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Election Time again

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Rebellious mood in rural Zimbabwe

Tuesday, 25 March 2008, 06:10 GMT
By Peter Tinona
Chikwaka, Eastern Zimbabwe

People living in rural parts of Zimbabwe may have benefited from President Robert Mugabe's land reform programme but that does not mean he can count on all their votes in the 29 March elections.

People carrying bags of maize seed
The government has given out bags of seed - but not to everyone
In previous years, rural Zimbabweans in the north and east have mostly backed Mr Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party but now the mood has changed.

Free land is of little use when you cannot afford seeds or fertiliser and rural people and their families are also affected by the collapse of the economy.

Giles Mutengwa, a 51-year-old father of four from Chikwaka, in Mashonaland East province, says his family will not vote for Zanu-PF this time.

"We want change. We want jobs for our children and food and basics in the shops," he said.

"The ruling party has failed to deliver and I think its time to let someone else lead the country," said Mr Mutengwa, who lost his job three years ago.


Edgar Tawanda, 52, was given a small plot of land just north of Harare and last year some seed and fertiliser under a new scheme to boost food production.

The rains have adversely affected my crop
Edgar Tawanda

But he complains about the poor planning and alleged corruption in the Maguta (Time of Plenty) scheme which is being run by the army.

"We got 50kg of maize seed and six bags of fertiliser but it was not enough for our land. We had to buy to supplement the hand-outs," he said.

He said that army officials involved in the scheme kept much of the hand-outs for themselves - similar accusations to those which dogged the redistribution of land in recent years.

The mood in rural areas has also been hit by non-stop rains which have badly hit farmers like Mr Tawanda, leaving fields water-logged.

"The rains have adversely affected my crop and I think I am not going to harvest as much as I anticipated," he said.

The vagaries of the weather are beyond Mr Mugabe's control but he is once more using his redistribution of land as a campaign tool.


The president raises the prospect that the land would be seized back under an opposition government and promises that rural living standards will soon start to rise, with the help of schemes like Maguta - messages that may still work for many rural voters.

Pie charts showing decline in land planted

Officials say that up to 750,000 people have been given land seized from white farmers since 2000 but critics say most beneficiaries have been top civil servants and ruling party cadres.

Mr Mugabe has been distributing tractors and ox-drawn ploughs to boost agricultural production - bribes, say his critics - but even such largesse may not necessarily be a net vote-winner.

Many people, like Mr Tawanda, were bitter at being left out.

Mr Mugabe's main challengers - former Finance Minister Simba Makoni and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai - have both said the land reforms have been at the heart of Zimbabwe's economic collapse and promise to turn things round.

Mr Makoni says he would take back land from those who do not use it or who own more than one farm.

Mr Tsvangirai says the land question must be resolved once and for all, so Zimbabweans never go hungry again.

"We shall be the bread basket of Africa again and not its basket case any longer," Mr Tsvangirai says in his manifesto.


When Zimbabwe's land reform programme was speeded up in the late 1990s, the government said that food production would increase, even if production of cash crops such as tobacco could suffer, as white-owned commercial farms were divided up and redistributed to poor black families.

But amid widespread hunger, due to poor harvests of the staple food maize, the military launched the Maguta programme in 2006.

Maize production has been hit by heavy rains - and poor planning

One of the top officials behind the scheme, Brigadier-General Douglas Nyikayaramba said it had helped place an extra 20,000 - 25,000 ha of land under maize around the country - both commercial farmers (A1) and in communal areas, where land is allocated by local chiefs.

"A1 and communal farmers can produce a lot to supplement the national needs and since the programme was launched these farmers have done well," he said recently.

But this year, the maize harvest is predicted to be just 500,000 tons - far below the 850,000 tons produced in 1998-99.

Tobacco yields are also sharply down - just 60,000 ha was planted this season, just a third of the 180,000 ha planted in 1999-2000, when it was Zimbabwe's main foreign currency earner.

The World Food Programme says it is distributing food aid to some 2.6 million people this year - about a quarter of the population.

The opposition says the government has not only used land, seeds and tractors to buy votes but also food aid.

Only people carrying Zanu-PF membership cards get hand-outs from the state-owned Grain Marketing Board in some areas, they say.

These accusations have been denied by government officials.

The WFP does not want to get drawn into Zimbabwean politics but insists that the aid it distributes is free from political interference.

The author's name has been changed as BBC reporters have not been accredited for the elections. The names of the interviewees have also been changed.

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The old man still holds all the aces

The Times, SA

Published:Mar 25, 2008


"LET'S not kid ourselves, dude. The old man is going to win - hands down."

These are the words of Mukhahuru (not his real name), a 24-year-old
Zimbabwean I met at the Circus nightclub in Harare on Friday night.

South African kwaito star DJ S'bu Leope was performing and the club was
packed until the early hours.

The young people at the club didn't seem too concerned that their country
would be heading for the polls next weekend.

When I suggested to Mukhahuru that people should not be willing to give up
their freedom and civil liberties as easily as that, he said: "We are a
resilient people."

Yesterday, the Sunday Times, which has been banned from entering Zimbabwe,
sneaked into one of President Robert Mugabe's rallies in Chitungwiza, 30km
north of Harare.

Thousands of Zanu-PF supporters, young and old, sang chimurenga (freedom)
songs as they toyi-toyied at Chibuku Stadium, where Mugabe was scheduled to

Security forces were everywhere , conducting random searches in and around
the township before the old man arrived.

Every person entering the stadium was searched at least three times.

Mugabe's supporters threatened to root out unaccredited journalists and
Western collaborators.

Concerned for our safety, we left the stadium to board a hastily booked
flight back to Johannesburg.

We had spent a week in the country, dodging secret police and plain- clothes
members of the government's Central Intelligence Organisation.

Despite Mukhahuru's apparent fatalism, we found that the election was the
hottest topic in Zimbabwe. On the streets, in the pubs and hotel lobbies,
they're asking: "What will put an end to Mugabe's presidency?"

Across the country, thousands of people, dressed in T-shirts bearing images
of their preferred presidential candidates, could be seen in trucks and
buses on their way to rallies. There were posters at every corner, on walls
and shops - also on cars and taxis.

Support for Simba Makoni, an independent presidential candidate who has
formed an alliance with Arthur Mutamabara's branch of the Movement for
Democratic Change, appeared to be widespread.

But some questioned his bona fides, wondering whether he is an agent of the
Zanu-PF establishment, seeking to further divide the ever- growing support
base of Mugabe's opposition in urban centres.

However, his supporters described him as a breath of fresh air, asserting
that he would make a great president.

They pointed to his service in Mugabe's government as finance minister,
before he was forced to resign in 2002, after clashing with the president
over the devaluation of the Zimbabwe dollar.

James Moshonga, assistant manager of a textile company in Kadoma, 133km from
Harare, wants to see change in Zimbabwe and thinks Makoni is the right
candidate to usher in economic and social reforms.

"I hope God can intervene this time around and bring change," the 36-
year-old told the Sunday Times.

Pressed to explain, he said God could make people vote for the right
candidate. "Simba is the right candidate. He's educated and experienced in
governance. He can bring fundamental changes to our lives."

While sipping Scotch at one of Harare' s watering holes, 42-year-old MDC
supporter Patrick Chiwenga said Makoni would be embarrassed at the polls.

"The truth is he is not drawing enough crowds to his rallies. He is unlikely
to receive more than 10% of the vote . Comrade Morgan Tsvangirai is Mugabe's
biggest challenger," said Chiwenga. After Mugabe, Tsvangirai commands the
biggest crowds. Whether this will translate into votes is another story

But while election posters of different presidential candidates are
everywhere, the opposition is not getting fair coverage in the state- owned

Foreign journalists have been banned from covering the elections, which has
prompted questions about whether the poll will be free and fair.

Although there was high excitement about the elections, I found Zimbabweans
to be conscious of their society's problems yet fearful of expressing anger
at their situation - like, for example, the people of Burma, Tibet or Kenya.

They know what is expected of them but are burdened by personal struggles
for survival, like where to get money for the next meal - or for bus fare.

From Victoria Falls, Hwange, Bulawayo and Gweru to Kwekwe, Chigutu and
Chitungwiza, our trip was an encounter with humiliation.

The effects of Mugabe's madness stared at us from bare supermarket shelves,
where basic commodities were mostly unavailable. If available, they were
hideously expensive.

Unemployment is rife, and just one in five people is formally employed.

Those without any hope of getting a job have become traders, selling oil or
exchanging money on the black market.

Most buildings are dilapidated, some covered with moss and decaying in the
relentless heat.

Functioning hospitals, running water and garbage services are but a distant

During much of the week the country was plunged into darkness as a result of
electricity shortages.

The blackouts affected cellphones and the Internet was down. It is
impossible to make a call to a cellphone outside Zimbabwe.

The country's once-paved roads are in such a state of disrepair that it is
difficult to negotiate your way around some potholes, which are as wide as
48cm wheels.

The prospect of change for poor Zimbabweans appears to be nothing more than
a distant dream.

Meanwhile, Mugabe is gearing up for a sixth term as president, crisscrossing
the country, dishing out tractors and buses - and, of course, promising
farms to the faithful.

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MDC accuses central bank of aiding vote-rigging process

Zim Online

by Wayne Mafaro Tuesday 25 March 2008

HARARE - Zimbabwe central bank governor Gideon Gono has seconded personnel
to the electoral commission to assist in the running of elections, sparking
charges by the opposition that he was helping the government rig the ballot.

Gono, a close confidante of President Robert Mugabe who critics accuse of
fuelling inflation by printing money to fund the veteran leader's populist
projects, temporarily transferred about 100 bank workers to the Zimbabwe
Electoral Commission (ZEC) to help mostly with finance administration.

ZEC chairperson George Chiweshe said there was nothing "sinister" about
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) staff being seconded to the ZEC because the
law allowed the commission to recruit relevant skills from statutory bodies
including the central bank.

"There is nothing sinister at all. The electoral law allows us to recruit
from statutory bodies and the RBZ is one such body and therefore can second
staff to the commission. We are allowed to call for support services of that
nature," said Chiweshe.

Chiweshe said RBZ staff were playing a supportive role, helping the
commission in making payments to its workers spread across Zimbabwe.

But the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, which
claims Mugabe wants to rig the vote, accused Gono of attempting to place
what should be an apolitical RBZ right at the centre of the government's
elections rigging plot.

"The central bank should not have anything to do with election management.
It must be completely depoliticised. What Gono is doing goes beyond
quasi-fiscal activities, it is an attempt to subvert the people's will,"
said MDC secretary general Tendai Biti.

Biti, whose party has threatened to fire Gono if it wins power, said ZEC
could have recruited helpers from the Ministry of Finance and not the
central bank that should remain a professional institution far removed from
electioneering and politics.

Gono was not immediately available for comment on the matter.

Gono is blamed by economists and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) of
compounding Zimbabwe's crisis through quasi-fiscal activities that have seen
the central bank pump trillions of dollars into financing newly resettled
black farmers, most of them ruling ZANU PF party supporters and who have
failed to produce enough food to feed the nation.

