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

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      Thursday March 24, 04:34 AM

      Decayed townships are Zimbabwe poll battleground
      HARARE (Reuters) - Simon Chidziva breaks into a boyish grin as he
recalls the "good old days" in Highfield, one of the oldest townships in
Zimbabwe's capital Harare.

      With a modest salary, Chidziva was able to save for a two-bedroomed
house, entertain himself and friends and make a 350 km (220 miles) trip to
his rural home to see his parents every month.

      But that was 10 years ago and a world away. Now unemployed, the
37-year-old's face darkens as he lists the hardships of Highfield following
five years of economic crisis that he blames squarely on President Robert
Mugabe's ZANU-PF government.

      His job has vanished. The township is crumbling. Electricity and water
supplies are intermittent, and prices are soaring. As Zimbabwe prepares for
closely-watched parliamentary elections on March 31, urban voters like
Chidziva are in an angry mood.

      "ZANU-PF has not addressed our grievances ... what we need are leaders
who live by their promises," said Simon, an opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) supporter, while swigging a popular local brew from
a plastic container called a "Scud".

      Zimbabwe's townships, built in the then-Rhodesia by white minority
governments to house its black labour force, symbolise the daily struggles
faced by many ordinary people.

      From being the hotbed of nationalism during the country's fight for
independence, townships have become a key battleground for voters as ZANU-PF
and the MDC vie ahead of the March vote.

      Post-independence optimism has been replaced by a widespread feeling
that life is getting harder -- a dangerous political equation for the
government in power.

      The MDC, which came close to unseating Mugabe when it swept most urban
seats in the 2000 polls, hopes Simon and thousands like him will return it
to most urban constituencies.

      ZANU-PF draws its traditional strength from Zimbabwe's rural areas,
where 60 percent of the country's voters live. But turnout in townships has
risen in the past two polls as angry voters protest ruling party policies.

      The township vote is an important barometer for ZANU-PF and the MDC to
gauge the popularity of their policies.


      In Mbare, Harare's oldest township, residents struggle with collapsing
sanitation and transport systems, water and electricity shortages, poor
roads and an HIV/AIDS scourge that strains the already overwhelmed health

      Most other townships are similarly stricken, compounding difficulties
faced by a population that already grapples with more than 70 percent
unemployment and triple-digit inflation.

      Many have rallied behind the MDC, formed in 1999 amid popular anger at
Mugabe's policies, which critics say caused the country's worst economic

      Riding through Mbare shows why. Public taxi drivers bob and weave in
defiance of all road rules, swerving wildly to avoid potholes and a group of
school children. Many commuters make such trips everyday to and from work.

      Here, old corrugated roofed houses and illegal wooden and plastic
shacks are a reminder of a critical housing shortage.

      In Nenyere, a slum section of Mbare, dusty streets have been turned
into a market where anything from household goods, agricultural tools and
the staple maize is sold. Food is available on the black market here even in
times of shortage, although prices can fluctuate wildly with inflation.

      "Politicians promise you jobs that never come and people have decided
vending is the way forward," said a woman who identified herself as Tsitsi.

      Just a few yards from where Tsitsi has set up shop, is a municipal
dump overloaded with garbage that has not been collected for days.

      The labour-backed MDC says it offers the only hope for people like
Tsitsi and Simon and say anger against ZANU-PF will drive its party faithful
to deliver a no-confidence vote on the ruling party on voting day.

      Mugabe, himself a township resident before independence in 1980, was
this month presented with problems facing the urban poor as he started his
campaign drive into the opposition urban stronghold of Chitungwiza near

      As the 85-year-old veteran leader listened to the residents' wish list
at a government school, a burst sewer leaked for about 500 metres (yards)
just behind the school's walls.


      Near Simon's house in Highfield, a group of five school leavers sit at
a street corner, surveying passers-by and arguing whether to stay at home or
go to "Unit K", township slang for Britain -- Zimbabwe's former colonial

      Zimbabwe's economic and political crisis has driven many to mostly
Britain and South Africa is search of better paying jobs.

      "I am not registered to vote because that will not get me a job or
food, right now I am thinking of going to the UK (United Kingdom)," one of
the teenagers said.

      The government denies it is responsible for township problems and
blames the MDC which controls most urban municipalities.

      ZANU-PF says it stands a strong chance of wresting back the urban vote
from the MDC, citing an expected modest growth in the economy, which has
contracted almost 30 percent since 1999, as a welcome tonic for the urban

      Mugabe says sanctions against his government by the West and what he
calls sabotage by some local businesses working with the MDC, have hurt the
country's once vibrant economy and resulted in an urban protest vote against
ZANU-PF in 2000 and 2002.

      On March 31, Simon will line up to vote in his Highfield constituency
where, coincidentally, Mugabe traditionally votes. The irony is not lost on

      "We will be together (with Mugabe) ... (but) we will be voting for
change," he said.
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Khaleej Times

  South Africa offers "revolving door" to desperate Zimbabweans

  24 March 2005

  KRUGERSDORP, South Africa - Fresh off a van carrying some 25 "illegal
aliens", the 21-year-old Zimbabwean casts a worried glance as he prepares to
be fingerprinted, photographed and eventually put on a train back to

  The young man, who declined to give his name, says he is on the enemy list
of President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party for taking part in a union
meeting at his workplace in Harare last month.

  "They are looking for me," he says, shaking his head in disbelief at his
predicament. "If they get me, I am in trouble."

  South Africa deports between 600 and 6,000 Zimbabweans every week from a
repatriation center aptly called Lindela-which means "wait here" in Zulu and
Xhosa-a sprawling compound of dormitories and other buildings tucked behind
high walls in a field outside Krugersdorp, some 30 kilometers (18 miles)
west of Johannesburg.

  As Zimbabwe heads for key elections on March 31, South Africa continues to
be a destination of choice for illegal migrants from Zimbabwe who now number
as many as two million, according to unofficial estimates.

  And the government of President Thabo Mbeki openly admits that it is
fighting a losing battle against the influx of Zimbabweans fleeing poverty
and repression in their homeland, with many deportees returning to South
Africa within weeks.

  "We are facing a revolving door syndrome because they want to enjoy with
us the fruits of our own democratic dispensation," says home affairs
spokesman Nkosana Sibuyani.

  Sitting with a dozen other Zimbabwean women at outdoor tables in the women's
section of Lindela, 19-year-old Muzi said she was picked up during a police
raid at the restaurant where she worked in Johannesburg.

  "We are going to be back," she says, amid nods from the nearby women. "We
can't survive there."

  Zimbabweans form along with Mozambicans the bulk of the 80,000 to 90,000
deportees who pass through Lindela's doors every year, and very few manage
to convince South African officials that they should stay.

  Of the 8,305 Zimbabweans who have sought political asylum in South Africa
since 1994, only 54 have been granted refugee status, according to the home
affairs department, which maintains that the migrants are drawn to South
Africa for jobs.

  Muzi and others were among the 1,240 Zimbabweans who were to board the
weekly deportation train to make the ten-hour ride to the border where they
were to be turned over to Zimbabwean authorities.

  For some like Robert who says he is an opposition member, the prospect of
returning to Zimbabwe instills fear and some detainees have leapt from the
train to avoid going back.

  "They will start beating us again," says Robert from Bulawayo.

  After rights groups complained about the deportations from Lindela, a new
system of digital fingerprints and other technology was installed late last
year to try to weed out cases of asylum-seekers among illegal migrants.

  A weekly visitor to Lindela, lawyer Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh says she has
raised concerns about unlawful detentions and ensuring that Zimbabweans and
other deportees who fear reprisals at home can make their case for asylum.

  "Deportation is not a solution," says Ramjathan-Keogh, who works for
Lawyers for Human Rights. "It costs the government a lot of money and it is
not solving the problem of clandestine migration."

  Ramjathan-Keogh estimates that the flow of migrants from Zimbabwe has
remained steady since 2000 but that more women, some accompanied with
children, are now illegally crossing the border.

  "This is unusual," she says of the influx of Zimbabwean women. "It shows
the severity of the problem."

  She proposes easing restrictions on work permits to allow Zimbabweans to
"feed their families" by working in South Africa but with the unemployment
rate hovering at 40 percent here, the government is not ready to open the
floodgates to migrants.

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New Zimbabwe

Death by denial: a country in peril

By Dr. Frenk Guni
Last updated: 03/24/2005 09:01:31
IT IS difficult to overstate the trauma and hardships that the increase in
AIDS related morbidity and mortality has brought upon children in Zimbabwe.

According to UNICEF, one in five children in Zimbabwe is an orphan and a
child dies of AIDS every 15 minutes. These statistics are not just accurate
but an underestimation of the gravity of the problems bedeviling Zimbabwe.

Children are being denied a basic family life, they lack love, attention and
affection and they're similar to children living in war ravaged countries.
They are pressed into caring for ill and dying parents, removed from school
to help with the household or pressed into sex for survival to pay for
necessities. They have less access to heath care services. They are often
treated harshly or abused by foster or step parents and society at large.
Relatives and neighbors charged with caring for these children frequently
take the children's inheritance leaving them more vulnerable to mortality,
illness and exploitation. These problems are occurring in a society where
children are already undernourished and impoverished.

How does the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Global Fund to
fight HIV/AIDS TB and Malaria among other philanthropic agencies explain a
per capita spending on HIV/AIDS of $4 per head per annum in Zimbabwe
compared to $187 per head in neighboring Zambia where both prevalence and
incidence rates are lower?

