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

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Zim Independent

MDC, ANC end row
Dumisani Muleya
THE opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and South Africa's
ruling African National Congress (ANC) yesterday moved to contain the
election observer row triggered by a senior South African minister this

The MDC, which had threatened to boycott South African observers over
remarks by the official South African Election Observer team head Membathisi
Mdladlana, engaged the ANC to limit the damage.

Mdladlana sparked controversy by claiming the electoral process leading to
the March 31 general election would be smooth soon after meeting President
Robert Mugabe on Monday night.

Official sources said MDC secretary-general Welshman Ncube spoke at length
to his ANC counterpart Kgalema Motlanthe yesterday in a bid to avert a

Ncube, who had accused the South African observers of an "appalling lack of
objectivity" after Mdladlana's statement, also engaged the ANC poll observer
mission head James Motlatsi as part of the damage control exercise.

South Africa currently has government and ruling-party teams in the country.
It also has an ANC-dominated parliamentary mission.

Sources said after speaking to Motlanthe, Ncube wrote a letter to Motlatsi
informing him of what had transpired. Motlatsi replied immediately. It is
said he assured Ncube his team would be "objective and impartial".

In his letter to Motlatsi, Ncube said Motlanthe had told him the ANC team
was not in any way linked to Mdladlana's official delegation.

Ncube told Motlatsi that Motlanthe had assured him the ANC team would "act
independently and produce a final report based on its own objective
assessment of the conditions on the ground".

"He further assured me that the ANC observer mission is under strict
instructions to discharge its mandate in an impartial and transparent
manner," Ncube wrote to Motlatsi.

Ncube said on the basis of Motlanthe's "personal assurances" the MDC would
"fully cooperate" with the South African observers except Mdladlana's team.
The MDC said yesterday the government delegation had "compromised its

"Unless someone else leads the mission we will not cooperate with it," Ncube
said. There was speculation Mdladlana's departure yesterday was linked to
the row, but South African ambassador Jerry Ndou said he had gone to attend
a labour meeting in Geneva.

The row between the MDC and Mdladlana's group was threatening to draw into
its vortex other South African-led observer groups. In addition to its three
teams in the country South Africa also heads the Southern African
Development Community (Sadc) mission.

Its multi-party parliamentary delegation is led by ANC chief whip Mbulelo
Goniwe. The Sadc team is led by South Africa's Minerals and Energy minister
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

Mlambo-Ngcuka told journalists yesterday her team would observe the poll
with "neutrality and impartiality". She said the team, which so far
comprises South Africans and Mauritians, had already met various interest
groups, including Zanu PF and MDC, and would continue to engage

"We have started consultations with different political parties,
non-governmental organisations and electoral bodies to be briefed on
developments, state of readiness and areas that require attention," she

Mlambo-Ngcuka said the MDC complained about "unfair treatment by the police"
and "privileges" given to Zanu PF.
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Zim Independent

Mugabe's attack on judge draws fire
Gift Phiri
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe yesterday came under withering fire from political
and civic organisations for again threatening the independence of the
judiciary by criticising a ruling by the newly created Electoral Court.

In the ruling this week the court allowed jailed Movement for Democratic
Change MP Roy Bennett to contest the forthcoming legislative poll in
Chimanimani constituency.

The judgement, handed down by Justice Tendai Uchena on Tuesday in the first
case to be heard by the court, said Bennett was not a criminal as his
offence, that of pushing Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa during a
parliamentary debate last year, was not covered in the criminal statutes.

Mugabe described the ruling as "nonsense" at a rally in Chipinge. He said
his government would appeal against it. He told his supporters to proceed as
if nothing had happened.

"That is absolute nonsense," Mugabe was quoted as saying in the official
press yesterday.

The International Bar Association (IBA) immediately blasted Mugabe for the
slur advising the ageing leader to respect the independence of the

"President Mugabe's reaction to the first decision of the newly established
Electoral Court gives particular cause for concern, given the deep culture
of threats and intimidation of the judiciary and precarious state of the
country's judicial institutions, whose independence has been severely
undermined by years of sustained assaults led by the executive," Tim Hughes,
deputy executive director of the IBA, told the Zimbabwe Independent

"The Zimbabwean government should be mindful of the fact that the world is
monitoring their compliance with the Sadc guidelines on democratic elections
which enjoin member states to guarantee inde-pendence of the judiciary and
impartiality of the electoral institutions."

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change described Mugabe's statement
as an "indecent assault on the judiciary". MDC spokesman Tendai Biti said
Mugabe's utterance was as "tragic as it was puerile."

"For a state president to describe a ruling by a competent court of law as
'madness' is not only outright contempt of court but an indecent assault on
the judiciary," Biti said. "Whilst legitimate criticisms of judgments is
essential in any jurisdiction, circumspection and objectivity are always
required, particularly when it is the executive making the criticism."

Biti said the MDC was eager to see what action Attorney-General Sobusa Gula
Ndebele would take.

Prominent human rights lawyer Sternford Moyo of Harare-based law firm
Scanlen & Holderness said Mugabe's criticism of the judicial decision was
not "couched in temperate, respectful or restrained terms".

"One can only express the hope that an appropriate intervention by the Chief
Justice, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice will take place in order
to minimise the negative impact of the remarks on the due administration of
justice," Moyo said.

However, Johannes Tomana of Harare-based legal firm Mandaza, Muzangaza &
Tomana said Mugabe was exercising his constitutional right to criticise the
judicial decision.
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Zim Independent

ZBH panel 'partisan'
Staff Writers
CANDIDATES involved in the March 31 parliamentary election have slammed the
Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings' panel which interviews contestants in the
month-end poll for acting as ruling Zanu PF "political commissars".

The candidates said the ZBH Newsnet current affairs panellists, who include
publisher Ibbo Mandaza, Supa Mandiwanzira and Happison Muchechetere, were
behaving like "semi-literate political activists" in their professional

Opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) candidate and economic
affairs secretary Tendai Biti said the panellists were hopelessly partisan.

"If there has to be genuine national debate Zanu PF must not bring political
imbeciles like Mandiwanzira and Muchechetere who masquerade as journalists
to interview us," he said.

"If there has to be inter-party debate then there has to be proper
individuals not these semi-literate and ill-informed youth brigades posing
as television panellists," Biti said.

Another MDC candidate, Priscillah Misihairabwi-Mushonga, said the ZBH
programme has turned out to be a Zanu PF propaganda platform.

"They ask irrelevant questions which they do not allow us enough time to
respond to before their clumsy interjections," she said.

Candidates say the majority of the screened programmes so far have turned
out to be a farce with the panellists disrupting and interjecting before the
interviewees have responded to questions.

Political analysts said the panellists were doing a disservice to the
candidates and viewers.

The Independent Candidates Solidarity Network coordinator Sikhumbuzo Ndiweni
said the interviewing panel was biased because it was composed of "known
Zanu PF apologists".

"Those people are there to serve one purpose and that is to belittle
everyone who is not Zanu PF and give the impression that non-Zanu PF
candidates are shallow-minded, unorganised and useless," Ndiweni said.

"What they are doing is not acceptable in journalism and as for
Mandiwanzira, he is just practising politricks (political tricks). Mandaza
should not even be in that panel discussing what the opposition thinks about
the land reform when he himself has been exposed by Matabeleland governor
Obert Mpofu to be a multiple-farm owner."

Political analyst Jethro Mpofu said he was alarmed by the unprofessional
conduct of the panellists.

"The panellists are conducting the interviews like they are engaged in
beerhall arguments," he said.

President of the Zimbabwe Liberators Peace Initiative, a local group
assessing the conduct of elections, Max Mnkandla, said the three panellists
were not behaving like interviewers but interrogators. "They are like CIOs
and CIDs, not interviewers," he said.

However, Mandiwanzira said: "I am surprised that the same Biti who
congratulated me for asking President Mugabe tough questions is himself so
nave to expect me to pay him back by asking wishy-washy questions. He is
displaying political immaturity."

He said politicians must expect tough questions on issues they promise to

"My duty is to probe people and not glorify them or to ask questions they
would like to be asked so that they appear intelligent to viewers. I do not
represent any political party but I play the devil's advocate," Mandiwanzira

Mandaza defended the panel, arguing that interrogation to a certain extent
was necessary to get the best out of politicians. "We want politicians to
reply beyond rhetoric for the benefit of the voter because sometimes people
make empty promises," he said.
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Zim Independent

Mawere slams Mugabe
Gift Phiri/Chris Goko
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe this week broke his silence on the extrajudicial
expropriation of self-exiled tycoon Mutumwa Mawere's agro-processing
business, FSI Agricom (FSI), alleging that the businessman was a front for
wealthy Chinhoyi white commercial farmer, Clive Nicole.

Mawere yesterday shot back at Mugabe in a damning letter seen by the
Zimbabwe Independent, accusing "small-minded" people of taking over his
properties illegally. He said the farms were bought on a
willing-buyer/willing-seller basis.

In the letter Mawere accused Mugabe of telling supporters at a rally in
Chinhoyi that he was working with the "racist Nicole family" to reverse the
gains of the land reform exercise.

The Nicole family used to be a large-scale farming dynasty, operating its
own silos and producing about 30% of the country's wheat in the Banket area
before the government's sullied agrarian reforms. Mugabe accused Mawere of
using FSI as a personal enrichment vehicle.

The official line is that government has taken over FSI as a result of
mismanagement and corruption.Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa even issued
an order in terms of the Reconstruction of State-Indebted Insolvent
Companies regulations last year, asserting state control over the company,
among other SMM Holdings' firms. Chinamasa not only cited mismanagement, but
said government was moving in to save over 5 000 jobs.

