(AFP) – 3 hours ago
BRUSSELS — EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton hailed ongoing political
reforms in Zimbabwe but stopped short of pledging a quick easing of
sanctions in talks with a delegation from Harare on Thursday.
The talks were "a constructive step", her office said, in what the two sides
have dubbed a "re-engagement" process since the country's leaders agreed to
draft a new constitution to be put to a referendum before elections.
The Zimbabwe team of three ministers from the three main political parties
in the coalition government of President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister
Morgan Tsvangirai "pressed the case for a full removal of sanctions", a
"The EU recognised progress to date and encouraged the reform process to
continue in the same positive direction, allowing progress towards
normalisation of relations," it added.
Zimbabwe is to send the European Union a letter setting out its case "which
the EU side would consider before the end of July," the statement said.
Zimbabwe state media last weekend quoted one of the three visiting
ministers -- Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa from Mugabe's ZANU-PF -- as
saying the ministers hoped the talks would lead to the unconditional removal
of remaining EU sanctions.
But a senior EU official, speaking on condition of anonymity, this week said
"progress on political reform has continued in the right direction, but is
"The talks will give us an opportunity to say what we are looking for and
them to say what they are planning," the official added.
In February, the 27-nation EU removed a visa ban and asset freeze on 51 of
150 people targeted by the restrictive measures and 20 of 30 companies under
EU sanctions imposed in 2002.
It maintained sanctions against Mugabe, who is 88 and has ruled since
independence from Britain in 1980. After failed elections in 2008, he was
forced into a power-sharing government with his rival Tsvangirai in a move
meant to clear the way to new polls.
The other two ministers in Brussels are Energy Minister Elton Mangoma from
Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change and Regional Integration
Minister Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga from an MDC breakaway faction.
By Alex Bell
10 May 2012
A leading Zimbabwean pro-democracy activist has said that ZANU PF’s reaction
to a landmark South African court ruling this week shows the party has been
left shaken by the order, which calls for the authorities there to probe
crimes against humanity in Zimbabwe.
The North Gauteng High Court on Tuesday ruled that South Africa must
investigate state-sanctioned torture and other crimes against humanity at
the hands of Zimbabwean officials in 2007. The ruling is being described as
‘landmark’ for local and international justice, because it means accused
ZANU PF officials can be arrested and tried in South Africa for crimes they
committed in Zimbabwe.
But ZANU PF has dismissed the ruling as ‘irrelevant’ with the party’s
Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa saying it was a general judgement without
“The ruling brings the South African justice system into disrepute,”
Chinamasa said, adding: “it is a sad moment for the justice system in South
The ruling Tuesday is the result of a case launched in March by the Southern
Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) and the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum. The two
groups had asked the High Court to review and set aside a decision made by
South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the police not to
investigate Zimbabwean officials linked to acts of state-sanctioned torture.
Their case was based on a dossier detailing the attack on MDC members in
2007, which was handed to the NPA in 2008. But a formal investigation was
Dewa Mavhinga from the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition welcomed Tuesday’s
ruling as a victory, not only for Zimbabwean torture victims, but for
justice in general.
“The judgment comes at a critical time when Zimbabwe is preparing for
elections and we expect that it will be a deterrent to overzealous party
supporters who may wish to commit political violence,” Mavhinga told SW
Mavhinga said that ZANU PF’s dismissal of the ruling was a sign of their
anger, saying: “They are jittery about what this means for their future.”
“This is an angry and jittery response because all those implicated in
political violence and other serious human rights abuses will have to think
twice before setting foot in South Africa. It is now clear that authorities
in South Africa have clear obligations to investigate and prosecute
individuals for crimes against humanity committed in Zimbabwe.”
Harare, May 10, 2012 - Zimbabwe’s top lawyer, Johannes Tomana, this week
said Zimbabwean citizens will not be subjected to South African and
international laws that the country is not part to.
He said this in response to a ruling by a South African court this week
ordering the prosecution of Zimbabwean officials who were involved in the
torture of the then opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party in
The ruling meant that South African authorities can probe and prosecute
crimes committed in neighbouring Zimbabwe under international law.
In his ruling South African judge Hans Fabricius said there are reasonable
grounds for the prosecution of Zimbabwean officials once they step into
"In my view it is clear when an investigation under the ICC Act is
requested, and a reasonable basis exists for doing an investigation,
political considerations or diplomatic initiatives are not relevant," said
Fabricius in his 100 paged judgement.
Several Zimbabwean officials frequently travel to South Africa for shopping
and medical reasons.
They also regularly visit South African universities to see their children
But Tomana dismissed the ruling laughing it off as a political exercise in
“The South African Police Service has no jurisdiction to prosecute us,” said
Johannes Tomana, Attorney General (AG).
The top government lawyer said even the International Criminal Court (ICC)
have no right over Zimbabweans.
“ICC has no jurisdiction to prosecute us. Crimes against Zimbabweans falls
under the laws of Zimbabwe and can only be prosecuted under these laws.
Zimbabwe itself is not party to the ICC charter, it is not a member of the
ICC,” said Tomana adding that there is no prosecuting arrangement between
Zimbabwe and South Africa.
“I am not aware of such arrangement between South Africa and us and between
us and ICC to prosecute Zimbabweans. In a way we are disappointed by this
political decision,” Tomana added.
The ICC is a Netherlands based court established to prosecute individuals
for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Zimbabwe is not part to the Rome Statute which established the court on 1
The ruling by the South African court was sponsored by the Southern Africa
Litigation Centre (SALC) and the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum who brought a case
before the court seeking to force prosecutors to open an investigation,
citing South Africa's ICC obligations.
The two groups want South Africa to arrest and prosecute 17 Zimbabweans
accused of torture in 2007 if they enter the country for holiday, shopping
or seeking medical treatment.
South African prosecutors had refused to investigate the allegations, citing
among other things political concerns which brought about sensitivity around
that country’s role as the mediator to the country’s political crisis.
The death last month of 12 people burnt beyond recognition after a head-on
collision between a haulage truck and a South African-registered Toyota
Hilux twin-cab along the Bulawayo-BeitBridge highway, has highlighted the
problem of corruption by traffic cops.
by Mkhululi Chimoio
Cross border traders are fuming over bribes they pay once they touch
“There are numerous road blocks along the Gwanda-BeitBridge road. You have
to set aside more than R500 for the police,” said Mpume Ndlovu.
Tafadzwa Manyika blamed every road accident on the ZRP.”These guys are
useless. They must be taken off our roads and streets and community members
should take over their operations,” he said.
Who is to blame for the accident?
There are many unanswered questions about the accident, such as how did the
cops allow the driver to pass through more than six roadblocks mounted
between Bulawayo and scene of the accident with an overload of 12 people.
Analyst Zamile Zulu was quick to reprimand ZRP for failing citizens and
valuing money morethan human life.
