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Dreams of life after Mugabe as Zimbabwe goes to polls

A new dawn beckons for voters, but many remain unconvinced it will ever come to pass

Chris McGreal in Harare
The Observer,
Sunday March 30 2008
Hundreds of Zimbabwean wait in a voting queue on election day in Harare

Hundreds of Zimbabwean wait in a voting queue on election day in Harare. Photograph: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

Zimbabwe's voters have been here before. They stand patiently in line in the baking sun, finally to cast their ballots to choose the next President and parliament - and then they fantasise.

'This is definitely the end of Mugabe,' said George Muleya after voting in Harare. 'The people have spoken. He won't be able to steal it this time.'

Millions of people went to the polls yesterday in Zimbabwe's first presidential election in six years, daring to believe that their collective weight might finally remove from power the only leader the country has known since independence 28 years ago, Robert Mugabe.

Some voters asked how a president responsible for stratospheric price rises, wiping out most of the job market, leaving people to starve in their villages and wrecking one of the best maintained infrastructures in Africa, could win a fair election. The numbers of women dying in childbirth and children who do not reach the age of five have doubled in recent years in Zimbabwe.

'I used to have a job but now I'm a criminal,' said a currency dealer in central Harare. 'I deal in money on the black market. That's how I feed my family but there are times when they don't get fed very much. The only thing that keeps me alive is the cost of a funeral. Why would anyone vote for a man and his party who did that to us?'

Others left the polling stations with the nagging doubt that their votes would change the situation and wondering what, if anything, they will do about it.

'I don't know if they will even count my vote,' said a white Zimbabwean who would give his name only as John. 'I voted six years ago and three years ago and both times that mob stole the election. I feel it's my duty to vote just in case it makes a difference but I have no expectation that Mugabe will accept defeat or that Zimbabweans will do anything about it.'

The opposition candidates, Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), and Simba Makoni, a former finance minister who broke with Mugabe, called on supporters to turn out in large numbers to deliver such a crushing defeat for Mugabe that he could not possibly rig the result.

An independent opinion poll gave Tsvangirai a significant lead over Mugabe - 29 per cent to 20 per cent - with Makoni in third place. A large number of people declined to say who they would support, interpreted by the poll takers mostly as support for the opposition.

At one of his last rallies, Tsvangirai said Mugabe knows the election is lost. 'He was in a panic. When an old man is so angry, the writing is on the wall,' he told cheering supporters. 'The road we have trodden has been difficult and painful. Our anger, our hunger and our suffering have made us strong. We have arrived at the place we have yearned for. The time for the change everyone wants is now.'

Tsvangirai supporters waved red cards to 'send off' Mugabe. A group sang: 'Saddam has gone, Bob is next.' But it is widely assumed in Zimbabwe that Mugabe has not clung on to power through the difficulties of the past decade to give it up now, especially after he said recently that the MDC would 'never, ever' rule.

His vitriolic mouthpiece, the state-run Herald newspaper, has already declared him the winner with an opinion poll it says gives Mugabe 57 per cent of the vote. The opposition says that is an indication of the scale of the fraud Mugabe is planning.

After Tsvangirai was robbed of victory in the last presidential election six years ago he took his case to the courts in order to avoid violence. He is still waiting for it to be heard. Tendai Biti, the MDC's secretary general, says the party won't repeat the mistake.

'The courts won't work for us. The people will show the way. We can't afford for people to lose their lives but we will keep up the pressure on the streets until Mugabe goes. If he steals it and declares himself President again it will only be a temporary reprieve before a dishonourable exit,' he said.

The MDC says it has drawn inspiration from the Kenyan opposition's refusal to accept the results of the rigged presidential election there and the mass demonstrations it organised, although that campaign was blighted by widespread ethnic violence.

But many Zimbabweans doubt they have it in them to take on the regime. 'We are not like Kenyans,' said Grace Mafa after voting in Harare. 'We are a peaceful people. We would rather say we will put up with Mugabe than fight. I think there may be some protests but I do not know that people will keep it up.'

Noel Kututwa, chairman of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network monitoring group, said that while Mugabe had put the party and state machinery to work fixing the vote, it might not prove enough. 'They were very confident four weeks ago that they had the election in the bag,' he said. 'The opposition was disintegrating. Then Simba Makoni entered the race and he shook everything up, including the MDC. It reinvigorated Morgan Tsvangirai too and he managed to capture the national mood. So I don't think the government has this sewn up even with the rigging.'

The government refused to allow election monitors from western nations to assess the poll. The few hundred allowed in come from countries such as Libya, Russia, Venezuela and South Africa's African National Congress, which endorsed Mugabe's last victory six years ago when almost everyone else said it was far from clean.

Mugabe says criticism of the vote is a plot to discredit his looming victory over opponents he calls puppets of an imperialist Britain. 'Knowing that they are staring at defeat, the British are pre-judging that the election will not be free and fair. Why are they not going to be free and fair? Lies, lies, these devils never know the truth. You can never go into an agreement with them, they are hypocrites,' he said.

If no candidate wins more than 50 per cent of the vote, the law requires a run-off between the top two within three weeks. The opposition expects Mugabe to do everything he can to avoid that because it will make him appear vulnerable. Mugabe said as much after voting yesterday. 'We are not used to boxing matches where we go from round one to round two. We just knock each other out,' he said.

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Facing intimidation, still they queued all day long

The Independent, UK

In spite of the obstacles being put in their way – and blatant attempts by
Robert Mugabe to stuff the ballot boxes – the people of this devastated
African country came in their millions to deliver their verdict on his
28-year rule

By Daniel Howden in Bulawayo, Matabeleland
Sunday, 30 March 2008

They had slept at polling stations. Many others were heading there before
first light, and, as the sun set, they stayed to make sure their votes were
cast. From dawn to dusk, when the polls closed, this appeared to be a
country that was not only voting for change, but yearning for it as well.

Whatever malevolence Robert Mugabe's vote riggers may yet contrive, there
was no doubting yesterday that the people of Zimbabwe were doing their best
to make life as difficult as possible for the old poll fixer.

For this is a nation that has seen too many hopes dashed against the
intractable mathematics of an election held under the Mugabe regime to feel
confident that change would happen.

Zimbabwe has one of the lowest life expectations in the world, women
unlikely to live much beyond 34 and male expectancy averaging at 37. Out of
a population of 12.3 million, around 1.8 million live with HIV. Eighty per
cent are unemployed and for those lucky to have jobs, wages have not kept
pace with inflation running at more than 100,000 per cent. A loaf of bread
costs 7 million Zimbabwean cents. One American dollar is worth 50 million
cents, a mammoth jump from the 80 cents it was worth in 1980, the year the
country gained independence.

Yesterday, election monitors and opposition reported a number of grounds for
anxiety. In one place, opposition party agents were barred from polling
stations; at others, six stuffed ballot boxes were found before voting got
under way in one district, and the longest queues in Harare were at two
polling stations on the edge of a vacant plot where 8,450 people had
registered as residents.

In the face of such entirely predictable shenanigans, people did the only
thing they could: vote. As the sun came up in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second
city, they were already waiting to do so. Heavy green tents threw back their
entry flaps to find patient but determined queues had already formed.

At the Burnside shopping centre in what was once an affluent suburb of
Bulawayo, hundreds were waiting within an hour of dawn. For those at the
front there would be a few minutes in the comparative dark, ticking boxes,
folding papers, posting their vote, then emerging into the light with a
little finger stained pink with permanent ink.

On the pavement, groups scanned lists of polling booths; the only question
was where to vote. No one needed to ask who was being voted for. For those
who did, the answer might be the defector from the ruling party, Simba
Makoni, or the former union stalwart Morgan Tsvangirai, but it was more a
question of who was being voted against. Everyone had had enough of Comrade
Bob, as Nelson Mandela condescends to call Robert Mugabe.

The same ritual was repeated across the bankrupt southern African country
yesterday as an election that appeared a depressing formality only weeks ago
drew one last surge of hope. From the barren fields of rural Mashonaland
through the townships of Harare, those who have stayed alive and stayed
behind registered their discontent.

Paul, 23, was on the last leg of a voting odyssey. Like millions of others
of his countrymen, he works in South Africa but had been persuaded to go
home to vote. "My boss said take 10 days if you need, but vote. At the
border they don't look at your face; they just stamp your passport."

Before crossing into Beitbridge he saw a billboard on the South African
side, it read: "Zimbabweans please go home. (Make a change.)"

Paul finally reached the polling station at his old school to join another
long line. The feared police presence in the poorer townships was nowhere to
be seen. The only fear was of the government tactic of limiting the number
of polling stations in the high-density opposition strongholds. A polling
agent at the school explained: "There are only 10 polling stations here for
7,000 people. We're worried there won't be time for everyone to vote."

Across the city, the elite girls' college offered a surreal vision of a
Zimbabwe that was stillborn at independence. The blue gates open on to a
broad avenue framed by the brilliant red of flamboyant trees. Inside is a
more leisurely world. Seemingly well-off voters, black and white, exchanged
polite conversation on a row of white chairs before a smiling policeman
ushered them inside the school hall for their chance to make their mark. The
queue here would struggle to fill a doctor's waiting room. The girls who
play on the tennis courts were predominantly white; there are few of them
left and fewer still of the middle-class blacks who had been told in the
euphoria of liberation that this was the life that awaited them.

The life that most Zimbabweans lead is to be found in the crowded slum
townships. Here emaciated women hawk vegetables to passing cars. At the main
polling station a ragged-trousered line was kept at bay by a policeman with
a rifle guarding a wire fence, rationing access to voters.

"The old man is lost," said Dixon, 48, who runs a butcher's shop nearby.
"Change is coming. We are smelling it. If Morgan wins and then he fails, in
five years' time he leaves and somebody else comes."

His conviction is incongruous in a country that had seemed inured to
disappointment. Surely too many presidential polls and local elections had
been rigged for real optimism. Too many slums flattened, markets looted,
activists beaten, opponents murdered by a man who boasted he holds "a degree
in violence" for anyone to think he would go quietly. Yesterday that man
stood outside a polling booth in Harare and affected surprise when asked
about potential fraud. "We don't rig elections," he said.

Despite the 84-year-old's words there was very real cause for concern at the
way the vote was unfolding. The election commission has ignored the law in
refusing to release electronic copies of the up-to-date voters' register but
did agree to sell copies for $30,000 to third parties.

A copy of that roll obtained by The Independent on Sunday revealed serious
flaws. A single snapshot of names in one area was shown to a local man who
was able to identify 57 names of registered voters who were either dead or
had left the country permanently. The tens of thousands of supposed
loyalists in the security forces have been made to vote en masse in advance
but a senior army source told the IoS that they had favoured former finance
minister Makoni and not Mugabe.

The main cause for concern centred on the government's insistence that votes
cast in the presidential poll would be taken to a central location for
counting, opening the way for serious fraud. Under law all votes should be
counted at the polling station and results posted outside.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change swears that this time it will
not sit on its hands. A senior MDC Tsvangirai official said that 55,000
volunteers had been posted at polling stations all over the country, armed
with cameras and mobile phones. They would monitor results station by
station and announce their own result as early as this afternoon from a
command base in Johannesburg.

South-east of Bulawayo lies a symptom of the country's staggering economic
ruin. It should be boom time at How's gold mine. The government buys all the
gold at How at state-regulated prices and in worthless Zimbabwean dollars.
The result has been to bankrupt a gold mine. A band of hitch-hikers waits by
the gate. They have all voted for Tsvangirai and repeat the mantra that this
time "change is coming".

Then one of them leans forward and asks if anyone wants to buy gold. A mine
that should be worth billions of any dollars has been reduced to a source of
a handful of black market nuggets, sold by men who would rather be mining.

This is why, in the face of 30 years of unfulfilled promises, they were
still queuing to vote as the sun set.

What happens next?

Polls for those on the country's disputed register of 5.9 million voters
closed at 7pm local time last night, at 9,000 polling stations.

The vote is not just for President, but for 210 legislators, 60 senators and
1,600 local councillors.

Votes are counted straight away at polling stations around the country, and
preliminary results are expected to be announced on Monday.

The winning candidate must receive more than 50 per cent of the vote,
otherwise a second round between the two leading candidates must be held
within 21 days.

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Preliminary Observations on Election Processes in Harare (Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights)


 Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) is gravely concerned about the
election management process following observations in the first half of
Election Day. A team of ZLHR accredited observers spent the morning of 29
March 2008 visiting several polling stations in pre-dominantly high-density
neighbourhoods in and around Harare including Mbare, Highfields, Budiriro,
Kuwadzana, Dzivarasekwa and Glen View. This team made several observations
which raise credible fears that the ability of voters to fully express their
democratic rights is being unconstitutionally restricted.