Across Zimbabwe over a million children are experiencing poverty, enormous
mental stress from witnessing the illness and death of their parents and
loved ones and a profound sense of real insecurity. These inadequately met
concerns are the fundamental human rights and needs of children and there is
an urgent requirement to ameliorate their physical and psycho-social
distress and suffering. It can not be argued otherwise that, the health care
system in Zimbabwe has long since collapsed and Zimbabwe's internal efforts
to fight AIDS have in fact been constantly thwarted and undermined by the
international community for "technical" and yet ultimately political

I was one of the first persons to concur that the Zimbabwean government's
proposals to the Global Fund had serious technical weaknesses, but the
suggested actions put together buy experts where never implemented. This in
itself demonstrates a more sinister motive to discredit the AIDS response by
Zimbabwe based purely on political indifference of the international
community and indigence by the Zimbabwean government. Furthermore, there is
no logical explanation as to why Zimbabwe was not included in President Bush's
Emergency Plan for HIV/ AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) when all of its surrounding
neighbors including South Africa, Zambia, Botswana and Mozambique are focus
countries receiving funding from the $15 billion pledge.

"There are only two possible responses to suffering on this scale. We can
turn our eyes away in resignation and despair, or we can take decisive,
historic action to turn the tide against this disease .." President George
W. Bush said, demonstrating his global leadership in fighting AIDS. Alas on
AIDS in Zimbabwe the United States has led the entire donor and
international community in not just choosing to "turn away in resignation
and despair" but in punishing Zimbabweans for the "sins" of their government
and political leaders.

Over 160,000 people living with AIDS will die this year alone in Zimbabwe.
This will undoubtedly result in likely increased instability, crime and
other social problems and human rights abuses. HIV infection levels are
likely to increase significantly as people in desperate circumstances have
to concentrate on immediate survival needs, not on protecting themselves
from long term health problems. Lack of sufficient care now is a recipe for
the increased spread of HIV infection and social insecurity.

No "terrorist attack" or war has ever threatened the lives of over 40
million people globally at one time. The institutional response to AIDS
internationally has tended to mirror personal responses including initial
denial, blame, repression and ultimately a varied degree of acceptance.
However for Zimbabwe the primary limitations are inadequate international
and local funding, weak political response exasperated by donor fatigue and
a morbid desire by the international community to punish President Mugabe
and his government for alleged human rights abuses, flawed electoral laws
and an unpalatable land reform and redistributing program.

Never in history has there arisen such a widespread fundamental threat to
human development as AIDS and Zimbabwe is experiencing the most severe
HIV/AIDS epidemic in the world today. National Antenatal prevalence is in
parts of the country are between 35% and 70%. This clearly threatens
development, food security, productivity, human resources and soon national
and regional security. This is a long term development disaster for the
region on a scale never witnessed before, yet the major limitations of the
response to AIDS has been the failure of others to learn and act effectively
from those most impacted.

This is a time for decisive leadership, a time for action, a time to put
aside political demagoguery, this is a time to think and act for the cause
of humanity. We need to re-focus and channel resources to rebuild and
strengthen Zimbabwe's heath care and response mechanism. Agreed, there
remains a question of accountability on the part of the Zimbabwe government,
but surely there are ways to go around that threat. For instance channel the
AIDS response funds through the UN Theme Group on HIV/AIDS or through the
World Health Organization or more directly to NGOs. Not withstanding the
recently passed NGO Bill of Zimbabwe which to this day the President has not
assented to.

The bill in material terms does not prohibit external funding to NGOs that
are providing humanitarian services not linked to the internal politics of
Zimbabwe. If we do not act fast and now history and posterity will judge us
all for our inaction. Zimbabwe's children are a generation in peril and its
our time to show that we care. Yes it is our time to show that the
international community will stand by the most vulnerable and weak in their
time of need. It is not the "body- politick" that has HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe
and are bearing the burden of care. But it is the ordinary men, women and
children who are now looking up to the international community for their own
Dr. Frenk Guni is an AIDS Activist and the winner of the 2003 Jonathan Mann
Award for Global Health and Human Rights among other international accolades
in public health

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The Mercury

      MDC queries 'dead voters'
      March 24, 2005

      By Beauregard Tromp

      Harare: There are nearly a million dead men walking around in
Zimbabwe, if the main opposition is to be believed. The Movement for
Democratic Change alleges that there are a million extra or "ghost" voters
on the voters roll, many of them dead.

      The voters roll was only made available to the opposition and the
public at the end of last week, and then only in paper and not electronic
format, making the task of verifying valid voters difficult.

      The leader of the Southern African Development Community team
monitoring the elections, Pumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, said these concerns had
been raised with the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission, but it had been
difficult to act on them because there were no facts to back them up.

      "When allegations are made and we don't have substantive information
it makes it very difficult to follow up," said Mlambo-Ngcuka.

      However, she said she believed there was still enough time to resolve
the voters roll dispute before the March 31 elections.

      Some observers have raised concerns about the use of transparent
ballot boxes on election day, arguing that it would be easy to see who the
person voted for this way.

      But Mlambo-Ngcuka said voters often fold their ballot papers before
inserting them in the box. - Mercury Foreign Service
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The Mercury

      Economy could be key to poll
      March 24, 2005

      By Stella Mapenzauswa

      Harare: Joseph Chironda says his life has improved from three years
ago, when finding basic commodities like bread, milk and oil in Zimbabwe's
shops was a small miracle.

      A staunch supporter of Zimbabwe's main opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC), Chironda grudgingly concedes that President Robert
Mugabe's government has gone some way to arrest the country's worst economic
crisis since independence in 1980.

      But the young computer technician - who preferred to use a pseudonym -
insists the government has merely sought to clean up a mess of its own
making and he remains opposed to Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party.

      Critics say 25 years of mismanagement by Zanu-PF governments have
brought a once-thriving agricultural economy to its knees. Things have
improved recently, and the economy is set to expand this year after six
years of recession, but it is still 30% smaller than it was in 1999.

      "The state of the economy has been a major influence in the run-up to
these elections," said Harare-based independent economist Witness Chinyama.

      "For the first time we have seen political parties campaign on
economic issues."

      Mugabe's government argues it has done its best to steer the country
to recovery under what it calls sabotage by domestic and Western opponents
of its land reforms.

      The MDC insists Mugabe has not done enough to boost the key export
sector and has failed to win back international donor support.

      But economist Eric Bloch says both parties have failed to move beyond

      "Voters don't see that anything has been proposed by either as far as
the economic situation is concerned, and you will find that very large
numbers of people will not be inclined to vote for either Zanu-PF or MDC,
leading to a low turnout," Bloch said. - Reuters
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The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe
Print and Electronic Daily Media Update # 1

THIS is the first of the daily media content report that The Media
Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ) will be carrying over the election
period. Each report will carry the current day's Press report and the
previous day's electronic media's output. This report carries Monday,
Tuesday and Wednesday's Press and Monday and Tuesday ZBH.

1. Print Media Update
2. Electronic Media Update

1. Print Media Update: Monday 21 March - Wednesday 23 March 2005

a. Introduction

OVER the three days government newspapers continued to carry stories on ZANU
PF campaigns but did not do the same for the main opposition MDC, or for
other smaller parties and independent candidates. Instead, the papers
concentrated on negative reports about the MDC without giving the party its
right of reply. The government papers especially The Herald, devoted space
to the police rebuttal of the National Constitutional Assembly's claims of
violence in the run-up to the March 31 polls without giving details of the
NCA's report.

b. Campaigns

WHILE the government Press continued to claim that media coverage of the
parties was fair, the actual patterns in newspapers give the opposite
For instance while a Chronicle (22/3) editorial claimed that under the new
regulations all the contesting parties and independent candidates are
enjoying coverage in the print and electronic media. In the same issue there
were two positive Zanu PF campaign stories and nothing on the MDC's election
campaign activities. However, it carried one report about MDC supporters
desecrating graves. There was nothing on the minor opposition parties or
independent candidates in The Herald or Chronicle between Monday and

To its credit The Daily Mirror continued to chronicle political parties'
campaign rallies and meetings under its Election Watch column. While the
private daily carried a total of 13 reports on MDC campaigns and 11 on ZANU
PF the two government dailies only had two reports on MDC campaigns and 18
on ZANU PF campaigns. Moreover the two reports on the MDC's campaigns were
attacks on alleged desecration of heroes' graves by alleged MDC youths in
The government-controlled papers' reports on ZANU PF campaigns also
disparaged the MDC. These papers continued to carry reports of computer
donations at ZANU PF rallies without questioning whether this constituted
vote-buying, an issue raised in the private media.

c. Political Violence

THE Chronicle and The Herald (22/3) ran the story, MDC hooligans paste
posters on tombstones. But both dailies denied the MDC the right to give
their side of the story. Even more curious was the fact that the reports
both end by acknowledging the allegations are unfounded for want of
evidence, "However when the police went to the shrine, there were no (MDC)

There were no incidents of political violence reported in The Daily Mirror.
Instead there were general stories on the subject. The most prominent were
reports in which the police took NCA chairperson Lovemore Madhuku to task
for circulating a report alleging political violence and instability,
particularly in the rural areas. The government media did not give readers
Madhuku's side of the story. Instead, in an editorial, The Herald (23/03)
described him as a "a self-serving pretender" who employs rented "thugs to
run in the streets" in order to "sustain a continuous flow of the filthy
lucre from his foreign handlers."

Similarly, The Daily Mirror raised serious questions about Madhuku's
integrity but did not examine his organisation's report. Its editorial on
Wednesday stated: "Madhuku cannot substantiate any of the damning claims.
The man is lying. And what he is doing is using lies to force the spotlight
on Zimbabwe in order to discredit the elections."

d. Administrative Issues

NONE of the Press has yet told its readers about the distribution of polling
stations, particularly those in the main cities. Of particular importance
would be a comparison of polling stations in Harare (523) against the number
of polling stations allocated in the 2002 presidential election. The
question of who is acting as election monitors has not been raised either.
Nor has their function been explained or how many will be present at each
polling station.