“Definitely whoever was in charge that day must resign immediately. You can’t
allow such a thing to happen. Normally, that size of Bakkie doesn’t carry
more than seven people.
It had extra five people and made it as far as West Nicholson. This proves
that those roadblocks are just there to take bribes,” he fumed.
Police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Oliver Mandipaka was quoted
refuting claims that his institution is corrupt, but the behaviour of his
service men proves him otherwise.
In September last year President Robert Mugabe swore-in a nine member
Anti-corruption Commission but it has remained dormant. Last year
Vice-President JoiceMujuru said corruption and negligence by uniformed
forces was a worrying matter - but nothing is being done to improve the
By Tererai Karimakwenda
10 May 2012
Two MDC-T supporters facing trumped up charges of assaulting a cop at last
weekend’s rally in Kambuzuma were granted bail in Harare on Thursday. But
the police claimed 50 more MDC-T supporters were involved in the alleged
Passmore Jaricha and Lovemore Chimbangu had been in detention at Warren Park
Police Station since Sunday, when police briefly disrupted the Kambuzuma
rally, claiming they were looking for party member who had assaulted a plain
But according to Defence lawyer Gift Mutisi, his clients arrived at the
rally while police were already searching for some unnamed violence
perpetrator, and were not involved in any assaults on a cop. The lawyer said
he doubts the incident even took place.
“It was a non-event. It never happened. These guys were just unfortunate to
be arrested at that rally,” Mutisi told SW Radio Africa on Thursday. He
explained that the state case relies on unnamed witnesses who the police
claim to have seen the assault.
Although no other evidence has implicated Jaricha and Chimbangu, judgement
was reserved on their bail application when they appeared in court
Wednesday. On Thursday they were granted $50 bail each and ordered to report
to the police every Friday. There will be a remand hearing on May 23rd.
“According to state papers investigations are still going on and they
indicated that they want to arrest 50 more people who they allege to have
been involved in assaulting the police officer,” Mutisi explained.
Police already have 29 MDC-T members in custody facing trumped up charges of
murdering Glen View policeman Petros Mutedza last year. The majority were
picked up randomly by police claiming to be investigating the murder. Among
them is the MDC-T National Youth Chairman, Solomon Madzore, who has been
detained for almost a year.
Known ZANU PF thugs and the police disrupted several MDC-T rallies last
weekend, assaulting party supporters without provocation. The MDC-T have
since demanded the resignation of Police Chief Augustine Chihuri and the
release of all their detained members.
Thursday, 10 May 2012
The two MDC members, Lovemore Chimbangu and Passmore Jaricha, who were
arrested last Sunday at an MDC rally in Kambuzuma, Harare were today granted
US$50 bail each at the Harare Magistrates’ Courts.
They are facing false charges of assaulting a police officer at the rally
which was being addressed by the MDC National Organising Secretary, Hon.
Armed anti-riot police officers briefly disrupted the rally on Sunday and
arrested the two.
After their arrest, Chimbangu and Jaricha were seriously assaulted by three
police officers at Warren Park Police Station and have had to seek medical
attention on their release today.
One of the assailants has been identified as Moto from the Police Internal
Security Intelligence (PISI).
The people’s struggle for real change – Let’s finish it!!!
By Staff Reporter 51 minutes ago
Utterances this week by Zimbabwe Defence Forces Chief of Staff, Major
General Martin Chedondo, declaring open allegiance to Zanu PF and urging the
military to accept no other party, have raised a storm with political
parties and analysts describing the general’s statements as “treasonous”.
According to Zimbabwe’s laws, uniformed forces are not supposed to openly
support any political party and Chedondo’s remarks have raised concerns such
statements, coming as they did when talk of elections has escalated,
contravened constitutional provisions and sparked fears they exposed the
country to a military coup.
The analysts said what made Chedondo’s utterances even more dangerous was
that they were not an expression of personal political allegiance, but more
of an order to the thousands of troops that he was addressing during a
The major general, who was addressing 3 000 soldiers from 2 Brigade
undergoing a battlefield training exercise in Mutoko on Tuesday, said
soldiers should be involved in politics, before making it clear the party
the soldiers should support was Zanu PF.
“As soldiers, we will never be apologetic for supporting Zanu PF because it
is the only political party that has national interests at heart,” Chedondo
said, adding he was saying so “because I was part of the liberation
MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora yesterday said Chedondo’s comments
exposed Zanu PF “bankruptcy”.
“The utterances by that soldier are clearly to intimidate the people of
Zimbabwe and they expose the rogueness and bankruptcy of members of Zanu PF
institutions. This justifies our calls for security sector reforms,” said
“That soldier does not seem to know that the people are above the army and
they make the decisions whether the army likes it or not. He can freely
support Zanu PF, but he has no right to wear our uniform. He must come out
and campaign for political office,” he said.
Mwonzora said Chedondo should not abuse young soldiers who had nothing to do
with such “madness”.
Constitutional lawyer Greg Linington said there was no provision in the
Constitution that allowed the army to participate in national politics.
“In fact, the Constitution says the defence forces should only defend
Zimbabwe from external enemies and that has nothing to do with politics. The
Zimbabwe Defence Forces are civil servants and their role is not to meddle
in politics,” Linington said.
Political analyst Charles Mangongera said Chedondo’s assertions were a wrong
interpretation of the role of the army as they were supposed to be a
professional institution which did not get involved in political issues.
“Our politics has been poisoned by so much involvement of the security
apparatus to the extent they are now confused about their own role because
that is what the leadership from Zanu PF is telling them to do. They think
they should defend the country from perceived enemies such as the MDCs and
it is dangerous in that they end up getting involved in electoral issues,”
He said in the aftermath of the March 2008 elections, one could argue there
was a de facto military coup because of the situation where election
campaigns were carried out by the military.
Such a situation, he said, presented a risk of State apparatus intervening
to prevent other political parties from assuming power in the event of an
The interim secretary for international relations and co-operation in
Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn, Brian Mubariki, said Chedondo’s comments were dangerous
especially taking into cognisance the recent military coup against the
government of Guinea Bissau where President Raimundo Pereira was toppled.
“It is very regrettable that the coup has now derailed the ongoing electoral
process, which was supposed to culminate in a democratically elected
government in that country,” said Mubariki.
Aggripa Zvomuya, an analyst, described Chedondo’s statements as “treasonous”,
adding it was a sign the military and police in Zimbabwe were panicking
about “an imminent defeat of Zanu PF by the MDC-T” in the next elections.
