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Zimbabwe poll: Head to head


Monday, 17 March 2008, 01:16 GMT
George Shire (l) and Wilf Mbanga (r)
Shire (l) predicts a Mugabe victory - Mbanga (r) disagrees
Zimbabweans are going to the polls on 29 March to elect a president, members of parliament and some local councillors. The key issues will be the economic crisis, land reform and the entry of former Finance Minister Simba Makoni to the political race.

Academic and ruling Zanu-PF supporter George Shire and Wilf Mbanga, critic of President Robert Mugabe and publisher of the Zimbabwean newspaper, discussed how they thought the elections would go.

George Shire: I think Robert Mugabe will win the presidency and Zanu-PF will win the House of Assembly and local elections.

They will do so because they have a well organised electoral machinery in place, they have a better sense of purpose this time than before.

They seem to have a coherent narrative that speaks to what Zimbabweans are concerned about.

Wilf Mbanga: We know for a fact that people around Mugabe are in panic mode.

The army chief has warned Zimbabweans that if they voted for anyone other than Robert Mugabe they would stage a coup and the chief of prisons a couple of weeks ago told his staff to vote for Robert Mugabe and nobody else.

Soldier in front of Mugabe supporters
Will the army intervene in the election?

Mugabe himself is saying he will walk it, he will win by a landslide. I don't know where he gets that from because the economy has collapsed, services have collapsed. I don't know why anyone would vote for a continuation of the suffering we have in our country.

What will happen is that Mugabe will stuff the ballot boxes, he will rig the election.

That's the only way he can win. For example, soldiers and Zimbabwean diplomats around the world vote in private - there are no international or local observers in place - this allows them to rig the elections, as their votes are added to votes from their constituencies.

If you look at the polling stations, Harare, for example, has 733,000 voters and they have only been give just over 300 polling stations. This means voters have to vote four times in less than 12 seconds. This is impossible.

Whereas, for example if you look at Mashonaland Central, which is seen as a Mugabe stronghold, they have 500,000 voters and over 1,200 polling stations.

George Shire: Zimbabwe is not like that. South Africa has been pilloried for its stance on the Zimbabwe situation.

The last thing South Africa wants is to be aligned with an electoral process that has holes in it. The Sadc [Southern African Development Community] countries are the same, and the African Union.

All the people that have been supportive of Robert Mugabe and Zanu-PF up to now want to see this as transparent as is possible. It is in the interests of Zanu-PF to make it transparent. It will be free and fair.

Man carrying bundles of banknotes
Zimbabwe has the world's highest rate of inflation

If you compare it to any other elections, or any other period leading up to it, it is as peaceful as Zimbabwe has ever had it.

I haven't seen a statement from the army saying they would not accept the results. What I have seen is remarks made by the head of the prison service, who said if any other candidate won, he would resign his post and go back to his farm.

He would not salute them, he did not say he would defy the laws of the country.

You have to read that comment with what is in the MDC [Movement for Democratic Change] manifesto - it says, when we come into power, we will REVIEW the personnel of Zimbabwean diplomats and other civil servants.

Civil servants are reading that as saying, if the MDC comes into power, we will lose our jobs. That is why you get these remarks. I have not seen anything to say that March 29th will not be peaceful.

Politicians must tell people what they would do if they come to power in a given situation. How will people deal with spiralling inflation?

One of the things that Zanu-PF has done so well over the last 10 years is to keep its membership base involved about what is the reason for inflation. That's why people will deliver.

It's not that people don't know that inflation is rising, it's not because they think things will be the same.

They have an understanding of what Zanu-PF will do. The problem for the opposition is that they have failed to convince people of an alternative.

Wilf Mbanga: Mugabe has told Sadc leaders he would not accept defeat. The army has told us it would not accept any defeat of Robert Mugabe, so there is a problem there.

Why has Zanu-PF decided to only invite their friends to come and observe the elections? If the elections are going to be transparent, if they are going to be free and fair, surely they should invite their critics, to satisfy them that this time round, the elections will be free and fair.

George Shire: My view is that everybody in Zimbabwe is going to accept whatever the result on 29 March will be. There is no evidence to suggest otherwise.

Zimbabwe is a sophisticated, complex, mature country. No-one will want to die for anybody just because they say we don't want to accept the election.

Wilf Mbanga: Simba Makoni will play the role of a spoiler for Mugabe because he is coming from Zanu-PF - he says he is still Zanu-PF.

Simba Makoni
What difference will Makoni make?

He says there are some supporters from Zanu-PF who back him, although we have not seen much evidence of that but we have put that down to fear within Zanu-PF because everything in Zanu-PF is dependent on this patronage system.

If you are seen not to be backing Mugabe, you can be punished and there is evidence of this in the past. Makoni will get some support from Zanu-PF, he will get some support from the academics and from the business community in the urban areas.

So he will take votes both from Mugabe and the MDC, but mostly from Zanu-PF.

George Shire: Zimbabweans are not persuaded by personalities. Is there a difference of policy and principle between Makoni and Zanu-PF?

One of the reasons why he was thrown out of government is he was opposed to the land question. He might not say it in public, but he is.

Opposition supporter with a red card for Mugabe
The opposition wants to give Mugabe the red card

Presumably he is opposed to black economic empowerment.

To Zimbabweans, they translate that as the local version of neo-liberal politics. It has no buyers in the region.

He might be the flavour of the month for the literati or the academics. They are not the majority.

To the majority, what matters is whether the land revolution continues - whatever imperfections there may be.

Whether or not there is a widening of participation in the economy.

Whether the assets of the country are held in trust by the state on behalf of the people.

He will get support from those people who see the political discourse of the country as an individual story [Robert Mugabe]. That's why, from some sections of the MDC, he is popular.

All Zanu-PF has to do is to hold its support base. It does not have to increase it. If it does that, it will have a landslide victory.

I have not seen any evidence to suggest that any one of these opposition figures has done anything to erode the support base of Zanu-PF.

Wilf Mbanga: There is evidence. The MDC has been holding rallies in rural areas, where they have attracted large numbers. [The MDC's presidential candidate] Morgan Tsvangirai was in Bindura Zhamva and Thsolotsho where he addressed huge rallies. This is the first time he has been able to penetrate rural areas, which were previously under the control of Zanu-PF.

George Shiri: I am encouraged that Morgan Tsvangirai has been participating nationally - that demonstrates what I have been saying all along - that the political landscape in Zimbabwe is much more fluid, much more open, much more viable than what most people seem to think it is.

Wilf Mbanga: It is not. The radio and TV are owned by government, the two national dailies are controlled by the government. Up to now, the government newspapers are still refusing to take adverts from the MDC.

George Shire: In 1980 - there was no media access to Zanu-PF, it came up with 80% of the vote. People in Zimbabwe are politically savvy. Probably, the election is won already.

They vote not because of the media but because they are connected to what is going on in their country. They are much more politically astute. These are highly sophisticated electorates, much more sophisticated, much more engaged than people give them credit for.

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ZEC rejects charges of 'fixing' vote for Mugabe

Zim Online

by Lizwe Sebatha Monday 17 March 2008

BULAWAYO - Zimbabwe's Electoral Commission (ZEC) has rejected charges it put
few polling stations in cities, saying each station in an urban area will
have several voting centres allowing more people to be processed.

Independent election monitoring groups last week raised alarm that thousands
of voters in urban areas, where the opposition has strongest support, could
fail to vote because ZEC had put few polling stations there.

The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party said
allocating fewer polling stations in cities was an attempt by the ZEC to
sway the March 29 elections in favour of President Robert Mugabe's

ZEC deputy elections director Utoile Silaigwana said the commission - that
put more polling stations in the government's rural strongholds - had made
sure voters in cities would have a fair chance to cast their ballots by
putting about seven voting centres at each polling station in an urban area.

"In one polling station, there would be several voting centres. For example,
at a school advertised as one polling centre, there would instead be about
seven voting centres," Silaigwana said at the weekend.

"In the case of Harare for example, the truth of the matter is that the
actual number of polling centres is 722 because there would be about seven
voting centres at all the advertised 390 polling stations," he added.

Silaigwana did not explain the advantages of having "omnibus" polling
stations in urban areas, each with several voting centres, but said ZEC
fully consulted all political parties including the MDC before allocating
polling stations to constituencies.

No comment was immediately available from the opposition party.

The independent Zimbabwe Election Support Network had urged ZEC to increase
polling stations in urban areas, saying failure to do so could see thousands
of voters unable to vote as happened in the 2002 presidential election
controversially won by Mugabe.

Thousands of MDC supporters failed to vote in the election even after
queuing for two days at the few polling stations operating and after the
High Court ordered an extra day of voting to allow all voters to cast their

Major Western governments condemned the 2002 election as heavily flawed
while the MDC refused to recognise Mugabe's victory over Tsvangirai by a
mere 400 000 votes.

The month-end elections are tipped to be the most difficult and time
consuming for Zimbabweans who will for the first time ever vote
simultaneously for a new president, Senate, House of Assembly and local
councils. - ZimOnline

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Soldiers arrested for not saluting Mugabe

Zim Online

by Chenai Maramba Monday 17 March 2008

KAROI - Four Zimbabwe army soldiers are in prison pending disciplinary
action today for failing to salute President Robert Mugabe, military sources
told ZimOnline.