In all of the polling stations visited, there was a heavy police presence
both at the gates entering polling stations as well as inside the polling
stations themselves. This presence has been recently authorised through
presidential decree, ostensibly to assist those who are unable to vote due
to disability, illiteracy, amongst other reasons. However it seems to have
had the effect of intimidating voters waiting to cast their ballots.

ZLHR observers reported the presence of armed police in polling stations in
Gwanda. This appears to be a strategy in conjunction with other armed
services, such as the army in Gweru, to further intimidate voters.

The team noted that there were unacceptably long queues at most of the
polling stations and late opening thereof in the first few hours of voting
due to a critical shortage of Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) staff.
This resulted in voters being shuttled from one queue to another before
finally being able to cast their ballot. ZLHR fears that this shortcoming
may have resulted in a large number of voters abandoning the queues from
frustration and the agitation caused by such delays. We note, however, that
those who did manage to cast their ballots were positive and excited about
having succeeded in exercising their right to vote.

One of the most disconcerting issues was the continued and wide-spread
disenfranchisement of Zimbabwe citizens from the voting process, as ZLHR
predicted in its Pre-Election Statement.

Voters were turned away when they failed to produce renunciation of
citizenship certificates in addition to their national identity document.
This flies in the face of established and continuously re-affirmed precedent
which categorically states that persons born in Zimbabwe are citizens by
birth - a position clearly articulated in the Zimbabwean Constitution and
supported by the courts and Parliament - and do not need to renounce an
entitlement to a potential foreign citizenship (on the basis of ancestry)
which they have never claimed.

At each of the polling stations which availed their statistics, so-called
“aliens” had been denied their right to vote. For example, by 10:00hrs in
Kuwadzana, Ward 37, thirteen people had been denied their right based on the
decision by electoral officers that they were aliens, whilst at another
polling station 50 of 250 people were turned away.

The electoral authorities continuously ignore the clear precedents set by
the Supreme Court relating to citizenship laws. This amounts to gross
contempt of court and therefore a particularly serious violation of the rule
of law concept and the fundamental rights of the affected persons.

ZLHR calls upon the ZEC to take immediate measures to ensure that all voters
have the ability to exercise their right to vote, which include:

  a.. Ensuring that police officers play a minimal and less visible role in
the voting process to stop the intimidation of voters;
  b.. Ensuring that all persons on the voters’ roll who produce their
national identity card or passport be allowed to cast their ballot without
impediment such as having to produce the renunciation of citizenship
certificates; and
  c.. Urging all persons who have been refused the right to vote due to the
tenuous demand that they produce renunciation of citizenship certificates to
return immediately to their polling station and insist on casting their
vote, seeking legal assistance where necessary;
Election Alert No. 3: ZLHR Press Release (29 March 2008)

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Observers uncover 8 500 ghost voters

Zim Standard

Saturday, 29 March 2008 19:52

AS Zimbabweans turned out to vote yesterday, one foreign observer
mission reported unearthing thousands of ghost voters, particularly north of
Queues formed early, but many voters complained of not being allowed
to cast their ballots.
Across the country, there were reports of voters not being allowed to
cast ballots — either because their names were not on the voters’ roll or
because they were trying to vote in the wrong ward.
There was a heavy turnout in the capital in the morning, but the
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), was expected to be asked to explain the
discovery of nearly 8 500 voters in Ward 42.
They were reportedly registered under one block in Harare North
The Standard was told yesterday the observer mission had written to
the ZEC about what they saw as a major anomaly.
Out of 24 678 (correct) registered voters, more than 8 450 have been
registered under block 081083.
The block is situated at Hatcliffe, but it is a deserted area with a
few wooden sheds scattered around.
There is no evidence of any voters living on the site.
The Standard understands the observer mission had discovered
discrepancies after consulting the voters’ roll.
For example, although the area is empty, voters were registered with
addresses of unoccupied stands.
In addition, the mission is reported to have discovered that a number
of the stands in the area were supposedly inhabited by “large family
 numbers” of voters, who according to their names are not related.
The Standard understands that Stand 10108, which measures 300m2 is
listed as having more than 70 voters’ names, supposedly living there. The
corresponding address does not appear detailed enough to allow for
The observer mission, The Standard understands, has written to ZEC
over the apparent irregularity in Harare North and the fact that the
Commission “printed 50% more ballot papers than the number of registered
It was not immediately possible, at the time of going to print last
night, to contact the ZEC to confirm receipt of the complaint from the
observer mission.
But that was not the only complaint to surface yesterday as polling
got under way. Police officers reported a Sergeant Nyakabau from Mabvuku
traffic section apparently went missing after he had gone to cast his ballot
at Century House East, where the ZEC is housed.
Police officers said Nyakabau had been taken away in a police vehicle.
Police sources said officers had initially been asked to cast their
postal ballot on Thursday evening in front of their superiors.
Those who had objected were then asked to go and hand these at the ZEC
head offices. They identified a superintendent, who they said was stationed
on the seventh floor of the ZEC offices. They believed his brief was to
intercept people who had voted “incorrectly” – a reference to anyone not
voting for President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF.
Police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzi said yesterday the report was
“Why would he (the policeman) go to ZEC to cast his ballot; is there a
polling station?” said Bvudzijena.
MDC secretary general Tendai Biti said some polling station ran out of
ballot papers and ballot boxes went missing, raising suspicion of rigging.
Biti said ballot papers were in short supply in Kariba, Makoni North
and Rusape while a book of ballot papers could not be accounted for.
“We have no doubt that this is deliberate to enable them to steal this
election in favour of Mugabe,” Biti said.
Zesn said Zanu PF candidate for Emakhandeni-Entumbani’s home was
bombed in early yesterday.
In another incident, there was an altercation between MDC (Mutambara)
supporters and Zanu PF activists in which a passerby was killed.
Zesn chairperson Noel Kututwa said the man was hit by an MDC vehicle
allegedly shot at by Zanu PF supporters. There were intimidation incidents
in Chegutu West constituency at Lowood Farm polling station where a Zanu PF
polling agent was allegedly advising people on how to vote.
Similar reports were recorded in Mashonaland East. At one constituency
221 people waiting to vote in Kafura School 141 people, at Chitsungo 120
were waiting to vote, while at Sova in Pfungwe there were 92 people waiting
to vote around mid-morning.

Officials said the people in the area spent the mornings on gold
panning activities and were expected to come and vote later in the day.
 At Nyanzou in Pfungwe, near Mazowe River Bridge there was a police
officer assisting voters was openly instructing them to vote for Zanu PF. A
team from the American Embassy also confirmed the report.

All the polling stations refused to give the number of people who had
cast their votes. It is as if they had uniform instructions. They were
refusing to talk.
However, at Morris School in Maramba constituency, the polling officer
said 322 people had voted by 9.26AM. But at Murehwa centre people were being
turned away.
In Bulawayo, many people failed to vote after a number of polling
stations opened late amid widespread confusion arising from the use of four
separate ballot papers.
In the poor suburb of Makokoba where a there is three-way tight
contest involving MDC-Tsvangirai vice president, Thokozani Khuphe, Welshman
Ncube who is the secretary of the rival MDC and Zimbabwe Defence Industries
boss, Tshinga Dube of Zanu PF, scores of people waited patiently to cast
their votes.
Bulawayo Agenda, a civic organisation with poll observers throughout
Matabeleland, reported that at some polling stations the process was so slow
agitated voters left before casting their ballots.
 An average of 100 people had cast their votes in each of the polling
stations across the city by 10 AM, polling officers said.
The polling station at the City Hall was the busiest with long queues
throughout the day.
In Victoria Falls, Bulawayo Agenda reported a few polling stations had
run out of ballot papers by 10AM.
In Makoni South people “swarmed” the polling stations but ballot
papers ran out in two wards. Pishai Muchauraya, the MDC candidate said this
was a “dirty tactic” to deny people their democratic right.
In Masvingo, urban voters turned up in their hundreds but scores were
turned away after the polling officers told them their names were not in the
Most were aged between 18 and 35.
At Runyararo polling station in Masvingo urban The Standard came
across about 10 youths protesting against the injustice but was escorted out
by the police. All claimed to have registered in January.
In rural Gutu district, there was a huge turnout as early as 3 am. But
there were disturbances at polling stations after MDC polling agents were
chased away resulting in a temporary halt of voting.
MDC candidate for Gutu Central, Oliver Chirume said his agents were
chased away at Mushayavanhu and Munyaradzi stations by the polling officers
but were later allowed back.
There was low turnout in Gutu South; at Tandavare primary school, only
270 had cast their vote by 4pm
At Zimbizi and Gumindoga primary school there were reportedly
incidents of intimidation as Zanu PF youths wearing party regalia threatened
to beat up people.Results of yesterday’s elections are expected today.

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Girl, 16, detained for insulting Mugabe

Zim Standard

Saturday, 29 March 2008 19:45
BULAWAYO — Simanzeni Ngwabi (16), has languished in police cells here
for more than a week after allegedly describing President Robert Mugabe as
“an old man with wrinkled skin”.

Zanu-PF youth militia effected a citizen’s arrest on the vegetable
vendor at a bus terminus in the city centre last week after she allegedly
made the remarks, as she pointed at a poster of Mugabe.
She was handed over to the police by the youths who were pasting the
posters at the Egodini terminus.
They accused her of insulting the president.
According to the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and the Criminal
Codification and Reform Act it is a crime punishable by either imprisonment
or a heavy fine to insult the President, his office or to make gestures
about him or his passing motorcade.
Ngwabi has been charged with  “undermining the Authority or Insulting
the  President of the  Republic of Zimbabwe” as  listed under Chapter 9,
Section 33  of  the  Criminal  Codification  and  Reform Act. She allegedly
told the youths to “go away with your poster of a dying old man with
wrinkled skin”.
Acting provincial police spokesperson, Assistant Inspector Bhekilizwe
Ndlovu confirmed the arrest and referred The Standard to national
spokesperson, Wayne Bvudzijena, who said he could not comment as he was
still checking the details of the case.

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Mugabe victory survey dismissed as 'phony'

Zim Standard

Saturday, 29 March 2008 19:42
TOP academics at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) have distanced
themselves from a survey predicting President Robert Mugabe would win
yesterday’s election by a wide margin.

The survey announced by Dr Joseph Kurebwa, UZ’s chairperson of the
Political Science and Administration department, predicted Mugabe would win
between 56-57% of the vote.
He would beat the MDC’s Morgan Tsvangirai and independent presidential
candidate Dr Simba Makoni who are projected to receive between 26% and 27%
and 13%-14% respectively.
Langton Towungana, the independent candidate would probably garner
0.2% of the vote, the survey said.
Kurebwa claimed the survey was conducted by the UZ’s department of
Political Science and Administration. But top academics, among them
Professors Eldred Masunungure and John Makumbe, said yesterday the
department never conducted such a survey.
“I was not involved in the project and I was not even aware of it,”
Masunungure said.
Makumbe said Kurebwa’s assertion that the survey was a departmental
thing was fiction.
“I was not part of the survey and the department was not involved. It
is CIO (Central Intelligence Organisation) fiction,” he said.
He added: “It was a survey done as part of Zanu PF’s rigging
mechanism. He did it behind the facade of the department and the UZ.”
Simon Badza, a lecturer in the department told The Standard  he was
shocked to read the department had conducted the survey.
“A number of my colleagues have also expressed shock,” he said. The
survey was an “individual thing” done by the chairman without input from
other lecturers.
Kurebwa’s survey says President Mugabe would clinch 41 Senate seats
and 137 House of Assembly seats, ensuring another two-thirds majority in the
next Parliament.
It projected that Tsvangirai’s faction would win 13 Senate seats and
53 House of Assembly seats while Arthur Mutambara’s  faction would secure
six and 18 seats in the Senate and House of Assembly respectively.
Before the 2005 parliamentary elections, Kurebwa predicted Zanu PF
would win 72 and the MDC 45 seats which was not far from the actual outcome:
Zanu PF 78, MDC 41.
By Ndamu Sandu

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ZEC admits voters' roll 'in shambles'

Zim Standard

Saturday, 29 March 2008 19:40
THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) on Friday told journalists and
observer teams the voters’ roll used in yesterday’s elections was “in
shambles”, confirming claims by the opposition that the roll was “a mess”.

