survive, both students and lecturers? I regret that Zimbabwe is not the country rich in that case the rest of the world will care more. Take care Esther

Mutsa, Belgrade, Serbia

A: The UZ is still functioning, although they have delayed starting the 2nd semester till after elections. I was a student there in the late 90s and have returned for some professional studies. It is not what it used to be, but its still there. I don't know how students survive, for most of them it's a miracle, as food and accommodation are quite expensive and out of the reach of many.

Q: Hi Esther, I work with people with HIV infection in the UK. What prospects regarding medical and drug treatment (with antiretrovirals) would people face returning to Zimbabwe?

Clare, Birmingham, UK

A: I think the Ministry of Health has worked hard to set up partnerships in this area of Anti Retroviral Therapy such that there are a lot of organisations providing ART here. The drugs are also available from pharmacies but those cost billions for a month's therapy, so that's not for everyone. Most people use the public sector facility.

Q: Hie! Ester i want to thank u for such a good job u r doin.i'm really proud ov u sis please don't stop until we get our Zimbabwe back. DO U THINK SIMBA IS GENUINE & CAN HE OUST MUGABE.

jack madeu, zimbabwean in UK

A: I watched a Simba Makoni interview on a South African TV channel last night. I'm afraid he came across as being evasive and downright rude at times. We were actually talking about the interview with my colleagues on the way to work and 9/12 people believe he shot himself in the foot with that interview. He is NOT opposition to the ruling party, so no, I think he is not genuine.

Q: I once lived in Harare and had predicted then, 1999, that things were going to touch the bottom before getting up again. But I never imagined it would get this bad. One thing I also remember is the smugness of the average Zim elite then; ever ready to point at the failings of other African states and demonstrating so much disdain for nationals of those states going through economic reforms. Kwacha in Zim parlance meant worthless note; what do we call the Zim dollar of today? When I arrived Harare, the Zim dollar was 9 ZWD - 1 USD. Such a sad irony. Zimbabweans have to take their destiny in their hands. No one else can do it for them.

Olu, Abuja, Nigeria

Q: I never got the picture of what Zim inflation means to you guys' life out there, but now I understand after your told how you go to work and while coming back home you find commuter bus fare shot up two, three fold. JUST HOW DO YOU GUYS SURVIVE, REALLY? Hang in there Zim, everything is gonna be alright.

Bravo, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

A: Kwacha still means worthless note, only that's what we call our own dollar now. As of today, our dollar is trading at 40m to 1US. As of 1 January this year, it was 6m to 1US. So you see how fast we are going?

Q: Esther do you Zimbabweans all get your basic needs such as daily food and security? You know sometimes you can survive in any way, but the worst problem in the world is lack of security.

Abdirihiin, Hargeisa, Somaliland

A: Yes, at least we don't have guns & bombs going off all around us.

Q: Your situation sounds so very much like what happened in Guyana in the 1970's and '80's. Empty shelves and teachers leaving to become traders and on and on. It was common and popular for people to blame the president and his "bad" economic policies but I saw the World Bank destroy some of his programmes which could have put milk and beef on the table of every Guyanese and I saw foreign companies and foreign governments strangle Guyana's ability to trade, to manufacture and to earn foreign exchange. I am curious to know if some of these same types of circumstances are at play in your country.

Pat, Maple Ridge, Canada

A: The World Bank issue is one I'm not qualified to comment on. But I do know we have made some policies that have driven out investors and scared off any potential ones. I think our country is now perceived as one in which anything can happen to one's property at any time. A new law is just drafted to justify the seizure. Pricing decisions are made for you by the state, foreign earnings are retained by the state, official foreign exchange rate is not market driven, but fixed by the state. All this makes for a hostile climate in which to conduct business.

Q: Hello Esther, what are the chances of Simba Makoni beating President Mugabe in the upcoming elections?

Kennedy Nji Achiri, Douala Cameroon

A: Well, he seems to have the support of party loyalists who think Mugabe needs to step down, and of academics and high powered executives who cannot see a former trade union leader being president.

Q: Hi Esther, I have been following the situation in Zimbabwe, since my daughter married a very good man from your country and is very sad the situation that all your country is enduring, I admire your strength and hope that sometime soon all of that will change. My son's family is out of there but his grandmother is living in Harare and we are always praying for her and all of you .