However, Mawere's letter shows that government's black empowerment rhetoric
was not matched by actual support for commercial agriculture. The asbestos
and financial mogul says he was arraigned several times before Agriculture
minister Joseph Made and later before Mugabe to answer charges of colluding
with white commercial farmers.

Mawere says in 2003 he was summoned to Mugabe's office where he was quizzed
about FSI's interests in agriculture and whether the company was a front for
white commercial farmers. Jailed Finance minister Chris Kuruneri also
attended the meeting.

"We explained to you the history and background of FSI programmes but the
meeting was inconclusive principally because your understanding of the role
of commercial agro-processors in agricultural transformation was at variance
with commercial reality," Mawere wrote to Mugabe yesterday.

"We pointed out that without property rights, it was unlikely that the land
reform could succeed. To this end, FSI had chosen to purchase its own farms
and cooperate with former white commercial farmers in its programmes.

"You raised the issue of the Nicole family and how it was possible for you
to reconcile our collaboration with this family knowing their alleged racist
past. However, we explained that without the Nicole family agreeing to sell
their equipment, FSI's mechanisation programme would not have taken off. In
other words, without equipment, there is no prospect for commercial
agriculture to succeed," he said.

In a telephone interview from Johannesburg yesterday, Mawere said the land
reform programme was a farce, pointing out that ruling Zanu PF fat cats had
helped themselves to FSI equipment.

He said senior government officials had expropriated Allan Granger and Old
Citrus farms, both owned by FSI Agricom. He said the rest of the FSI farms
and operations had been taken over by government.

"Taking over my businesses illegally may be in the national interest for
small-minded people," Mawere wrote to Mugabe.

"I am not sure whether nationalisation of businesses furthers the national
cause but it is up to the public to judge. I hope that one day, a day will
come when government respects its citizens to an extent that the highest
office in the land can be used for promoting good corporate citizenry and
governance. If the office is now being used to displace the judiciary and
parliament then we have a cause to be concerned."
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Zim Independent

Zimbabweans face grim poll prospects
Gift Phiri
THE outcome of the parliamentary election set for March 31 is crucial to the
future of the country and that of the entire southern African region, the
Zimbabwe Independent heard this week.

Analysts said Zimbabwe stands on the brink of a catastrophe and the
international community must act to prevent total collapse and a
humanitarian crisis in the region.

A volatile mix of factors renders the current situation in Zimbabwe highly
dangerous, they said.

"Should President Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF declare itself the winner of the
March legislative poll in the face of clear evidence of vote rigging and
subversion of the electoral process, these elements risk causing an
explosion with devastating consequences," National Constitutional Assembly
chairperson, Lovemore Madhuku, said.

He said over the preceding months, President Mugabe has erected a highly
repressive system of governance to ensure his continued grip on power.

He said Zanu PF had created an atmosphere of fear throughout the country, it
had subverted the law and forced through parliament legislation that
undermines basic freedoms of speech and assembly. In particular, Madhuku
said, the recently amended Public Order and Security Act prescribes criminal
sanctions for a variety of forms of peaceful political dissent.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change insists that all indicators
demo-nstrate that popular support for President Mugabe's Zanu PF party is at
an all-time low. Recent polling shows that the vast majority of Zimbabweans
are fed up with Zanu PF, the opposition says.

In spite of ongoing incidents of political violence, there is still a high
expectation that peaceful change can occur in the country through the
democratic process, Brian Kagoro, chairman of the Crisis in Zimbabwe
Coalition, said.

"If the outcome of the election is perceived as unfair, there is likely to
be deep frustration among the population and this frustration may be
expressed through violence," Kagoro said. "Protests and expressions of
dissatisfaction are also likely to be met with increased
government-sponsored violence. Moreover, the subversion of democracy in
Zimbabwe will likely influence other countries where democracy is under
threat, such as Zambia and Malawi."

Kagoro said the international community must recognise that this combination
of factors threatens not only Zimbabwe, but also the entire region.

"The flow of refugees will have a serious impact upon South Africa,
Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia," he said.

"In addition, destabilisation will have extremely negative consequences for
investment in southern Africa, damaging the economies of many states."

"In Zimbabwe, very real fears are already being expressed about vote-rigging
and subversion of the electoral process. If the election is seriously
flawed, it is imperative that the entire international community responds
immediately and all states refuse to recognise the results," he said.

Madhuku said African states must take the lead in speaking out clearly to
condemn any failure by the Zimbabwean government to afford its people the
right to choose their legislators through free and fair elections in
accordance with national, regional and international norms and standards
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Zim Independent

Probe Moyo's funds - Msika
Loughty Dube
VICE-PRESIDENT Joseph Msika has alleged that Tsholotsho independent
candidate Jonathan Moyo and Independent Candidates Solidarity Network
co-ordinator Sikhumbuzo Ndiweni are receiving funds from the same people who
are funding the MDC and should be investigated and dealt with as a matter of
urgency, the Zimbabwe Independent has established.

Msika made the allegation when he addressed members of the Zanu PF politburo
and central committee from Bulawayo province at the party's regional offices
last week.

Msika is said to have alleged that Moyo, together with Ndiweni, who is
running the independent candidates' secretariat in the city, were being
funded by the same people and organisations that are funding the opposition

"Vice-President Msika said Moyo and Ndiweni were supporting independents
because they want an alternative to the ruling Zanu PF and he said they
should be investigated on where they are getting their funding from," said a

When contacted to comment on Msika's remarks, Ndiweni said people who
attended the meeting informed him of the threats made by Msika against him
and said he now feared for his life.

Ndiweni said as a former Zanu PF cadre himself such threats from Zanu PF
should be taken seriously.

"At the moment I am very much concerned because Msika is a senior man in
Zanu PF and has the state machinery at his disposal. Knowing Zanu PF since I
am a former member of that party, you can't take such threats lightly,"
Ndiweni said.

Sources said state security agents were already investigating local business
people in a bid to nail those alleged to be funding the campaigns of the

Ndiweni was the Zanu PF secretary for Information and Publicity for Bulawayo
province but res-igned his post to pursue private interests.

Ndiweni said if anything happened to himself and to Moyo then Msika would be

"As Vice-President Msika has given that warning, anything that happens to
us, our blood is on his hands," Ndiweni said.

The alleged threats against Moyo and Ndiweni come hard on the heels of
newspaper reports that the government is investigating all independents to
ascertain where they are getting their campaign funds.

Under the Political Parties (Finance) Act, all political parties in the
country are barred from receiving funding from outside the country.

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Zim Independent

Zim dims chances of donor support
Augustine Mukaro
ZIMBABWE'S prospects of getting donor support for its consolidated appeal is
in jeopardy because of the controversy that has rocked the NGO sector.

A seemingly irreparable rift developed last week when government demanded
that all NGOs account for monies they received from the donor community.
Government alleges that about 37 NGOs operating in the country received
US$88 million under the UNDP's Consolidated Appeal Process (CAP) for
humanitarian assistance.

At a meeting convened by the UNDP last Friday, it turned out that the
majority of the listed NGOs had nothing to do with humanitarian assistance
and were not recipients of CAP funds.

NGOs which received funds under CAP are now expected to present their

accounts by April 11.

The development comes at a time when government is expected to send an
appeal for assistance to the UNDP to avert a humanitarian crisis caused by
poor harvests. UN officials said the request for agricultural-sector revival
and food assistance constitutes over 50% of the country's appeal to the
donor community.

Zimbabwe has been rated as the most hunger-prone country in the Sadc region
with an estimated six million in need of humanitarian assistance this year.

NGOs and donors who attended the Friday meeting said the appeal was likely
to get a tepid reception from donors because of government's spirited
efforts to interfere with NGOs' operations.

They said donors who are willing to help would channel funds directly to
NGOs and not through the UNDP office. NGOs with running projects signed
programme agreements with donors, some running up to 2007.

"Our budget system has no provisions for basket funding," one of the donors
who attended the meeting said. "We will continue supporting running projects
with resources going through our implementing partners. However,
CAP-specific projects could be considered from time to time."

Japan, as one of the key donor countries, funded the World Food Programme
and Unicef programmes to the tune of US$2 million over the past year. The
programmes included school-children feeding and irrigation schemes.

In January last year, government approached the UNDP requesting renewal of
the June 2003 CAP and to ask for more support.

The then resident representative Victor Angelo informed government that the
donor community would only avail aid through NGOs already operating in the
country. He reportedly submitted a list of NGOs that were going to benefit,
giving a breakdown of the money they would receive.

Government now alleges the money could have been used to sponsor

political activities instead of the intended humanitarian causes.

Last week government wrote to NGOs demanding that they account for their
funds or risk prosecution and deregistration.
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Zim Independent

US tourists divert to Uganda
Staff Writer
THE American Travel Bureau (ATB) is set to divert over 3 000 American
tourists who had been visiting Zimbabwe yearly to Uganda on the back of a
deteriorating political situation and the possibility of violence ahead of
the March 31 parliamentary election.

The ATB announcement comes as a direct response to the US State Department's
warning against travelling to Zimbabwe on Wednesday.

ATB chief executive officer, John W Smith, revealed his organisation's
intention to divert the tourists during a cocktail party in Kampala. The
ATB, which incorporates America's 10 leading tour operators, was in Uganda
at the invitation of President Yoweri Museveni.

The tour operators inspected Uganda's major tourist sites, including the
source of the Nile at Jinja, Sezibwa Falls in Mukono, Tororo Rock and Queen
Elizabeth National Park.

In its advisory warning, the US cited Zimbabwe's history of violence before
elections. It warned American citizens that they risked harm if they travel
to Zimbabwe on the eve of the March 31 parliamentary poll.

The US government urged its citizens living in Zimbabwe to take appropriate
steps to ensure their personal safety and to avoid political rallies and

"Reports of violent incidents are running well below levels prior to
previous elections, but the possibility of increased violence before
elections, including parliamentary elections scheduled for March 2005,
cannot be excluded," the State Department said in its statement.