ZEC chairperson Justice George Chiweshe said although the roll was
“not perfect”, he still believed it was “among the most credible” worldwide.
“Throughout the world, voters’ rolls are never perfect,” he said.
“Ours is not perfect either, but I can assure you it is one of the most
credible . . . this voters’ roll which, mind you, is in shambles. I maintain
it still is very credible, although it is not perfect,” said Chiweshe, a
former military judge.
Last week, officials from the two MDC factions and independent
candidate Simba Makoni’s group said they had unearthed more than 8 000 ghost
voters who were said to be “ordinarily resident” at Glen Hat, an area near
Hatcliffe extension in Harare North.
Chiweshe said the ZEC was not in charge of the voters’ roll, which
falls under the Registrar-General’s Office.
The R-G, Tobaiwa Mudede, denied there were “ghost” voters. “The
question of ghosts coming to vote is always mentioned, but we have not seen
one ghost coming to vote.”
Chiweshe said the roll was in shambles mostly because they had not
been officially notified of the deaths of certain people whose names still
appear on the roll, many years after their death.
In the run up to the election, opposition candidates produced a number
of names of long deceased people still on the roll including former Minister
of Law and Order, Desmond Lardner-Burke (1908-81).
“Unless we receive official confirmation we will not presume that a
person is dead. Deaths occur daily, and we will never catch up with them,”
Chiweshe said.
As Zimbabweans wait for the outcome of the polls, the ZEC official
responsible for polling, Ignatius Mushangwe, said preliminary results would
be displayed at polling stations, but the official results would only be
announced at the national collation centre.
But the commission said it would not airlift any ballot boxes to
Harare as previously alleged.
Two weeks ago, the Secretary for Elections in the Tsvangirai faction
of the MDC, Ian Makone, said the roll was in “an awful mess”. At the time,
ZEC did not respond to questions from The Standard on the allegations.
Makone said the discrepancies could mean the delimitation report used
to demarcate wards and constituencies “was based on false statistics”.

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'Mavambo' could become a party: Dabengwa

Zim Standard

Saturday, 29 March 2008 19:37
 BULAWAYO — Independent presidential candidate, Simba Makoni’s Mavambo
project might be transformed into a political party, even if the former Zanu
PF politburo member loses the presidential election, a senior official has

Makoni, who faced off with President Robert Mugabe and MDC leader,
Morgan Tsvangirai in the presidential elections yesterday, has refused to
talk about his future if he loses.
But former Home Affairs minister, Dumiso Dabengwa, the only Zanu PF
heavyweight to openly support Makoni’s candidacy, told journalists on
Thursday the project would not die after the elections, regardless of the
Dabengwa spoke at a press conference moments after drawing probably
the biggest crowd to a rally at White City Stadium during the month-long
He said one of the lessons he had learnt during a whirlwind tour of
Matabeleland in the past three weeks was that people wanted the
Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn project to continue.
“This idea must continue because it is our salvation,” he said. “The
response we got from the people as we went around the districts campaigning
for Makoni was very interesting indeed.
“What’s going to happen next will come from the people. If after the
elections people feel that a political party should be formed, that would be
done because we have been campaigning for an environment where people will
be able to freely determine their future.”
The former Zipra intelligence supremo said there was no chance of
Makoni returning to Zanu PF if he won the presidency because the party had
expelled him.
As for himself, Dabengwa, said returning to Zanu PF would be a
betrayal of the multitudes of people who, since 2000, have been telling him
“to remove the jacket I was wearing”.
He said he had never defected from Zanu PF because he had always been
“PF Zapu in Zanu PF”.
PF Zapu and Zanu PF signed a Unity Accord in 1987 to end a
government-sanctioned military clampdown (Gukurahundi) in Zapu’s strongholds
of Matabeleland and the Midlands, which claimed more than 20 000 lives.
Mugabe has described Dabengwa’s decision to leave Zanu PF to back
Makoni as “the greatest betrayal”.
But Dabengwa said he would tell Mugabe, if he ever called on him to
talk about the defection, that “those who left PF Zapu in 1963 to form Zanu,
later rebelled against Zanu leader Ndabaningi Sithole and in 1980 went on to
register Zanu PF to fight the elections on their own despite an agreement to
go as the Patriotic Front were worse”.
Mugabe left Zapu, then led by Joshua Nkomo in 1963,  to form Zanu.
Dabengwa said: “The people who are talking about defecting did it a
long time ago. Maybe they feel threatened when it is done to them by
He said he was surprised at the way some of his former close
colleagues in Zanu PF, especially from Matabeleland, reacted to his decision
to back Makoni, but vowed not to attack them personally.
“Some of them are very unqualified to make such comments,” he said,
“because if I answered back they would run short of places to hide. People
will say, ‘Oh, did they really do that?’”
Some of the senior Zanu PF politicians who attacked Dabengwa as “a
sell out” included politburo members Naison Ndlovu, Didymus Mutasa and the
governor for Bulawayo, Cain Mathema.
Dabengwa is still regarded as a hero in Matabeleland for standing up
to Mugabe on many issues, including compensation for Gukurahundi victims and
the provision of a lasting solution to the city’s perennial water problems.
By Kholwani Nyathi

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Villagers surrender IDs in suspected vote scam

Zim Standard

Saturday, 29 March 2008 19:35
BULAWAYO — Thousands of opposition supporters in rural areas might
have failed to cast their votes in yesterday’s elections after traditional
leaders campaigning for Zanu PF allegedly told them yesterday’s polls were
for ruling party supporters only.

Last week the MDC accused Zanu PF of misinforming the rural
electorate, starved of information because of its limited access to
mainstream media.
The villagers said they were told the elections were for Zanu PF
supporters only, as the opposition supporters would be voting today
“Zanu PF thugs were misinforming villagers about how and when they are
supposed to vote,” said Abednigo Bhebhe, the deputy spokesperson of Arthur
Mutambara’s MDC.
  “Villagers are being told that they should vote for the MDC on Sunday
and vote for Zanu PF on Saturday.”
Nathan Shamuyarira, the ruling Zanu PF spokesperson, could not be
reached to comment on the allegations.
In past elections, Zanu PF drew most its votes from the rural areas
while the MDC commanded support in urban areas.
Nelson Chamisa, the Morgan Tsvangirai MDC spokesperson said: “Zanu PF
was sending confusing signals. Villagers were being told they should report
to the village headman after voting to reveal the names of the candidates
that they voted for.
“But peddling lies and misinforming people about the voting days and
procedures is a desperate measure by Zanu PF that will not work and it is
clear that Mugabe doesn’t have support.”
Already the opposition and independent election monitoring groups have
expressed fears of vote-rigging while analysts have warned of post-election
chaos if there are indications of vote-rigging.
Meanwhile, hundreds of opposition supporters in the Chaza and Langeni
communal areas in Mberengwa district lost their identity cards to alleged
Zanu PF officials who tricked them into surrendering them just before the
elections, with promises of food handouts.
There were fears many villagers would not be able to vote. Zanu PF
officials allegedly claimed the IDs would be used in the hand out of food to
the starving villagers.
Patrick Chademana, the Midlands province police spokesman confirmed
they were investigating the scam but said little headway had been made in
identifying the culprits. “We have issued a report on the case and have
warned the public not to listen to anyone they do not know,” he said.
A villager from Chief Mposi’s area, asking not to be named, claimed
the police were reluctant to arrest the culprits since they were known Zanu
PF officials.
“When they came asking for our IDs we thought they would rescue us
from starvation,” she said. “But it seems it was a well-calculated ploy to
prevent us from voting.”
By Nqobani Ndlovu and Makaita Mupare

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South Africans arrested over election filming

Zim Standard

Saturday, 29 March 2008 19:29
TWO South Africans have been arrested in Zimbabwe for allegedly
participating in the election coverage build up without accreditation, the
Department of Foreign Affairs said on Friday.

Their lawyer, Chris Mhike, was last night trying to secure their
He made an urgent court application.
The two, from GlobeCast Africa in Johannesburg, were arrested in
Harare on Thursday and were in police custody, said spokesperson Ronnie
Mamoepa. South Africa’s embassy in Harare would “interact” with Zimbabwean
authorities to find a resolution, Mamoepa said.
Alan Hird, CEO of GlobeCast Africa for whom they work, said they were
not journalists, but technicians who provided satellite up-link equipment to
media organisations who want to do live crossings.
They had the relevant “uplink licence” secured through a company that
they regularly worked with on other jobs, like cricket coverage, and as far
as he knew they had also applied for and secured media accreditation.
“We simply do not deal in content. We are the like the pipes that
water flows through,” Hird said. He understood that the two did not have
their media accreditation on them at the time of their detention. A lawyer
had been arranged for the two and a company representative was travelling up
to see them. Hird did not want to release their names because he did not
know if their family members knew of their detention.

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Models squander billions at city hotel

Zim Standard

Saturday, 29 March 2008 19:21
Miss Tourism Zimbabwe contest for 2007, would have found it difficult
to stay at the Crowne Plaza. Few Zimbabweans could afford such a hotel.

But the model, thanks to arrangements made by the Zimbabwe Tourism
Authority (ZTA), has been living the life of luxury for several months at
the hotel as she served her term as Miss Tourism Zimbabwe.
Her reign ended in December but that did not mark the end of her good
Marufu continues to stay at the expensive hotel, where she is free to
dine and wine at will. She can telephone anyone in the world, enjoy
expensive lunches or dinners at the Parkview Restaurant, or call the bar for
room service.
But Marufu, who says she is now employed by the ZTA and is “handsomely
paid as a marketing executive”, is not the only one who can openly boast she
will be staying at the hotel till the end of the year.
Another beauty queen, reigning Miss Tourism Zimbabwe, Cynthia
Muvirimi, has joined her at the hotel where curious waiters consider them
“the hotel’s permanent residents”.
Muvirimi, who recently left for a brief visit to the UK, was booked in
Room 1019 where she checked in on 17 February.
The two models have been spending an average of $5 billion a day, and
more than $150 billion a month.
Given the current rate of inflation, the figure is likely to reach a
couple of trillions by year-end.
Marufu confirmed she is staying at the plush hotel but sought to
justify her continued stay there, rather than at her parents’ home in
Nkulumane, Bulawayo.
“This gives me time to focus on my role (as tourism ambassador),” she
said. “Where I stay doesn’t matter. It doesn’t change me; I am still the
same old person, the rural teacher.”
Asked to clarify her role, she said: “I am an ambassador of diversity.
I have a positive role, to extend people’s knowledge of Africa and to bridge
African cultures.”
Asked if it didn’t make more sense for her, as Sadc tourism
ambassador, to lead an ordinary life and be better placed to appreciate how
many ordinary people in the country lived, Marufu said:
“I have seen Zimbabwe, probably more than you have. I taught at a
rural school for two years, stayed with my parents and then moved out in
order to grow up. I have also travelled to various places in the country. It’s
nothing to do with where I stay.”
Earlier, Muvirimi told The Standard her stay at the hotel was part of
her winner’s package, before directing further questions to the ZTA. This
package has not been made public, The Standard discovered.
ZTA chief executive officer Karikoga Kaseke could not be reached for
comment. Two weeks ago he was said to be in Russia on business and last week
he was said to be out of his office.
But ZTA spokesperson Anna Moyo said: “The hotel is offering free
accommodation to the models as they were sponsors of the Miss Tourism
pageant and ZTA is paying for the meals.”
She said Marufu was still staying at the hotel as she currently holds
the title Miss Tourism Sadc.
Moyo could not shed more light on where ZTA was getting all the money
to pay for the meals and for the upkeep of the girls.
Muvirimi and Marufu are staying in Standard rooms which, as of last
week, cost $1.111 billion each a day. It was not possible to clarify the
payment arrangement with the Crowne Plaza management.
According to some of the bills seen by The Standard, each model spends
between $800 million to $ 1.5 billion a day on meals.
For example, on 11 March Muvirimi had breakfast worth $305 million,
lunch worth $745 million and dinner worth $470 million.
The total amount of that day’s meal was $1.520 billion. The total
amount of that day’s accommodation and meal bill was $2 770 208 333.
On 7 March Muvirimi’s bill was $2 078 333 334.
On a number of occasions, the bill printouts indicate, the two models
have ordered meals for more than one person, raising questions.
Marufu refused to explain who would pay the bill when she entertained
friends at the hotel.
A former Miss Zimbabwe who requested anonymity said: “Why, suddenly,
after ZTA takes over the pageant from Miss Zimbabwe Trust, are models
affording such flamboyant lifestyles?”
She said during her reign she would carry out her duties while no-one
cared where she was staying.
ZTA took over what was then known as Miss Zimbabwe in 2006 and renamed
the event Miss Tourism Zimbabwe. There were complaints that the ZTA would
divert the whole event into something different.
The ZTA denied this at the time, saying the models’ role would be
strictly to market Zimbabwe to both local and foreign tourists.
Still, questions linger: is the ZTA so loaded with cash it can afford
to splash out in this manner? Is it all worth it, in the end, in an economy
on the brink of collapse?