2. Electronic Daily Update: Monday March 21st - Tuesday March 22nd 2005

a. Campaigns

BETWEEN March 21st and March 22nd ZBH (ZTV, Spot FM, Power FM and Radio
Zimbabwe) accorded space to the MDC and Zimbabwe Youth in Alliance during
its discussion programmes on the elections.
However, its news coverage remained biased in favour of the ruling party.
For instance, of the 23 reports the broadcaster carried, 20 (87%) were on
ZANU PF while three (13%) were on the MDC. Although the two stories on the
MDC were neutral, the party was disparaged in most reports on ZANU PF.

No other opposition parties or independent candidates were covered as shown
of the table below.

Fig 1 Campaign stories on ZBH

Total stories ZANU PF MDC Other parties
ZTV 13 11 2 0
Radio Zimbabwe 4 3 1 0
Power FM (22nd March) 6 6 0 0

ZBH's pro-ZANU PF stance was also reflected by the time ZTV allocated to the
two main parties. For instance, 28 minutes (90%) of 31 minutes the station
allocated to campaigns in its bulletins were devoted to ZANU PF while the
remaining three minutes (10%) were allocated to the MDC.

In contrast, Studio 7 carried profiles of both Zanu PF and MDC candidates in
Kwekwe and Makoni North. The station also reported that former Information
Minister and independent candidate Jonathan Moyo had launched his manifesto
and produced a song for his campaign.

b. Administrative issues

ZBH LARGELY ignored reports on the mechanics governing the running of the
elections. It was only Power FM (22/03) that carried two reports on the
issue. These were voter education pieces from Zimbabwe Electoral Commission
reminding the public of the election date and announcing the required
identification documents that voters should take to the polling stations.

On the other hand, Studio 7 carried four reports on the administration of
the election. These were on the two representatives from the US Congress who
were in the country to assess the country's pre-election period and
follow-up reports on the row between the MDC and South African Observer
Mission over Membathisi Mdladlana's statements endorsing the country's
electoral framework.
ZBH ignored these reports.

c. Political violence

THERE were no reports on political violence on ZBH. Rather, the broadcaster
continued to give the impression that there was peace in the country and
quoted government officials calling on the public to maintain the prevailing
tranquility before, during and after the poll.
In a bid to give the impression that the prevailing peace could only be
disrupted by the MDC, ZTV (21/03, 7am) passively reported on the authorities
claims that  "the MDC wanted to commit acts of violence so that ZANU PF and
the government of Zimbabwe would be viewed as perpetrators of that
violence." As evidence, five youths who had "surrendered" themselves after
undergoing "secret training in weapon handling in South Africa" were paraded
on ZTV.

Meanwhile, a report by the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) claiming
that there was continued violence in the country was suffocated by ZBH. It
was only in the context of Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri's dismissal
of the NCA report as "false and baseless" that ZBH audiences got reference
of the matter.

While ZBH was presenting a peaceful election period, Studio 7 reported that
an MDC activist was allegedly abducted by suspected ZANU PF supporters for
distributing campaign flyers in Masvingo. The police confirmed the incident.
In another related matter, the station reported that Progressive Teachers
Union of Zimbabwe Secretary General, Raymond Majongwe, was arrested for
allegedly "insulting [president] Mugabe".
Majongwe's lawyer Alec Muchadehama was quoted denying that Majongwe had not
called Mugabe "an old man" as alleged by the authorities.
However, no comment was sought from the police on the matter.

The MEDIA UPDATE was produced and circulated by the Media Monitoring Project
Zimbabwe, 15 Duthie Avenue, Alexandra Park, Harare, Tel/fax: 263 4 703702,
E-mail: <>

Feel free to write to MMPZ. We may not able to respond to everything but we
will look at each message.  For previous MMPZ reports, and more information
about the Project, please visit our website at

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Elections are meant for Voting – „even" in our Twin City Harare

Protest Rally

Thursday, 31 March 2005, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.


Munich, Germany


On 31 March 2005 parliamentary elections will take place in Zimbabwe – in an atmosphere of fear and intimidation caused by repressions, massive human rights violations, manipulation of food distribution for political purposes and acts of terror perpetrated by government militia and CIO.

We will stage on this very day a protest rally against the election manipulations of the Zimbabwean government and the brutal oppression of democratic forces in Harare/Zimbabwe. We invite you sincerely and urgently to attend.

At the same time protest demonstrations and vigils are being held in London, Pretoria, Beitbridge and other places – Harare‘s partner city Munich needs to join the queue and show that our hearts and minds are with our friends in Zimbabwe on this day. Moral support means something for them, even more so because the hope of free and fair elections is almost zero.


Organisation: Workgroup HaMuPa (Harare-Munich-Partnership) in the North-South-Forum Munich Association and E.S.S. Munich – Ecumenical Support Services – Zimbabwe.

Information:   Marianne Chisuko, Tel. 089-123 5552  

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Washington Times

Mugabe foes protest at Pretoria mission

By Geoff Hill

JOHANNESBURG - South African police barricaded the Zimbabwean Embassy in
Pretoria yesterday as hundreds of trade unionists demonstrated outside the
mission, demanding an end to the 25-year rule of Zimbabwean President Robert
    The protest by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) was
the fifth in as many weeks as student, church, union and human rights groups
step up pressure against the Mugabe government, which they accuse of trying
to rig elections set for March 31.
    Mr. Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF)
faces a stiff challenge from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC), which has promised to restore human rights and reverse economic
policies that have led to 90 percent unemployment, a critical shortage of
food and the world's highest rate of inflation.
    Yesterday's protest is likely to further strain relations between COSATU
and South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC). When it assumed
power in 1994, the ANC formed a "tripartite alliance" with COSATU and the
South African Communist Party (SACP) in which the three pledged not to
campaign against each other in elections.
    But, in the past year, cracks have emerged, with COSATU and the SACP
accusing South African President Thabo Mbeki of ignoring South Africa's
rising rates of poverty and unemployment. The biggest rift has been over Mr.
Mbeki's policy of "quiet diplomacy" toward Mr. Mugabe.
    Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have classified
Zimbabwe's government among the world's most repressive regimes, but Mr.
Mbeki has refused to condemn Mr. Mugabe or apply sanctions.
    Two-thirds of Zimbabwe's trade and most of the country's fuel passes
through South Africa.
    COSATU has strong links with the MDC, which grew out of Zimbabwe's union
movement, and some analysts suggest that the ANC is reluctant to take any
action that could see a union-based party take power in a neighboring state.
    In recent years, there have been calls among workers for COSATU to form
its own political wing, which could challenge the ANC's grip on power.
    Yesterday, while the mix of union members and Zimbabwean exiles chanted
slogans in Pretoria, the SACP issued a joint statement with COSATU, uniting
the two organizations in their fight for the "democratization of Zimbabwe."
    A string of protests are planned over the next week, culminating in an
all-night vigil on March 30 at Beit Bridge on the Limpopo River, which marks
South Africa's border with Zimbabwe.
    The vigil is expected to attract thousands of activists, including some
of the 3 million black Zimbabweans who have sought political and economic
refuge in South Africa.
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      Opposition MDC cries foul as . . . Soldiers vote

      Felix Njini
      3/24/2005 7:26:30 AM (GMT +2)

      THE crucial March 31 general election has plunged into fresh
controversy that could undermine its credibility as it emerged this week
that uniformed forces, seen as sympathetic to the ruling ZANU PF, have
already cast their ballots.

      Although the Electoral Act allows members of the disciplined forces
and electoral officers to vote ahead of time due to their likely absence
from their constituencies on election day, opposition groups are unsettled
by what they consider a surreptitious exercise that could affect their
chances in the election.
      Revelations that the uniformed forces had cast their votes ahead of
the month-end elections have created a political storm among opposition
parties, particularly the main Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which
yesterday said it was oblivious of the fact that members of the uniformed
forces had already voted.
      As provided by the governing Act under Section 75(1c), those voting by
post only do so in the presence of a "competent witness".
      "No other person except the competent witness shall be present and the
voter shall not allow the competent witness to see how he or she has voted,"
reads part of the Act. However, the constituency election officers are
obliged to seal and open the postal ballot boxes in the presence of
candidates or their designated agents.
      Zimbabwe's uniformed forces comprise the Zimbabwe National Army, the
Zimbabwe Prison Services and the Zimbabwe Republic Police, bodies which also
constitute the bulk of the civil service.
      Justice George Chiweshe, chairman of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission
(ZEC), confirmed yesterday that the ballots were sealed on March 18, exactly
13 days before the crunch polls that would be fiercely fought between ZANU
PF and the MDC.
      "The postal ballot has already been concluded and the votes are being
sent to their various constituencies and this is being done in the presence
of representatives from all parties," said the ZEC boss without disclosing
the number of people who voted.
      Justice Chiweshe said the printing of the postal ballots was done well
before the printing of the rest of the ballot papers, which was scheduled to
end yesterday.
      MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi yesterday claimed the five-year-old
opposition party had not been invited to monitor the postal ballot voting
      He said: "We were told that they are voting by postal ballot but there
are certain procedures which they have to follow. Each ballot paper has to
be accompanied by an application from each individual voter. How did they
conduct the vote when the ballots had not even been printed? There is a high
possibility that the secrecy of the vote has been compromised and we are
closely following that. If there are any anomalies, then we want that vote
discounted. The electoral process should be done in a transparent manner.
      "It is a naked lie that we are involved in the processing of the
postal ballot," the MDC national spokesman charged.
      During the disputed 2002 presidential elections won by President
Robert Mugabe, complaints were raised that the postal ballot had been
conducted in the presence of senior officers. It was alleged uniformed
officers were ordered to vote at their stations under the supervision of
their seniors, charges which have since been denied by the government.
      Analysts were concerned yesterday that the postal vote had been
concluded ahead of the training of presiding officers slated for March 26.
Training for polling officers would be done a day after, while electoral
officers would go through the process on March 28.
      The opposition has also raised an outcry over the neutrality of the
uniformed forces, whose senior officials have openly stated they would never
"recognise an MDC-led government".
      Vava Chipfunde, the national director of the Zimbabwe Election Support
Network told The Financial Gazette yesterday that it was in the interest of
contesting parties to know the number of people who voted in the exercise
and in which constituencies.
      "This is very important for integrity and confidence. If the whole
system is open, then there is no room for suspicion," said Chipfunde.
      Otto Saki, a human rights lawyer, said voting by the uniformed forces
is supposed to be conducted in the presence of election observers, monitors,
civic organisations and contesting political parties.
      In theory ballots are supposed to be sent to their constituencies but
it is difficult to ascertain whether the ballots would be allocated to the
respective constituencies if the situation is not closely monitored by
observers and all interested parties, Saki said.
      "The problem is that since the 2000 general elections and the 2002
presidential elections, voting by uniformed forces has always been done
clandestinely - there has never been an attempt to make it known which is
why there is always a lingering suspicion," Saki said.