“Although it is known that soldiers and police officers like Major General
Douglas Nyikayaramba, Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander General Constantine
Chiwenga, Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and Airforce
Commander Air Marshal Perence Shiri support Zanu PF, the majority of
soldiers, especially those in the middle and lower ranks, do not support a
dying party like Zanu PF which has been split into factions due to
infighting,” said Zvomuya. - NewsDay
By Tichaona Sibanda
10 May 2012
Giles Mutsekwa, the MDC-T’s secretary for Defence, Security and Intelligence
has taken a swipe at Major General Martin Chedondo’s ‘treasonous’ political
comments, describing him as ‘a soldier of fortune’ who should be dismissed
from the army.
The Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) Chief of Staff caused a stir this week
when he declared open allegiance to ZANU PF and urged the military to accept
no other political party.
In his address to 3 000 infantry troops from 2 Brigade in Mutoko on Tuesday,
the Major General said soldiers should be involved in politics and made it
clear they should support ZANU PF. His statement has attracted condemnation
both inside and outside the military.
Mutsekwa, a National Housing Minister from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s
party said he will be speaking to Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa soon
to see what his views are on the matter.
He said the general’s utterances revealed that his military training is far
lacking that of a Chief of Staff. Mutsekwa disclosed that, immediately after
Chedondo’ speech, he received numerous calls from some of the troops in
Mutoko, who indicated they support political change.
“I am telling you the truth. Immediately after his address, some of the
troops were on the phone to me saying the rank and file members of the ZDF
are for change,” Mutsekwa, a former major in the army said.
He added: “He’s (Chedondo) exposed himself as a person who has never gone
through the mills and has not been able to be accommodated and trained as
senior officers should be.”
The Mutare North MP told SW Radio Africa on Thursday that a person like
Chedondo remains a political soldier whose ascendency to the position Chief
of Staff exposes the manner in which promotions and appointments are done in
“Through that statement, Major General Chedondo is not worth being a field
rank at all. What such statements inform us is that the few rogue elements
in the ZDF and police have now come to realize that the inevitable is
coming, that a new government is going to be ushered by the people of
Zimbabwe,” Mutswekwa said.
The MP continued: “That new government is going to be formed by the Movement
for Democratic Change and they are damn scared about that. They know what
they’ve said before, they know what they’ve done before and this is why you
see them panicking.”
He added: “This is why they’re issuing these statements in the hope that
they would scare away voters in the next elections. But that is not going to
work. He’s wasting his time by issuing nonsensical statements like that.”
Mutsekwa recounted a similar situation in 2002 when military generals issued
a statement in support of Robert Mugabe and ZANU PF before denouncing
Tsvangirai for lacking liberation war credentials.
“Even after this statement, people still voted Morgan Tsvangirai. They also
had the same threatening words in 2008 but Mugabe lost that election and if
they think this particular time they’re going scare voters again, it is a
complete waste of time. Tsvangirai is going to win overwhelmingly,” he said.
In the past the MDC has accused the military junta of effectively running
Zimbabwe. Chedondo’s statements came days after reports suggested
securocrats were increasingly tightening their grip on ZANU PF amid
indications several members of the CIO, police and retired army officers are
lining up to become candidates in the next general elections.
Thursday, 10 May 2012
The MDC condemns the careless and treasonous utterances made by Major
General Martin Chedondo urging members of the defence forces to take part in
politics and support Zanu PF, contrary to the laws of Zimbabwe.
Chedondo made the remarks in Mutoko on Tuesday addressing 3 000 troops from
2 Brigade who are on a training exercise.
His utterances are against the Global Political Agreement (GPA) signed by
President Morgan Tsvangirai, Zanu PF’s Robert Mugabe and Arthur Mutambara in
Soldiers and other security agents are supposed to be apolitical and their
duty is to protect the people of Zimbabwe and the country.
They must be viewed by the people as partners in development in any
As a Party, we have always made our position clear that there is need of
security sector realignment before the next elections. The country needs a
professional security team that is able to guarantee the secrecy of the vote
as well as the security of the vote and the voter in the next election.
The people of Zimbabwe need to go into the next election without fear of
reprisal from the State security agents as was witnessed in 2008. During
that period over 500 MDC supporters were killed while thousands others were
maimed; assaulted and displaced by Zanu PF rogues.
Chedondo joins other securocrats in supporting Zanu PF when they are not
supposed to be partisan.
Former Brigadier General, Douglas Nyikayaramba once declared that Mugabe
must rule Zimbabwe forever. The statement, which was an apparent bootlicking
gesture, earned him promotion to Major General ahead of the next elections.
The MDC calls on all peace-loving people of Zimbabwe not to be intimidated
by utterances made by Chedondo and to remain focussed until the fight for
real change and democracy in Zimbabwe has been won.
The people’s struggle for real change: Let’s finish it!!!
May 10, 1:25 PM EDT
By GILLIAN GOTORA
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) -- An elderly home opened by Britain's Princess Diana
in a Zimbabwe township during her African charity crusades has run out of
money nearly two decades after its opening, workers at the home said
The Society for the Aged Destitute has had to reduce the number of elderly
given shelter with only a few months of funding left, administrator Louise
Allaart said. She said the home has space for 50 people but can only care
After years of economic meltdown in this southern African country, those
turned away from the home resort to the surrounding litter-strewn streets
where homeless elderly dressed in rags beg for money and scavenge for food
scraps and anything of value.
The home's grounds are overgrown and a bedroom wing has been shut down. The
residents stream into a bare eating room holding battered tin plates. Two
well-wishers have brought them food, and there are broad smiles in the line
for the cornmeal staple, rice and beef.
"We still have good people in Zimbabwe," Allaart said.
Allaart met Princess Diana at the home in 1993 and said she touched the
hearts of everyone she met.
"I was so impressed with her. She had contact with people. It was absolutely
amazing. She had that gift. I want her children to know she touched many
people's hearts in Zimbabwe," she said.
The late Princess Diana opened the home in 1993 as patron of the
British-based HelpAge charity. A sign outside the home still honors the
princess' enormous popularity on the continent because of her African
charity work, but the plight of the home is seen as a reflection of Diana's
dying legacy in Zimbabwe.
British embassy officials in Harare told The Associated Press that they have
begun looking at possible ways to help the home.
Allaart said the home is relying on donations from well-wishers but has only
enough cash in hand to stay open for less than six months.
The British charity HelpAge cut its funding in 2008 at the same time as
foreign development aid to the country dwindled. Local social services were
also hit by record inflation and deepening economic woes surrounding violent
elections that year. Donors saw inflation depleting their funds by more than
tenfold a day.
Sevias Mujere, a trustee at the home, said Zimbabwe's approaching winter
months pose health risks to the men and women, some aged into their 90s.
During frequent power outages after years of political and economic turmoil,
the vulnerable "sit in the dark, cold and shivering," he said.
He said they were susceptible to sometimes fatal infections and respiratory
disease and the home lacked money for medicines, treatment and hospital
"We are struggling to pay salaries for our six workers" who made personal
sacrifices in their dedication to the home, he said.
