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Zimbabwe: the electricity of hope

The Times
March 29, 2008

The expectation is immense, as is the fear of what Mugabe might do if he
loses the election
Jan Raath
The first time I felt this thing was in 1991, waiting outside the polling
station in the Zambian village of Mazabuka and asking wrinkled little men
and women coming out if they felt better after voting. Yes, they all said.
We want change. Within days, President Kaunda was gone, after 27 years of
bumbling, benign dictatorship that brought nothing but poverty.

Two years later I felt it in the wet, lightless streets of Blantyre in
Malawi at 4am, where queues coiled endlessly round the buildings. I asked
the people waiting in silent determination what they were going to do.
Change, they said. And before long, Hastings Banda, the 100-year-old Life
President of the land of silent fear, was no longer president.

It is a delicious, thrilling thing. It is best after many years of brutality
and poverty, and especially hopelessness: the more terrible, the better. It
seems to fill the air with positive ions, like rain. It spreads undetected
like radiation through entire populations.

Now I am feeling the same thing here in Zimbabwe. Everyone I speak to says
“change”. I gave a lift to a pastor this week and mentioned the elections on
Saturday. It loosed a flood of anger from the mild-mannered churchman, who
berated Robert Mugabe as “half-man, half-beast”. We want change now, he
said. Others say, “the clock is ticking fast”, or “it is D-Day tomorrow”.

We have had tantalising snatches of this thing, this mood in the air, in the
past eight years: in the referendum in 2000 on a faked-up draft constitution
in which President Mugabe was beaten in a fair fight; in the last three
elections when people in the towns thought they prevailed over the Mugabe
regime, but the rural people were beaten raw to stick their broken Xs where
they were told, and had their lips sealed about the barrowloads of premarked
ballot papers stuffed into the boxes.
But now in villages where a white man is never seen, old crones for whom
Mugabe was God are saying “it is time for the husband to get a new wife”,
and doing jigs at rallies with their hands stretched wide open for the
opposition MDC. There are posters with the beaming faces of Morgan
Tsvangirai and Simba Makoni on baobab trees that you thought would wither
before their shiny bark supported any likeness other than Mugabe's.

The hopelessness that there will never be change has been overtaken by the
hopelessness that things are so bad that the people don't care any more what
the men in power can do to them. A colleague witnessed a policeman in a
small town ordering a group of MDC supporters to disperse. The leader of the
group barked back at the policeman: “I am starving, I have nothing, you
can't do anything to me, we are not listening to you, we are going on with
our meeting.” They continued their banned meeting and the cop walked meekly

The enforcers, the policemen with holes in their socks who extort bribes
from motorists to pay for supper, are also at that point. Two of the buses
festooned with MDC posters at Tsvangirai's rally on Sunday bore the name of
the owner on the side of the driver's door - it was the chief of a Harare
township police station.

The Herald, Harare's daily paper that Goebbels would be proud of, reported
this week that a policeman had been arrested for poking his finger at the
chest of a youth wearing a Mugabe T-shirt and asking: “Why are you wearing
the shirt of the party of hunger?”

All this has happened so fast, the fruit of so many different circumstances
combining: the hunger that makes you retch, the tragic absurdity of paying
five million Zimbabwe dollars for an egg, the queuing for half the day at
the ATM to withdraw money for your bus fare home. The imploding of the
rotting, ruling Zanu (PF), the violence that everyone was waiting for ahead
of the elections that never erupted. And Makoni, who defied Mugabe, and the
expectations that he would be found dead by the end of the week but who
instead goes on railing against the old crocodile.

All these elements have helped to create a gorgeous, rich, spurting flower.
It is democracy at its headiest. We are somewhere around the elusive
“tipping point”.

The will for change is virtually tangible. But Mugabe has defied it again
and again, and people have suffered for daring. He will try to cook this
election and is ready to hold on to power by mass murder. Whether his regime
can be overwhelmed by weight of numbers and emotion, whether the enforcers
still have the will to defend the man who offers only far worse misery,
remains to be seen.

The people of Kenya were regarded as placid until President Kibaki stole the
election last year. Unlike Kenya, Zimbabwe has no serious tribal animosity.
The only enemy is Mugabe.

Jan Raath has been reporting from Zimbabwe since 1975

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With nongovernmental Western observers barred, US government fields Zimbabwe election monitors

International Herald Tribune

The Associated PressPublished: March 28, 2008

WASHINGTON: The United States will field almost a dozen poll watchers for
Zimbabwe's elections on Saturday and will report afterward not only on the
electoral process but on the results as well, says the State Department.

Spokesman Sean McCormack said State also will have a group within the
department monitoring the elections closely from Washington.

"There are a lot of big question marks hanging over this election in terms
of the integrity of the electoral process," McCormack said, and he
enumerated several.

One he mentioned was an inadequate system of election observers.

Zimbabwe has barred observers from the United States and the European Union
and several international media organizations. Election monitors from the
14-nation Southern African Development Community reported Friday they had
observed "a number of matters of concern" involving the election process.

"We have about 10 people who are serving as election monitors who are going
to be deployed at various polling stations around the country," McCormack
He said they are "U.S. Embassy people" but did not specify their positions.

Diplomats normally have greater freedom of movement than observers from
nongovernmental or other unofficial organizations.

"Once the elections have concluded, we will have ... a final assessment
about the electoral process, as well as about the results," McCormack said.

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U.S. says "biq question marks" over Zimbabwe poll


Fri 28 Mar 2008, 20:49 GMT

WASHINGTON, March 28 (Reuters) - The United States cast serious doubt on the
fairness of Saturday's election in Zimbabwe, saying there were huge
questions over how it would be conducted.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack complained on Friday of problems
in the run-up to the poll such as inaccurate voter rolls that included dead
or nonexistent voters, an absence of independent observers and inadequate
polling stations.

"There are a lot of big question marks hanging over this election in terms
of the integrity of the electoral process," said McCormack.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe faces the toughest challenge to his 28
year-rule after coming to power in 1980 when the country gained its
independence from Britain. There are two other candidates running against
Mugabe -- one a former finance minister.

Most international election observers have been banned from Zimbabwe, except
for a team from the regional SADC grouping, which critics accuse of taking
too soft a line with Mugabe.

The United States, Britain and many other countries have been been strongly
critical of Mugabe.

McCormack said the State Department was closely observing the election and
10 people from the U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe would be deployed at various
polling stations around the country to monitor voting.

Once the breadbasket of the region, Zimbabwe's economy is in ruins with
runaway inflation and food, fuel and other shortages. Mugabe blames the
crisis on Western sanctions while the United States and others say Mugabe's
policies caused it.

The State Department's annual human rights report released earlier this
month said 2007 was the worst ever for rights in Zimbabwe where Mugabe's
government had stepped up its assault on dissenters. (Reporting by Sue

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Tsvangirai Urges Supporters to Ignore Army Intimidation

SW Radio Africa (London)

28 March 2008
Posted to the web 28 March 2008

Lance Guma

With army and police trucks moving through suburbs in Harare and Bulawayo
MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai has urged his supporters not to be
intimidated by the manoeuvres. Speaking to Newsreel during a special
election broadcast Tsvangirai said it had been a long and hard struggle for
the opposition and now was not the time to give in to threats. Responding to
statements earlier this month, from army, police and prison chiefs that they
would never be loyal to an opposition led government, Tsvangirai cast doubt
on their importance saying, 'we are not soldiers but civilians.' He
questioned why Mugabe called for an election in the first place if he has to
send security chiefs to issue threats meant to influence how the population

Talking through his party's plans for reshaping the country, Tsvangirai laid
out his priority areas as unemployment, the HIV scourge, an equitable and
fair land reform programme, proper funding of the education sector and a
general rebuilding of the economy. He said people should ignore claims by
Mugabe that he (Tsvangirai) wanted to give land back to the whites; 'We
spoke about land redistribution even before Mugabe, during my time in the
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions,' Tsvangirai argued. He repeated his
message that people are suffering in the country because of Mugabe and that
this suffering will not end if Mugabe remains in power.

Commenting on his campaign so far the MDC leader said he managed to address
rallies in areas that were previously no-go zones created by Zanu PF. His
team campaigned in areas like Mudzi, Kotwa, Murehwa, Mahuwe, Nzwimbo and
Bindura. 'We are proud of our campaign and want to thank our supporters for
backing us throughout,' Tsvangirai said. He also admitted that compared to
previous elections marred by violence, this year had presented a much better
environment. 'We would like to thank the police, who in some areas did a
professional job,' he said.

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Zimbabweans Surviving in a Collapsed Economy

The East African Standard (Nairobi)

29 March 2008
Posted to the web 28 March 2008

Sebastian Nyamhangambiri

Zimbabwe is today holding its presidential elections with the country's long
serving President, Robert Mugabe, seeking sixth term. After 28 years of
independence, the country is experiencing its worst economic crisis with an
inflation rate of 100,000 per cent. Even with the use of underhand tactics
to suppress his opponents, a recent opinion poll shows him trailing his main
rivals. The poll may be the biggest test for Africa's strongman, writes
Sebastian Nyamhangambiri in Harare.