The US warned its citizens to avoid farms occupied by "so-called war
veterans" who are mostly young government supporters "acting with impunity
outside the law".

The statement said the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe also made travel to
the country risky.

Meanwhile, human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, charged in a report
on Wednesday that a climate of intimidation and harassment had made free
participation in the election impossible.

President Robert Mugabe's government has rejected criticism of its human
rights record, calling it part of a propaganda campaign waged by Western
powers opposed to its land reform programme.
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Zim Independent

Food factor could hold sway in poll
Loughty Dube
"ZIMBABWEANS should know that no one formed the MDC but Mugabe's failures
that have ruined this once beautiful country. But the MDC is here to deliver
Zimbabweans to freedom."

That is the message MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai took to Matabeleland South
in his campaign to garner support for the party's parliamentary candidates
in the March 31 election.

The opposition leader last weekend addressed four rallies in Matabeleland
South province where his message to the electorate was the restoration of
Zimbabwe to the pre-2000 era of peace and prosperity.

"As the MDC we do not abhor Mugabe but we are against him because he

has brought hunger and famine to the people of Zimbabwe. The MDC will move
Zimbabweans from 'Egypt to their new Canaan'," Tsvangirai told thousands of
cheering supporters at Dulibadzimu stadium in Beitbridge.

Tsvangirai, who was travelling in his bulletproof vehicle with a single
security vehicle, on Sunday addressed rallies in Insiza and Insuza before
travelling the following day to Ntepe in Gwanda and to Beitbridge.

At Ntepe, Tsvangirai addressed over 5 000 people, composed mainly of youths
whom he told the MDC would bring back non-governmental organisations if
elected to power.

"Hunger is killing people in the country but Mugabe has been saying he does
not want people to be fed by international donor agencies. Once the MDC is
in power, the NGOs will come back and operate normally in the country," he

Mugabe last year stopped donor agencies from giving out food aid and ordered
that they take their donations elsewhere saying the country had enough food.

The food factor is likely to play a crucial role in the current election as
people who spoke to the Zimbabwe Independent on the sidelines of the rally
said they were angry with Mugabe's forced withdrawal of food aid.

"As we speak right now there is no food in the rural areas and the shops
have no food. I travelled all the way from Shashe, 40 kilometres away, to
buy mealie-meal because there is nothing in the rural shops," said Linah
Muleya, a mother of three.

"We were getting the mealie-meal for free from World Vision and the World
Food Programme (WFP) before Mugabe banned the food handouts. We are now
forced to fork out money from our little resources," she said.

Muleya said people in rural areas would punish Mugabe by voting for the

"WFP and World Vision food was free but now we are forced to buy expensive
grain from the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) and sometimes the grain does not
arrive for a long time," she said.

She said the GMB visited an area once every two months and in some cases
after three months.

"As we speak right now, we have not seen the GMB in the area for close to
two months. And they allow a family to buy only one bag of maize and the bag
lasts two weeks," she said. Muleya said apart from her three children and
husband, she was also supporting an extended family of eight.

"Adults can fend for themselves but the children suffer because when the

grain is about to run out we reserve the little for porridge for the
children," she said.

Themba, a teacher in the area, said life was becoming difficult for
villagers as grain stocks were scarce due to poor harvests in the semi-arid

"Children do not come to school these days because of hunger. Most people
are angry with Mugabe and it is going to translate into votes for the
opposition," Themba said.

Tsvangirai, who was travelling with the MP for Mbare West, Tichaona
Munyanyi, said the MDC would restore law and order in the country and ensure
that Zimbabweans enjoyed peace.

He said the MDC would draft a new constitution that would limit presidential
terms to two.

"Mugabe keeps attacking Tony Blair but shockingly he is still using a
British constitution 25 years down the line. The MDC will draft a new
Zimbabwean constitution once in power," Tsvangirai said to applause from
about 5 000 party supporters who packed Dulibadzimu stadium.

"President Mugabe thinks the country is Zimbabwe Private Ltd and that is why
he refers to it as 'my Zimbabwe' and that is wrong," Tsvangirai said.

He said the MDC would revive the economy as a matter of urgency once in
power and create jobs for thousands of unemployed youths in the country,

"The first option is to revive tourism and agriculture and once that is
done, the next option is to bring in investors and everyone should know that
only the MDC can bring investors into the country," Tsvangirai said.

Turning to the land issue, Tsvangirai said if the MDC had not been formed
Zimbabweans were not going to be given land by Mugabe's government.

"If the MDC was not formed, Mugabe was not going to give people land but the
MDC is saying the manner the exercise was carried out was barbaric. Once in
power, we are going to implement the one-person one-farm policy where all
Zimbabweans with the agricultural expertise will benefit."

The MDC leader said there was need to repeal repressive laws that were

enacted in parliament. He also took a swipe at the nationwide computer
donations being done by President Mugabe.

"The president is not a donor but we see him giving out computers to schools
that do not even have electricity and proper infrastructure. It is clear
that this is a campaign strategy." He said there was need to compensate all
those who lost parents and dependants during the 1980s Gukurahundi campaign,
as a form of reconciliation.
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Zim Independent

Desperate locals vote with their feet
Gift Phiri recently in Beitbridge
LESS than two weeks before Zimbabwe's legislative election, Clever Tarindwa
(24), a poor farm worker from Chipinge near the Mozambican border, voted
with his feet to seek a new life in South Africa.

Driven into penury by five years of political turmoil that has brought
Zimbabwe's once prosperous economy to its knees, he jumped onto a bus
heading for the border town of Beitbridge.There, he met the gumha-gumha, a
group of extortionists who take people across the swirling waters of the
Limpopo at night for R100.

Tarindwa, unlike some Zimbabweans who get swept away or eaten by crocodiles,
made it to the other side. Within hours he was picked up by a South African
National Defence Force (SANDF) patrol and handed over to the police in the
nearby town of Musina for immediate deportation."I left home because there
is no work and no food," he told the Zimbabwe Independent in the border town
of Beitbridge last Wednesday. "I came here in search of a job. Everyone says
that life in South Africa is good. It used to be good in Zimbabwe, but that's
all gone now."

According to a SANDF officer involved in border patrol operations, the
gumha-gumha use cellphones to organise transport with mini-bus drivers on
the South African side of the Limpopo River. In a series of short hops, the
immigrants are transported to the border town of Musina, and from there they
travel south to South Africa's major cities looking for work.

"Only the very poor walk," the officer said.

Sibongile Moyo (22), who was picked up after leaving her village near
Bulawayo, told the same story.

"Work is hard to come by in Zimbabwe," she said. "There is not enough food.
It is expensive and we don't have enough money to buy. The people are
frightened. They get beaten."

Tarindwa and Moyo are two of thousands of Zimbabweans fleeing President
Robert Mugabe's misrule.Everyday a police lorry leaves Musina with 30 to 40
"undocumented migrants" for the 12-kilometre trip back to the border, where
they are dumped on the other side. Most are picked up while trying to hitch
a lift on the main road to Johannesburg.

Others are caught while trying to make their way through local game or
hunting grounds, or are turned in by people who fear the migrants might take
their jobs and women.Hundreds of South African soldiers patrol the three
razor-wire fences along the border with Zimbabwe that were erected during
the apartheid era to keep out African National Congress guerillas.

"They wrap themselves in blankets and crawl under the fence," Godfrey
Mathabatha, a private on one of the border patrols, said. "When we catch
them, their clothes are torn. They are tired and thirsty and often have gone
for a week without something to eat."

An old army base at Artonvilla on the banks of the Limpopo has been set
aside by the South African government as a holding camp for migrants, should
the situation in Zimbabwe reach "meltdown". It can hold up to 1 000 people
while they await deportation.

Colonel Tol Synman, the officer in charge of the regional SANDF, said: "We
arrest up to 2 500 a month. But we have no idea how many get through."

Some estimates put the figure as high as 500 a day.

"We are getting more and more undocumented migrants now because of the
shortage of food in Zimbabwe," Colonel Synman said.

"They cross the river even when the water is chest high. Our troops have
reported some of them being swept away or eaten by crocodiles."He said
unless the illegal migrants were granted refugee status, "our job will
remain to hold the line".

In January, 2 600 people were arrested and handed over to the police, a
figure lower than last year, the officer said. He noted that increased
activity by the Zimbabwean police had impacted on the illegal crossings. The
border jumpers are eventually deported to Zimbabwe.

The South African military, through an agreement with Zimbabwe, has the
authority to intercept would-be illegal immigrants in what is technically
Zimbabwean territory, the officer said. He pointed out that a man found
wading in the Limpopo River would probably be arrested before he reached the
South African bank.

Once inside South Africa, the concern of the authorities is the damage that
illegal immigrants can cause to farms and properties. Farmers complain that
snares are set and crops damaged as the border jumpers cross their fields.

If political violence in the run-up to Zimbabwe's legislative election leads
to a large influx of asylum seekers, "our first priority will be to look
after our own people, the farmers", the officer said. "If hungry Zimbabweans
strip property on farms, there is going to be conflict with the farmers."

A recent report by the Solidarity Peace Trust stated that Zimbabwe's largest
export was now its people.

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Zim Independent

NRZ commits $6b to new ticket machines
By Susan Mateko
THE loss-making National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) has embarked on a $6
billion programme to replace obsolete ticket machines with state-of-the-art
equipment imported from the United Kingdom, the Zimbabwe Independent has

The portable Almex Micro 3 and Almex A90 machines were sourced from Britain
late last year and were delivered in the country earlier this year.

The Almex Micro 3 machines, which are fitted with a rechargeable battery,
will be used by mobile conductors while the Almex A90 will be used by
ticket-issuing staff at major stations throughout the country.

