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

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The Telegraph

The great escape from Mugabe misery
David Blair in Madziloje
(Filed: 24/03/2005)

After crossing a sandy river bed and scrambling through dense undergrowth,
the young, breathless Zimbabwean reached the final obstacle on his journey.

Clive Ncube halted before a 12ft fence, topped with barbed wire, snaking
through the bush country lining the frontier between Botswana and Zimbabwe.
He placed his foot in the wire mesh and vaulted over.

"If the Botswanan soldiers catch you crossing here, they can beat you," said
30-year-old Mr Ncube. "But the police won't beat you, they will take you to
the police station and deport you back to Zimbabwe."

Yesterday, Mr Ncube joined the tens of thousands of Zimbabweans who have
fled their country for the relative prosperity of Botswana. Last year alone,
Botswana deported 36,000 illegal immigrants back to Zimbabwe.

This was only a fraction of the human tide seeking refuge from President
Robert Mugabe's rule. Official figures issued by the Harare regime last
February suggest that 3.4 million Zimbabweans - about a quarter of the
population - are now living abroad.

The impact of the exodus can be gauged by Zimbabwe's last census, which
recorded a static population for the first time since records began. Mr
Mugabe's government estimates that as many as 1.1 million Zimbabweans live
in Britain and another 1.2 million in South Africa.

Those figures are only educated guesses but the undoubted facts are that Mr
Mugabe has struck terror into Zimbabwe, wiped out some 40 per cent of the
economy in the past five years and presided over the world's highest
inflation rate of 140 per cent.

The flight from Zimbabwe is on a scale usually created only by civil war.
Few other dictators have wrecked their countries to the point where one
quarter of the population packs up and leaves. In recent times only Iraq
under Saddam Hussein and Afghanistan under the Taliban can compare.

But Mr Ncube's escape and that of thousands of others is becoming steadily
more difficult. Botswana has built a 300-mile fence along its border with
Zimbabwe. It will "go live" in June and anyone trying to repeat Mr Ncube's
feat will receive a 220-volt shock.

Botswana claims that the fence is designed to prevent an outbreak of
foot-and-mouth disease. Protecting Botswana's valuable cattle herd is a real
concern but no one doubts that stopping the likes of Mr Ncube is also part
of the plan.

Army and police Land Rovers patrol Botswana's dusty border village of
Madziloje, near where Mr Ncube crossed the fence, keeping watch on the banks
of the Ramaquabane river marking the frontier.

Yet nothing could have prevented the influx of emaciated migrants. In
Francistown, the urban centre nearest to the border, desperate and hungry
Zimbabweans throng the pavements and street markets, begging or selling

Siteni Mkalbol, 32, fled Zimbabwe four months ago and sells sweets and
cigarettes. "In Zimbabwe there is no money, no food, no jobs, nothing," she
said. Mrs Mkalbol could not afford to bring her son and two daughters, aged
between four and 10. They stayed with her mother, Anna, in Bulawayo.

Mrs Mkalbol grieves for her divided family. Two brothers and one sister work
elsewhere in Botswana and another brother lives in Durban, South Africa.
Only two of her siblings are still in Zimbabwe. "They are in secondary
school. When they finish, they will leave the country," she said.

Zimbabwe's currency is virtually worthless and what remains of the country's
economy is kept afloat by inflows of hard currency from the diaspora. But
Mrs Mkalbol has managed to send only £70 to her children since her arrival.

The flood of impoverished Zimbabweans makes it increasingly difficult for
Francistown's street vendors to earn a living. It has also created
resentment among the host population, who blame a sudden rise in crime on
the new arrivals.

"I can't go out at night," said Gorata Ngoni, 22, who was born in
Francistown. "The Zimbabweans steal from us and rape us. They break into our
homes when we are out. Botswana is a small country. So how can we
accommodate all these other people?"
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Nicholas D. Kristof: Zimbabwe's cruel paradox