The soldiers from the army's 1.2 infantry battalion were arrested last
Thursday at the battalion's home at Magunje, about 240 km north-west of
Harare, because they did not salute Mugabe when he landed with his

Mugabe, who is Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces that
comprise the army and air force, was in Magunje to address an election
campaign rally at a nearby rural businesses centre.

The arrested soldiers are Warrant Officer 2 Dickson Nyamanda, ironically in
charge of discipline at the barracks, Warrant Officer Samuel Chinhamhora and
two sergeants Trymore Dzingirirai and Obert Mhlope.

"They were arrested because they did not salute President Mugabe when his
helicopter touched down at our barracks and as his motorcade move around the
camp," said a soldier at the camp, who did not want to be named because he
did not have permission from the army to speak to reporters.

It was not clear what punishment the soldiers, detained at Karoi prison,
about 40 km from Magunje, face.

Army spokesman Colonel Simon Tsatsi refused to take questions on the matter
from ZimOnline. "I cannot comment on that as it is an internal matter," he

Zimbabwe's top military and police commanders are known for their fervent
support for Mugabe who has kept them well fed while also spoiling them with
luxury cars, farms seized from whites and several other perks.

However, insiders say morale is low among the rank and file of the armed
forces who are not well cushioned from the harsh effects of an acute
economic and food crisis gripping Zimbabwe since 2000.

Political analysts rule out the possibility of top generals rising against
Mugabe but they have always speculated that worsening economic hardships
could at some point force the underpaid ordinary soldier to either openly
revolt or to simply refuse to defend the government should Zimbabweans rise
up in a civil rebellion. - ZimOnline

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SA asked to prosecute visiting Zimbabwe officials

Zim Online

by Own Correspondent Monday 17 March 2008

JOHANNESBURG - The Southern Africa Litigation Centre has asked the South
Africa's National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to arrest Zimbabwean
politicians who are accused of committing rights abuses in the strife-torn
African nation.

In a move that should send shivers down the spines of President Robert
Mugabe's state security agents, the Centre said the NPA should arrest
officers and state agents implicated in torture if they set foot on South
African soil.

A dossier presented to the NPA names at least 13 police officers and a
government minister as the brains behind the brutal torture of opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party activists last year in March.

The MDC activists were part of a group of about 40 people who were arrested
at the party's headquarters in Harare and were detained for over three
months for allegedly plotting to carry out acts of sabotage and banditry
against the government.

The opposition supporters say they were brutally tortured while in

NPA spokesman Tlali Tlai told the media at the weekend that the Authority
was still considering the centre's request to arrest the Zimbabwe government
officials who were implicated in the torture.

Under international law, South Africa can prosecute foreigners who are
implicated in human rights abuses if they happen to be within the country's

The director of the litigation centre, Nicole Fritz, said the consistency of
the testimonies proved that there was "systematic use of torture by the
police and supports the conclusion that crimes against humanity have been
and continue to be perpetrated in Zimbabwe".

Zimbabwe Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa could not be reached for comment
on the matter yesterday.

However, the Harare administration has in the past rejected charges of
violating human rights as lies spread by Western governments and human
rights groups to tarnish the image of Mugabe and his ruling ZANU PF party. -

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Mugabe and the telltale tractors

Business Day

17 March 2008

Dianna Games

THE first major investment deal to be signed in Zimbabwe since the president
signed into law the Indigenisation and Empowerment Bill was between Zimbabwe's
Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and the Iran Tractor Manufacturing

The deal itself was not as noteworthy as its shareholding structure -
Zimbabwe's IDC will hold a 45% stake in the company, while the foreign
investor will have 55%.

This flies in the face of the new law, signed by President Robert Mugabe
just 10 days ago, which states that foreign companies operating in Zimbabwe
must cede 51% of their shareholdings to indigenous Zimbabweans.

The deal underlines the concern that many had about the legislation in the
first place: that it is not based on the principle of local empowerment as
much as on political expedience (read the March 29 election).

The indigenisation law smacks of being just another "grab" by the government
to buy political influence as it is not supported by financial and skills
support. At this stage, the government is offering only to fund deals that
Zimbabweans cannot afford. This hardly constitutes empowerment, which is
surely about giving more Zimbabweans real capacity to take part in such

Mugabe's tendency to fast-track empowerment has probably been one of the
biggest disasters of his 28-year rule. From the destruction of the
agricultural backbone of the economy through land invasions to the price
controls, the president's schemes have served only to impoverish the people
in whose name he claims to act.

The fact that Mugabe signed the indigenisation bill only five months after
it was rushed through Parliament also signals that it is an election ploy
rather than a genuine move to improve economic ownership.

A GOVERNMENT that has already failed the private sector by ruining the
economy in which it must operate has no related plan for economic
reconstruction of the country, which means the new legislation will solve

Several empowerment deals offered voluntarily over the past few years by
multinationals such as Anglo American, Zimplats and Metallon have failed
because of undue political interference and lack of local capacity to take
advantage of them.

The new law also brings into focus the relationship with SA, the biggest
foreign investor in Zimbabwe with companies such as Old Mutual, and Mugabe's

The failure of the two governments to sign an investment protection
agreement, drawn up several years ago and which covers the nationalisation
of assets, highlights just how little leverage SA has in Zimbabwe.

The South African government's official line that the failure to do so was
because of the parties being unable to find the time is disingenuous at
best. Zimbabwe has signed agreements of a similar nature with many other
countries, including its arch foes in the northern hemisphere, and SA has
many such agreements with other countries.

In fact it is probably a safe bet that, as the Iran example suggests,
pressure to cede ownership stakes will be applied only to investors from
countries that Zimbabwe's government feels "threatened" by.

This now includes SA, given that it is under pressure to solve the
Zimbabwean problem. It is thus likely that the government's new friends,
such as the Chinese and other nations prepared to invest in Mugabe's
Zimbabwe, will have exceptions made for them.

A final thought; the focus of empowerment in Zimbabwe, as it is in SA, is
always on getting a stake in what someone else has built up, not on building
something. Zimbabwean businessman Mutumwa Mawere, who had his assets seized
by Mugabe several years ago, summed it up rather succinctly: "Why are we so
focused on Old Mutual? Where is the New Mutual?"

.. Games is director Africa @ Work, a research and consulting company.

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Zimbabwe security forces must stay out of vote-ANC


Mon 17 Mar 2008, 16:48 GMT

JOHANNESBURG, March 17 (Reuters) - South Africa's ruling African National
Congress (ANC) urged Zimbabwe's security forces and other state institutions
not to take sides in this month's elections and to respect the outcome of
the vote.

The ANC also said in a statement on Monday it hoped Zimbabwe's March 29
presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections would be free and fair
and would help resolve a political and economic crisis in the southern
African country.

"The ANC urges all institutions of state in Zimbabwe, and in particular the
security forces, to remain non-partisan and to respect the outcome of the
elections," the party said in a statement.

Several leaders of Zimbabwe's security forces have sided with President
Robert Mugabe, the country's sole ruler since independence who is seeking
another term.

Police chief Augustine Chihuri on Friday openly threw his weight behind
Mugabe, saying "western-backed puppets" would not be allowed to rule the

The opposition has also complained about alleged military involvement in the
running of past elections.

Analysts say Zimbabwe's 84-year-old leader faces the greatest challenge to
his 28-year rule due to an economic meltdown and a pair of opposition
candidates, including a ruling party renegade.

Simba Makoni, Mugabe's former finance minister will run as an independent
candidate, and opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan
Tsvangirai will once again take on Mugabe at the polls.

Former colonial power Britain, which blames Mugabe for wrecking Zimbabwe's
once vibrant economy, and the European Union have expressed concerns the
vote will not be free and fair.

Mugabe, who denies mismanaging the economy and says it has been sabotaged by
Western states as punishment for his land reforms, has barred election
observers from Western countries he accuses of seeking to oust his ZANU-PF

Western nations have urged South Africa, which has been mediating between
Harare and the opposition, to be more forceful in its efforts to coax Mugabe
toward democracy.

South Africa has pursued a policy of "quiet diplomacy" toward its
neighbour -- an approach the ANC's new leader Jacob Zuma, frontrunner to
succeed President Thabo Mbeki, has said he will continue.

Zimbabwe is battling the world's highest inflation -- over 100,000 percent a
year -- as well as soaring unemployment and poverty. Millions have fled to
South Africa. (Reporting by Rebecca Harrison in Johannesburg, additional
reporting by Nelson Banya in Harare; Editing by Mary Gabriel)

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Zimbabwe vows to arrest 'spying' journalists,
Monday March 17 2008

Zimbabwe's government has threatened to arrest western journalists - a
Guardian reporter among them - whom it accuses of spying on behalf of
"hostile" countries ahead of next week's presidential election.

President Robert Mugabe's spokesman, George Chiramba, told the state-run
press the government would "flush out" reporters he described as "agitators
embedded in journalism".

The statement appeared to be a move to justify barring journalists from
Britain and other countries during the March 29 election after a blanket ban
on election monitors from western nations, including all EU countries and
the US.

Chiramba specifically threatened reporters who have entered the country
without prior press accreditation after this was refused under draconian
media laws used to shut down opposition newspapers and detain reporters
critical of the government.

