14 March 2008
Zimbabwe's economy has been in crisis for nearly 10 years, but as election day approaches, its collapse is gathering pace, and no one is sure where it is heading. Peta Thornycroft reports for VOA that economists, industrialists and political analysts say the economy can only recover if there is new political leadership.
|An unidentified opposition supporter holds a red card with the words 'Mugabe must Go Now,' during a rally in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, 8 Mar 2008|
Mr. Mugabe blames Western nations, particularly Britain and the United States, for his country's economic woes.
Economist John Robertson says the economy is so tattered, it will require new political leadership of a special caliber to launch a recovery process.
|Simba Makoni addresses supporters at the launch of his presidential campaign in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, 01 Mar 2008|
Robertson is alluding to the coming election in which
two candidates are challenging Mr. Mugabe to become the new president of
Simba Makoni, who was finance minister during the start of the land reform program, announced his candidacy just last month. He had to quit his job, or was forced to, when he advised his then boss, Robert Mugabe, to devalue the Zimbabwe dollar in 2002.
|Zimbabwean opposition leader and presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai at White City Stadium in Bulawayo, 8 Mar 2008|
Both men devote a lot of campaign time telling people how the economy needs to be reformed. Economist Robertson says if either man wins the election he will be faced with a daunting task to inject life back into the economy.
At present it takes about 30 million Zimbabwe dollars to buy $1 U.S. on the black market, which is the only way to acquire foreign currency these days. Robertson says Zimbabwe will not recover without international assistance, in particular to stabilize the Zimbabwe dollar, which loses value every day.
"We need to be treated as a disaster zone in desperate need of assistance much as if we had suffered an earthquake or a flood," he explained. "If the country tried to recover with its own resources, it would take far, far too long, so the assistance we would need would be mainly to recapitalize the country to give people the resources needed to hit the ground running in every industry, especially in agriculture."
Robertson suggests that a new leader will have to respond to market forces and drastically cut the size of the civil service. He also notes that companies or individuals in debt at the time of a transition to a new political dispensation would struggle to survive a stable Zimbabwe dollar and real interest rates.
|Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe chants the party's slogan at a rally in Mubayira, about 120 km south of Harare, Zimbabwe, 13 Mar 2008|
Stock exchange chief executive Emmanuel Munyukwi laments the ever deepening crisis and says most companies still operating are only trying to survive until there is a new political dispensation.
"These companies are probably operating at less than 20 percent capacity, they have got assets which are real, the assets are there, so should circumstances change here the upside potential is huge," he noted.
Munyukwi says the banks, for example, no longer operate as they did when Zimbabwe's economy was sound. He says important traditional roles of private banks such as lending to investors and supporting agriculture have been taken over by the central bank. He says commercial banks are now more like post office banks, dealing only with individuals' accounts.
Munyukwi says he is an optimist and believes that there could be a recovery reasonably fast if there is a new political leadership.
"When you look what's happening on the ground, most of our problems are political," he said. "Once the political situation is resolved, it cascades down. The executives running the companies in Zimbabwe are going through a very difficult time, even producing in some instances good results under very, very trying circumstances. Now if the playing field is level - this is the potential I am talking about - people will start making money."
Both Makoni and Tsvngirai have said if they won the presidential election they would restore the ailing banking sector and return the central bank to its traditional role.
However, President Mugabe is campaigning hard. He has apologized to people for their suffering mainly blaming the west for their plight, but saying that ZANU-PF has also made mistakes. He is determined to serve at least another five years, and many Zimbabweans wonder what will happen to the economy if he retains power.
Political analyst Brian Raftopoulos says if he does the West will not recognize the outcome of the election because, he says, already there are strong indications that the polls will be neither free nor fair. Raftopoulos predicts the economy will shrink further and suffering will escalate.
"Well if Mugabe wins it is simple, conditions will continue to deteriorate," he said. "This would not be an election that is widely recognized, there will be no recovery, the Mugabe regime will be further isolated. The economy will continue to deteriorate, with Mugabe and his regime having no policy to bring Zimbabwe out of the current crisis, and therefore, all-round the conditions will get worse."
At month's end Zimbabweans will vote for the first time in four simultaneous elections - for the president, legislators, senators and, for local government representatives. Many are hoping that the election will indeed herald a new economic beginning in their country.
March 15, 2008
Open defiance led by opposition candidate Simba Makoni holds the promise of
an end to years of suffering for Zimbabwe's rural poor
Jan Raath in Muchakata
The women sat in the rural way; on the ground, with their legs stretched out
straight in front of them, under an enormous old tree. The men sat in a
group apart from them, all listening to Zimbabwe's newest opposition leader,
They had been ordered by the chief of the area not to attend, but they came
anyway. They did not move when two policemen approached to watch the
meeting, nor were they distracted by a campaign meeting, 200 metres away, of
the ruling Zanu (PF) party, even with its large heap of food-for-votes grain
bags ready for distribution to the faithful.
Mr Makoni, President Mugabe's former Finance Minister, left the party a
month ago to challenge him for the presidency in the March 29 elections.
When he made a joke of Mr Mugabe's totem, he got loud, derisive laughs. They
clapped and cheered when he scorned the situation where a box of matches now
costs Z$2 million.
Their shouts became angry ones when he told them that the members of Mr
Mugabe's politburo had sent their own children to schools in Australia and
Malaysia "after they have destroyed our education system". One woman cried
out: "I want to vote now!"
This is in the heart of Zanu (PF) territory, in the rough and inhospitable
province of Masvingo in the south of the country, an area that Zanu (PF)
proudly claims is a "one-party province". In the last presidential election
a meeting like this would have brought the villagers a lesson from the party
youth, of bloodied heads and houses razed to the ground.
"This could never have happened here, not even two months ago," said a
retired civil servant, who gave his name as Albert. "Anything can happen in
this election now. We cannot continue suffering."
The next two meetings I followed on Mr Makoni's whistle-stop tour of the
area proceeded without interruption. People cheered him, raised their
clasped hands in his salute and, in full public view, put on free T-shirts
bearing his sunny visage. "We don't want Mugabe any more," said a thin,
young mother called Esnat. "We are hungry. We have nothing. We want change."
Wherever I went, people spoke the forbidden word, "change". In the blink of
an eye, something has happened to Zimbabwe's rural people, after nearly 30
years under Mr Mugabe's absolute rule, where the ruling party card is the
key to receiving famine relief when you are starving, while dissent has
meant death for hundreds.
The rural areas have, by a policy of brutal subjection and deliberate
impoverishment, been made a reliable reservoir of votes for Zanu (PF) that
Mr Mugabe, 84, has used to stay in power since he was first challenged in
But suddenly the web of fear and silence appears to be dissolving. Last week
in the Gutu area, another Mugabe fortress about 30 miles (50km) north of
here, one of the factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) was able not just to hold rallies and draw thousands of villagers, but
to see village headmen - the bailiffs of Zanu (PF)'s rural rule - denouncing
Mr Mugabe and declaring allegiance to the MDC. "We gave Mugabe a chance and
they failed," said a headman, Tapurai Gudo. "Now they are asking for our
support. This is the time to show that rural people are not idiots."
In Mhondoro, about 40 miles south of Harare, senior officials of the party
were astonished this week to receive a rapturous welcome from thousands of
villagers in what was regarded as a virtual "no-go" area for the opposition.
A national executive member, Nelson Chamisa, said: "It was humbling. These
people are hungry, but many walked 12 miles to hear us."
Human rights agencies have already remarked on the relative absence of the
ruling party campaign of violence and harassment that usually begins months
before voting day. The aggressive action of the police, who, a year ago,
battered MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai for daring to enter a police station
to ask about arrested colleagues, has also subsided.
At his meeting here, Mr Makoni told his audience that police had
instructions to intimidate people into voting for Mr Mugabe. "Please, resist
these pressures," he appealed to the two officers present. They made no move
to interfere with the meeting. "There is a wind of change," said Eldred
Masunungure, who directs a respected political opinion poll from Harare.
"Similar reports are confirmed from all round the country. Something is
Since Mr Makoni declared his challenge on February 5, Zanu (PF) has shown
signs of rupturing as hundreds of middle-ranking members - but only a
handful of senior officials - abandon the party to back Mr Makoni. Nine
months of talks mediated by the South African President, Thabo Mbeki,
between Zanu (PF) and the two factions of the MDC, produced only marginal
concessions from Mr Mugabe, but nonetheless appear to have imposed restraint
on the ruling party. Added to that is the staggering depth of the economic
crisis and the critical food shortages.
"But it really is too early to write Mugabe's political obituary," cautioned
Mr Masunungure. "That would be wishful thinking. There are many who think
what is happening is the calm before the storm."
But when she arrived at Zimbabwe's State House in Harare, the capital, that December morning, a massive banner outside the office of President Robert Mugabe made clear she would find little reflection -- or contrition -- inside.
"Mugabe is Right," declared the wall-size banner, hung where only the president's staff and handpicked visitors such as Holland could see it.
The interview that followed -- a 2 1/2 -hour conversation with a man who rarely speaks to any writer outside Zimbabwe's tightly controlled government propaganda machine -- was like the banner: odd, boastful, unrepentant. It offered rare insight into the thinking of Mugabe as he faces a difficult bid for reelection this month after almost three decades of unbroken power.
The interview included tender moments, such as when he discussed the deaths of relatives and his enduring "love" for Britain's royal family. But Mugabe, 84, displayed little remorse for the actions many Zimbabweans regard as his signature misdeeds, including the slaughter of thousands of minority Ndebeles in the 1980s and, more recently, land invasions that destroyed Zimbabwe's agriculture industry.
When Holland suggested that the nation's economy was ailing, Mugabe angrily insisted that -- contrary to hyperinflation then racing toward 100,000 percent and all other evidence -- it was "a hundred times better" than that of most African nations.
"Outside South Africa, what country is like Zimbabwe?" Mugabe said. "Even now, what is lacking now are goods on the shelves, perhaps. That's all. But the infrastructure is there. We have our mines, you see. We have our enterprises."
After that and several similar comments, Holland concluded that Mugabe was profoundly out of touch, surrounded by sycophantic aides unwilling to speak truthfully about Zimbabwe's deterioration.