        By Nicholas D. Kristof The New York Times
        Thursday, March 24, 2005

BINGA, Zimbabwe The hungry children and the families dying of AIDS here are
gut-wrenching, but somehow what I find even more depressing is this: Many,
many ordinary black Zimbabweans wish that they could get back the white
racist government that oppressed them in the 1970s.
"If we had the chance to go back to white rule, we'd do it," said Solomon
Dube, a peasant whose child was crying with hunger when I arrived in his
village. "Life was easier then, and at least you could get food and a job."
Dube acknowledged that the white regime of Ian Smith was awful. But now he
worries that his 3-year-old son will die of starvation, and he would rather
put up with any indignity than witness that.
An elderly peasant in another village, Makupila Muzamba, said that hunger
today is worse than ever before in his seven decades or so, and said: "I
want the white man's government to come back. Even if whites were oppressing
us, we could get jobs and things were cheap compared to today."
His wife, Mugombo Mudenda, remembered that as a younger woman she used to
eat meat, drink tea, use sugar and buy soap. But now she cannot even afford
corn gruel. "I miss the days of white rule," she said.
Nearly every peasant I've spoken to in Zimbabwe echoed those thoughts,
although it's also clear that some still hail President Robert Mugabe as a
liberator. This is a difficult place to gauge the mood in, because foreign
reporters are barred from Zimbabwe and promised a prison sentence of up to
two years if caught. I sneaked in at Victoria Falls and traveled around the
country pretending to be a tourist.
The human consequences of the economic collapse are heartbreaking. I visited
a hospital and a clinic that lacked both medicines and doctors. Children die
routinely for want of malaria medication that costs just a few dollars.
At one maternity ward, 21 women were sitting outside, waiting to give birth.
No nurse or doctor was in sight, and I asked the women when they had last
eaten meat, eggs or other protein. They laughed uproariously. Lilian Dube,
24, who had hiked 11 miles to get to the hospital, said that she had
celebrated Christmas with a morsel of goat meat.
"Before that, the last time I had meat was Christmas the year before," she
said. "I just eat corn porridge and mnyi," a kind of wild fruit.
An elementary school I visited had its fifth graders meeting outside,
because it doesn't have enough classrooms. Like other schools, it raises
money by charging fees for all students - driving pupils away.
"Only a few of the kids who started in grade one are still with me in
school," Charity Sibanda, a fifth-grader, told me. "Some dropped out because
they couldn't pay school fees. And some died of AIDS."
As many as a third of working-age Zimbabweans have AIDS or HIV, and every 15
minutes a Zimbabwean child dies of AIDS. Partly because of AIDS, life
expectancy has dropped over the last 15 years from 61 to 34, and 160,000
Zimbabwean children will lose a parent this year.
AIDS is not Mugabe's fault, but the collapse of the health system has made
the problem far worse.
The West has often focused its outrage at Mugabe's seizure of farms from
white landowners, but that is tribalism on our part. The greatest suffering
by far is among black Zimbabweans.
I can't put Isaac Mungombe out of my mind. He's sick, probably dying of
AIDS, and his family is down to one meal a day. His wife, Jane, gave birth
to their third child, Amos, six months ago at home because she couldn't
afford $2 to give birth in the hospital. No one in the family has shoes, and
the children can't afford to attend school. They're a wonderful, loving
family, and we chatted for a long time - but Isaac and Jane will probably
soon die of AIDS, and the children will join the many other orphans in the
When a white racist government was oppressing Zimbabwe, the international
community united to demand change. These days, a black racist government is
harming the people of Zimbabwe more than ever, and the international
community is letting Mugabe get away with it. Our hypocrisy is costing
hundreds of Zimbabwean lives every day.
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The Times

            They may be continents apart, but Mugabe blames Blair for
            From Xan Rice in Harare
            Bemused voters find that the British leader is dominating the
Zimbabwean election

            FORGET about education. Forget about job creation, even though
unemployment is running at 80 per cent. The 2005 parliamentary election in
Zimbabwe is all about the threat posed by a middle-aged man living thousands
of miles away.
            President Mugabe, who since 2000 has made no secret of his
contempt for Britain, has dubbed next week's vote the "anti-Blair election".
Demonisation of the Prime Minister has become the central platform of the
ruling Zanu (PF) party's campaign.

            Yesterday on page 3 of the government-run Herald newspaper, the
country's biggest, a full-page advertisement declared: "Bury Blair, Vote
Zanu PF." In bullet points, the British Prime Minister was blamed for
everything from "racist factory closures" to "politically motivated price
increases" and sanctions.

            Nearly every Zanu (PF) campaign speech contains angry references
to Mr Blair, whom Mr Mugabe accuses of financing the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC).

            "It's like Tony Blair is having to fight an election campaign on
two fronts - in Britain and here," Andrew Moyse, project co-ordinator for
Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe, said.

            The bizarre campaign has many urban voters perplexed. Foster, a
security guard in Harare who did not want to give his full name for fear of
reprisals, said: "Why is he talking about Blair when people are starving in
this country?" Primrose, a young professional, said: "This has to be one of
the most irrelevant platforms ever." Munya, who owns an IT company, said the
focus on Blair was " nonsense propaganda".

            But Zanu (PF)'s campaign is designed to woo, or rather scare,
rural voters by suggesting that if the opposition wins, Zimbabwe will became
a de facto colony of Britain once more, and that land will be returned to
white farmers. In a rally near the South African border on Tuesday,
President Mugabe told the crowd: "Our heritage needs to be protected from
neocolonialists like Blair."