"We are also aware of journalists from western countries who have sneaked
into the country, for example one from the British Guardian newspaper, and
our security personnel are on the spoor.

"Let me warn those news organisations who choose to sneak in that they are
prejudicing their applications that are already with us and are exposing
their personnel to arrest," he said.

Chiramba is also the author of a column in the Herald newspaper, under the
pen name Nathaniel Manheru, that accused the Guardian's Africa
correspondent, Chris McGreal, of spying, and warned that he faced arrest.

"What is Chris McGreal of the British Guardian up to? Does he for once think
that he has got the better of the system? He is a British establishment man
and allows us some insight into its mind," the column said.

"Do they have to deploy spies masquerading as journalists and tourists in
such industrial quantities?"

Reporters entering Zimbabwe without prior consent from the state Media and
Information Commission have faced up to two years in prison. Journalists
from a number of media organisations, including the New York Times, the
Washington Post, the Financial Times - and the Zimbabwean government's pet
hate, the BBC, have periodically defied the ban after almost all reporters
from western countries were refused accreditation over the past seven years.

Lawyers say the ban may no longer be legal after parliament abolished the
commission last month under an agreement brokered by South Africa's
president, Thabo Mbeki, in order to relax controls ahead of the election.
The body meant to replace it has yet to be established.

But the government continues to insist that foreign journalists apply for
permission to report on the election and pay about £850 for accreditation.

However, Chiramba indicated that many applications, including one from
McGreal, would be refused.
"We have a team drawn from information, foreign affairs and the security
arms that are examining each and every application," he said. Chiramba said
a number of the applications had come from journalists who worked in Iraq
and Kenya during the recent post-election violence, which claimed about
1,500 lives.

"It is as if Zimbabwe is a war about to start. There is an expectation of
blood in the streets, which explains the deployment of war correspondents
and cameramen. It's a way to psych the world against the results to justify
the continuation of sanctions," he said.

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Zimbabwe's Ousted Anglican Bishop Appeals High Court Decision


By Peta Thornycroft
17 March 2008

Nolbert Kunonga, formerly Anglican bishop of Harare has gone to the Harare
High Court to appeal a recent ruling which orders him to share Zimbabwe's
only Anglican cathedral with a bishop recently appointed to take his place.
Peta Thornycroft reports for VOA the long-time supporter of President Robert
Mugabe has also promoted himself.

Nolbert Kunonga this weekend promoted himself to the position of Archbishop,
saying that Zimbabwe now stands alone as a so-called Anglican province.
Kunonga was sacked by the Central African Anglican Province early this year
after trying to withdraw the church in Zimbabwe from the regional body - he
said because of the church's permissive attitude toward homosexuality.

But another church minister, Reverend Christopher Tapera says Kunonga has
used the controversy over homosexuality and the church for his own reasons.

"We cannot in any way say to homosexuals your sin is worse than this one; we
are not judges, they need our ministry, they need our service and we can't
run away from them," said Tapera. "That is [Kunongo's] own scapegoat. To us
homosexuality is not an issue at all. He has his own hidden agenda which has
nothing to do with us."

Kunonga is no stranger to controversy, which began with his disputed
election as Bishop of Harare seven years ago. He soon cleared out from the
Anglican Cathedral artifacts and memorials to white Zimbabweans - including
those who were killed in action in two world wars.

Two years ago Kunonga was brought to trial accused of plotting the murder of
some parishioners and breaking church laws.

The ecclesiastical trial, the first of its kind in Zimbabwe, was abandoned
before evidence could be presented.

Since his sacking, Kunonga has refused to leave the cathedral and will not
allow his successor, Bishop Sebastian Bakare, into the cathedral. The
dispute landed up in the High Court which ordered Kunonga to allow Bishop
Bakare to hold Sunday services in the Cathedral - a decision he is

Bishop Bakare says that he has also appealed the court's decision to share
the cathedral as Kunonga is no longer an Anglican bishop and should be
evicted. Even if Bishop Bakare wins that case and gains access to the
cathedral, he says the church has been defiled because it has been misused.

"It is not a question of just opening the door and worshipping as if nothing
happened," Bakare. "This place has been so much misused that we feel
humbled, I think we have been disgraced."

Kunongo does not have the acceptance of the wider Anglican community in
Zimbabwe - and is unable to call on the support of a single diocese. Each
Sunday only a few dozen people turn up to worship inside the cathedral which
is always kept locked except at services conducted by priests Kunonga
ordained recently.

A far larger number of Anglicans loyal to incoming Bishop Bakare worship on
the lawn outside the cathedral each Sunday.

Kunonga openly supports the ruling ZANU-PF and may be the only Christian
leader in Zimbabwe to openly encourage Zimbabweans to vote for President
Mugabe at elections on March 29.

He has preached that God had raised Mugabe to "acquire white owned farms and
distribute them to Zimbabweans," adding this was "democracy of the stomach."
He said he was speaking on behalf of all Anglicans and that they see the
president as a prophet of God who, in his words, was "sent to deliver the
people of Zimbabwe from bondage".

Kunonga, who was given a white-owned farm shortly after he became bishop of
Harare, was not available for comment.

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Mugabe has a lot to answer for - Makoni


††††March 17 2008 at 02:22PM

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has "a lot to answer for," his
election challenger Simba Makoni said in an interview published on Monday
though he promised there would be no retribution.

Former finance minister Makoni, who is looking to topple Mugabe in the
March 29 polls, promised not to institute a backlash against his old boss,
adding that he would form a government of national unity.

"There will be no retribution, no rancour," Makoni told the Financial
Times, adding: "He will retire to his village if he wants to. He can write
his memoirs as he once said he wanted to."

But he said Mugabe would still be subject to "the law of the land" if
he loses the polls. "He is an elderly man who has a special place in our
history but who also has a lot to answer for," he added.

Mugabe, who has ruled the former British colony since independence in
1980, has called Makoni a "prostitute" for taking him on and Makoni was
expelled from the ruling Zanu-PF party in February after announcing his

But the challenger has so far refused to become involved in a public
slanging match.

Makoni vowed to clamp down on anyone who had made illegal gains in the
Mugabe years. "If people have amassed wealth crookedly then the law will be
brought to bear on them," he said.

But if elected, he said he would form a government of national unity
reflecting the composition of parliament and comprising members of both
Zanu-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

"Today it is in a state of fear, a nation of stress and mistrust," he

"My vision is of a country where you are not partitioned into little
paddocks because you have the wrong card in your pocket...or because a
relative supports the wrong party," he added. - Sapa-AFP

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Gono Turns Reserve Bank into "Elect Mugabe" Bank

The Southern African

Written by Innocent Madawo
Monday, 17 March 2008
Of the four candidates in the Zimbabwe presidential election due in
two weeks, former finance minister, Dr. Simba Makoni, is the only one who
has made it clear that, among his immediate tasks in office, would be to
"examine and define the mandate of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and its
relationship to the state." He stated in his election manifesto that he
would "restore the autonomy of the Central Bank as a regulator."

It is not surprising why Makoni would prioritize a re-look into the
workings of the Reserve Bank which has been transformed by incumbent
governor, Gideon Gono into anything but.

A Central Bank is universally defined as an entity responsible for the
monetary policy of a country. Its primary responsibility is to maintain the
stability of the national currency and money supply.

The RBZ, under Gono, has failed to fulfill its mandate. It is common
knowledge now that the monetary policy of the RBZ has been consistent on
printing and dishing out useless bearer cheques to the nation, a function
that nobody would find easy to classify as a role for a Central Bank.

As for the primary responsibility of maintaining the stability of the
national currency and money supply, well, reality suggests that has not been
practiced either, with the USdollar exchanging at more than ZD 30 million
and inflation at more than 100,000%.

The RBZ has also been involved in black market currency transactions,
something tantamount to a policeman joining thieves instead of arresting

But these are the obvious failings of the RBZ that Gono may even
defend successfully to those who sympathize with his self-made situation.

What is really worrying - and even embarrassing - is how Gono has
transformed the RBZ into an "Elect Mugabe Bank", with departments to supply
farming equipment and rural transportation.

The RBZ is directly involved in funding and active distribution of
tractors, ploughs, scorch carts and other implements under a project called
the Farm Mechanisation Programme.

It's a project specially designed and timely introduced to begin at
the same time as President Robert Mugabe is seeking a sixth term in office.
Last week, in an interview with The Financial Gazette, one could feel the
glee in Gono's words as he proudly enumerated the thousands of tractors,
ploughs harrows and other implements the programme is offering to farmers.

Ironically, Zimbabwe has an agricultural bank, but nothing is heard of
it in the programme which should really be within its mandate. But the
Reserve Bank, together with its governor, has become a personal tool of
Mugabe's and no prizes for guessing who will benefit from the implements.

As if that is not enough, the Reserve Bank is also in the forefront of
funding and implementing another "Elect Mugabe" project; the so-called
National Transport Enhancement Programme under which Mugabe and his
surrogates are going round the country donating buses, 35 for each of the
country's 10 provinces.

What boggles one's mind is that Zimbabwe's rural transportation system
has always been a private enterprise affair and never before has the
government been required to provide buses.

Nobody knows who will administer the buses and under what statute. All
we know is that Mugabe said the buses will charge affordable fares, by whose
definition, we don't know.