"He's not mad, but he lives in the world in a mad kind of way," Holland said. "He's constructed his world as this kind of bubble."
Holland, who lives in South Africa but was raised in what is now Zimbabwe, shared a recording of her interview for the book "Dinner With Mugabe." Its release is scheduled for Friday.
The title comes from an encounter between Holland and Mugabe in 1975, when he was a guerrilla leader recently released after 11 years in prison. Holland, who is white and was then a magazine editor, was sympathetic to efforts to end white supremacist rule. A friend of hers arranged for Mugabe to have dinner at her home in Harare before his departure for Mozambique, where he took control of the insurgency that five years later forced the white supremacist rulers of what was then Rhodesia to give way for the creation of black-led Zimbabwe.
As dinner ended a bit late, and it became clear that Mugabe might miss his train, Holland frantically drove him to the station -- leaving her toddler son home alone, asleep in his crib.
Mugabe's phone call the next day, in which he thanked Holland for the meal and inquired about the well-being of her son, endured in her memory as she watched Zimbabwe rise to the forefront of African progress under his rule, then plunge into ruin. More than 80 percent of Zimbabweans now live in poverty, and an estimated one-quarter of the population of 12 million has fled to other countries. Millions of those left behind receive international food aid.
In the early phases of Holland's interview, Mugabe spoke with palpable affection for his village's inspirational Irish priest, the Rev. Jerome O'Hea, and his own older brother, Michael, who died from a mysterious poisoning at age 15.
Mugabe also reminisced about the simple pleasures of his early life, such as reading voraciously and swimming with O'Hea and other Catholic boys in a river near their village.
He described the land invasions of white-owned commercial farms in 2000 not as criminal acts but as political protests against Britain, the former colonial ruler of Zimbabwe. He said Britain had failed to pay its fair share to redistribute land originally taken by its settlers. War veterans instigated the invasions, but Mugabe supported them even as many became violent.
"They criticized us for having allowed this form of occupation to become legal," Mugabe said of the British. "In fact, we didn't regard it as legal, but we didn't disallow it because we were taking action against the British government, who had torn up what was a legal agreement. . . . They had reneged on it, so why look at just our own act?"
Mugabe also accepted little responsibility for his army's killing of Ndebele civilians -- estimates run up to 30,000 -- for supposedly fomenting rebellion against his rule.
"You had a party with a guerrilla force that wanted to reverse democracy in this country," Mugabe said. "And action was taken. And, yes, there might have been excesses, on both sides. . . . But we'd have to start with the excesses of Ian Smith -- and the colonialists, the British, who were still in charge, because lots of people disappeared, lots of people died." Smith was Rhodesia's longtime prime minister.
Holland said she was careful not to challenge Mugabe forcefully out of fear that he would end the interview immediately. And throughout, Mugabe maintained a tone of polite, persistent reasonableness as he made the case for his leadership of Zimbabwe.
As Holland scribbled notes and repeatedly flipped the tape on her recorder, Mugabe's own video camera captured the entire interview, she said.
The only truly contentious moment came near the end, as Holland suggested that Mugabe might be wrong in his assertions about the supposed health of Zimbabwe's economy. In her book, she wrote, "His eyes flashed and his voice rose" as he predicted that a dramatic recovery was imminent.
"We don't even have to go two years," Mugabe said. "Look at what we will do next year, and you'll be surprised."
14th March 2008 - MDC Pressroom
HARARE---SEKAI Holland, an MDC national executive member and aspiring
Senator for Chizhanje constituency, was today arrested and detained for more
than five hours at Harare Central Police Station for what the police said
was in connection with the aborted prayer meeting in Highfield on 11 March
Holland, who is in her late 60s, was savagely beaten up and hospitalized
together with other political and civic leaders last year. She only came
back to Zimbabwe last month from Australia where she was receiving treatment
for a broken leg she sustained when the police pounced on President Morgan
|Tsvangirai and other civicand political leaders at Machipisa police station
following a court sanctioned rally which the police violently crushed.
Holland would have been amputated if she had not sought specialist
On Wednesday, Holland made an emotional address at a public meeting to
commemorate the state brutality of 11 March in which she narrated her
horrific ordeal at the hands of the police.
Today, the police accused Holland of supplying them with the wrong address
on 11 March 2007. The police also asked her the whereabouts of Grace Kwinje,
another MDC national executive member who was also brutally assaulted
together with other party leaders last year. Kwinje is now in South Africa.
The police released Holland after harassing her for more than five hours.
The arrest of Holland shows that once again, the police have become
complicit with the regime in intimidating members of the MDC ahead of the
watershed polls on 29 March 2008.
We hope that the observers to the watershed polls, who only came into the
country last week with less than two weeks to go before the election, are
seeing for themselves the true nature of this regime. Holland has not
committed any crime and the latest move is meant to instill fear in the
The people of Zimbabwe will not be intimated. They want a new Zimbabwe and a
new beginning. The MDC represents the change we can trust.
MDC Information and Publicity Department
By Carole Gombakomba
14 March 2008
Political analysts watching the approach to high-stakes elections in
Zimbabwe March 29, President Robert Mugabe has turned the machinery of state
to his advantage.
Critics of Mugabe, 84, say he has recruited the army, the police, state
television and radio, and even the nominally nonpartisan Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission to bolster his position against opposition presidential candidate
Morgan Tsvangirai and former finance minister Simba Makoni, who launched an
upstart campaign in February.
Preliminary results of March polling by Mass Public Opinion Institute of
Zimbabwe that were leaked to the weekly Independent newspaper showed
Tsvangirai taking a lead with 28% percent of voter intentions compared with
20% for Mr. Mugabe and 9% for Makoni. Final results of a February poll by
the MPOI had Mr. Mugabe with 30% of voter intentions, Tsvangirai with 28%
and Makoni with 12%, the MPOI said.
Yet independent observers say electoral logistics combined with the impact
of state media and the weight of Zimbabwe's state security apparatus favor
Mr. Mugabe and his ruling ZANU-PF party. The Zimbabwe Election Support
Network estimates that due to a lopsided allocation of polling stations, a
voter in Harare province will need to be processed in 22 seconds and in some
cases as little as 9 seconds on election day.
For perspective at this point two weeks before the March 29 elections,
reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe turned to Temba
Shonhiwa, a political commentator based at Witwatersrand University, South
Africa, who dismisses fears by Harare that Zimbabweans might react violently
to an apparently rigged election.
Political analyst and University of Zimbabwe Professor John Makumbe said
that while there is less violence this year than in previous election
seasons, arrests of opposition candidates and supporters and other
irregularities, combined with the Makoni factor, could have an unpredictable
impact on the outcome of the elections.
Monsters and Critics
Mar 14, 2008, 10:12 GMT
Harare - Zimbabwe's ruling party has 'hijacked' the public media ahead of
the March 29 polls, a local press watchdog said Friday.
In a strongly-worded statement the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ)
said the public media was 'grossly biased' in favour of President Robert
Mugabe's ZANU-PF party.
'The public media is engaged in a propaganda war, which romanticises and
promotes the ruling party and denigrates its rivals,' MMPZ said in a
The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) allowed stories on the ruling
party and its activities to hog the limelight in its main news bulletins in
February, charged the watchdog.
In one glaring example, normal TV and radio programmes were suspended to
allow for live four-hour coverage of Mugabe's campaign launch, it said.
But no such coverage was given to the launch of the campaigns by the
president's opponents, Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) and ex-finance minister Simba Makoni.
'The national public broadcaster now behaves as if it is ZANU PF's own
private radio and television station in flagrant violation of electoral and
broadcasting laws,' said the MMPZ.
The state broadcaster has a monopoly of the airwaves here, with four radio
stations and one television channel. Zimbabwe's only two dailies, the Herald
and the Bulawayo-based Chronicle, are also state- controlled.
Radio listeners and TV viewers noted a big difference last weekend when
opposition parties suddenly started receiving more coverage. The change
coincided with the arrival of dozens of election observers from the regional
For the first time in 28 year of uninterrupted rule, Mugabe is fighting for
his political survival against his two rivals, Tsvangirai and Makoni, whom
he labels as 'puppets' of the West.
Fri 14 Mar 2008, 17:29 GMT
HARARE, March 14 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's police chief on Friday threw his
support behind President Robert Mugabe in elections this month, declaring
that western-supported "puppets" would not be allowed to rule.
Joining other defence chiefs in backing the 84-year-old Mugabe for
re-election, Police commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri said: "We will
not allow puppets to take charge. This time we are wiser and we are
determined and this must serve as a warning to puppets."
His words, reported by state media, echoed those of Mugabe who says the main
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and, lately, former ally and
expelled ZANU-PF politburo member Simba Makoni are stooges of Britain, the
former colonial power.
The southern African country will hold presidential, parliamentary and
council elections on March 29 amid economic and political turmoil that
analysts say has weakened Mugabe's grip on power.
Mugabe, who has led the country since independence from Britain in 1980 and
who faces Makoni and long time opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in the
presidential vote, is digging in, promising a landslide win to silence his
Chihuri blamed Zimbabwe's problems on sanctions by Western governments and
not Mugabe's policies.
"It is unfortunate when people are saying it's not the illegal sanctions
causing all these problems, but misrule," he said. "The illegal sanctions,
which Britain imposed on Zimbabwe, were the major cause of the problems
troubling the country."
Last month the head of the prisons service, retired major general Paradzayi
Zimondi ordered prison officers to vote for Mugabe, saying he would not
salute Tsvangirai and Makoni.
Analysts say an economic crisis marked by the highest inflation rate in the
world, above 100,000 percent, surging unemployment and shortages of food,
fuel and electricity presents the biggest challenge to Mugabe's rule.
Mugabe denies charges of plunging the once promising economy into turmoil,
and routinely denounces the West for imposing sanctions to punish his
government for seizing white-owned farms for blacks.
Meanwhile, a top government official in neighbouring Mozambique said he
expected a free and fair election in Zimbabwe, and urged other countries not
to interfere with the process.
"We expect a free and a fair poll but we can't predict," Mozambique's Deputy
Foreign Affairs Minister Henrique Banze told Reuters in an interview.