Besides long queues and a thriving informal sector, one would be mistaken
for a liar to suggest there is a crisis in Zimbabwe. With all the hardships,
Zimbabweans have learnt to survive the economic meltdown in the Southern
Africa country.

From the Harare International Airport, one sees four-wheel drive and other
posh cars right to the central business district. The same applies to noble
suburbs of Harare.

You would also find most people dressed in imported clothes from Dubai and
South Africa.

Recently, I picked a journalist friend from Germany at the airport and she
was surprised at what she saw.

After reading, watching and hearing about horror tales of suffering in
Zimbabwe, she was taken aback by what she saw.

In fact, she expected to find me in a Scot cart, waiting to pick her to her

"I am so fascinated by how Zimbabweans are networked in this crisis. There
is always someone on the other corner with something that someone needs,"
remarked Christiania Moritz*.

She is a journalist with a Munich-based newspaper and was on holiday in

On arrival, I told her jokingly: "You might not get everything you want, but
if you ever wished to become a millionaire, I will grant your wish right

Immediately she handed me US$50 (Sh3,200) from her purse. I called a foreign
currency dealer, and Moritz was Z$1.5 billion rich.

After a bit of shock, she said: "I think the dealer must have made a

I laughed and then told her not to worry much about it. That night, we went
out at a popular open-air entertainment joint in Harare called Pamuzinda
Highway X-scape. She offered to settle the bill and I gladly obliged.

Moritz gave the waiter Z$10 million for seven drinks that we had enjoyed and
proudly asked her to keep the change as a tip. The waiter looked at me and
looked at Moritz. I felt a little embarrassed but regained my senses.

I then told Moritz that the Z$10 million was not even enough for one beer!
Beer costs Z$90 million at that spot. She gave me her bag to take the
required amount as she laughed. We paid Z$630 million dollars.

As we drove off, she asked how Zimbabweans still could afford to go out and
pay such huge bills. A friend who had accompanied us, chipped in: "We always
find our way. Whether, it is resilience or docility, I do not know. That
place, like many night spots is always packed," said Celestio Nyikadzino*.

With the inflation rate rising to more than 100,000 per cent, the buying
power of the local currency has eroded significantly. People withdraw cash
daily to keep buying whatever is left in the shops. Despite the introduction
of a Z$10 million bearer cheque, there is an acute shortage of cash in

It is a daily struggle trying to survive in a society where money is
worthless. Zimbabwe is becoming a non-currency society. No one banks money
any more. People only go to banks to cash their salary cheques as soon as
they are paid. Then they run - and I do mean run - to the nearest store to
buy something. Anything. After all, a kilo of sugar is as sweet next week as
it is today, and the money spent to buy it will be little more than
worthless tomorrow. Bread costs about Z$4 million but it can be found in the
streets costing Z$10 million.

The need to beat the inflation has kept pressure on cash. This coupled with
the existence of a fluid black foreign currency market, a severe cash
shortage has rocked the country for almost a year now. There are very long
queues for cash in banks, with some spilling into the nights as depositors
wait for cash to be put into the ATMs.

Foreign currency dealers now encourage people to have their money
transferred to their bank accounts (real time gross settlement or RTGS) and
they use plastic money or cheques to settle bills. For those who opt for
RTGS they get a premium. For example, when US dollar rate is Z$30 million
for cash, for RTGS it can be as high as Z$60 million. Because of an acute
shortage of foreign currency in the formal sector to import essentials, the
Government has not been able buy adequate stocks of fuel.

Nevertheless, the roads of Zimbabwe are always busy. People now buy fuel in
foreign currency. Sometimes, friends and relatives working abroad pay to
international oil companies and then send fuel coupons home to be redeemed
in Zimbabwe.

Ordinary workers have resorted to skipping meals, walking or cycling long
distances to work as they stretch their wages to the next payday. Commuting
daily to work costs between Z$10 and 20 million (one way).

The most affected are the civil servants, with teachers earning about Z$500
million (less 20 US $). A teacher's salary is not enough to buy five litres
of cooking oil. Incidentally, this is the daily maximum amount one can
withdraw from a bank.

"We now resort to walking to and from work and forget about lunch," says
Pamela Ngwena* who works at a food outlet in central Harare. She says it is
impossible to plan a family budget. If she goes to one of the supermarkets
in the upmarket suburbs, she could possibly get what she wants or needs.

Zimbabweans now flock South Africa to buy groceries, despite Pretoria asking
for R2, 000 (Sh16, 000) when applying for a South African visa. Another way
of beating inflation is buying foreign currency, to buy the basics for
consumption and for re-sell. These include commodities like eggs, sugar,
salt, toilet tissue, pasta, rice, bread and soap.

For instance, by the roadsides in high-density areas, you find maize meal
being sold in small quantities of less than 500g packs. These home made
packages are referred to as 'emergency'.

They are for those who would have managed to raise just enough for one day's
sadza (ugali).

Others do 'border jumping' into South Africa to look for menial jobs. Unlike
in the previous elections, people in Zimbabwe are really not looking forward
to today's polls. "I have lost faith in elections. Maybe we have held too
many elections since 2000. I am going to Mozambique to buy rice for resale,"
says Raphael Mpofu*.

*Not real names.

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Crisis Coalition deplores army chiefs threats

The Zimbabwean

Friday, 28 March 2008 14:05

HARARE, (Zimbabwe)--THE Crisis Coalition in Zimbabwe has deplored the
recent statements by senior service chiefs affirming their resistance and
refusal of the election of any candidates saying it reinforces the view that
the election process is illegitimate.
McDonald Lewanika, the coalition's spokesperson said regardless of the
outcome, the elections will not be a true legitimate expression of the will
of the people as it is premised on a total disregard of the of the rule of
the law.
Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri, Commander of the
Defence Forces Lieutenant General Constantine Chiwenga and Commissioner of
Prisons retired General Paradzai Zimondi last week made statements affirming
their resistance to salute any candidate other than the incumbent President
Robert Mugabe.
Lewanika said Mugabe has also used intimidatory and threatening
language to the electorate which directly contravenes the Electoral Act.
"Such statements from the Head of State and the security forces and
the impunity surrounding them reinforce the widely held view that the
election process is illegitimate because it is premised on a total disregard
of the rule of law," said Lewanika at a press conference held in Harare.
He said with a day before the crucial elections are held, the Zimbabwe
Electoral Commission has failed to address concerns raised by opposition
political parties with regards to the voting process.
"But as it stands, ZEC seems to be directed by one political candidate
at the expense of others giving rise to serious contestations of the outcome
as a result of the glaring partisan nature of the electoral body," said
He said, as a result of the irregularities and threats from the
service chiefs, the elections will not be able to resolve the country's
crises as a result of the numerous irregularities surrounding the holding
the elections.
"The threats from the service chiefs and Mugabe affirm the position
that the regime is not ready to give up power," he said-

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Death knell for a despot: Mugabe's evil rule could be up ... as his own thugs FINALLY turn against him

Daily Mail, UK

By PETER OBORNE -  Last updated at 22:30pm on 28th March 2008

For the best part of 30 years, Robert Mugabe has been the despotic and
brutal leader of Zimbabwe.

He has been responsible for the genocide of tens, possibly hundreds, of
thousands of his fellow countrymen - and has completely destroyed an economy
which only a decade ago was the most prosperous in Africa.

But now, at last, his time could be up. Today, the people of Zimbabwe go to
the polls to vote in the most significant elections since the country was
granted independence from Britain in 1980.

I do not believe that Mugabe can survive. There is, of course, no doubt that
he will try to rig the result, as he did the last time presidential
elections were held, back in 2002.

But even if he succeeds - and he probably will - it will still not be
enough. This is because something very significant has occurred over the
past few weeks: Mugabe's own supporters have turned against him.

Having posed as a tourist to enter the country, I have spent the past week
travelling across Zimbabwe. And everywhere I went I discovered evidence that
the army and the police - for so long happy to be the brutal instruments of
Mugabe's evil rule - are starting to mutiny.

Last week in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second largest city, soldiers were tearing
down presidential posters from street walls.

Some went as far as to hand out campaign literature from the opposition
parties. There were even reports that some army units have been stripped of
their weapons because their loyalty can no longer be relied on.

Intriguingly, an opposition MP, David Coltard, told me how he had been
approached privately by a member of the notorious "law and order" section of
the National Police who grabbed his hand and said: "Thank you for what you
are doing."

Wherever I went, ordinary people told me of the sheer misery of their lives
and how they longed for the 84-year-old president to quit. Opinion polls
show that he will be lucky to get one quarter of votes in today's election.

However, one crucial question remains - will Mugabe hand over power
peacefully, or will he provoke bloodshed and a possible civil war in a last
desperate bid to hang onto power?