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      Observers query chiefs' role in poll

      Njabulo Ncube
      3/24/2005 7:27:03 AM (GMT +2)

      THE controversial role of chiefs in Zimbabwe's electoral process has
come under the spotlight, amid revelations by the Southern African
Development Community (SADC) observer mission it been inundated with
complaints that the ruling ZANU PF has roped in traditional leaders to
shepherd their subjects to polling stations.

      Information obtained by The Financial Gazette indicates that the
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and other local observers have
continuously raised the issue with foreign observers cherry-picked to
observe next Thursday's polls since their arrival in the country two weeks
      Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the head of the SADC observer mission for the
March 31 polls, told The Financial Gazette in an interview yesterday her
delegation wanted the government to clarify the role of chiefs and headmen
in Zimbabwe's political process, especially on the day of voting.
      Mlambo-Ngcuka said the SADC observer mission to Zimbabwe had been
unsettled by incessant complaints, mainly from the MDC, that the traditional
leaders were intimidating and threatening their subjects if they dared vote
for the opposition.
      She said her team had heard from locals that ZANU PF banked on chiefs
to deliver the crucial vote in the general election by ensuring that their
subjects flocked to the polls and voted for the ruling party.
      Mlambo-Ngcuka, whose team arrived in Zimbabwe last week, yesterday
raised the issue with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and the
Electoral Supervisory Commission (ESC).
      "The SADC mission is worried by the role of chiefs because the issue
keeps popping up everywhere we go. It was first raised by the opposition,"
she said. "I am not satisfied with the explanation of the authorities. I
will take up the issue tomorrow (today) when we meet the chairmen again,"
she added.
      Other members of her delegation told this newspaper they were shocked
to hear the government had put in place a vehicle purchase scheme for chiefs
and had recently hiked allowances for the traditional leaders. Under the
vehicle purchase scheme, the government announced it would spend billions of
dollars buying 269 vehicles for chiefs.
      "If it is for the empowerment of the chiefs, it is fine with us but if
it is an inducement as we are made to believe, then we need better
clarification," said another delegate of the SADC observer mission.
      ESC chairman Theophilus Gambe vehemently denied assertions that
traditional leaders assisted or influenced voters' preference in the
countryside, saying the complaints raised by the SADC mission and local
observers could not be substantiated.
      "These are mere allegations, there is no concrete evidence in that
respect," said Gambe. "According to electoral laws governing elections in
this country, chiefs are not mentioned. They are just part of the government
system. We have our people on the ground at all polling stations and if
anyone provides evidence that this is what chiefs and other traditional
leaders are doing, we will address that," Gambe added.
      Other members of the SADC observer mission said they had heard
allegations that some polling stations around the Mashonaland provinces -
generally perceived as ruling party strongholds - were sited at traditional
chiefs' homesteads, a charge ZEC chairman Justice George Chiweshe said was
      "I am not aware of such a location of a polling station. What is so
important about that person as to have a polling station at his or her home?
The location of polling stations was done in consultation with all
contestants in this election," Chiweshe said.
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      Mugabe and the 30 seats already in hand

      Charles Rukuni
      3/24/2005 7:32:38 AM (GMT +2)

      BULAWAYO - Anyone who thinks he or she can stop President Robert
Mugabe from appointing 30 non-constituency Members of Parliament is
daydreaming, a constitutional law expert, Lovemore Madhuku, has said.

      "Unless you change the constitution, Mugabe (President) has the right
to appoint the 30 MPs even if his ruling ZANU PF does not win a single
      He was responding to theories being bandied around that opposition
parties and independent candidates might gang up to prevent President Mugabe
from appointing non-constituency MPs if his party loses to the Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) or wins by a narrow margin.
      President Mugabe appoints 30 MPs in addition to the 120 elected
members to make up a 150-member House.
      Five political parties are contesting next week's elections, but only
the ruling ZANU-PF and MDC are contesting all the 120 elected seats.
      The Zimbabwe African National Union is contesting 15 seats while the
Zimbabwe Youth Alliance is contesting three and the Zimbabwe People's
Democratic Party is contesting one. Sixteen independent candidates are also
contesting the polls.
      ZANU PF has publicly stated it is aiming for a two-thirds majority to
enable it to change the constitution and reestablish a second chamber, the
senate. ZANU PF needs to win at least 100 seats to attain the two-thirds
majority. It therefore has to win at least 70 of the 120 elected seats to
attain this.
      The party won 62 out of the 120 seats in the 2000 elections, eight
short of the two-thirds majority. Although three seats that were previously
held by the MDC were scrapped and added on to areas where ZANU PF is strong,
this still means the party has to win at least five seats that went to the
opposition in 2000.
      A number of theories are being floated around to prevent ZANU PF from
attaining the two-thirds majority. The most obvious and easiest is for the
opposition to win the elections or at least more than 50 seats.
      Another, which seems very difficult to implement is to take President
Mugabe to court to stop him from appointing non-constituency MPs if his
party does not win a two-thirds majority among the elected members. Those
for this idea argue that ZANU PF has to win at least 80 seats for President
Mugabe to have the mandate to appoint non-constituency MPs. Some African
countries are reported to be prepared to finance this legal battle, which
the proponents argue, might force the veteran nationalist to form a
government of national unity with the MDC.
      A government of national unity would, the proponents argue, bring
Zimbabwe back to the international fold and open doors for investment and
the lifting of sanctions imposed by the United States, the European Union
and the Commonwealth, among others.
      Madhuku, however, brushed aside these arguments as wishful thinking.
      "It is good campaign material but it has no legal basis at all," he
      "It sounds morally right for Mugabe (President) not to appoint the MPs
if his party does not win a parliamentary majority, but the constitution
does not change because something is unfair.
      "Unless we change the constitution, Mugabe has every right to appoint
the MPs. It doesn't even matter if his party does not win a single seat. In
fact, Parliament is not fully constituted until the president appoints the
30 seats."

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      Zimbabweans expected to vote with their stomachs

      Njabulo Ncube
      3/24/2005 7:33:15 AM (GMT +2)

      THE CHICKENS have come home to roost at the worst possible time for
the ZANU PF government, which last year maintained the country had a bumper
harvest for the 2003/2004 agricultural season, but is now faced with the
prospect of facing the wrath of a hungry electorate in next week's
parliamentary election.