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'Donations too late to save health sector'

Zim Standard

Saturday, 29 March 2008 19:19
IN a last-minute attempt to woo voters, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe
(RBZ) and Zanu PF on Thursday doled out cars to disgruntled health

The duo also donated ambulances, buses, TV sets and generators to
hospitals and clinics, two days before the harmonised elections.
All the “gifts”, valued at more than US$10 million, were handed out at
a lavish ceremony at Harare hospital.
Health experts and HIV/Aids activists told The Standard the donations
to purportedly save the health sector had come “too late” since much damage
had already been done.
The programme, dubbed Phase 1 of the Medical Sector Revival and Skills
Retention Programme, would see senior and middle-level doctors, senior
nursing staff and other health professionals receiving new cars as part of
plans to retain their services.
The 450 vehicles include Mitsubishi Lancers and Peugeots and were
bought by the RBZ for about
USD$8.7 million, with a deposit of USD$1.7 million paid already.
The balance is expected to be paid over the next 10 months at an
instalment of US$700 000.
The vehicles will also benefit soldiers, prison officers and police,
whom President Robert Mugabe said rescued patients when nurses and doctors
were on strike.
Under the skills retention programme, the government and the RBZ had
promised to build about 2 200 houses over the next 24 months for health
professionals all over the country.
Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights chairman Douglas
Gwatidzo said the timing - two days before the election - raises “a lot of
He wondered aloud why for all these years the RBZ and the government
just “watched” as the health sector collapsed and many people died.
He said: “We have nothing against doctors getting free cars or the
government revamping the health sector but the question to ask is: why now?
Where were they for all these years as thousands of qualified and
experienced doctors and nurses left the country, unhappy with the working
Gwatidzo said both the RBZ and the government were “hypocrites”.
“Where were they all this time as kidney patients died because
dialysis machines at Mpilo and Parirenyatwa hospitals were not working? Just
recently people needing urgent surgery were being turned away at
Parirenyatwa hospital because there were no theatre supplies,” he said.
But RBZ governor Gideon Gono dismissed the vote-buying accusation in
his speech at the handover ceremony.
He said the health sector revival programme had nothing to do with the
elections since the polls were “a one-off event”.
“This Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor will always be there for the
health sector,” he said.
Gono said the programme was not a “knee jerk” reaction to problems but
was a culmination of months of consultations and planning.
HIV and Aids activist Zhao Zangarati of the Grassroots Movement for
People Living With HIV and Aids, said many HIV positive people continue to
die as they have no access to life prolonging Antiretroviral drugs (ARVs).
Zangarati said he saw the lavish spending on expensive cars, first
class food for more than 2 000 people who attended the handover function as
a waste of money.
 “Some of my colleagues are dying and have died because they cannot
access ARVs at government hospitals and cannot afford them in the private
sector. I am pained that the RBZ is splashing money like this for everything
else except us PLWAs,” he said.
 Gono said the “cheapest car only cost US$10 000” and health
professionals would buy the cars over 12 months, using government exchange
What this meant was that if a doctor received the “cheapest” car at
US$10 000 he would have bought the car for $300 million.
The president of the Zimbabwe HIV and Aids Activist Union, Bernard
Nyathi said he shared Zangarati’s concerns.
He said if the government had committed such huge sums of money to the
welfare of the PLWAs, many of his colleagues would still be alive today.
By Bertha Shoko

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Mugabe threatens war

Zim Standard

Saturday, 29 March 2008 19:16
MASVINGO — President Robert Mugabe threatened to send war veterans
back to the bush to wage war against the MDC if it won yesterday’s

He spoke last week to a crowd of mostly rural supporters ferried from
the province’s seven districts in haulage trucks and buses.
Mugabe said the opposition had promised to give land back to the
whites if they defeated Zanu PF.
The MDC has publicly pronounced a land programme that will entail an
audit of who got what farms. It will focus on multiple ownership. Both
Morgan Tsvangirai and Simba Makoni have said they will not hand back farms
to their former owners.
Mugabe recalled that in the 1960s when his party held its first
congress in Gweru they resolved to send young men and women to fight the
whites. Mugabe promised to do the same if the MDC won the elections.
Calling retired defence forces commander, General Vitalis Zvinavashe
to the podium, Mugabe said: “When we held our first congress in Gweru in the
1960s we resolved to send our comrades, led by brave men like Cde Zvinavashe
who is here, to fight the whites who had taken our land and we will send
them back again should Tsvangirai win the elections.”
Mugabe’s warning followed similar threats from defence forces
commander Constantine Chiwenga, police commissioner-general Augustine
Chihuri, and prisons boss, Paradzai Zimondi.
They said they would not salute anyone who won the election except
MDC leader Tsvangirai and independent candidate Makoni have been
labelled sell-outs by the security chiefs.
“We will not allow a party that would take land back to the whites if
it comes to power,” Mugabe said raising his fist in the air. “Whose land
should go back to the imperialists again? We say No to that. They must know
that tiri vechibhakera (we are of the fist) and we will punch anyone who
crosses our path.
“We lost so many people during the struggle and some of them gallant
fighters. So we will not hesitate to fight again, than letting the country
be ruled by puppets,” he said.
Mugabe said the British had more than 400 companies in the country
which would be taken through the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment
“We have been modest and humble for too long,” he said. “We will take
all the companies and give them to the people to empower them.”
But opposition politicians say not that many British companies are
left because the majority of them are Zimbabwean-owned now.
By Godfrey Mutimba

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The numbers game:will it favour Mugabe?

Zim Standard

Saturday, 29 March 2008 19:10
YESTERDAY’S elections provoked considerable excitement, mainly over
whether Robert Mugabe will survive the most serious challenge yet to his
political hegemony over Zimbabwe.

However, it seemed very difficult to anticipate what outcomes there
could be in early April. In part, this is because the electoral laws need
some clarification, particularly the apparent conflict between Section
110(3) and Paragraph 3 of the Second Schedule of the Electoral Act and in
part because of the very complicated political situation in Zimbabwe and the
apparent splits within Zanu PF over whether Mugabe should remain in power.
Dealing with the first issue, Section 110(3) of the Electoral Act
states that the winner in the first round of a Presidential election must
have an absolute majority of the valid votes cast, however Paragraph 3
suggests that the Chief Election Officer has the power to declare as the
winner the candidate with the “greater” or the “greatest” number of votes.
Paragraph 3 of the Second Schedule is a hangover from the previous Electoral
Act, and, if the principles of good legislative interpretation are
followed — which may not be the case — then the substantive clause, Section
110(3), should prevail.
The relevance for this discussion is that Mugabe may fall back on what
one commentator has called the “sophisticated” Kibaki strategy if he fails
to get the absolute majority he needs.
He gets the Chief Elections Officer to declare him the winner, even if
he only gets 49% or less of the vote — as long as he has more than the
others — and then argues the toss in the courts, if the losing candidates
feel that they can take this option.
He can avoid the “crude” Kibaki strategy — of just getting himself
declared the winner — by using the contradiction in the Electoral Act
between Section 110(3) and Paragraph 3 of the Second Schedule. However,
elections are complex processes, and, whilst they are evidently about the
transfer or maintenance of political power between parties, they are also
about popularity, and it is popularity that gives credibility to the
transfer or maintenance of political power.
After yesterday’s “harmonised” elections, this means that credibility
for the various political parties will come from having won both the
presidential and the parliamentary elections, and with what kind of majority
they obtain this win.
So, for Mugabe, it is essential that he and Zanu PF win both the
presidential and the parliamentary elections with clear majorities. This
will allow him to be sworn in by the Chief Justice, to demand the allegiance
of the armed services and chiefs and to continue to claim sovereignty and
forestall any external interference. If he were to win the presidency, but
lose the parliament or have the opposition get a blocking third of the
seats, as they did in 2000, he will have considerable difficulty governing,
let alone convincing the world at large that he remains a popular leader.
Now, for the first time in Zimbabwe’s history, it is not a forgone
conclusion that Zanu PF will win, and we are faced with a multiplicity of
contenders of real substance. We have four candidates for the presidential
election, with three very substantial and plausible candidates. We have two
major parties, Zanu PF and MDC, contending for the parliamentary, senate,
and local government elections, but we also have a large number of
“independents”; some of whom are genuine independents, and some of whom are
supporters of Simba Makoni (a presidential contender) but probably owe their
allegiance to Zanu PF.
We also have many indicators of severe dissatisfaction with Mugabe
within Zanu PF, but it is impossible to know how extensive this is and how
this will affect the presidential election.
Whilst the dissatisfaction with Mugabe can have very powerful effects
on the presidential election, it would seem probable that this will not
translate into dissatisfaction by the electorate with the party. Zanu PF
“dissidents”, whether public or not, will want the party to win, but
probably not want Mugabe to continue as President.
All of this suggests a large number of possible outcomes, which are
dependent on a wide range of factors; the effectiveness of all the massive
vote-buying, the success of rigging, the control of the electoral machinery,
and, of course, the ways in which the electorate will vote. After all,
elections are empirical events, and numbers count in the final analysis.
So whatever the flaws, it will matter what the turnout looks like, and
whether the numbers are plausibly distributed. Focusing on all the factors
that make up a free or flawed election is important, but if we focus on what
can happen with the numbers, irrespective of the validity of the process, it
is possible to see that these elections can have many different results.
Will Mugabe stay or go? — Idasa.

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Suspicion mounts latest price slash was

Zim Standard

Saturday, 29 March 2008 19:06
THE government directive to businesses to slash prices to 18 March
levels could have been a sweetener ahead of yesterday’s polls, as it emerged
that the new price increases were sanctioned by the National Incomes and
Pricing Commission (NIPC).

Standardbusiness heard on Thursday the  NIPC had approved price
increases for a number of commodities, notably bread.
On Tuesday, business executives were summoned to a meeting chaired by
the chief secretary to the President and Cabinet, Misheck Sibanda, to
explain the new wave of price hikes.
The executives told the meeting the  prices they were charging had
been approved by the NIPC and presented letters from the pricing czar,
Standardbusiness was told.
“Business leaders said they were operating within the laws and do not
have any control over the black market,” one executive said last week.
Tuesday’s meeting was attended by central bank chief, Gideon Gono,
permanent secretaries, members of the Joint Operation Command, Zimbabwe
Defence Forces Commander, Constantine Chiwenga, Confederation of Zimbabwe
Industries (CZI) president Callisto Jokonya and executives from Dairibord,
National Foods, Blue Ribbon and Lobels Bakery, among others.
Business leaders who spoke to Standardbusiness last week said they
felt betrayed by the government’s directive as they had adhered to pleas not
to increase prices.
“What they are doing is not fair, because they had told us not to
increase prices before the elections as they would award us a hefty increase
after the election,” said another business  executive.
This comes amid revelations the NIPC had told a number of executives
to compile their losses which would be recovered with a huge increase after
the elections.
Godwills Masimirembwa, the NIPC boss, dismissed the charge as “lies”,
insisting the price increases had nothing to do with elections.
“Businesses should be viable before and after the elections,” he said.
Tuesday’s meeting came barely a week after President Robert Mugabe
reportedly told a rally in Kadoma that unilateral price hikes by companies,
particularly bakeries, were part of the government’s detractors’ quest for a
regime change.
But business leaders were unanimous in rejecting charges they were
part of the regime change agenda and were working under a hostile
environment, according to executives who attended the meeting.
Jokonya said they had told the meeting that the business community was
working with the government and would comply with the new prices.
“What political parties say at the podium, we are not interested in,”
Jokonya, said referring to the notion that businesses were increasing prices
as part of the regime change agenda.
Marah Hativagone, Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce president
agreed, dismissing the allegation as “electioneering”.
“To be honest with you, no businessperson enjoys raising prices for no
reason,” she said.
Hativagone said the ZNCC was telling its members to adhere to the new
prices, but “in any society there are always delinquents”.
Hativagone did not attend Tuesday’s meeting but sent a representative.
Observers are anxious about the government’s utterances leading to
another price blitz that would affect industries.
Last June, the government ordered all businesses to slash prices by
half, in an ill-advised but populist move whose repercussions on commerce
and industry are still being felt today.
Threats of company seizures have led to  uncertainty in the industry,
now operating in a hostile environment.
Already businesses are grappling with foreign currency shortages to
import raw materials. Besides price controls, businesses have to contend
with power and water cuts, which ultimately leads to low production.
Notwithstanding the constraints of business, Masimirembwa said they
should desist from unilateral, unlawful price hikes.
He said such action was tantamount to economic sabotage and part of a
regime change agenda.
When reminded that companies had sought approval from the NIPC before
increasing prices, he backed down: “We have lots of companies which work
very well with the NIPC.  Let us not paint everyone with the same brush.”
By Ndamu Samu

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Retailers lop off more zeros as Zimdollar sinks deeper

Zim Standard

Saturday, 29 March 2008 19:04
THEY did not wait for the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor
Gideon Gono to slash more zeros this time around.