All the signs are that Mugabe will never go voluntarily. The tiny clique
which governs the country contains some of the most evil and destructive men
in modern history.

They dare not hand over power for fear of being held to account for their
terrible actions.

To give only one example, the head of Mugabe's air force, Perence Shiri, led
the notorious 5th Brigade as it perpetrated the Matabeleland Massacres,
which killed 20,000 innocent people in the 1980s.

Both Mugabe and Shiri know they could face the prospect of sitting next to
each other, on trial for genocide, at the war crimes tribunal at The Hague.
This, quite simply, is why the president has ordered his Zanu-PF ruling
party to use violence, bribery and ballot-rigging to stay in power.

On Tuesday, I visited a hospital where a 19-year-old was being treated after
being tortured by the much-feared secret police, the Central Intelligence
Organisation (CIO).

Patrick Mashvuure's bed sheets were splattered in blood, vomited up as a
result of internal injuries.

Able to speak only with difficulty, he described to me his horrific ordeal.

He said that, like millions of other Zimbabweans who have suffered the
country's 80 per cent unemployment rates, he had been forced abroad to find

In the week preceding Easter, he decided to return home by bus to vote in
the elections and took a holiday from his job in a plastics factory in
neighbouring Zambia.

When he crossed the border, CIO officers stormed the bus and seized all the
young men aboard - 21 in total - and took them back to their headquarters.
They were all locked together in one small cell and deprived of food and

Patrick said: "They would beat us in the evening and at 4am they would wake
us and beat us again."

He then showed me the huge bruises the CIO thugs had inflicted by beating
the soles of his feet. Both his arms were also heavily bandaged from the

The secret police officers stole his belongings - including the money he had
saved and was taking home to pay the hospital fees of his sick mother. Then
they dumped him half-naked in a local park.

"I thank God I am still alive," Patrick told me, adding defiantly that he
was still determined to vote.

Sadly, those independent election observers, theoretically present in
Zimbabwe to ensure a fair and free poll, seem to take no interest in this
kind of brutality.

Perhaps that's no surprise, since they were chosen by Mugabe and include
representatives from sympathetic and equally repressive regimes like Libya
and Sudan. Head of the observer mission is the Foreign Minister of Angola,
another one-party state where elections have not been held for more than 15

Apart from the brutality of the secret police, Mugabe's second weapon is
bribery. Of course, the weakness of the Zimbabwe dollar (practically
worthless considering that the country's annual inflation rate is running at
a mind-boggling 200,000 per cent) means that he cannot use monetary

So Mugabe uses food. Thanks to his disastrous policies, the vast majority of
his people are close to starvation. For example, a loaf of bread cost $25m
last Tuesday - and the price will have doubled to $50m by the time of
today's election.

Mugabe is giving his supporters special access to the national staple diet
of maize - and withholding it from political opponents. Voters have a simple
choice: vote for Mugabe's Zanu-PF party or starve.

According to one eye-witness account of a Zanu-PF rally in the district
capital of Filibusi last weekend, huge stockpiles of maize were made
available to party members, with opponents denied anything.

Mugabe's most potent weapon, however, is his ability to rig today's ballot
result. As the Russian dictator Stalin remarked: "It's not who votes that
counts, it's who counts the votes."

Last weekend, in a deeply ominous development, the president announced that
votes will be counted centrally - most probably in the secret police HQ in
the national capital, Harare.

In other words, the election will be settled in the same secret location
where countless Zimbabwe citizens have been tortured and killed.

If Mugabe does, indeed, go ahead with this plan, he will be able to announce
whatever result he wants.

I gained my first experience of Robert Mugabe's arrogant and dictatorial
rule within minutes of arriving in Zimbabwe last weekend. Police
motorcyclists, with klaxons blazing, ordered my driver off the airport road.
For several desperate moments I feared that they were secret police and that
I was about to be arrested.

But we were simply being ushered aside to make way for President Mugabe and
his massive presidential entourage on their way to an election rally in

I counted 47 vehicles in all - police cars, trucks loaded with heavily armed
troops, an ambulance, and a black Mercedes with tinted windows containing
the president himself.

Two identical Mercedes travelled behind, presumably to confuse potential

"All that, just to keep one idiot in power!" muttered my driver.

The Easter Sunday rally in Bulawayo showed how withered President Mugabe's
support has become.

Normally, such an event would have been held in the White City Stadium,
which is capable of holding 13,000 people. But to avoid humiliation, the
president's political strategists chose the tiny Stanley Square, which is
scarcely capable of fitting in a 4,000-strong audience.

And to boost numbers, Zanu-PF supporters were bussed in from miles away for
the event - and rewarded afterwards with a handout of maize.

Mugabe himself, once a charismatic figure, now looks weak and feeble. After
a routine denunciation of British influence, he spat out a message of
defiance to the Zimbabwe people - declaring that the opposition party, the
Movement For Democratic Change, "will not rule the country - it will never
ever happen".

In effect, Mugabe was warning that no matter how the Zimbabwe people vote,
he and his murderous clique intend to stay in power.

The atmosphere throughout the country is heavy with menace, but wherever I
travelled, I was told that the people would not allow Mugabe to declare
himself victor.

Many voters told me that if he rigs the result he would find himself in a
"Kenyan situation" - referring to the bloodshed that followed the disputed
election result in the East African country earlier this year.

Zimbabweans have been profoundly influenced by the wave of protest that
swept through Kenya when President Mwai Kibaki was seen to have rigged
national polls.

One well-known Zimbabwean politician predicted last week that his country
now faces the possibility of "serious violence escalating into widespread
civil war".

This is a terrifying prospect and calls for urgent preparations from the
watching international community.

The bitter truth, however, is that so far, Britain, the former colonial
power, has been pathetically weak. Tony Blair - for all his rhetoric about
saving Africa - failed to lift a finger to halt Mugabe's tyranny during his
ten years as prime minister.

To be fair to the former premier, intervention in such conditions is always
perilous. Six months ago, the respected British diplomat Gillian Dare quit
the country after death threats were made against her in the main
government-backed newspaper.

Gordon Brown has taken a tougher and far more honourable stance than his
predecessor. He has worked hard behind the scenes and sent a strong message
of disgust through a ban on cricketing links, which had been permitted by
Tony Blair.

If the very worst happens and today's elections are followed by violence,
there will be an urgent need for contingency plans to extract the estimated
20,000 British citizens who remain in the country.

Brown will have to use every possible means at his disposal - including
using the Commonwealth and the African Union - to put international pressure
on Mugabe to stand down.

Indeed, Zimbabwe may ultimately become the testing ground for Brown's plan
for a post-conflict group of civilian experts to be parachuted into
international crisis situations, which he announced in the Commons last

Britain must also be on hand with generous aid and other assistance once
Mugabe goes. For although this may be a fearful and perilous moment in
Zimbabwe's history, it is also a very optimistic time.

Few nations on earth have as much potential for future happiness and
prosperity as the little African state of Zimbabwe.

For years, this wonderfully fertile nation has ruthlessly been held back by
President Mugabe, with terrible and tragic results. Thanks to him, life
expectancy - just 34 for women - is the lowest in the world.

Now, at last, it seems that this despot could be about to go. The irony is
that amid the fear, everywhere I went I witnessed a sense of a wonderful
future. But first Zimbabwe - and the world - must get through today's
presidential elections, and their fateful aftermath.

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ZESA switches on thermal power stations ahead of polls

Zim Online

by Thenjiwe Mabhena Saturday 29 March 2008

HARARE – State-owned Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) has
resuscitated three thermal power stations while also securing an additional
100 MW from Mozambique to ensure uninterrupted supplies during voting today.

Elections for president, parliament and local councils begin at 7am today
and close well after dark at 7pm. Vote counting is expected to begin
immediately after polls close and to proceed throughout the night.

ZESA chief executive officer Ben Rafemoyo said the power utility had secured
enough coal to resuscitate power stations in Harare, Bulawayo and at
Munyati, which would boost electricity supplies by an additional 150MW.

The thermal power stations have not been generating electricity owing to
coal shortages.

“We received coal, so we are just augmenting our electricity supplies. We
want to go over this critical (election) period. We want people to move
freely during the elections,” Rafemoyo told ZimOnline.

Rafemoyo said ZESA had also secured additional power from Mozambique’s
Hidroeléctrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB) firm to ensure uninterrupted supplies
during the election in which President Robert Mugabe faces a tough challenge
from veteran opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and former ally Simba

“HCB have agreed to give us 100MW on top of the 200MW we are currently
getting,” said Rafemoyo.

The Harare authorities last week also announced that they had bought
generators to ensure power supplies especially in remote rural areas where
there is no electricity.

Power shortages had been feared could disrupt elections especially the
counting of ballots that has to take place at night.

ZESA’s inability to boost generation capacity at its ageing power stations
and a critical shortage of foreign currency to import electricity from
neighbouring countries has left Zimbabwe grappling with severe power

ZESA’s only response has been to implement a punishing power rationing
regime to save on the little electricity available while ensuring key
sectors of the economy are supplied.