R. E. Aponte, Castle Rock, Colorado USA

A: Thank you for the prayers. Help us to pray for courage to turn out in our millions for 29 March, especially in the rural areas, and for peace after the results are announced.

Q: Esther, I think you are brave and strong and what is happening in your homeland is a crime. In years past, we counted on Zimbabwe to pull other countries through a drought year since the harvest from Zimbabwe was usually so bountiful. May you soon see a renewal as brilliant as the famous Harare Jacaranda trees and as bountiful as past harvests.

Ginny, Massachusetts, USA

A: That is our prayer too. Thank you.

Q: Esther to begin with I want to send you my love and support - you are so brave to be standing firm and not leaving even though times are hard. Are you in danger for talking so openly about the situation? What are you hopes and dreams for the future?

Sarah McCully, Belfast

A: Am I in danger? Esther is NOT my name. Does that answer your question?

Q: Is this situation going to change? because students are the most affected please write something on our decaying educational system

regererai maguta, masvingo

A: Hi Regerarai, you know as well as I do that school kids have not been going to school for more than two weeks now. Are you old enough to vote? If you are please try to change the situation on 29 March.

Q: is it fairly hard working in hospitals or is it that they just cannot hold up enough people, and isn't there a lot of hospitals in zimbabwe?

Halimah Hussein, London England

A: We have quite a number of hospitals, but like I said no drugs, and no staff. The pay structure is just ridiculous, so most of our doctors & nurses are abroad or working informally.

Q: Hi Esther.

I just want to know about the health standards and provisions made (if any) to the general public. There can never be an informal clinic/hospital i suppose. So how are people really surviving medically?

Willie, Perth, Western Australia

A: The medical situation is sad. I have heard rumours that the Registrar/Superintendent of our major hospital in Harare wanted it to be shut down, but he is the one who got fired instead. We just do not have drugs, and at times no running water & no power. I have heard stories from nurses about how at times patients lie in messed bedding because there aren't enough personnel to change the bedding and clean the patients. My cousin, a medical doctor, has told me of how they give paliative care rather than carry out tests to find out what is wrong with a patient, because there is no point in the investigation, as there are no drugs to treat whatever it is. The only drugs in abundance are ARVs, because there are so many organisations doing ART research here.

Q: BBC, you are fraudulent! Esther does not exist. You have cooked up rubbish as usual just to paint the ugliest picture possible about Zimbabwe. you only choose to see what you want to see about zimbabwe.

John Iteshi, London, UK

You are partly right John, as Esther is not my real name, and I am not 28. It is a little fraud to keep certain people off my scent - but I certainly exist!

Makoni Hijacking Struggle

Fahamu (Oxford)

13 March 2008
Posted to the web 13 March 2008

Madhuku Lovemore

Madhuku Lovemore argues that Simba Makoni is hijacking the Zimbabwean
struggle and will only entrench ZANU-PF type politics and suggests that no
matter how flawed, Tsvangirai represents the best chance for change.

The emergence of the Simba Makoni "initiative/project" has raised
justifiable questions about the direction of the continuing quest by
Zimbabweans to end the dictatorship of the ZANU-PF regime and usher in a
genuinely democratic dispensation.

One such question is: how should civic society relate to the initiative?
More fundamentally, should it be the business of civic society organisations
to pronounce their preferences among contesting presidential aspirants?

I have decided to take a few hours from my activist work and put pen to
paper to address some of the pertinent issues arising from the Makoni

In doing this, I am neither wearing the hat of an academic nor putting on
the spectacles of the proverbial analyst. I am here articulating the views
of a civic society activist who, since 1997, has been part of a movement
that has certain beliefs, values and principles.

Accordingly, the views and positions expressed herein are partisan in that
they are controlled by the beliefs, values and principles for which I have
been an activist in the past 10 years. The starting point is to put my cards
on the table. Based on the values and beliefs of the movement I belong to,
the Makoni "initiative/project" is fundamentally misconceived. It will fail.
It has no grassroots support. It misunderstands the nature of the responses
required to address our deepening political crisis.

The founding stone of the initiative is the March 29 harmonised election.
The planners believe that on March 29, Makoni will capture power from
President Robert Mugabe through an electoral process presided over by none
other than the President himself. To them, the reason why President Mugabe
is still in power is because those who have challenged him in previous
elections did it prematurely and lacked the requisite credentials, support
and strategies. The time has now come, a person with the requisite
credentials has been found and the support from appropriate circles is also
available. According to them, President Mugabe is a democrat who respects
electoral processes and will hand power to whoever is elected on March 29.