Zimbabwe’s retailers have slashed three zeros on prices as their
machines have failed to cope.
A notice posted in most shops urges buyers to add three more zeros on
the displayed prices.
Food World spokesperson Denford Mutashu said the  slashing of the
three zeros was not prevalent in the group as it had upgraded its system.
Standardbusiness could not get comment from Retailers Association of
Zimbabwe chairman Willard Zirewa who was said to be attending a meeting.
Questions sent to his office had not been responded to by the time of
going to press.
Geoff Dairall, executive director of the Computer Society of Zimbabwe
said their members had raised concerns on the zeros and had passed on the
concerns to the relevant authorities.
“We formed a taskforce within the society to study the situation,” he
said. “Our findings were forwarded to the ministries of Science and
Technology and Finance.”
Fairall said the society had raised the issue two years ago and the
central bank responded by slashing three zeros.
In August 2006, Gono slashed three zeros on the currency in a bid to
ease the inconvenience of both shoppers and retailers.
But the move backfired as the slashed zeros were back in two months.
Fairall said the society was assured that the problem would be
resolved as a matter of urgency.
Analysts say chopping off the three zeros is a temporary measure to
ease the inconvenience caused by a hyperinflationary situation.
Zimbabwe’s annual inflation for January breached the 100 000 percent
mark, an unprecedented situation in a country outside a war zone.
Analysts blame the soaring inflation on the excessive printing of
money to finance the government’s endless expenditure, set against a foreign
currency crunch caused by scarce export products.

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Landmark poll as Zimbabweans chart new course

Zim Standard

Saturday, 29 March 2008 18:33
THE desire for a new beginning was evident yesterday when voting in
the harmonised elections began. Queues ranged from just below one hundred to
more than 300 at various polling stations.

In some cases the enthusiasm seemed to mirror that of the historic
2000 general elections when the MDC gave the ruling party a shock of its
life and won 57 seats.
Yesterday’s turn out was a defiance against statements by President
Robert Mugabe and his security chiefs, who sought to scare off the will of
the people by declaring that they would not accept an outcome that did not
hand Zanu PF another term of office.
History tells us that no amount of threats, oppression and brutalities
can subjugate the will of the people and part of the turnout seemed to
suggest the people’s determination to confront the ruling party’s arrogance.
Arrogance, because the position adopted by Mugabe and his service
chiefs is reminiscent of Ian Douglas Smith’s when he made his “Not in a
thousand years” declaration.
Mugabe last week demonstrated his determination to override the will
of the majority of the people of this country when he told voters: “You can
vote the MDC, but that would be a wasted vote. I am telling you. You would
just be cheating yourself. There is no way we can allow them to rule this
country. Never, ever!”
Here is a leader, who says he believes in the right of the people to
elect their leaders but will not tolerate any outcome that is at variance
with his expectations.
We are heartened that among some of the observer missions allowed in
this time, there are men and women who are not prepared to allow the
government and the ruling party to ride roughshod over the will of the
These courageous men and women allow history to record that they broke
ranks with the norm among people of this continent — which is the unwritten
rule not to embarrass fellow rogue leaders by contradicting them. We salute
these men and women  for siding with the people, not the rulers. It takes
guts to look a fellow African in the eye and tell him/her off for their
deviant behaviour.
Zimbabweans who turned out in their millions to vote are aware that
President Mugabe’s promises mean nothing and are designed to ensure he
remains in power by all means necessary.
His promises mean nothing. Right from the SADC mediation process he
gave regional leaders an undertaking to engage in dialogue designed to
resolve Zimbabwe’s crisis. That process today lies in tatters and all the
timelines for completion of the mediation rendered of no consequence.
Voters are ware of the undertaking he made to properly house victims
of the May 2005 anti-people “Operation Murambatsvina”, but which today
remains far from complete despite a commitment made to the United Nations to
provide housing in months. Voters are also aware of the pledge to work with
businesses after the ill-advised price blitz of last year and how even today
they remain under surveillance.
Voters will also be aware that since 2000 President Mugabe and his
government have waged a campaign against teachers. The outcome has been an
exodus of this skilled group. The same applies to the health sector.
But most significant of all has been his reluctance to allow a new
change in leadership in this country. Mugabe and Vice-President Joseph Msika
made a commitment to step down once the land reform was completed. He
encouraged Vice-President Joice Mujuru to aim higher. Now he says the ruling
party would disintegrate if he leaves! It is this duplicity that voters
yesterday wanted to end.

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Microcosm of leadership failure

Zim Standard

Saturday, 29 March 2008 18:30
Sunday Opinion By Bill Saidi

THERE have been a number of monumental leadership failures in Africa.
It’s not a peculiarly African phenomenon, though.

Europe has had Slobodan Milosevic, South America Augusto Pinochet,
Asia the misogynist generals in Burma, apart from the bloodthirsty rulers of
North Korea, with their “Dr Strangelove” fixation with nuclear weapons.
After the recent horrors in Tibet, there is the People’s Republic of
China, still so-called in spite of discarding some of its Marxist-Leninist
The suspiciously schizophrenic rulers refuse to reconcile their
adoption of a nakedly market-based economy with the democratic dispensation
some would consider inherent in its success.
If there is a boycott of the 2008 Olympic Games, in the wake of Tibet
atrocities, it would be a salutary lesson for the regime: the rich nations’
“club” has rules too. You violate them at your own risk. In the end, making
loads money is not everything. “Soul” often comes into the equation.
In Africa, Robert Mugabe’s must be one of the most distinctive
failures in leadership. Yesterday, the presidential election was not
guaranteed to return him to power. If it eventually does, it can only
heighten the sense of a failed leadership.
Apart from presiding over the phenomenal collapse of an economy once
compared with South Africa’s, his Stone Age despotism has sown the seeds of
fear in the people’s hearts which will take years to uproot.
Mugabe has institutionalised fear of ruling party and government. He
has used violence to cow the people into accepting whatever he and his party
decide to do, ostensibly, on their behalf.
His “many degrees in violence” doctrine was designed to permanently
terrorise the population into accepting Zanu PF rule for all time: you
challenge us and we will bash you into submission.
In spite of this reign of terror, he could do little to stem the tide
of discontent against him in 2000 and 2005: the MDC entered Parliament in
spectacular fashion and has remained there.
Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC leader, challenged him again for the top
job yesterday, as did Simba Makoni, his former finance minister.
Some of his critics characterised his reaction to Dumiso Dabengwa’s
defection as the hysterical splutterings of an old man on the verge of
The TV coverage of his rallies showed him looking desperate, almost
terrorised and, on occasion, unable to contain his rage.
Why have some people, in the past, compared him with Idi Amin? There
has never been any evidence that he, like Amin, stocked his refrigerator
with the mortal remains of the enemies he had disposed of permanently.
The comparison can only stem from the two men’s utter disregard for
human life. Mugabe, the intellectual, talked of bashing his compatriots as
if they would deserve it, even without the benefit of habeas corpus.
He spoke of “degrees of violence” as if there was a hallowed category
for which the Nobel Prize could be awarded for it.
The foul language he used during the campaign must have forced
sons-in-law to sneak out of the lounge in which they and their
mothers-in-law were watching the news.
What happened to the Mugabe who hosted the Non-Aligned conference in
1986 and the Commonwealth Heads of government Meeting (CHOGM) in 1988, the
burgeoning statesman who seemed destined for an international honour for
giving his country, after 15 years of bloodshed, a life filled with the
contentment that comes only with true, genuine, unalloyed freedom?
What happened, it now appears, was the emergence of the true Mugabe,
the man who had been struggling to come out since his return from the
liberation war. Mugabe is the quintessential control freak.
As some of his critics have said, he has never left the guerilla camp
in Mozambique, let alone the command culture of a liberation war zone.
Mugabe never seemed to adapt to the discipline of a civilian
administration, with its protocols of hierarchy and priorities.  He still
relished the unorthodox, non-routine of the bush war, out there in
He always seems happiest addressing rallies in the communal areas,
speaking of the war and how it brought independence. Hardly has he been
known to get down to the nitty-gritty of an economic recovery plan.
Some say he has converted the governor of the Reserve Bank, Gideon
Gono, to the same irreverence for meticulous planning. In the early days of
their cosiness, Gono would loudly caution against excesses and the
Today, Gono seems always to be on the sidelines, loudly cheering
Mugabe on.
Yet Zimbabwe’s politics and the economy will never be the same again
after yesterday.  The aftermath for Mugabe must be one of the most
spectacular failures of leadership in the world.

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After the battle, will the gladiators shake hands?

Zim Standard

Saturday, 29 March 2008 18:26
HOW will the political gladiators respond to the election results?
Will the champions be magnanimous in victory or will they taunt their
defeated rivals? Will those declared losers be gracious in defeat and accept
their loss? Or will the pre-election verbal jousting descend into physical

Zimbabwe is, no doubt, at the most delicate of stages in its history,
comparable, perhaps, to that tension-packed period in March 1980, when
Zimbabwe held its first democratic elections. There is anxiety, high
expectations, a huge gulf in allegiances and great uncertainty about the
immediate future. It is a time when, surely, believers and non-believers
will be unusually united in prayer so that this nation steers in a safe
Those who, like myself, are strangely inclined to the oldest of sports
that involve legalised violence, in particular, boxing, which ardent
followers affectionately refer to as the “sweet science”, may find some
resonance in the dark arts of politics. There is, in this sport, an uncanny
potpourri of violent conduct and the more cultured behaviour expected among
The most ardent apostles of the game will confess that there are few
better sights in sport or indeed in life, than that scene at the end of a
gruelling, tension-filled match in the ring, when the two warriors, having
spent twelve rounds pummelling each other, nevertheless embrace in a show of
mutual respect and courtesy. In all those great matches of pugilism, one of
the most abiding memories is the sight of the champion embracing the
As a fan you carry mixed emotions at that moment — you are relieved
that your man has triumphed but you are also drawn to empathise with the
fallen man. You feel for him, for his family and friends; yes, you see a
whole man struggling to get to his feet, you see those bruises, the cuts and
you say to yourself that could have been my man.
We saw it in December last year when Floyd Mayweather made the few
steps to the fallen Ricky Hatton, embraced him. Mayweather was generous with
words, praising the vanquished Hatton for his effort, calling him a
“champion”, even though he had lost. For his part, Hatton was gracious in
defeat, lacing his post-fight speech with Mancunian humour, making light of
what was otherwise a heart-crushing moment, it being the first defeat of his
professional career.
Here were two gladiators who had spent the better part of 11 rounds of
boxing hurting each other with fists; two warriors who had spent more than
half of the preceding three months taunting each other; trading insults that
could hardly find a place in a decent newspaper. And yet they were both
magnanimous and gracious in the aftermath of gruelling months of
manufactured animosity.
I do not know how, having spent so much time inflicting violence upon
each other, these men manage to summon the humility and grace to embrace and
pay mutual respect. Maybe it is the mutual realisation of the nearness of
death during those minutes when they are alone in the ring. After all, at
the end of the famous Thriller in Manila in 1975, (Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazer
bout), it was Ali who said, even though he had won, that it was the closest
he had come to death. Perhaps, it is that nearness to death that draws the
warriors together. Perhaps, at that stage even the champion recognises that
it could well have been him on the losing side.
They know that their trade necessarily involves verbal sparring. Few
let it get to them long after the match. In the present age of pay-per-view
packages manufactured acrimony and a certain nasty edge to the pre-fight
events is considered a part of the game. But after the match, after the deed
is done; more often than not the violence gives way to mutual respect
between the fighters. A cocky and disrespectful champion gains very few fans
and loses the respect of the sport’s followers.
One might look at this admirable behaviour of the gladiators in this
sport which necessarily involves violence, and wonder why gladiators in the
game of politics cannot conduct themselves with magnanimity and grace, in
victory and defeat, respectively. Historically, political battles have been
fought in war zones. But today, more and more such battles are fought on the
electoral plains.
And yesterday (29 March), Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai, Simba
Makoni and Langton Towungana fought the electoral battle for the office of
the presidency. It is a battle that only one man can win. That man will
celebrate, along with his supporters. The others will be disappointed by the
reality of defeat. Their supporters, too, will be disappointed. That is the
case in every battle for hearts and minds — some hearts will, inevitably, be
broken. Like the epic battles of the ring, the pre-election period has been
filled with acrimony, tension and verbal sparring between the candidates. It
is part of the political game.
But will they, like the great warriors of the ring, have the grace and
magnanimity to accept and live with the results? This is highly unlikely,
giving rise to the spectre of violence.  Mugabe has threatened that he would
not accept defeat by men he disparagingly describes as sell-outs. On their
part, the opposition have called on supporters to defend their vote if the
election is stolen, a euphemism for a Zanu PF victory. There is, plainly, a
gulf in expectations between the camps, especially between Mugabe’s Zanu PF
and Tsvangirai’s MDC. The indication that neither will expect defeat in this
election is a recipe for chaos, mayhem and great uncertainty. Yes, after the
electoral battle, it could yet turn very nasty, depending on the outcome.
And this is because there is something that distinguishes this
political fight. It is that unlike the boxing match, this fight lacks clear,
fair and just rules which provide a measure of transparency that would make
the result generally acceptable. Boxers share mutual respect because the
sport is conducted in accordance with the universally recognised Queensbury
Rules, published way back in 1867. The essential goal of those old rules is
fairness between the boxers. Chances of cheating and robbery do exist and
there are many occasions when there have been disputes over judges’
scorecards. But in most cases the fact that it’s all done in the open, using
generally accepted rules makes the result far easier to accept.
The difference with Zimbabwean politics is that there is less
likelihood of the political gladiators embracing each other in the aftermath
of yesterday’s match because there already exists a strong view that the
electoral rules do not provide for fairness. It is hard to expect mutual
respect where one of the players is effectively a biased referee.
It goes without saying how good it would have been to have the
prospect of Zimbabwe’s political gladiators accepting the result with
humility and  embracing each other, acknowledging each other’s efforts, with
the winner describing the loser as “still a champion” and the loser
describing the winner as a “worthy champion”, as often do the legends of the
ring. That prospect is, sadly, very unlikely. Instead, we are likely to
witness a brawl that may even involve the supporters.
Last week most Zimbabweans commemorated Pascha, observing the
sacrifice that the Son of Man made for all of humanity. Most will have
celebrated His rising from the dead, three days after their deed. This week,
Zimbabweans will be hoping the spirit of Pascha will have imbued the weekend’s
proceedings in their hour of greatest need. It is perhaps an understatement
that, for most people, having done their part, they have now placed matters
in the hands of the gods. Perhaps they are watching. Perhaps they will bless
this tortured nation. Was it not He who said give to Caesar what belongs to
Caesar and to God what belongs to God? Surely, Zimbabweans have done their
earthly bit? They have given their bit to Caesar and also to God? Now, they
can only wait.