Under the rationing schedule, supplies to domestic consumers can be cut for
up to 20 hours a day while power is supplied to industry and other
productive sectors.

However, the worsening energy crisis is only an addition on a long list of
hardships bedevelling Zimbabwe as the country grapples with a severe
economic recession seen in hyperinflation, a rapidly contracting GDP, rising
poverty, shortages of food and other basic commodities.

Nevertheless, analysts believe a skewed electoral process and a political
climate of fear pervading Zimbabwe will be enough to deliver victory for
Mugabe’s government despite the worsening hardships. - ZimOnline

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SA prepares for post-election upheaval in Zimbabwe

Zim Online

by Own Correspondent Saturday 29 March 2008

JOHANNESBURG – South African authorities say they have put in place
contingency measures to deal with any crisis that could arise from today’s
election in Zimbabwe.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) said yesterday that a
crisis team made up of officials from various government departments had
already been formed in anticipation of post-election chaos in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabweans go to the polls today to choose a new president,
parliamentarians and local government representatives.

Political analysts have over the past few weeks warned that a flawed
election today could trigger violent Kenya-style protests from desperate
Zimbabweans eager to usher in political change.

Political upheaval in the troubled southern African country could see
millions of refugees streaming in into South Africa, which has proved to the
destination of choice for desperate Zimbabweans.

The spokesman for Musina Municipality, Wilson Dzebu, confirmed that the
government had put in place contingency plans to deal with a large influx of
Zimbabweans fleeing turmoil at home.

“We have agreed that we must have a temporary place where we can give them
shelter, medication and proper care in (the event of an) of an emergency,”
said Dzebu.

South Africa’s main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party last year said
the government should prepare to set up refugee camps in the border town of
Musina in anticipation of a meltdown in Zimbabwe.

President Thabo Mbeki’s government however shot down the DA’s proposal
saying the best policy would be to integrate the Zimbabwean refugees into
South African society.

Meanwhile, exiled Zimbabweans around the world will today stage protests
over the decision by President Robert Mugabe’s government to deny them the
chance to vote through postal ballots in the election.

The Zimbabwean civic groups based in South Africa, Botswana, Beligium, the
United States and New Zealand, said they will also stage mock parallel
elections after they were denied the chance to vote in today’s poll.

In South Africa, the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (ZEF) said it would stage a
demonstration at the border in Musina over the government’s move to deny
them the chance to vote in the poll.

In a statement, ZEF said: “The ZEF team will camp at the Musina town . . .
in solidarity with those who have crossed the border to vote, while keeping
those who could not make the journey to Zimbabwe, updated on the situation
on the ground.” - ZimOnline

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African Union Says Zimbabwe Government By Coup Unacceptable


By Carole Gombakomba
28 March 2008

The head of the African Union's election observer mission to Zimbabwe warned
on Friday that his organization would not recognize any government that came
into power by a military coup. Former Sierra Leone president Ahmed Tejan
Kabah told journalists the AU "will not accept violence before, during and
after the elections."

The state-run Herald newspaper quoted Kabah as saying that since his arrival
in the country on Wednesday he had noticed that Zimbabwe was calm and that
there was fair coverage of political parties by state-controlled media.
Kabah also said that he believed the elections on Saturday would be
"transparent," the Herald reported.

The observer mission sent by the Southern African Development Community has
also praised election preparations, ruling out a flawed election contrary to
claims by the opposition and independent local observers that the playing
field is not level.

Political analyst Farai Maguwu told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's
Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he takes exception to the AU’s endorsement of the
elections when the country's military is making a show of force in the
streets of major cities.

Elsewhere, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission conceded that that it was
running the elections on the basis of a flawed voters roll, as Sylvia Manika

The high court dismissed a request by the Tsvangirai opposition formation
that it reverse an order by President Mugabe allowing police in polling
stations contrary to language to the country's Electoral Act, which was
amended in January.

The high court threw out two other MDC cases yesterday, one asking it to
compel the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to produce an electronic version of
the voters roll and for the opposition to have access to information about
postal votes.

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Poll Shows Tsvangirai is Likely Winner

The East African Standard (Nairobi)

29 March 2008
Posted to the web 28 March 2008

Sebastian Nyamhangambiri

A recent pre-election survey in Zimbabwe puts main opposition leader, Mr
Morgan Tsvangirai, as the people's favourite.

Coming second is President Robert Mugabe's former ally turned challenger, Mr
Simba Makoni.

In a survey conducted by the Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI),
Tsvangirai (Movement for Democratic Change) was favoured by 28.3 per cent of
respondents, compared to Mugabe's 20.3 per cent and Makoni's 8.6 per cent.

Ruling Zanu-PF spokesperson, Dr Nathan Shamuyarira, dismissed the survey as
"not scientific and biased."

He said: "Zanu-PF has a landslide victory in this election. We will not lose
sleep on something that is not scientific and was done in a boardroom to
further the interests of their colonial masters."

The MPOI was set up in 1999 and is headed by political commentator and
University of Zimbabwe lecturer, Prof Eldred Masunungure.

Masunungure, though, admits that since opinion poll surveys are relatively
new in Zimbabwe and given the volatility of previous elections, some
respondents declined to disclose their choices. About 23.5 per cent of those
surveyed said their vote was secret, 7.5 per cent had nothing to say while
5.4 per cent said they would not vote. About 4.4 per cent said they did not
know. One per cent said they would vote for little known presidential
candidate, Mr Langton Towungana.

Masunungure predicted a run-off given that it is unlikely any of the three
candidates would get an outright majority of more than 51 percent in the
first round of voting.

"The coming in of Makoni is likely to make it impossible to have a clear
winner resulting in the run-off between the first two candidates," said

Zanu PF has responded to the MPOI pre-election survey by commissioning its
own survey to be conducted by academics from the University of Zimbabwe.
Some believe these are aligned to the ruling party.

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Why Tsvangirai is the clear choice

It is not too difficult to see why Morgan Tsvangirai is the people's choice.
Here is why.

The ZANU PF government has destroyed the economy but blames the West for it.
The ZANU PF government has trashed the citizens of Zimbabwe and continues to
do so without shame. The ZANU PF government has committed crime against
humanity by deliberately starving citizens to death for their political
conscience. The ZANU PF government is synonymous with absence of the rule of
law and to its selective use where there are reminence glimpses. ZANU PF
government breathes corruption. The land and the freedom that we fought for
are now a distant memory and a preserve of the chosen few.

The pre-1987 Mugabe government was responsible for mass murder in
Matebeleland and the Midlands and did not and still does not show any

From 1999 Morgan Tsvangirai led a crusade to provide an alternative to ZANU
PF's oppressive government. He has been very consistent in his message that
has been about providing alternative policies to those of ZANU PF not
changing the leadership of ZANU PF. Morgan Tsvangirai has always been about
providing a voice to the voiceless masses since the voice that is heard in
Zimbabwe today is that of the discredited  self-imposed ZANU PF government.
Morgan Tsvangirai nearly paid with his life for daring to give people a
voice. Sadly a number were not so lucky. They did not make it. Those people
are our heroes and we should remember them as we enter that polling booth.
Those  people are our modern day revolutionaries.

As for the Simba Makoni's Mavambo project, people have already seen through
the smokescreen with the help of Simba himself who told the world that he
was still ZANU PF. Given ZANU PF's record and what it stands that was not
very helpful. It is the former ZANU PF supporters who are now deserting the
monster that feeds on people's misery. By insisting that he is still ZANU PF
Simba Makoni is telling people that he wants to maintain the status co.
Imagine 5 more years of the same suffering, lawlessness, cronyism,
oppression, mental enslavement, etc.  I cannot image people voting for that.
How about the government maintaining a that does not acknowledge
responsibility for the well-being for its people? My advice to Simba will
be, do as the name Mavambo suggests, start from the beginning , from scratch
with a new name, policies and logo. On a lighter not but serious all the
same, people of Zimbabwe have tended to identify Mugabe' real opponent by
the scares Mugabe has inflicted on them. Obviously you are not going to go
out of your way to invite them

Given the reality on the ground in Zimbabwe, I do not think Mugabe or Makoni
will get any significant votes to emerge as a winner. Who is crazy enough to
ask for more of the same ZANU PF dosage? This time the people of Zimbabwe
will get right the first time.

Let's remind those coming into power that the fight for freedom and justice
is not going to end with Mugabe's departure.

John Huruva

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The rabid rantings of a cornered dog…


So, what’s it like to be in urban zim right now? The first thing is the
atmosphere has become electrically charged over the last 24 hours. I loved
the response I got today from all the shops I went into, and believe you me,
it was many shops for I was stocking up in siege mentality for what may be
“the days of uncertainty” to come.

My favourite salutation of the day was, “See you for the independence
 party!” – it was great to see people smile for once.

One thing is for sure, there is a far greater sense of tolerance on the
street in the urban areas. I cannot speak about the rural atmosphere as it
has been over a week since I was there.