But is a direct role by the RBZ necessary? Where is Gono getting the
money to embark on all these schemes, including a "Food for Votes" programme
that has gone awry as nobody wants to load the maize in Zambia.

But I digress. My issue is with the RBZ being on the forefront of an
election campaign on behalf of one candidate. This can only happen in

Journalists of my generation at Ziana - between 1992 and 2000 - will agree
that the best way to incur the wrath of the news agency's editors was to
submit a story without background, cross-references or with figures that did
not add up.
Being a student of some of Zimbabwe's best editors of that era, like Tarcey
Munaku, Ndaba "Ndasto" Nyoni and "Sekuru" Tambayi Nyika (may their souls
rest in peace), I cringe when I read some of the stories being churned out
from Zimbabwe, particularly at this time of elections.

Very few reporters - and editors - produce complete stories that would make
a reader understand an issue even if they have missed earlier accounts and I
find it very frustrating.

Coverage of the highly contentious presidential election is the case in
point here. Ruling Zanu PF candidate, President Robert Mugabe is quoted
extensively by both the government-owned and private press as he bashes his
opponents Dr. Simba Makoni and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change
leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.

We read that at almost every rally, Mugabe accuses Makoni and Tsvangirai of
being funded by British and American businesses. The Herald even published
names of companies alleged to be funding Makoni.

The reporters doing these stories may be young and without much knowledge of
what happened in the 1980s and 1990s, but their editors will definitely
recall that every election before 2000, Mugabe received public financial
donations (solicited and unsolicited) from mostly British individuals,
companies and organisations.

I recall vividly that in preparation of the 1996 presidential election,
Mugabe dispatched the late Eddison Zvobgo to go and fundraise in London, no
less. Zvobgo raised more than 1 Million Pounds from the likes of Tiny
Rowland and others.

I made several trips to London and other European destinations with Mugabe
as a presidential reporter. There were meetings with white businessmen,
which we would not be allowed to report on. I don't suppose Mugabe discussed
cricket with these men.

Lately, Tsvangirai has ganged up with Mugabe in accusing Makoni of being
funded by foreign "embassies" in Harare. This sounds to me like a jilted
lover venting on a rival suitor.

Was it not a few short years ago that Tsvangirai prided himself with being
seen in the company of the same diplomats and even travelling to their
countries to seek (and receive) endorsement and funding as the next
president of Zimbabwe.

Could it be that after failing to deliver in three attempts, his former
backers have decided to pursue a new and perhaps more acceptable option and
Tsvangirai is lashing out in bitterness?

Whatever the case, the point is that Zimbabwean press (and to a large extent
Diasporan and foreign press too) has been complicit in not being diligent
enough to provide this background and cross-referencing or balancing their

And the funding issue is not the only problem. There is the fact that Mugabe's
message at this year's election rallies is exactly the same as he delivered
at every other election campaign since the 1980s. He would give people land
and food, increase salaries of government workers and make sure "bad ol'
whitie" doesn't come back.

Yet, not a single reporter has raised this background in the thousands of
stories we read each election period. No effort is made to go to the people
and ask them if they ever received the things Mugabe promised them every
election period.

Then there is the issue of rally attendances. Last weekend when Makoni
addressed a rally at White City stadium in Bulawayo, depending on the
newspaper one read, the number of his audience ranged variously from 4,000
to 7,000. That's understandable.

Then this weekend, it was Tsvangirai's turn and the range was 12,000 to

I covered many rallies and other functions at White City stadium and unless
its carrying capacity was increased in the years that I have been away, I
know that there is no way 20,000 people can fit into White City; let alone
30,000 or 40,000 which is the capacity for Barbourfields or Rufaro.

Then there is the issue of generals who declare that they will not salute
any leader other than Mugabe. Why doesn't anybody tell these gentlemen the
truth that if Makoni or Tsvangirai are elected by the people of Zimbabwe, it
is a simple fact of military rules that they will perform a crisp salute to
their new Commander-In-Chief or else they will be court marshaled.

In any case, President Makoni or Tsvangirai will remove them from the
positions they hold now and replace them with generals befitting that rank.

These are just a few of many inadequacies I notice in reports from Zimbabwe
and I wish someone could ensure that we get backgrounded and balanced news.

Neglecting these ground rules of good journalism is, in itself, an act of
electoral fraud.

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Zim registration 'in shambles'


17/03/2008 11:59† - (SA)

Johannesburg - The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has
threatened to "make noise" if Zimbabwe did not resolve issues that will lead
to elections that are not "free and fair", Cosatu's secretary-general says.

Briefing the media at Cosatu House, Johannesburg, Zwelinzima Vavi and
Zimbabwean Congress of Trade Unions secretary-general Wellington Chibebe
criticised the voter registration and the voters roll as being in shambles.

"There is a lot of confusion in which wards people are expected to vote in.

"Having a comprehensive and accurate voters' roll should be considered as a
prerequisite for free and fair elections," Chibebe said.

Other matters discussed were the delimitation commission, the "arrogance" of
President Robert Mugabe after he announced the election date and the
Zimbabwe elections support network being barred from conducting voter

'Zanu-PF propaganda machinery'

The media in Zimbabwe also came under fire from Chibebe, who accused them of
being Zanu-PF propaganda machinery.

Chibebe also criticised Zanu-PF of vote-buying in a bid to gain voters.

"The government has doled out billions of Zim dollars to the members of the
armed forces as unsolicited loans. This is daylight vote-buying," he said.

Vavi said: "This tells us that the environment is not conducive in Zimbabwe.
The dice has already been cast in favour of the Zanu-PF and Mugabe. We'll
make our own noises to make sure these issues are sorted out in time to
allow for free and fair elections".

He also criticised the heads of armed services who recently announced that
should Morgan Tsvangirai or Simba Makoni win the March 29 election, they
would not salute them as they regarded them as "traitors of the revolution.

"This sends a message that people should vote for the current chaos to avoid
bloodshed. The Sadec governments should warn these generals against
interfering with people's right to choose".

He said Cosatu would apply to be allowed to send election observers to

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Election Observers Still Not Visible Around the Country

SW Radio Africa (London)

17 March 2008
Posted to the web 17 March 2008

Tichaona Sibanda

With just twelve days to go before the crucial general elections on the 29th
March, none of the observer missions in the country have left the Harare

Professor Elphas Mukonoweshuro, secretary for International Affairs in the
Tsvangirai led MDC, said the only mission they have seen so far was the one
from SADC, which was based in the capital Harare.

'They've not been visible anyway else from all over the country. They seem
to be concentrating on top class hotels and then making short distance
forays into the country around Harare,' Mukonoweshuro said.

The government has also only invited observers from countries that they
consider to be 'friendly' to the ruling party. Western countries have been
barred from sending observer missions.

'We are not happy at all that the so-called observer missions have not
established themselves firmly on the ground. They are not visible at all,
whether this is a strategy that would benefit Mugabe remains anybody's
guess,' he said.

Most observers in the country have so far not been critical of the electoral
process, which is heavily skewed in favour of Zanu-PF. With less than two
weeks to go, the Zimbabwe Election Commission has yet to make public, the
newly demarcated constituency boundaries.

'People are working on assumptions. We are only guessing as to where the
boundaries are, but people still don't know where to go and cast their votes
because we haven't been told by ZEC. These are the issues the election
observers should be looking at and not confining themselves to Harare,'
Mukonoweshuro said.

He added; 'I guess when they said they are inviting those from friendly
countries this is what they meant, people who turn deaf and blind the moment
they step foot into the country.'

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Businesses Interrogated By Joint Operations Chiefs

SW Radio Africa (London)

17 March 2008
Posted to the web 17 March 2008

Tererai Karimakwenda

The ruling party is reported to be very concerned about losing the March
elections and has resorted to desperate tactics to intimidate opposition
officials and supporters. Business people suspected of funding the
opposition or providing resources for their campaigns, are also being
targeted. With the entrance of Simba Makoni into the presidential race, his
supporters have also become targets, just as MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai

The Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR) recently revealed that
several retailers and other top business people were summoned to a meeting
at the offices of Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono on March 4th. These
suppliers of basic commodities were surprised to find that the meeting had
been convened by the Joint Operations Command, not the RBZ.

Chaired by the army commander-in-chief, General Constantine Chiwenga, the
JOC was put together by Mugabe to make crucial decisions during this
political crisis. It is comprised of military, police, intelligence and
prison chiefs, and they are believed to be even more powerful than the

Present at the meeting were Godwills Masimirembwa, head of the National
Incomes and Pricing Commission and JOC members in full military uniform.
They interrogated the business leaders, first accusing them of defying price
controls introduced by Mugabe last year.

Then the accusations turned to political activity. The JOC alleged that the
businesses were funding presidential candidate Simba Makoni's election
campaign. Chiwenga had with him files of bank statements, deposit slips and
surveillance reports. Individually the businesses were grilled about why
there were shortages in their shops and why they had not applied for foreign
currency to buy the scarce goods or necessary inputs from the Reserve Bank.
It appears the JOC had much miscellaneous information about each business.

One of the business managers interrogated was National Foods managing
director Jeremy Brooke. He insisted he had sold flour at the official price
and defended himself. His arguments enraged Air-Vice Marshall Henry Muchena
who ordered him to leave. Brooks was arrested later that week and spent
several days in detention.