Alex Magaisa is based at Kent Law School, The University of Kent and
can be contacted at e-mail address is being
protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or e-mail address is being protected from spambots,
you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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Zim Standard Letters

winners ,losers accept result
Saturday, 29 March 2008 18:22
AS peace-loving Zimbabweans, we should appeal to all the presidential
candidates to accept a win or defeat. They should also control their
supporters so as to avoid violence and other disturbances.

Elections are a game of numbers and it is also like gambling or a
lottery. There are winners and losers. One cannot win every time  but one
should also accept defeat. What is important to bear in mind is that there
is a future after 29 March 2008; therefore we should all avoid what happened
in Kenya.
Tonderai Muchini

What if poll was unfair?
Saturday, 29 March 2008 18:19
INDICATIONS already suggest that SADC and the other “special observer
groups” are  pre-conditioned to make an election assessment in favour of the
ruling Zanu PF regime.

If by some miraculous quirk  of nature, the observers actually declare
that the elections were not up the acceptable levels of integrity, and Zanu
PF clings onto power, what then will actually happen? The answer is simple —
tyranny, corruption and the national collapse will continue unabated.
There will be not a murmur of concern, or any subsequent action
applied by the likes of SADC, the AU and other Zanu PF bootlickers and those
abetting the system to re-balance the situation.
Nhamo Jengaenga

Zanu PF imposed candidates in Chitungwiza
Saturday, 29 March 2008 18:17
WE write to you in the hope that the Zanu PF hierarchy can hear our
grievances over imposition of candidates in Chitungwiza.

For example in Chitungwiza North, a female candidate from Zengeza was
moved in order to make way for an imposed candidate, Patrick Nyaruwata, who
has a habit of contesting elections but disappears upon losing.
This time there were three candidates who submitted their CVs and who
wanted to stand as aspiring MPs, however, only Nyaruwata’s was accepted,
which proves that he was imposed because he only joined the race late.
The same thing happened during the 2005 parliamentary elections,
resulting in a dismal loss by Zanu PF to the opposition.
For example Christopher Chigumba swapped positions, opting to stand in
Chitungwiza South — a constituency of his choice. We have raised our
concerns with the Zanu PF national commissar, Elliot Manyika, but to no
It is therefore against this background that we believe, as voters, we
reserve our votes rather than voting for candidates who we know are not
going to deliver any services to the electorate.
We have tried, even through the province to bring these concerns to
the fore but we have seen no progress. Our complaints have fallen on deaf
You are our last hope, as we believe you are going to publish our
concerns in your widely read newspaper. We would be grateful if you could be
our voice.
Chitungwiza Zanu PF voters

Dabengwa right to turn his back on Mugabe
Saturday, 29 March 2008 18:12
I am sure that for Dumiso Dabengwa it was not an easy decision to come
out in support of Simba Makoni. It was as tough as it was for Makoni

Given his background before the Unity Accord, his incarceration and
his clout among former Zipra forces, this was a painful but necessary move.
One of the reasons why President Robert Mugabe makes unilateral
decisions is because the likes of Vice-President Joseph Msika, Zanu PF
national chairman, John Nkomo and Dabengwa himself have not been acting on
behalf of those they led in PF Zapu. If they truly had the interests of the
people at heart, they would have questioned or cautioned Mugabe on his
excesses. They were better placed to speak against Mugabe, given their
status as leaders of the former PF Zapu. But they have allowed Mugabe to
silence them.
However, we can still acknowledge the few instances these stalwarts
showed their displeasure with Mugabe’s decisions. Nkomo spoke against
destruction of Mount Hampden. He recalled the police. Msika at one time
rebuked so-called war veterans at the height of the chaotic land invasions
for lack of discipline. Msika made a decision against the so-called war
veterans while he was acting President only for his decision to be reversed
when Mugabe returned from abroad.
When Dabengwa was Home Affairs Minister, he was never as arrogant as
his successor.
In my view, Dabengwa needs to be congratulated just as Makoni. Such
courage is good for Zimbabwe. Forget about those who have decided to remain
in Zanu PF. For us to question where Dabengwa is coming from is to fall into
the same trap as the MDC anti-Senate formation. What Zimbabwe needs now is
to harness its entire progressively-minded people to unseat Mugabe. We do
not want people who when they see well-attended rallies begin to behave as
if they have already removed Mugabe.
Remember, the old man is a political grandmaster. Those who have been
part of the inner cabal of the ruling party can only help us in unseating
the old man.
Dabengwa has always been a cool and calculating politician. He is a
polished strategist. Dabengwa  does not need to apologise to anyone for
having been part of Mugabe’s government. At one time we all subscribed to
Zanu PF policies, just as many people in South Africa today belong to the
I believe Dabengwa and Makoni have all along been of the belief that
the old man would see reason and surrender power to new blood.
We recall Mugabe and Msika saying they would step down only after the
land question had been finally resolved. We now own the land, so why do they
continue to cling onto power?
Dabengwa and Makoni have been quiet out of respect not necessarily
that  things have been right. It is this mistake that has resulted in this
country being run down to such depths of unprecedented despair. Mugabe has
not only betrayed those in Zanu PF, but all Zimbabweans.
If I had been Mugabe I would have done the honourable thing than to
have to be humiliated through an election. Such a once illustrious political
career should never end ignominiously.
Thank you Dabengwa; you are an indoda sibili (a real man). Even if
Makoni loses, at least history will exonerate you.
Odrix Sithole Moyo

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'If I return I will die, but my children will know the truth'

The Scotsman

A mother's only hope of being reunited with her family is if Mugabe is
ousted this week

By Samantha Novick
ARMED men held her husband back as they threw her to the ground and began
pouring buckets of icy cold water over her. The attackers were wearing the
army-style fatigues favoured by Robert Mugabe's youth militia, the Green

In the winter's night she started to shake and her husband cried out when
the men began to beat her face, her neck and her body until she couldn't
move. And then, in front of the house where she had just put her three
children to bed, they raped her.

The attack lasted more than half an hour, until she was in so much pain she
could barely move. Than she was blindfolded and taken away.

"I could smell my own blood… I thought that I had come to the place of my

Four years later, Ancilla Chifamba is sharing a tiny second-floor flat in a
rundown area of Glasgow, her children are still in Zimbabwe and her husband
has fled to South Africa.

Chifamba wants to be reunited with her three children, who she has not
spoken to in the long months since she left Zimbabwe.

But she believes that can only happen if President Mugabe and his Zanu-PF
party are ousted from power in this weekend's elections – a hope that
observers say is hanging in the balance and could well be scuppered by
brutal, cynical tactics employed by the tyrant to cling to power.

Chifamba and her young family used to live in Marondera, a busy community
set in the rolling farmland of Zimbabwe's breadbasket, about 45 miles
outside Harare. She had an esteemed position as a primary school teacher,
and her husband had a business employing farm workers for the mostly
white-owned farms nearby. They had three young children: two girls and a

"We were industrious," she said. "We had a good life, a good home."

But towards the end of the 1990s, things began to decline. "Life changed for
the worst," she said. "Prices for food and household goods skyrocketed,
medicine became unavailable. You had to queue for hours, sometimes days, to
purchase bread. It became difficult to find jobs. Even if you were educated,
the expectation that you would find work was low.

"If you complained to the government, they wouldn't listen to you," Chifamba
said. "You just had to accept it."

Riots and strikes gripped the country, but the economic crisis persisted.

Her father was a prominent supporter of President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF
party, and this political tradition carried on to his daughter. But as the
political situation continued to deteriorate, she joined the opposition
party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). She began participating in
rallies and protests, and word spread quickly in a town loyal to Mugabe.

Minders from the Zanu-PF party began following Chifamba. She was scared, but
she didn't stop attending demonstrations for the MDC. Then she started to
talk about the importance of voting to her students at school. They would
be, after all, the future leaders of Zimbabwe.

"I was at my school the first time they beat me," Chifamba said. "They hit
me over and over again with sticks and their fists in front of all the other
teachers to send a message to the community: this is what will happen to you
if you support the MDC! They would do anything to silence you. A teacher is
someone who is trusted. A teacher is the mouthpiece of the community. They
couldn't have a teacher saying these things about Zanu-PF."

It was a few months later, on June 16, 2003, that she was dragged from her
home, beaten and raped.

"As soon as I was outside, I was thrown to the ground," she said. "It was
winter in Zimbabwe and they poured buckets of icy cold water all over me. I
started shaking and shaking, and then they started beating me and didn't
stop. Then I was raped. My husband was held back and three men raped me in
front of him. I could smell my own blood. I could taste it in my mouth."

More than half an hour later she was blindfolded and taken away.

"You just can't describe the pain that you are in. You can't move. When I
took off the cloth from over my eyes, I saw blood stains all over the walls.
I thought that I had come to the place of my death."

She awoke from unconsciousness later at a medical clinic. Scared for her
life and her family's well-being, she went into hiding. Friends and family
members sheltered her while she used the few contacts she had to help her
leave the country. A cousin in the UK offered to help, and surprisingly she
was able to complete the paperwork that would allow her to escape in 2004.

"We are talking about a government that is ruthless," Chifamba said. "In
Zimbabwe, you don't talk about politics. If you say there is no food, it is
politics. If you say there is no medicine, it is politics. It is the kind of
atmosphere people live in."

The United Nations' World Health Organisation claims the nation has the
lowest life expectancy in the world for women: 34 years. And in a nation
that was once a net food exporter, at least three million people are

"This is the kind of government that doesn't care," Chifamba said. "There is
fear in Zimbabwe."

Despite being away from the terror in her home country, she lives a tenuous
existence in the UK. After her arrival, she spent a few years being
constantly shuffled around London, before ending up in Glasgow last
November. With the help of the asylum seekers' charity Angel Group, she
received a place to live for the first time, about a mile from the city

But while Chifamba may be safe, her mind is constantly occupied with the
wellbeing of her family more than 5,400 miles away. She is especially
worried that her eldest daughter will be raped, because she is 13 and is
starting puberty.

"I am a mother. And I don't know if my children are crying, or if they are
hungry or if they have enough food to eat. It is hard for my husband. He
asks me, do you have a boyfriend? Have you forgotten me? I am not myself
here. I want to live with my family and be with them when they grow."

She said that she wants to return home but is worried of being detained at
the airport, because she has been targeted by Zanu-PF before. She fears that
she could be taken into permanent custody, or even killed.

"I will go back to Zimbabwe. It is my country, my home," she said. "I became
political because of choice. If I return, my children will lose a mother.
But it is better for my children to know that I died this way. They will
know the truth. They will know that I tried my best."

• Zimbabwean asylum seekers and supporters plan to hold a human rights vigil
in Glasgow's Argyle Street every fortnight until internationally monitored
elections are held in Zimbabwe. The first was yesterday.

The full article contains 1219 words and appears in Scotland On Sunday
Last Updated: 29 March 2008 9:47 PM

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Zimbabweans Vote -- and Wait

Washington Post

With No Results Expected for Days, Talk Turns to Fears of Fraud
By Craig Timberg and Darlington Majonga
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, March 30, 2008; Page A15

HARARE, Zimbabwe, March 29 -- Zimbabweans cast ballots Saturday with a mix
of hope and dread, many longing to end the 28-year reign of President Robert
Mugabe but fearful that no matter how they vote, he will declare himself the

Lines formed before dawn and were long throughout the day in urban
opposition strongholds. Dozens of voters at some polling stations discovered
they had been struck from official rolls. Though the election proceeded
mostly peacefully, such logistical barriers are among the many tools
Mugabe's opponents say he has to skew the results, which are expected to be
announced in the next few days.