The commemorative sign at the closed residential wing records how it was
officially opened by Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales on July 11,
"We don't want Princess Diana's name to disappear," Mujere said.
Thursday, 10 May 2012 15:30
About a dozen white farmers who left Zimbabwe eight years ago to settle in
Nigeria could be in trouble.
Local farmers in the area where they were settled are demanding their land
back because they are not benefitting from the activities of the commercial
farmers and they have vowed to drive the white farmers out because their
benefactor can no longer protect them..
About 14 000 farmers in six communities in the Shonga region of Kwara State
sent a petition to the National Assembly last week claiming that they were
dying a slow death as a result of the forceful takeover of their farmlands
The villagers were moved out by then State governor Bukola Saraki to make
room for 14 commercial farmers from Zimbabwe who were given 1 000 hectares
each under a 25-year renewable lease.
Bukola was elected to the Nigerian senate last year.
The villagers are now up in arms because Bukola can no longer protect the
white farmers and is facing fraud charges. They have vowed to “reverse the
years of abuse and injustices even if it means adopting the tactics of Niger
The military in the Niger Delta have been sabotaging the operations of oil
companies to get money some of which they have used to develop their own
An irate Chief Muregi Ndanusa fumed: “The land belongs to the people but
this is a commercial venture. The Zimbabweans did not pay for the land. They
arrived here without a cent in their briefcases; so how can you call them
“This is the most bizarre partnership we have ever seen because the initial
capital was provided by tax payers and the bank loans were guaranteed by the
state. So, my question is: what did the Zimbabwean farmers bring to the
table; these are the question we are taking to the National Assembly”.
Bukola is said to have taken advantage of the plight of the white farmers
who were haunted out of Zimbabwe to win international sympathy, and obtained
loans from five banks to finance the operations of the farmers.
The farmers operations were hailed as a major success but the locals say
they have not been part of that success. The farmers were, for example,
supposed to train local youths in modern farming methods but “the youths are
still carrying hoes and cutlasses” eight years down the line.
Chief Ndanusa also complained that the white farmers were acting like a
colonial force, treating local villagers with little respect and “showing
routine contempt for our customs”.
Bukola is accused of mismanaging $433.3 million in state funds.
May 10, 2012
Sebastian Mhofu | Harare
The European Union is providing $8 million to help revive Zimbabwe’s ailing
agriculture sector. Zimbabwe - once southern Africa's breadbasket - is
still trying to revitalize its agriculture sector, which took a nosedive
after President Robert Mugabe’s government embarked on a land reform program
in 2000 that displaced thousands of white farmers.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization will administer the
$8-million European Union donation to Zimbabwe announced Thursday.
The FAO says it hopes that this money will help Zimbabwe revive the
devastated agricultural sector. Gaoju Han, the head of FAO in southern
Africa, explained his agency’s plans for the donation.
"FAO is committed to the realization of the project results which are:
improved access to essential farm inputs through the local market for
livestock producers, improved agricultural productions based on sustainable
agricultural practices in crop and livestock production, small-scale
irrigation and environmental protection and improved income through surplus
production sale and market linkages," said Han.
Such practices have not been in effect here for more than a decade because
of President Mugabe’s controversial land reform program - which displaced
almost all experienced white farmers from their land without compensation.
They were replaced in many cases by supporters of Mr. Mugabe’s ZANU-PF
party. Few, if any, had the skill or knowledge base for farming. Perennial
food shortages have become the norm in a country that was once a huge food
At the signing ceremony in Harare Thursday, Seiso Moyo, Zimbabwe’s junior
agriculture minister said the EU donation would begin to revive the
country's ailing economy.
“Considering that agriculture is the mainstay of the country’s economy, this
signing ceremony is a positive and pivotal development to national economic
growth, since nearly 70 percent of the population of Zimbabwe live in rural
areas and derive their livelihoods mainly from farming," said Moyo.
It is the rural farmers that FAO will equip with skills, seeds, and
fertilizer to revive Zimbabwean agriculture.
At the moment, many Zimbabweans depend on handouts to meet their basic food
needs. The United Nations estimates that at least 1.5 million people need
food aid in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe's hopes to return to economic prosperity largely depend upon its agriculture.
And right now things are looking up, with a remarkable comeback of the tobacco crop, estimated to be 150 million kilograms, according to the Zimbabwe Standard. Last year Zimbabwe sold 131 million kgs for $360 million.
Zimbabwe's tobacco auctions are in full swing, after a slow start February, with international buyers flying in to buy Zimbabwe's fabled golden leaf and local farmers trucking their bales to the three auction floors in Harare. Some are saying it is like the good old days when tobacco was king in Zimbabwe.
There is a big difference. Most of the tobacco farmers are black instead of white. There are nearly 60,000 black small-scale tobacco farmers who bring an average of 10 bales each to the auctions, for which they earn about $5,000. In the old days, there were about 3,000 white farmers who grew tobacco on sprawling farms and they would truck hundreds of bales to the sales floors each year.
Agriculture has always been a major part of Zimbabwe's diverse economy, along with mining, tourism and manufacturing. Tobacco was always one of Zimbabwe's largest exports, along with gold and other minerals. In 2000 Zimbabwe's reached a peak of tobacco production of 237 million kilograms. But then President Robert Mugabe started his violent seizures of white-owned farms and the tobacco production plummeted.
In 2008 Zimbabwe's tobacco output fell to a low of 48 million kilograms, according to figures from the Zimbabwe Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board. Then tobacco production started to climb to 123 million kgs in 2010 and then to 131 million kgs in 2011, which was credited being the main driver behind a 34 percent growth in the agricultural sector last year, according to the Financial Times. The current crop is forecast to be 150 million kgs, reported the Zimbabwe Standard.
Agriculture contributes an estimated 20 percent to Zimbabwe's GDP of $6 billion, according to the CIA World Factbook. Other major contributors to GDP are industry at 24 percent and services at 54 percent.
Andrew Matibiri, the chief executive officer of the tobacco marketing board, said farmers are getting favorable prices averaging more than $350 per kg because there is a shortage of tobacco on the international market. Zimbabwe still has a reputation for producing excellent quality tobacco, said Matibiri, according to the Standard.
Chinese are buying about 40 percent of Zimbabwe's crop and Western Europeans about 35 percent, said Matibiri.
Will Zimbabwe's tobacco return to the glory days when the country was always one of the world's top three exporters?
Agricultural experts say there are several obstacles, especially the need for the small-scale farmers to get loans to increase their output. They need more seeds, fertilizers, tractors and heated barns used to cure the leaf. But the black farmers are on land seized from white farmers, and the Zimbabwe state retains title to the land. Therefore most banks will not lend money to the farmers, because the don't have title to the land, according to Zimbabwe Tobacco News.