Makoni and his backers believe that peaceful street protests, stay aways and
grassroots meetings advocating fundamental reforms such as a new, democratic
and people driven constitution are inappropriate and misguided. All that
matters is a carefully planned electoral strategy that "ambushes"
(President) Mugabe and takes power away from him through the ballot.

The response to this approach is simple: the March 29, elections are being
conducted under a defective constitution whose raison d'etre is to preserve
the status quo. Elections under the current constitution cannot deliver
change whatever the credentials of the contestants and however sophisticated
their strategies.

Until Zimbabweans put their energies together and push the current regime to
embrace a genuine and people-driven reform process that leads to a
democratic constitution, power will not change hands through a mere
election. Participation in the elections on March 29 cannot be for the
purpose of winning power. It can only be for any other good reasons.

This brings me to the question of the day: if power cannot change hands
under the current constitution, why are all major civic groups, including
the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), urging people to go and vote on
March 29?

Different civic groups may have different reasons for urging people to go
and vote. For the NCA, March 29 will not deliver a new President but it
provides a platform for Zimbabweans to make a statement against the Mugabe
regime's sins, which include being the author of the suffering of the people
and above all, its refusal to embrace democratic reforms.

Casting a vote against (President) Mugabe on March 29 is a peaceful protest
against dictatorship and a key step in the post election agenda of
confronting that dictatorship and advocating for genuine democratic reforms.
But the vote on March 29 is not just against (President) Mugabe. It must be
a statement in support of a set of values, beliefs and principles, which
guide our post-election struggle for change in Zimbabwe.

It is in this context that the presidential candidature of Morgan Tsvangirai
of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) gains a windfall. The MDC was
launched in September 1999 as a result of the deliberations of a Working
People's Convention of February 1999. That Convention was convened by the
ZCTU and was attended by most civic groups. The NCA played a key role at the
Convention. At its launch in September 1999, the MDC had two main parents:
the labour movement and the constitutional reform movement.

The MDC was formed as a political wing of these two movements to pursue, as
a political party, the values and principles that these two movements
represented. For example, the ZCTU would expect the MDC, as a political
party, to fight for labour friendly policies. Similarly, the NCA expects the
MDC to advocate for a new, democratic and people-driven constitution.

Thus, since 1999, there has existed a family: the labour movement, the
constitutional reform movement and the political party mothered by these two
movements. Each member of the family is a separate entity and independent
from the others. The MDC is partisan.

The other movements are non-partisan. Like every other family, certain core
family values are shared. In this particular family, the most important
value is that Zimbabwe's political system must be transformed through
people-driven processes and that a new, democratic and people driven
constitution must anchor that transformation. The family is convinced that a
"reformed ZANU-PF" is not the answer because it does not seek

The family has had its own problems. The MDC has not been consistent in
defending family values. On many occasions, it has disappointed the family.
There are two most recent disappointments. The first is its support for
Amendment 18. It is common knowledge that the other family members were
outraged by that misguided endorsement of piecemeal constitutional reforms.
The second disappointment is the MDC's participation in this election under
a defective constitution. The family's preference is "No elections without a
new, democratic and people-driven constitution".

However, notwithstanding these disappointments, the family is agreed on the
bigger picture of transforming Zimbabwe through people-driven processes.
Whatever his weaknesses, Tsvangirai's presidential candidature symbolizes
the founding values of our movement. Elections on March 29, being held under
the current constitutional arrangements, will not make anyone other than
(President) Mugabe, the president. Accordingly, a vote for either Morgan
Tsvangirai or Simba Makoni can only be for other good reasons. For our
family, our good reason is to support our kind of politics. It is to
demonstrate that our kind of politics has the greatest support in the
country and must therefore be vigorously pursued in the post-election

Our good reason is to use March 29 to set the agenda for the post-election
period. As these elections cannot deliver a change of government, the
competition between Tsvangirai and Simba Makoni is, to be blunt, "for No. 2
position." President Mugabe's "No. 1 position" is secured by the absence of
a free and fair election. He has no genuine support. However, the
competition for the "No. 2 position" is serious business. Making a choice
between Simba Makoni and Morgan Tsvangirai is a big political statement,
reflecting one's position as to the way forward in the current crisis.
Morgan Tsvangirai represents the route we have been following since 1997. He
is, as a person, not the answer. He represents the answer and must be