Critics say Mugabe has rigged elections since 2000 to cling to power --
charges he denies.
Banze dismissed concerns that the vote was unlikely to be free and fair,
saying Zimbabwe's sovereignty should be respected and that no-one should
judge Zimbabweans when they go to the polls.
"On the base of sovereignty, no country is allowed to interfere in the
process," he said. (For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on
the top issues, visit: http://africa.reuters.com/) (Reporting by MacDonald
Dzirutwe and Charles Mangwiro in Maputo; Editing by Richard Balmforth)
SW Radio Africa (London)
14 March 2008
Posted to the web 14 March 2008
Zimbabweans woke up Friday to find that prices for most basic goods and
transport had more than doubled overnight.
Our correspondent said drinkers were shocked to find that a quart of beer
was now selling at Z$50 million, up from Z$20 million. Cascade orange drinks
that were Z$7,5 million are now Z$25 million. Mealie meal ran out in the
shops but can be found on the black market at Z$100 million for a 10 kg bag.
Even with the huge salary increases that civil servants and teachers
received this week, it won't be long before they are demanding more, again.
Robert Mugabe awarded them a 750% pay raise, and said they should be happy
Our Harare correspondent Simon Muchemwa said teachers from the Zimbabwe
Teachers Association accepted the new salary structure and were back at work
on Friday. The lowest paid teacher now makes Z$2,2 billion per month.
But Muchemwa said some teachers just left work and went back home when they
discovered that prices had already doubled before they received their first
pay cheque, showing the new salaries. It is believed that they were mostly
teachers from the Progressive Teachers Union Of Zimbabwe. We were not able
to reach the PTUZ to confirm this.
Muchemwa said bus fares into Harare city centre from the outer suburbs went
up to Z$10 million from Z$5 million. He said people are in panic mode
because they cannot afford the things they need and that this will
definitely affect the outcome of the elections this month.
Business Day (Johannesburg)
14 March 2008
Posted to the web 14 March 2008
The advance team of the Southern African Development Community (SADC)
observer mission to the Zimbabwe election has already met the state-owned
media to discuss the problems raised by the opposition parties about their
lack of access to it and exposure to the public.
This intervention is regarded as part of the mandate of the Angolan-led team
to attend to the complaints by participants on a variety of issues covered
by the SADC principles and guidelines for electoral processes.
The reason for meeting the media first was the fact that the Zimbabwe
Electoral Commission (ZEC) has also published guidelines for election
coverage by the media, which are required to be fair and objective in their
However, the details of the meeting have not been revealed.
Stakes are high for the SADC observer team which is expected to ensure that
the credibility of the SADC is not compromised and that the elections are
conducted under political and legislative conditions that will enable them
to be deemed free and fair.
It is understood that among other tasks the team would meet the ZEC to
assess its state of readiness, including an assessment of all logistical
arrangements such as the voters' roll and the electoral material.
An advance observer group of 10 South Africans left for Zimbabwe on March 8.
The rest of the 54-member team will be deployed next Thursday and return on
It will be composed of 21 government officials, 15 MPs from various
political parties, 15 civil society members as well as representatives of
SA's Independent Electoral Commission.
About 200 SADC observers will be distributed in all 10 provinces of
Zimbabwe. It is understood that at least 50 members from Tanzania, SA,
Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola have already arrived to start
monitoring the conditions on the ground as political parties there continue
to campaign ahead of the March 29 elections.
Angola, as the leader of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security,
is being supported by Tanzania. Swaziland, also a member of the SADC organ,
has not been able to assume its position in the SADC observer team. As a
result, Zambia and SA have stepped in. SA is expected to take over from
Zambia the chairmanship of the SADC next year, hence their involvement in
SA's special envoy to the Great Lakes region and former h igh c ommissioner
to Zimbabwe, Kingsley Mamabolo, is leading the South African group. Andries
Nel of the African National Congress (ANC) is leading the MPs.
The parliamentary group is expected to be composed of nine ANC MPs, two from
the Democratic Alliance, and one MP each from the Inkatha Freedom Party, the
United Democratic Movement, the Azanian People's Organisation and the
African Christian Democratic Party.
It is understood that while the SA team will not be blocked from addressing
the media and expressing their view, they have been urged to act within the
SADC collective and not to embarrass or undermine the leadership of Angola .
"SA has appealed to its MPs to avoid the temptation of political point
scoring and acting outside the collective as they are part of a
multinational SADC team," a source said.
In 2000, SA's national observer team had openly differed with the
pronouncement of the leader of the team on whether or not the elections in
Zimbabwe were free and fair. The disagreements had attracted international
headlines and embarrassed the government and Parliament.
SW Radio Africa (London)
14 March 2008
Posted to the web 14 March 2008
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has more support than Robert Mugabe and Simba
Makoni combined, according to a recent pre-election survey by the Mass
Public Opinion Institute (MPOI).
Tsvangirai was favoured 28,3 percent by respondents, compared to Mugabe's
20,3 percent and Makoni's 8,6 percent. The MPOI was set up in 1999 'to
promote and strengthen democratic governance through research.' It is run by
respected political commentator and University of Zimbabwe lecturer Eldred
Masunungure said a lot of votes are still up for grabs since a number of
respondents refused to disclose their choices. A general climate of fear
cultivated by successive violent election campaigns has meant many people
are reluctant to discuss the candidates they will vote for. About 23,5
percent of those surveyed said their vote was secret, 7,5 percent had
nothing to say, 5,4 percent will not vote, 4,4 percent said they didn't
know. In addition 1 percent said they would vote for little known
presidential candidate Langton Towungana, while the remaining 1,9 percent
respondents were classed as 'other' in the report.
Masunungure says it is unlikely any of the candidates can get an outright
majority of over 51 percent in the first round of voting. This he says means
a second round of voting will be necessary to choose between the two leading
candidates. He says it will also be unlikely that any of the parties
contesting will secure a two-thirds majority in both the House of Assembly
and Senate. Under Constitutional Amendment 18, signed by both Zanu PF and
the MDC, the winner of the presidential election has to get an outright
The MPOI survey has also revealed that at least 75 percent of people polled
did not receive any voter education from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.
Under the SADC guidelines governing elections and adopted in 2004, voter
education is a key requirement to ensure free and fair elections. This is in
addition to equal access to the media and freedom to hold political rallies,
none of which has been respected by the ruling party. Zanu PF has also
responded to the MPOI pre-election survey by commissioning its own survey to
be conducted by academics from the University of Zimbabwe, aligned to the
By Innocent Chofamba Sithole
Last updated: 03/14/2008 23:24:26
"YOU who are with us here, I hope we can trust you," so President Robert
Mugabe addressed party cadres gathered for the launch of his presidential
campaign in Harare in February.
Such is the level of paranoia gripping the octogenarian leader ever since
the defection of former finance minister, Simba Makoni, that he has
instructed all Zanu PF candidates to campaign for him first before they can
sell their own bids to the electorate.
Mugabe has every justification to feel paranoid, for Makoni's presidential
bid as an independent rests largely on a subterranean campaign within the
structures of the ruling party. Makoni's claims of support from Zanu PF's
bigwigs were borne out with the defection of former home affairs minister
and Matabeleland heavyweight, Dumiso Dabengwa. More strategic defections are
expected; not least that of so-called kingmaker and former defence forces
commander, Solomon Mujuru.
In simple terms, Makoni's presidential bid can best be understood as a
dogged effort to give Zanu PF supporters the leadership plebiscite that they
were constitutionally entitled to at their party's extra-ordinary congress
in December last year. Mugabe pre-emptied that election by using the
notoriously venal war veterans to railroad his endorsement as the party's
The obvious working premise for Makoni's camp is that the popular consensus
within Zanu PF is that Mugabe must, indeed, go. Their major objective,
therefore, is to wrestle the pith of the former national liberation movement
from Mugabe and the coterie of radicals that he has surrounded himself with.
It is for this reason that Makoni and his backers continue publicly to
profess their allegiance to Zanu PF.
However, Makoni also calculates that his cross-party appeal will sweep
opposition voters from under Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC's feet. His
endorsement by Arthur Mutambara's MDC faction goes a long way in realising
this goal - it delivers the Matabeleland vote.
By broadening his message beyond party cleavages and promising to form a
government of all the talents in order to carry through his programme of
national reconstruction, Makoni stands a strong chance of harvesting the
mass of opposition voters who are disillusioned with the MDC's repeated
failure to convert the economic decline into decisive electoral victory.
In particular, urban professionals and middle class voters accuse Tsvangirai
of failing to demonstrate governance capacity by way of comprehensive and
consistent policy output in response to the multi-layered national crisis.
However, the former trade unionist remains popular with large sections of
the working class and unemployed voters in urban townships where his rallies
continue to draw large crowds.
It is to these voters that Makoni must explain the nature of his allegiance
to Zanu PF if he is to make headway with them. Would he make a triumphal
return to Zanu PF should he win the presidency, for instance? Speculation on
Makoni's Zanu PF links is rife among Zimbabweans both at home and abroad,
and rightly so.
Zanu PF has captured and made the state an extension of itself. It has
overthrown legal-rational authority and replaced it with a jingoism that
allows its super-patriots to lord it over the rest of the citizenry. For
these reasons, Zanu PF has become a political creature whose demise many
Zimbabweans would love to see.
Makoni must, therefore, explain clearly what it is about Zanu PF that he
remains proud to be associated with, and whether or not he has ambitions to
lead a reformed version of it. Dispelling the scepticism of urban voters is
crucial for Makoni to win over the anti-Zanu PF vote and gain the edge over
Analysts in Zimbabwe do not expect an outright victory by any one of the
candidates and predict a run-off poll to decide the winner. It is widely
regarded as a foregone conclusion that Mugabe will be a participant in any
run-off (that is assuming he fails to rig the whole thing in the first
instance). Makoni's novelty is likely to be the decisive factor in a run-off
poll, whoever he faces.
In the final analysis, Makoni has massive goodwill going for him. He has
generally enjoyed a good press throughout his career and is respected as a
man of integrity, capable of exercising rational, competent and conciliatory
However, his reliance on his Zanu PF heavyweight friends to haul in the vote
for him could be his undoing if they should decide to stick with Mugabe
after all, as vice-president Joice Mujuru has done.