            Brian Raftopoulos, Associate Professor of Development Studies at
the University of Zimbabwe, said that with the land reform programme behind
him, Mr Mugabe has had to find an outside area of focus - Mr Blair - "to
displace discussion of the problems he faces at home".

            No matter how strange the anti-Blair message may seem, President
Mugabe is having no problem getting it across. All electronic media are
government-controlled, despite a ruling by the Supreme Court five years ago
that such a monopoly was unconstitutional.

            In rural areas, where more than 60 per cent of people rely on
radio for their information, they are fed a daily diet of Zanu (PF)
propaganda. Since election coverage began on February 26, Zimbabwe
Television Network, the country's only terrestrial television station, has
given 82 per cent of its time to Zanu (PF), and 18 per cent to the MDC,
according to Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe. The newspapers are scarcely
any better. Under the draconian Access to Information and Protection of
Privacy Act, four independent newspapers have been closed since 2003,
including the Daily News, which had become the most popular newspaper in the

            Dozens of local journalists have been harassed, and a few weeks
ago three journalists working for foreign media - including the Times
correspondent, Jan Raath, who had lived here for 30 years - were forced to
leave the country after being accused of spying. The remaining independent
newspapers are mainly weeklies and too expensive for most Zimbabweans.

            The Government's Herald newspaper, which is delivered to guests
at most hotels in the capital, does not even make a token attempt at
objectivity. Yesterday its two main leading articles were titled "Zim proves
critics wrong" and "MDC - a body without soul".



      Election date: March 31

      Main parties: Mugabe's Zanu (PF) party and The Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC)

      Current majority: 92 seats of 150

      Turnout (2002): 56 per cent

      Population: 12.9 million

      Unemployment: 80 per cent

      Key issues: Blair- bashing, land reform


      Election date: May 5 (expected)

      Main parties: Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat

      Current majority: 411 seats of 659

      Turnout (2001): 59 per cent

      Population: 59.6 million

      Unemployment: 4.7 per cent

      Key issues: Health, asylum, transport, education

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The Times

            England agree 'kill fee' to avoid return to Zimbabwe
            By Richard Hobson

            THE ECB has paid about £135,000 to Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) to
scrap the Test series that was postponed last year. With the governing
bodies agreeing that there is no space to rearrange the matches during the
present round of the ICC Future Tours Programme, it means that England will
not have to return to Zimbabwe before 2009.

            David Morgan, the ECB chairman, reached a deal with Peter
Chingoka, his counterpart at ZC, in Delhi last week. The Zimbabwe issue has
plagued the ECB since England refused to play the World Cup match in Harare
in 2003 and critics will be further angered at this payment to an
organisation said to have links to the Mugabe Government.

            Zimbabwe were suspended from Test cricket last year because
their team were considered too weak to compete. They pulled out of a series
against Australia before the scheduled meeting with England and Morgan said
that the ECB would not sanction going back until Australia had reorganised
its own fixtures.

            Chingoka was also seeking compensation for England's refusal to
rearrange the fifth one-day international that was cancelled because of
Zimbabwe's delay in issuing visas to certain news organisations, including
The Times.

            The England squad refused to countenance rescheduling what would
have become a fifth game in eight days and Morgan was adamant that blame
rested entirely with ZC and ruled out compensation.

            David Collier, the ECB chief executive, said yesterday: "No
specific payment has been made in respect of the cancelled one-day
international. However, a sum in line with the ICC standard fee for
cancelled Test matches has been made."

            That is in the region of $125,000 (about £67,000) per Test for
the games in Harare and Bulawayo. "Kill fee" might be a better description
because the ECB would rather take flak in the short term than have the
potential for a rearrangement hanging over them.

            a.. Matthew Maynard, one of the most destructive domestic
players of the past two decades, is to retire at the end of the 2005 season.
The Glamorgan batsman wants to concentrate on coaching, having assisted
Duncan Fletcher during England's one-day programme over the winter.
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ABC Australia

Thursday, March 24, 2005. 7:46am (AEDT)
Poll tips Mugabe landslide
By Africa correspondent Zoe Daniel

A new opinion poll points to a landslide victory for Zimbabwe's ruling
Government in next week's election.

The University of Zimbabwe survey found that President Robert Mugabe's Zanu
PF party could win 83 of 120 seats being contested in the general election
next Thursday.

Fifteen university students polled nearly 8,000 people across Zimbabwe.

They found that the Government could make inroads in urban areas
traditionally seen as sympathetic to the opposition Movement for Democratic

But the survey did suggest the Opposition could win up to 53 seats and may
take some ground in rural areas currently held by the ruling party.