"I'm fed up with the way things are in Zimbabwe," said Abigail Magombedze,
26, an unemployed woman whose name was missing from the voter list in
Chitungwiza, a bedroom community south of Harare, the capital. "This doesn't
surprise me because these guys have always been rigging."

The expectation of manipulation so infuses discussion of this election that
debate has turned to how voters will react if results show that Mugabe has
won yet again despite a decade-long national collapse so complete that
schools lack teachers, stores lack food and the few still with jobs lack bus
fare to work. Many Zimbabweans insist that the official inflation rate of
100,000 percent is an underestimate.

The legions of supporters of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai have sorted
themselves into two categories: those who are preparing to swallow election
results they don't believe, and those who are planning to resist. The past
few days have featured bold pronouncements that major street protests, all
but unprecedented here, will materialize. Tsvangirai has urged voters to
mass at the 9,000 polling stations across the nation to "protect our votes."

"The people's victory is assured despite the attempts of the regime to
subvert the people's will," Tsvangirai told reporters after casting his

But a University of Zimbabwe political analyst, Eldred Masunungure, said his
study of the national political culture shows that voters are strongly
disinclined to challenge Mugabe, who has made clear his willingness to use
the police, military and intelligence services to crush dissent. Over the
past two days, officers have been posted at urban intersections and
countless highway roadblocks in this country of 12 million.

Masunungure said that an overwhelming turnout by the opposition might
persuade Mugabe and his inner circle to step aside. But if they don't, he
said, Tsvangirai and his supporters have few options.

"People will be frustrated. There will be a sense of foreboding, and a sense
of helplessness," Masunungure said. "But that sense of helplessness will not
be translated into political action. . . . I don't think so."

Yet some opposition figures have warned that a rigged outcome -- coming off
widely denounced elections in 2000, 2002 and 2005 -- would tip the nation
into violence resembling the slaughter in Kenya after that nation's flawed
presidential election in December. Police reported Saturday that a gasoline
bomb was found at the home of a ruling party legislator in Bulawayo, an
opposition stronghold, suggesting that tensions are not far from the
surface. There were no injuries.

"We should do something about Mugabe," said Tsvangirai supporter Robert
Wilson, 35, a former truck driver, in the town of Marondera, about 45 miles
east of Harare. "If Mugabe wins, there will be civil war like the Kenya

Former Mugabe finance minister Simba Makoni, who defected from the ruling
party in February to run for president, has been joining Tsvangirai's
warnings in recent days that Mugabe, 84, intends to steal his way to another
term in office.

Mugabe has repeatedly denied the allegations.

"We don't rig elections. We have a sense of honesty. I cannot sleep with my
conscience if I have cheated," Mugabe told reporters Saturday.

Mugabe's supporters expressed confidence in the fairness of the electoral
system and predicted he would win fairly. They blamed Zimbabwe's economic
troubles on U.S. and European sanctions rather than government economic

"We have faith in him," said Bigknock Marikopo, 55, a farmer. "You can't
blame your father because he's poor."

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HOT SEAT INTERVIEW: Journalist Violet Gonda interviews political commentator Brian Kagoro

SW Radio Africa Transcript

Broadcast 28 March 2008

Violet Gonda: My guest on the programme Hot Seat is political commentator
Brian Kagoro, who is here to give us his analysis of the crucial elections
in Zimbabwe. Thank you for joining us.

Brian Kagoro: You are welcome Violet.

Violet: I am going to go straight into the pre-election environment.
Publicly both Simba Makoni and Morgan Tsvangirai have said the election
environment is not free and fair but on the ground it appears each candidate
has been able to electioneer. So what constitutes a free and fair
environment because the candidates have been having rallies that have not
been interrupted by the police?

Kagoro: The key ones are that the environment must be free of intimidation
but they must also have equitable access not only to the media but to
information they require to prosecute their campaigns. And that information
includes information relating to the voter’s register, information relating
to a number of ballot papers printed, information relating to the number of
polling stations and information relating to the modalities of how the vote
will be conducted and the number of polling stations; and also protection
from and by the police. It covers procedural things – like the process of
ensuring that the ruling party doesn’t get preferential treatment, the
process of ensuring not only the access to media but access to get hold of
information that they require to prepare their campaign; that this is
readily available, that no administrative barriers are put in place to
frustrate that access.

Violet: Mugabe and his security forces have said they will not allow any
opposition victory while the opponents have said the people will safeguard
their vote if it is stolen. What do you think Zimbabweans should make of

Kagoro: Well that statement is an unfortunate statement. It is an
undertaking or a promise to subvert the constitution and ordinarily
therefore a criminal offence, which if a new government came into force it
could use as a basis for dismissing those who have indicated that they would
not show it respect. But I think also that the four individuals (in the
security forces) cannot determine for the rest of the country what choices
they should make. I think Zimbabweans are constitutionally entitled to
choose whomsoever they desire as their leader at the poll that will be held
on the 29th of March.

The military’s brief is to safeguard the security interests of Zimbabwe. The
attempt by leaders of the armed forces to interfere in political matters is
a fundamental breach of their terms of contract and I think it is a matter
that the new government of Zimbabwe must carefully look into once it is in

Violet: Some observers have said we may see a Kenyan style revolt after the
elections while others say it would be the government against the people.
What do you see happening?

Kagoro: I am hopeful that Zimbabweans have the good sense not to go the
Kenyan route but I am conscious though and aware of the fact that within the
different contending parties, they each can count on a certain measure of
support from section of the military – from the armed forces and that it
would be unfortunate if the vote were stolen or an action were taken either
by the military or other section of Zimbabwean society that would be
instigatory or incite violence. If that did happen I trust that there would
be an immediate and swift response by the international community and in
particular by the African Union. It is inadmissible under the rules of the
African Union for anyone to usurp power by force or unconstitutionally.

Violet: But do you think people’s revolutionary threshold has reached its
peak in Zimbabwe?

Kagoro: No I am hopeful that this election would be a surprise for many
people. You have a ruling party that is not prepared to lose. You have an
opposition that is not entirely convinced that it will win or convinced that
it will win and you have a mass of people – the Zimbabwean public – who are
determined to see some sort of change. And I believe that the result would
be shocking, resoundingly shocking. I believe that there are many things
that the establishment has taken for granted and it would be fundamentally
shocked and that the shock would be so profound that there will be no basis
for the establishment to claim that the Zimbabwean people have not spoken.

Violet: Like what do you think the establishment has taken for granted? What

Kagoro: They have taken for granted that the voter patterns would be similar
to those we have seen replicated in the last few elections – where there has
been a narrow victory for the establishment. Where they almost had a clean
sweep of the rural areas and the opposition has been confined to urban
areas. I think the reality of these elections is the extent of despondency
and the yearning for change and the appetite for change transcends the urban
boundary deep into the rural areas. And I think there is a courage informed
either by the present suffering or by a consciousness that says change is
overdue within the rural sector. So I think there will be shocking results
in some rural areas for the establishment and I think they would need post
traumatic psycho-social counseling.

Violet: Now let’s move on to the issue of the three main Presidential
candidates – Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai and Simba Makoni.  Briefly
what would you say are the weaknesses and strengths of these candidates.

Kagoro: Let me start of with Mugabe. If this election were being held
generally in Africa he might have a slim chance of winning. Particularly
because he has adopted Pan Africanist rhetoric, an anti imperialist rhetoric
that gives a critique of the dealings of the West – that is the Europeans,
the Americans – in Africa.  That he has characterized the relationships of
inequity – whether it’s trade injustices or conditionalities that are
imposed when loans are given or some other forms of hegemonic behavior by
the global north that have kept Africa under-developed. Sometimes
interferences to effect regime change against what would otherwise be
popular regimes, in the interests not of the local people but of those
regimes. So if elections were being held in Africa and the election issue
were simply a critique of the Europeans and America and their negative role
in Africa he would win.

But his relevance to the domestic situation is now totally, totally nil for
several reasons:  The bulk of the population in the country is under the age
of 40 and even more are under the age of 30. That means they were born on
the eve of independence. They have not been able to enter independence or to
enjoy the benefits of independence which would have been freedom, access to
greater opportunities and resources, access to better and quality public
services, access to employment, decent employment and decent wages. A great
number of those young people are unemployed. They are living in squalor.
They have no particular hope for the future and the rhetoric of anti
America, anti Europe – as accurate as it may be at a rhetorical sense – does
not create jobs. So if and over and above that rhetoric Mugabe was able to
create jobs, create opportunities for young people, create a sense of hope
and a better future then his chances might be increased.

Simba Makoni’s strength is he has experience in government. He has been in
government since the age of 29 or so. So he has that experience, he has
exposure and also he understands State craft – having been part of this
system.  His major handicap is that he came out late and that he is viewed
by many as not having taken a decisive enough stance as the wrath that set
into our nation unfolded; whether it be the crisis in Matabeleland or it be
the economic decline or the madness post 2000 – the assault on democratic
opposition, the human rights violations and some of the curious and
irrational policies adopted, that have resulted in hyper-inflationary
conditions. So there will be many that will not readily forgive him for not
having been more resolute in his opposition. But there are many though will
appreciate that he has albeit at the eleventh hour come out, taken a stance
and therefore shows a willingness to join the party of those who are trying
to bring about reconstitution, reconstruction and change in Zimbabwe.

For Morgan Tsvangirai, his real strength is that he has been in the trenches
on the side of people who are oppressed, fighting a struggle that they get
recognition for the re-humanisation of the Zimbabwean working people,
Zimbabwean workers and Zimbabwean peasantry almost as a lone fighter – him
and the colleagues in the pro-democracy movement in Zimbabwe. As such he
carries - out of the three candidates - a heavier street credibility. His
downside of course would be there would be many who believe that his
experience with State craft might be wanting and therefore if one is looking
for a decisive way to steer the economy out of its current doldrums that he
might need greater support from other actors.

In a sense as I have always insisted, it is not a beauty contest. None of
the candidates single handedly have all the qualities that are required to
take the country out of its present quagmire. Ultimately the optimum
solution would be whether before or after the elections for a combination of
these candidates to come together, marry their respective strengths in order
to minimize their respective weaknesses and chart a common platform for
change in Zimbabwe. I think that the Puritans are wrong – those who are
insisting on ideological purity – that we can only have people who have
endured this level of suffering or those from ZANU who are saying  they can
only accept people who have endured or gone through this particular type of

Violet: That’s what I wanted to ask you, that many have said that Morgan
Tsvangirai and Simba Makoni’s economic policies are not that different and
you actually asked some pertinent questions in an article recently were you
asked that if this is the case, then what is the basis beyond their policies
for judging one more preferable than the other and you asked if it is the
length of time spent in ZANU PF or is it the amount of suffering endured at
the hands of ZANU PF? You went on to ask and I quote: Which one of them is
more inclusive in their style of leadership? Should we look at which one of
them would be amenable to manipulation from the West? From ZANU PF? From big
Corporations? Is it on the basis of looks? Experience in running
institutions? Ability to administer an economy or level of education? Quite
a lot of questions. So I would like to throw a general question back to you
Brian – what do you think is the basis that people should judge these
candidates on right now?

Brian: I think that the basic premise of judgement should be, for me; I am a
child of the liberation struggle but also one of those who in founding the
NCA believed that we needed a State President and a Prime Minister. I do not
see a problem necessarily if one looks at the more preferred candidates in
this election. I don’t see a complication in them possibly being part of the
same government - one as President and the one as Prime Minister because
they bring to the table different competences. I think that Zimbabweans must
base this election on the premise of leadership. Which one of these is the
best leader?

Now leadership should not be judged purely on the basis of education nor
should it be judged purely on the basis of suffering. Leadership should be
judged by referencing which one of these leaders epitomises the value of a
new Zimbabwe, the values of a more accountable and democratic Zimbabwe that
we aspire for. A Zimbabwe based on transparency which is corruption free but
a Zimbabwe that respects the fact that it is a sovereign nation and not a
proxy of the interest of the West. But also a Zimbabwe that is not ruled
purely by human brilliance but by a realization that it is a country endowed
with its many gifted people. So we need a leader who has an openness to
include embracing the many talents that God has gifted our people with in
the rebuilding of the country. So we must be looking at the openness of the
leader, the ability to accommodate diversity, the ability to accommodate
giftings and to optimise them and to turn them into opportunities for
national development. A leader who will spur and inspire people to become
more creative, more productive and more caring about the country. But also a
leader who is not amenable to manipulation by the present cash and the
economy barons - those who have pegged off our mines, pegged off large
chunks of our productive sector and our service sector.