Shingi Munyeza, chief executive of the Zimbabwe Sun Leisure Group, was
interrogated at a separate meeting at the RBZ about his alleged support for
Makoni. A source at the RBZ is quoted as saying he was told to stop
financing Makoni "or else".

The IWPR report also noted other situations that are linked to ZANU-PF
paranoia. It alleges that two car retailers were ordered to stop all sales
until after the elections, so that Makoni's campaign team has no access to
vehicles. There are also fuel supplies that have been reserved just for
ZANU-PF campaigners. The IWPR also reported that all printing companies were
booked up by ZANU-PF, forcing the MDC to turn to South Africa to get its
election literature printed.

Mcdonald Lewanika, spokesperson for the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said
this intimidation of businesses is not new. He confirmed that intimidation
is rife and much of it is occurring behind closed doors. He said the
government's reaction is a sign that they are running scared.

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WOZA Took the 'Stand Up for your Child' Campaign to Communities in Harare and Chitungwiza on Saturday

SW Radio Africa (London)
17 March 2008
Posted to the web 17 March 2008

Members of WOZA and MOZA held four community-based protests in Harare and
Chitungwiza, taking to the streets of Domboramwari, Glen View, Kuwadzana and
Makoni Shopping Centre in Chitungwiza.

In Domboramwari, 100 women and men marched from the main water point to the
shopping centre, carrying balloons that read 'Stand Up for Your Child' and
handing out flyers urging people to vote in the coming elections. The group
chanted slogans in the shopping centre for some time before dispersing
without incident.

In Chitungwiza, approximately 150 people marched several hundred metres to
Makoni Shopping Centre, again handing out flyers and generating much
excitement from the Saturday-morning shoppers. The song being sung in Shona
by the marchers was, our children want food,
schooling - police, if you harass them, we will be on your backs.

In Glen View, a group of approximately 50 people began marching from Glen
View 3 Shopping Centre. It soon became clear however that the balloons and
the flyers being handed out, which include children's games, were causing
great excitement amongst the children in the area and many children rushed
to join in the procession. As more and more joined in, it was decided to
disperse the procession before it reached the agreed end point as there were
concerns for the welfare
of the children should police approach.

The final demonstration of the day was held in Kuwadzana where about 75
women and men marched for several hundred metres to Kuwadzana Shopping
Centre. Again the peaceful group, with its carnival atmosphere, attracted
great attention from shoppers in the market and in the centre. Bicycle
police were observed attending the scene shortly after the crowd dispersed.
The song being sung in Shona by the marchers was a duet by WOZA and MOZA.
The song depicted a child asking their parent to pay school fees and both
parents saying there was no money, with the father saying he only had enough
money for one pint of beer.

The peaceful protests were to urge people to 'Stand up for your Child' and
to encourage Zimbabweans to vote and to vote wisely for candidates that will
deliver a future for the children. WOZA has taken a position to mobilise
Zimbabweans to vote for any candidate that they feel will deliver social
justice rather than follow blindly party loyalties. The Zimbabwe Republic
Police in clear contravention of their powers under the new Public Order
Security Act (POSA), banned toyi-toying yet did not seem to pay too much
undue notice to the peaceful WOZA demonstrations.

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MDC threatens to put Gono on trial

New Zimbabwe

By Torby Chimhashu
Last updated: 03/18/2008 01:43:53
ZIMBABWE'S opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) warned Sunday
that it would investigate central bank governor Gideon Gono through a Truth
and Justice Commission (TJC) for allegedly abetting human rights violations
if it wins elections on March 29.

MDC secretary general Tendai Biti told thousands of supporters gathered at a
football stadium in Masvingo that Gono was the "epicentre of Zanu PF's
terror machine".

"We will definitely investigate Gono," Biti said. "When our leadership and
pro-democracy activists were bludgeoned, brutalised and Gift Tandare died on
March 11, Gono was financing the police. He bought them food from Nandos
everyday and gave them $1 million each during this bloody operation.

"On March 26, 2007, when Last Maingahama was abducted by the Central
Intelligence Organisation (CIO) operatives during the memorial of Tandare at
the Northside Community Church in Borrowdale, Gono was a willing partner. He
bought 12 Triton cars for the CIO, two which were used to snatch Maingahama.

"Gono financed Operation Murambatsvina in 2005. Now two weeks before the
election, he is aiding Zanu PF to buy votes through the distribution of
tractors and farm implements.

"He has found himself at the epicentre of Zanu PF's terror machine and has
placed himself squarely and wholly in the regime's power retention scheme
where he is participating capriciously."

On March 11, 2007, police shot and killed MDC activist Tandare during a
procession organised by churches in Highfield.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and civic society leaders were severely
assaulted, prompting the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to
convene an emergency meeting where it resolved to appoint South African
President Thabo Mbeki to mediate in talks aimed at resolving the political
crisis in Zimbabwe.

The talks later collapsed at the very last minute when disagreements emerged
after both factions of the MDC and Zanu PF differed on a transitional
constitution which it was hoped would govern and set the conditions for the
March 29 elections.

Biti said the TJC was important to "heal the wounds" and help Zimbabwe move

He said: "There are some wounds which are difficult to heal. There shall be
gnashing of teeth. There is going to be reason for panic and fear for those
who looted public funds and aided Zanu PF terror. We ask Gono, where are you
going to be when we come asking for you? Will your name be there in the

"We will come knocking at the doors of those that killed thousands in the
Midlands and Matabeleland. These are scars and wounds that are difficult to
heal without a Justice Commission."

Biti took aim at the central bank chief for engaging in quasi-fiscal
activities which he said were responsible for the runaway inflation.

He brandished Gono "an economic saboteur, terrorist and number one Al Qaeda"
who deserved to be shot by a firing squad.

Later in Chiredzi, the Harare lawyer told supporters crammed into the
rain-washed Tshovane Stadium that Nordic countries had pledged US$6 billion
to an MDC government for the country's reconstruction.

This followed his visit to Sweden, Denmark and Norway last month.

Biti said: "We need to vote in numbers and reclaim our dignity. Already our
friends in the Nordic countries have pledged to release US$6 billion. This
money will come in the form of grants.

"However, there is one thing that an MDC government isn't going to do: we
won't pay Zanu PF debt especially on arms. That we won't do."

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Abramovich in talks to buy Zimbabwe coal mine

New Zimbabwe

By Staff Reporter
Last updated: 03/17/2008 20:46:39
CHELSEA Footall Club owner and Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has
opened talks over buying Hwange Colliery Mine - Zimbabwe's biggest coal
producer located in the remote western tip of the country.

Abramovich took a helicopter ride to the mine on Tuesday last week after
checking himself into the Elephant Hills hotel in nearby Victoria Falls,
local media reported.

The oil magnate, considered the 15th richest man in the world with a
personal fortune of about US$23,5 billion (£11,75 billion), was accompanied
by an entourage of 15 bodyguards after flying into Zimbabwe on his private

He left the country on Thursday last week after a sight-seeing tour of the
Victoria Falls and the statue of David Livingstone - the first westerner to
discover the majestic falls.

A take-over of the coal mine will see Abramovich also gaining control of
Hwange Football Club which was relegated from Zimbabwe's top division last

The state-run Herald newspaper reported on Saturday that Abramovich had
taken a site tour of the mine. Quoting sources at the mine, the paper said
"mine management are happy that initial indications have pointed to a
possible deal". The deal is said to involve a Zimbabwean bank.

The Zimbabwe government currently owns 40% of Hwange Colliery Company
(formerly known as Wankie Colliery Company), but is seeking to sell its
interest to potential investors.

Hwange provides Zimbabwe's energy needs, with 72% of the coal mined from its
coal fields going directly towards the generation of electricity at Hwange
Power Station.

In 2004, Hwange failed to open its new Main Underground Mine due to a
shortage of funds. The opening of the new underground mine - with a life
span of 25 years - had been planned for June 2004 but was suspended when the
company failed to raise US$25 million.

If Abramovich can take control of the Colliery Company, the recapitalisation
could help the company meet its production capacity. Currently, the company
is only meeting 52 percent of the national demand.

Against a national demand for coal of around 380,000 tonnes per month,
Hwange is managing a meagre 197,300 tonnes which it is supplying to
Zimbabwean companies. This leaves a shortfall of 182,700 tonnes every month.

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The true cost of living in Zim

Mail and Guardian
17 March 2008 06:00
The death rate for children under five in Zimbabwe has almost doubled over the past decade. (Photo: AP)
The numbers ceased to mean much to Sarah Chekani about the time inflation in Zimbabwe surged past 50†000% late last year. It has doubled again since then, to the alarm of Robert Mugabe heading into this month's presidential election. But that hardly matters to Chekani and others like her who survive in an orbit touched only fleetingly by cash or the spiralling exchange rate.

Nor do the other numbers that the central bank governor has called "an economic HIV" -- half the population living on $1 a day, 80% unemployment and 45% of Zimbabweans malnourished -- mean much when what you are worried about is your own young children.

To Chekani (31) the figures now only represent desperation and death; one death in particular, but also the fear that more might follow.