The opposition has accused the Government of rigging voting rolls to affect
the election outcome, but President Mugabe says the poll will be fair.
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Upcoming Vote a Rite of Passage for SADC Guidelines

Moyiga Nduru

JOHANNESBURG, Mar 23 (IPS) - Daniel Molokela is joining other exiled
Zimbabwean activists in planning a mock election in South Africa's capital,
Pretoria, ahead of the parliamentary poll in Zimbabwe on Mar. 31. Hopes are
that about 1,000 Zimbabweans will congregate in front of their country's
embassy to support the event.

For those who do, the Mar. 29 vote will probably be the closest they will
get to casting ballots in their country's election.

Millions of expatriate Zimbabweans have been denied the right to participate
in the legislative poll (only embassy and other government officials based
overseas will be allowed to vote abroad come Mar. 31).

With economic hardship and political persecution having prompted upwards of
three million Zimbabweans to leave their country, the Harare government
reportedly fears that expatriates will support the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) in the parliamentary election. (Zimbabwe's total
population is estimated at almost 13 million.)

But, says Molokela - a member of the 'Crisis in Zimbabwe' pressure group -
this puts President Robert Mugabe's administration in contravention of
regional norms.

"This violates SADC (Southern African Development Community) principles and
guidelines which call on states to ensure that all citizens have access to
electoral processes and voting," he says, in reference to the 'SADC
Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections' that were agreed
on in the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius last year. Zimbabwe, as a member
of SADC, has signed up to the electoral code.

"If Mozambique which has less resources than Zimbabwe can allow its diaspora
to vote (in elections last year), why not us?" Molokela asks.

As the Mar. 31 poll draws closer, Molokela's voice is just one of a number
that have been raised to demand that the SADC guidelines be rigorously
implemented. Many view the parliamentary election as a key test of the
effectiveness of the code - and of SADC's willingness to hold member states
to account when they fail to hold free and fair polls.

For its part, the MDC alleges several violations of the SADC rules. Party
supporters plan to stage a march on the Zimbabwean embassy on Mar. 31 to
hand a letter to Ambassador Simon Khaya Moyo in which these are listed.

The MDC's spokesman in South Africa, Nicholas Dube, says the contraventions
include biased election coverage in the state media which - under the SADC
code - are supposed to provide equal coverage to all parties.

As IPS has reported previously, the launching of the ruling Zimbabwe African
National Union-Patriotic Front's (ZANU-PF) election campaign received four
hours of live coverage by the state media. In contrast, the MDC's campaign
launch was given less than three minutes by state television during an
evening news bulletin in early February.

And, "After the news bulletin, Mugabe was granted a two-hour interview to
explain his party's manifesto. Two weeks later the MDC was given a 15-minute
interview to explain its manifesto," Dube told IPS. "Ninety percent of the
state airwaves is dominated by the ruling ZANU-PF. This runs against SADC

To make matters worse, there are no private television or radio stations in
Zimbabwe that could provide more equitable coverage of the campaign. The
only privately-owned daily, the 'Daily News', was banned in 2003 under the
country's controversial Access to Information and Protection of Privacy
Act - leaving a few independent weekly papers the task of giving Zimbabweans
a balanced view of campaigning.

Sokwanele, a Zimbabwean pressure group, has been measuring the performance
of the Mugabe regime against the SADC principles and guidelines since
October 2004.

"Over this period a clear pattern has emerged of a steady movement by the
regime not towards, but rather away from, compliance with the regional
standards on democratic elections," it said in a Mar. 7 editorial published
in 'Mauritius Watch' - a regular survey provided by Sokwanele of Zimbabwe's
compliance with SADC electoral guidelines.

"The cumulative effect of their actions and omissions over very many months
considered in conjunction with the flawed electoral laws and repressive
security legislation now in place - and all within the context of the
climate of massive fear that now pervades Zimbabwe - effectively renders any
hope of a fair and free election on Mar. 31, an illusion," the group added.

On Mar. 21, Human Rights Watch, a New York-based non-governmental
organisation, also claimed that Zimbabwe had disregarded the regional
election code.

However, South African President Thabo Mbeki this month rejected suggestions
that Zimbabwe was failing to heed SADC standards.

Pretoria has adopted a policy of quiet diplomacy towards Harare, claiming
that high-pitched accusations will do little to encourage change in
Zimbabwe. Critics of the South African government say Zimbabwe has viewed
the lack of overt criticism from Pretoria as a licence to continue with its
behaviour of the past five years.

The last parliamentary poll, in 2000, and presidential elections in 2002
were marred by political violence and human rights violations that have,
overwhelmingly, been laid at the door of government. Parallel to this
violence, laws have been passed that restrict freedom of speech and

Perhaps to the ire of activists, the SADC election standards are not legally

"SADC cannot enforce it (the polling code) by a way of imposing sanctions
against an offending member state," said Khabele Matlosa of the
Johannesburg-based Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA) earlier
this month. He was speaking at a conference entitled 'Rethinking Zimbabwe's
Election: A Conflict Prevention Agenda', organised by EISA.