The RBZ governor recently provided funds to purchase tractors, motor cycles,
combine harvesters, generators, small farm implements and cows that were
handed to black farmers by Mugabe three weeks ago, in what analysts said was
a clear attempt by the veteran leader to buy support ahead of elections at
the month end.

Analysts are tipping Mugabe's government to win the March 29 presidential
and general elections despite an acute recession marked by the world's
highest inflation of more than 100 000 percent, rising unemployment,
shortages of food, fuel and electricity. - ZimOnline

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Cash Shortages Resurface In Zimbabwe, Elections Seen Partly To Blame


By Chris Gande & Blessing Zulu
24 March 2008

The cash shortages which bedeviled Zimbabweans around Christmas resurfaced
in the approach to the long Easter weekend, complicating operations for the
campaigns of presidential and other political hopefuls whose activities were
partly to blame.

Local sources said some banks late last week were turning away customers
seeking cash for the impending holiday weekend, while others were
restricting withdrawals far below the legal daily maximum of Z$500 million,
around US$10.

With Zimbabwean currency at a premium, the local dollar gained on the U.S.
dollar with the greenback fetching Z$40 million compared with Z$60 million
days earlier.

Political operatives said they were finding it hard to purchase necessities
with campaign T-shirts, for instance, costing Z$60 million dollars.

Economist Rejoice Ngwenya told reporter Chris Gande of VOA's Studio 7 for
Zimbabwe that heavy spending to support large campaign staffs is partly to
blame for the shortage of bank notes. He added that the cash shortage could
get worse after the election as the central bank slows its printing presses.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwean consumers are facing a deepening food crisis with
prices for all basic goods up sharply. Most such goods are only available on
the black market.

Ten kilos of maize meal cost more than Z150 million - the official price is
Z10 million.

Average rents have soared to Z$1.5 billion dollars from Z$300 million not
long ago.

A month's supply of life-extending antiretroviral drugs for those living
with HIV/AIDS has reached Z$1.3 billion dollars compared with Z$30 million
in January.

As the Times of London reported this week, a burial in Harare, the capital,
costs Z$1 billion - triple the price of $300 million just a few days ago.

National Incomes and Pricing Commission Chairman Godwills Masimirembwa told
reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that some business
leaders are sabotaging the economy by buying scarce foreign exchange in the
parallel marketplace, which he said is fueling the steep rise in prices.

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Using Google maps to show election rigging in Zimbabwe


Sokwanele has mapped a sample of breaches logged under our Zimbabwe Election
Watch (ZEW) project using Google's map function.

The interactive map aims to give a visual impression of the scale and many
ways in which the Zimbabwean government has breached the SADC Principles and
Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections. Elections are a process, not an
event, and the same applies to rigging: the scene has been set for unfree
and unfair elections on March 29th, and the conditions on the ground have
been developed through many months of non-compliance with regional electoral

The events and incidents mapped on the Zimbabwe Election Watch map represent
a small sample of the breaches identified under the project since we started
monitoring the government's non-cooperation with regional standards in July
2007. All the information logged under Zimbabwe Election Watch is derived
from media sources.

Zimbabwe has a highly restrictive media environment, and fuel shortages make
remote rural areas inaccessible to those brave journalists who do manage to
circumvent the repressive media legislation and attempt to report
regardless. This naturally means that urban areas have a greater
representation on the map. It also means that empty areas on the map may not
indicate 'uneventful' areas; on the contrary, they are more likely to
represent stories we are unable to tell and incidents that have not been

The map is interactive: check and un-check icons to refine focus; click on
icons on the map to read more; double-click anywhere on the map to zoom in
on an area in Zimbabwe, and use your mouse to click, hold and drag on the
map to pan to different locations.

Despite the fact the map is based on a small sample of information we have
logged since July 2007, and despite the fact that our ability to gather a
full picture has been curtailed by a restrictive media environment, the ZEW
map clearly shows that conditions in the country are not conducive for free
and fair democratic elections.

For more detail on the full range of breaches we have logged through the
duration of the project, and more information on the SADC Principles and
Guidelines, please visit the Zimbabwe Election Watch section of our website
and explore the data through the database interface.

The map can be viewed at:

Full details on Zimbabwe Election Watch, including counts and graphs of SADC
breaches can be found at:



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Zimbabwe opposition candidate 'harassed'

March 25, 2008 01:13pm

THE Australian husband of Zimbabwean opposition candidate Sekai Holland says
his wife has been harassed and detained by police in the lead-up to the
country's elections.

Zimbabweans go to the polls this weekend, with long-ruling President Robert
Mugabe battling for survival in the tightest contest since independence from
Britain in 1980.

Ms Holland, who is running as a senate candidate for the opposition MDC
party, has been repeatedly harassed by police, with husband Jim Holland
saying she has been targeted for speaking out about violence in the country.

In March last year, the Australian Government helped the Hollands flee the
troubled southern African country after Ms Holland was brutally beaten
following her arrest at a political rally. She suffered a broken hand,
broken leg and three broken ribs.

"Two weeks ago, she reported to the local police (in Harare) that there had
been assaults carried out by ZANU-PF against MDC supporters and they said
that she should go to the central police station to follow up with pressing
charges," Mr Holland, who is currently in Harare with his wife, told AAP.

"But once she got to the central police station she was grabbed by police
who then held her for two hours, abusing her and making all kinds of
allegations including a claim that she fled to Australia to evade justice in

"It was clearly just designed to intimidate her. When they let her go they
just said they would pick her up any time they felt like it."

Police followed through with their threats on Easter Monday, when they
raided a house in Harare where Ms Holland was handing out MDC election

"They invaded a house where she was handing out some t-shirts and said that
it was an unlawful political gathering," Mr Holland said.

"Then they ordered her to follow them to the police station for

"But she did a quick detour on the way to the police station and saw her
lawyer instead."

No action was taken after her lawyer's intervention, Mr Holland said.

"She seems to be particularly targeted," he said.

"Clearly, they were very embarrassed by what happened last year when she was
tortured and the publicity she gave to that."

Mr Holland said such intimidation of MDC candidates had escalated in the
final weeks of the election campaign.

"The police are picking up a lot of her campaign staff, and they have been
interrogated and some have been arrested - it's part of the campaign of
making it almost impossible to win," he said.

"I think that we are facing a very dangerous election now because Mugabe's
popularity is almost non-existent throughout the country in both rural and
urban areas.

"So that means that in order for him to stay in power, which I presume he
will do ... he will do it by rigging on a massive scale and by using a lot
more violence and intimidation."

Asked if the Australian Government could, or should, be intervening, Mr
Holland said there was nothing it could do.

"I don't think there is anything they could do directly, apart from talking
about what is going on," he said.

"I think ultimately this whole situation has to be taken to the United

"Clearly, the African Union has no interest in dealing with the Zimbabwe
situation in a serious manner."

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Churches pray for leader who won't steal from people

Zim Online

by Lizwe Sebatha Tuesday 25 March 2008

BULAWAYO - Zimbabwean churches on Monday held a mass prayer meeting for
peaceful elections and to ask God to guide the nation in selecting a leader
who will not steal from the people and abuse fellow citizens.

Zimbabwe elects a new president and parliament on March 29 amid an acute
recession blamed on repression and mismanagement by President Robert Mugabe
and seen in the world's highest inflation of more than 100 000 percent,
rising unemployment, shortages of food and every basic commodity.

Analysts have warned that a nation desperate for change could explode in
Kenyan-style post-election violence if Mugabe - who the opposition accuses
of cheating in previous polls - rigs the election.

"We are praying for a leadership after the elections that will be a servant
of the people, a leader that will be moral and a leader that will not abuse
national resources," Bishop Trust Sinjoji told ZimOnline at the Zimbabwe
International Trade Fair grounds in Bulawayo where the prayer meeting was

About 600 worshipers attended the prayer meeting that was organised by the
three largest representative bodies for Christians in the country, the
Zimbabwe Council of Churches, Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe and the
Catholics Bishops Conference.

Church leaders also used the rally to urge Christians, who are the majority
in Zimbabwe, to vote in the polls next Saturday and to reassure voters that
their ballot would be secret because no one except God could ever know how
they voted.

"Crucial elections are coming next week and we all should exercise our
rights and vote. God is watching the elections. We are asking for the
holding of peaceful, free and fair elections," said Pastor Raymond Motsi,
one of the church leaders at the meeting.

Mugabe, who polls show trailing main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai,
has promised a thunderous victory against the opposition and denies charges
he plans to rig the ballot.

The veteran leader, in power since Zimbabwe's 1980 independence from Britain
and seeking another five-year term, has told the opposition to accept the
election result, warning that security forces were ready to crush any
Kenya-style post-election upheaval. - ZimOnline

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Prominent Zimbabwean Defense Official Tells Ruling Party To 'Accept Results'


By Jonga Kandemiiri
24 March 2008

With Zimbabwe's election day approaching the main presidential candidates
continued to hammer out their messages to voters, but increasingly the
debate seemed to be focusing in one way or another on whether the elections
will be free and fair.

President Robert Mugabe told a rally Sunday in Stanley Square in the
Makokoba section of Bulawayo, the country's second-largest city, that votes
for the opposition would be wasted because "there is no way we can allow
them to rule this country."

The president appeared to be taking the same line as top security officials
who said they would not recognize an opposition or even independent
presidential victory.

Even as Mr. Mugabe warned votes for the Movement for Democratic Change would
be "wasted," opposition contender Morgan Tsvangirai was telling supporters
at a Harare rally not to leave polling stations "but stand and defend your

He said elections were stolen in 2000, 2002 and 2005, but this one would not

The opposition says the government has printed 3 million more ballots than
needed for the country's 5.9 million registered voters, intending to stuff
ballot boxes.

But support for the democratic process came from an unexpected direction
Sunday as the Standard newspaper carried an interview with Zimbabwe Defense
Industries chief Tshinga Dube, a retired colonel seeking a parliamentary
seat, saying ZANU-PF "must accept the election results" as a disputed
election would not be in its interest.

Reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reached Dube, who
said no one should run for office who is not prepared to accept defeat.

Meanwhile, on Easter Monday, Christians from different denominations held a
prayer meeting in Bulawayo to ask for peace ahead of Saturday's elections.

Rev. Raymond Motsi, an organizer, told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that those
who attended the religious gathering were beseeching God to help Zimbabweans
elect leaders who will deliver the country from crisis and ensure peace and

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Zimbabwe's knife-edge election

Financial Times

Published: March 24 2008 19:28 | Last updated: March 24 2008 19:28

Robert Mugabe has long defied political gravity. But even the most tenacious
autocrats eventually land with a bump. It is tempting to think that time is
approaching for Zimbabwe's 84-year-old leader. This Saturday's elections may
not end his rule directly or prevent him taking Zimbabwe further down with
him. Mr Mugabe faces the choice between continuing in State House, where he
hopes to retain influence over his succession, or humiliation and even jail.
For that reason he will use all means at his disposal to ensure the vote
count goes his way.