The ticket office A90 type machines are powered by electricity.

NRZ corporate and public affairs manager, Misheck Matanhire, this week
confirmed the acquisition of the machines which he said were a replacement
of the outdated ticket machines that were purchased in 1978.

"The new machines were acquired at a cost of 229 000, although there are
some ancillary equipment such as the modems and computers which were also
acquired at a cost of $250 million for the same project.

"The new system was recently tested between Bulawayo and Harare and has
produced satisfactory results," Matanhire said in a statement.

Matanhire said the machines would enhance revenue collection system since
they were fitted with tight audit control features.

"These machines, which are designed for use in today's changing public
transport industry, will immensely benefit the travelling public, as well as
the NRZ, because they are simple to use and should bring to an end the long
queues that have been experienced at railway stations," Matanhire said.

He said the machines are capable of producing highly detailed tickets that
are easily understood by staff and customers.

In another development, the NRZ says it has embarked on a programme to
rehabilitate all its coaches that have been vandalised.

"The NRZ has embarked on a programme to upholster all its coaches which have
been vandalised by saboteurs. Zimbabweans can certainly look forward to a
new passenger train service to be offered by the NRZ," Matanhire said.
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Arda fails to pay workers
Godfrey Marawanyika
THE Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) has failed to pay
workers at two of its estates in Rusitu and Middle Sabi. This has affected 2
600 employees amid speculation that the organisation's funds were diverted
to other uses.

At Rusitu, located in Chimanimani, the parastatal has failed to pay its 200
employees for the past two months, while in Middle Sabi 2 400 workers have
been affected.

Employees at the Arda headquarters say they only received their January
salaries in February.

In the Middle Sabi, Arda grows wheat, cotton and seed maize whilst in Rusitu
one of the major products is coffee.

Arda chief executive Joseph Matowanyika could not be reached for comment as
he was said to be out of the office attending a meeting.

By the time of going to press Matowanyika had not responded to this paper's

Officials at the parastatal however said the issue of salaries was being

They said that a fortnight ago, Matowanyika convened a meeting with staff at
head office to proffer his apologies but there was no "solution".

The officials said a number of farm workers had been affected because of the
change of ownership of the farms as a result of the land reform programme.

Arda recently clinched a deal with a Chinese company to produce and export

Under last year's agreement, Arda is during the 2004/5 marketing season
expected to sell two million kg of the golden leaf, with the bulk of it
going to China.

Matowanyika last year said under the deal, they had agreed to increase
output to 10 million kg this year, and between 20 and 30 million kg next

Zimbabwe and China have signed a number of Memoranda of Understanding
although nothing much has come of them as Chinese companies insist on cash
upfront for their services and products.

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Zim Independent

Projected harvest a mirage
Ray Matikinye

TIME is beginning to disprove ministerial claims that last season's maize
crop stood at a record 2,4 million tonnes. It has upset official assertions
that this windfall would propel the country to regain its breadbasket status
as the spectre of serious food shortages now loom large across the country.

A combination of factors such as failure by the state to provide new farmers
with adequate tillage units and the shortage of fuel, which together with
the late delivery of seed and fertiliser to smallholder farmers, has
gradually taken its toll on the projected harvest.
A shortage of tractors and rains that petered out prematurely were other
major constraints.
In addition, wheat farmers could not clear their fields in time as the cost
of hiring combine harvesters shot through the roof while a clutch of
harvesters imported by the government fell far short of requirements.
Government through Arex reported that 977 694 hectares had been tilled but
commercial farmers' organisations say only 328 248 hectares was put under
crop, constituting 41% of the area normally planted before the invasion of
commercial farming areas.

Richard Chitanha of Selous farming area, one of the country's prime
agricultural areas, bemoaned his shattered hopes of a bumper harvest due to
erratic rains. "As it stands, the situation is hopeless. After all the
planning and commitment we put into our preparations the rains let us down,"
he lamented.
Some farmers in the area have invested their hope in pumpkins that seem to
have weathered the dry conditions which occurred late into the season.
Agricultural minister Joseph Made and his Labour counterpart Paul Mangwana
seem resigned to the disaster that is unfolding before their eyes while
government battles to import food covertly from neighbouring South Africa
and Zambia where some of the dispossessed white commercial farmers have
found refuge.

Zambia last week discontinued food exports to Zimbabwe to safeguards its
national stocks.
But more problematic than anything else is government's stubborn refusal to
openly admit the existence of food shortages and the mistakes it made in
preventing non-governmental organisations from assisting. Food aid agencies
in Zimbabwe now need to find fresh ideas, acceptable to both government and
the donor community, to expand the limited working space in which they are
currently forced to operate.

At the same time social protection programmes established to address the
food needs of the aged, orphans, chronically ill and other social welfare
cases, have become grossly inadequate. The targeted feeding programmes
currently allowed by government cannot adequately address the food shortages
facing both urban and rural communities in Zimbabwe. Economist Eric Bloch
says Zimbabwe's dire need to import grain to bridge the widening food gap
will undoubtedly increase the prices payable by the consumer. "The foreign
currency required for food imports will reduce the availability of foreign
currency necessary for other essential imports in 2005," he says.

An unreliable railway transport system and intermittent fuel supplies will
hobble efforts to provide food to the needy communities.
As controversy rages over government accusing NGOs of failing to account for
funds donated under the Consolidated Appeal Process, a looming food crisis
threatens the livelihoods of millions of peasants in rural Zimbabwe.

There are now serious fears that a Zimbabwe appeal for humanitarian
assistance through the United Nations office in Harare would not attract
enthusiastic reaction from western donors who have been reluctant to work
with the government of Zimbabwe. Last week acting United Nations Development
Programme resident representative in Zimbabwe, Benard Mokam, said the move
by government to threaten NGOs in Zimbabwe was sending a wrong signal to
The government has sent letters asking donors to account for monies it
purports was availed to government by donors through the UNDP for
humanitarian assistance. NGOs that fail to account for the funds would be
deregistered. The NGOs however contend that the money was for on-going
projects funded by donors and not for the government's consolidated appeal
through the UNDP. With disaster looming, World Food Programme spokesperson,
Makena Walker, said Zimbabwe has not yet approached her organisation for
food assistance.

"We are continuing with programmes we started in 2003 in collaboration with
other donor organisations in running supplementary feeding schemes. The
programme caters for about a million pre-school children a month in addition
to assisting home-based family support programmes in all parts of Zimbabwe
covering 100 000 households," Walker said. WFP was also running
supplementary feeding schemes for children under the age of five in Bulawayo
and Harare, she said.
According to a Fewsnet report on the state of food availability among
households staple cereals are increasingly becoming unavailable in most
rural areas

Maize prices on the parallel markets continue to rise, limiting the ability
of poor households to buy enough food to satisfy their needs.
By mid-January this year, only markets in a relatively small area covering
six of the country's 57 rural districts were selling maize grain for below
$830/kg. The highest maize prices, between $1 660/kg and $2 225, were
observed in parallel markets in Manicaland, Masvingo and Matabeleland
povinces. Fewsnet says high inflation in food prices is worsening the
situation with a smaller proportion of urban households unable to purchase
sufficient food due to the continued erosion of real incomes. Levels of
malnutrition and related diseases could rise.

The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee presided over by the
Department of Agricultural Research and Extension Services (Arex) estimates
that about 3,3 million rural people would not be able to obtain all the food
they needed.

Two months ago government reportedly released $12,1 billion for the purchase
of maize from the Grain Marketing Board as part of a $48 billion drought
relief package. It disputed its own estimate the number of people in need of
assistance, pegging the figure at 1,5 million.
However, given current prices of maize grain on the parallel market, and
little evidence of improved incomes or income generating opportunities in
rural areas, the population in need of food assistance is expected to be
well above the ZimVac's estimate of 3,3 million people, the report adds. In
January United Nations Development Programme executive director James Morris
challenged Zimbabwe's claims of a bumper harvest saying the turnaround from
one million to 2,4 million tonnes "would be staggering if true".
Yet Zimbabwe has yet to approach donor agencies for assistance.

"We will react to the appeals on humanitarian grounds as our executive
director James Morris has said in the past. But until such time that the
government has approached us we will only continue with the programs we are
currently undertaking," Walker said.

Walker said Arex were still in the field assessing the situation and WFP
would respond accordingly.
Fewsnet says while on-going targeted feeding programmes being run by NGOs
and the government are considerably helping the needy population in both
urban and rural areas, the scope and geographic coverage of these programmes
are insufficient to reach a significant proportion of the food insecure
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Zim Independent

Editor's Memo

Bare it all

I RECEIVED this somewhat crazy joke last year from a former colleague who
has since migrated to the cold climes of the north. It goes something like
this: Three world leaders, an African, an American and a Japanese were in a
bar quaffing away after a long anti-corruption conference where they had all
supported the resolution that leaders must declare their assets.

After the booze had gotten the better of them an argument erupted over
declaration of assets.

"There is no way you can declare all your assets," said the American. "That
is why African leaders are always hiding some of them in Swiss banks."

"We Africans do not have anything to hide. We are setting up anti-corruption
commissions in our countries to deal with graft at all levels," shot back
the African leader.

The Japanese guy then came in: "It's you two guys who have problems. Leaders
should just bare it all like we do."

"Then do it," chipped in a man seated at the next table who had listened to
the animated discussion with interest.

The Japanese guy jumped onto the bar table and stripped to the skin. "You
see, I have nothing to hide."

The other two also shed their clothes and so the three stood on the bar
table to show that they had nothing to hide. Fascinated patrons in the bar
did not take time to form a panel to judge the assets on display. The
African won by a mile followed by the American, with the Japanese coming a
distant third.