The guidelines also require SADC members to ensure political tolerance ahead
of elections and establish impartial electoral institutions - amongst other

While levels of political violence in Zimbabwe are acknowledged to be lower
than they were prior to voting in 2000 and 2002, rights abuses are still
widespread - and there are concerns about the neutrality of the Zimbabwe
Electoral Commission. (END/2005)
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Institute for War and Peace Reporting

War of Words on Campaign Trail

Mugabe and Tsvangirai trade verbal blows as they vie for voters in Masvingo

From Chipo Sithole in Bikita (Africa Reports: Zimbabwe Elections No 19,

If the mood in the impoverished small town of Bikita, in Masvingo province,
is anything to go by, Robert Mugabe may yet begin to regret the slight
loosening of the noose that had been placed around the opposition's neck.

President Mugabe's strategy, with parliamentary elections now only a week
away, appears to be to ease back on the widespread oppression that marked
the last parliamentary and presidential ballots in 2000 and 2002 - but rig
the polls to secure a clear victory for his ruling ZANU PF party.

He then expects the carefully invited observer teams - selected to ensure
that none are critical of the conduct of the campaign - to declare the
ballot "free and fair" some time after the March 31 polling day.

However, there are signs that Mugabe is not having it all his own way. For
it was the Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, leader Morgan Tsvangirai who
received the biggest welcome when both men descended recently on the small
town of Bikita 250 kilometres south of Harare - a once traditional ZANU PF
area. Here, white commercial farms have been wrecked, peasant crops have
failed and the population is riddled with HIV/AIDS.

In Bikita itself, Mugabe addressed a small, subdued crowd with a
denunciation of past land injustices and white racism and a reminder of
previous ZANU PF election victories in the constituency.

Meanwhile, Tsvangirai attracted a crowd of 15,000 - three times the number
who attended Mugabe's rally - at the nearby village of Nemamwa.

"The whites want us to be slaves," thundered Mugabe - a familiar campaign
theme, although there are barely 20,000 whites left in Zimbabwe from the
quarter million resident at the time of independence in 1980.

The president also accused white-owned businesses of deliberately closing
their factories "to force blacks onto the streets and turn them against
their government".

Tsvangirai's rally was dominated by young people who wore red "No To
Violence" stickers on their foreheads, while the president's gathering was
attended by middle-aged ladies wearing dresses and t-shirts imprinted with
the leader's image.

Tsvangirai said that on March 31, he aimed to complete the "process of
change" begun at the last parliamentary election five years ago when the
newly formed MDC came from nowhere and won 57 of the 120 electoral seats. He
said land reform was necessary, but not the most important issue - unlike
Mugabe who said his confiscation of white farms was a fulfilment of his
promise during the independence struggle to restore land to the black people
of Zimbabwe.

"The first priority is food," said Tsvangirai, speaking to people who have
experienced food shortages since 2000 and whose paltry crops are this year
withering in the burning sun following a failure of the annual summer rains.

He accused Mugabe of worsening an already serious food situation by slamming
the door on international food agencies - claiming Zimbabwe had so much food
that the people would choke on donated grain.

Tsvangirai reminded the crowd that Mugabe had promised to distribute
confiscated white farms to needy peasants, and instead given them to trusted
ministers, military officers, judges, other professionals and even churchmen
who used them for little more than weekend barbecues.

"We are saying 'one person, one farm' and we will give you all the necessary
support to farm, but if you fail we will remove you from the farm and
[replace you with those] who are productive," Tsvangirai told the gathering.

"The most important thing about land is being able to farm and produce.
Mugabe chased away all non-governmental organisations that were feeding
people. What kind of cruelty is that?"

To loud cheers, whistles and the massed open-hand salute of the MDC, he said
that if the MDC won the election, it would again allow international aid
agencies to operate in the country. He added that reorganising the farming
sector in strict accordance with the law would create employment for the
rural poor and help attract foreign investment again.

Mugabe, who has declared this election an "anti-Tony Blair" one, reflecting
his particular hatred of the British prime minister, denounced Tsvangirai as
a "tea boy" of the British government.

Recalling the liberation struggle against the white minority government of
Ian Smith and his own years in jail for opposing minority rule, he accused
Blair of harbouring "neo-colonialist" aspirations in Zimbabwe.

"What is his business here?" Mugabe asked to cheers delivered on cue. "How
can the prime minister of Britain behave like a street kid? The MDC are a
rabble of British stooges, a party of murderers."