However, the corner he finds himself in is tighter than it has been in
previous polls and the political climate more volatile than ever. The old
liberation-era rhetoric, blaming Britain for his country's proliferating
woes, has limited appeal for a desperate population.

The defection of Simba Makoni, his former finance minister, who along with
the resurgent opposition's Morgan Tsvangirai is competing for the
presidency, has brought splits within the ruling Zanu-PF party into the
open. This has thrown Mr Mugabe off balance, raising doubts about the
loyalty of election officials as well as the degree of support in
traditional rural strongholds.

Nor can last-minute salary increases for civil servants, among other
incentives, offer anything but diminishing returns. To fund these, the
central bank has been printing money. This will worsen economic conditions
in the aftermath of the polls. Inflation is already rising above 100,000 per
cent to levels few regimes anywhere have survived for long. If he is to
snatch another victory, Mr Mugabe will probably have to rely on force.
Scenting blood, the opposition both from within and outside Zanu-PF is
unlikely to lie down and take it, raising the risk of a violent contestation
of the results.

There is a heavy burden therefore on the shoulders of the Southern African
Development Community and the African Union, the only outside organisations
permitted to monitor the vote. Controversially, both endorsed Mr Mugabe's
previous election wins. But having stood firm so recently in the face of
election fraud in Kenya, and in the AU's case having played a prominent role
in finding a way out of the subsequent crisis, there is pressure to apply
the same standards. More­over, to save Zimbabwe from further ruin, whoever
wins will have to go cap in hand to foreign donors for a rescue package.

That is unlikely to be forthcoming with Mr Mugabe at the helm. The dilemma
is familiar. We can only hope that reason prevails before it is too late.

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Zimbabweans rush to stock up foodstuffs as election nears

Daily Nation, Kenya

Publication Date: 2008/03/25 James Ncube, an unemployed father of five is a
worried man after spending more than six hours at the Plumtree border post
in western Zimbabwe waiting to be cleared to cross into neighbouring

After working for three months as a security guard for an
international relief organisation in the second largest city of Bulawayo
where he was paid in foreign currency, the 34-year-old is among thousands of
Zimbabweans dashing to neighbouring countries to stock food ahead of a
crucial election this weekend.

Zimbabweans are going to the polls this Saturday reeling under an
economic crisis characterised by inflation topping 150 000 percent,
unemployment of over 80 percent and an acute shortage of basic commodities.

They will elect a new president, members of parliament, senators and
local authorities in the combined elections.

There are strong fears that President Robert Mugabe's hard liner
supporters, unable to stomach the possible defeat of their hero might plunge
the country into a crisis and worsen the already grave humanitarian
situation in this former economic giant of Southern Africa.

Because no one knows

"I need enough sugar, mealie meal and cooking fat for my children
before the elections because no one knows what will happen if President
Robert Mugabe loses," Mr Ncube said.

"I have been here since morning but the queue is moving slowly and the
Botswana immigration officers seem overwhelmed by the number of visitors.

Shortages of basic commodities have persisted in Zimbabwe since mid
last year when Mr Mugabe's government desperate to reverse galloping
inflation ordered businesses to slash prices by half.

Predictably key manufacturers were forced to close down their
businesses by huge loses and Zimbabweans have resorted to going as far as
South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia, Namibia and Botswana to buy basics.

But immigration authorities say the number of Zimbabweans visiting
neighbouring countries has risen dramatically in the past few days as the
poll date nears and amid growing uncertainties clouding the outcome of the

With less than four days to go, observers say the election is still
too close to call and an unexpected outcome might plunge the country into
worse chaos.

Analysts say, Zimbabwe is likely to explode into violence if Mr Mugabe
tries to manipulate the polls, which have been described as the veteran
leader's toughest since he swept to power at independence in 1980 after
leading a guerilla onslaught against British colonial rule.

Mr Mugabe faces the country's former Finance Minister, Dr Simba Makoni
who last month rocked the foundations of the ruling Zanu PF when he
announced that he was challenging Mr Mugabe for the presidency and veteran
opposition leader, Mr Morgan Tsvangirai.

Dr Makoni who is also the former head of the Southern African
Development Community (SADC) led the first open challenge to Mr Mugabe from
the ruling party, while Mr Tsvangirai lost to the 84 year old leader by just
400,000 votes in the 2002 presidential elections.

The international think thank, International Crisis Group in its
assessment of the forthcoming polls says the outcome is likely to be
challenged, triggering mass violence and the perpetuation of the economic

Already, aid agencies say over four million Zimbabweans are in need of
aid and the humanitarian situation might even deteriorate further in the
event of post election disturbances.

"Zimbabwe will hold elections already flawed by pre-poll misbehaviour,
notwithstanding what may occur on polling day and thereafter," the group
said in its latest report titled Zimbabwe: prospects from a flawed election.

"The results are likely to be heatedly disputed. Though the playing
field is not even and efforts to create a united opposition have failed,
ex-Zanu PF politburo member, Simba Makoni is seriously challenging Mugabe's

Fears of complete meltdown also heightened after commanders of the
Zimbabwe security forces declared that they will stage a coup if any of Mr
Mugabe's challengers were to win the presidency because they are sponsored
by the West.

Mr Mugabe has also warned that the police would crush any protests
after the elections and observers it was an admission the outcome of the
polls were likely to spark unrest.

Mr Tsvangirai has also warned that his party would not allow the
ruling Zanu PF to steal the election, like its says has happened in previous

Political analysts say the polls are still close to call and the
suspense might raise tensions when the results are finally announced.

According to opinion polls whose results were released last week, Mr
Tsvangirai is likely to win the presidential race ahead of Mr Mugabe and Dr

The poll conducted by respected political scientist Professor Eldred
Masunungure of the Mass Public Opinion Institute said out of a total of 1
693 respondents, 28,3 per cent said they will vote for Mr Tsvangirai.

Another 20.3 per cent said they will vote for Mr Mugabe while Dr
Makoni who stands as an independent candidate was chosen by 8.3 per cent of
the people, while one percent said the would vote for rank outsider, Mr
Langton Towungana.

However, 23.5 per cent were unwilling to disclose their choice, saying
they wanted to keep their vote secret.

Made up their mind

Of the balance 7.5 per cent said they had not made up their mind,
while 5.4 per cent said they will not vote and 4.4 per cent said, "I don't
know". The poll categorised 1. 9 per cent of respondents under the heading

"With all things being equal no one will gain 51 per cent of the vote
in the first round and that there will be a run-off is almost certain," Prof
Masunungure said.

"No party will be able to gain a two-thirds majority in the House of
Assembly, and by extension, in the Senate. I am not sure what is likely to
happen at the local government level."

Mr Tsvangirai enjoys popular support in the country's urban areas but
analysts say his failure to penetrate Mr Mugabe's strongholds in the rural
areas and his failure to unite opposition forces to fight the ruling party
might cost him the election.

On Dr Makoni, analysts say his late entry and limited grassroots
support, as well as the opaque nature of his establishment backing will work
against him. But his challenge has thrown Zanu PF into turmoil and left Mr
Mugabe unsure of his allies.

"Influential actors within the security apparatus are quietly lining
up behind Makoni," the ICG added in its report.

"Mugabe, however, is likely prepared to do whatever is necessary to
defeat him, quite possibly including escalation of violence in the event of
a run off, even at the risk of sparking bloody factional fighting within
Zanu PF."

Meanwhile, the ICG has urged the African Union to start contemplating
ways of dealing with the expected deterioration in the political situation
in the country especially in the event of Mr Mugabe losing the election.

"A negotiated settlement need not necessarily remove Mugabe," the
group said "He might, for example, serve as a non-executive head of state
during a transitional period until new elections can be held."

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Some foreign investors gamble on Zimbabwe


Mon Mar 24, 2008 9:05pm EDT

By Nelson Banya
HARARE (Reuters) - Foreign investors prepared to brave Zimbabwe's political
and economic volatility could win big if Saturday's election brings policy
changes in the crisis-hit but resource-rich country.

Despite an economic meltdown, surreal inflation and political uncertainty,
some investors have cautiously positioned themselves for changes after a
March 29 vote that is shaping up to be President Robert Mugabe's most
serious test in 28 years.

Mugabe's two challengers -- ex-ally Simba Makoni and long-time rival Morgan
Tsvangirai -- have placed the crippled economy at the centre of their

Zimbabwe's 13 million people are grappling with chronic food, fuel and
foreign currency shortages. Some foreign investors have fled, but a few are
seeing opportunities and signing preliminary deals in sectors like
telecommunications, power and construction.

"Zimbabwean assets are cheap, which is why some investors who believe we are
at the end of a cycle are taking a closer look," an equities researcher, who
declined to be named, said.

He said chances of a Mugabe loss were as high as they had ever been, but
that even if the 84-year-old former guerrilla leader won, he might be forced
into economic reforms.

Chinese companies are among those exploring opportunities in Zimbabwe, once
the breadbasket of southern Africa, which boasts rich deposits of gold,
uranium, platinum and diamonds.

Chinese deputy Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng, who was in Harare last month
on a trade mission, said Beijing had invested $1.6 billion in Zimbabwe in
2007, although analysts say Chinese investment has yet to really take off.

"Apart from the fanfare, we have not seen much ... there are no real cash
flows into the economy," Rashid Mudala, an analyst at Africa First
Renaissance, told Reuters. "Maybe the Chinese, like everybody else, are
waiting for things to clear up a bit."

"They do, however, appear to have strategically positioned themselves here,
however the wind blows after the elections," Mudala said.


Last year, Chinese mining and trading group Sinosteel Corp. took over
Zimasco Consolidated Enterprises Ltd, which owns Zimbabwe's largest
high-carbon ferrochrome producer.

Zimasco produces 210,000 tonnes of high-carbon ferrochrome -- used to make
stainless steel -- annually, about 4 percent of global production.

Chinese firms have also set their sights on Zimbabwe's gold, platinum and
coal mines, as well as the telecommunications, power and construction
sectors, by signing deals and opening negotiations for future investment.

And China has doled out hundreds of millions of dollars in loans and grants
to finance agriculture.

The Chinese are not the only ones looking.

London-listed South African firm Lonrho Plc, through its investment arm
LonZim, has relaunched a bid to return to Zimbabwe where the investment firm
used to have significant mining and property interests.

LonZim recently announced plans to raise around $140 million on London's
Alternative Investment Market (AIM) for the purchase of assets in Zimbabwe,
hoping to "benefit from any radical future improvement of the economy over
the longer term," according to its Web site.

It has bought a listed Zimbabwean telecommunications firm and a chemicals
manufacturer for under $6 million.

Russian investment group Renaissance Capital, LonZim's placement agency for
the Zimbabwe investment, bought into CBZ Holdings -- Zimbabwe's
second-largest bank by assets -- by snapping up a shareholding sold by South
Africa's ABSA last year.