Knock it off guys. That's definitely not polite behaviour! Political leaders
should always declare their assets to show that they have nothing to hide.
That way, we, the public, can tell if they were born corrupt, or became
corrupt only after they were elected. If this helps to prevent corruption,
then I'm all for it. Two weeks ago new Mozambican Finance minister Manuel
Chang put his comrades in cabinet in an invidious position when he declared
to the media all his assets. I mean his wealth: real estate, bank balances,
earnings and motor vehicles.

In Mozambique all ministers are obliged to declare their assets to the
Constitutional Council on taking office to safeguard against self-enrichment
through corrupt means. However, there are not many Changs in Mozambique. In
fact, there is no law that forces the ministers to declare their assets. Put
simply, it is an obligation that is not compulsory but voluntary. Do you
read any sense into this?

Rwandan President Paul Kagame in 2002 asked members of the newly-installed
parliament to endorse the establishment of an ombudsman's office so that
government officials could declare their assets before taking office.

"We need to have a continuous assessment of how our leaders accumulate their
wealth," he said during the swearing in of his new cabinet, adding that this
was "compulsory" for all government officials.

"I call upon this parliament to urgently pass the law setting up the
ombudsman's office to enable us keep track of the wealth that our officials
accumulate over time," he said.

Kagame himself declared his assets last year but under Rwandan law, details
cannot be made public unless the ombudsman finds discrepancies between what
is officially declared and what Kagame possesses.

The Mozambican and Rwandese cases sum up Africa's commitment to fighting the
scourge. There is always a proviso to either ensure there is no full
disclosure or there is no disclosure in the first place.

If Kagame really wanted to lead from the front in the anti-corruption
crusade, he should have bared all and be judged.

But at least there is something on course in these countries whilst our own
leaders here have continued to put on layers and layers of apparel to cover
their shameful bodies.

Politicians in third world countries have been slow to pick up the practice
of openness and have been unwilling to implement it at all, which is why
massive corruption thrives without shame in Zimbabwe.

Can anyone among our own leaders stand up and do a Manuel Chang? No, that is
too rich to even contemplate. Could you imagine if our Finance minister had
declared his assets when he took office? That would be too ghastly to
contemplate for his comrades in cabinet who live like kings on a headmaster's
salary. Does anyone still remember the Leadership Code of the 1980s?

The shunting aside of that document was the death of any attempt to fight
corruption in both the private sector and the government. It sort of sent
the signal: It's now legal guys, let's do it.

New Attorney-General Sobusa Gula-Ndebele last week told journalists at a
training workshop in Harare that public figures should declare their assets.
That is a bold statement from the government's top lawyer.

But perhaps he should take the first step and tell us what's in his kitty.
He should be followed by Anti-Corruption minister Didymus Mutasa who last
year was asking people to confess their corruption.

If he is to play god then he has to prove that he is spotless.If this is
gonna work at all, let's bare it all guys.

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Zim Independent


ZIMBABWEANS What next after March 31?

ONE could be forgiven for thinking that Zanu PF's world ends on March 31.
The party's mindset has been so tuned to winning the election that it has
become blind to the fact that there is April 1 and days, weeks and months to

The state of the nation after March 31 - in the event of a Zanu PF victory -
will be determined by policies being propagated by the party now. There is
no attempt by the Zanu PF leadership to devise strategies that would rescue
the country from its current isolation. Repression and demagoguery, which
have kept Zimbabwe out of the community of nations, are being celebrated
here as if they will put food on the table and create jobs for the
multitudes on the street.
The Supreme Court ruling this week upholding the constitutionality of the
Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act was feted in the state
media as an important victory for the country.
Lawyers with Zanu PF leanings were wheeled into the TV studios to tell us
that the judgement had cleared all impediments to the application of the law
and that the ruling was a confirmation that Aippa was good legislation which
did not inhibit the holding of free and fair elections and the operations of
journalists in Zimbabwe.

That is dangerous delusionism which has been the hallmark of Zanu PF
governance. No one will be fooled by the dross that Aippa is suddenly a good
law because our not-so-respected Supreme Court bench has upheld its
dictates. Aippa remains a patently anti-democratic law and an instrument to
stifle public discourse. It will not receive international acceptance
because Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku has declared it constitutional.

The African Commission on Human and People's Rights in its recently adopted
report on Zimbabwe recommended the amendment of Aippa because it is not in
sync with regional and continental conventions to which Zimbabwe is a
Of late, there has been a spirited defence by the police of the Public Order
and Security Act, which the African Commission also recommended should be
amended because it is bad law. Our rulers will not take heed because
demagoguery is often built on a connecting web of bad laws.

Zimbabwe has advertised its ill-famed credentials to the international
community long enough but the Zanu PF government still believes in strutting
its stuff as the tough guy standing up to international bullies. This,
unfortunately, is foolish bravado that is making us poorer by the day.
As if this were not enough, we have Labour minister Paul Mangwana
threatening to prosecute NGOs under the Private Voluntary Organisations Act
for allegedly failing to account for monies purportedly raised for
humanitarian purposes.
International donors who provided the funds are not amused by this
ministerial intrusion. Local NGOs who have provided useful cover to
government in feeding the poor in rural areas are also chafing at this
attempt to label them criminals.

With widespread crop failure this year due to erratic rains and the usual
problem of poor planning, Zimbabwe is a candidate for international
assistance even if Mangwana and Agriculture minister Joseph Made want us to
believe otherwise. In the absence of goodwill between government and
international donors, the latter would rather channel aid through NGOs.
Enter Mangwana and suddenly this arrangement, which averted a major
humanitarian crisis in 2003 and 2004, is in jeopardy.

These are the fruits of government's failure to focus beyond an election
victory against the MDC. There is no plan in place to reintegrate the
country into the international community and restore its image as an
investment destination. There is no attempt to help Zimbabwe qualify for
balance-of-payments support at a time forex shortages are about to deepen.
As things stand, we are not sure what Mugabe meant when he declared 2005 a
"year of investment". We are waiting for that to translate into jobs, houses
and a revival of the manufacturing sector.
Meanwhile, the language of hate and intolerance persists.

Our asinine neighbours cheering Mugabe on should be reminded that
Zimbabweans want to start living a normal life again. That cannot happen
when people are hostage to a repressive system built around coercion and
paranoia. If the region is to become a zone of peace and prosperity, Sadc
rulers, and particularly South Africa, must stop abetting misrule in
Nothing will change after March 31 except for the worse. Zanu PF has no idea
how to pull itself out of the hole it has dug for the nation. Facile
self-deception is no substitute for policy.
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No solution to Zimbabwe crisis
By Brian Raftopoulos
THRUST into yet another general election, there is little sense in Zimbabwe
that the country is moving towards a substantive resolution of its political
crisis. This feeling of the continued postponement of a political resolution
is expressed both in the ruling party's recurrent recoil from any meaningful
national dialogue and in the persistent polarisation of the international
community on the issue of an acceptable outcome of the crisis.

Zanu PF and its affiliated intellectuals have made much of the electoral
reforms that have been introduced this year, and the nominal opening up of
the electronic media to opposition parties. In effect, these "reforms" add
up to little more than a thinly disguised framework for continued ruling
party control, while the slightly increased access of the opposition to
radio and television have been, for the most part, undermined by the
perverse barrage of Zanu PF propaganda surrounding these minimal slots.

The structural authoritarian framework of the ruling party remains firmly in
place, just as the processes around the party's succession debate confirmed
the party's rigidities, notwithstanding the eventual expulsion of its most
odious representative. As for the much-touted reduced levels of violence,
given the history of ruling party's violence since 1980, even the threat of
violence and its symbolic presence in communities serve as constant
reminders of the punishment that awaits dissenting voters.

It is unrealistic to pretend that voters will easily forget the central
mobilising tool of an incumbent party on the basis of the promises of
"non-violence" made by a political leadership that has on many occasions
proudly defined its character by its accomplished "degrees in violence".

The dominant tone and message of Zanu PF's campaign once again reveals an
inability to accept the presence of a legitimate national opposition.
Casting its campaign as "anti-Blair" and demonising critical voices as
"traitors", the president and his party continue to narrow the space for
productive national debate. The exclusivist presumptions of a dominant party
set the tone for another assault on our political culture.

However, the difference this time round is that the message carries less
force than it did in 2000 and 2002, for the language of external blame, real
though such factors are, has sounded increasingly hollow in the face of
diminished internal capacity and the corrosive effects of political rot.

The real complexities of the relations between outside pressures and
internal dynamics cannot be flattened by the simplistic encapsulation of
blame in the figure of a foreign prime minister. One gets the feeling that
even within Zanu PF, this message has become a talisman desperately invoked
to hold back the accumulating fears in the ruling party.

In the hands of Zanu PF, the idea of sovereignty has been translated into a
legitimation for national repression. A nationalism that, however
problematically, once carried the broad hopes of an emerging nation, has
been transformed into an arcane authoritarianism dressed in revolutionary

The Zimbabwean political landscape is littered with the wreckage of the
ruling party's clearance campaigns. Every appeal to "the people" is not a
call for popular participation, but a rhetorical device expounded to
legitimise yet another attack on democratic spaces and individual liberties.
The outcome is a greatly weakened sense of a common national identity.
Instead many Zimbabweans have a heightened awareness of a fracturing
political process in which a decreasing number of citizens are prepared to
invest a common loyalty.

One of the major lessons of Zimbabwe's history is that a dominant party
cannot coerce a nation into unity. Neither the physical brutality of
political violence nor the symbolic onslaught of a monopolised media can
create the consensual basis for the long-term creation of national
belonging. In many ways we are witnessing traumatised subjects on hold,
living daily with their anxieties, fears, loss and omniscient material

It is this reality that those election observers who have been invited to
the party need to be acutely aware of. South African President Thabo Mbeki
and his Foreign minister have gone out of their way to make a favourable
pre-emptive judgement of the forthcoming election. It is likely that the
South African president is responding to US President George Bush's negative
characterisation of the regime in Zimbabwe, and that the language of regime
change has set off the alarm bells in Mbeki's African National Congress.