If you put aside political rhetoric, endless newscasts and internet surfing,
you will hear what real Zimbabweans are really talking about. Everyone is
wondering about Simba’s authenticity vs Morgan’s many sacrifices for
democracy. There are a tiny minority who still support the regime, but when
you approach the Mugabe t-shirt crew you discover that most of them are
wearing them because they were given for free. There is debate and
discussion and amazingly - tolerance.

I was parked at the traffic light coming home this evening from my long day
of foraging for supplies, when an open truck came whizzing towards me filled
with festive MDC supporters and halted on the opposite side of the busy
intersection. I hooted and waved and I got a great shout of camaraderie and
raucous cheering.

The next thing is one of three men in the van next to me raised a fist and
shouted “Pamberi ne ZanuPF”. I waved at him with the open MDC gesture and
shouted, “Goodbye ZanuPF!” The men laughed, the guy sitting on the back of
the van threw me the clasped hand gesture coined by the Makoni gang, then
the light (only one traffic light of four is actually working – hence the
singular “light”) turned green and we all carried on down our separate yet
combined potholed journey.

Tales are flying. I just had a call from a very connected friend who claims
that the police have now all voted…. overwhelmingly against mad bob. Then
there are the more than serious rumours that the CIO rigging machinery is
hard at work… against bob!

Yesterday I had a call from a mate in Harare who spied 4 tanks and troop
carriers heading towards the air base close to bob’s palatial home.
Apparently a few fists were brandished in support of the armed forces, but
the overwhelming response from the pedestrian filled route was one of
extreme humour. People are openly laughing at the paranoia of the nutty
dictator. He may frighten a few Zimbabweans with his bully boy tactics, but
most sensible citizens understand these are the rabid rantings of a cornered

There is a great anecdote I got from my painter who doubles as a pastor,
this is one of my favourite stories of the week. Bob addressed an Apostolic
community in rural Matabeleland last week, where it was requested that he
did not use the church as a political platform. He finally got up to lead
them in prayer, when he launched into a mad frenzy, shouting at the
congregation “Chinja! (the slogan of the MDC since 2000) “Yes, there is
change coming and it is coming fast, you must all work for change”.
Apparently the church was stunned into silence and he simply stepped down
from the podium and slunk off. He really has gone bonkers.

I have just put down the phone to a close friend who is getting up at 3 am –
she wants to be the first to vote for hope, for our well deserved positive
destiny. Her 5 sisters will be joining her with their picnic baskets and
blankets, waiting for the sun to come up and the chance to be a part of
something great.

Just for one day we will allow ourselves to feel hope.

Then, we will wait the painful wait for election results in Zimbabwe.

This entry was written by Still Here on Saturday, March 29th, 2008

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Mugabe's Weakening Grip

Stephanie Hanson
Council on Foreign Relations
Friday, March 28, 2008; 6:12 PM

Perhaps the only thing more unbelievable than the astronomical inflation
rate in Zimbabwe -- officially over 100,000 percent -- is that President
Robert Mugabe is still in power. As Zimbabwe's economy has spiraled ever
deeper, the president has curried the loyalty of supporters by handing out
prominent political positions and printing money. Yet ahead of elections on
March 29 (, that support no longer looks guaranteed.
Excitement surrounds the candidacy of Simba Makoni, a former finance
minister (Newsweek Int'l) who was expelled from the ruling party, ZANU-PF,
when he declared his candidacy in February. It's highly unlikely Makoni will
win the election -- which, in any case, virtually no one expects to be free
and fair -- but his defection signals a divide in ZANU-PF that Zimbabwe
experts believe could extend to other groups thought to be loyal to Mugabe.

Faced with waning support, Mugabe appears to be on the defensive. Zimbabwe's
government debt increased 65-fold in a six-week period preelection, with the
government raising salaries for security forces as well as purchasing farm
equipment (FT). According to the Institute for War and Peace Reporting,
Mugabe suspects high-level military and intelligence officials of allegiance
with Makoni. Security groups now control many political institutions in
Zimbabwe, as this new Backgrounder explains, so a shift in their allegiances
could spell trouble for the president.

As Mugabe confronts dissent within his own party, he also is challenged by
Morgan Tsvangirai, a past presidential candidate and leader of the
opposition MDC party. Tsvangirai has been mobilizing support for nearly a
decade and has an efficient grassroots campaign machine. Polling by the Mass
Public Opinion Institute, a Zimbabwean group, shows Tsvangirai with 28
percent support (Times of London) and Makoni with 9 percent, though 42
percent of those polled refused to disclose their candidate preference. An
op-ed in the Zimbabwe Independent compares rallies held by Makoni and
Tsvangirai in the same location, noting that low turnout at Makoni's event
exposes his "lack of mass appeal and his campaign shortcomings."

Of course, neither candidate's support will matter if the elections are
rigged or the population is too afraid to vote for the opposition. The
government controls much of the media. ZANU-PF, which led the war to
overthrow white rule in what was once Rhodesia, today controls the
distribution of subsidized food based on party loyalty, and the population
lives in fear of the government's security apparatus. In a new report, Human
Rights Watch documents widespread intimidation of opposition candidates.

Given the lack of a transparent electoral process and uncertain political
climate, analysts are concerned about the immediate aftermath of the polls.
If the outcome is disputed, or if Mugabe fails to win outright in the first
round, some believe he will resort to violence. "The violence has so far
been contained, more or less, but if the election goes to two rounds it'll
go right up," a former ZANU-PF minister who has joined Makoni tells the
Economist. Sydney Masamvu of the International Crisis Group tells
that if the election goes to a second round, ZANU-PF and the security groups
will likely support Makoni.

Experts say international actors, barred from sending electoral observers,
should start preparing for the election's aftermath and the potential
transition to a post-Mugabe government. In a new report, the International
Crisis Group suggests that the African Union should be ready to mediate
between presidential candidates in the event of a disputed poll. A recent
Council Special Report recommends the United States spearhead the creation
of an international trust fund to assist a transition government with reform
and reconstruction.

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Diaspora Resigned to Mugabe Victory

Institute for War & Peace Reporting

Exiles urge their countrymen to vote, even though many suspect the president
will rig the vote in his favour.

By Erica Beinlich in London (AR No. 162, 28-Mar-08)

In a small London recording studio, Mandisa Mundawarara listens as a
Zimbabwean exile calling from Canada urges his countrymen to vote in the
upcoming Zimbabwe elections on March 29.

The caller is just one among an estimated three to four million Zimbabweans
who have left the country, mainly during the past seven years of political
and economic turmoil there. He urged other Zimbabweans to vote against
President Robert Mugabe, who he, like many others, feels has led the country
into its current shambolic mess.

The radio station is a product of Zimbabwe’s worsening state. It began in
2001 to give a voice to Zimbabweans both within and outside the country.
Based in London, the station is broadcast in Zimbabwe for two hours every
day, and has provided coverage of the run-up to the harmonised elections.

Mugabe, the 84-year-old president of Zimbabwe, has headed the country since
its independence from Britain in 1980. On March 29, he faces his toughest
election since then when he faces both Morgan Tsvangirai of the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change, as well as Simba Makoni, a defector from his
own ZANU-PF party who is running as an independent.

Critics have pummelled the ruling party with criticism about the fairness of
the run-up to the elections. Human rights groups, other governments and
Mugabe’s two major opponents have accused him of intimidating the
opposition, restricting his opponents’ access to the state-controlled media,
and using food supplies to glean political advantage, by only providing it
to ZANU-PF supporters.

Many exiles also fear the incumbent president will do whatever he can to
avoid faring badly in the poll.

“The election doesn’t need to be rigged on March 29,” said Lance Guma, a SW
Africa journalist. “It’s already happening.”

On the eve of the elections, Mugabe’s opponents and others have questioned
why nine million ballots have been printed for the country’s 5.9 million

Tich Sibanda, a journalist from the station, points out that in the last
elections, a rural district in Zimbabwe with a population of 5,000 recorded
42,000 votes when the results had been tabulated.

“How can you have faith in such a situation?” he said. “Everyone knows
Mugabe will lose an election that is free and fair.”

In spite of fears among the diaspora community that the vote will be rigged,
there’s an optimistic buzz around the SW Radio Africa studios, as
Zimbabweans from all over the world use the station as a platform to urge
their countrymen to make it as hard as possible for Mugabe to cling on to
power by fixing the polls.

Zimbabwe began its long road towards economic and humanitarian decline in
2000 after Mugabe seized thousands of white-owned farms and gave them to
party loyalists.

The economy soon ground to a halt, and Mugabe printed currency relentlessly,
leaving an economy stricken with the world’s highest inflation rate.

“People seem convinced that they are going to see change and are placing a
lot of hope in these elections,” said Mundawarara. “All Zimbabweans are
having the urge to do something, even if it’s symbolic.”