Citigroup has approved a $25 million deal for a 20 percent shareholding in
another Zimbabwean bank, African Banking Corporation (ABC), according to ABC


In power since 1980, Mugabe says the economy has been sabotaged by Western
states as punishment for his land reforms, which included confiscating farms
from white farmers. Critics say these policies drove many foreign investors

Mugabe has shrugged off criticism -- especially from Western governments,
donors and multilateral agencies that have withheld aid -- and focused on
attracting investment from China and Far Eastern countries.

The equities researcher said the Zimbabwe stock exchange's market
capitalization had fallen from $9.79 billion in 1997 to about $3 billion,
showing its 80 stocks were heavily discounted in real terms.

Some analysts say the bargains come with risks.

"A foreign investor looks at a number of things and asset valuation is only
one factor," Mudala said.

"Political risk is also important and in terms of general competitiveness
and property rights we don't rank well, although there are some investors
who will put their money regardless, because assets are cheap," he added.

Investor sentiment was dealt another blow this month when Mugabe approved a
law seeking to transfer control of all foreign-owned firms, including mines
and banks, to black Zimbabweans.

The foreign-dominated mining sector makes up more than a third of Zimbabwe's
foreign currency inflows.

Indigenization and Empowerment Minister Paul Mangwana said afterwards that
not all foreign firms would be localized under the new law, and that the
government would not impose black partners on firms.

No one is packing up to leave just yet, with firms such as Rio Tinto, the
world's largest platinum miner Anglo Platinum, and South Africa's Impala
Platinum showing readiness to ride the latest storm.

But some commentators say the damage has been done.

"The consequences ... are immense, and effectively the final nail in the
economy's coffin," wrote commentator Erich Bloch.

Douglas Verden, acting chief executive of Zimbabwe's Chamber of Mines, has
said the body was regularly approached by foreigners keen on investing but
unsettled by the prospects of upheavals similar to Mugabe's land reforms.

Analysts say the seizures showed a disregard for private property rights,
while widespread corruption and bureaucratic inefficiency make Zimbabwe a
difficult and expensive place to set up business.

"Whatever happens, it's time to change tack. One hopes for the right
policies because we have the right assets and the right infrastructure,"
Mudala said.

(Editing by Clar Ni Chonghaile)

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Mugabe Might See South African Support Dry Up With Zuma Victory


By Antony Sguazzin

March 25 (Bloomberg) -- President Robert Mugabe's grip on power in Zimbabwe
may be as much at risk from the country that is his most important friend as
from elections this week.

Jacob Zuma, the probable next president of neighboring South Africa, doesn't
share current President Thabo Mbeki's longtime affinity with Mugabe. Should
Mugabe, 84, hang on in Zimbabwe and Zuma take office next year, Zuma's
backers in the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), South
Africa's biggest labor federation, may push him to criticize Mugabe within
the African Union, analysts say.

Zuma might also drop support for the Zimbabwean president's attendance at
international conferences, lessen opposition to U.S. and European Union
sanctions against Mugabe and his allies and insist on prompt payment for
power from South Africa.

``We can expect a significantly different relationship,'' said Nic Borain, a
Cape Town-based political analyst for HSBC Holdings Plc. ``Cosatu and the
people who back Zuma have taken a different line on Zimbabwe to Mbeki.''

Zimbabwe is heavily reliant on its southern neighbor. South Africa remains
the country's biggest trading partner and has for the last few years been
the source of much of its food and fuel. Johannesburg-based Impala Platinum
Holdings Ltd. is the biggest investor in Zimbabwean mining.

Rigged Elections

Mbeki has said little as Mugabe has rigged elections, seized farmland from
owners and given the economy the world's highest inflation rate: 100,580
percent. Unemployment in Zimbabwe exceeds 80 percent, and millions of
illegal immigrants have flooded into South Africa.

Zimbabwe's March 29 election pits Mugabe against Morgan Tsvangirai, the
former labor union leader who heads the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change, and Simba Makoni, a rebel candidate from Mugabe's party.
Parliamentary and municipal elections will be held on the same day.

If none of the candidates wins 50 percent of the vote, a runoff between the
top two will be held three weeks after March 29, Simon Khayo Moyo,
Zimbabwe's ambassador to South Africa, said on March 20.

Mbeki, 65, has taken a ``quiet diplomacy'' approach to Zimbabwe, eschewing
criticism of Mugabe while pushing talks between the government and

It hasn't worked. Mbeki was mandated by the Southern African Development
Community to mediate an agreement between Mugabe and the opposition before
the elections. On Feb. 13 Tsvangirai, 56, said they had failed, mainly
because a new constitution won't be in place before the poll.

`Deceiving His People'

``Verbal criticism of Mugabe would help, because as long as Mbeki has been
silent,'' the Zimbabwean leader ``has been able to get away with deceiving
his people'' that only the West is critical of his rule, said Alister
Sparks, an independent analyst and author of books on South African
politics. ``It would weaken him.''

Cosatu, whose support propelled Zuma to the head of South Africa's ruling
African National Congress in December and made him the probable next
president in 2009, routinely condemns Mugabe. Its general secretary,
Zwelinzima Vavi, was thrown out of Zimbabwe in 2005 when he went to meet
union leaders.

``We've yet to see any evidence that a diplomatic process has achieved
anything,'' said Patrick Craven, a Cosatu spokesman. ``It clearly does cause
a problem when you have mass immigration. It gives employers opportunities
to take advantage.'' As many as 3 million Zimbabweans are believed to be in
South Africa, according to the South African government.

Mbeki's Exile

Zuma, 65, has few of the ties to Mugabe that hinder Mbeki's ability to
negotiate. As a senior ANC politician in exile, Mbeki spent time in
Zimbabwe, whose own liberation movement, led by Mugabe, fought the
whites-only government from camps in neighboring countries.

``The relationship between Mbeki and Robert Mugabe is not the relationship
between two neighboring heads of state,'' said Mark Gevisser, author of
``Thabo Mbeki: The Dream Deferred,'' ``It is and has been since the
beginning of the relationship a familial relationship.''

So far, Zuma has backed Mbeki. On Dec. 20, in his first press conference
after being elected as ANC president, he said he supported South Africa's
policy and that more critical approaches haven't worked. Zuma repeated those
comments in a Financial Times interview published March 7.

Still, ``there will be a harder line; there is going to be more open
criticism,'' said Thoko Kaime, deputy head of the Africa division of
London-based Exclusive Analysis. ``Zuma is quite outspoken. If he feels he
has to say something he will say it. He would want to address the issue of

Mbeki's Options

Other than public criticism of Mugabe, Mbeki's options are limited. Closing
borders and shutting off power supplies would be seen as heavy-handed by
African leaders, already skeptical of South Africa's might on the continent.
It might also be viewed as acting on western nations' bidding.

Labor and human-rights groups in Zimbabwe, a staunch critic of South Africa
during apartheid, feel that South Africa should repay its debt and help
remove Mugabe. Zimbabwe's elections aren't likely to bring a change in
government, analysts including Sparks say. European Union monitors say
Mugabe rigged the past three elections.

``Our friends in the region haven't had the courage to call a spade a
spade,'' said Wellington Chibhebhe, secretary general of the Zimbabwe
Congress of Trade Unions. ``That may change when Mr. Zuma takes control.''

To contact the reporter on this story: Antony Sguazzin in Johannesburg at

Last Updated: March 24, 2008 18:01 EDT

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Economic crisis haunts Zim polls

Mail and Guardian

Godfrey Marawanyika | Harare, Zimbabwe

25 March 2008 07:15

      Zimbabweans go to the polls on Saturday hoping for an end to a
chronic economic crisis that has condemned millions to grinding poverty and
prompted the exodus of up to a third of the population.

      The joint presidential, legislative and local council polls come
at a time when the country's inflation rate has breached the 100 000% mark,
at least 80% of the population is living below the poverty threshold while
thousands of school-leavers add to ever-growing unemployment statistics.

      President Robert Mugabe (84), seeking a sixth term at the helm
of the country, is being challenged by former finance minister Simba Makoni,
Movement For Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai and obscure
independent Langton Toungana.

      Godfrey Kanyenze, chief economist of the Zimbabwe Congress of
Trade Unions (ZCTU), predicted tough times ahead for Zimbabwe if Mugabe

      "The state of the economy is attached to Bob [Mugabe]; if he
goes then economy will improve. But if he stays things would continue as
they are," Kanyenze said.

      Once host to many international companies, the country has seen
many firms pull down the shutters or move to neighbouring Southern African

      The ones that have remained are operating at a fraction of their
capacity as they battle to procure scarce foreign currency to import spare
parts and raw materials.

      An estimated three million Zimbabweans have migrated to greener
pastures in neighbouring countries, as well as Europe and Australia.

      David Mupamhadzi, an economist with the finance group Zimbabwe
Allied Banking Group, said one could only tell in the aftermath of the
elections what the future holds for the country.

      "Investors have adopted a wait-and-see attitude because of the
elections, but meanwhile the economy is bleeding," said Mupamhadzi.

      The once vibrant economy, seen as a regional model, is now a
shadow of its former self 28 years after attaining independence.

      Basics such as sugar and cooking oil are scarce for a population
that has to deal with erratic water and power supplies as well as potholed
roads and broken sewers.

      In a bid to revive the economy, the Mugabe government is
expected to launch a five-year economic blueprint called the Zimbabwe
Economic Development Strategy (ZEDS) if it retains power.

      According to the blueprint, seen by Agence France-Presse, the
government says the primary objective of the new policy is "to facilitate
broad-based wealth creation, which is oriented towards poverty reduction and
integration of previously marginalised groups of the population into the
mainstream economy".

      Mugabe's government has been battling to tame inflation, at one
stage lopping off zeros from the currency and imposing price controls on
basic goods -- a move which later backfired as this led to mass shortages in

      Tsvangirai has promised to reduce spiralling inflation, making
the creation of a body known as the Zimbabwe Economic Development Council
central to the revival of the economy.

      "The Zimbabwe Development Council will raise US$10-billion to
transform the economy, re-start our businesses, farms, shops and hotels to
create jobs."

      Makoni, who quit as finance minister in 2002 before the economy
went into freefall, said he could not wave a magic wand but wanted to
"facilitate the people of Zimbabwe to turn around the economy".

      "I single-handedly will not be able and will not even think of
trying to turn around the economy around by myself," he said in a recent

      He sees reviving ties with the West -- which imposed sanctions
after Mugabe allegedly rigged his re-election in 2002 -- as essential to
turning the economy around.

      Former colonial power Britain, largely blamed by Mugabe for the
country's economic woes, is among those who have promised substantial aid as
long as there is a change of leadership. -- AFP

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Zimbabwe Presidential Contest Heats Up As Contenders Sharpen Rhetoric


By Blessing Zulu
24 March 2008

Political temperatures were rising in Zimbabwe Monday, five days ahead of
national elections, as the opposition Movement for Democratic Change
formation of Morgan Tsvangirai, a presidential candidate, charged that the
government printed nine million election ballots although there are only 5.9
million eligible voters.

The Tsvangirai formation of the divided MDC said the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission failed to come up with an explanation for the alleged mass
overprinting of ballots.