"I try not to eat too much so there is enough food for my children, but even if I ate nothing there wouldn't be enough," she said. "I didn't think it was possible that people could starve in Zimbabwe or just die because the hospital has nothing. That's what we thought happened in Angola and Mozambique."

Chekani's home in Highfield, a crowded township on the edge of Harare, is bare. There are no chairs, only cloths on the floor. No bed, just a mattress for her and the two remaining children, boys of seven and eight.

She has a gas hob but no oven, and the only decoration is a print of Jesus Christ -- a white man with a golden halo.

It wasn't always this way. Chekani and her husband were relatively poor, but his labours as a casual construction worker and her trading in secondhand clothes filled their three-roomed home with the things that marked rising living standards in Zimbabwe after independence: a radio and then a television, a couch, armchairs, a bed.

Then, five years ago, shortly after the birth of her only daughter, Chekani's husband died. She says she doesn't know why -- he just got sicker, and nothing could save him.

By then, his work had dried up as the economy crashed under Mugabe's maladministration, and they were selling off their belongings to those who still had means. The television fetched enough money to feed the family for a month. The bed went for almost nothing. Chekani even sold off most of her plates and cutlery, keeping only what the family needed for a meal.

With the money she did what large numbers of Zimbabweans are doing to survive: she bought up basic foods, keeping some for her family and making a small profit from the rest. There is almost nothing left in the house to sell, but Chekani gets by.

Her latest acquisition is two litres of cooking oil, which she sells at a pavement stall, five tablespoons at a time, in return for a handful of near-worthless notes. Other women are selling bars of soap by the slice and flour by the cup.

Chekani's trading kept her children alive until last November. Then her five-year-old daughter fell sick with diarrhoea and fever. Chekani hesitated to take her to Highfield's government clinic because charges have risen several times over, but as the child's condition worsened she carried her there.

The nurse said there was nothing she could do. There were no antibiotics to treat the child's condition. All she could offer was a spoonful of syrup to help bring her temperature down.

"The nurse said she was sure she would be fine. She said lots of children were coming in with diarrhoea because of the sewers," said Chekani.

Burst sewer lines are increasingly common in Highfield and other Harare townships as the infrastructure collapses from lack of maintenance. On occasion, groups of women with babies strapped to their backs have marched to Highfield clinic to demand treatment for their children, sick from the filthy water.

The situation is not helped by months without clean water in the taps in most of Harare. Even residents of wealthy suburbs are collecting water in buckets and jerry cans from borehole-stand pipes. Swimming pools are now mostly used for water to flush toilets.

Chekani's child did not get better. "I took her back to the clinic three times," she said, "but every time they said that she would get better soon if I give her food and lots of water -- that it was just the fever and there was nothing they could do because they had no drugs.

"I thought about taking her to the Harare central hospital, but it costs so much money and people said things are no better there. I just hoped." A week later the child was dead.

The death rate for children under five in Zimbabwe has almost doubled over the past decade. So has the number of women dying in childbirth because, doctors say, so many more are giving birth at home because they can no longer afford hospital charges.

There is a desperate shortage of vaccines to protect children from measles and other diseases. Thanks to foreign donations, some of those with HIV get antiretroviral drugs to keep full-blown Aids at bay, but most who need them do not, and the supply is often irregular, which undermines their effectiveness.

The biggest government hospital in Harare, the Parirenyatwa, has ceased operations because of the shortages. The two hospitals share a single radiologist because so many medical staff have decamped to South Africa or Europe to find work that can feed their families.

That is not an option for Chekani. "I don't know what to do if my other children get sick. Where can we go? The hospital tells you to buy the drugs yourself, but where do I get the money?" she said. "Some people say this election will change things. I don't know. I don't have hope. It will not bring back the dead." -

Mugabe: We're facing food crisis
Robert Mugabe has, for the first time, admitted that Zimbabwe faces a grave food crisis amid the collapse of the country's agriculture. But he blamed it on "racist" Britain trying to oust him at this month's presidential election.

Responding to pleas at a campaign rally in Plumtree, in the province of Matabeleland South, Mugabe accepted there was a crisis. "There is hunger in the country and a shortage of food," he said, according to the state-run Sunday Mail newspaper. Mugabe promised to speed up food imports, which have so far met only a fraction of the country's needs.

The World Food Programme (WFP) says 45% of Zimbabweans are suffering chronic malnourishment because of "poor agricultural policies and a declining economy". The WFP feeds about 2,5-million people and other agencies are providing food to about one million. But large numbers of people are surviving on far fewer calories than they need, leaving them vulnerable to illnesses, particularly the large proportion of the population with HIV at risk of developing Aids.

The government promised "the mother of all agricultural seasons" this year after repeated crop failures.

But agriculture has again been hit by the weather, compounded by a fall in production since the redistribution of white-owned farms to black farmers. The situation has been worsened by a shortage of fertilisers because of a lack of currency for imports, and frequent power cuts that have hit irrigation.

Overall food production has fallen by about 70%. -- © Guardian News & Media Ltd 2008

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Zimbabwe Police Chief's Statement Condemned


By Peter Clottey
Washington, D.C.
17 March 2008

Opposition parties in Zimbabwe have condemned as unfortunate a statement by
the country's chief of police suggesting that the opposition would not be
allowed to rule the country ahead of this month's general elections. Police
Commissioner Augustine Chihuri reportedly accused the opposition of being
stooges of the west who he claims supports the sanctions against the
Zimbabwe, which is blamed for the country's economic crisis. Professor John
Makumbe is a political science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe. From
the capital, Harare he tells reporter Peter Clottey that Chihuri's rhetoric
is no news.

"It's a normal thing. He does that in every election, and nobody pays him
any meaningful attention to it because it is really a wishful thinking on
his part. In the past years actually since he said he is a member of Mugabe's
party, ZANU-PF. And he has said if the opposition wins the elections he
would resign. It is an intimidating tactic, but people would go and vote not
because they want the police commissioner to stay or the director general of
the police service who has also said the same thing, but because they want
change or they want good governance. And so people will not pay any
attention to that. It is an intimidating tactic," Makumbe noted.

He said the police commissioner's rhetoric could have a negative effect on
the March 29 elections.

"Oh it definitely does. It therefore creates an environment where free and
fair elections cannot be argued to occur. And so it is unfortunate, and that
is a typical statement by people within ZANU-PF that they would not tolerate
opposition political party winning an election and taking over from them
because they liberated the country. And so free and fair elections are now
really foreclosed," he said.

Makumbe said there is a strong possibility this month's general elections
would not be credible enough to be internationally acceptable.

"No it is not possible that the people in Zimbabwe are also aware that
whereas in other countries public servants are supposed to be apolitical,
and they are not supposed to dabble in political statements and efforts to
intimidate the public in Zimbabwe. Those who don't give statements
condemning opposition political players run the risk of losing their jobs
after the ruling party has won the election, they are very likely to be
demoted or fired or reassigned. And so the people know that. So free and
fair elections would not be possible anymore under this current
†environment," Makumbe pointed out.

He said although the odds are stacked against the opposition, they stand a
strong chance of winning the March 29 elections.

"They still have a chance. Free and fair elections will normally give a true
reflection of the people's wishes about the choices of their leaders. But
even under unfree and unfair elections, opposition political parties can
still win," he said.

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Biodiesel plant

Dear Sirs

In December 2007 [see† ]you kindly published a
letter from me relating to some of the issues in producing diesel fuel from
jatropha seed in the new plant built with Korean assistance.

It was therefore with great interest that I read in your pages on 14th March
of the announcements made by Gideon Gono as reported in the Financial
Gazette.† In this it was reported that Mr Gono said that "The bio-diesel
plant now produces as much as 25 000 tonnes of the product per month. As
much as 100 000 tonnes of diesel are here today, perhaps a small step
forward but a giant forward leap for our economy."

Assuming that the statement was correctly reported by Fingaz, then Mr Gono
is either very badly advised or else is just distorting the truth.† The
plant has a capacity of 100 million litres of product per year which is a
little under 100,000 tons.† So I don't understand how the plant is already
producing diesel at three times it's design capacity.† After all 25,000 tons
per month is equivalent to over 300 million litres!† Or put another way
about 30% of the country's entire requirement for diesel.

Further, in the same article it states that new farmers have put 10,000
hectares into jatropha production out of a target of 40,000 hectares.† The
problem here is that close to 60,000 hectares of jatropha would be required,
in optimal conditions, to support 100 million litres of production.† So
about 180,000 hectares of jatropha production employing around 50,000
workers to produce enough raw material to produce 25,000 tons of diesel in a
month even if the plant could produce this much -which it can't.

So, as mentioned above, one can only conclude that this statement by Mr Gono
is at best erroneous or, more likely, wishful thinking - or maybe even just
pre-election hype.

Yours faithfully

Richard Marshall, France

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Britain must walk a tight rope on Zimbabwe election

Nehanda Radio

16 March 2008

By Blessing-Miles Tendi

Since 2000, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe government has cast the Zimbabwe crisis
as a struggle by Britain, an ex-colonial power, to re-colonise its former
colony by supporting and funding the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) party.

Britain has blindly walked into Mugabe's anti-colonial trap consistently,
which has exposed Zimbabwe's internal opposition to harmful labels such as
'sell-outs to the imperialists'.