Certainly it appears that the former Mugabe/Blair public battle has been
transposed into a Mbeki/Bush row, and that Mbeki is responding defensively
to growing Western criticism of his "quiet diplomacy", while desperately
seeking the Zimbabwean president's cooperation for a more formally open
election process that will create new diplomatic spaces in the post-election
period. However, it must be said that while the South African leader is
attempting to address a variety of audiences, he is communicating his
messages very badly.

As things stand the script has almost been finalised for a continuation of
the political crisis in Zimbabwe. There is unlikely to be a sufficient
consensus among the regional and international players on the outcome of the
election and the stalemate, while slightly repositioned, is likely to
continue. The ball for the most part remains in President Robert Mugabe's
court, and his relations with the South African government.

A favourable election result for Zanu PF under the current arrangements is
once again not likely to convince any but the already converted. It may
confirm that the ruling party has its hands firmly on the levers of state,
but cannot deliver the broader legitimacy that will provide the impetus for
a new political initiative in the country. On the other hand, a good
election result for the opposition will be damaging for the present regime.

For the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) entry into this election has
entailed some very serious risks, but in my view risks worth taking. For the
alternative was a nebulous strategy, expounded by a section of the civic
movement that would have most likely resulted in an early implosion of the
opposition. A disastrous election result, notwithstanding the legitimacy
obstacles that will still confront the Mugabe government, could still
precipitate a leadership battle in the MDC and a general reconfiguration of
opposition forces in the country.

However, the battle to at least retain existing ground and to consolidate
for a longer-term political struggle provides opportunities for rebuilding
the structures of the party, and as important, working through the tensions
and problems with the labour movement and the civic structures. For the
moment these inputs into strengthening the existing opposition need to be
maintained, while the limited spaces for such activities still remain.

I have listened with respect to the arguments for abstention from the
election, particularly by the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), and
been struck by the lack of an alternative perspective on the way forward. In
the current political environment, the demand for a new constitution on its
own cannot provide a broad enough platform to create a political
alternative. Constitutional reform is a necessary but not sufficient
requirement for a different political formation.

Even in the formative period 1997-2000 the force of the constitutional
movement was based on its alliance with broader social forces and political
objectives. The rhythm of the constitutional process will in my view
continue to be decided by the dynamics of stronger political forces.

In recent weeks comments by the leadership of the NCA indicate that the
organisation may be looking towards the creation of an alternative political
force. The continued barriers to electoral politics erected by Zanu PF could
well add impetus to such thinking, though at this stage it seems unlikely
that such a formation would signal any significant advance in the political
stalemate, especially if the politics of such a new force were linked to
that of the so-called independents. The latter look more like a residual
Zanu PF formation.

Thus both Zanu PF and the MDC face major challenges with little chance of
either advancing unilaterally in the near future. More than ever before, a
new national dialogue is required, but in the current context this is the
least likely outcome of Zimbabwe's political blockage.

In the meantime the space for democratic politics is dwindling and the
opportunities for a democratic opposition receding. This may be one of the
undoubted legacies of Zimbabwe's 25 years of Independence.

*Brian Raftopoulos is associate professor at the University of Zimbabwe's
Institute of Development Studies.

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SA must stop aiding and abetting Mugabe
By Welshman Ncube
THE Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is increasingly perplexed by claims
by the South African government that the elections in Zimbabwe will be free
and fair and by its claims that it does not see any problems in Zimbabwe's
electoral system.

The MDC does not understand the South African government's ignorance about
the situation in Zimbabwe and the basis for such optimism and believes that
the position adopted by the South African government is not only
misinformed, but also dangerously premature.

At present it is clear to each and every objective observer that conditions
for a free and fair election do not exist in Zimbabwe. There is therefore
nothing whatsoever to suggest that the elections will be free and fair, or
indeed legitimate. The electoral environment is actually worse than it was
during the March 2002 presidential elections.

Contrary to the view propagated by the South African government, its
counterpart in Harare is not taking any meaningful steps to ensure the
elections will be free and fair.

The voters' roll is in a shambles, violence and intimidation remain
prevalent, equal access to the state media is a myth and the elections will
be managed and run by the same biased electoral bodies which have
manipulated the electoral process to the political advantage of the ruling
party in previous elections, not withstanding the existence of the so-called
independent Zimbabwe Electoral Commission which so far has totally failed to
impress its authority over the old institutions who are now de-facto
managing elections in Zimbabwe.

The much-trumpeted new electoral commission has no direct role to play in
this election. It was established far too late to have any meaningful
influence on the process. More importantly, anything it does do is subject
to the authority of the President Robert Mugabe-appointed Electoral
Supervisory Commission. This compromises its independence.

The MDC and other progressive forces in Zimbabwe are therefore deeply
concerned to hear the South African government praising the new
"independent" commission and citing its establishment as proof that the
Zimbabwe government is complying with the new regional election standards.
Nothing could be further from the truth.

MDC meetings and rallies continue to be banned or disrupted by the police
under the notorious Public Order and Security Act. Sixteen MDC candidates
have already been the victims of arbitrary arrest and police harassment and
scores of MDC activists have been arrested for such innocuous crimes as
putting up posters. No Zanu PF supporter has yet to be arrested for this

The complicity of members of the police and army in incidents of political
violence casts a dark shadow over the legitimacy of the entire electoral

The MDC urges the South African government to re-think the wisdom of
publicly expressing its confidence in the capacity of Mugabe and Zanu PF to
host free and fair elections when there is a dearth of evidence on the
ground to support such an optimistic outlook.

Positive signals from regional neighbours provide unnecessary succour to the
authorities in Zimbabwe and often serve to galvanise those bent on engaging
in anti-democratic activities.

To the people of Zimbabwe, the optimism expressed by the South African
government is increasingly viewed as misplaced solidarity and a deliberate
attempt to frustrate the new beginning they so desperately desire. This
perception undermines public confidence in the objectivity and impartiality
of South African and Southern African Development Community (Sadc) observer

There is a growing suspicion in Zimbabwe that the sole objective of the Sadc
and South Africa observer missions is not to ensure the full expression of
the "one person, one vote" principle but to legitimise a Zanu PF "victory",
regardless of the manner in which this "victory" is achieved.

There is an urgent need to demonstrate that this is not the case. However,
the decision by the Zimbabwe government not to invite the Sadc Parliamentary
Forum - who published an adverse report on the 2002 presidential poll - to
observe the elections, and the public defence of this decision by South
Africa, sows further doubts in the minds of the people vis--vis the
impartiality of the observers who have been invited.

We all fought bitter struggles to secure the right to freely elect leaders
of our choice. The people of Zimbabwe want food, jobs and better living
standards. They must be free to vote for the party they believe is best
equipped to address these basic grievances.

Any moves to compromise the exercise of this basic and hard-earned right
would severely damage the credibility of both the South African government
and Sadc.

Rhetorical commitments to promoting good governance have to be followed up
by concrete action if they are to be taken seriously. The elections in
Zimbabwe provide the first real test of this commitment.

Finally we are again appealing to the South African government to stop
aiding and abetting the Mugabe regime's denial of the basic rights of the
people of Zimbabwe to freely elect the government of their choice.

*Professor Welshman Ncube is secretary-general of the MDC.

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Zim Independent

Eric Bloch Column

The mirage of economic turnaround

THE government and its propagandists are vigorously enthusing that Zimbabwe's
economy is undergoing a very pronounced turnaround. They claim that the
massive economic decline that prevailed with ever-greater intensity over the
last seven years has been halted, and that it is being progressively
reversed. They proclaim loudly that the economy is now firmly entrenched
upon a path of recovery and that economic wellbeing is now assured.

If only that were so, but tragically it is just self-induced illusion and
delusion. The harsh facts are diametrically opposite to the contentions that
the economy is fast overcoming its many ills, and that economic utopia lies
The president, his cabinet, the ministerial minions and the state-controlled
media found their recurrent heralding of economic upturn primarily upon the
magnitude of the reduction in the consumer price index-based year-on-year
inflation rate. Admittedly, that reduction has been very impressive, with
the rate shrinking from its all-time high of 622,8 % in January 2004 to
133,6 % in January 2005. However, on the one hand, the latest rate is still
untenably high and the trigger of intensifying poverty, hardship and misery
for millions of Zimbabweans.

On the other hand, it is almost inevitable that the rate of inflation will
rise significantly in the months ahead, notwithstanding the vigorous efforts
of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) to contain inflation. The virtual
certainty that inflation will once again be rising is based upon diverse
circumstances, the first of which is the intensifying dependency upon food
imports. Only a few months ago Agriculture minister Joseph Made, strongly
supported by his Public Service colleague, trumpeted that Zimbabwe was on
the threshold of near record volumes of food production.

They foreshadowed harvests of such magnitude that Zimbabwe would resume its
role of southern African granary, exporting maize to neighbouring
territories. They advised the United Nations Development Programme that
Zimbabwe would not be in need of food aid in 2005, other than possibly for
Zimbabwe's Aids orphans.
They were hallucinating in the extreme! Having displaced the thousands of
farmers who had the skills and resources and replaced them with those
lacking in resources and, in many instances, experience, there was no
realistic prospect of achieving the bountiful harvests that they

The prospects of those harvests were further shattered by the failure of the
government to provide the new farmers with promised inputs. To cap it all,
drought then reared its ugly head.
The result is that Zimbabwe will have to import at least one million tonnes
of maize in 2005, and the transportation and other import costs must
undoubtedly increase the price of food payable by the consumer (although
until the month-end parliamentary elections having come and gone, the
government will use the Grain Marketing Board to subsidise food).