That urge is not unique to the diaspora in Britain. Everywhere from Ottawa
to London, Zimbabweans are holding mock elections on or around March 29.

“The reason is really to demonstrate how a peaceful election should be where
people are electing their candidates freely and where the election is
conducted transparently,” said a Zimbabwean calling from Canada.

While at one time there were discussions on allowing the diaspora to vote,
this right never materialised.

A Zimbabwe opinion poll released earlier this month showed Tsvangirai in the
lead with 28 per cent of the vote, trailed by Mugabe and Makoni on 20 and
nine per cent respectively. Twenty-four per cent of the poll’s respondents
declined to reveal their choice.

Yet even if one of the opposition leaders triumph, Zimbabwean exiles are
unlikely to return in large numbers anytime soon.

“A very small amount of Zimbabweans will go back,” said Mundawarara, adding
that returns would be gradual.

“Many people have settled elsewhere and made homes elsewhere,” he said.
“They will retain their allegiance to Zimbabwe but in the near and middle
future they will not go back. The reality is a lot of times people have
nothing to go back to.”

Erica Beinlich is an IWPR reporter in London.

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Man escapes jail for 'axing' Mugabe campaign poster

New Zimbabwe

By Lindie Whiz
Last updated: 03/29/2008 01:40:14
A ZIMBABWEAN man has been handed a 30-day suspended sentence for "axing"
President Robert Mugabe's campaign poster to show his hatred for the
84-year-old leader many accuse of bringing misery to Zimbabwe.

Forgiven Shoko, 30, from the Chief Nekatambe area of Hwange, vented at
Mugabe's poster at Smith's Block Farm in Mangwe district, the state-run
Umthunywa newspaper reported.

Prosecutor Shamiso Ncube told the Hwange Magistrate’s Court that Shoko left
his home for Sikhathele Ndlovu’s homestead on March 15 this month.

"On arrival, the accused asked for an axe which he was given by Ncube,”
Ncube said. “He went outside the yard, and axed President Mugabe's campaign
poster stuck to a tree before walking away.”

Ncube reported the matter to the police leading to Shoko's arrest.

Magistrate Sheila Nazombe sentenced him to 30 days imprisonment, which was
suspended on condition that Shoko does community service at Mangwe Police
Station for 35 days.

Meanwhile Umthunywa reports that a man from the western border town of
Plumtree left a court in stitches when he said he pulled down Mugabe's
campaign posters because he wanted to use strings used to tie them to trees.

Roger Khuzwayo, 52, an employee of Plumtree Hotel, was also sentenced to do
35 days community service at Plumtree Police Station.

The prosecutor told the court that Khuzwayo untied Mugabe's posters and took
the strings which he put in his pocket and walked away. The posters were in
front of the hotel.

Unbeknown to Khuzwayo, someone was observing him and reported him to the
police. He pleaded guilty after the prosecutor explained to him that it was
a crime to remove political campaign posters.

Zanu PF chairman John Nkomo is on record complaining that his party's
campaign posters, especially those of Mugabe, were being torn or pulled
down, while those of his challengers in Saturday’s elections -- Morgan
Tsvangirai and Simba Makoni -- were left untouched.

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Zimbabwe: What Went Wrong

National Review

As Robert Mugabe has changed from liberator to dictator, his country has

By Greg Houle

One of the saddest chapters in Africa’s infamous recent history is
that of Zimbabwe, where the official inflation rate currently stands at a
staggering 100,000 percent and more than 80 percent of the population is
officially unemployed. These horrific statistics are all the work of one
man: Zimbabwe’s leader for the past 28 years, Robert Mugabe. With the
possible exception of North Korea, no other place on earth owes such a debt
of ingratitude to a single individual. While Mugabe blames his country’s
troubles on Europe and America, his citizens starve. Yet there is hope, for
this Saturday Zimbabweans will go to the polls and — perhaps — have a chance
to rid themselves of the albatross that has been hanging around their neck
for nearly three decades.

In February 1980 Robert Mugabe won a landslide victory in Zimbabwe’s first
free and open election. It was a momentous occasion, and cause for
celebration throughout Africa and the world. The people of Zimbabwe had been
liberated, and another colonially based, racist white government (the former
Rhodesia) had been wiped from the continent. The world rightfully rejoiced,
and Zimbabwe, which was soon flush with new foreign aid, seemed to have a
bright future ahead of it.

Today, Zimbabwe is a tragically different place. Its chronic economic crisis
has led to shortages of food and goods and caused millions of Zimbabweans to
flee their country. Those who remain, many of whom once held respectable
jobs in offices or in the manufacturing and mining sectors, are now forced
to scratch out a meager existence in the black market.

How could this happen? How could a country once described as the “bread
basket of Africa” be unable to feed its shrinking population? How could the
overwhelming potential that Zimbabwe possessed not long ago have been so
disastrously squandered?

At the beginning of Mugabe’s rule, his economic policies involved
nationalizing private companies and limiting foreign investment. When this
approach did not succeed, he switched gears and liberalized the economy in
the early 1990s. This showed promise at first, but uneven application, a
prolonged drought, and external economic forces threw the program into
discredit, and soon the nation was back to its old ways. By the dawn of the
21st century, Zimbabwe’s sputtering economy had made Mugabe’s grip on power
tenuous, so he decided to use the trump card of land reform as a way to
strengthen his hold on his base.

Zimbabwe’s history of white minority rule gave it a highly imbalanced legacy
of land ownership. Despite being just 1 percent of the population, whites
owned nearly 70 percent of the arable land in Zimbabwe at the end of the
20th century. While most white farmers were highly efficient and treated
blacks fairly, reasonable Zimbabweans — black and white — recognized that
some sort of carefully thought-out land reform was necessary to secure the
country’s future.

Yet Mugabe, needing to win favor in the face of growing political
opposition, abandoned any thought of negotiation or compromise and started
recklessly giving land away. So-called “war veterans” (supposedly of
Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle of the 1970s, though many were obviously too
young to have fought at that time) began marching onto some of Zimbabwe’s
most productive commercial farms and driving out their white owners. Most of
these “war veterans” knew nothing about farming, but that didn’t matter; the
only requirement to seize this fertile land was fervent support for Mugabe.
Once-abundant fields sat untilled, and before long agriculture, the economic
backbone of Zimbabwe, was broken and the country was in a tailspin.

As Zimbabwe’s troubles multiplied, Mugabe focused his vitriol on false
spectres from the past — a supposed threat of neo-colonialism by the West —
instead of his own disastrous policies. Despite the desperate condition of
his country, the octogenarian leader appears to have no interest in going
away quietly. Since Mugabe is facing some realistic competition in this
Saturday’s election, including a challenger — Simba Makoni — who was
formerly a member of his own ruling party, he has taken the typical steps of
a tyrant looking to secure his future: changing the electoral process to
allow police into polling stations, banning foreign journalists and election
monitors, threatening to deny food to those who oppose him, and calling his
opposition treasonous.

Earlier this year, in Kenya, the United States took the lead in brokering a
power-sharing agreement between bitter rivals Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga
after their heavily contested December election led to a flare-up of brutal,
ethnically driven violence. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s personal
visit to Nairobi in February has been widely hailed as the difference-maker.
It is possible, given the fact that Mugabe will be facing a serious
challenge from two formidable foes in Saturday’s poll, and the fact that the
economic situation in the country has long since passed the tipping point,
that Zimbabwe could face circumstances similar to those Kenya encountered
following its election. If that happens, the U.S. must not hesitate to step
into the void and help broker a deal that will end Robert Mugabe’s cruel
reign and help rekindle hope for the remarkably resilient people of

—Greg Houle is a freelance writer and founder of

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The crucial first act

The Guardian

Zimbabwe's elections have become a genuine, critical contest, but the polls
alone are unlikely to decide the nation's power struggle

Knox Chitiyo

March 28, 2008 9:30 PM
Tomorrow, millions of Zimbabweans will go to the polls to vote in the
country's first ever "comprehensive" elections. The timing is fortuitous in
terms of garnering popular interest in the vote; a year ago, the opposition
MDC had been politically outmanoeuvred and literally battered into
submission by Zanu-PF. Riven by internal feuds, marginalised by the SADC's
recognition of Robert Mugabe's legitimacy, and frustrated by the slow pace
of the Thabo Mbeki mediated settlement talks, the MDC seemed to be dying a
slow, painful death. If the election had occurred six months ago, it would
have been marred less by electoral fraud, than by electoral apathy. In March
2008, a burgeoning MDC renaissance,and the emergence of Simba Makoni as a
Presidential candidate, means there is a very real sense of excitement and
significance; these elections matter.