Britain has expressed its frustration with Southern African leaders'
unwillingness to censure Mugabe publicly and to force him into retirement. A
number of factors explain Southern African leaders' stance on Mugabe and
chief among them is that for a long time the MDC was distrusted by regional
leaders and perceived as sell-outs to new-imperialism.

Britain bore responsibility for this false perception of the opposition in
Zimbabwe because its anti-Mugabe stance made Zimbabwe's opposition easy prey
for Mugabe's anti-colonial constructions. Britain is partly responsible for
the failure of a democratic
opposition to replace the undemocratic Mugabe in elections since 2000.

Mugabe has also proved adroit at articulating British double standards on
global human rights promotion to bolster his refutation of Western criticism
of his government's human rights record. Britain dilutes its moral authority
when it calls for its national cricket team to boycott tours of Zimbabwe
because of the country's poor human rights record but remains silent when
its national team tours Pakistan, which is also a grave human rights

Britain's condemnations and targeted sanctions against the Mugabe government
would command more moral authority if the same human rights standards were
applied everywhere evenly. Failure to apply human rights standards evenly
results in staunch claims to sovereignty in the non-Western world. The
danger lies in the fact that some of these claims are merely pretexts for
internal repression - something Mugabe is guilty of.

After Britain's involvement in the illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq its moral
authority is at its lowest ebb internationally. Thus, it is breathtakingly
naÔve for the Foreign Secretary David Milliband to insist, as he did in
Oxford this month, that despite Britain's failures in Iraq, Britain has 'a
moral duty' to intervene in undemocratic countries - and by force if
necessary - in order to spread democracy internationally.

Very few countries still look up to Britain as a champion of human rights
and democracy, and none in Southern Africa will countenance its involvement
in their internal affairs. 'We are tired of being lectured on democracy by
the very countries which, under colonialism, either directly denied us the
rights of free citizens, or were indifferent to our suffering and yearnings
to break free and be democratic' - remember these utterances by the
Tanzanian government, one of Britain's favoured donor recipients in Southern
Africa, in 2004?

Britain has, as a starting premise, the logic that its modern day standing
as a developed democracy automatically confers the moral authority to
censure what it considers to be less democratic countries such as Zimbabwe.
But its flawed history of intervention and interference in Zimbabwe has left
it with little or no moral credibility there. Britain granted Rhodesia's
white settler community 'responsible self-government' in 1923.

However, the country remained a British colony and Britain retained the
right to veto legislation affecting the black African majority. Rhodesia's
white minority passed various laws that subjected the blacks to treatment as
subhuman. Not once did Britain exercise its veto power to strike down
Rhodesia's dehumanising and racist laws.

In 1965, Rhodesia severed ties with the British crown by declaring the
Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI). Britain was called upon to use
military force to rein in the rebellious UDI government's perpetuation of
white minority rule. Prime Minister Harold Wilson ruled out the use of

He chose to impose sanctions and declared that the UDI government would
survive the sanctions for no more than 6 weeks. Rhodesia weathered the
sanctions until black majority rule was attained in 1980, after a peace
settlement a year earlier, which brought to an end one of the most bloody
and bitterly fought liberation wars in Africa.

In the 1980s, Britain venerated Mugabe while he massacred 20000 civilians in
Zimbabwe's Matabeleland province. The reason? According to Roger Martin,
Deputy British High Commissioner to Zimbabwe (1983-86), 'no British
government wanted a couple of hundred thousand British citizens appearing
with cardboard suitcases at Heathrow, the sudden expulsion of whites if we
had pulled the rug on the aid [to Zimbabwe] and as it were denounced Mugabe
[for the massacres].'

In spite of assurances Britain made to the Mugabe government at
independence, to fund the redress of racially biased land distribution in
Zimbabwe, in 1997 it declared that it did not accept 'a special
responsibility to meet the costs of land purchase in Zimbabwe'. 3 years
later a violent programme of land seizures from white farmers without
compensation began to unfold.

Zimbabwe is what it is economically today partly because of these land
Foreign Secretary Milliband has called for international monitoring of
Zimbabwe's 2008 elections, saying conditions for the poll are 'far from free
and fair'. But Britain should be the last to speak out and it should desist
from prejudging the forthcoming elections publicly because this is exactly
what Mugabe wants Britain to do. Already, Mugabe has said his party's 2008
election campaign will focus on resisting Britain's regime change agenda in

Mugabe has set his anti-colonial trap for Britain and if Milliband's
comments are anything to go by, Britain is walking into it once again.
Britain would better serve the struggle for democracy and human rights in
Zimbabwe by taking a back seat in the country's elections next month because
it has no moral authority in Southern Africa. Groupings such as the European
Union and the Southern African Development Community should take the lead
not Britain because it risks aiding Mugabe's re-election bid.

* Blessing-Miles Tendi is a researcher at Oxford University.

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Libyan leader praises Zimbabwe president Mugabe

International Herald Tribune

The Associated PressPublished: March 17, 2008

KAMPALA, Uganda: Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe should be allowed to stay
in power until he dies and not be "disturbed" by elections, Libyan leader
Moammar Gadhafi said Monday.

Mugabe, 84, faces his biggest electoral challenge later this month since
independence from Britain in 1980, as his country struggles with an economic

Gadhafi, who was visiting Uganda this week, said Mugabe and Ugandan
President Yoweri Museveni "should stay in power until they have solved all
the problems in their countries or die while still in power."

"They should not be disturbed by elections because former colonial states
want Africa to adopt their system of governance which is not viable here,"
he added.

Zimbabwe experiences chronic shortages of gasoline, food and other basic
goods, and the official inflation is by far the highest in the world at
100,500 percent.

Mugabe blames the economic crisis on sanctions imposed by its former
colonial ruler and its Western allies to protest violations of human and
democratic rights and the often violent seizures of thousands of white-owned
farms that disrupted agricultural production in the former regional
breadbasket since 2000.
Elections in 2002 and 2005 won by Mugabe's ruling party were marred by
administrative chaos, allegations of vote rigging, irregularities in voters'
lists and charges that violence and political intimidation influenced

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MDC's claims on Mbeki's mediation slammed


March 17, 2008, 16:15

Zimbabwe's ambassador to South Africa today criticised the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) for claiming that President Thabo Mbeki
had not been an "honest broker".

Mbeki had undertaken mediation efforts between the MDC and the ruling
Zanu-PF to the best of his abilities and his efforts had been "courageous
and fruitful", Simon Khaya Moyo told Parliament's portfolio committee on
foreign affairs.

He was briefing the committee ahead of his country's March 29 elections. "It
now comes as more of a shocker than anything else, in fact amounting to
arrogance and disrespect, for the MDC to make the trip to South Africa to
announce that President Mbeki has not been an honest broker."

Referring to the state of campaigning in the country, Moyo said it was "so
peaceful, so beautiful, it's fantastic".

He gave the committee an overview of arrangements and preparations for the
elections and addressed "unfounded concerns" about the country's electoral
commission. Moyo railed against a "massive media campaign" being waged by
western nations and blamed his country's woes on "comprehensive sanctions"
and "external interference".

Media control
Former Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon said Moyo's remarks required the
suspension of disbelief and called his presentation "very one-sided and

Meanwhile, Moyo says the Zimbabwean government remains unapologetic for its
tight screening of journalists and other observers in its upcoming

There's an outcry over the decision not to allow observer missions and media
from the west. The government says western observer missions have already
determined the credibility of the election.

"They have said it already, so why come? You've got your verdict, you've
already written your report before coming so why come? We are not apologetic
about anything," says Moyo.

Party agents will sit in during the vote counting process, but some
parliamentarians remain sceptical. - Additional reporting by Sapa

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Mutharika transports food stuffs to Zimbabwe

Nyasa Times

Josh Ashaz on 17 March, 2008 11:29:00

Malawi President Bingu Mutharika whose country is facing acute food
shortages is illegally sending food stuffs to the neighbouring Zimbabwe, a
country facing serious economic hardships, Nyasa Times can reveal.

The food stuffs are meant for his Zimbabwean counterpart Robert Mugabe and
relatives of the former deceased First Lady, Ethel Mutharika.

The late First Lady was a Zimbabwean national and because of this, Mutharika
and Mugabe have developed close ties.

These weekly food stuff supplies being undertaken by Mutharika are being
paid for from Malawi's state coffers. Malawi is one of the poorest countries
in the world.

According to our State House sources, the latest truck carrying food stuffs
destined for Harare left Malawi on Sunday the 16th of March 2008 from
Lilongwe State House via Biliwiri border post in Dedza.

Our impeccable sources say the truck, a Volvo registration number BN 8100
left Lilongwe at 4.00am on Sunday.

State House driver, a Mr Bandawe, is driving the truck carrying food stuffs
that include among many others maize, flour, beans, fish and sugar.

A State House security person a Mr Mpina is accompanying Bandawe on the

The sources further disclosed that the two vehicle journey to deliver the
food stuffs in Zimbabwe is being led by State House deputy Chief of Staff Dr
Bruce Munthali.

Dr Muthali is driving a Toyota 4X4 vehicle registration number MG256 W.

Our sources say that there is a standing agreement between President
Mutharika and President Mugabe to supply him with food stuffs almost every

Because of this agreement, Mutharika has also decided to support relatives
of his late wife through the arrangement.