A vote for Tsvangirai's presidential bid is a statement against a "reformed
ZANU-PF" agenda. It is important that this statement be made against Simba
Makoni and his group because their set of beliefs distorts our post-election
agenda of a total assault against the system. This group does not believe in
transformation - all they want is to replace (President) Mugabe. These
ZANU-PF reformists have no post election agenda because they only have one
plan: to win and govern. They are irrelevant in a post-election setting
focusing on transformation. They do not believe in our methods. Fortunately,
because of our grassroots presence, March 29 will show that the overwhelming
majority of Zimbabweans support a total transformation of the system
presided over by (President) Mugabe and not a mere tinkering with it They
will reject the Simba Makoni initiative. Makoni will be a distant third in
the presidential race. The situation will remain what it is today with one
solution - pushing for a genuine people-driven transformation and free and
fair elections under a new democratic constitution.

Lovemore Madhuku is the National Constituent Assembly chairman in Zimbabwe.

The changing scenarios of Elections 2008

The Zimbabwean

Tuesday, 11 March 2008 17:56
John Makumbe

Based on my little knowledge of the Zimbabwe political situation and
observations of the behaviour of political animals among us, I have, in the
past few weeks, proposed some four possible scenarios for the 2008
presidential elections. In Scenario One, I have postulated that Zanu (PF)
will retain political power and obtain majority support in both houses of
Parliament. This would essentially result in the maintenance of the status
quo. I have rated this scenario as "very likely".
In Scenario Two, I postulated that the "new kid on the bloc", Simba
Makoni would win the election and assume power, and then proceed to form a
government of national unity (GNU) with the MDC after the elections. I have
graded this second scenario as "somewhat likely" given the excitement caused
by Makoni's entry into the presidential race. The third Scenario, or
Scenario Three, I have predicted that, once again, Zanu (PF) would retain
political power but quickly offer to forge a GNU with the MDC. Under this
scenario, Robert Mugabe would promise to step down from active politics in a
short while. I have argued that this third scenario is "somewhat unlikely"
except through the resumption of mediation by the SADC.
Scenario Four envisages an MDC win and assumption of political power,
and therefore regime change. I postulate that under this scenario, the MDC
would invite reform minded members of Zanu (PF) to join a GNU or some such
transitional authority for a specified period aimed at facilitating national
reconciliation and economic reconstruction. The rating for this fourth
scenario is "unlikely".
Following some three weeks of rather lukewarm campaigning, I wish to
revise these four scenarios rather drastically on the basis of what seems to
be obtaining now in the nation, especially on the campaign trail. It would
appear now to me that Scenario Four has attained the status of "very
likely". In other words, the MDC is now very likely to win the 2008
presidential and parliamentary elections. There is even a possibility that
Morgan Tsvangirai could win an outright majority during the first round, and
there might not be any need for a run-off.
Scenario Two is likely to remain at the "somewhat likely" level given
the limited political support that Simba Makoni seems to be receiving from
the electorate so far. The Zanu (PF) heavies that are alleged to be
supporting or sponsoring Makoni have either grown cold feet, or have decided
to wait until they see which way the ping ball will fall before they go
public. This has been an unfortunate development for the Makoni campaign,
which is now visibly limping almost uncontrollably.
There will be no change with regards to Scenario Three, which remains
"somewhat unlikely". Perhaps the most drastic adjustment we have to make is
that Scenario One collapses to the "unlikely " rating given the odds against
Mugabe as clearly demonstrated by the lack of public support that he seems
to be receiving. The poor old man has had to resort to force-marching school
children and poor people to his rallies in order to get a semblance of an
audience. His speeches are replete with insults levelled against his
political rivals. He persists on silly meaningless and false accusations of
foreign sponsorship for his opponents and the usual rhetoric that he
actually believes to be the truth, much to the amusement of his listeners.
Let us wait and see what the last few days of campaigning will bring
before we revisit these scenarios one more time before the elections. As for
now, the revised line-up of the scenarios is that Scenario One becomes
Scenario Four. Scenario Four becomes Scenario One, while Scenarios Two and
Three remain as they were in the original formulation. Where in the world is
Arthur Mutambara?