The three main presidential candidates were all on the campaign trail

President Robert Mugabe was stumping in Hwange, Matebeleland North Province,
opposition challenger Tsvangirai was in Guruve, Mashonaland Central, and
Simba Makoni, a former ruling party official, was in Chinhoyi, Mashonaland

The presidential hopefuls have sharpened their rhetoric in attacks on each
other. Mr. Mugabe in Hwange reiterated his charge that Tsvangirai is a
British puppet and said the MDC founder would never be allowed to govern.

Tsvangirai in Guruve accused Mr. Mugabe of ruining Zimbabwe and predicted
that the 84-year-old incumbent will be voted out of power.

Makoni, addressing a rally in Chinhoyi, Mashonaland West, accused both
Tsvangirai and Mugabe of deliberately misleading voters about his candidacy.

"Morgan Tsvangirai is going about telling people that I am a ZANU-PF
creation and that I am being used by Mugabe, well that is not true and the
electorate cannot be fooled," Makoni told the crowd, speaking in Shona.
"Mugabe on the other hand is going about telling people that I am a British
puppet and I will take the country back to the former colonizers. Let me
assure you those are lies."

Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Tsvangirai MDC  formation told reporter
Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the electoral commission
has not responded to questions about how many blank ballots have been
printed, among other issues.

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New Statesman and Zimbabwe Vigil

The New Statesman Online asked the Zimbabwe Vigil “We are looking for a piece on why your organisation and some Zimbabwaen exiles in London think the elections will not be a success and what should be done instead”. We have submitted the following piece.    

Zimbabwe Elections – March 2008

Zimbabwean exiles are to stage mock elections outside the Zimbabwe Embassy in London from 6am to 6pm on election day, Saturday 29th March.  They say it is already clear that the results will be rigged. Members of the military have been filling in multiple postal votes and the voters’ roll is in a shambles. The opposition has been denied access to the mass media and no election monitors are being admitted from the West, which has been feeding millions of people left starving by Mugabe’s murderous rule. 

The mock elections are organised by the Zimbabwe Vigil, which has been demonstrating outside the Embassy in support of free and fair elections every Saturday since October 2002. They will be illustrating the methods used by Mugabe to steal the elections, which   will feature a giant transparent ballot box, people dressed in army and police uniforms and others acting as election observers.  One actor will be wearing the Mugabe mask he wore at a Vigil demonstration in Lisbon against the attendance of Mugabe at the AU/EU summit last December. 

Rose Benton, one of the Vigil Co-ordinators, outlines how she views the elections.

President Clinton had a sign in his office “It’s the economy, stupid”.  President Mugabe seems to have believed “It’s the people who are stupid”. Throughout his 28 years in power Mugabe has consistently underestimated the people.  Even now with Zimbabwe on its knees he believes he can steal yet another election. He will have noted the fuss over President Kibaki’s rigging of the Kenyan election but will not be deterred.  After all, Kibaki is still in office -- and anyway Mugabe has no other option.

Counting of votes in the presidential election has been arbitrarily moved to a command centre manned by the army, despite protests from opposition candidates.  They fear that, whatever the vote, it will be announced that Mugabe has won.  He can expect the imprimatur of election observers from such bastions of democracy as Iran, China and Russia.  As for African observers, election rigging is part of the continental norm. 

Although Mugabe is confident his armed forces can put down any protests, his remaining days in office are clearly numbered, however many votes he gives himself.  The economy is in ruins and he can no longer offer pickings to the kleptocrats propping him up. Inflation, conservatively put at 100,000%, is probably now three times that and set to accelerate exponentially as a consequence of his election bribes.  Businesses find that their foreign currency accounts have been “borrowed” – the last twitch of the economic corpse. 

So, many observers believe it will not be long before Mugabe is packed off. Even formally die-hard supporters recognise that he has no answers. They will soon show him that they are not as stupid as he believes.  Mugabe’s Zanu-PF cronies will realise soon enough that, with the Zimbabwean carcass picked clean, they must look to the rich pickings in the rescue package which will be offered by the West.  Then it will all be smiles and backslapping as they jump aboard the gravy-train.

Vigil co-ordinators

The Vigil, outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, 429 Strand, London, takes place every Saturday from 14.00 to 18.00 to protest against gross violations of human rights by the current regime in Zimbabwe. The Vigil which started in October 2002 will continue until internationally-monitored, free and fair elections are held in Zimbabwe.


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JAG open letter forum - No. 523 - Dated 24 March 2008

Please send any material for publication in the Open Letter Forum to with "For Open Letter Forum" in the subject line.
1.  Cathy Buckle - No Question
2.  Willy Robinson - History
3.  Paddy Taylor
1.  Cathy Buckle - No Question

Dear Jag

When Mr Mugabe and Zanu PF came to power in April 1980, inflation in the
newly named Zimbabwe was 7%.

Twenty years later, Mr Mugabe and Zanu PF were still in power and in June
2000 Parliamentary elections were held in the country. Farm invasions had
been underway for nearly four months and inflation was at 59,3%. A standard
loaf of bread cost sixteen dollars, a single banana was four dollars and a
dozen eggs were thirty five dollars. Zanu PF retained power in the

In March 2002 Presidential elections were held in Zimbabwe. Mr Mugabe
was again the candidate for the ruling party and had just turned 78. Farm
invasions were continuing, companies and businesses had been invaded and
inflation was 113%. Maize meal, sugar, cooking oil and margarine were not
available in shops and a dozen eggs cost a hundred and fifty dollars. Mr
Mugabe was declared the winner of the elections.

In April 2005 Parliamentary elections were held in the country. Zanu
PF and Mr Mugabe had been in power for 25 years, factories were closing
or relocating to other countries. Most commercial farms had been taken
over and inflation was at 129%. Daily electricity cuts of 2-4 hours were
commonplace, fuel queues stretched to many hundreds of vehicles and the
shops were bare of sugar, salt, margarine and other basics. A loaf of bread
cost four thousand dollars and a single banana was one thousand dollars.
Zanu PF were declared the winners of the election.

In November 2005 elections were held for the previously disbanded Senate.
Inflation in the country was at 502% and a loaf of bread cost twenty
thousand dollars.

On the 29th of March 2008 Zimbabwe will hold combined Parliamentary,
Presidential, Senate and Municipal elections. Mr Mugabe is 84 years old
and is again standing as the head of the party. Zanu PF have been in power
28 years. Inflation stands at over 100 thousand percent. Electricity cuts
last for 16 hours a day at least, water is rare, fuel only obtainable to
people with US dollars. Shops are empty of all goods. A loaf of bread costs
million dollars (actually 7 billion dollars as three zeroes were removed
the currency.) A dozen eggs costs 36 million dollars (actually 36 billion
dollars) and a single banana is 3 million (actually 3 billion dollars).

There is no question who to vote for in a few days time. We must vote
for ourselves, our children and our physical survival.The time is now,
the power is in our hands. Until next time, love cathy. Copyright cathy
buckle 22nd March 2008.
2.  Willy Robinson - History

Dear Jag

The likes of George Bush, Gordon Brown and Kevin Rudd, along with Thabo
Mbeki, need to give some meaningful thought to a genuine plan with action
for Zimbabwe - starting 1st of April 2008.  The German Chancellor has
recently visited Israel and publicly acknowledged her country's shame for
what happened in Germany some 70 years ago.

History tells us that Great Britain stood up to be counted and said no
to Hitler. Like Mugabe, Hitler did still kill lots of innocent civilians
to maintain his hold on power through fear - the power of "the midnight
knock." However, in the case of Zimbabwe, the United Nations appears to have
taken the line that Mugabe and Zanu are a problem for the Zimbabwean people
to wrestle with - not for the rest of the world.  Imagine if Churchill had
taken this line about Hitler?  A German apology to the Jewish community
is appropriate at any moment - and is highly commendable indeed.

The Empire, as it was then, can also be broadly thanked - because there
are rows and rows of tombstones all over the world that show how many of
her soldiers paid the ultimate price - many away from home - where ever
home happened to be - South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Kenya to name a
few. The liberty that followed came at a great price, and we are prone to
forget that today.  Churchill's words in September 1940 are as applicable
in Harare today as they were sixty eight years ago in Europe.

"This wicked man, the repository and embodiment of many forms of
soul-destroying hatreds, this monstrous product of former wrongs and shame,
has now resolved to break our famous land, by a process of indiscriminate
slaughter and destruction."  We cannot tell exactly what will unfold on
the ground in the country next week, but we do still know that there
are probably about 11 million people who will be in a more desperate
situation as each week passes.  Zimbabwe is, to all intents and purposes
a nation that Zanu has pushed well and truly into judicial management.
It has all the potential to recover fully if the management is dismissed,
and replaced with a professional and competent team.
We do not seem to have a Churchill in the world today, but there is a
great opportunity for a Churchill like deed to occur in Zimbabwe next week.
Historian Abroad.
3.  Paddy Taylor

Dear Jag

Well, a week to go in our unique country - and unique it is and has been
since its inception however many years ago, with it's many tribal wars,
much bloodshed, defiance of a "free" world, resilience in the face of all
odds including a vicious dictatorship of 28 years. With all the adversity
of a hundred odd years, we have bred a certain calibre of people second
to none. The people have now seen through their "saviour", Mugabe, who
is nothing but a thug and a thief - thief of a country that was once,
and will be again without him, great. A fitting end for him would be
to go back to his grassroots as a herdboy, but he'll no likely take all
his ill-gotten gains with him to wherever he's planned to run away into
self-exile. Mugabe's legacy to this country is one of misery, violence
and poverty - not good traits for a leader. If whoever wins against him
in the election grants him any sort of amnesty needs his head read, as
the man must be punished for what he's done. A lot of people who were
forced (and chose) to leave our wonderful country have gained skills
that will help rebuild what Mugabe destroyed, so once they return, we
will all see that the Mugabe route was a stupid one to follow,
benefiting but a few greedy opportunists. Let our new dawning make way
for massive progress and prosperity for all.  S. Taylor.

All letters published on the open Letter Forum are the views and opinions
of the submitters, and do not represent the official viewpoint of Justice
for Agriculture.

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Letter to voters

Dear Voter in the Khumalo Senatorial Constituency,

On the 29th March 2008 you have the chance to change the course of
Zimbabwean history for the better. Zimbabwe is in such a terrible state that
we do not have the luxury of making a mistake. Another 5 years of Zanu PF
rule will completely destroy Zimbabwe.

In football terms Zimbabwe was in the Premier league in 1980. Since then it
has had the same coach, Robert Mugabe, and his assistants, Zanu PF. In 28
years Mugabe has taken the Zimbabwean team from the Premier league to the
bottom of the 4th social league. Next season we will not even be able to
play football because the players have no boots, balls or kit. The goal
posts have fallen down and ground is overgrown. A football team would never
keep such a coach - if Zimbabwe is to have any future it simply must end
Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF's rule.