      Government, which projected a 2.4 million tonne maize haul last year,
has been forced to eat its words, with President Robert Mugabe telling a
rally last week that no one would starve. This seems a long way from last
April, when President Mugabe told a Sky News interviewer that aid agencies
should not "foist food on us, do you want us to choke?"
      As the country faces another daunting prospect of widespread food
shortages, opinion is divided over the genesis and cause of the impending
      Opposition groups, led by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC),
charge that the ruling ZANU PF party has deliberately created the food
shortages with a view to using food handouts as an election tool.
      Others, however, blame the development on politicking, saying the
government had glossed over the grain deficit, as any admission to its
existence would have been seen as amounting to an admission that the land
reform programme had failed. Others still, blame the recurrent phenomenon of
food shortages on lack of foresight in the agriculture ministry.
      Throughout last year, government, through the agriculture ministry,
differed sharply with independent assessments of the situation.
      A parliamentary portfolio committee which probed government's
optimistic claims of a bumper harvest publicly expressed its misgivings over
the veracity of the estimates and even warned that the country could be
forced to make provision for emergency food imports to cover the grain
      According to the latest Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fewsnet)
food security assessment, Zimbabwe has slipped into the "emergency" zone.
      Despite this being unwelcome news for ZANU PF at such a period as this
one, the opposition accuses the government of playing politics with food.
      Renson Gasela, the MDC's shadow minister of agriculture and sitting
Member of Parliament for Gweru Rural, said: "We know how the regime
successfully stopped all food aid so that they are the only ones with food
during the elections.
      "The country has virtually run out of maize. There will be no food
after the elections," Gasela said.
      The former Grain Marketing Board (GMB) chief executive claimed the
government, through the GMB, had been secretly receiving imports at the rate
of 15 000 tonnes a month of the 100 000 tonnes it has bought from South
      "It is this maize they are distributing and selling selectively. As a
matter of fact, the MDC imported more than 300 tonnes of maize for
distribution to one constituency in 2003, which was confiscated by the
government. We had plans to bring in over 20 000 tonnes but were prevented
from doing so," Gasela added.
      However, Matabeleland-based government critic Max Mkandla blamed the
situation on politicking.
      "These people have been taking us for granted for too long. They were
talking passionately of a bumper harvest for the 2003/4 season but there's
nothing. The country has to import when donors were in the country last year
to freely hand out maize, cooking oil and beans. This is political fraud,"
Mkandla said.
      Addressing a rally in Bikita last Thursday, President Mugabe said the
government had made provision for grain imports.
      "Government will not let anyone starve. We have put aside some money
for grain, which we will be importing from other countries that have the
commodity, if the need arises," President Mugabe said.
      As he spoke, people in the drought-ravaged areas in Manicaland,
Matabeleland and Masvingo were growing desperate in the face of yet another
food crisis.
      Fewsnet has also predicted sub-optimal agricultural production in the
current season, citing poor rains and inadequate inputs.
      Shortage of agricultural inputs and poor rainfall dampens production
prospects for the 2004/05 season.
      "Due to shortages of draught power, the late onset of the rains, and
shortages of seeds in the early part of the 2004/05 agricultural season,
major crops were planted late. In much of Mashonaland and the northern half
of Manicaland provinces, the main cereal producing areas of the country,
planting of major grain and cash crops predominantly took place from late
November to mid-December 2004.
      "The reproductive stages of this crop coincided with a devastating
prolonged dry spell that stressed the crop from the end of January to about
mid-February 2005. As a result, a significant proportion of the crop will
not produce much, if anything, despite improved rainfall during the last
week of February.
      "Coupled with the shortage of top dressing fertilisers, the poor
season has seriously compromised potential cereal crop yields for the
2004/05 cropping season. If the rainfall season ends as usual in April, the
late planted crop will likely be lost.
      "Assessments to establish the prospects for the current season's food
production are urgently required to allow early food security forecasts for
the 2005/06 consumption year," Fewsnet reports.
      Zimbabwe needs about 1.8 million tonnes of maize for annual
consumption plus another 500 000 tonnes for strategic reserves. The country
consumes an average of 158 000 tonnes of maize per month. The GMB has
reportedly imported only 224 000 tonnes while it holds slightly over 600 000
      At the time of its assessment, the parliamentary committee established
the country held 340 000 tonnes of grain by mid last year.

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      Police tighten security

      Staff Reporter
      3/24/2005 7:34:22 AM (GMT +2)

      THE Zimbabwe Republic Police says a huge contingent of officers will
be deployed throughout the country starting Saturday to stem any incidents
of violence in the parliamentary polls, seen as a litmus test for the
Southern African Development Community.

      Mary Masango, the senior assistant commissioner of police who also
chairs the police elections commission, said the public and election
observers in the country should not be alarmed by the massive movement of
the police officers to various stations around the country.
      "There is going to be a large movement of police officers. The
movement of officers from around the 26th of March 2005 should not cause
alarm among members of the public. There are officers who will be moving to
their various posts for the elections," said Masango.
      "At this time, members of the public will encounter frequent
roadblocks and it is encouraged that drivers have their papers and
identification in order. Members of the public are reminded against carrying
prohibited weapons such as knives, traditional weapons, catapults, sticks
and stones," she said.
      The police's appeal for a non-violent election comes after previous
polls in 2000, 2002 and subsequent by-elections were characterised by an
orgy of violence, which left scores dead and several injured.
      Masango revealed that there had been an additional 22 cases of
politically motivated crimes since her last media briefing on Friday. She
attributed nine cases to ZANU PF supporters, eight of whom she said were
arrested, while the balance of 13 cases were blamed on opposition Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters.
      From the l3 cases, 20 MDC supporters had been arrested, bringing the
number of total crimes committed to 111 since January 1 2005, with 338
supporters from both parties having been arrested.
      "The cases, as usual, ranged from contravening of statutes,
particularly sections 152 and 153 of the Electoral Act, to common law crimes
like malicious injury to property.
      We appeal to those who come across any crime being committed to report
immediately to the police . . . or indeed any suspicious movements of
people," she added.

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      Of the election madness . . .

      3/24/2005 7:59:05 AM (GMT +2)

      WHEN trying cases in normal societies all over the world, the judge
must convince both the defendant and the accuser that he is approaching the
case with an open mind.

      Should a judge give an interview to the media before the case starts
in which he says he thinks the accused is guilty, then that judge will have
to excuse himself from the case. Failure to do this will result in the
erosion of confidence in the judicial system. In other words, it opens the
door to the question of the fairness of the trial for the accused.
      For this reason, I understand why the government of Zimbabwe has
refused to invite nations and groupings that have already issued statements
saying that the forthcoming elections will not be free and fair.
      Their exclusion from the list of observers makes sense when viewed
from this angle, since inviting them would be an exercise in futility. This
is even more so in light of the fact that the main opposition party in
Zimbabwe, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is participating in the
      To add to this, at the launch of his election campaign for these
elections, Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the MDC, insisted that this
time, his party will definitely win.
      Having gone into the elections knowing the circumstances under which
they would be held, this statement from Tsvangirai also casts doubt on how
genuine the opposition party is when it says the playing field is not level.
If the intimidation and rigging is already a fait accompli, why then issue a
statement saying that you will win the election hands down?
      Having said that, it is also imperative for the government and the
electoral authorities to ensure that Zimbabwe is seen not to be hiding
anything. For this reason, I can not understand why the government remains
silent on the cases of intimidation and violence that the MDC has been
highlighting weekly in its SADC Protocol Watch column in the independent
      The MDC has been very methodical, quoting specific incidents of
violence, bannings of meetings, intimidation etc. Dates have been given and
names published.
      Government silence on these specific charges lets the accusation stand
and ensures that the electorate and the observers are left with questions in
their minds.
      This will not do, because this is one election that should not leave
reasonable doubt in the minds of those watching. Why, for instance, can't
the Electoral Supervisory Commission issue responses to these charges, since
part of its mandate is to ensure that the elections it supervises are not
only free and fair but are also seen to be as such?
      No one is under any illusions that there can ever be a complete
absence of intimidation and violence in any political atmosphere: Even in
South Africa, the run-up to the 1994 elections that ushered Nelson Mandela
and the ANC into power saw butchering on a large scale in Kwazulu Natal. And
as recently as three weeks ago, a Zulu prince was shot dead in his home in a
case of political violence. So no election can be totally blemish-free.
      Even in elections such as the one currently under way, where both
Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe have called for a violence-free poll,
you will still find people tearing down rival parties' posters, intimidating
opponents and even beating them up. That is to be expected, because not all
our citizens are mature people who think like normal human beings.
      But, it is also to be expected that when a person commits
politically-motivated violence, he or she will be held accountable no matter
what party he or she belongs to. It will not do, for instance, for the MDC
to publish the name of a ZANU PF supporter who beat up one of their
supporters and nothing is said by the ruling party. Either they disown that
person and call for him to be arrested, or the police should arrest him and
the ruling party issues a statement saying they will let the law take its
course and will not seek the release of the perpetrator without charge.
      That shows maturity and a respect for the laws that we should all be
subject to, no matter who we are.
      So, even though violence and intimidation can never be totally erased
and we get the famous "isolated incidents", those incidents must be
condemned by the party in whose name the "isolated incidents" were
committed. Failure to do this will result in that party being seen as
condoning those "isolated incidents", which may even encourage a mentality
of impunity among that party's supporters. Next thing we know, it will be a
free for all.
      This is the reason it is vitally important for the ruling party to
respond to specific cases raised by the MDC so that all doubt can be put to
      Shouting at the opposition party while ignoring its very detailed (and
thus, credible) charges is not going to solve the problem.
      Further to this, I should also like to point out that the MDC, in my
opinion, has put itself in a no-win situation, so much so that even if the
election was to be completely utopian, with nary a case of even someone
being slapped for their political beliefs, the opposition party would still
lose this month's elections.
      The reason is that, despite Tsvangirai claiming that his party will
win the poll, he and other opposition figures still insist on telling us and
the world that this election can not be free and fair. They have made it
clear to everybody that they are participating reluctantly because they
believe that ZANU PF will rig the polls and romp to victory.
      Lovemore Madhuku, leader of the National Constitutional Assembly, for
instance, has also made highly publicised comments that ZANU PF is going to
win this year's elections because the playing field is not level.
      What all of this has done is demotivate the support base of the MDC.
Everyone I talk to is of the same opinion: ZANU PF has this election in the
      Convinced that their votes counted for nought in the last presidential
election, opposition supporters have now fallen into apathy. Why bother to
go and vote, they ask, when we all know the result anyway.
      It is a very real possibility that MDC supporters will stay at home or
find other things to do, having resigned themselves to a fradulently
achieved ZANU PF victory.
      On the other hand, President Mugabe and ZANU PF have repeatedly been
saying that they were caught napping last time and this time, they will
mobilise their support base extensively and carry old women to the polling
stations in wheelbarrows if necessary so that they cast their votes for ZANU
      What you will get, then, is a situation where ZANU PF mops up every
single supporter it has and ensures they get to the polling station, while
MDC supporters throw their hands in the air and give up on the election
without even bothering to cast their vote. Their leaders have led them to
believe that this election is unwinnable because the playing field is not
level, so why should they waste their time standing in a queue to vote?
      In light of this then, should the MDC find itself with reduced seats,
will it be because of violence and intimidation, or the apathy of its
      This is why it is important for the government to be seen to be
distancing itself in a very real way from all the incidents of violence and
intimidation highlighted by the MDC. It will remove any doubts when the
results are finally announced.

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      Murmurs here and there but . . .