No one is expecting a free and fair elections, but Zimbabwe has never had a
truly free and fair election in its history, and this will not change in
2008. Although the level of violence in the runup to the elections has been
much lower this time around, there is a strong likelihood that violence
could ramp up in the post-electoral period. The opposition has pointed out a
number of glaring inconsistencies, including "ghost" voters' name appearing
on the voters' roll; controversies around constituency boundaries; the
ballot counting process; and allowing the police into the polling stations,
ostensibly to help elderly or infirm voters to cast their vote. The state in
turn has accused the MDC and its "foreign allies"of preparing a "Kenya"
strategy to forcibly contest the results and force a power-sharing

Although Zimbabwe is not yet, a failed state, it is a failing nation. Since
1997, our country has been in the throes of a socioeconomic civil war; what
we might call the fourth civil war in our nation's history. It has been more
political and social than the military violence of previous conflicts, but
the effects on the people have been just as devastating. Zimbabwean society
is polarised along ideological, class, generational fault-lines, and each
election highlights the fissures. This election, against a backdrop of
economic collapse, immense suffering and political uncertainty, will
highlight these fissures even more. The issues in the elections are less
about human rights and democracy, than they are about economic change, and
creating a road map for Zimbabwe's future. Everyone wants economic change;
the divisions are over how this change is to be achieved. Zanu-PF
supporters - and Mugabe still has significant support in the rural areas -
insist that only Mugabe and the party can consolidate the urban and rural
black empowerment programme and, if given a chance by the international
community, they can reverse Zimbabwe's economic decline. They also believe
that Zanu-PF is the best guarantor of a managed political transition, and
will defend the nation's sovereignty against the predatory west. By
contrast, both Tsvangirai and Simba Makoni insist that Mugabe is the
problem, not the solution, and that he has so contaminated the Zimbabwean
landscape that his exit from the scene is a pre-requisite for resolving
Zimbabwe's crisis. Makoni, though, is more of a centrist than Tsvangirai -
he is looking to build a broad - based coalition with disaffected Zanu-PF
and MDC groups.

For Mugabe and Tsvangirai in particular, this election is a must- win
situation. A resounding defeat for either man will spell the beginning of
the end for their political career; if Mugabe loses decisively, although he
would attempt to ride out the storm by using force and bluster to remain in
power, many of his closest allies would undoubtedly pressure him to stand
down. If Tsvangirai suffers a major defeat, it would likely mean the end of
his tenure as leader of the MDC, and could cripple his wing of the MDC. He
has had nearly a decade to try and attain power; voters will not give him
another decade to get his house in order and get into power. Simba Makoni
will get a significant number of votes, but he will probably not win the
presidency this time around. He will though be a powerbroker in the post
electoral landscape.

Zimbabweans, like Africans worldwide, are past-masters at hiding our true
feelings - a legacy of slavery, colonialism and internal conflicts, where
the wrong facial expression or answer could cost your life. Thus, even
though the turnout at political rallies is high on all sides, no one can
predict whom people will vote for in the polling booths. In addition, given
the concerns about electoral fraud, what constitutes a "win"?

Possible scenarios include: a comprehensive victory for Mugabe. If this were
to happen, the opposition will certainly cry foul, and there might be riots
in the urban areas. But he would probably be able to ride out the storm, and
the emphasis would gradually shift away from politics and back to the
economy. A narrow victory, leading to a second round runoff, would probably
have significantly higher levels of violence as both sides use every means
to win. If Tsvangirai and the MDC score a comprehensive victory, the state
would not be able to claim electoral manipulation, but would Mugabe accept
defeat? A narrow Tsvangirai victory, forcing a runoff with Mugabe would be
bitterly disputed and have no clear winner in terms of real power. Makoni is
unlikely to win a comprehensive victory , but if he were to win on points
and force a runoff against Mugabe, it is likely that he would make a deal
with disaffected elements within Zanu-PF, and the MDC to vote for him in an
"anyone but Mugabe" alliance. There are a huge number of uncertainties; will
those managing the elections, be allowed to deliver anything other than a
victorious result for the incumbent? Would any outbreaks of violence would
be a blip as the country settles back into its familiar crisis routine; or a
long-running "intifada" which the government manages, or the trigger which
ultimately results in a political transition? Only time will tell.

What is certain, though is that there will be no UN, African Union or SADC
force coming to the rescue. Another certainty is that the elections will not
end Zimbabwe's political logjam; but they are an important first act in what
will certainly be a year of decision.

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"We Prepare Very Little Food So None is Thrown Away"

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

28 March 2008
Posted to the web 28 March 2008


Gamuchirai Madondo, 35, has been a manager of a pub in the middle class
Avenues suburb of the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, for the past six years.

"When I started working here just over six years ago, we enjoyed the
patronage of locals. Business was good, but over the years it has declined.
Very few people are coming to the restaurant. We prepare very little food so
that none is thrown away. In any case, we never have enough ingredients to
prepare adequate food.

"There is either no rice, maize meal, meat or oil for preparing food. At
times we don't have electricity or running water, which forces us to close
down ... We have had to throw away meat which had gone bad after we did not
get electricity for three days.

"We have not received any deliveries of beer and soft dinks for the past
week. Our suppliers tell us that they have nothing in stock; as we head
towards the elections, goods have become even more difficult to get and the
prices have shot through the roof.

"I usually don't concern myself about political developments but I am now
worried that if the same government is retained, then we will have to close
down because we cannot survive another five years of this kind of economic

"I have 10 employees working in this establishment. I will not be able to
pay their wages in the next two months if the situation remains as it is."

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

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"I Am Now Mentally And Physically Drained"

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

28 March 2008
Posted to the web 28 March 2008


Jocelyn Dube teaches at a primary school in the mining town of Bindura, 80
km north of the capital, Harare. She is a single parent of a four-year-old
son. Dube spoke to IRIN about life in Zimbabwe and the upcoming elections.

"I am currently earning Z$500 million a month which is enough to buy two
bottles of cooking oil. Like many Zimbabweans I believe that if the present
government is retained, then we will continue to experience hardships. The
ruling party will not be able to secure credit lines from international
lending institutions and so a ZANU-PF and Robert Mugabe victory will mean
another five years of suffering for Zimbabweans.

"I have had to juggle teaching and other informal operations to sustain
myself and my son. I am also responsible for the well being of my elderly
parents and two younger siblings.

"Apart from teaching I have a little piece of land where I grow vegetables
and sell to locals. During school holidays I work as a maid or do other
menial jobs especially in Botswana or South Africa. When I return from such
jobs, I bring back food for consumption and other products which I resale to
workmates, friends and members of my community.

"I have reached a stage where I am not able to cope with high prices and a
hyper inflationary environment. I am now mentally and physically drained
because of all the work that I have been doing over the years.

"I recently found a teaching post in Mozambique. I am now prepared to go to
any country to work and earn a decent living. But as the breadwinner in the
family, it pains me that I will have to leave my family at the mercy of a
difficult environment while I look for better prospects.

"I am convinced that if a new government came to power, the economic
environment would improve within six months.

"If there is a change of government, there will be no need for me to
separate from my son by leaving the country. I am convinced that in a short
while, the Zimbabwean economy will be one of the strongest in the region
meaning we would be able to once again enjoy a decent life style."

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

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"Very few people have acquired the wealth I have"

HARARE, 28 March 2008 (IRIN) - James Murehwa, 32, is a foreign currency
dealer on the illegal parallel market. He hopes President Robert Mugabe will
be re-elected in the 29 March elections.

"I completed high school in 1998 and since then I have been a foreign
currency dealer. I did not go for any professional training because I did
not have anybody to finance further studies.

"While I do not agree with the policies of the present government, I realise
that my trade is thriving in an abnormal economic environment … I own two
top of the range vehicles and an apartment, which I have just paid for. Very
few people of my age in formal employment have acquired the kind of wealth I

"I have also started importing vehicles for local companies which have no
foreign currency. I then charge them very high prices in local currency, buy
foreign currency from fellow dealers, then import more vehicles.

"I will certainly vote for ZANU-PF and Mugabe and I know many fellow forex
dealers who would prefer the status quo to remain. If the situation
normalises, then most of us will be stranded because [our lack of
educational qualifications] would make it difficult to be absorbed into
formal employment.

"I think it will be a while before the situation becomes completely normal.
[But] the only difference may be that we will no longer be making the super
profits that we have been making. Zimbabweans are survivors. We will come up
with an alternative for making money."

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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No documents? No treatment

JOHANNESBURG, 28 March 2008 (PlusNews) - Linda* was already sick when she
arrived in Johannesburg from Zimbabwe, but she did not know her HIV status.
After months of sleeping rough in a park her health deteriorated further and
she finally plucked up the courage to go for an HIV test at an inner-city

"I had to wait for two weeks to get the results and I did not get
counselling," Linda recalled. "The nurse who gave me the results told me,
'Here are your results; you are HIV positive, you can go and die. You do not
have papers, we can not help you.'"

Johannesburg, South Africa's largest and wealthiest city, has been
attracting hopeful new residents since gold was discovered here more than a
century ago. People from all over the African continent, many fleeing
conflict and poverty, continue to flock to the City of Gold in search of a
better life. They are often disappointed.