Vote for Parliamentarians and Councillors who have Bulawayo and Matabeleland
at Heart

In this election you will be able to vote for President, Senate, House of
Assembly and Bulawayo City Council. I think it is important to separate the
decision you have to make between voting for President on the one hand and
Parliament and Council on the other hand. Let me first address the issue of
voting for Senate, House of Assembly and Council. When you vote for these
offices I believe the most important question you have to ask is "Who will
best represent my interests and the interests of Bulawayo and Matabeleland
in Parliament and in Council?"

In answering this question I think it obvious that Zanu PF MPs and Senators
have failed Bulawayo and Matabeleland for the 28 years they have been in
power. That effectively leaves you with a choice between the MDC (which I am
standing for) and the MDC (Tsvangirai) parties. There is a lot of confusion
caused by the split in the MDC and that may make your decision difficult. In
such a situation it is important to look back on the record of the different
candidates over the last 3 decades because a person's past gives an insight
into how they are likely to represent you in future. The MDC leaders,
including Gibson Sibanda, Welshman Ncube, Paul Temba Nyathi, Japhet Ndabeni
Ncube, and I are all people with a long  and consistent track record of
standing up for the rights of Zimbabweans and, importantly, for standing up
for the interests of the citizens of Bulawayo and Matabeleland. In contrast
the local candidates of the MDC (Tsvangirai), such as its Vice President
Thoko Khupe, ar
e relative newcomers who are largely dependant on Morgan Tsvangirai's
profile and support for their own status and position. In other words they
are not strong and independent leaders in their own right and cannot be
relied upon to put the interests of Bulawayo and Matabeleland first in
Parliament. They will always have to be subservient to the interests of the
leadership in Harvest House in Harare.

Some have expressed concern that our informal alliance with Simba Makoni
will reduce our independence. This will not be the case. Our arrangement is
nothing like the 1987 unity accord when Zanu PF swallowed up Zapu. All we
are doing is endorsing Simba Makoni's candidacy for President; we are not
joining his political organisation. If I am elected I will be elected as an
MDC Senator and will be able to vote in the Senate in accordance with my
conscience and our MDC policy. In other words we will be able to vote for or
against Makoni's proposed policies when we so choose. Ironically by choosing
not to stand against us in any of the seats in Bulawayo Simba Makoni showed
that he was far more respectful of Bulawayo's local leadership than the MDC
(Tsvangirai) was. In this regard please note that there are no Makoni
candidates standing against any of us - the two people purporting to stand
on the Makoni ticket in this area have not been endorsed by the Makoni
campaign and are just
seeking to ride on the Makoni wave.

Accordingly if you are looking for strong, independent and consistent
leadership in Parliament and Council in the Khumalo Senatorial area then I
believe that it is more likely to be provided by our MDC team. I have been a
human rights lawyer in Bulawayo for 25 years and have always stood up for
the rights of the people of Matabeleland. Likewise Japhet Ndabeni Ncube,
House of Assembly candidate for Bulawayo Central, has the outstanding record
of standing up against Zanu PF for 7 years since 2001 as Mayor. He fiercely
represented the interests of the victims of Murambatsvina and almost
single-handedly prevented ZINWA from taking over our water supplies. I have
known Yasmine Toffa, our House of Assembly candidate for Bulawayo East, for
over 20 years and although a relative newcomer to politics she has always
demonstrated in her life a heart for the downtrodden and I have no doubt
that the three of us will work well together as a team representing your
interests in Parliament wit
hout fear or favour. Likewise our five Council candidates, Beauty Kerr (Ward
1), Stephen Mkwananzi (Ward 2), Michaki Ngwenya (Ward 3), Paul Malaba (Ward
4) and Dr. Garry Ferguson (Ward 5) are all outstanding members of our team
who will forcefully and effectively represent your interests in the Bulawayo
City Council. I do not believe that you can have the same confidence in the
candidates put forward by the MDC (Tsvangirai).

Who will beat Mugabe?

There are 3 serious contenders for the office of President, namely Robert
Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai and Simba Makoni. For the reason mentioned above
no one in their right mind can possibly vote for the coach that has been in
control of the Zimbabwean team for 28 years and has all but ruined it.
Accordingly you will have to choose between Morgan Tsvangirai and Simba
Makoni. In making this decision you need to answer a different question to
the one posed above regarding the Parliamentary and Council elections. If
Robert Mugabe is the person who has been in charge for 28 years and who is
responsible for the destruction of our country it follows that until he goes
we will not be able to start rebuilding our lives and our country.
Accordingly the most important question we have to ask as we go into the
voting booth is: "Who of Morgan Tsvangirai and Simba Makoni is most likely
to defeat Robert Mugabe?"

In answering this question there is no point in being sentimental because
our country has no more time left. It is imperative that we remove Robert
Mugabe from office - that is all important because until we do so the
horrors Zimbabwe is experiencing will just continue. In answering the
question we must consider hard facts, not propaganda, because elections are
won by people who manage to get the most ballots in their favour in the
box - and in Zimbabwe by people who are best able to protect their ballots
so that they are correctly counted. We cannot allow ourselves to be
persuaded by propaganda such as exaggerated claims of numbers of people
attending rallies - a tactic used by Zanu PF for so long and now being used
by the MDC (Tsvangirai) as well.

Accordingly in answering the question we must consider the following facts:

1. Who ever captures the rural the rural vote will win

Approximately 60% of Zimbabweans live in the rural areas. It follows that a
Presidential candidate cannot win an election unless he or she manages to
get substantial support from rural voters. That is made especially difficult
in Zimbabwe because of Zanu PF's control of food and the flow of information
to rural areas. It has been exceptionally difficult for the opposition to
make inroads into most rural areas which have effectively been no go areas.
One of the most shocking revelations I had as Legal Secretary of the
formerly united MDC was when we finally managed to examine the Presidential
ballot boxes from the 2002 election in late 2005. When we launched the court
challenge against Mugabe's March 2002 election I had always thought that
Mugabe had only won through massive fraud and rigging. What surprised me
when we examined the voting materials in 2005 was that although there was
some fraud and rigging, and that Morgan Tsvangirai had actually won the
election, his margin o
f victory was relatively small - only about 70,000 votes. In other words
what we established was that Mugabe in 2002 did actually get real votes in
large numbers in the rural areas of Mashonaland especially. Whilst we all
know that if it were not for Zanu PF propaganda and intimidation rural
voters would vote differently we should never underestimate the grip that
Zanu PF still holds in those same areas where the bulk of Zimbabwean voters
live. Whilst Mugabe is undoubtedly now very unpopular throughout the country
we have to question whether there is any evidence that Zanu PF's grip (as
opposed to Mugabe's grip) has loosened in those areas. Likewise we must
examine whether there is evidence that Morgan Tsvangirai has managed to
penetrate the same areas. Whilst the opposition has made some inroads into
Zanu PF's support base Morgan Tsvangirai cannot be confident that he enjoys
widespread support in most rural areas. In contrast there is evidence that
Simba Makoni has the ability to secure large numbers of votes from these
areas. Not only has he been warmly received in rural areas (where he has
focussed his campaign) throughout the country but also there are growing
signs of a whispering campaign within Zanu PF itself in support of Makoni.
In the week ended the 15th March there were at least two reports in the
government controlled press of Cabinet Ministers Obert Mpofu and Webster
Shamu complaining to Mugabe about a whispering campaign being conducted
against Mugabe in support of Makoni in rural areas. In short I believe that
Makoni stands a much better chance of attracting this crucial rural vote
than Morgan Tsvangirai does.

2. Hundreds of thousands of opposition voters have left Zimbabwe and will
not vote

Since the last Presidential election some 2 million Zimbabweans have left
Zimbabwe and are now resident in South Africa, Botswana and elsewhere. Most
of them are aged between the age of 20 and 40. Nearly all of them would have
voted for the opposition but will not be able to do so because they will not
return to Zimbabwe for the election. It is no wonder that Mugabe has done
little to stop people from leaving Zimbabwe because he knows that every
person who leaves is one less person who will vote against him. This is of
course a tragedy but it is also a reality in this election that we simply
cannot ignore. This block of people may well have voted for Morgan
Tsvangirai but will not be able to do so. It is equally a fact that the vast
majority of people who left were urban based people. In other words less
people proportionately have left from former Zanu PF strongholds than have
left from traditionally opposition strongholds. It follows that
proportionately Zanu PF has suffere
d less from the exodus of people than the opposition has.

3. The October 2005 MDC split will reduce support for Morgan Tsvangirai in

Whatever the reason for the split which occurred in the MDC in October 2005,
and whoever is to blame for that split, the fact remains that the split
damaged the opposition and has caused confusion and discouragement, which in
turn often leads to apathy. That is particularly so in Matabeleland which
was a critically important area for Morgan Tsvangirai in 2002. In that
election Morgan Tsvangirai secured over 80% of the vote in Bulawayo and
slightly less than that in the rural areas of Matabeleland. Tsvangirai will
be hard pressed to get anything like that support this election because he
does not have a unified team campaigning for him as was the case in 2002.
Furthermore because of the weakness of MDC (MT) political structures in
every Rural District Council (RDC) area of Matabeleland aside from Binga,
Matobo, Gwanda and Beitbridge very few MDC (MT) council candidates were
nominated. For example in Mangwe RDC the MDC (MT) did not nominate a single
candidate; in Nkayi only 2 c
andidates out of 30 Wards were nominated and that is typical of most RDCs in
Matabeleland. Without councillors at grassroots level campaigning for him
Morgan Tsvangirai is going to find it difficult to attract the same votes in
these areas as he secured in 2002.

4. The Matibenga issue will reduce support for  Morgan Tsvangirai

In 22 constituencies countrywide there are two MDC (MT) candidates
nominated. In the Midlands it is especially bad; in 11 constituencies a
faction within the MDC (MT) faction, led by Patrick Kombayi, who is aligned
to Lucia Matibenga, the former Chairperson the MDC (MT) Women's League, has
nominated candidates under the banner of the MDC (MT). In the last week that
factionalism, if press reports are to be believed, erupted into violence in
Shurugwi. In 2002 the Midlands was another key area of support where Morgan
Tsvangirai secured a large number of votes. The chaos within the MDC (MT) in
Midlands Province will almost certainly damage the support Morgan Tsvangirai
has there and lead to a reduction in the numbers of people who would
otherwise have voted for him.

My intention is not to depress but these are hard facts we simply cannot
ignore. Whilst the MDC (MT) has made some inroads in certain rural areas
since 2002 the key questions are what level of penetration into rural areas
has been achieved and is that penetration enough to make up for the support
Tsvangirai has lost in other areas since 2002, as set out above? I see
little evidence that the MDC (MT) has made any significant inroads into Zanu
PF's support base, for example, in the depths of the Mashonaland rural
areas. In contrast judging by the reports of Makoni's rallies in those
areas, and the "whispering campaign" going on it appears as if Makoni may
well attract large numbers of votes from those former Zanu PF strongholds.
What is certain is that Makoni is more likely to receive votes from
disaffected rural Zanu PF supporters than Tsvangirai.  In addition Makoni
has attracted good crowds in all the major urban areas; they have been as
big as the crowds attracted by Tsvang
irai but when added to his rural support are sufficient to win the election
against Mugabe. And so for purely practical reasons I believe that one
should vote for Makoni because he stands the best chance of beating Mugabe.