      Nelson Banya
      3/24/2005 7:31:27 AM (GMT +2)

      A FOOTBALL match pitting ZANU PF youths and their Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) counterparts in the rural Goromonzi constituency in
Mashonaland East province last weekend was insignificant in so far as this
month's parliamentary election, which has grabbed global attention, is

      However, to many Zimbabweans who have lived through unprecedented
political polarisation punctuated by violent confrontation between
supporters of the rival parties, the match, won by the MDC team by two goals
to one, was a breath of fresh air.
      The run-up to the poll, Zimbabwe's sixth parliamentary election since
independence in 1980, has been relatively peaceful, with far less reported
cases of political violence than the 2000 and 2002 general elections.
      This notwithstanding, questions still remain over the country's
ability to deliver a credible poll, which is more needful now than ever,
because of the ostracism the hotly contested results of the past two general
elections have brought.
      Since the Southern African Development Community (SADC) adopted new
standards for democratic polls in Mauritius last August, every election in
the region, including Zimbabwe's, will be judged according to the Grande
Baie protocol, to which President Robert Mugabe and 13 other African heads
of state and government appended their signatures.
      The MDC, which only rescinded its decision to boycott the elections in
January, contends that the government has only come up with cosmetic changes
to the electoral process, which remains skewed in ZANU PF's favour.
      The party produces a weekly update and checklist of the government's
compliance with the SADC principles, points to the voters' roll, access to
the public media and freedom of assembly as critical tenets that have been
      The ZANU PF government, on the other hand, contends that while the
SADC protocol was not legally binding, Zimbabwe was already in compliance,
having effected changes to the Electoral Act to allow voting in one day,
counting at polling centres and the use of translucent ballot boxes, among
other amendments.
      However, opposition groups, led by the MDC, maintain that conditions
still favour the incumbent ZANU PF government unfairly.
      According to the MDC, government has only made minimal progress in
granting equal access to public media institutions to opposition political
parties. The party has also given high marks for the provision of vote
counting at polling stations and the regularity of elections in Zimbabwe.
      The government has fared dismally when it comes to other areas such as
the state of the voters' roll, independence of the bodies running elections,
the legal and constitutional framework, voter education and freedom of
assembly and association, among others.
      Civic groups such as the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) and
the Crisis Coalition have also criticised the electoral environment.
      NCA chairman Lovemore Madhuku, whose report, dubbed the 'Election
Climate Report' has ruffled feathers in official circles through the
startling claims it makes, has said the election was a futile exercise which
was likely to be characterised by voter apathy.
      Madhuku, who has sharply differed with his allies in the MDC over
participating in the election, has described the polls as meaningless in the
current constitutional dispensation. Press reports have quoted Madhuku
suggesting that the MDC was likely to suffer more at the hands of a
reluctant electorate.
      "Yes, it is likely to affect the performance of the MDC. They have not
convinced their supporters why they are participating in a meaningless
election. How can you participate in an election, which cannot change a
government, whoever wins?
      "There are so many irregularities. For example, ZANU PF already has 30
seats in the bag, which is unfair. Their supporters would have been more
motivated to vote under a new and more democratic constitution. As it is,
they will only fight hard to retain the seats they already have," Madhuku
      The Crisis Coalition, an umbrella body for several pressure groups
pursuing governance issues, contends that the government has not only failed
to embrace the spirit of the SADC protocol, but has also largely ignored
recommendations by the South African government's observer mission to the
divisive 2002 presidential election.
      Although the South African government endorsed the poll outcome, which
saw President Robert Mugabe winning another six-year term in office, they
noted that there were cases of violence and intimidation, as well as legal
and institutional problems that needed to be resolved before another general
      The South Africans' recommendations centered on national
reconciliation, constitutional reform, economic revival, demobilisation of
the militia, depoliticising state structures and rebuilding international
and regional confidence in Zimbabwe.
      "The team called for one composite and truly independent body
responsible for the supervision and administration of elections.
      This body should enjoy independence from the executive and should be
answerable to Parliament. The election body must be constitutionally
protected and a multi-party committee of Parliament should appoint the
members of the body.
      "Such a body has not been appointed and a number of institutions
continue to administer elections in the country. The registrar-general's
office continues to register voters in a partisan manner. The delimitation
commission, whose members are appointed by the President, is still in place
while the Electoral Supervisory Commission, also appointed by the President,
also supervises and monitors elections.
      President Mugabe has set up the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC)
after recommendations from political parties represented in Parliament but
(the commission) is not autonomous because it is monitored by the ESC and
most of its work has been done by the registrar-general's office," the
coalition stated.
      The coalition also said there was no code of conduct for those
contesting the elections as well as those managing the process, leaving the
process open to abuse.
      Incidentally, the South African government's observer mission for next
week's poll has run into controversy, with the MDC accusing the team of
pre-judging the election after comments by head of delegation Membathisi
Mdladlana that all was set for a free and fair election.
      The MDC, enraged by the comments, which confirmed earlier
pronouncements by South African President Thabo Mbeki and Foreign Affairs
Minister Nkosazana Zuma, refused to meet the South African observer teams in
protest. The feud has since been resolved.
      Meanwhile, away from the controversy, the campaign period has reached
its climax with the MDC making inroads into areas previously rendered
inaccessible by war veterans and ZANU PF youths in previous elections. The
ZANU PF campaign, led by an upbeat President Mugabe, is also in full swing.
      Both parties fancy their chances, despite misgivings in opposition
circles about the electoral process. Going by the crowds attending rallies
called by the major parties, it is beginning to appear as though the
election could record a high voter turnout.
      A Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI) preliminary survey has
indicated that 86 percent of eligible voters have expressed an active
interest to come out and vote next Thursday.

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      Business people literally getting away with murder

      3/24/2005 8:10:06 AM (GMT +2)

      The customer is always right. Right? Wrong. The last few years of
economic struggle when inflation has galloped beyond the 600 percent mark
have, in fact, shown that the customer is the most endangered species in the
jungle that the local marketplace has beco-me.

      Whether it is the indiscriminate hiking of prices or the nonchalant
rendering of shoddy service, business enterprises and service providers are
getting away with holy murder.
      Unfortunately, the sad truth is that they know they can do anything
with impunity. They can afford to treat customers and clients with such
disdain because the victims, weary from constantly trying to beat commodity
and cash shortages, have virtually thrown in the towel and seem resigned to
their fate.
      A philosophy that says whatever poor quality of goods or service you
can get at whatever exorbitant price is better than nothing has slowly taken
root. Sad to say, some companies have been unashamedly ready to exploit the
situation to maximum financial advantage. Take my word for it, they are
smiling all the way to the bank. They have come up with all sorts of
incredible excuses to extract the very last cent from the cash-strapped
      Take the humble parcel counter, which is a common feature at big
supermarkets and other establishments. It is no longer being used as a
public relations-promoting service but as a not so subtle way to tell the
customer to go to hell. You think I am not telling the truth? Then consider
      The first sign that the consumer's interests are the last things on
some businesspeople's minds are the hostile notices posted at their parcel
counters. The most common is the unreasonable disclaimer: "Parcel left at
owner's risk". At face value, this statement implies that the customer is
the one who chooses to surrender his or her possessions upon entering the
business concern in question.
      However, in view of the fact that it is business establishments that
require shoppers to leave their possessions at these parcel counters, the
disclaimer is an insult. What this notice actually means is: We want you to
spend your hard-earned cash in our store but we could not care less what
happens to your property while you give us business.
      Can anything be more insulting and unfair? The customer is entitled to
ask why there should be any risk to his or her belongings if the commercial
enterprise, which demands compliance with its rules on parcels, intends to
ensure their safekeeping.
      To show that this is a case of 'might means right', these business
concerns do not adopt the same nonchalant attitude towards their own
possessions, such as the plastic or metal discs used to identify parcels. It
is woe unto the absent-minded shopper who loses one of these tokens. Never
mind that you may have entrusted goods worth millions into the store's care,
and you may have given them good business while shopping. They will not
release your property until you have paid a fine for the missing piece of
plastic. And that is not all, you have to negotiate an elaborate in-house
bureaucracy to pay a penalty of up to $10 000.
      I had an unpleasant brush with this unnecessary supermarket red tape a
short while ago in the "City of Kings" or Bulawayo to the uninitiated. I had
committed the cardinal sin of misplacing the plastic disc I should have
handed in to the parcel counter attendant to reclaim my possessions after
paying for my shopping.
      Oh, what a chain reaction of rudeness and indifference I unleashed.
      First, the counter attendant would simply not accept that I could not
locate the disc. She ordered me to retrace my steps in the huge supermarket
and double check for it on every shelf. When I protested that I could not
remember every movement I had made, she ordered me to see the manager.
      "I am busy now," fumed the big man without even looking up from what
he was doing. He referred me to the supermarket supervisor, who, after
subjecting me to a police-style interrogation about the missing disc,
finally ordered me to pay a fine of $10 000.
      He was not amused when I demanded a receipt for this daylight robbery,
saying it was unreasonable for me to expect an accounting for such a paltry
amount. "How come a big supermarket like this can demand the same amount
from a customer whose patronage it has just benefited from?" I shot back,
despite knowing that I was fighting a losing battle.
      When I finally got back to the parcel counter, I was asked to describe
my goods and they were handed back to me without further ado. As I stepped
into the sunshine, I swore that even wild horses would not drag me into that
building again.
      However, my Bulawayo experiences pale into insignificance compared to
the nasty encounter I had in the capital last week. On this occasion, I had
committed the unforgivable crime of forgetting to collect my parcel after
finishing my shopping. I only became aware of my omission the next day when
I noticed that I still had the store's plastic disc in my handbag. My
reaction proved the veracity of the saying that hope springs eternal in the
human heart. I naively believed that all I had to do was to show up with the
token and collect my parcel. How wrong I was!
      That very human tendency towards forgetfulness cost me close to an
hour of being driven from pillar to post by gleeful attendants to whom, to
all intents and purposes, the crime I had committed could have been murder!
      "Oh, she is the one who forgot her parcel", the two counter hands said
in unison when I handed in the incriminating evidence. Talking with an
unmistakable air of authority to highlight my status as the store's hostage,
they agreed to refer me to a woman in the beverage section.
      I dutifully trudged along to that part of the supermarket but it was
only after what seemed like an eternity that the lady was ready to attend to
me. After listening impatiently to my tale, she, in turn, re-directed me to
a couple of her colleagues who were chatting near the checkout points.
      After another long wait while they took their sweet time to decide
what should happen to me next, they finally decreed that I should go
upstairs to see yet another chef. I told them I did not even know where to
find the steps leading upstairs. They agreed that a girl from the vegetable
section would accompany me once she had finished what she was doing. No
prizes for guessing, but she too was in no hurry to help a customer who
stood accused of being forgetful!
      A quarter of an hour later the girl and I were still waiting outside
the big man's office. When he finally arrived, he told me sternly that I was
to be fined $3 000 "for making the store keep your parcel overnight."
      This particular supermarket issued a receipt but I left their premises
wondering whether they had ever heard of public relations and customer care.
I would honestly like to know what
      To W5
      expenses this establishment incurred by keeping my parcel overnight
and how it recouped its losses by demanding payment from me. Who ever
thought anyone would seek to make a quick buck from the very human trait of
forgetfulness? What does the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe have to say about
      These devil- may-care attitudes may be profitable in the prevailing
economic conditions but what will these profiteers and shoddy service
providers do when things improve and consumers can once again freely choose
where to shop? Food for thought for all those myopic,
penny-wise-pound-foolish exploiters out there.
      Having fumed throughout this piece against those taking advantage of
the public in these difficult times, I must end on a positive note. I salute
those organisations and commercial enterprises that still recognise that
they would not be in business if there were no consumers.