He accused the UK premier of lying about human rights abuses by ZANU PF. "We
are not liars like Blair and [US president George W] Bush," he said. "They
lied that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction in order to find a pretext to
invade that country."

Mugabe made one passing but important reference to food. Confronted by the
fact that government silos in the whole of Masvingo province ran out of the
country's staple food maize at the beginning of March, he said, "We are
aware that many people have nothing in their fields. The government will not
let people die of hunger."

He said the government had enough grain in stock elsewhere to last for three
months, but it was difficult to get it to rural areas because of transport

At a later Tsvangirai rally further north, near Bindura, the MDC leader
provoked loud laughter when he said, "Whenever Mugabe speaks he's always
going on about Blair this, Blair that. If Mugabe wants to campaign against
[the British prime minister] he should go to the UK."

Leaving the Nemamwa rally, Blessing Gwinya, a 29-year-old unemployed welder
and his friends said they now believed the expulsion of white farmers from
the district's commercial properties had been a mistake.

"I could go there and get work," said Gwinya. "I could buy seed from the
farmer and plant it, just enough for my family."

Samuel Chiambiro, a 67-year-old who ran a carpentry business and raised
fifteen children by two wives, said he was extremely hopeful when Mugabe
came to power. "The Europeans, they treated Africans unkindly," he said.
"Ah, but this [situation] was not the thing we were fighting for. [Mugabe]
must go."

Chipo Sithole is the pseudonym of an IWPR journalist in Zimbabwe.
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Zim Online

SADC grills Zimbabwe election officials
Thur 24 March 2005
      HARARE - Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) observer mission
leader Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka yesterday took Zimbabwean election officials
to task over the role of traditional leaders in the country's upcoming poll.

      Mlambo-Ngcuka told Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) chairman George
Chiweshe and Elections Supervisory Commission (ESC) head, Theo Gambe, during
a briefing of election observers by the two officials that her mission was
concerned that some of the reported activities of the chiefs might be in
breach of regional guidelines for democratic polls.

      "What is the role of the chiefs in this election?" Mlambo-Ngcuka, who
is also South Africa's Minerals and Energy Minister, asked Chiweshe and

      The SADC chief observer added: "Are the chiefs participating and in
what capacity? Are they observers or monitors? Are they going to play a role
if any, what is their role and under what electoral law? My delegation is
worried about their role.

      "The main opposition has raised the issue with us, so we want to see
if their role is not in conflict with the SADC principles and guidelines of
staging elections in a democracy."

      Chiweshe and Gambe, who both appeared taken aback by Mlambo-Ngcuka's
probing questions, were at pains to explain the role of traditional leaders
accused by the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party of
using their influential positions in remote rural areas to intimidate
villagers to vote for ZANU PF in the March 31 ballot.

      With other local and foreign observers joining in to grill the two
election officials over the role of chiefs, Gambe denied knowledge of claims
that chiefs were intimidating their subjects to back ZANU PF.

      Gambe also attempted to dismiss claims that chiefs were campaigning
for ZANU PF as mere allegations common in an election situation and added
that the traditional leaders had no role to play in next week's plebiscite.

      He said: "These are just mere allegations being peddled by people.
Remember this is a contest and people are just alleging all sorts of things
. . . as far as the electoral laws are concerned, the chiefs have no role.
They will not be at polling stations. This is false. If we get any such
incidents we will surely act."

      The traditional leaders, who each receive a monthly pension of Z$1
million and a car for free from the state, are accused by the MDC and
pro-democracy groups of forcing people in their areas to support ZANU PF.
The chiefs, recently allowed by the government to fine their subjects up to
$50 million, are said to be threatening to heavily punish or even expel
suspected MDC supporters from their areas.

      In addition to the 299 chiefs spread across Zimbabwe's entire rural
countryside, the government is also said to have enlisted the help of
traditional spirit mediums to drum up support for its candidates in the
upcoming poll.

      Talking to ZimOnline after the briefing with the government election
officials, Mlambo-Ngcuka said she was planning to take up further the issue
of the chiefs with both the ZEC and the ESC. "We are meeting the ZEC and ESC
officials tomorrow (Thursday), I will raise the issue because as SADC we are
not satisfied with the explanation of the chairman (Gambe)," she said.

      The ZEC is overall in charge of running the election while the ESC's
main task is to monitor whether the ZEC is conducting the poll in a free and
fair manner. Both Chiweshe and Gambe were handpicked by President Robert
Mugabe and are widely viewed as too loyal to Mugabe and ZANU PF to be
impartial. - ZimOnline

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Soldiers deployed in Tsholotsho
Thur 24 March 2005
  BULAWAYO - The government has deployed soldiers in civilian clothes in
Tsholotsho constituency in what opposition candidates said was a desperate
attempt to intimidate voters there to back the ruling ZANU PF candidate in
next week's election.