Chofamba Sithole is a Zimbabwean journalist. This article was originally
published by the Royal African Society. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
14 March 2008
AS ZIMBABWE faces up to the pain and ridicule of cumulative hyperinflation
of 3,5-million percent since 1998, a leading world economist, Steve Hanke,
suggests a rather controversial solution: get rid of their central bank.
Hanke, a previous economic adviser to Ronald Reagan and now professor of
applied economics at the prestigious Johns Hopkins Uni-versity, has
published a report, Zimbabwe: Hyperinflation to growth, in which he explains
his observations and solutions to the mess.
He draws parallels between the Zimbabwean hyperinflation and the plot
followed by the German mark during the great German hyperinflation of the
1920s. This leads him to say that "worse is yet to come".
He says the root cause of hyperinflation is that government policies have
forced the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), headed by Gideon Gono, to print
"From January 2005 to May 2007, the RBZ issued currency at a rate that even
exceeded that of Germany's central bank from January 1921 to May 1923, the
ramp-up phase of the great German hyperinflation," he said.
He says that replacing the central bank with a new monetary regime is
therefore the best way to stop hyperinflation as it signals a "clean break"
with the practices that have created hyperinflation.
"It would give Zimbabweans reliable assurances that inflation will
henceforth be controlled."
Hanke acknowledges that while countries such as Angola and Mozambique have
checked inflation in the hundreds of thousands of percent a year by changing
policies and yet retaining central banks, he feels it is far too late in the
day for Zimbabwe.
"Given the current state of affairs in Zimbabwe and the dramatic
hyperinflation, the only way for Zimbabwe to make a credible commitment to
stop the hyperinflation rapidly and avoid high transition costs is to
replace central banking with a different type of monetary regime."
Three options exist: official "dollarisation", adopt free banking; and
introduce a currency board.
"None of these options requires preconditions prior to their implementation
and any one of them would establish stability and restore economic growth,"
He points out that Panama, Ecuador and El Salvador are no less sovereign
after adopting the dollar.
"Estonia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Bosnia and Herzegovina are no less
sovereign for having currency board or currency board-like systems."
Consider also Montenegro. "It became an independent sovereign state in 2006
largely because it replaced the Yugoslav dinar with the German mark (now
euro) in 1999.
"Using the euro enabled Montenegro to break loose from the bad economic
policies undertaken at the time by Serbia, its much larger partner in the
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
"The effect of dollar-isation or a currency board is not to create a
colonial relationship, but to achieve more credibility than a local central
bank can," he says. In Zimbabwe, official dollarisation could take the form
of using the rand, US dollar or the euro.
"If Zimbabwe uses the rand it could negotiate a profit-sharing agreement
such as Lesotho and Namibia now have." SA shares the profit it derives from
issuing currency according to estimates of how many rand notes and coins are
in circulation in the partner country.
How 20 murder victims, killed six years ago, have returned to haunt Mugabe
This is an unpleasant and disturbing story. If you have a sensitive nature
you might be well advised to skip it. It concerns the unidentified corpses
of 20 murder victims which have lain, unknown and unclaimed, on the slabs of
a Zimbabwe mortuary for six years.
The slain are believed to have met their fate at the hands of the Central
Intelligence Organisation (CIO) during the 2002 election. Today frantic
efforts are being made to get them buried before they become a scandalous
issue in the current election.
I have spent some days investigating this story, and these are the facts as
I have been told them:
The victims were all supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC),
Zimbabwe's official opposition, and were from the Lupane district. After the
murders, and to cover their tracks, the CIO had the bodies transferred to
neighbouring Nyaki, where they were dumped in the local morgue.
And there they remained. In Zimbabwe any burial requires an order from the
police, who cannot issue the order before investigating the death. But the
Nyaki police were reluctant to begin inquiries, partly because of the scale
of the task, and partly because they feared they would put themselves in
The bodies might have stayed in the mortuary for ever, if it wasn't for the
national fuel shortage. This has led, as we all know, to widespread and
lengthy power cuts. Refrigeration has failed. And those 20 bodies are now in
an advanced state of decomposition. The morgue is part of the hospital
complex, and near Nkayi business centre. Enough said.
For this and other reasons, Nkayi Rural District Council, who are
responsible for the morgue, have finally lost patience. They have written to
the appropriate ministries demanding explanations and action.
And as a result, the Provincial Medical Director for Matabeleland North, Dr.
Irene Ndiweni, has been spending days at Nkayi lately, cobbling together the
necessary paperwork to get the bodies buried, and thereby forgotten.
By the time you read this she may have succeeded, certainly in getting the
corpses underground. The human stench may be gone. But the stench of
violence, corruption and murder from an election six years ago will remain.
And it will hang over this election in a thick and noxious cloud.
Posted on Thursday, 13 March
BULAWAYO, 14 March 2008 (IRIN) - To get to Sinikiwe MaKhumalo's doorstep in
Zimbabwe's second largest city, Bulawayo, visitors have to step on a thin
plank perched precariously over a trench that prevents sewage from flowing
into her house.
The 57-year-old grandmother has endured this arrangement to access her home
in the city's Old Magwegwe working class suburb for the past five months
after a sewer burst close to her residence.
Service delivery has collapsed in Bulawayo, after local authorities recently
announced that the municipality was insolvent and unable to cater to the
needs of its almost two million residents
"The disgusting odour is awful and becomes more unbearable by the day," she
lamented over the city municipality's failure to repair burst sewers in her
"I just hope a new team that cares about residents' welfare will be elected
to take over the running of the city at the end of the month".
Zimbabwe is scheduled to hold presidential, provincial and municipal polls
on 29 March.
MaKhumalo's neighbour, Ingrid Mayobodo, fearful that her two children would
contract communicable water-borne diseases, sent them to live with her
sister in another suburb. "I could not stand them playing
'hop-skip-and-jump' over pools of sewage effluent to get into the house from
She feared her children risked contracting diseases in such an unhealthy
environment. "Mosquitoes are a menace at night. We keep doors and windows
shut at all times, living like we are in prison to avoid mosquitoes getting
Mayobodo suggested the council should at least spray the pools of sewage
effluent with insecticide to control mosquito breeding or use disinfectants
to suppress the nauseating stench. "We can no longer enjoy our meals in such
Possible disease outbreak
The city's unsanitary conditions has left residents fearful of a fresh
outbreak of cholera. The last outbreak occurred at the height of a water
crisis in 2007 when close to 300 people were hospitalised and 11 died as a
result of drinking contaminated water.
The region's consistently low rainfall in the last few years had led to
dwindling water levels in the city's dams. Heavy seasonal rain in December
2007 and January 2008 has filled up most of the city's supply dams, allowing
for water restrictions to be lifted and enabling residents to flush their
toilets after use.
However, the sewer pipes remain blocked, resulting in sewage overflowing
into the streets from manholes: "Our major problem is a shortage of manpower
to deal with more than 500 reported cases of sewer bursts," Phathisa Nyathi,
the city municipality's spokesman, told IRIN.
Expensive toilet paper
Council workmen at work on a burst sewer in Old Magwegwe told IRIN that
maintenance of the aging sewerage system was a daunting task, but it was
aggravated by residents flushing down solid objects, causing sewer pipe
"At times we retrieve stones, broken glass, spoons, rags or mops and other
hard objects when clearing blockages in the system," council worker Jotham
Ncube said most of the families could no longer afford standard toilet paper
and have had to resort to newspapers or torn pieces of cardboard boxes for
"It is no longer unusual to find entire sheets of a newspaper, used sanitary
pads, children's shirts or shorts among items blocking the system", he said.
Zimbabwe is grappling with a more than 100,000 percent annual inflation
rate - the highest in the world - and unemployment levels of about 80
Blockages were also occurring from the accumulation of sand in sewer pipes.
"People use river sand to clean their soot-covered pots because they cook
over wood fires when electricity is cut off during load shedding (a
euphemism for electricity outages) instead of commercial scouring powders
that are soluble," Ncube said. The dirty water was then flushed down the
Magwegwe Residents Association chairman Bazara Banyana rejected the argument
that apportioned blame on residents and said people had always used the same
methods of ablutions and cleaning of their utensils.
He said residents cannot be expected to condone the absence of services when
the residents pay rates and taxes to the council in the expectation of the
provision of those services.
This article does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AFP)--Thousands of teachers in Zimbabwe's state schools
have ended a three-week strike after being awarded a 754% salary increase by
the government, their union said on Friday.
"We urge teachers to return to work," said Raymond Majongwe, secretary
general of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, calling the salary
increase a victory for teachers and the nation.
Majongwe said the government agreed to hike the monthly teachers' salary to
3.4 billion Zimbabwe dollars ($115), up from ZWD369 million.
About 100,000 teachers walked off the job country-wide three weeks ago,
demanding a salary review and better working conditions.
The action led to some schools, especially in the capital Harare, advising
pupils to stay home. Those who attended spent most of their time on
playgrounds or in self-arranged study groups as teachers either stayed at
home or gathered in staff rooms.
Tuesday, Zimbabwe's embattled President Robert Mugabe said his government
had awarded civil servants a huge pay rise ahead of joint presidential and
legislative elections set for March 29.
Mugabe, 84, who is seeking a sixth term in office, also awarded salary
increases to members of the security forces last month.
While welcoming the increases, Majongwe expressed concern at the
government's failure to review housing and transport allowances.
"The reluctance by the employer to increase the transport and housing
allowances while significantly reviewing the basic salary is motivated by
the government's desire to tax teachers at the 47.5%.
"This will seriously erode the gains accruing from the salary review."
Majongwe added that "whichever party will form the next government after the
March election should brace for our uncompromising mood."
The southern African country is in the midst of an economic crisis marked by
the world's highest inflation rate of 100,580%, widespread food shortages
and 80% unemployment.
Teachers are migrating in droves to neighboring Botswana, Mozambique and
South Africa, many taking menial jobs to earn money to support their
families back home.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
Copyright (c) 2008 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
by Nokhutula Sibanda Saturday 15 March 2008
HARARE - Zimbabwe's teachers, who were this week awarded huge salary
increments, are now demanding new salaries of Z$10 billion a month warning
that they would resort to more strike action to press their demands.