Is it morally right to support Simba Makoni?

Some people, especially those who support Morgan Tsvangirai, argue that it
is immoral to support Simba Makoni because of his association with Zanu PF
for 3 decades.

 The miracle that unfolded in South Africa in the early 1990s occurred
because Nelson Mandela and the ANC were prepared to forgive the National
Party and leaders like F.W. De Klerk for their role in apartheid. Much of
that spirit of forgiveness stemmed from the fact that Mr de Klerk was
prepared to humble himself by giving up the trappings of power and to turn
away from the evil past of apartheid. The combination of the spirit of
forgiveness, on the one hand, and the turning away from evil, on the other,
contributed greatly to the healing that took place in South Africa in the

 Zimbabwe is in a similar place of distress as South Africa was in 1990. Our
problems are so grave and seemingly intractable that we will not be able to
save our land unless all responsible and patriotic Zimbabweans display a
similar spirit of forgiveness and turning away from evil.

It is in that context that these attacks on Simba Makoni are so unfortunate.
He is accused of being complicit in the Gukurahundi genocide, the
Murambatsvina atrocity and other human rights violations, through his

 What is undeniable is that Simba Makoni has been in Zanu PF since
independence but that alone does not make him complicit. In my capacity as
Director of the Bulawayo Legal Projects Centre in the 1980s and 1990s I
played a leading role in the investigation and reporting of the Gukurahundi
genocide which culminated in the publication in 1997 of the report "Breaking
the Silence" by our parent organisation the Legal Resources Foundation.
Simba Makoni was never implicated in the Gukurahundi. Indeed our
investigations revealed that it was perpetrated by a relatively small cabal
around Robert Mugabe. Many even in the military itself did not know exactly
what was planned and what happened.

As regards Murambatsvina the facts are that Makoni resigned, in an
unprecedented and brave act, from cabinet in 2002, well before Murambatsvina
took place. We also know that the reason he resigned was because he
disagreed with a host of Zanu PF policies. We also know that he has fought a
lone battle within the Politburo trying to reform Zanu PF from within. In
the past year he has spoken out publicly against Zanu PF's abuses including
the shocking torture of Morgan Tsvangirai and other opposition leaders in
March last year. He has even visited victims such as Grace Kwinjeh and Sekai
Holland in hospital. There is no evidence to show that Makoni supported all
these horrors.

We may criticise him for staying within Zanu PF for so long but it is wrong
to say that he has agreed with all that has happened in Zimbabwe since
independence. Even if I am incorrect in my assessment of Makoni's past and
intentions, what we know for certain now is that he has broken from Zanu PF
in an astonishingly brave move. His manifesto indicates that he stands for
the right things, including national reconciliation and a new democratic
constitution. I believe Makoni wants to heal our land.

In my view this courageous move should be supported, not criticised. What we
need in return is for Simba Makoni to show that this is a genuine turning
away from Zanu PF's evil past - but I think he has already demonstrated that
through his actions and words during the last few weeks.

What I have no doubt about is that if our friends in the MDC (MT) were to
join forces with us Mugabe would not have a hope of winning this election.
Sadly though the MDC (MT) appears determined to go it alone. However that
fact should not deter us from giving our wholehearted support to Simba
Makoni; now is the time for all patriotic Zimbabweans to work together to
bring Robert Mugabe's ruinous and brutal dictatorship to an end.

Isn't this yet another cunning Mugabe trick?

Some people fear that Makoni's candidacy is just another trick concocted by
Mugabe to perpetuate Zanu PF rule. For reasons I have advanced in other
articles I do not believe this to be the case.

Aside from anything else all Makoni has to do, even if comes a distant 3rd
in the race, is take less than 10% of Mugabe's vote (to drop Mugabe below
the 50% majority threshold) and he will force Mugabe into a run off in terms
of Section 110 of the Electoral Act against Morgan Tsvangirai. This is
Mugabe's worst nightmare because not only will the advantage of a divided
opposition be removed but also he will no longer have the same support of
Zanu PF Senators, MPs and Councillors whose elections will be over. Zanu PF
deliberately organised the so called "harmonized" elections because Mugabe
knew that he would have to rely on the self interest of Zanu PF Senators,
MPs and Councillors (who obviously want to win themselves) to campaign for
him as well. In the run off he cannot be guaranteed that they will support
him as they did in the main election. It is inconceivable that Mugabe would
have deliberately allowed Makoni to run and so open up the possibility of
this happening.

It is equally inconceivable that Dumiso Dabengwa, who suffered so much
personally at the hands of Mugabe between 1982 and 1987, would allow himself
to be part of a massive trick to perpetuate Mugabe's rule.

Others fear that this is a trick to perpetuate Zanu PF rule under Makoni and
this is where the "Gorbachev Factor" I wrote about last year comes into
play. Michael Gorbachev never wanted to destroy the Soviet Union he was
President of or the Communist Party he was Secretary General of in the
1980s. However he realised that if he did not reform the Soviet economy he
would not be able to hold on to power. As a result he introduced the
policies of perestroika and glasnost with the hope that those reforms would
maintain his grip on power. However as we all know once he started down that
path of reform he was unable to control the process which ran away from him
resulting in the break up of the Soviet Union and the loss of power by the
Communist Party. We are at a similar stage in Zimbabwe. The centre of power
is so weak that the moment any leader attempts to reform any aspect of our
economic policy the process will run away from that leader. Accordingly
whilst I believe that Makon
i is genuine in his stated wish to free Zimbabwe, even if he is not, I think
that history shows that he will not be able to stop the inevitable process
of reform.

In conclusion I do not think we should have anything to fear in voting for
Simba Makoni. On the contrary I believe that he will make a fine President
as he is a man of integrity and great capability who can draw Zimbabweans
together to find solutions to the enormous problems our nation faces. In
addition I think it is practically sensible because it gives us all the best
chance of removing Mugabe from office. I hope that you will go out to vote
and that you will do all in your power to get very friend, fellow worker and
family member to vote. If we all vote in numbers it will virtually
impossible for the Mugabe regime to rig big enough to win.

Voting on Saturday the 29th March 2008

Please remember that you will have to vote within the Ward you are
registered in. You must establish what Ward you live in. If you need any
help in finding out where you are registered please phone our help line 0912

On Election Day please take your current valid passport of your current
valid ID to any of the polling stations in your Ward. Please remember that
the Khumalo Senatorial Constituency is made up of two House of Assembly
Constituencies, namely Bulawayo East and Central.

Please also try to vote early as there are likely to be long queues and if
you arrive late you may not be able to vote at all. Zanu PF has deliberately
cut down on the number of urban polling stations to reduce the tidal wave of
opposition to Mugabe.

Do come prepared to wait as well. I recommend that you bring water, food, a
hat and a chair. But please be determined to vote as we must bring tyranny
to and end and we have a real chance to do so on the 29th March 2008.

What you can expect from me if you elect me

If elected I will:

. Continue to fight for a new democratic constitution, the repeal of
oppressive legislation and enactment of new progressive, democratic laws

. Press for sound economic policies to be introduced

. Fight for the restoration of the rule of law including respect for
property rights and a zero tolerance approach to crime and corruption

. Hold regular report back meetings with constituents

. Develop projects for disadvantaged constituents.

I have enjoyed meeting many of you during this campaign. If elected I look
forward to working with you in future to develop Bulawayo, Matabeleland and
Zimbabwe into the shining jewels they deserve to be.

Yours sincerely,

David Coltart MP
March 2008

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Zimbabwe suffering inspires protest art

HARARE (AFP) - Born in 1980, Comrade Fatso was once a proud member of
Zimbabwe's "born-free generation". Twenty-eight years on from independence,
he feels only pain and sadness for the former British colony.

Samm Farai Munro, better known as Fatso, released a CD earlier this month to
coincide with the run-up to March 29 general elections, called "House of
Hunger", mirroring the crisis in the one-time model of post-colonial

Viewed by some as one of the most overtly revolutionary musical albums in
recent years after a series by exiled leading musician Thomas Mapfumo, the
compilation gives expression to the discontent and disillusionment pervading
the country.

Fatso sings about a house of hunger fashioned out of "bricks of corruption,
indoctrination, green bombers (a derogatory reference to ruling party
militias) and hunger."

"Welcome towards fear and anger," goes a verse on Fatso's album he composed
with a group named "Chabvondoka", local lingo for "all hell has broken

"Our dreams are blistered, hear the blood of hope scrapped, ...those with
open heads (are) beaten and battered and left for the dead, hear activists'
wrists twisted".

He mocks "parliamentary democracy where fat chefs sit in the kitchen cooking

Fatso is one of the dozens of Zimbabwean artists radically and creatively
expressing sorrow and anger over the economic and political crises rocking
the former Rhodesia, using theatre, music, poetry, dance and literature.

"It is a very loud way of protest," said Fatso.

"I speak and stand in defence of our people whose rights are being trampled
on," says poet and radical trade unionist Raymond Majongwe, whose latest
album Dhiziri paChinhoyi (Diesel at Chinhoyi) caricatures President Robert
Mugabe's government for believing a woman who claimed to have discovered
diesel oozing from a rock in the northern town of Chinhoyi.

"ZANU-PF (the ruling party) is perpetrating brutalities and I speak about
these injustices without fear," he said.

At an international day of poetry commemoration in the capital last week,
Fortune King Rozvi Muchuchuti recited a poem on the deteriorating rights
standards in the country.

"We walk sullenly to the graveyard to bury the strength of our bearer
cheques (local currency). We saunter to the cemetery to bury the confidence
of our people, burying the pride of our Africanness."

"Napukeni" (napkin or diaper), a song by one of the country's top dub-poets
Chirikure Chirikure was banned on public radio for metaphorically calling
for a change to the country's mess in the way a soiled diaper is changed.

In a country where insulting the president can earn one a jail term and
street protests can be brutally broken by riot police, artists are giving
expression to the growing anger.

Theatre performances have been targeted by authorities infuriated by the
open and stinging attacks.

Anti-riot police last year stormed a performance in the second city of
Bulawayo, driving out theatregoers who were watching a satire "The Good
President", which was inspired by police brutal attacks on opposition
leaders who had tried to stage a protest rally.

Late last year police in the capital arrested the cast at the end of "The
Final Push", a play whose title was derived from a plan by the main
opposition to bombard Mugabe with protests until he loosens his stranglehold
on power.

The police made actors repeat the performance more than 20 times while in
custody, while accusing them of being opposition activists hiding behind the
mask of art.

"There is direct interference from the state with such plays being banned
and people chased out of theatres. We should not expect the leadership to
give us space," said Chirikure.

Authorities have blacklisted several productions, but the artists won't be
cowed from churning out productions such as "All Systems out of Order",
about the country's crumbling infrastructure.

Last year, the Zimbabwe Poets for Human Rights was launched by a group of
young bards.