The post-election rise in food prices will be a major catalyst of rising
inflation. Moreover, the foreign currency required for food imports will
markedly reduce the availability of the forex necessary for other critically
required imports. As a result of inadequate foreign currency resources,
exacerbated by reduced inflows from other agricultural exports due to the
forecasts of tobacco production as spurious as the food forecasts, most
industries will not access the foreign currency needed to fund their
imported manufacturing inputs. Already most factories are using minimal
levels of their production capacities, and those levels are likely to
decline further. Many manufacturers are achieving production of only 20 to
30 % of capacity due partially to the non-availability of inputs, and
partially to discontinuance or reduction in exports, attributable to loss of
export viability and price competitiveness as a result of almost static
exchange rates.

Those rates have been manipulated into non-responsiveness to inflation, to
the grievous prejudice of exporters and export earnings. In consequence,
fixed overheads of manufacturers have to be apportioned over the diminished
production volumes, thereby increasing unit costs and consequently forcing
prices upwards.
The decrease in industrial production and of foreign currency for imports of
finished products will also intensify the shortages of many products already
existing. The excess of demand over supply will once again stimulate black
market activity, with concomitant price increases further fuelling

Yet another stimulus of rising inflation is looming, being the continuing
upward movement in world oil prices. Those prices have risen from about
US$29 a barrel only a year or so ago to over US$52 at the present time.

As if all those ills do not suffice, the government is once again engaged
upon a spending binge evidencing that its declarations of fiscal discipline
were hollow. For a few months the government harkened to the calls for
contained expenditure and minimisation of the fiscal deficit, in order to
assist the drive to bring down inflation.
However, with elections looming, the government has discarded all endeavours
to curb its profligacy. Suddenly it is funding fleets of costly new motor
vehicles for chiefs, distributing pensions of $1,3 million per month to each
of 10 000 "ex-political detainees", representing a fiscal outflow of more
than $15,6 billion per annum, increments for the Public Service in excess of
inflation, nationwide donations of (admittedly necessary) computers to
schools and much else.
Clearly the government is prepared to devastate the economy in order to
cultivate voter support, but in so doing it is creating yet another trigger
for escalating inflation. Although the government is trying to make mileage
out of an alleged increase in the numbers in formal employment, its own
statistics demonstrate that almost 80%t of Zimbabwe's labour force is
unemployed. According to the government, more than four-fifths of those
desirous of formal employment are unemployed. How can that be indicative of
an economic upturn?

And the situation is likely to worsen as more and more industries are faced
with no alternatives other than to lay off contract labour and retrench much
of their permanent work forces, for they are faced with diminishing domestic
consumer demand for their products and can no longer compete in export
markets as a result of their rising production costs not being compensated
for by exchange rate movements. Further indicators of the economic
stagnation include the minimal extent of investment taking place. Foreign
investors are deterred from investing in Zimbabwe by the straitened state of
the economy, the excessively regulatory economic environment and the
non-conducive investment environment created by recurrent threats of forced
disinvestments in favour of indigenous elements, and by disregard for
bilateral investment protection agreements entered into between Zimbabwe and
other governments.
The negative economic indicators also include the very adverse international
credit ratings "enjoyed" by Zimbabwe.

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Zim Independent

A Commonwealth of the margins
By Stephen Chan
THE Commonwealth has long been marginal to most people's view of
international relations. There is, however, a thriving Commonwealth industry
among officials and professional groups. Some of this industry is a form of

When the Commonwealth Press Union presents the Astor Award for Press
Freedom, this is a moment of great encouragement to persecuted African
journalists and editors. The difficulty comes when each group sees itself in
isolation, and when Commonwealth officials see the entire Commonwealth in

It is probably reasonable to think of five great groups that constitute
civil society. These are the press, the churches, the universities, the
trade unions and the legal community. Each group, unlike single-interest
non-governmental organisations, speaks in terms of universal values and
across-the-board freedoms.

There are active Commonwealth associations for at least three of these, but
none would pretend that its fight is anything but an international one that
goes way beyond the boundaries of the Commonwealth. In the world of
journalism, for instance, and as the war in Iraq has demonstrated, it really
is a world of journalists sans frontieres. The advent of Arab international
media is a case in point.

But even in the world of media there was never a closed Commonwealth version
of the real, larger thing. The great broadcast networks of today - BBC, CNN,
Fox and Al Jazeera - are also broadcasters sans frontieres, even if some of
them have very closed ideological backdrops. The fact that the fourth of
these players, Al Jazeera, is not an English-language medium, merely
reflects the scale of change in international communication generally.

If not now, then very soon, the main Internet language will be Chinese. It
was Brazilian media advisers who, using Portuguese, facilitated the election
campaigns in post-war Angola and Mozambique. And anyone who thinks French is
losing its international place need only observe the avid readers of Le
Monde Diplomatique in the slums of Dakar.

The real problem for the Commonwealth as an overall world player, however,
is that its official body, the Commonwealth Secretariat, has very limited
capacity to act in international affairs. There are five great issues of
today: the issue of democracy; international violence; the great
confessional or religious divides that may be springing up; the huge issue
of health, whether in terms of HIV or Asian bird flu; and the massive
backdrop problem that simply will not go away of poverty and

The official Commonwealth has acted, or tried to act in the facilitation of
democracy. Ironically, its foundation document on democracy is the Harare
Declaration on Human Rights, signed in Zimbabwe in 1991 - but the
Commonwealth has been unable to check the lack of democracy in the last five
years of President Robert Mugabe. The Commonwealth has set its store in what
it accomplishes by way of election observation but, frankly, the Carter
Centre now does as good if not a better job.

Similarly, the Commonwealth has tried to pose new initiatives to grapple
with underdevelopment. But not since the days of its second
secretary-general, Shridath Ramphal, from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s,
has it proposed anything startling. The agendas are set elsewhere - in terms
that act against the Third World in the World Trade Organisation; in terms
that seek, mildly, to assist the Third World by economists such as Joseph
Stiglitz. The Commonwealth has no capacity at all in the vast fields of
health and disease, confessional violence, war and terrorism.

And the world groupings, especially the power groupings, are bypassing the
Commonwealth. In the jostling to become members of an enlarged UN Security
Council, India, Nigeria, and perhaps South Africa, would not sit as
self-consciously Commonwealth members. If they sit as conscious
representatives of any group it would be the Non-Aligned Movement.

None of the great power blocs that may or may not emerge to challenge the
unipolarity of the US contains a significant, or any, Commonwealth presence.
A United States of Europe, China, a revitalised Russia, some sort of Asian
alliance built around Japan - each would view the Commonwealth as marginal
or moribund.

What can be done with this polite club, its archaic symbolisms, its lowest
common denominator consensus? There are two stark options.

The first is simply to live without it. Even the Commonwealth Press Union
and its Astor Award would quickly and easily morph into a different more
embracive group. The second would be to change the Commonwealth into a
genuine world player. There would be two key requirements here.

The first is that its membership must be enlarged. Either because of the
archaic tradition of some former British rulership, countries like Egypt,
Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel and Palestine need to be persuaded to join. Or, as
in the case of Mozambique, countries of all historical backgrounds could be
invited into membership. Why not even China?

In short, the group would become relevant by virtue of strategically
meaningful actors coming on board. It would mean the end of an
English-language Commonwealth. Arabic and Chinese would force the group into
a 21st-century multi-lingualism.

The second key requirement, conversely, is to reduce the size of the
Commonwealth Secretariat. At the moment it fields several divisions, each
trying to say something - even if it does little - on the huge issues of
health and underdevelopment. Their combined technical impact is, on the
ground, negligible.

Member governments know this, and it is perhaps why they have consistently
made their funding of the Secretariat tighter and more frugal - even though,
as international organisations go, it is already cheap to run.

What the Commonwealth Secretariat does best right now is illustrated by its
meetings of finance ministers, immediately before World Bank and
International Monetary Fund summits. They give Third World delegations a
chance to rehearse, to brief one another, to form negotiating alliances. It
is this sort of activity at high level, but in fields to do not only with
high finance but high politics that a streamlined Secretariat would

It may mean an end to consensus. There might even be arguments involving
more than everyone against the United Kingdom. It might mean a moment of
delayed maturity.

But, having said all that, there is a key role that an enlarged
Commonwealth, properly facilitated, should play. This concerns the
confessional divides that may plague the world. They may plague the world
only because of a lack of international understanding.

It is not enough to say, lazily, there is a clash of civilisations. It is
more important to be able to say what each "civilisation" represents, how it
thinks, what it wants, how it changes when it is able to interact on equal
terms with the West. And how the West changes too.

This all goes beyond soundbites. It goes beyond the sub-editor's skill in
punchy headlines. It places a responsibility on newspapers and broadcasters.
But it is this which would not only finally justify the Commonwealth, it
might be an effort that could save us all.

*This is a summary of Stephen Chan's presentation to the Biennial Conference
of the Commonwealth Press Union in Sydney, held from February 23-25 2005.
Chan is professor of international relations at the University of London and
dean of law and social sciences at the School of Oriental and African
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Zim Independent


Beware of Zanu PF chameleon near you

ON February 25 this newspaper published a story headed "Time/RBZ negotiate
deal". On March 13 Sunday Business published a story headed "Time Bank and
RBZ in negotiations".
Our story in businessdigest was written by Shakeman Mugari while the Sunday
Mail's was authored by Augustine Moyo. Both stories concerned Time Bank
challenging its placement under a curator by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe
and an attempt to reach a less costly out-of-court settlement.

Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, it is said. But we would
have expected Augustine to at least acknowledge his indebtedness to
businessdigest instead of quoting nameless sources to mask a reproduction of
Shakeman's story. Plagiarism is a serious act of misconduct in any field of
endeavour, more so in journalism. For once one is made to feel there was
merit in having the Media and Information Commission. But then the
disappointment quickly dawns when Muckraker sees MIC chair Tafataona Mahoso
turning his face the other way when such transgressions are committed by
state reporters.