Raymond Majongwe, the secretary general of the militant Progressive Teachers
Union of Zimbabwe, said the new government elected during the 29 March
elections should brace for more crippling strikes from teachers.
"We should remain organised for action. We have new demands for the second
quarter - April to June 2008. Our demand for the second quarter is Z$10 750
600 (officially about US$325 000 but a mere US$300 on the widely used
"Whichever party shall form the next government after the March elections
should brace for more strike action from teachers because we are still not
happy with the increments," said Majongwe.
Teachers were pleasantly surprised this week when they saw huge salary
deposits into their bank accounts.
The lowest paid teachers now earns about $3.9 billion a month, a huge jump
from the $500 million they earned last month while the highest paid teacher
now earns about $5.7 billion a month.
Political analysts said the move to award teachers and other government
workers huge salary increments, a few weeks before a key election, smacked
of vote-buying tactics by President Robert Mugabe.
The Zimbabwe government is desperate to placate hundreds of thousands of
workers who are battling to make ends meet as they struggle with rampant
inflation that at over 100 000 percent is the highest in the world. -
14 March 2008
If President Robert Mugabe, who has set himself a punishing campaign
schedule for the March 29 elections, suddenly fell ill it's certain his
handlers will summon a physician who specialises in ailments that afflict
very old people - 84 years old.
Such a doctor specialises in geriatrics, a branch of medical science
concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of diseases affecting elderly
Such a doctor would not be needed if either Morgan Tsvangirai or Simba
Makoni took ill on their campaign trail. Both men are in their 50s.
In fact, one could say that, if Mugabe had been married in his 20s, he could
have fathered either man.
Let me go even further and suggest, without appearing to be facetious, that
this presidential race is about fathers and sons.
Any cynic could ask : "Why would the voters of Zimbabwe even hesitate who
they ought to vote for. An 84-year-old man or two young men in their 50s?
Isn't this what the bookies would call a 'no contest'"?
But this is Zimbabwe, the country with the highest inflation rate in the
world, record unemployment and where the average man can expect to live to
just 35 years.
The cause of this terrifying state of affairs is the collapse of the
healthcare system, which followed the collapse of the economy, beginning
with the reckless invasion of white commercial farms by war veterans in
One of the presidential candidates, the geriatric, is generally held
responsible for this state of affairs. He prefers to blame it all on
sanctions, imposed on his country by the British, Americans and any other
white person who was incensed by his takeover of the farms previously run
profitably by white farmers.
He subsequently forced them out of the country. Most left the country
without a penny to their names.
If all this sounds suspiciously like propaganda churned out by opponents of
the 84-year-old man who needs a geriatrician, then you will be forgiven.
Most young people in Zimbabwe have refused to accept that the country's
economy has been enfeebled by the sanctions alone.
They cite corruption in high places, the mismanagement of the economy by a
government still nostalgic about its disastrous Marxist-Leninist experiments
in the early days of independence.
They also cite the flight of many qualified Zimbabweans - among them
doctors, bankers, architects, economic planners and brain surgeons - from a
country in which dissent is not tolerated and The Word of one man, the
geriatric, is supposed to be sacrosanct.
The old man recently chided the young people, especially the young bankers
who fled the country, because according to the equally young governor of the
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe they were not being honest in their dealings with
Mugabe actually spoke as if the young bankers had been convicted of
something heinous, such as grabbing candy out of the mouths of babies.
If that were so, why are most of these young people prospering wherever they
are operating today?
The old man is extremely frightened of young people, which is why the two
young people hoping to take over the presidency from him are careful not to
dwell too much on the question of his age.
Things look terrific to him, though they are really terrifying.
I can say all this because I am not in the contest. I am safe . at least for
a.. The writer is deputy editor at The Standard in Zimbabwe.
Institute for War & Peace Reporting
Authorities carpet business leaders they suspect of backing President Robert
Mugabe's chief rival.
By Nonthando Bhebhe in Harare (AR No. 160, 14-Mar-08)
The Zimbabwean authorities are cracking down on businesses they suspect of
backing Simba Makoni, the former finance minister who has emerged as a
serious challenger to President Robert Mugabe in this month's elections.
The crackdown is seen as a sign of how seriously Mugabe and his allies in
the ruling ZANU-PF party take the newcomer. Last month, Makoni shocked the
party - of which he was a member - by announcing he would stand against the
incumbent. He was summarily kicked out of the party and pilloried in
speeches by the president.
In the latest example of the regime's determination to keep itself in power,
IWPR has learned that retailers and other top businesspeople who supply
basic commodities were summoned to a meeting on February 4 at the offices of
Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono.
On arrival, however, they were informed that the meeting had been convened
not by the central bank, but by the Joint Operations Command, JOC, a
powerful body chaired by Zimbabwean army commander-in-chief General
Constantine Chiwenga and consisting of military, police, intelligence and
prison system chiefs. The JOC coordinates military and security affairs and
many observers believe it carries more real clout than the cabinet.
In a sign of what the meeting was going to be about, the head of the
National Incomes and Pricing Commission, Godwills Masimirembwa, was also in
According to a source at the central bank, the hostility and tension in the
room was palpable as the business leaders walked in. JOC members were
waiting in full military uniform.
The officials proceeded to berate the business chiefs for defying the price
controls that Mugabe ordered last June in what proved to be an unsuccessful
bid to check the country's galloping inflation. In the weeks that followed
the measure, as retailers were forced to slash prices by 50 per cent,
wholesalers and manufacturers ran into difficulties, enterprises went under,
and the ensuing shortages of food and other items were compounded by
This time, however, the JOC's allegations were that the businesses were
involved in more than flouting price controls. The principal accusation was
that they were allocating funds to support Makoni's election campaign.
Chiwenga sat with files of bank statements, deposit slips and surveillance
reports piled in front of him.
One by one, business leaders were asked to explain why there were shortages
of basic commodities and why, if they lacked the foreign currency to buy
goods or manufacturing inputs, they had not applied to the Reserve Bank for
According to sources at the central bank, Willard Zireva, chief executive of
a major supermarket chain called OK, was questioned about why the shelves in
his stores were empty when other retailers such as the Spar group and corner
shops did have stock. Why did his supermarkets close whenever there was a
power cut? He should have sourced foreign currency from the Reserve Bank to
pay for imported generators, officials said.
"They plainly told him that he was doing it deliberately and that they knew
he supported Super Tuesday," said the bank source.
"Super Tuesday" refers to Tuesday, February 5, when Makoni announced his
"They also told [Zireva] that they were aware that he was pouring huge
amounts of money into the Super Tuesday project."
Other executives faced a similar barrage of detailed questions and
National Foods managing director Jeremy Brooke, for example, was accused of
inflating the price of flour his firm sold to bakeries. He was challenged on
the price he bought and sold flour for, with officials producing documents
that ostensibly showed two sets of accounts, one at the official retail
price, and the other reflecting the higher price the flour was really sold
The National Foods chief defended himself, insisting that he had sold flour
at the official price. His arguments made Vice-Air Marshal Henry Muchena so
angry that he ordered him to leave the room.
Brooke was arrested later in the week on charges of breaching the price
control legislation, and Mike Manga, who leads Blue Ribbon Foods and is also
chairman of the Millers' Association of Zimbabwe, was detained on similar
charges relating to flour pricing.
IWPR's source said all the businessmen summoned to the March 4 meeting were
directly or indirectly accused of sponsoring the Makoni candidacy. Subtle
threats were made that they should stop financing Makoni or face big
The JOC made it clear it suspected that by maintaining shortages and
covertly hiking prices, businesses were pursuing a political agenda of
ensuring Mugabe and ZANU-PF lost the presidential and parliamentary
"This was the highest level of intimidation to stop funding of Simba Makoni,
" said a top executive, who did not want to be named. "It has always been
obvious that Simba had the support of the local businesspeople and it seems
that they want to end that.
"ZANU-PF desperately wants to win, and losing is not an option. They want to
make sure that in the period before the elections there is bread at
reasonable prices and other foodstuffs that are currently in short supply."
IWPR has learned from a different central bank source that Shingi Munyeza,
chief executive of the Zimbabwe Sun Leisure Group, was called to a separate
meeting at the Reserve Bank and threatened over his alleged support for
Makoni. Both men come from Manicaland province.
"He was called in and told about all his financial support and contributions
to the Makoni project and was obviously told to stop giving or else," said
Makoni is seen by many - including some former Mugabe loyalists - as a
pragmatic politician who might offer a way out of the current impasse in
which the president defies all domestic and foreign criticism of economic
and social policies seen as disastrous.
With the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, unlikely to topple
Mugabe, especially as the March 29 presidential, parliamentary and local
elections may be less than free and fair, disgruntled ZANU-PF figures are
believed to have decided an inside job was needed, devising what has become
known as the "Makoni project."
However, few big names actually raised their own heads above the parapet
when Makoni went public with his election bid, presumably anticipating -
correctly - that retribution would be swift.
Makoni's biggest backer, retired army commander General Solomon Mujuru, is
now under investigation for corruption.
In further efforts to frustrate the Makoni bid, two car retailers have been
instructed to halt all sales until after the elections, so that the
challenger's campaign team cannot acquire vehicles. Fuel supplies have been
earmarked for ZANU-PF campaigners.
All printing companies have been booked up by ZANU-PF so that the opposition
cannot get material published. The MDC has had to get its election
literature printed in South Africa.
Meanwhile, the authorities have invited foreign election monitors to watch
the polls, but only from countries seen as friendly, in other words not the
United States or European countries.
Nonthando Bhebhe is the pseudonym of a journalist in Harare.
By Dr Alex T. Magaisa
Last updated: 03/15/2008 00:30:52
AN EAGLE-EYED participant at the Zimbabwe Diaspora Forum UK meeting that I
attended in London on Saturday, March 8, 2008, alerted me to a subtle aspect
of the electoral process that is liable to abuse.
It concerns the extent to which, if at all, the actual voting procedure
protects secrecy. A closer look at the legal provisions providing for actual
voting under the Electoral Act reveals some loopholes that appear to negate
the secrecy of the voting process.