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      Lack of planning

      3/24/2005 7:53:17 AM (GMT +2)

      A LOT has been said about the emotive land issue. There understandably
have been disagreements over the form, approach and style of the process.

      On the extremes, some have said it was wrong while others have argued
that there should have been a careful balance between legal security and
economic flexibility in order to provide the optimum opportunity to achieve
the objectives of the land reform.
      But the majority of Zimbabweans are however agreed that addressing
historic injustices and inequality through the land reform was necessary. In
fact, every right thinking Zimbabwean acknowledges the historical validity
for the need to address this inequality and the folly and hopelessness of
any failure to address the land question.
      Under the reforms, government's primary objective was ostensibly to
economically empower historically marginalised blacks. The assumption is
therefore that government understood that agriculture is the key to economic
prosperity. Hence the need for creative intervention in the area of
agriculture to bring the historically disempowered sectors of the population
into the mainstream economy.
      And as we said in one of our comments early this year, like a
novelist, government must have known what its last chapter is going to say
and work towards that. Sadly this does not seem to be so if the situation on
the ground is anything to go by.
      What else can we say about the state of the underdeveloped irrigation
infrastructure despite years of rhetoric that government would invest in
this area. It is our considered view that if it was not for upside down
priorities, the lion's share of national resources must have been marshalled
towards bolstering and enhancing agricultural production, chief of which is
the provision for irrigation especially given the fact that the country is
prone to drought.
      Admittedly, it cannot be denied that the increasingly unpredictable
rainfall pattern as well as the intermittent droughts have played their part
in jeopardising the country's food security situation which, to all intents
and purposes, would be nothing short of precarious this year - the political
rhetoric notwithstanding.
      But shoddy if not persistent lack of long term planning on the part of
government, which to a certain extent proves that no plan is worth the paper
it is written on until it gets you doing something - is largely to blame.
Over the years, there did not seem to be any urgency on the part of the
government - which does not seem to realise that its policies and actions
have long term consequences that are borne by the long suffering people - to
develop irrigation infrastructure. And with or without drought, the sorry
state of the country's agriculture underlines the extent to which lack of
forward planning has been ruinous for the nation.
      True, a lot was said about it. But it was all rhetoric and the issue
was never given the priority attention it should have been given. Now
typical of them, as if drought is a new phenomenon in Zimbabwe, the
politicians are falling over each other to shamelessly sermonise on the need
to develop the country's irrigation infrastructure, giving the inescapable
impression that this is an afterthought that could have gone unthought of!
      A visitor from Mars would be forgiven for thinking that in terms of
the food security situation, the country finds itself in awkward scrapes
because this is the first time we have heard about the cycle of drought in
the country. Yet this is exactly a quarter of a century after independence.
Couldn't we have developed our irrigation system for a rainy day or is it a
dry spell? Without questioning the topicality of the issue at the moment,
what has intrigued inquisitive Zimbabweans is why does it only become a big
issue during drought years. This is moreso given that it is inconceivable
that government which, despite the ever-shrinking accountability, should in
theory be accountable to the citizens of this country, did not have relevant
information on the cycle of drought in Zimbabwe.
      It all boils down to costly lack of vision and planning and it is this
lack of planning that has brought about an immeasurable cost to the
erstwhile self-sufficient country, which was also the regional breadbasket
before ironically being reduced into a basket case itself. There could never
be a sadder reflection on the shrunken state of the once-vibrant
agricultural sector. The failure of agriculture, which previously had the
biggest sectoral contribution to the country's GDP, is not only emblematic
of everything wrong with the way the issue has been handled but a serious
indictment on government too.
      It is the same lack of planning and the folly of wanting to do things
at the very last minute that also resulted in the critical shortage of
essential agricultural inputs experienced this year which will inevitably
help to impair the quality of the surviving crop and yield levels. It was
indeed disturbing to hear some farmers with early planted maize saying that
they only received their share of critical fertilisers as late as a
fortnight ago! And with the imminent food shortages, we can only imagine the
inevitable socio-economic difficulties that will aggravate the people's
      It can therefore be categorically stated that there can be little
doubt that with a developed irrigation infrastructure, the impact of the
droughts would be minimised. It has always been of exceptional importance to
develop irrigation infrastructure because herein lies the future of
agriculture and indeed that of the economy. It is against this background
that we feel that there is no reason whatsoever why Zimbabwe should be
burdened by such uncomfortably and dangerously high cereal deficits as is
now imminent - if only the government had planned ahead.
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      ...and now to the Notebook

      3/24/2005 7:58:01 AM (GMT +2)


      Next week's election is an election with a difference. A real
difference from the ones we have endured in 2000 and 2002.

      Apart from having violence under control, what makes this particular
election more than interesting is the way the two parties that matter most
have tried to be resourceful to lure that extra vote from the otherwise
thoroughly bored voter.
      ZANU PF, wily as it has always been, found no reason why it could not
create some extra opposition parties here and there with the hope of
splitting the opposition vote. A leopard does not abandon its spots, does
      Anyway, for the first time in as far as CZ can remember, even the
opposition is having a rare privilege to show its noses on our TV screens,
even though it is enjoying the privilege on sufferance. You can easily tell
that the people who are covering the party's rallies are doing so grudgingly
. . . the way a cruel stepmother feeds an orphan. This killjoy new-look
electoral law!
      The good thing is that ZANU PF seems to have finally accepted that
there is nothing it can do to stop opposition in this country. And that
acceptance has brought real change to what we had grown to know elections
like . . . no soldiers are going from beerhall to beerhall forcing patrons
to have sex; no police officers are arresting opposition supporters for
being attacked by ZANU PF thugs; war veterans are not harvesting other
people's crops as punishment for supporting the opposition.
      Things have really changed, and it is really difficult to believe that
they have really changed.
      At the weekend, CZ could not believe when he saw ZANU PF and MDC
supporters arguing about their party policies over a mug of beer. It was not
a done thing in the past. It was taboo, yet it is happening in several
suburbs of Harare.
      While everyone expected almost equal coverage of the two main
political parties in the country (less those ZANU PF party-lets), it is
quite interesting that sclerotic public media journalists have happily found
a way of going round this . . . by making ZANU PF campaign rallies appear
like government functions.
      Yes, Joseph Msika is covered "officially opening" a rural business
centre (which is almost his age) when, in fact, he is campaigning for his
party. Joyce Mujuru is featured telling villagers the importance of
irrigation, but she will be campaigning for her ZANU PF party. The Great
Uncle is reported as having assured Zimbabweans that they will not starve .
. . but he will be saying so while canvassing support for his party. All
these will be treated like news stories on government issues.
      And on the same news bulletin there is another round of "government"
news stories involving the three officials, and another round again, before
there is one piece on the MDC.
      The first half or so of our TV news is either on the Great Uncle
himself or one of his two vices. These TV people make it a point of Spartan
honour that the trio gets most, if not all, the time earmarked for political
coverage. This is called biased reporting, and it is worse than no coverage
at all.
      Having realised that the urban youths were not at all excited about
ZANU PF campaign meetings, the wily party thought some musical shows would
do the trick.
      This is exactly what happened at the weekend when the Mai Mujuru
congratulatory "festival" was held at the HICC while the "freedom youth
hangout" was running concurrently just a few blocks away at Avondale Shops.
      Our one and only TV station covered both events live. At least those
who were hoodwinked by this cheap trick got wiser when they saw Cde Saviour
Kasukuwere and his army of "youths" that included Cde William "Analyst"
Nhara (the man just doesn't give up) invading the stage to shout insults at
the MDC.
      And, by the way, when will the congratulatory bashes come to an end?
People are interested more in seeing development coming to them and not
having party after party in a drought year like this one!
      Still on these elections, can someone please tell us why the panelists
hosting the Election 2005 series on our TV get angry on behalf of ZANU PF?
As professionals, we thought they would just ask questions they think would
yield answers that can help the electorate make informed decisions. But it
becomes something else when Cde Happison Muchechetere gets angered by the
responses on the behalf of ZANU PF.
      The lot looked quite unsettled when one MDC official threatened to
deal with partisan police officers if ever the MDC gets into power. Is there
any reason to worry?
      What is even more dangerous about Cde Muchechetere is that some of the
answers proffered by the interviewees are clearly way above his head,
something that even angers him further. Small wonder why things are not
moving at the so-called new ZIANA!
      Some of these things don't need to be overdone because ZANU PF has
flint where its heart is supposed to be. Ask Cde Tazzen Mandizvidza at
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      ZESA goes mining

      Chris Muronzi
      3/24/2005 7:36:03 AM (GMT +2)

      LISTED coal producer Hwange Colliery Company (HCC) has ceded Chaba
Coal Concession to ZESA Holdings amid reports that the government had
exerted pressure on the former to relinquish its right to the concession in
a bid to woo the electricity company's potential Asian partners.