"With the economic situation deteriorating, the human rights situation is
getting worse now... violations are getting worse day by day," said its
coordinator Robson Shoes.

But the hardships help fan the artists' creative flames.

"The environment is not conducive, people can't afford to buy books, live
shows are expensive for people and audiences are dwindling, but this fires
up our emotions up into more creations," said Chirikure.

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Zimbabwe’s poor millionaires

East African Standard
Published on March 24, 2008, 12:00 am

By Mangoa Mosota

Zimbabwe is fast becoming a joke gone too far. What would you say of a country where people carry money in sacks just to buy groceries? What we would take for granted like a piece of ripe banana that costs Sh10 on the streets of Nairobi and even less with bargaining is currently going for Zim$1 million (Sh2,000). A loaf of bread, when available, costs about Zim$5 million (Sh10,000).

It is a land where essential commodities are so scarce that cooking oil is traded by the tablespoon, in the markets and in some residential estates.

In Zimbabwe shoppers might need to carry such amounts of money to buy groceries.

Recently I was in Rhodesia, as the country was once known, for five days and realised that indeed Kenya is a small heaven, a Canaan of sorts.

"Are you shocked? Hapa ni Harare. Huko Nairobi. Maisha hapa ni ngumu kuliko ulivyo dhania," my host, a fellow Kenyan, told me. (We are in Harare. You are not in Nairobi. Life here is more difficult than you might have thought.)

This was after our failure to find soft drinks in a supermarket in Harare, the capital city. My friend Jeff has lived in Zimbabwe for the last 10 years. He works as an IT expert, and like all workers in Zimbabwe, he is paid in millions.

We were in the house when Jeff got a call from a colleague that there was fuel at petrol station in town, and we rushed there.

We found a queue about half a kilometre long, and the price of a litre of petrol had shot up by 50 per cent in one hour. We gave up and drove back.

Interestingly, Zimbabweans blame their President Robert Mugabe for the predicament they find themselves in, but still love him.

I met a shop attendant, Emily Sithole, who refers to the 84-year-old strongman as "the old man," someone with godlike powers and all-too-human failings. It’s no wonder that Bob, as he is fondly referred to by the locals, is not about to let go the reins of power.

Recently, he declared that his ruling party Zanu-PF would make mince meat of his opponents in the General Election scheduled for Saturday. Mugabe said the country would not plunge into the post-poll skirmishes like Kenya did.


Crazy life

However, he failed to tell the world the bizarre but laughable lives his countrymen have to contend with daily as a result of his despotic 28-year rule.

With a population of close to 13 million people, unemployment at 80 per cent, and 45 per cent of this populace malnourished – concocted with a surreal inflation of 100, 000 per cent (the highest in the world), life in Zimbabwe is a nightmare.

Supporters of the ruling party, Zanu-PF, regard the polls as a blessing, though a fleeting one. At rallies, they have been rewarded for their attendance with maize flour and sugar —essentials that are rare in the denuded groceries.

A fortnight ago, Mugabe pacified the restive army rank-and-file with a windfall pay raise. But these sops are secondary to his more muscular stratagems. In past elections, youth brigades were let loose on political opponents, and such patterns of intimidation continue.

Shortage of hard currency and its insignificant value creates a crazy life.

A small trip for medicine for common cold turned into a nightmare recently. There was no medicine in five of the shops I visited. Jeff suggested we purchase lemons in a market to lessen the pain in my throat. A kilo of the precious fruit was Zim$2 million (Sh4,000).

Late last year, an ambitious plan by the Government to recruit thousands of new police officers ahead of this month’s elections virtually collapsed after it found no takers among hordes of school leavers roaming the streets.

The police force, hit hard by massive resignations and desertions over poor pay and poor working conditions over the past eight years, is struggling to maintain adequate staff levels.

Despite an aggressive recruitment drive launched late last year, the law enforcement agency failed to meet a target of 27,000 new recruits.

Mozambique’s power utility in January suspended supplies to Zimbabwe over unpaid debt. The firm switched off supplies to Zimbabwe after it failed to clear an outstanding Sh1.6 billion debt that was due last December.

And in November last year, teachers in rural areas were forced to contribute money towards the hosting of a Zanu-PF congress that was held in December.

The Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) said the contribution was tantamount to extortion. An education official who asked to only be identified as Majongwe said the government has been unable to issue certificates to students for nearly two years because it did not have foreign currency to pay for printing of the documents.

The suffering of the common person is unimaginable. A Zimbabwean mother, Sithole told Crazy Monday how she tries to survive.

"I try not to eat too much so there is enough food for my children, but even if I ate nothing there wouldn’t be enough," she said. "I didn’t think it was possible that people could starve in Zimbabwe or just die because hospitals have no medicines."

Sithole said she hoped that this time Mugabe, the former guerrilla fighter who has led the nation since independence in 1980, would finally lose.

"Mugabe was a hero of the liberation struggle," she said. "But now there is an even bigger struggle, the struggle to survive, and he is killing us."

She may conceivably get her wish. Mugabe is not only burdened by Zimbabwe’s persistent misery, but by two formidable rivals. One is Morgan Tsvangirai, a well-known political opponent with trade union support; he won 42 per cent of the official vote in 2002, when inflation was a mere 139 per cent. Another is Simba Makone, a former Finance minister.

Mugabe’s government has made it illegal to possess more than Zim$500m (Sh1 million). According to a new regulation published last month, anyone found with this amount will be guilty of "unlawful hoarding."

Recently, nine members of the Progressive Teachers Union — perceived to support Tsvangirai, and his Movement for Democratic Change — said they were dragooned from the streets and beaten with lead pipes in a Zanu-PF building.

The country’s three top security chiefs have threatened a coup if Mugabe loses in the polls. The commander of the armed forces, police commissioner and head of the prison services seem to have dictated on how their countrymen should vote this weekend.

Zimbabwean may just have to ponder a song by their fellow countryman, Oliver Mutukudzi, "What shall we do?"

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Anti-Mugabe cleric admits breaking celibacy vow

Zim Online

by Own Correspondent Tuesday 25 March 2008

JOHANNESBURG - Prominent Zimbabwean clergyman, Pius Ncube, has finally
broken his silence admitting in a television interview that he indeed
committed adultery with a married woman in violation of his celibacy vows.

Ncube reportedly admitted to committing adultery in an interview last week
with Frontier Africa TV, an independent British film production company.

"It is true, I do admit that I did fail in keeping God's commandment with
regard to adultery. Having failed in keeping the Seventh Commandment - Thou
shalt not commit adultery - I would like to apologise to you.

"I'd like to apologise that so many of you were praying for me, for the fact
that so many of you standing with me in fact suffered so much," said Ncube
in the interview.

Ncube, a fierce critic of President Robert Mugabe's government, was last
year accused by the state-controlled media of having an adulterous
relationship with a Zimbabwean woman.

The state media gleefully carried lurid of photos of Ncube in compromising
positions with married women.

The Catholic clergyman was later forced to resign from his position as
archbishop of Bulawayo by the Vatican.

The British Sunday Herald newspaper said at the weekend that Ncube was now
at the Vatican in Rome and was expected to stay there until the end of the

During the interview, Ncube said he was a disturbed man since the expose of
the scandal last July.

"I'm disturbed. I'm very traumatised by this situation. My mouth just dries
up. I did fail my vows. The problem is how do you repent, how do you turn
round, how do you regain your integrity?

"I need to explain to the pope's people my situation and the situation of
the diocese. I need a bit of time to rest and to discern, to think about the
future and perhaps get counseling," he said. - ZimOnline

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When laughter is the only medicine

Mail and Guardian

Percy Zvomuya | Johannesburg, South Africa

25 March 2008 06:00

      It must have been a Zimbabwean -- grouchy and constipated from
the unavailability of his breakfast pap thanks to the maize shortage -- who
decided to rebrand the country's major assets.

      And so the slogan for the Grain Marketing Board changed to "Not
a Grain of Truth". The line for the country's milk supplier, Dairibord,
became "We Milk the Nation". As for the National Oil Company, the state
importer of petroleum products should make it clear that "We Fuel

      Zimbabwe's crisis has created paradoxes such as poor
billionaires, the fastest-shrinking economy outside a war zone and other
such clichéd oddities. Its citizens have sharpened their great survival
tool: humour.

      Amid the gloom, Zimbabweans have shown themselves to be
self-effacing and funny.

      The result is megabytes-worth of jokes that do the email rounds.
Whole websites are dedicated to Zimbabwean jokes, such as
("nyambo" is Shona for jokes). Some of these are generic, but have been
given a fresh twist.

      The most biting are the religious, the social and the economic
aphorisms that question, poke fun at, and make sense of what being a
Zimbabwean means.

      It's not all apocalyptic: there's a striking facility with
figures that harks back to the world-class education system President Robert
Mugabe established in the early years.

      Take the one about a quantum theorist and a thirsty man, who
walks into a bar to be told that a beer now costs Z$1 500 000.

      The theorist advises the patron to put away his notes, still
damp from the country's round-the-clock money-printer, Fidelity Press, and
instead pay with 150 000 000 old one-cent coins.

      The theorist calculates that the coins together weigh 450 000kg
and that the poor drinker will need more than one beer to cool down from
carrying his load to the pub. So he comes up with an even better idea: sell
the metal and drink the proceeds.

      Although the Zimbabwean education system was once so good it
created quantum theorists, it is no longer immune to the general carnage in
the country -- as this joke shows. A primary-school teacher is keen to show
off her pupils to a visiting school inspector. She invites him to ask them
any question he likes.

      "Class, who broke down the walls of Jericho?"

      There is a stunned silence. Eventually, Jimmy raises his hand:
"Sir, I do not know, but I can assure you it wasn't me."

      The inspector is shocked and looks at the teacher who says:
"Well, I've known Jimmy since the start of the year, and I believe that if
he says he didn't do it, then he didn't do it." Even more perturbed, the
inspector goes to the headmaster, who is also clueless. Finally, the
inspector takes up the issue with the minister of education who tells him:
"I don't know the boy, the teacher or the principal, but just get three
quotations and have the damn wall fixed."

      Other jokes poke fun at the distinct markers of the Zimbabwean.
It is only Zimbabweans who think Coca-Cola is the generic name for all soft
drinks, Cobra for all floor polish, and Colgate for toothpaste.

      Other quips are in tragi-comic vein and are about Zimbabweans in
the diaspora and how they have "fallen" -- the lawyers who are now care
workers, and the London-based migrant who "conducted a tearful funeral
oration for his father on the phone as he is an illegal resident who can't
go to Zimbabwe and be allowed back into the UK".

       Faith is never far away, as shown in this parody of Psalm 23.

       "Mugabe is my shepherd, I shall not work. He maketh me to lie
down on the park benches. He leadeth me besides the closed factories. He
restoreth my faith in the MDC. He guideth me in the paths of unemployment.
Even though I walk through the valley of the soup kitchen, I shall still be

      A postscript to all this is the supplicant's remark: "Guys, my
take-home salary can't take me home. What am I to do?"

      Laugh, perhaps, for isn't that the best medicine?

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