IBA Condemns Pre-Election Attack on Law Society

International Bar Association (London)

13 March 2008
Posted to the web 13 March 2008

The International Bar Association (IBA) has condemned a series of attacks by
the government of Zimbabwe on the Law Society of Zimbabwe ahead of elections
later this month. It urges the Government to stop interfering with the
legitimate work of the country's organised legal profession.

The state-run Herald and Sunday Mail newspapers recently published articles
alleging that the Law Society of Zimbabwe is working with the European Union
(EU) and United Kingdom government to circumvent a government ban on
election observers from the EU.One lead article entitled 'EU Recruits Secret
Observers' alleges that the Law Society was asking law firms to observe the
elections on behalf of the EU. It quotes the Minister of Justice Patrick
Chinamasa saying, 'It has come to my knowledge that the Law Society of
Zimbabwe leadership has turned the society into a political party to the
extent of soliciting from British and other foreign governments funds to
engage in active politics.. I will no longer treat them as a professional
society, but a political opposition party.'

'These are ominous words in light of the Mugabe regime's record of brutality
against the political opposition and human rights defenders,' said Mark
Ellis, Executive Director of the International Bar Association. 'The true
objective of this vindictive government campaign is to justify a clampdown
on independent lawyers in the run-up to the election,' he said.

Richard Goldstone, Co-Chair of the Human Rights Institute of the IBA
(IBAHRI) urged the Law Society of Zimbabwe not to be deflected from its
efforts to monitor the country's forthcoming elections saying, 'Zimbabwe's
law society should be strengthened by the knowledge that its efforts to
maintain independence and defend fundamental civil and political rights and
freedoms in the face of enormous hostility from the government are supported
by legal professionals worldwide.' He added, 'There would appear to be scant
hope that that this poll will be free and fair in light of the Zimbabwe
government engaging in a fierce campaign to prevent independent scrutiny of
the process.'

More food shortages anticipated

JOHANNESBURG, 13 March 2008 (IRIN) - Erratic weather is likely to hurt
Zimbabwe's harvest this year, with the country ending up with an even higher
maize deficit than in 2007, according to the latest report from the
USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS-NET).

Heavy rainfall, with flooding in several districts, in December 2007 forced
many farmers to scale down their planned crop area, as they were unable to
prepare the land and apply fertiliser, FEWS-NET's Food Security Update for
February 2008 commented.

Despite the setback, a Zimbabwean government assessment said the area
planted to maize, the staple crop, had increased by six percent compared to
the 2006/07 cropping season. An earlier crop assessment by the government,
which media reports last week seized on, reportedly said only 14 percent of
land targeted for maize had been planted by December.

However, the impact of a dry spell in February, which affected cereal crops
in various stages of growth across the country, has yet to be assessed, said
a regional agricultural expert who did not want to be named. "So no one can
actually predict what the deficit could be."

Zimbabwe had a grain deficit of about 891,000 tonnes in 2007 - almost 50
percent below the 2006 harvest - on account of adverse weather, severe
economic constraints that led to shortages of key inputs, deteriorating
infrastructure, especially in irrigation and, most importantly, financially
unviable government-controlled prices, said a joint Crop and Food supply
assessment mission by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and
the World Food Programme (WFP).

Food production declined in Zimbabwe after a land reform programme began in
2000, where white-owned farms were redistributed among black farmers. Most
new farmers have been unable to utilise the prime land allocated to them
because of lack of inputs and incentives. Poor rains over several seasons
also hit output.

The commercial farming sector now produces less than one-tenth of the maize
it harvested in the 1990s, and less than five percent of the country's total
maize production, said the joint FAO/WFP 2007 assessment report, which based
its findings on government data.

The country needs at least two million tonnes of maize to meet its national
requirements and has had to import food from Malawi and Zambia. "It is too
early to forecast ... [2008] production and the food deficit," said Kisan
Gunjal, who led the joint assessment mission to Zimbabwe.

"However, judging from the various factors, such as better rainfall
distribution ... [in 2008], as opposed to a significant drought ... [in
2007], and some 6 percent increase in maize planted area according to the
official estimate, the production ... [in 2008] is likely to be close to an
average of the past five years."

The FAO's Crop Prospects and Food Situation report for February 2008 has
also predicted low harvests in 2008 because of the high price of inputs such
as fertiliser, seed, fuel and tillage power, and severe flooding in many

More imports needed?