Innocent though these provisions may appear at first sight, they
nevertheless raise a number of concerns from a practical point of view. By
considering provisions in comparable jurisdictions, this article seeks to
highlight the significance of the risks they pose to the fairness of the
Presiding Officer's official mark
Section 57 of the Electoral Act provides for the practical aspects of
voting. It states in paragraph (b) that prior to handing over the ballot
paper to the voter, the presiding officer is required to place an official
mark on the ballot paper.
The official mark made by the presiding officer is, presumably, designed to
authenticate all ballot papers used in the voting process. However, the
trouble is that there is no indication in the law as to where the official
mark should be placed on the ballot paper.
The implication is that the presiding officer may place it in any position
on the ballot paper. This assumes greater relevance when considered together
with the requirement for the voter to show the official mark to the
presiding officer after he has voted.
The risk is that the presiding officer's mark may be placed in a position
where concealment of the voter's own mark may be compromised. If a voter
perceives that the presiding officer may actually see his vote, this
potentially compromises the expression of his free will.
To negate this risk, Section 38 (5) (c) of South Africa's Electoral Act
provides specifically that the presiding officer must place the official
mark on the back of the ballot paper. This ensures, at the very least, that
the presiding officer does not have the liberty to place the official mark
in a position that affects the voter's free will.
Importantly, it allows for consistency as to where the presiding officers
should place the official mark and also reduces the perception that the
voter's choice may be revealed to the presiding officer.
'Holding Up' the ballot paper
After the voter has signified his choice, he is then required under Section
57 (c)(iii) to fold the ballot paper so that the official mark made by the
presiding officer is visible but concealing the names of the candidates and
where he has placed his cross. Crucially, the provision stipulates that the
ballot paper must be 'held up' so that the presiding officer can recognise
the official mark that he would have placed moments earlier. Thereafter, the
voter will place the ballot paper in the ballot box, 'placed in front of the
This prescriptive provision which directs the voter to 'hold up' the ballot
paper to the presiding officer when showing him the official mark is
unnecessary and prone to abuse. The rationale for such a prescriptive
provision is not immediately clear. Why should it be necessary to 'hold up'
the ballot paper as opposed to simply showing the official mark to the
presiding officer in any other way?
The trouble is, depending on the quality of the ballot paper or indeed the
ink used to place the cross on the chosen candidate, there is a risk that
when the ballot paper is 'held up' as directed and if this is against a
light background, this could potentially reveal the voter's choice. This
possibility, however small, can give rise to perceptions that there is no
secrecy and, therefore, may affect the voter's choice.
By comparison, Section 38(6)(d) of South Africa's Electoral Act states, very
simply, that the voter is required to show the folded ballot paper to the
presiding officer so that he can see the mark. There is no specific,
potentially prejudicial, requirement for the ballot paper to be shown to the
presiding officer in a particular manner, such as 'holding it up'. Any way
will do, so long as the presiding officer sees the official mark.
Similarly, in Tanzania, the voter is simply required to show the back of the
ballot paper to reveal the official mark. The Zimbabwean requirement for
'holding up' the ballot paper is unnecessary and potentially compromising
especially given that the presiding officer has great liberty to place the
official mark in a position that could potentially reveal the voter's
Provisions for Illiterate Voters
Section 59 of the Zimbabwe Electoral Act provides for assistance to
illiterate voters. Similar provisions apply to physically incapacitated
voters under Section 60. It requires that at the request of such a voter,
the presiding officer may provide such assistance in the presence of two
other election officers or employees of the Electoral Commission. Clearly,
there is no provision for the presence of independent eyes and ears on such
This is a direct contrast to Section 39(1) of South Africa's Electoral Act,
which requires that such assistance by the presiding officer must be
provided in the presence of a representative of an accredited observer and
two representatives from different parties, where available.
This clearly is designed to have independent verification and also to give
confidence to the voter. In the case of Zimbabwe, it is ironic that not even
the 'friendly' observers that have been invited can be trusted! This
provision creates negative perceptions on the part of voters who may be
sceptical of the impartiality of the Commission's staff.
But the most dangerous aspect of Section 59 is that it enables the presiding
officer to put questions to the voter who has requested assistance in order
to clarify his choice of candidate. It states that 'the presiding officer
may cause such questions to be put to the voter as, in his/her opinion, are
necessary to clarify the voter's wishes". There is no comparable provision
in the South African law.
This is an ominous provision, especially in a country where the idea of
being questioned about one's choice is a frightening prospect. It is hard to
understand what could be less clear about a voter's choice so as to require
'questioning' by the presiding officer. It is harder still, given that the
ballot papers are required to have photographs of the candidates and surely
even an illiterate person can simply point by finger to his choice?
Even if there is a risk of misunderstanding, I am not sure that such a risk
is sufficient to require a legal provision that enables the presiding
officer to put questions to the voter. It is unnecessary and provides room
for abuse. That this questioning can also take place in the absence of any
independent observers raises further concerns.
South African law even allows the voter to take a person of his choice to
assist him, so long as he is over 18 and not an election agent. In other
words, the voter needing assistance is not restricted to the presiding
officer whom he may not trust and also whose political persuasion he may not
Worse still, the Zimbabwean law requires that the names of all persons who
have been assisted must be recorded on a list. There may be a perfectly good
reason for this but one cannot overlook the fact that 'lists' during
election times are part of a very nasty and frightening vocabulary,
especially in the rural areas.
The collective effect of these provisions becomes significant when one
considers that the bulk of the voters are in the rural areas and the higher
chances of encountering those who cannot read or write and therefore
presumably requiring 'assistance'. The presiding officer may be well known
(and feared) in and around the community. That is not a person who can be
trusted with the legal power to 'question' voters for clarification. Voters
are more likely to vote not to express free will but to secure personal
There are, of course, Sections 86 and 187, which seek to protect the secrecy
of the voting process but it is difficult to see how they sit alongside
Sections 57 and 59 which regulate the manner of voting in a way that is
potentially prejudicial. There is a very real concern that the much vaunted
'secrecy' of the ballot may be nothing more than a charade. The South
African law is not perfect, but the Zimbabwean version certainly leaves a
lot more to be desired.
Alex Magaisa is based at Kent Law School, UK and can be contacted at
By Derek Moyo
14 March 2008
Many Zimbabweans say they are despondent and depressed over shortages, price
hikes and other challenges. But on-going economic decline has also created
its own brand of biting humor. From Harare, Loirdham Moyo describes some of
the banter used by people reacting to serious problems.
As the cost of beef, chicken and pork soars, housewives have created their
own slang to describe new dishes. Fun and humorous, the uninitiated won't
have a clue what people are talking about unless they've been given a clear
For example, the cheapest and lowest grade of beef costs at least 17million
Zimbabwe dollars per kilogram. This is partly why housewives now compete
for the cheapest available delicacies, some which were shunned not too long
When some women say they are preparing "full chicken" for supper, they are
actually cooking the quella (a tiny bird) found in wheat plantations in the
lowveld. The animals are trapped by villagers along the Save river at night,
when they roost. They are an extremely popular replacement for impossibly
Amid ongoing shortages of water, residents of many urban centers now refer
to gathering rainfall from their roofs as "gathering manna from Heaven".
Most suburbs go for days without having a single drop of water from the
taps. Many say - thanks to the rainy season - they now rely on downpours for
drinking water and laundry.
Additionally, housewives make a cheap dish of cabbage more appetizing by
referring to it as a cow's head or a pig's head, while green vegetables are
referred to as "green meat".
The list of unavailable items lengthens, including a shortage of cell phones
and poor (if any) TV and radio transmissions. Fed up Zimbabweans now say
these services - when not available -- are "on voicemail". Most have become
accustomed to not being able to contact business associates, relatives or
friends. let alone watching their favourite programs.
Some government para-statals have been re-named. The Zimbabwe Electricity
Supply Authority, or ZESA, has been dubbed "The Zimbabwe Electricity
Sometimes Available". Others say any acronym starting with a "Z" means bad
news and no service. Included on the list is the water authority ZINWA, now
called "Zimbabwe No Water Available", and the Zimbabwe Republic Police. The
latter has been re-named the Zanu Republic Police due its partisan support
for the ruling ZANU party.
Zimbabweans say if it wasn't for humor, they couldn't overcome the daily
challenges they face. They say humor is the best way to alleviate stress.
by Nigel Hangarume Saturday 15 March 2008
HARARE - A £50 000 emergency fund has been set up for the Harare Anglican
following refusal by the expelled bishop Nolbert Kunonga to relinquish
control of diocesan funds.
Kunonga, a pro-President Robert Mugabe cleric, was expelled from the church
after he unilaterally attempted to pull the Diocese of Harare out of the
Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA) ostensibly over
The controversial cleric has refused to give up control of the diocesan
accounts, making it hard for his replacement Bishop Sebastian Bakare to fund
church activities as well as pay clerical staff.
Following Bakare's appeals when he visited the United Kingdom recently, a
£50 000 fund has been established to cover for clergy stipends and other
England's dioceses of Southwark and Rochester, which are both companion link
dioceses with Zimbabwe, have teamed up with Lambeth Palace, the Mothers'
Union and the Anglican mission agency USPG to provide Bakare's leadership
"The fund will initially run for one year to allow Harare Diocese to get
back on its feet and move towards self-sufficiency once again," said the Rev
Canon Chad Gandiya, USPG's regional desk officer for Africa.
"This kind of support is essential to ensure confidence in the new direction
the church is travelling."
Bakare or his spokesman could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The (CPCA) which controls the Anglican church in the region has since
petitioned the High Court to compel Kunonga to surrender the church's
property and divest himself of the rights of being a signatory to the
Diocese of Harare's bank accounts and investments.
Kunonga, who at the weekend urged Zimbabweans to vote for Mugabe in this
month's harmonised elections because he was "Zimbabwe's anointed leader",
insists he has not been expelled from the church and has since formed his
own Province of Zimbabwe.
He has been accused of hiring thugs to beat up parishioners who attend
services under Bakare.