"When I came here, I was hoping to get a job and take care of my children,
especially this one who is sick of the deadly disease [HIV]," said Linda,
who came to Johannesburg five years ago. "I was thinking, let me go to
Johannesburg because it is a place of gold. But it is not easy to get that
gold; even if you dig and dig you will not get it."

For undocumented migrants like Linda, Johannesburg can be a hostile place.
Inner city neighbourhoods like Hillbrow, where about half the residents are
non-South Africans, are already bursting at the seams and battling high
levels of poverty and crime. Newcomers face suspicious locals, exploitative
work situations - if they find work at all - and limited access to essential
public services.

Right to healthcare rarely recongised

South Africa's constitution states that "everyone" has the right to access
healthcare, but in reality there are limits for people like Linda who can't
produce a South African ID book. Public health facilities in South Africa
are obliged to provide emergency care to anyone who needs it and illegal
immigrants can usually access HIV tests and even some basic treatment of
opportunistic infections at no cost. But when it comes to antiretroviral
therapy (ART), the only proven way to prolong the life of someone living
with HIV, they are routinely turned away.

Research conducted last year by the Forced Migration Studies Programme at
the University of Witwatersrand on migrants' access to ART in Johannesburg
found that public health facilities were referring HIV-positive foreign
nationals to a handful of nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) that provide
treatment, creating a "dual-health care system".

In September 2007, the Department of Health issued a revenue directive
stating that refugees and asylum seekers - with or without documentation -
were eligible for free ART. But the researchers found that the directive had
not filtered down to the clerks, receptionists and nurses who act as the
gatekeepers of public health services.

"Frontline staff ... didn't seem to have knowledge of the memo; they would
indicate that the policy at their institution was that they had to turn
people away. A lot of staff found this frustrating," said Jo Veary, one of
the researchers.

Linda eventually found her way to a shelter where she heard about a support
group for HIV-positive migrants run by Mthwakazi Arts and Culture, a local
NGO that mainly assists Zimbabwean migrants. Mthwakazi referred her to
Nazareth House, a Catholic mission in the inner-city neighbourhood of
Yeoville that, with funding from the US President's Emergency Fund for AIDS
Relief (PEPFAR), provides ART to anyone who needs it, regardless of their
legal status. Of about 800 patients getting treatment at Nazareth House, the
majority are non-South Africans.

Migrants flooding health system?

Linda's circuitous route to treatment took time, which not all migrants
living with AIDS have. More than 1,000 homeless people, most of them
Zimbabwean immigrants, bed down on the floor of the Central Methodist Church
in Johannesburg's inner city every night. "Many of them are HIV positive,
some of them are very weak. I must tell you we've lost a large number of
people to AIDS," said Paul Verryn, bishop of the church.

According to Verryn, HIV-positive migrants' experiences of trying to access
care vary considerably depending on where they go. Many described state-run
Johannesburg Hospital as one of the facilities most likely to turn away
patients without documents or to charge them excessive fees.

The hospital's CEO, Sagie Pillay, told IRIN/PlusNews that non-South African
citizens without documentation were not turned away, but that they had to
pay for non-emergency care. "Fifteen percent of our patients are foreign and
the numbers are growing so we have to be careful. Health systems all over
Africa are crumbling so if we advertise the fact we can provide care, the
whole of Africa is going to be here," he said.

Based on the research she did, Veary said the notion that foreign nationals
seeking treatment were flooding the healthcare system was a myth. Most of
the migrants interviewed for the study only discovered they were
HIV-positive after arriving in the country.

The idea that migrants' unstable living situations make them a "flight risk"
for starting life-long ART was another myth, according to the study
findings. "Many have actually been in South Africa for a long time, they're
well-established and they want to get well," Veary said. "We found adherence
among non-citizens was about the same as among citizens."

Zimbabweans make up the largest number of undocumented migrants in
Johannesburg. The country's economic meltdown has resulted in shortages of
basic commodites, the highest inflation rate in the world, 80 percent
unemployment as well as a crumbling health system which has only been able
to dispense antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to about 91,000 of the 321,000 people
who need them, according to the World Health Organisation.

But of the thousands of Zimbabweans who duck fences, cross rivers and hide
in the back of trucks to reach Johannesburg every month, Verryn believes few
make the journey because they're looking for better health services. "Many
of them are here because they are threatened politically. Some come because
they just can't make it, particularly in Zimbabwe, financially."

Long wait for documentation

Wilson Moyo* came to Johannesburg in 2006, leaving behind a comfortable life
as a white-collar worker in Zimbabwe after his political activities made him
feel his life was in danger. He decided to test for HIV soon after arriving,
not because he was sick, he said, but because he wanted to be "in a position
to protect myself".

After learning he was HIV positive, he was referred to Hillbrow Clinic where
a clerk asked to see his ID. "When I said I didn't have any ID, they said,
'go and bring it'. I couldn't explain further because I knew I wouldn't get
anywhere," he said. "After that I was disappointed, because I'd thought
about it and found that this was not the end of the road, there was still
life after HIV. The best thing was to fight on and get treatment and
continue living a normal life, but the problem was how to get the proper
documentation to get treatment."

According to South African law, refugees and asylum-seekers have the same
rights to access free health care as citizens. Although they still sometimes
experience difficulties exercising those rights, documented asylum seekers
are generally able to access ART through public health facilities. The
problem is obtaining that documentation.

South Africa's Department of Home Affairs has a backlog of about 50,000
asylum-seeker applications. Everyday, thousands of people queue outside the
department's Refugee Reception Office in Pretoria, 50 kilometres north of
Johannesburg. In an effort to keep their place in the queue, many are there
for several days and nights with no access to running water, toilets or

"I once slept there for three days, having nothing to eat and without having
washed," said Wilson. "The last day, when I was number eight in the queue, I
was pulled out by these guys who were getting bribes from people. They said
I should give them R100 (US$12) to be in that queue, which I didn't have."

A year and a half after testing positive, Wilson had yet to be examined by a
doctor to determine his eligibility for ARV treatment. Still homeless and
jobless, he was trying to raise enough money through piece work to return to
the Refugee Reception Office in Pretoria.

"I think maybe they could relax the rules for people with our disease," he
said. "If they could make it easier for us to access these documents, then
it would make our lives more bearable."

Demand for government action

In March 2008, a number of organisations from the AIDS and legal sectors
made a joint submission to South Africa's National AIDS Council (SANAC),
highlighting the vulnerability of migrants who fail to access HIV-related
information and services.

"We have found that our protective legal framework is not being applied
uniformly," the submission stated. "Public hospitals, clinics and other
institutions appear to be unilaterally creating policies which deny refugees
access to health care services."

The submission urged SANAC to launch a campaign to educate health care
workers about the rights of migrants and the reasons why they seek refuge in
South Africa. It also asked for an investigation into the conditions outside
Refugee Reception Offices and at facilities where undocumented migrants are
detained before being deported. It cited a police raid on the Central
Methodist Church in January in which approximately 500 Zimbabweans were
arrested. According to the submission, a number of HIV-positive detainees
were not given sufficient food and water and went without medication or

According to Fatima Hassan, an attorney with the AIDS Law Project, one of
the organisations that made the submission, the health department has yet to
acknowledge receiving it.

In response to questions from IRIN/PlusNews about the rights of migrants to
access HIV/AIDS services, head of the health department's HIV/AIDS unit, Dr
Nomunde Xundu wrote that South Africa's national strategic HIV/AIDS plan "is
a programme for the prevention, treatment and care of South Africans,
including people who are in the country legally".

Hassan was perplexed by the response, which she said contradicted both the
constitution and the department's own directives. "[The health department]
hasn't put any contingency plan in place," she said. "They know large
numbers of people are coming from Zimbabwe because there are no ARVs there,
but they haven't given hospitals the budget to provide [them with] ARVs."

The ALP has also made a submission opposing a proposed amendment to South
Africa's 1998 Refugee Act that would remove the right of refugees to access
public health services.

*Not their real names

outh Africans, including people who are in the country legally".

Hassan was perplexed by the response, which she said contradicted both the
constitution and the department's own directives. "[The health department]
hasn't put any contingency plan in place," she said. "They know large
numbers of people are coming from Zimbabwe because there are no ARVs there,
but they haven't given hospitals the budget to provide [them with] ARVs."

The ALP has also made a submission opposing a proposed amendment to South
Africa's 1998 Refugee Act that would remove the right of refugees to access
public health services.

*Not their real names

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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SA technicians arrested in Zimbabwe


March 28, 2008, 20:45

             Two South Africans have been arrested in Zimbabwe for
allegedly participating in the election coverage build up without proper

The Department of Foreign Affairs says the two from
GlobeCast Africa in Johannesburg, were arrested in Harare on Thursday.
Spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa has confirmed the two are in police custody.
Mamoepa says South Africa's embassy in Harare will "interact" with
Zimbabwean authorities to find a resolution.

CEO of GlobeCast Africa for whom they work, Alan Hird,
says the two are not journalists, but technicians who are providing
satellite up-link equipment to media organisations who want to do live

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