Police and Malawi Revenue Authority officials at Biliwiri border post
confirmed to Nyasa Times clearing the two vehicles early Sunday morning.

Our State House sources say the trips to deliver food stuffs in Zimbabwe are
done every weekend on Saturdays/Sundays and drivers and security personnel
from State House do shifts on these arrangements.

As President Mutharika is feeding Mugabe, Malawians are suffering through
the hunger that has gripped the nation after another 400,000 metric tonnes
of the country's strategic maize reserves were also sold to Zimbabwe mid
last year.

Now, in almost all state owned Admarc selling depots, there are long queues
of people waiting to buy the country's staple food, which is now in

As a result of these shortages, government is rationing the maize only
selling 25 Kilograms per family or in some situations even 15 Kilograms.

An average Malawian family consists of nearly five members or more and the
rationing is far from satisfying this huge demand

In recent weeks, some of the local media in Malawi has reported of some
people dying from hunger related illnesses in some parts of Malawi.

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Ex-SA spy boss accused of coup-cash lobbying

From The Daily Dispatch (SA), 17 March

New questions were raised at the weekend about the relationship between the
South African intelligence community and the plotters of the botched attempt
to overthrow the dictator of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, the United Kingdom's
Sunday Times reported in London yesterday. The paper alleged that, according
to a document seen by them, the former director-general of the National
Intelligence Agency (NIA), Billy Masetlha, an ally of South Africa's
presidential frontrunner Jacob Zuma, allegedly received R3.1 million (E252
000) in a Swiss bank account in January 2004 to lobby for governmental
support for British mercenary Simon Mann. This weekend, Masetlha dismissed
the allegations as "complete rubbish". The allegations came in a report that
Mann, the former British Special Air Service (SAS) officer who led the
so-called 2004 "wonga coup", could be allowed to serve his prison sentence
in Britain instead of at the infamous Black Beach jail in Equatorial Guinea.
Government sources in the tiny west African state said President Teodoro
Obiang Nguema had raised the possibility of Mann's transfer with diplomats
at a recent meeting in the capital, Malabo. He had told them he wanted
better relations with Britain and suggested that his foreign minister should
visit London to discuss the case.

Obiang was willing to consider allowing Mann to be transferred to prison in
Britain once the 55 year old had been tried and sentenced by a special court
in Malabo. Such a move would be welcomed by Mann's family and friends.
Obiang's government has been described by human rights groups as among the
worst abusers in Africa. The sources said Obiang had linked Mann's fate to
bringing oil tycoon Ely Calil to trial in Malabo. The Lebanese Calil, who is
based in London and Paris, has previously been accused of being one of the
principal financiers of the failed coup but has always denied it. Last week,
in a television interview from Black Beach Prison, Mann publicly admitted
his own involvement in the plot and identified Calil as the "main man"
behind the attempt to topple Obiang. If somebody wanted to do him a favour
they "could put a pair of handcuffs on Calil and chuck him on an aeroplane"
to Malabo, he said. Calil responded with a statement in which he said he
sympathised with Mann's predicament, but added: "I confirm that I had no
involvement in or responsibility for the alleged coup."

Mann also confirmed that Mark Thatcher, the son of former British prime
minister Margaret Thatcher, had been "part of the (coup) team". Thatcher was
convicted for his role in the plot and fined in South Africa. The sources
said Obiang believed that Calil, who was brought up in Nigeria and made his
fortune trading in oil in Africa, was involved in several attempted coups
against the secretive oil-rich dictatorship. Obiang wanted Britain to help
bring Calil to trial. Mann also spoke to Britain's Mail on Sunday newspaper,
insisting in an interview that he was hired only to provide security for
Equatorial Guinea rebel leader Severo Moto. Mann said Moto's supporters were
supposed to secure Malabo and arrest Obiang. "We expected to land and shake
hands, not fight. How did anyone ever imagine that 80 men and me were just
going to rock up here at an international airport with brand new weapons and
equipment that hadn't been tested and miraculously organise a takeover of a
country," Mann was quoted as saying. He was arrested with 70 others when
their plane arrived in Zimbabwe in 2004 to collect weapons bought from
Zimbabwe's state arms manufacturer. They were found with uniforms identical
to those of Obiang's presidential guard.

Mann said as a member of the British army's elite SAS he learned that to
provide security for a very important person, 80 people were needed - 40 on
duty and 40 off duty. "For however brave people think I am, I am not that
brave - or stupid. We were simply going to be Moto's bodyguard," he was
quoted as saying. "That's why there were 80 of us." Equatorial Guinea
alleges that Mann's friend, Thatcher, commissioned the bid to overthrow
Obiang's 29-year regime and install Moto as the leader of Africa's number
three oil producer. Thatcher has denied the claim. The alleged coup plot's
leader, South African arms dealer Nick Du Toit, has been sentenced to 34
years in prison in Equatorial Guinea. Mann said money provided some
motivation for the plotters, but that his primary goal was to help the
people of Equatorial Guinea. Obiang seized power in Equatorial Guinea in an
August 3, 1979 coup. His country, which commands enormous oil reserves, is
considered to be among Africa's worst violators of human rights.

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International PR Firm Turned Down Mugabe Contract

SW Radio Africa (London)

17 March 2008
Posted to the web 17 March 2008

Lance Guma

As the country's economy collapses with record inflation, shortages of
essential commodities, fuel and water it has emerged that Mugabe's regime
wanted to pour money on a PR campaign, run by a British company.
International public relations firm Bell Pottinger is reported to have
declined a contract to represent the Zimbabwean government and help build
it's international image. An article on the 'PR Weekly' website said company
Chairman Peter Bingle made the admission to a UK parliamentary committee
inquiry into the lobbying industry.

Bingle says they were approached to 'advise Zimbabwe' but that they declined
the offer. Explaining how they operate, Bingle told the committee that every
time the agency is approached by an overseas client 'we would talk to the
foreign office, take a view, look at whether we would want to work for that
type of country or company.'

The revelations will no doubt expose the desperation of Mugabe's regime in
trying to spruce up its image, which has been dented by it's very poor human
rights record. Mugabe has long blamed Britain for the problems in the
country but his government had no qualms about approaching a UK company for
help. Bell Pottinger is one of the largest public relations companies in the
United Kingdom and represents big companies and individuals like
MacDonald's, Imperial Tobacco, and former Thai Prime Minister and Manchester
City football club owner Thaksin Shinawatra. The company earned over £34
million in 1999 and £3 million of this was from political lobbying.

Mugabe's regime has never been shy of splashing out money on PR campaigns.
Last year there were reports the government spent over US$1 million on a
propaganda supplement in the New African Magazine.

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Zimbabwean journalist to appear in court

17th Mar 2008 17:25 GMT

By David Baxter

MUTARE - Sydney Saize, a journalist based in this eastern border city, will
next month appear before the magistrate courts facing charges of practicing
journalism without accreditation from the government regulating body.

Saize is alleged to have had worked as a journalist without being accredited
by the Tafataona Mahoso Media and Information Commission (MIC) which has
since been renamed Zimbabwe Media Commission.

Saize, 34, was arrested in January 2006 at the Aloe Park in the city after
he was caught allegedly gathering news on behalf of Studio 7, a Washington
DC-based radio station that broadcasts daily into Zimbabwe.

Several Zimbabwean journalists work for Studio 7, a radio station based in
the United States capital. The radio station broadcasts on short-wave and
beams news about Zimbabwe on a daily basis.

While a good number of Zimbabwean journalists are based in Washington DC
working for Studio 7, the radio station has several correspondents operating
within Zimbabwe. Most of them contribute stories under pseudonyms.

After his arrest, Saize was detained for three days at Mutare Central Police
Station and released pending a court appearance.

His trial date has now been set for 22 April 2008.

According to the police, Saize violated Chapter 10.27 of the Access to
Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), in that he enjoyed the
privilege of an accredited journalist by gathering news from Gomorefu
Secondary School in Marange for transmission on Studio 7, which falls under
the Voice of America.

Saize is alleged to have a covered a story in which two teachers at the
school were assaulted by Zanu PF youths and war veterans. The teachers were
accused of being supporters or sympathizers of the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC).

Saize, a former Daily News journalist, is not the only journalist to be
arrested and charged for violating sections of AIPPA.

About 100 journalists have been arrested and arraigned before the courts
since the law was enacted after the disputed 2002 presidential elections.
Several others have fled the country after being arrested under the
draconian law.

However, since AIPPA came into law the State has not successfully prosecuted
a single journalist.

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Five million Zimbabwean refugees in SADC region


March 17, 2008, 11:30

Refugee International estimates that nearly five million Zimbabweans have
fled the country, ahead of the elections on March 29. They are seeking
refuge in neighbouring Southern African Development Community (SADC)
countries such South Africa, Botswana and Zambia.

Zimbabwe's economy is near collapse, following sky high inflation rate and
food shortages. Wits University Immigration Programme's, Dr Loren Landou,
says the situation can still be resolved. However Zimbabwean citizen, John
Phiri, 51, says he has been forced to leave his family behind in Harare. He
says he is not even sure if he will make it back home to vote.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe has invited SADC and 46 other teams of monitors from
regional groups such as the African Union to monitor the voting, along with
monitors from countries including China, Russia and Iran.

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