The Zimbabwean government and humanitarian agencies have managed to move an
adequate amount of cereal into the country, according to the FEWS-NET
report, and an outstanding cereal deficit of about 278,000 tonnes is likely
to be met. The government has brought in 239,827 tonnes of maize from
Malawi, with the balance of 166,403 tonnes to come.

The 2008/09 marketing year will start with low stocks. "While the outcome of
this year's very wet season is not known, there will be localised deficits,
and the country will again need to import a significant amount of cereal,
likely to be more than was required ... [in 2007], to meets its needs."

Accessibility to food has been affected by the inability of the
state-controlled cereals agency, the Grain Marketing Board, to deal with
transport and fuel shortages, exacerbated by further damage to the already
poor state of the road network by heavy rains in the country since December
2007, the FEWS-NET report noted.

Food security and prices

Food security in urban areas remains critical, given the shortages and
erratic supplies of basic commodities on the formal market, and inadequate
humanitarian support in these areas.

Inflation has reached more than 100,000 percent in Zimbabwe. "However,
irrespective of the exact rate of increase, it is obvious that the nominal
cost of living is rising at much faster rate than people's incomes and their
purchasing power," Gunjal commented.

Despite the government's imposition of price controls in 2007, the
availability and supply of basic commodities on the formal market remained
erratic. "A few commodities such as milk and bread have become more
available in January 2008, though the selling prices are unaffordable to
most poor households, and rapidly rising: the cost of a standard loaf of
bread increased by over 300 percent from October 2007 to early January

Other basic commodities such as sugar, cooking oil, maizemeal and meat have
remained scarce in the formal market but were available on the parallel
market, where prices are still rocketing. The prices of white sugar, cooking
oil and beef went up by between 60 percent and 250 percent from November
2007 to January 2008.

To address the scarcity of food and other essential commodities in urban
areas, the Zimbabwean government plans to introduce "people's markets",
which would sell basic goods at fairly affordable prices, FEWS-NET said.

WFP spokesman Richard Lee pointed out that it was difficult to determine an
accurate number of people in need of food in the urban areas, which was why
they had not considered food aid distribution, and preferred to focus on the
large numbers in need in the rural areas, where food was inaccessible.

In February 2008 WFP managed to provide food aid to 2.4 million people in
Zimbabwe's grain-deficient rural areas and, along with the Consortium for
Southern Africa Food Security Emergency, which is funded by the US Agency
for International Development, intended to feed more than 3.5 million people
in March.

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

SADC in Zimbabwe to observe, not run polls

From The Star (SA), 13 March

Moshoeshoe Monare

Harare - The Southern African Development Community's electoral observer
mission is not in Zimbabwe to manage the electoral process, but to observe
it objectively. This was the message from the head of the regional bloc's
observer mission - Angolan Foreign Minister Joao Miranda - during the launch
of the mission in Harare yesterday. Miranda told diplomats, reporters and
the first 50-member team that the SADC electoral observer mission would be
guided by the new laws agreed upon by the two main political parties and by
the principles and guidelines of the regional bloc. "We are here to witness
whether these elections are transparent and conform to the laws governing
electoral processes and SADC guidelines," he said. Miranda stressed that if
the parliamentary, council and presidential elections - to be held on March
29 - conform to these laws and principles, then everyone had to accept the
outcome. "We must ensure that elections are based on a political consensus
in terms of the electoral laws. All political parties contributed to these
laws . they signed these laws. (Therefore) we expect them to accept these

Miranda was referring to the SADC mediation process - facilitated by South
Africa - in which agreements on electoral, public order and safety, access
to information, and broadcast bills were signed by the ruling Zanu PF and
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) last year. According to the
SADC minutes, the agreement on proposed electoral laws were signed in
October last year and a consolidated electoral bill agreement in December.
However, the parties could not agree on the process of adopting the new
constitution, whose amendment was agreed in September. The stalemate on the
constitution and charges by the opposition that little had changed on the
ground despite such agreements, could culminate in another dispute on the
freeness and fairness of the elections. SADC was widely criticised when it
declared the 2005 general elections to be a reflection of the will of the
Zimbabwean people. Asked how SADC would ensure that its ruling on this
year's elections was credible, Miranda said they would interact with all
other observer missions for a consensus. Zimbabwe has invited 47 countries
and organisations from Africa, Asia, the Americas, as well as Russia to
observe the polls. All eyes are on the presidential elections pitting
President Robert Mugabe against MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and Simba

Zimbabwe Quick to Add Higher Denominations

By Dr. Kerry Rodgers, Bank Note Reporter
March 13, 2008

Collectors of notes that involve multiple zeros will be glad to know that hyperinflation is alive and well - and thriving - in Zimbabwe.