Other crops that used to be produced by Zimbabwe's white large-scale farmers, such as wheat, coffee and flowers remain in the doldrums, with production much lower than before the land seizures.
I remember going to the massive tobacco auction floors in 2000, before the land seizures started, and seeing row after row of bales of golden leaves for sale, hearing the sing-song cadence of the auctioneer and smelling the overpowering aroma of tobacco. The white farmers' Mercedes and SUVs would be parked out front.
Where are the white tobacco farmers now? There are about 200 whites still farming in Zimbabwe, down from about 4,000. Some of them are growing tobacco. Other white farmers who were forced off their land have now been hired as consultants and farm managers to help new black farmers grow the valuable crop.
The tobacco auctions still appear to illustrate the health of Zimbabwe's agricultural sector, especially because the farmers have changed from white to black and from large-scale to small-scale. The new atmosphere at the tobacco auctions is captured in this piece by Al Jazeera.
By Tichaona Sibanda
10 May 2012
Tracy Mutinhiri, a former ZANU PF deputy minister and MP for Marondera East
joined the MDC-T a few days after she was expelled from the former ruling
party in August last year, a source said on Thursday.
The party only made a formal announcement of her move on Wednesday. A senior
MDC-T official in Marondera told SW Radio Africa that his party decided
against announcing her switch at the time, fearing for her safety.
“There were still emotions running high at the time and it was decided by
the party leadership to let things calm down before making the announcement.
But otherwise it has been an open secret in Mashonaland East that Mutinhiri
was one of ours and has been active in the party the whole of this year,”
the MDC-T official said.
Nelson Chamisa, the organising secretary of the MDC-T said his party was
excited that “there is now consensus in the country that the only game in
town is the people’s party of excellence and choice—the MDC.”
“We welcome her to the people’s party and we expect more senior ZANU PF
officials to defect,” Chamisa added.
Mutinhiri, whose former husband Ambrose is a retired brigadier, diplomat and
ex-cabinet minister is believed to harbour intentions of standing as an
MDC-T MP in the next general elections. There are suggestions that if she
wins the party primaries, she might want to contest in her old constituency.
It’s believed she has a huge following of supporters from both ZANU PF and
MDC and that it would work to her advantage if she manages to persuade those
from her former party to vote for her.
Trouble for the former deputy minister of Labour and Social Welfare began
when she attended her brother’s burial, an MDC supporter in 2010. Innocent
Muzuva died in a car crash in Zhombe on his way from celebrations to mark
the 11th anniversary of the MDC in Gokwe. Mutinhiri spoke glowingly about
the MDC for giving his brother a hero’s send off at the funeral attended by
party leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Following that, she was vilified by her party and at one time claimed that
State Security Minister Sydney Sekeramayi was behind the plot to expel her
from ZANU PF.
Written by Xolisani Ncube, Staff Writer
Thursday, 10 May 2012 13:58
HARARE - Mines and mining Minister Obert Mpofu, “disobeyed” a recommendation
from Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) managing director,
Dominic Mubaiwa, to negotiate and investigate a proposed joint venture with
Benn Steinmeitz Group Resources (BSGR), the High Court heard yesterday.
Mpofu instead, wrote a letter to President Robert Mugabe seeking approval of
a joint venture with BSGR, the court was told yesterday.
Advocate Lewis Uriri, a lawyer representing former ZMDC director, told the
court Mpofu ignored a recommendation from Mubaiwa that government should
investigate and negotiate with BSGR before entering into a joint venture
agreement to exploit diamonds in Chiadzwa.
He said the approval of the joint venture ceased to be a “baby of ZMDC but
became Mpofu’s issue.”
Uriri said this while cross-examining ZMDC board chairman Godwills
Masimirembwa, as the trial of Core Mining director Lovemore Kurotwi and
Mubaiwa resumed yesterday. The two are facing fraud charges involving $2
According to a letter produced in court, Mubaiwa wrote to Mpofu seeking
approval for ZMDC to engage BSGR, a company that had shown interest in
mining diamonds in Chiadzwa through its special investment vehicle, Core
Core Mining is owned by Kurotwi.
According to evidence tendered in court, Mubaiwa wrote to the Mines ministry
on June 22 and ministry officials wrote their recommendations to Mpofu the
“The ministry officials wrote to the minister on June 23, advising him that
they needed approval for further negotiations to which the minister
disobeyed, the minister wrote a letter to the President on the same day,
ignoring an advice from his officials,” said Uriri while cross-examining
However, Masimirembwa responded that it was Mpofu’s “prerogative right” to
approve joint ventures agreements.
According to evidence given in court, Mugabe, through his secretary Misheck
Sibanda responded on June 24, a day after Mpofu’s letter.
This raised a question from Uriri who queried why the whole transaction was
made so fast, when government is known for taking long before such matters
are attended to.
“This is efficiency that you always want, when the minister takes time to
approve such things, you say government is very slow, and when they do it
fast, it is a crime to Uriri,” said Masimirembwa defending Mpofu’s fast
response regarding the matter.
In further evidence proffered before Justice Chinembiri Bhunu, Mpofu
reportedly chaired the first ZMDC board meeting held on July 1, 2009, where
he said cabinet had already approved three investors for Marange diamonds.
According to minutes of the July 1 meeting, Mpofu spoke for an hour before
acting ZMDC acting chairperson Gloria Mawarire called the meeting to order.
The trial continues today with Uriri further cross-examining Masimirembwa.
BY STHANDWA NCUBE
Harare, May 10, 2012: Two Zimbabwean young women activists on Tuesday called for more aggressive local outreach by government and non-governmental actors to ensure adequate and full representation of issues affecting women. They further noted that government should be held accountable for promoting and respecting women’s rights.
“There is need to provide more information about how individuals and organisations can know more about the UN Commission on the Status of Women, as well as participate in the local processes leading to it,” said Lucy Mazingi, director of the Youth Empowerment Trust. Mazingi and fellow activist Grace Chirenje were panellists at a Food for Thought session organised by the by the Zimbabwe United States Alumni Association (ZUSAA) and the U.S. Embassy.
The two young women activists talked about their first visit to the UN women’s summit, February 27 to March 9 this year. Their participation was funded by the U.S. Embassy with the aim of increasing understanding of the summit and its goals among young women in Zimbabwe. The two women, who are members of ZUSAA, called for increased involvement of youth and rural women in these summits as a way of holding government to account for the protection of women’s rights.
“Ever since we started being active in the women’s movement, we used to associate the CSW with the directors of big women’s organizations, as they were the only ones who would attend the international summit,” said Mazingi, who is also deputy chairperson of the Students and Youth Working on the Reproductive Health Action Team (SAYWHAT).
“We need to unpack the CSW and come up with an orientation manual for all Zimbabwean women, young and old, rural and urban, rather than what is currently available on their website,” said Chirenje, coordinator of the Young Women’s Network for Peace Building.