      According to sources who spoke to ZimOnline yesterday, the soldiers
were first noticed on Tuesday afternoon in and around Tsholotsho rural
business centre. Some of the soldiers, who sources said were patrolling the
area in groups of about five men, were seen carrying pistols.

      Main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party candidate
for Tsholotsho, Mtoliki Sibanda, confirmed Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) men
in civilian clothes were in the area, one of the most tightly contested
constituencies in the March 31 ballot.

      Sibanda, who is the sitting Member of Parliament for the area said: "I
believe the soldiers are here but we are not worried. They have been here
before and the people of Tsholotsho are not intimidated. I am focused on
winning the elections with or without the presence of the soldiers. I
believe they are here to try and intimidate our people."

      Former government information minister, Jonathan Moyo, who is
contesting the constituency on an independent ticket after being fired from
the government, also said there were soldiers in Tsholotsho.

      "I am aware soldiers are there in plainclothes," said Moyo. "There are
no less than ten and no more than fifty men," said Moyo, speaking by phone
from Tsholotsho where said he was campaigning.

      "Its just intimidation but I am not worried. People of Tsholotsho know
what they want and will never be intimidated," Moyo added.

      It was not possible to get comment on the matter from the ZNA or from
Minister of Defence, Sydney Sekeramayi, yesterday.

      But ZANU PF deputy political commissar, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, dismissed
the reports of soldiers being seen in Tsholotsho as a lie by opposition
candidates who were already staring defeat in the upcoming poll.

      Ndlovu said: "We tell you there is nothing like that. Why would we
seek the service of the army when it is clear to all that we are sweeping
the election? It is a lie being peddled by the people already staring

      Sibanda, Moyo and ZANU PF's Musa Ncube-Mathema will battle it out next
Thursday for the Tsholotsho seat.

      But President Robert Mugabe has vowed to leave no stone unturned to
ensure his former propaganda chief, Moyo, does not win the seat.

      Moyo, who was unceremoniously pushed out of ZANU PF and the government
after attempting to scuttle the appointment of Joyce Mujuru as second
vice-president of ZANU PF and Zimbabwe, last week told journalists that
ruling party officials were telling villagers in Tsholotsho that the
government will unleash "Gukurahundi" if it lost the constituency.

      Gukurahundi, meaning the early rain that sweeps away the chaff before
the spring rains, was the term used to refer to a government crackdown on an
armed insurrection in Matabeleland, under which Tsholotsho falls and in
Midlands province in the early eighties.

      The army's North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade killed an estimated 20
000 innocent civilians during the crackdown against the dissidents. -

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Mugabe accuses Moyo of trying to incite coup
Thur 24 March 2005
  TSHOLOTSHO - President Robert Mugabe yesterday accused his former
propaganda chief, Jonathan Moyo, of attempting to incite a military coup
against him.

      Mugabe told supporters of his ruling ZANU PF party in Tsholotsho
constituency that Moyo had sought a meeting with Zimbabwe National Army
commander, Philip Sibanda, and inferred his former protégé may have wanted
to entice Sibanda to rise against the government.

      "What did he want from Sibanda?" asked Mugabe, who was in Tsholotsho
to canvass support for the ZANU PF candidate there, Musa Ncube-Mathema.

      "Did he want him to stage a coup in his favour?" added Mugabe,
Zimbabwe's leader since independence from Britain more than two decades ago.

      Mugabe told the crowd that he had on February 17 quizzed Moyo in the
presence of Vice-President Joyce Mujuru about the coup meeting but the
former information minister failed to explain.

      Moyo, who as information minister crafted tough media laws under which
four newspapers were closed and hundreds of journalists arrested in the last
three years, is contesting next Thursday's ballot on an independent ticket
after ZANU PF refused to let him stand on its ticket. Mugabe promptly fired
Moyo for standing as an independent. - ZimOnline
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FEATURE: School children - pawns in a bruising political game
Thur 24 March 2005
  HARARE - The heat is unbearable. Although it is the middle of the rainy
season, the skies will not yield any rain and the sun bakes the scorched
earth with unrelenting intensity.

      But the children remain huddled together like sheep in the open ground
here at Tafara High school where they have waited for the last five hours.

      President Robert Mugabe's motorcade, a symbol of royal extravagance
and paranoia depending on which side of the sharp political divide you
stand, is nowhere near the school where his innocent audience keeps wait.

      It was not the children's decision in the first place that they
abandon their books to brave the baking sun in the open here and it will not
be up to them either whether to continue waiting in the sun or to leave.