Either way the MDC can't win. Zanu PF propagandists seem determined to
believe their own lies rather than face facts. MDC economics secretary
Tendai Biti two weeks ago denied that his party was working with British
prime minister Tony Blair in the so-called regime-change agenda. This was in
response to a mischievous question by Supa Mandiwanzira during a television
panel discussion.
Biti's answer didn't please Zanu PF mandarins. If he had said they were
working with Tony Blair they would have lynched his party in the state
media. He denied the claim. That has not stopped them trying to lynch Biti
in person in their anti-Blair campaign material. Their epitaph now is:
"Defeat political dishonesty, vote Zanu PF".
Read between the lines to get the message, especially when the party
promises regular fuel supplies and "more foreign currency inflows". From
disenfranchised Zimbabweans in the diaspora!

What exactly is Ivy Kombo's claim to fame? Nothing more than the myth the
media has created around her as a so-called gospel diva.
The problem with our excitable reporters is that someone becomes a diva even
with just one song, and that is also thought to reflect on the performer's
spiritual values.
That is the disaster we are having with Ivy who has courted undue
controversy ever since she released her first gospel song. Her social life
and behaviour are said to be unbecoming. She has not helped matters by
trying to play holy.
But last week she stretched our tolerance too far. We don't know how she
performed at the Koffi Olomide show. Her pictures in the papers were less
than flattering. A Herald caption told us she "looked tired after a good
performance" as she sat near two colleagues one of whom was holding three
cans of beer. The Saturday Mirror carried another picture of Ivy from the
same function in which she looked clearly groggy and unable to open her
She defended her role in the Ndombolo group of "disrepute" by saying Jesus
came into the world for sinners. So she was playing Jesus when she clapped
at Olomide's satanic dances.
We enjoyed it when she told the Standard in an interview that she was in a
foul mood these days and in any case hates journalists from that paper. That
is a helpful disclosure. Who would not want to know who their enemies are?
She also claimed her performance could have resulted in the conversion of
one or two prostitutes in the audience. We hope she did.

The deserter from Mabvuku has no shame in opening up on her former boss in
the Harare city council. This week she let it be known that dismissed former
MDC executive mayor Elias Mudzuri was a big spender.
Sekesai Makwavarara said Mudzuri bought beer and whisky for councillors
"which we would consume" at council meetings.
If this was abhorrent to her why did she join in the binge and never made
any noise about it? At least we didn't bother then so long as there was
evidence of work being done. We wonder what Makwavarara and her imposed
commission are doing now?
In the Herald article she complained that there was no water where she
stays, that is in the mayor's mansion in Gunhill. It looks like the spirit
of grabbing lives on in the party.

Talking of political dishonesty, VP Joyce Mujuru had some revelations for
Bulawayo voters last week. She said Bulawayo was lagging behind in
development because the political leadership in the province did not claim
the money allocated for projects. She said there was a lot of money
allocated to the province which had not been claimed.
According to the Herald, Mujuru told her listeners in Bulawayo that they had
voted for the wrong people in choosing the MDC.
"The people that you elected do not come to us to tell us your problems and
sometimes we do not even know the problems that you face," said Mujuru
"There was a lot of money that was given to this province that has gone
This must come as a great relief to the people of Matabeleland who have been
fighting to have water from the Zambezi River for nearly a century.
But telling them that the Zanu PF leadership sometimes doesn't know their
problems sounds like executive arrogance and we doubt if this claim will
find many takers in the March 31 election.

Zanu PF has all but told white Zimbabweans to keep out of local politics.
They were largely blamed for President Robert Mugabe's humiliating defeat in
the constitutional referendum of February 2000. What followed, as they say,
is now history although most of them will lick their wounds for a long time
to come.

We were therefore surprised to see a clever little advert in the Herald on
Tuesday this week inserted by the party's candidate for the Harare East
constituency, one Dr Mukarati Muvengwa Madonza, inviting all and sundry to
the Portuguese Association Club in Greendale for a meeting. Specifically, it
promised "black and white Zimbabwean economic empowerment". Tell that to
Chinotimba and his ilk.

When did whites become of interest to Zanu PF when it uses them to blemish
the MDC? For those who are able to read a little further, the Zanu PF
anti-Blair advert on the facing page promises voters economic "empowerment
through takeovers". That started with the farms and they say once bitten
twice shy - or once beaten twice shy as Zanu PF would say.
Zanu PF is adapting faster than a chameleon.

Muckraker was intrigued by President Thabo Mbeki's claim in his recent
Financial Times interview that he was "the only head of government that I
know anywhere in the world who has actually gone to Zimbabwe and spoken
publicly very critically of the things that they're doing."

Muckraker's memory may be faulty here but it is difficult to recall which
visit Mbeki is thinking of. We do remember him at one point in South Africa
saying land reform needed to be carried out in a manner that did justice to
all races, but nothing "very critical" at all about Zimbabwe's policy of
arbitrary seizures. And certainly nothing in the last year in which those
seizures have persisted despite assurances to the contrary.
It is a pity the FT interviewer didn't pin the South African leader down to
just when he made his "very critical" remarks!

Zanu PF propagandist Caesar Zvayi this week took a swing at the Zimbabwe
Independent and Standard claiming they were linked to George Soros.
Presidential spokesman George Charamba has said much the same thing in the
past so it is not difficult to conclude where Zvayi is getting his dubious
information. Needless to say, Zvayi doesn't provide a scrap of evidence to
back his silly claim.

So here's the challenge to all the state's parrots: let's have the evidence.
Either put up or shut up!
As for Zvayi's crass attempts to compare Wilf Mbanga's paper to
RadioTelevision Libre des Mille Collines that promoted genocide in Rwanda in
the mid-1990s, who is it that has been promoting race hate in Zimbabwe?
Certainly not the independent press. And don't we recall Zvayi threatening
opposition voters in more than one of his columns last year?
Objecting to The Zimbabwean's reprinting of the CCJP/LRF report on Fifth
Brigade atrocities in Matabeleland in the 1980s, Zvayi asks, "as a reminder
to what?"

The answer to that is simple: to a rogue state using the army and police to
crush dissent and settle political scores in the process; to the abuse of
power; to Zanu PF's unrequited ambitions to impose its tyranny on the rest
of us.
But we do appreciate Zvayi's attention to detail. The Zimbabwean was as
Zimbabwean as Chelsea, Tony Blair's "only daughter", he claimed recently.
Bill Clinton may be surprised to hear that.

Under the heading "State invests billions in new buildings", the Herald last
week carried a propaganda piece focusing on the new Makombe Complex which
will house the Central Registry, Registrar-General's office, and Passport
and Citizenship offices. This was an excellent choice for the Herald's
Silver Jubilee puff pieces because the building is emblematic of cronyism in
the award of the initial construction contracts, costly delays as a result
of those contracts not meeting requirements, and chaotic scenes at the
existing Citizenship and Passport offices as a result of the whole project
being years behind schedule.
Once again, congratulations to the Herald for advertising the incompetence,
waste and inconvenience to the public that are integral to Zanu PF rule.

In this context we were intrigued by Zanu PF's claim that it will put an end
to "racist factory closures". Does this mean it will put an end to the party's
racism that together with toxic economic policies have led to factory
closures? Or can we expect more of the same: More unemployment and dishonest
attempts to blame this on anybody but those responsible?

The author of this facile propaganda should ask the unemployed who they
think is responsible for their fate. They will say Mugabe, not Blair! And
have civic institutions drawn observers' attention to the fact that a
citizen in the back of a taxi exercising his right to freedom of expression
by saying Mugabe was responsible for the mess the country finds itself in
was subsequently charged and given a suspended sentence - ie warned against
making such statements again. So much for democracy!

T hen we had Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri making the fatuous
statement that Posa was similar to laws found in Britain and the United
States. "The accusations that this piece of legislation was designed for one
political party are false," he said. "Are all political parties not holding
rallies country-wide as we speak?"
Is he seriously suggesting the opposition has been free all this time to
hold rallies wherever and whenever it wished? That Posa has not been used to
prevent rallies or meetings?

Don't we recall a Bulawayo MP being arrested for holding a meeting in her
restaurant? As for Posa resembling similar legislation in the UK and US,
Chihuri is free to advertise his ignorance but should not be surprised if
people laugh. Does he really believe Zimbabweans don't travel and experience
the freedoms available in other countries?
This reminds us of the story - probably apocryphal - of the Zimbabwean
diplomat in London who, when asked about freedom of expression in his
country, said it was not true that it didn't exist. People were completely
free to denounce Tony Blair, he said.
Before we let the complacent police commissioner go, he should be set an
accountability agenda for future press conferences: Why has Joseph Mwale not
been brought to justice; why do the killers of David Stevens and Martin Olds
and his mother continue to walk free; why have the terrorists who twice
bombed the Daily News offices not been brought to justice; why have the
abductors and torturers of Mark Chavunduka and Ray Choto not been identified
despite a court order to the police to investigate?
Next time Chihuri talks about the need to carry out his "constitutional
mandate without fear or favour" he should be asked why those criminals have
been favoured by not being arrested.
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SW Radio Africa jamming confirmed by BBCM Observations made on 16 March
confirm the presence of deliberate jamming on all three broadcasts made by
SW Radio Africa.

The 1600gmt cast on 11845kHz was accompanied by a continuous 1kHz tone
whilst the 1700 and 1800gmt casts, on 11705 and 11995kHz respectively, were
targeted by a rotary-type jammer. The interfering signals were present only
for the period of the SW Radio Africa programming.

Source: BBC Monitoring research, 1900 gmt 16 Mar 05
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