Your reporter is hard-pressed to keep pace with the ever-increasing denominations flowing from this economic basket-case. I strongly suspect that the editors of Volume 3 of Standard Catalog of World Paper Money may be equally pushed for at least the next couple of editions.

Back in May 2007 Bank Note Reporter presented a summary of the recent history of the Zimbabwe dollar (ZW$) and of the efforts being made to curb the country's hyperinflationary trends through Operation Sunrise. The upshot was that in July 2006 the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe revalued the Zimbabwean dollar at the rate of 1,000-to-1 in the hope of establishing some macroeconomic stability through reverting from four-digit to mere double-digit inflation. The following month the government devalued the new Zimbabwean dollar, or ZWN$, by 60 percent against the U.S. dollar. The old dollar had been rated at ZW$100,000 to US$1. The new dollar was valued at ZWN$250 to each US$1. In the past 12 months or so things have gotten much, much worse and the Zimbabwe dollar, be it old or new, continues to be least-valued currency in the world. At the beginning of 2007 inflation was running at over 1,700 percent with no end in sight. By March 2007 the new Zimbabwean dollar was valued at ZWN$30,000 to US$1.

By mid-June 2007 the inflation rate was estimated at 3,700 percent, the highest in the world. Come late November, a conservative estimate put it at 8,000 percent and rising by the hour. In January 2008, one South African paper was discussing the probability that real annual inflation was at least 25,000 percent and possibly in excess of 50,000 percent. All of this was reflected in the denominations of bearer checks spewing from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe in a vain attempt to plug a desperate cash shortage. Lines form each and every day outside banks throughout the country as people seek to withdraw their savings before they become valueless. There is simply never enough cash on hand to fulfill the need.

In December 2007 the central bank issued new notes in denominations of ZWN$250,000, ZWN$500,000 and ZWN$750,000. At the same time the governor of the bank, Gideon Gono, announced that ZWN$200,000 bills were to be phased out. These notes had been released at the end of July when they bought the equivalent of a couple of pounds of sugar. They had become a common denomination. The final date for exchange of this old note for the new denominations was set as Dec. 31. Immediately chaos reigned!

Shops promptly stopped accepting the ZWN$200,000 notes rather than risk being caught with a bundle of them at the end of the month. New lines formed at the city banks as people tried to exchange ZWN$200,000 notes they had received only the day before for the new currency. Out in the countryside it was worse. Villagers struggled to cross flooded rivers to get to where the cash-swap teams were based. Carpetbaggers swooped in, swapping old notes for new at a premium of up to 50 percent.

Then, at 8.30 p.m. on New Year's Eve, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe issued yet another statement to the effect the ZWN$200,000 note would not be decommissioned after all. No explanation was given. Never mind the people who had lost savings, risked flooded rivers and spent Christmas in bank lines. And never mind that shop-keepers won't touch them with a 40-foot barge pole  just in case the "Reverse" Bank changes its mind again!

It had been my intention to write this story early in the new year. However, a bout of ill-health kept me from my keyboard for a week in early January. When I returned to the fray a few days later, the newswires were reporting that Zimbabwe's central bank had issued yet more new bank notes, in denominations of up to ZWN$10 million. At the time of the mid-December issue, economists had predicted that the central bank would need to dramatically upscale its note values, and so it had come to pass and in just four short weeks.

Even this infusion of large-denomination notes has failed to have any immediate impact on the country's cash crisis. Long lines remain in place at banks nationwide and Gov. Gono is publicly speaking of cash hoarding among the government's power brokers. He is quoted as stating, "Of the Z$67 trillion which has been printed, we can only account for Z$2 trillion in the formal banking system."

The new bearer checks drawn on the central bank come in denominations of ZWN$1 million, ZWN$5 million and ZWN$10 million, the latter being equivalent - at the time of writing - to US$3.90, but falling by the minute!

Anyone wish to run an office pool on when a ZWN$100,000,000 bearer check will appear?