The controversial bishop also refuses to recognise a provisional High Court
ruling that ordered both factions to hold services at parish churches but at
different times. - ZimOnline
Mail and Guardian
14 March 2008 10:41
State media in Zimbabwe on Friday accused prominent South
Africa-based Mail & Guardian publisher Trevor Ncube of donating R300 000 to
President Robert Mugabe's rival Simba Makoni two weeks ahead of scheduled
Zimbabwe's government mouthpiece Herald newspaper said it had
obtained documents showing that Ncube made the payment on February 26
through a South African bank in order to provide campaign materials for
Makoni, Mugabe's former finance minister.
It was unclear how the Herald obtained the documents. Ncube, a
Zimbabwean who also publishes two of the country's only three remaining
private newspapers the Standard and the Independent, denied the claims, the
Zimbabwe's electoral laws make it an offence for parties to
receive foreign funding.
The newspaper said another man believed to be a South African
national made a payment of R20 000 to the Makoni campaign on the same day.
"It does appear that you are on a fishing expedition who I am
likely to vote for. May I remind you that my vote is a secret," Ncube told
"You will be aware that in the recent past I have published my
views on political issues and will continue to do so. I have never been
secretive about my political affiliations and it is not my intention to use
the Herald for that purpose," Ncube said in a statement to the paper.
Mugabe, who has been in power here since 1980, will face Makoni
and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) in the March 29 polls. - Sapa-DPA
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THE NUMBERS GAME: WHAT COULD COME AFTER MARCH 29TH?
Research and Advocacy Unit & States in Transition Observatory
The forthcoming elections are provoking considerable excitement, mainly
over whether Robert Mugabe will survive the most serious challenge yet to
his political hegemony over Zimbabwe. However, it seems very difficult
to anticipate what outcomes there could be in early April. In part this
is because the electoral laws need some clarification, particularly the
apparent conflict between Section 110(3) and Paragraph 3 of the Second
Schedule of the Electoral Act, and in part because of the very complicated
political situation in Zimbabwe and the apparent splits within ZANU PF
over whether Mugabe should remain in power.
Dealing with the first issue, Section 110(3) of the Electoral Act states
that the winner in the first round of a Presidential election must have
an absolute majority of the valid votes cast, however Paragraph 3 suggests
that the Chief Election Officer has the power to declare as the winner the
candidate with the "greater" or the "greatest" number of votes. Paragraph
3 of the Second Schedule is a hangover from the previous Electoral Act,
and, if the principles of good legislative interpretation are followed -
which may not be the case - then the substantive clause, Section 110(3),
The relevance for this discussion is that Mugabe may fall back on what one
commentator has called the "sophisticated" Kibaki strategy if he fails to
get the absolute majority he needs. He gets the Chief Election Officer to
declare him the winner, even if he only gets 49% or less of the vote - as
long as he has more than the others - and then argues the toss in the
if the losing candidates feel that they can take this option. He can avoid
the "crude" Kibaki strategy - of just getting himself declared the winner
- by using the contradiction in the Electoral Act between Section 110(3)
and Paragraph 3 of the Second Schedule.
However, elections are complex processes, and, whilst they are evidently
about the transfer or maintenance of political power between parties, they
are also about popularity, and it is popularity that gives credibility to
the transfer or maintenance of political power. In the current "harmonised"
elections, this means that credibility for the various political parties
will come from having won both the presidential and the parliamentary
elections, and with what kind of majority they obtain this win.
So, for Mugabe, it is essential that he and ZANU PF win both the
and the parliamentary elections with clear majorities. This will allow
him to be sworn in by the Chief Justice, to demand the allegiance of
the armed services and chiefs and to continue to claim sovereignty and
forestall any external interference. If he were to win the presidency,
but lose the parliament or have the opposition get a blocking third of the
seats, as they did in 2000, he will have considerable difficulty governing,
let alone convincing the world at large that he remains a popular leader.
Now, for the first time in Zimbabwe's history, it is not a forgone
that ZANU PF will win, and we are faced with a multiplicity of contenders
of real substance. We have four candidates for the presidential election,
with three very substantial and plausible candidates. We have two major
parties, ZANU PF and MDC, contending for the parliamentary, senate, and
government elections, but we also have a large number of "independents";
some of whom are genuine independents, and some of whom are supporters of
Simba Makoni (a presidential contender) but probably owe their allegiance to
ZANU PF. We also have many indicators of severe dissatisfaction with Mugabe
within ZANU PF, but it is impossible to know how extensive this is and
how this will affect the presidential election. Whilst the dissatisfaction
with Mugabe can have very powerful effects on the presidential election,
it would seem probable that this will not translate into dissatisfaction
by the electorate with the party. ZANU PF "dissidents", whether public
or not, will want the party to win, but probably not want Mugabe to
continue as President.
All of this suggests a large number of possible outcomes, which are
on a wide range of factors; the effectiveness of all the current vote
buying, the success of rigging, the control of the electoral machinery,
and, of course, the ways in which the electorate will vote. After all,
elections are empirical events, and numbers count in the final analysis. So
whatever the flaws, it will matter what the turnout looks like, and whether
the numbers are plausibly distributed.
Focusing on all the factors that make up a free or flawed election is
important, but if we focus on what can happen with the numbers, irrespective
of the validity of the process, it is possible to see that these elections
can have many different results. The table below summarises the possible
outcomes, both presidential and parliamentary, and looks at these with
regard to the major interest in these elections: will Mugabe stay or go?
NB. Please note that the scenarios below were originally in a tabulated
format which, for transmission purposes, was impossible to retain. Hence,
it has been converted into plain text. Anyone wishing to have the original
table, please request from email@example.com.
1. Mugabe wins: with real majority, rigged poll, "sophisticated" Kibaki
option, or "crude" Kibaki option.
Presidential result - Mugabe wins with more than 50%
Parliamentary result - ZPF gets 2/3 majority
Risk to Mugabe - Safe
Presidential result - Mugabe wins with more than 50%
Parliamentary result - ZPF gets 2/3 majority
Risk to Mugabe - Vulnerable
Presidential result - Mugabe wins with more than 50%
Parliamentary result - MDC (opposition) gets 50% to 2/3 majority
Risk to Mugabe - in danger
2. Run-off in Presidential election: No absolute majority for any
Mugabe vs Tsvangirai
Presidential result - Mugabe wins
Parliamentary result - ZPF has 2/3 majority
Risk to Mugabe - possible trade-off with Makoni faction
Mugabe v Makoni
Presidential result - Mugabe wins
Parliamentary result - ZPF has 2/3 majority
Risk to Mugabe - possible trade-off with Makoni faction
Mugabe vs Tsvangirai
Presidential result - Tsvangirai wins with Makoni support
Parliamentary result - ZPF has 2/3 majority or even no majority
Risk to Mugabe - In danger
Mugabe vs Makoni
Presidential result - Makoni wins with Tsvangirai support
Parliamentary result - ZPF has 2/3 majority or even no majority
Risk to Mugabe - Vulnerable.
Mugabe vs Tsvangirai
Presidential result - Tsvangirai wins on own, or with Makoni support
Parliamentary result - MDC (opposition) has majority or 2/3
Risk to Mugabe - In serious danger
Mugabe vs Makoni
Presidential result - Makoni wins on own, or with Tsvangirai support
Parliamentary result - MDC (opposition) has majority or 2/3
Risk to Mugabe - in danger
Taking the first scenario, which is predicated on Mugabe winning
the presidential election, it can be seen that there are three
sub-scenarios. Here it is assumed that Mugabe may have won (legitimately or
not) and, of course, an illegitimate victory will probably be challenged
by the losers, whether in the courts or by other political action. A
clear majority is seen as questionable in all three sub scenarios as,
on present evidence, it does not seem that Robert Mugabe is very popular
anywhere in the country. But, notwithstanding the manner of victory, it
can be seen that this victory may be accompanied by a series of different
developments. ZANU PF could win the parliamentary elections with either
a clear two-thirds majority or less than this. ZANU PF could also end up
with less than a majority and even less than two-thirds.
In the first sub-scenario, Mugabe would be president and, assuming that
his candidates of choice win their seats in the parliamentary elections,
we remain in the status quo. He can govern, use his Presidential powers,
make changes to the constitution, pass budgets, and keep the world off
his back. Court challenges to his victory he can manage, as he has done
before, by just dragging the process out interminably, and, providing the
army continues its support, he can deal easily with internal dissent. His
own personal safety would seem assured here.
In the second sub-scenario, Mugabe would not have quite the same legislative
powers, and his credibility would be severely damaged by the demonstration
that his party is no longer as popular as it appeared in 2005. He would
also be vulnerable to parliamentary attack if ZANU PF dissidents were to
start allying themselves with the positions of the opposition, and the
fractures within ZANU PF might become more and more apparent.
The third scenario would leave Mugabe in obvious danger. If the opposition -
MDC and independents - were to have either a majority in parliament, or more
seriously had a greater than two-thirds majority, he would not be able to
govern at all, could be vulnerable to direct personal attack by impeachment
or the like, and his political credibility would be irrevocably damaged.
Furthermore, if his victory was not genuinely won, he would be in very
serious trouble in this situation.
However, having three substantial candidates for the presidential election
raises other possibilities, and the most likely is that no one gets an
absolute majority in the first round. This seems very possible, given that
Tsvangirai obtained 42% of the vote in 2002, and these were genuine votes.
Assuming some loss of popularity for Tsvangirai, it still seems likely that
he would get about 35% of the vote. Makoni would then only need to get 15%
for there to have to be a run off, and, given the reported dissatisfaction
within ZANU PF for Mugabe's continuation in power, this might be a little
on the conservative side. A betting man would not agree with Makoni that he
will get 70% of the vote, but it would seem a safe bet to suggest that he
will do much better than a mere 15%. If the electorate split their votes
between Tsvangirai and Makoni, then Mugabe might even go out at the first
round, but this seems unlikely.
Thus, a run-off seems very probable and opens up many more scenarios, as was
seen from the table above, none of which look very promising for Mugabe,
and here the results of the parliamentary elections become crucial. It
should be remembered that the run-off will take place three weeks after
the parliamentary elections should have been finalised, so the balance of
forces in the parliament will be known.