      The menacing looks of the youth militia derisively called "Green
Bombers," who are marshalling the school children, is a good enough reminder
of who is calling the shots here. No one is being allowed to leave the venue
before Mugabe addresses the crowd in one of Harare's poorest working class

      With dwindling numbers at its rallies, an increasingly panicky ZANU PF
has turned to a new weapon - school children - to boost the numbers and
paint a picture of invincibility ahead of a crucial election next Thursday.

      Mugabe's ruling party lost all seats in Harare to the then nine-month
old opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party in the last
parliamentary election in 2000, marred by serious political violence.

      With runaway inflation and massive unemployment in the ghettoes, the
urban electorate reacted with full force last time by punishing ZANU PF at
the polls.

      Now the 81-year old Mugabe, who some say must have had a Damascan
experience in repudiating violence for philanthropy, is on a mission to
recover lost seats in urban areas.

      Part of his campaign strategy is to donate computers to schools to win
back the hearts and souls of the urban voters.

      More than 300km east of the capital, in Chimanimani, hundreds of
school children walked a grueling five-kilometre journey to Gaza Stadium,
the venue for one of Mugabe's country-wide rallies last week.

      The scene has shifted but the script remains the same.

      A few days later at Marange High School, Mutare West in Manicaland,
Mugabe doled out more computers during his campaign rally. The president
also had a 15 000 crowd at another rally the same week in drought-hit
Bikita, Masvingo province the following day.

      The majority at these "computer rallies" as in other previous rallies
since campaigning for the March 31 election began in enerst two months ago
are innocent school children, force-marched to attend against their free

      The Zimbabwe Teachers Union (ZIMTA), a trade union for teachers, says
it does not have a standing position on the matter, an apparent show of fear
of the status quo.

      Dennis Sinyoro, the ZIMTA secretary-general pleaded ignorance about
these forced attendances at ZANU PF rallies. He said: "We are really
surprised. We will check with our structures on the ground and come up with
a position. We are not aware that teachers are being forced to attend
rallies during school time."

      Aaron Mpofu, whose son attends one of the primary schools in Tafara
complained bitterly over the use of children in political campaigns.

      He said: "Our children went to school at 8am and were not allowed to
leave the school grounds by the militia manning the gates. They spent the
whole day hungry but the president only came after 3pm. This is not fair at

      "For young children to spend the day under such conditions is
unacceptable," he fumed.

      University of Zimbabwe law lecturer Lovemore Madhuku, said the
practice by schools and ZANU PF amounted to abuse of children.

      Madhuku said: "This is abuse of innocent school children. We are
concerned about the wasted time during which they will be participating in
the campaign rallies."

      But Education Sport and Culture Minister Aeneas Chigwedere defended
the practice saying the students were only there to receive computers from
Mugabe. He also said Mugabe did not personally invite the students.

      Chigwedere said: "Teachers are excited about the computers and they
bring the children in appreciation of the president's gesture. It is the
teachers who bring along the pupils to the rally." - ZimOnline
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Election ruling deferred, commission takes jailed MP's case to Supreme Court
Thur 24 March 2005
  BULAWAYO - A High Court judge here yesterday deferred to today judgment in
an application by opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party
candidate Renson Gasela, who wants the court to bar the ruling ZANU PF
party's Josphat Madubeko from standing in Gweru Rural constituency.

      Gasela, who is sitting Member of Parliament for the area wants
Madubeko disqualified for contesting an election while he is still a
traditional headman in Chief Bunia's area which is part of the constituency.

      Under the Traditional Leaders Act, chiefs, headman and other
traditional leaders are prohibited from contesting any election while still
occupying their posts.

      Madubeko claims in papers filed at court that he had long relinquished
his traditional position when he opted to contest for political office.

      Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has appealed to the
Supreme Court against a decision by the Electoral Court to allow jailed MDC
candidate Roy Bennett to contest the March 31 poll.

      The electoral court last week overturned a decision by Nomination
Court officials to bar Bennett from contesting because he is in prison.
Bennett, one of the MDC's best candidates was jailed by Parliament last year
after the ruling ZANU PF party used its majority to vote for him to be sent
to prison for 12 months for violently shoving Justice Minister Patrick

      Electoral Court judge Tendai Uchena however nullified the ban on
Bennett and postponed polling in Chimanimani constituency from March 31 to
April 30 to allow the opposition candidate time to campaign.

      But President Robert Mugabe last week indicated he did not want
Bennett in the election and said the decision would be appealed. MDC
spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi questioned the ZEC's wisdom in appealing
against the ruling of the Electoral Court saying it put the commission's
neutrality in question.

      In the event the Supreme Court overturns the Electoral Court ruling,
Bennett's wife, Heather, will stand in his place after the MDC registered
her as stand-in candidate for Chimanimani. - ZimOnline
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