In sense we are looking not just for an individual or we are looking for a
team but because we have to vote for an individual I think the sole test
should not be historical. It must be looking at the mental aptitude, looking
at the moral aptitude of the person - saying who has the moral courage to
take the tough decisions that need to be taken to move the country forward
and who has the mental aptitude to withstand the challenges that were
created by the present establishment, and who has the honesty to keep us
sustained and visually focused on moving Zimbabwe to a new day.

Violet: And Brian you know the issue of human rights abuses have gotten a
lot of play but in order for progress should this issue be put aside? Do you
think the issue of human rights has been overplayed and right now people
should forget about the past in order to move on?

Brian: Not at all I think human rights are fairly important. What has not
happened is a clean balance between the political economy question human
rights. So you have had extremes. You’ve had one set of people who say well
it’s about the economy really - once you get the economy going all these
other things will be cured. And others will say unless you address the issue
of civil and political rights there is no change occurring. I think this
black and white characterization of solutions is problematic. As far as I am
concerned, it will take us a long time to finally figure a formula that will
compensate victims of the liberation struggle for the emotional, social,
physical trauma that they endured. It will also take us an even longer time
to compensate and assuage the pain that the people of Matabeleland and the
Midlands went through as a result of the Gukurahundi genocidal acts. It will
even be longer for the victims of the post 2000 violence meted out against
the political opposition. But there is something that we can immediately do
something about and I am not hearing a great commitment from our three
candidates. This is dealing with the pillage of our economy, the pillage of
state assets and the rampant corruption in pegging off mines by people who
are well known and portions of the productive sector including in the
farmlands. I am not hearing anyone talking about this sort of healing that
they return the assets so that the resources that are received or realized
from returning these assets to the people can be applied towards providing
people with a different primary health care system, decent education
systems, electricity and other services.

Violet: Now Brian I am running out of time so just in 10 seconds as I have
just two minutes left - what role do you think civil society will play after
the elections as it seems the different organizations are now divided along
party lines?

Brian: I think civil society will be the most traumatized of the lot firstly
because they have auctioned their souls to the different political
formations. I think that the first role will be one of reconstruction. We
need to redefine a space called the civic sector which is not dominated by
political party interests - that’s one. Number two I think civil society
needs to redefine its agenda around not only the civil and political rights
issues and constitutional reform but define an agenda around the more
structural issues - the agrarian question, the national question, the
industrial question. Civil society in Zimbabwe has avoided dealing with
questions of what type of economy do we require. I appreciate the great work
that ZIMCORD (The Zimbabwe Conference on Reconstruction and Development) has
started in this regard but it needs to be expanded. I think the dialogue on
the economy, the type of tax system, the type of monetary system needs to be
a democratic and popular debate otherwise we will have a new constitution
with the same old economy and ways of conducting and dealing with economic
matters. And that economy has resulted in poverty and the impoverishment of
people, the erosion of real wages and erosion of people’s rights and access
to public services. So unless if civil society begins to apply itself to
these fundamental issues I think there will be a gross misdirection. What is
promising to be a great hope will result in I think immense darkness. So in
a sense unless if civil society introspects and begins to critically look at
fundamental issues of reconstruction - what do we do post Mugabe - civil
society is wasting not only trying, but the money its donors are giving to

Violet: With all that you have said on this program today in terms of how
people should judge the candidates this weekend, who are you going to vote
for because you will have that opportunity to vote on Saturday? Who are you
going to vote for based on where you think Zimbabwe should be going and who
the best candidate is?

Brian: I am very clear I am going to vote for my councillor and I am going
to vote for my MP and as far as the President is concerned I have always
voted for the same person and because my vote is not based on friendship but
this time around I think I will give both candidates a call when I get home
and on the basis of the conversation that we have I will cast my vote. So
this one is not a friendship vote for me anymore. I think I have just a
simple question for the two candidates - the only candidates that are likely
to get my vote. There is one that has traditionally gotten my vote, always
received my vote and then the other one of course is a new entrant. And I
just want to ask them one honest question and if they give me an answer that
is satisfactory that will move my vote in the way it must go. So I’ll keep
my vote a secret for now. There needs to be compelling reasons for the vote
to shift from the way I have always traditionally voted. Unlike most
Zimbabweans, whilst I support all sorts of changes that comes there are
people that I have been with for a long time, that I have known for a long
time and I think that they ordinarily deserve my vote but I have certain
questions that I would like them to answer.

Violet: Thank you very much Brian and I guess Zimbabweans need to understand
that their vote is secret and thank you for agreeing to talk on the program
Hot Seat

Brian: Alright you’re welcome.

Comments and feedback can be emailed to

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Zimbabweans Hold Mock Elections in London


By Tendai Maphosa
29 March 2008

Zimbabwean law does not allow citizens outside the country to vote. But to
show their solidarity with Zimbabweans who are voting in Saturday's
elections, some of those in the diaspora have organized mock balloting.
Tendai Maphosa visited one so-called polling station in London and filed
this report for VOA.

The closest these exiles can get to Zimbabwe is outside Zimbabwe's embassy
in downtown London, where they set up a mock polling station. The carnival
atmosphere suggested a celebration, but many of those gathered here said
they are aware that, when the votes are counted, there might be little to
celebrate.  Most are supporting the presidential candidate Morgan
Tsvangirai, of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, against
long-time president Robert Mugabe, of the ruling ZANU-PF party.

MAN1: "Every one knows that the opposition is going to win the elections,
but officially, Robert Mugabe is going to win it."

MAN2: "Mugabe will rig it and he has already done so I am afraid."

MAN3: "Whether they are going to rig the election, I am quite optimistic
that the MDC is still going to win."

The mock polling station comes complete with ballot papers, a ballot box,
people dressed as polling officials and others in Zimbabwe police and army

One complaint of the Zimbabwean opposition is that the presence of police
officers in polling stations intimidates voters. The government says the
police are there to help those who cannot vote by themselves.

The opposition has also complained that the voting rolls have been inflated.
It charges that people who died ages ago and what it describes as
non-existent "ghost voters" are on the rolls.

In London, the Zimbabweans enacted scenes showing how, they say, elections
are stolen in Zimbabwe.

Ephraim Tapa explains.

"We have seen people coming out of their coffins, the dead casting votes, we
have also seen some people declaring that they are illiterate, they are
blind, so that they can be assisted by ZANU-PF functionaries who are dressed
up in police uniforms and army uniforms, just to illustrate how, to what
extent, Mugabe can go in terms of rigging the election," he said.

Agnes, who came to the embassy on Saturday, is a supporter of Morgan
Tsvangirai. She is cautiously optimistic that he will succeed in his attempt
to be Zimbabwe's second president since the country's independence in 1980.

"Change is what Zimbabwe needs," she said.  "We have long suffered, and the
hope is that 2008 is the year that we will have that change."

But those who spoke to VOA said they hope that whatever the result, the
situation will not degenerate into the kind of violence that followed
presidential elections in Kenya last year.

But they also said that the economic difficulties facing the people of
Zimbabwe may leave them no choice but to go into the streets.

Zimbabwe is holding presidential, parliamentary and local council elections
against the backdrop of the highest inflation rate in the world, high
unemployment, and chronic shortages of food, fuel and electricity.

Critics of Mr. Mugabe blame him for the country's crisis.  He blames the
problems on sanctions imposed by former colonial power, Britain.

Besides Tsvangirai, Mr. Mugabe is also facing a challenge from Simba Makoni,
a former finance minister running as an independent.

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Sources spill the beans on Boyongwe and CIO saga

The Zimbabwean

 Saturday, 29 March 2008 17:47

The lid on how the complex Zanu (PF) succession battle has thrown into
turmoil the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) has been removed.

Sources told The Zimbabwean on Sunday that a powerful clique within the CIO
has been working on getting rid of President Robert Mugabe but was
discovered by the geriatric leader.
CIO director, Happyton Bonyongwe, is battling for his political and
professional survival after what is believed to be the exposure of his
involvement in the Makoni project. Bonyongwe, impeccable sources have
revealed, has also come under serious scrutiny and summoned for questioning
by Mugab,e who has reportedly discovered his role in foiled coup plots.
Mugabe is said to  have hastily arranged for what sources described as
“realignment and refocusing of power” within the CIO top leadership by
effectively making its deputy director, Menard Muzariri, closest to him. In
addition, Mugabe also did some shuffling of officials in charge of critical
and sensitive tasks, mainly to do with his safety and security.
“It is a very complex saga,” a top source said.“Mugabe discovered that there
have even been deliberate plans to compromise his security and expose him by
people he thought were still very loyal to him.
“When he cracked the whip and summoned people one by one, he then learnt of
the serious divisions and how a powerful clique had played a major role in
forming the
Makoni outfit and was even providing logistical, material and human
resources to it.”
State security minister Didymus Mutasa was summoned by Mugabe and is
understood to have confirmed that there were many sell-outs in government,
including CIO.
We heard from reliable sources in the Makoni camp that “probably Simba has
more CIO leaders on his side than Mugabe”. They said Bonyongwe and other top
CIO members were even involved in meetings held to plan the Makoni project
here and in South Africa.

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A letter from the diaspora

 28th March 2008

Dear Friends.
Thursday last week marked the first day of Spring here in the UK. Nature
seemed to be in agreement with the calendar for once: daffodils were out,
primroses in bloom and birds singing. Then the weather gods took a hand and
the Easter break turned bitterly cold with whirling snowstorms and pictures
in the papers of chaos on the motorways and kids building snowmen.
It was all a very long way from home and that's all Zimbabweans here in the
diaspora are thinking and talking about right now; what's happening at home?
Thanks to Robert Mugabe we can't vote. Upwards of three million of us have
no say in who will govern the country for the next five years. All we can do
is scour the papers and news media for coverage of the Zimbabwe story. My
box of press cuttings grows heavier by the day as the British newspapers
wake up to the fact that Zimbabwe just might be the next really big story to
hit the headlines. Despite Mugabe's efforts to keep all foreign journalists
out, the accounts of potential rigging and the printing of thousands of
extra ballots papers are common knowledge in the western media.
Like most Zimbabweans here and at home I alternate between profound
depression and wild hope. Maybe, I tell myself, just maybe this time
Zimbabweans can do it. We can get rid of this terrible old man with his
threats of violent retribution should the unthinkable happen and he loses
the vote tomorrow. He will take to the bush he screams, Zimbabwe will never
be a colony again, there will be another chimurenga. 'Get behind the fist'
is his new slogan and this morning the streets of Harare resemble an armed
fortress with armoured tanks and Israeli-made water canons accompanied by
heavily armed troop carriers roaring through the city. It's all designed to
intimidate the population to vote for Zanu PF and another five years of hell
on earth. But I believe the old man has seriously underestimated his own
people and my belief was re-enforced by a phonecall I received just this
morning from a good friend of mine back home in Zimbabwe from the so-called
heartland of Zanu PF in Mashonaland East.
8000 people, he told me, had attended Morgan Tsvangirai's rally in the town
recently and described how people had walked 20 kms to be there to hear
'their' President speak. The people have found their voice and their courage
at last! My friend had attended every political rally in the area; 600
people for Mugabe in Mutawatawa he said and even then the rally was delayed
for two hours while the party faithful rushed round to corral people into
attending; 100 for Simba Makoni in Murehwa itself and then - 8000 for Morgan
in the Council Grounds of all places where Zanu PF have their Party
Headquarters! The ruling party have the use of the Ground for free but MDC
had to pay 3 billion Zim dollars. Singing and dancing and joyous laughter;
it was like one huge party, he said. An ambuya from the rural area asked '
When have you ever seen Va Mugabe dancing, or heard him singing…or seen him
smiling'? She was right to ask. What Mugabe has to offer is the fist and the
grim unsmiling face of a man who has stayed too long and knows it. Why else
should he be so afraid of a man he has dismissed as a puppet of the British,
the teaboy as he disparagingly calls Morgan Tsvangirai?
Strangely enough, the British seem more interested in Simba Makoni. They
believe he can fix Zimbabwe's disastrous economy I suppose or perhaps, like
some Zimbabweans, they are just taken in by the doctorate? As if academic
degrees have anything to do with plain common sense. I've been a teacher all
my working life and I've never known the two necessarily go together! Robert
Mugabe is surely a case in point! What Zimbawe needs right now is a true Man
of the People, a person who can empathise with their suffering and
understand their needs. I believe Morgan Tsvangirai is that man.
I hear the wonderful Zimbabwean humour is in full swing with text messages
and ring tones helping people to smile despite their pain. I liked the
prediction my friend gave me this morning. It came in the form of a text
massage…from a nun, a Zanu PF supporter sensing perhaps that the end is near
for the old man. 'Morgan Tsvangirai for State House, Simba Makoni for
Minister of Finance and Robert Mugabe for an Old People's Home.'
We must just wait and see, wait and hope that tomorrow will bring the longed
for New Beginning.

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