Mazingi and Chirenje committed themselves to making information available on the summit and its importance as a way of promoting an inclusive process to build awareness and respect for women’s rights in Zimbabwe.
They hailed the CSW and its 2012 theme as relevant to the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on the eradication of poverty and hunger. Testimonies given by participating countries pointed to the marginalisation of the women in the rural areas (indigenous women) as sharing the same experiences. The women said the meeting was an opportunity to challenge their government on the way it is addressing the needs of the majority of the citizens in Zimbabwe.
The Commission on the Status of Women is a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and the advancement of women. Every year, government representatives gather at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and women's empowerment worldwide.
This year’s theme focused on the empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges. Zimbabwean participants included legislators, senior government officials and representatives of civil society organisations. - ZimPAS© May 9 2012
In picture: Chirenje (left) and Mazingi
# # #
ZimPAS is a product of the U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Section. Comments and queries should be addressed to Sharon Hudson Dean, Counselor for Public Affairs, email@example.com Url: http://harare.usembassy.gov
Former Finance Minister and ZANU PF politburo member, Simba Makoni, is the guest on Question Time. Makoni now leads the Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn party and joins Lance Guma to answer questions from SW Radio Africa listeners.
Interview broadcast 18 April 2012
Lance Guma: Good evening Zimbabwe and thank you for joining me on Question Time. My guest tonight is the leader of the Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn political party Dr Simba Makoni and providing just a bit of background, he’s also former a Finance Minister in Zimbabwe and a former ZANU PF politburo member.
Well this is Part Two of the Question Time interview; we asked listeners to send in their questions for Dr Makoni and he joins us again for Part Two. Thank you so much for your time.
Simba Makoni: It’s my pleasure Lance, thank you very much.
Guma: Now the first question this week comes from Steve Duval Dungeni who says and I’ll quote from his question: Why should people take you seriously? You were part of the government or party that mismanaged the economy, committed some of the worst human rights abuses in modern times, stifled freedom of speech and political association. It took you more than 30 years to come right. Surely that casts a serious issue about your judgement, courage and timing?
Makoni: Well let me say that first of all historical involvement by itself is no basis for doubting someone. Everyone changes in life. If we stayed the same we would not grow. Secondly I want to emphasise what I’ve said many, many times – for all the time that I was in Zanu PF, I was working with others to achieve change from within.
It was only when I realised that change from within was not possible, that I moved out. Let me also remind our questioner that anybody who had any political activism in Rhodesia into Zimbabwe of my age and a little younger would have had an association with Zanu PF.
If you were not involved with Zanu PF and you’re my age and a little younger, then you were politically inactive. So again I repeat what I said at the end of session one, I am very proud of my role in Zanu PF when I stayed there, of my role as executive secretary of Sadc, of my role as secretary general of the Student’s Union at the University of Rhodesia.
The many roles that I’ve played in my life are roles that I gave of my best and I have no regrets about them. So you can take me seriously on my track record or you can take me seriously on a narrow veneer of ‘you were’ and now ‘you are no longer’ – that is your choice and it’s your right to make that choice.
Guma: It’s a given though that your point is taken that many people had an association with Zanu PF in the past and people your age would have worked within Zanu PF in some respects. I suppose a key part of Steve’s question is the 30 years; it took you 30 years to say I’m leaving this, this is not for me. Why did it take that long?
Makoni: Simply because I was trying to work for change from within. Simple, and I wasn’t the only one. There are many people today who would like to see change, they remain members of Zanu PF. There are many people who would like to see change, they remain members of the MDC.
It’s a judgement call anyone and everyone must make at a given time whether the strategy and the platform they are using remains effective or not. I made my judgement after the Extraordinary Congress of Zanu PF in December 2007 that change from within was no longer feasible. Up to that time I believed it was possible to make change from within and that’s why I stayed there that long.
But remember that Zanu PF has not been dictatorial and oppressive nor not done good for the people of Zimbabwe for all the 30 years. Those who were mature enough will remember the good early years. There were blemishes yes, the conflict in Matabeleland was a blemish in the early years of Independence but not everyone is perfect.
Guma: Well there’s that conflict in Matabeleland, the Gukurahundi Massacres, we had sad tragic episodes like Operation Murambatsvina. Some will say how come we never heard you speak out against this?
Makoni: Again it depends on where they were expecting to hear me speak out because if they attended meetings of the politburo and the central committee and other structures of the party they would have heard me speak out.
Guma: Are there many people in Zanu PF who speak out against violence in those politburo meetings from your experiences?
Makoni: I don’t know now because I don’t sit there any more but…
Guma: I mean during your time.
Makoni: but when I was there were a good number of people who wanted change.
Guma: Could you name any of them in the current politburo?
Makoni: No, you know that is not possible Lance. How can you name people in this way? But there are many. There are many people in Zanu PF who yearn for change. There are many people in the MDC who yearn for change but there are lots more people who are neither in Zanu PF nor in MDC who want change and those are the people that we must focus on.
Citizens of Zimbabwe who are neither Zanu PF nor MDC who are looking for a leadership that really serves the people, a leadership that’s committed to a better life, that’s tolerant of other ideas, that wants to mobilize for inclusion, there are many, many more than those who are in Zanu PF or MDC.
Guma: Second part of Steve’s question is – is there enough political space for additional parties on top of the three already in the government of national unity and if so, how realistic are your chances to win any seats in the next elections?
Makoni: Well currently that space isn’t there but it’s not going to be there unless it is created. So part of my effort and those of colleagues who are not in the inclusive government and the GPA is to exactly create that space and that’s what we are doing.
Guma: Last question from Steve – what are your views on devolution and dual nationality?
Makoni: First on dual nationality – it is a right that must be granted. It’s one of those aspects that we have advocated for in the new constitution. On devolution – I don’t think that the case for devolution has been made adequately. There has been no debate.
My sense and my understanding is there is a push for devolution on a negative stimulus, the perception of exclusion and marginalization.
The economies and economics and efficiencies of a devolved structure for a small country like us which is so desperately poor has not been exposed and I would very much like that there be a more engaged national debate for devolution.
I believe that the structures we had, if they were pursued objectively, efficiently with balance and national equity, the case for devolution would be less strong. So what am I saying – that I don’t think Zimbabweans have discussed and exposed the advantages and disadvantages of both the current centralized system and the proposed devolved system sufficiently to conclude that the one is the better.
The drive is more on the basis of a negative pulse, a negative stimulus, a negative sentiment than a positive one – that is the concern I would have.
Guma: From Doni Ndowe comes the following set of questions, he says and I quote: “BBC News Africa described him as Zimbabwe’s roaring lion and the UK Guardian newspaper described him as a rising threat and most Zimbabweans regarded him as the panacea to Zimbabwe’s political problems.