In the two sub-scenarios where ZANU PF has won a clear two-thirds majority
parliament, Mugabe has the possibility of doing a deal with the malcontents
in the party. If he has to run off against Tsvangirai, he may be able to
persuade the Makoni faction and others to support him, probably in exchange
for a clear process of succession to Makoni. This will depend enormously
on whether the ZANU PF malcontents will trust Mugabe to keep his word, and
also on the support that they have already in parliament. Constitutional
Amendment 18 provides for the election of the President by parliament,
so succession could happen quickly, but whether the dissidents will trust
Mugabe will depend on who the chosen heir or heiress is, and how confident
they are that they can control Mugabe in parliament.
Nonetheless, these two scenarios do leave Mugabe vulnerable and having to
bargain from a position of weakness, which will be an unusual experience
The sub-scenario where the opposition has a blocking third in parliament
is considerably less comfortable for Mugabe. In the event of a run-off
against Makoni, he faces the clear danger that the opposition will
throw their support with Makoni and he will lose. Even if he were to
win, he would have all the difficulties in governing mentioned earlier,
plus his own credibility would be seriously questioned due to the evident
demonstration that he is not popular. He would also have great difficulties
in making some sort of deal with his dissidents as electing his successor
through parliament might be problematic: the opposition and the Makoni
supporters would have much more power in determining the choice of heir,
which would not suit Mugabe at all.
The other sub-scenarios, where the opposition has a majority or a two-thirds
majority in parliament, place Mugabe in much more danger. A run-off against
Tsvangirai, where the opposition already had a majority, could easily lead
to a Tsvangirai victory, where the electorate sense an easy opportunity to
get rid of him, and the poll might then become a test of his popularity
only. Much the same could happen with a run-off against Makoni, but the
difference here is that the opposition would not fear a Makoni presidency
since they control the house. The key here is that even the rural electorate
might sense Mugabe's weakness and take the opportunity to shift allegiances,
and this might not be so unlikely against the background of the economic
crisis and the very palpable food shortage. Although the general trend
in the rural electorate has been to vote for whom they think will win, and
this has been so clearly Mugabe to date, the politics of patronage might
well fall apart in the run-off situation where the rural populace get the
notion that Mugabe will lose.
So, making the assumption that the process of the elections do not matter
essentially, it can be seen that Robert Mugabe will only be secure in one of
the nine scenarios outlined. Unless he can ensure, by either his popularity
or rigging, that he wins the presidential election by an absolute majority,
and that ZANU PF has an unassailable majority in parliament, all the other
outcomes place him at risk.
Some place him at much greater risk than others, but in general the
possibilities suggest that his days are very definitely numbered. And even
if he were able to achieve the very first scenario, that he and
ZANU PF win handsomely, it is evident that the political terrain has
dramatically shifted in the past six weeks, and that a political transition
of sorts is now happening. However, much will depend on the results of
these elections, and many strange things can still happen.
Afrique en ligne
Harare, Zimbabwe - Iran and Zimbabwe Friday signed a joint venture deal to
manufacture tractors in the southern African country, expected to be
earmarked for regional markets as well.
Under the deal, the Iranians will control 55 percent of the joint venture,
and Zimbabwe the balance.
Zimbabwe will be represented in the venture by state-owned car manufacture
Industrial Development Corporation, and Teheran by Iran Foreign Investment
Officials said the venture would initially produce 5,000 tractors a year,
and later expand and target regional market as well.
At first, the venture will assemble tractors from components from Iran, and
later build a foundry to substitute the imports.
Officials said controversial agrarian reforms carried out in Zimbabwe in the
last seven years had made it attractive for investment in tractor
production, the first of the kind in the country.
Iran had already invested US$4 million in the business.
Harare - 14/03/2008
By Tonderai Kwidini
HARARE, Mar 14 (IPS) - Women make up about half the population in Zimbabwe.
But, they're far from accounting for 50 percent of those on the ballot for
this month's general elections in the Southern African country -- sparking
concern amongst gender activists.
None of the four presidential candidates in the Mar. 29 ballot is a woman;
during the last poll for head of state, held in 2002, Elizabeth Madangure
competed alongside five other, male candidates.
Of the 730 parliamentary hopefuls, only 99 are women (13.6 percent), while
63 of the 195 candidates running for the senate are female (just over 32
percent) -- this according to figures from the Women in Politics Support
Unit (WiPSU), a non-governmental organisation based in the capital of
Harare. Zimbabwe will also hold local government polls at the end of the
month; however, IPS could not obtain statistics for the gender of local
government candidates at the time of publishing this report.
During the last legislative elections in March 2005, 57 women ran for
parliament out of a total of 273 aspirants (about 20.9 percent of
candidates). Female candidates accounted for 34 percent of those who
contested senate polls in November 2005: 45 women were involved in this
race, and 87 men (these figures again provided by WiPSU).
Statistics for the number of women who contested the last local government
elections, in 2005, could not be obtained.
This year will mark the first instance in which Zimbabwe holds presidential,
parliamentary, senate and local government polls on the same day, the result
of a constitutional amendment passed last year. General elections will now
be held every five years.
"From the figures, it shows that there is a huge disparity (between female
and male candidates) which needs a lot of attention," said Luta Shaba,
executive director of the Women's Trust, a non-governmental organisation in
Harare. The trust has been at the forefront of the '50-50' campaign, an
initiative to have women account for half the names on the ballot.
"The question to ask is what is it that should be done to increase the
number of female candidates? Voting women into parliament means that women's
issues will become national issues."
For Rutendo Hadebe of the Women's Coalition of Zimbabwe, an umbrella group
for various rights organisations, having more women candidates involves
fighting chauvinism among political parties, and encouraging women to
believe that they can compete for office successfully.
"The society that we are living in seems not ready for female leadership,"
she told IPS. "But we are saying as a movement that we will continue
The electoral race is largely focused on the ruling Zimbabwe African
National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), the larger faction of the Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC), and the Mavambo/Kusile of Simba Makoni -- a
grouping also referred to as 'New Dawn'. Makoni, an erstwhile ZANU-PF member
and former finance minister, broke ranks with the party to challenge
President Robert Mugabe. ("Mavambo" is a Shona word meaning "beginning",
while "kusile" -- from the Ndebele language -- means "dawn".)
The MDC, Zimbabwe's main opposition group for several years, split in 2005.
In the case of ZANU-PF, 44 of its 214 parliamentary aspirants are women
(20.6 percent) and 27 of 59 senate candidates (almost 46 percent).
These figures (the latest available from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission,
or ZEC, at the time of publication) show the party has some way to go in
fulfilling its 2005 pledge to raise the proportion of its female candidates
to 30 percent across the board.
"In instances that we have women volunteering to take up political posts
they are faced with...having to choose whether to commit family resources to
the political cause or feeding the family," said a member of the ZANU-PF
Women's League who asked for anonymity. "Political parties do very little to
support women candidates financially, and there lies the problem."
A list of parliamentary and senate candidates from the larger faction of the
MDC, led by Morgan Tsvangirai, show this party has 25 women among its 209
legislative candidates (just under 12 percent) -- along with 18 of the 60
senate aspirants (30 percent).
"We are not happy with the female figures in this election," said Sekai
Holland, the faction's secretary for international relations, herself a
senatorial candidate. "Getting the female agenda going...remains a big
The other MDC faction -- headed by Arthur Mutambara -- is fielding 19 women
in the parliamentary poll out of a total of 144 candidates (13.2 percent).
Women also account for six of the faction's 34 senate candidates (17.6
percent) -- this according to figures from the ZEC.
Statistics published in the local press by Mavambo/Kusile indicate the
grouping will field eight women among its 51 parliamentary candidates (15.7
percent) -- and three women among its nine senatorial hopefuls (about 33
The polls will see all 210 parliamentary seats being contested, compared to
120 in 2005. Previously, an additional 30 legislative seats were filled in
part by presidential nominees, bringing the total number of parliamentarians
In the case of the senate, 59 seats are to be filled (a further 21 will go
to traditional chiefs and presidential nominees, amongst others). Initially,
there were 60 senate seats in play for the election; however, one of these
has already been won by a ZANU-PF candidate who was elected unopposed at the
Local government candidates will compete for 1,968 posts.
The Inter-Parliamentary Union notes that Zimbabwe presently has 24 women in
parliament (16 percent of legislators), and 24 in the senate - which
currently has 66 members (giving women control of approximately 36 percent
of the upper house).
According to the ZEC, 17 parties are participating in the elections; the
Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network puts the number of voters at some 5.6
Even if all female candidates running in this month's legislative and senate
polls win, the country will still find itself falling short of regional
goals concerning women's representation in government. A 1997 declaration by
the Southern African Development Community set Zimbabwe and other member
states the target of having women in 30 percent of decision-making posts by
2005 -- a goal since adjusted to 50 percent.
This month's vote comes amidst political and economic turmoil in Zimbabwe,
where hyper-inflation and unemployment have impoverished most citizens, and
where food and fuel shortages are the order of the day.
Human rights abuses that undermined the credibility of previous polls
continue, as Amnesty International noted in a Jan. 24 press statement that
detailed an assault on persons trying to attend an MDC rally addressed by
"Police repeatedly arrest and beat human rights defenders and MDC activists
engaging in peaceful protest," said the rights watchdog.
"Amnesty International has corroborated evidence of torture and
ill-treatment of activists while in police custody..." the statement added.
Mugabe, running for a sixth term in office (and in power since independence
in 1980), accuses Western nations of conspiring with his opponents to
undermine Zimbabwe, following a controversial land redistribution campaign
that saw farms owned by minority whites confiscated for the resettlement of
landless blacks. A number of influential Zimbabweans stand accused of
seizing farms in the course of this campaign.
The European Union did introduce sanctions against Zimbabwe in response to
the problematic 2002 presidential elections; and, the deteriorating
situation in the country prompted the United States to follow suit the next
year. However, these measures involve travel restrictions and asset freezes
directed at high-ranking officials, rather than steps against ordinary
The exclusion of election observer teams from countries critical of the
ZANU-PF government has deepened fears that the upcoming polls will not be
free and fair -- as have claims about manipulation of the voters' roll and
inadequate voter education. (END/2008)