      Sources close to the developments told The Financial Gazette this week
that HCC finally gave up its Chaba claim to the power utility. There are
indications that the coal producer had been granted other concessions as
      ZESA corporate affairs director Obert Nyatanga confirmed the
development, saying his company had secured additional coalfields to feed
the Hwange Power Station (HPS).
      This development confirms earlier reports that ZESA chairman Sydney
Gata had been lobbying intensively in government circles for the coal claim
in a bid to entice Asian investors who have demanded coal concessions before
entering into multi-billion-dollar power projects with the parastatal.
      "The government has given us our own mining concessions for the Chaba,
Entuba and Sinamatela coalfields. These coalfields are to feed the current
HPS as well as the expanded HPS when complete in 2007/2008. We will continue
to draw coal supplied from Hwange Colliery anyway," said Nyatanga.
      Other sources privy to the developments indicated that ZESA, which has
signed several memoranda of understanding with Chinese investors, has been
under pressure from the investors to secure coal concessions in the country.
      HCC boss Godfrey Dzinomwa also confirmed the development, saying Chaba
was a powering coke concession, which was also of strategic importance to
the country and ZESA itself.
      "We have agreed to cede Chaba to ZESA. We are in negotiations with the
government," Dzinomwa said.
      Nyatanga added: "We are now talking to our investor friends in Asia
for actual investment in the mentioned coalfields so that they are
operational when HPS expansion programme is complete. We will, however,
develop the coalfields in phases or sequences as per the Mining Master Plan
we are developing in consultation with the potential investors."
      HCC, which in the past resisted offers by ZESA to cede the concession,
is said to have been afforded other concessions by the Ministry Of Mines and
Mining Development.
      It remains to be seenwhat effect the cession of Chaba will have on
HCC. Apart from the fact that ZESA is one of the colliery's biggest
customers, Chaba was also a big part of HCC's future plans.

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      Storm far from over for industry

      Felix Njini
      3/24/2005 7:41:05 AM (GMT +2)

      PERSISTENT raw material and foreign currency shortages continue to
ravage Zimbabwe's manufacturing sector, casting a dark cloud over the
industry's recovery prospects, The Financial Gazette can reveal.

      Industry players said the manufacturing sector, which is largely
expected to lead the economic recovery path, is still wallowing in
multi-faceted problems.
      The sector, which capped 2004 operating at an average of 60 percent of
capacity, is estimated to be operating at 40 percent and below.
      The forthcoming March 31 Parliamentary elections have also cast a dark
shadow of uncertainty on the industry, with most investors and company
executives adopting a wait and see attitude.
      Players in the sector confirmed the supply side was failing to respond
despite concessions made to industry by the central bank since last year.
      They cited foreign currency shortages, which have seen most firms
failing to procure raw materials. More than 85 percent of raw materials
consumed in Zimbabwe's manufacturing are imported.
      Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president, Pattison Sithole
told The Financial Gazette that manufacturers were struggling to get foreign
currency from the auction floors. Sithole said the solution lied in
addressing the supply side of foreign currency generation.
      "Currently exports are not viable, we have said over and over that top
amongst the issues to be addressed is that of the exchange rate," Sithole
      The CZI has been amongst some of the proponents of gradual devaluation
of the local currency, in line with the laws of supply and demand.
      "Manufacturers are struggling to get foreign currency from the auction
floors and the submissions are taking longer to be approved," Sithole said.
"We need to deal with the exchange rate and make it supportive of
exporters," Sithole said but refused to elaborate.
      Demand for foreign currency at the auction floors is far outstripping
the amount on offer. The past three auctions have seen demand for foreign
currency shooting up to US$147 million against a fixed allocation of US$11
      The local unit, which has succumbed to pressure on the parallel market
and is now trading at around Z$14 000 against the US dollar, is trading
around Z$6 100 against the greenback on the auction floors.
      The number of rejected bids has shot up from 3 000 earlier in the year
to over 4 000. The persistent foreign currency shortages has seen the
re-birth of the foreign currency parallel market trading with some
commercial banks allegedly taking a active role in the black market.
      "The industry is depressed at the moment and the foreign currency
shortages are worrisome. The supply side response is not good enough," said
Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce president Luxon Zembe.
      He added that the election fever has seen most prime corporate
decisions being shelved to March 31 and beyond.
      Analysts say a steep rise in production costs has put paid
government's stated objectives of fostering export driven growth in an
economy whose export sector is being dampened by foreign exchange shortages.
      According to a study carried by CZI last year, output in the sector
shrunk by 11.3 percent in 2003 from 5.8 percent in 2002. Real turnover for
the manufacturing industry plummeted by 96.3 percent in 2003 while sales
declined b 6.6 percent.
      The number of retrenchments trebled from 1 187 in 2002 t0 3 585 in
2003 with up to 40 companies closing shop and 25 scaling down operations.

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      Govt set to raid market to fund grain imports

      Staff Reporter
      3/24/2005 7:42:07 AM (GMT +2)

      THE government is expected to raid the money market within the coming
weeks to borrow cash to fund unbudgeted-for grain imports, a move that would
further increase the domestic debt, which rose to $5.8 trillion this month,
and heat up inflation.

      Money market players say they expect government will soon float paper
on the market to import grain, but are sceptical that any such issue would
attract as much market support as is necessary to cover the huge import
      The government officials have said recently that government had
budgeted $12 billion - or US$2.4 million at the auction rate - for aid to
feed 1.5 million needy people. The government had also predicted a harvest
of 2.4 million tonnes of maize to have come in by April.
      However, official forecasts now concede that harvests will in fact
come in much lower than expected, which means that the government will be
forced to increase its import budget to buy sufficient grain.
      "Zimbabwe's isolation by the international community, crucially, means
that government will struggle to get offshore lines of credit. This would
force it to turn to the local market for its borrowing, thereby possibly
driving up rates and adding more pressure on inflation," an asset manager
said last week.
      President Robert Mugabe and senior officials of his ruling ZANU PF
party last week admitted for the first time that Zimbabwe will need to
import grain, reversing earlier claims that the country's five-year-old
agrarian reforms would produce a surplus this year.
      The government has already instructed Samuel Muvuti, the head of the
state grain monopoly, the Grain Marketing Board, to import grain.
      "We are in the process of putting a new contract in place, (and)
deliveries will be coming into the country shortly. Also, we still have some
contracts which were signed some months if not a year or so ago, which are
still running," Muvuti said recently.
      Grain imports will also mean deeper scarcity on the foreign currency
market, where demand has continued to outrun supply.
      The Financial Gazette reported last week that government debt, mainly
made up of treasury bills, government stocks and the Reserve Bank of
Zimbabwe (RBZ) overdraft, had risen to $5.8 trillion as at March 11. The
bulk of the debt is in the form of treasury bills worth $2.25 trillion and
attracting interest of $2.94 trillion. Government stocks account for $456.56
      The figures also reflected an expansion in RBZ advances to the
government, which maintained a positive cash balance on its account for long
periods last year.
      Although central bank advances to the government were down to $161
billion last Friday, recent weeks have seen peaks exceeding $700 billion.
      the government faces the additional pressure of having to finance its
$4.5 trillion budget deficit.

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      Tel*One cuts off ZESA subsidiary

      Staff Reporter
      3/24/2005 7:42:39 AM (GMT +2)

      TERRESTRIAL phone network Tel*One has disconnected telephone lines to
the Zimbabwe Electricity Distribution Company (ZEDC), a subsidiary of ZESA
Holdings, after it failed to settle a $500 million bill.

      Tel*One, which is in a desperate bid to recover billions of dollars it
is owed by several corporate subscribers, last month disconnected ZEDC's
Mashonaland East offices in Marondera, Bromley and Mutoko for a period of
one week over a $700 million debt.
      Sources privy to the development said ZEDC executives were making
frantic efforts to settle part of the debt to have the disconnected lines
restored. So far, only the Marondera phones have been reconnected.
      An official from ZEDC's Marondera district office confirmed the
development, saying efforts were underway to retire the debt.
      "It is the responsibility of our head office to make sure that the
bills are paid since they are the ones accountable for our cash flow.
      "The residential telephone lines have been disconnected for the past
seven months, if not more, over non-payment," confirmed the official.
      A senior manager at ZEDC, who refused to be identified, said: "It is
not that the company does not have money but the bill was overlooked by the
Chinhoyi head office, which is responsible for the debt."
      Both spokespersons for ZEDC and Tel*One refused to comment.

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