“I personally regarded him as the messiah sent by God to save Zimbabweans from Mugabe’s iron hand of oppression but his silence and passiveness after the elections has led me to believe that Simba Makoni is one of those fly-by-night politicians who only exist to divide the opposition in Zimbabwe and confuse the public.”
Makoni: Well I don’t know where he follows his information because if he listened to your radio and Studio 7, if he followed on-line publications and occasionally independent publications in Zimbabwe, he would have heard me, he would have read me.
But if he follows Dead BC (ZBC) and the Herald probably he may not have heard or seen me. We have been very active from the end of the elections, laying the groundwork for the launch of the party which happened on July 1, 2009 and since then we’ve been very active trying to build the party in rather hostile and difficult circumstances.
The people are still fearful because intimidation is still rife. Threats of physical harm are still very strong in our political sphere and it is under those circumstances, with limited national coverage at home that we are persevering in our effort to offer Zimbabwe a brighter future.
I won’t echo the ideas of the lion and the messiah; I would not portend to be spiritual and that way inclined but what I can assure him is that I’m a committed patriot, I’m a determined Zimbabwean who will make his contribution to the best of his ability to create a brighter future for all of us.
Guma: Another part of his question, probably same thread; he accuses you of not wanting to get your hands dirty by being involved in Zimbabwean politics, but instead lurking in the dark, waiting for the right moment to pounce, possibly after the death of Mugabe.
Makoni: Well again one would ask what is the right moment and to pounce on what but the more positive response is I am dirtying my hands; I am leading a political party that was launched on July 1 2009; I am engaging Zimbabweans of all walks of life about how we can change our country for the better. If that’s not dirtying my hands, I don’t know what is.
Guma: You came out strongly to comment on the ZESA VIP defaulter’s saga. Several questions from our listeners wanting you to expand more on this. One listener says what are your views on that as a former Finance minister? Is that why most parastatals are failing?
Makoni: Well firstly my views are not just because I was a Finance minister before, my views are because I live in Zimbabwe, I experience the pain of plundered public organizations and public enterprises every day. The aspect of those who are not paying their bills that I talked about last week was only because it was current.
I hold very strong views about the governance of public enterprises. I held those views when I was minister of Finance, when I was a member of the politburo of Zanu PF and I expressed them. Incidentally I was a deputy secretary for Economic Affairs in Zanu PF and I was very close to economic issues from that portfolio.
So the shorter answer to his question is we are concerned, not just about the plunder of parastatals, but the plunder of the whole economy – whether it’s diamonds, whether it’s GMB fertilizers, whether it’s agricultural equipment and machinery. That is why our party is building itself in order to offer Zimbabweans a leadership that will not plunder the nation’s assets and resources.
Guma: You rather radically suggested that Mugabe should be disconnected for not paying his ZESA bill – why do you believe that it would be the right thing to do?
Makoni: Because ZESA is disconnecting everyone who owes them money and hasn’t worked out a payment plan. There are two issues to this: ZESA is saying to people who owe it money please give us a payment plan of how you are going to pay us what you owe us, we will agree with you and you implement that plan.
Or if you don’t do that, then we switch you off. My understanding is – those leaders of our country and the media has decided to focus on Mugabe – but he’s not the only one – there is a long list of people who claim to be leaders of our country who owe ZESA, they owe ZINWA, they owe City Council tons of money and all I’m saying is that pay up or get no service. And that should happen to Joe Blog in Kuwadzana and Budiriro as it does to those who are on certain addresses.
Makoni: But what is behind this cancer Dr Makoni? Probably I’m asking you to speculate but the way you see things – why do we have this scenario where people with the means to pay are not paying?
Makoni: No I won’t speculate; I’m very definitive – the reason is greed and selfishness, that’s why.
Guma: Next question comes from Gilbert in Harare. Gilbert says Lance could you please ask Dr Makoni for his views on the problems at Air Zimbabwe? They just won’t go away, year in year out, Air Zimbabwe is in problems.
Makoni: Well let me say to Gilbert, the problems at Air Zimbabwe are not unique to Air Zimbabwe, they are common in many public enterprises, we’re just talking about that now but also the problems won’t go away by themselves. The problems didn’t create themselves, they were created by people and so people will change and make those problems go away.
Let me reflect with Gilbert, a very wise saying that the minds that created problems are not the minds that will solve those problems. So to expect Mugabe and his team who have ground Air Zimbabwe into the ground to then pick it up and let it fly again is expecting the near impossible.
So Air Zimbabwe can be revived, so can National Railways of Zimbabwe, so can Hwange Colliery Company, so can a long list of other companies, the Cold Storage Company – they can be revived by people who have ideas, skills and capacities for progress not those who have ideas for stagnancy.
Guma: Final question for you Dr Makoni – given the assumption or working on the assumption that you will be participating in the next elections, it will mean Zimbabwe will have MDC-T, MDC-N, Mavambo, Job Sikhala’s MDC-99, we’re looking at something in the region of six, seven, eight presidential candidates.
Does that bode well for democracy or is that an advantage for Mugabe? Strategically looking at this, what’s your take?
Makoni: Let me say to you at the last count the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission reports that there are 33 political parties in Zimbabwe so you could conceivably have 33 presidential candidates.
Does it bode well for democracy – I don’t think it does any ill for democracy because a lot of those 33, eight or whatever number will not stand the test of elections so you will end up with not more than five serious contenders and that is good for the country, that is good for democracy and out of those five or so, one will emerge the people’s favourite.
Guma: Well Zimbabwe, that’s the leader of Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn, the political party, Dr Simba Makoni is also a former Finance minister and a Zanu PF politburo member although he does not want that emphasised too much because it’s a new career so to speak, he now leads a new political party but we really have to thank him for spending almost 40 minutes with us answering your questions.
Dr Makoni thank you so much for your time.
Makoni: It’s my pleasure, thank you Lance and goodbye to your listeners.
To listen to the programme:
Desperate to win the next election and still smarting from the March 2008
defeat by MDC-T, President Mugabe last week reiterated his clarion call that
there should be no imposition of candidates in his party Zanu (PF).
by John Makumbe
The former liberation political party is in the process of restructuring and
there have been serious problems in at least two provinces, Masvingo and
Manicaland, where aspiring candidates have gone to the extent of throwing
stones at each other and engaging in fist-fights.
Mugabe urged his fellow party members to refrain from the practice of
writing little notes indicating the names of the people that should be voted
for as members of the party’s district coordinating committees. This
practice is alleged to be strongly promoted by senior party members,
including sitting Members of Parliament who are desperate not to lose their
seats come next elections.
It is my considered view that Mugabe is anxious to see new blood come into
the party leadership in order to match the MDC-T leadership. This, I guess
he reasons, would give his highly unpopular party a fighting chance at the
polls. He is aware that the majority of the old guard, people who have been
in Parliament forever, the likes of Didymus Mutasa, Sydney Sekeramayi, John
Nkomo, Emmerson Mnangagwa and several others have no hope of winning their
seats in the next elections.
They have become real liabilities to both his party and his tenure of office
as President of this country. Mugabe probably knows that during the March
2008 elections, some Zanu (PF) supporters voted for a Zanu (PF) legislator
and for Morgan Tsvangirai for President. This infuriated him no end as he
felt, rightly or wrongly, that his candidates had not campaigned for him but
for themselves only. This may be one of the reasons why there was such a
high level of political violence in the Mashonaland provinces in June 2008.
Well, this time around, Mugabe thinks it is best to allow younger candidates
to contest for seats in both Houses, rather than to let the old MPs continue
to inflict damage to the party by their lacklustre performance and the
imposition of “bought” candidates at the DCC level. In other words, Mugabe
is fully in favour of leadership renewal as long as it does not involve his
own position. That one is a “no go area” and everyone in his party knows it.
It will be much easier for Mugabe to fight against the MDC-T with the likes
of Muzembi, Bimha, and a few others than with the old guard, including Stan
Ivanovitch Mudenge, who spend more of their time at health centres than in
The question that needs to be posed to the President is whether this new
strategy will work for him. There is ample evidence to hand that the
grassroots levels of the former ruling party has essentially been shattered
by the MDC. The police in rural areas as well as in some urban areas have
strict instructions not to allow both MDC formations to hold any rallies or
meetings that may demonstrate the strength of these parties.
The second question that needs to be asked is whether the threatened sitting
MPs from Zanu (PF) will allow the young and untested candidates to push them
over without a fight. To all intents and purposes, we seem to be destined
for a very interesting electoral season come 2013. - firstname.lastname@example.org
May 10th, 2012
“Today you’re going to cry.” The doctor, prodding Grace roughly with his nicotine-stained fingers, is matter-of-fact, there’s no malice in his voice. And, afterwards, when she begs him not to let her see the fetus, he’s considerate enough to cover it with a paper towel as it lies in a bloody puddle at the end of the examination table, before helping her to her feet. When he returns to the leather armchair in his consulting room, she notices that he doesn’t bother to wash his hands before lighting a cigarette, blowing smoke in her direction as she leans over the desk to hand him his money.
“Be careful not to tell anyone about this,” he says as she turns to leave, his eyes slits through the blue blur of cigarette smoke, “the jails are full of women like you.”
He was right. That day she did cry. And for many days afterwards. There was clotting and cramps that had her balled up in pain in a corner of the sofa for the next two days, but, mostly, she cried because of the agony of an infection which festered where the doctor’s unsterilised equipment had torn at her private parts.
The series of events that led to Grace finding herself in the deserted surgery that late Saturday afternoon once all the regular patients had gone home, is irrelevant. She could have been a teenager who fell pregnant the first time she had sex with her boyfriend. But, as it turned out, she was a mature single mother, unable to face the birth of a third child she had no means of supporting. Whatever her circumstances, Grace, like many other Zimbabwean women, found herself risking her life and her freedom to terminate a pregnancy she believed impossible to sustain.
She is hardly an isolated statistic. According to a report by the UN Children’s Fund, Unicef, more than 70 000 illegal abortions are carried out in the country every year, with Zimbabwean women running a 200 times greater risk of dying of abortion complications than their counterparts in South Africa, where the procedure is legal.
Grace was one of the lucky ones. The infection cleared after a series of antibiotics, followed by a D&C. The doctor who treated her for the infection was discreet and, for her, luckily so. A hospital or doctor which treats a woman for complications which have evidently arisen from an abortion, are obliged to report the patient to the police. Both the woman, and the doctor who performed the procedure, can be arrested and sentenced to a minimum of five years imprisonment.
A largely Catholic society, abortion in Zimbabwe is condemned by both the church and the state:
“As a Christian, there’s no grey area: abortion is murder,” said a local priest. “The fetus, from conception, has a life, a soul, and we, as human beings, have no right to kill it.”
Neither does the law allow for any ambiguity. The termination of a pregnancy, according to the current constitution, is a criminal act, and is dealt with as such. But there are those who believe the law is out-dated and no longer relevant to Zimbabwe’s modern society.
“If society is to condemn mother/child care, where does it begin to pass judgment?,” asked a local advocate for legalising abortion in Zimbabwe. “Does it begin with the woman who aborts a fetus within the “safe” period of 12 weeks; or with the mother who gives birth and dumps the new-born in the cistern of a railway station toilet? Or, perhaps it should begin with a health care programme that does not offer women free access to contraception and sexual education.”
“How can the pro-lifers boast that we are protecting the rights of the child, when the newspapers are full of horrendous stories of infanticide and baby dumping? It’s obvious there’s something very, very wrong,” she said.
Norma and Themba are testimony to the resilience of the human body. Early one winter morning, when the babies were around two months old, their mothers – presumably sisters, possibly prostitutes – decided to pack up and leave their squalid one-bedroom shack and seek new opportunities. The babies did not feature in their plans. So, without a word to anyone, the women left them in the apartment, already cleared of all its contents, locked the door behind them, and disappeared. Some time later, neighbours grew concerned by the endless crying coming from the house, and the fact that the women had not been seen going in or coming out for at least two days.
They broke into the house and found the pair, smeared in their own feces and close to starvation. By the time they reached them, little Themba was too tired and weak to cry anymore and was lying completely motionless. The neighbours alerted social welfare which placed the babies in a city orphanage. Today, aged around one year old, the children are doing well. Norma has just taken her first steps, toddling unsteadily along in her baby-grow, arms outstretched to anyone who passes. When you reach down to lift her, she clings to you like she’ll never let go. Themba is more reserved, less trusting, but his big, bright eyes follow you wherever you go.
While tragic, the cousins’ story is hardly the worst that Mary, who runs the orphanage, has heard. There are, of course, the ones who don’t make it, who are dead before they can be rescued, drowned in pit latrines, left to starve in city dustbins. Others who come to the home so emaciated and near to death their abdomens are hollowed out like a kettle drum, their ribs sharp spears protruding from their pathetic chests, eyes too big for their skeletal faces. They’ve been either abused, neglected or abandoned to within an inch of their lives.
Mary points to the wall, to a “before” and “after” picture of a little boy called Daniel, three years old when he came to them, and weighing just five kilogrammes.
And, as the economic conditions in Zimbabwe worsen, so does the desperation that provides the fuel for these and countless stories like them.
Orphanages in the country, overseen by a struggling social welfare system, are full of children like Daniel, with little or no means to support them.
“With no money available locally, we seek most of our funding from outside the country,” says Mary, whose institution offers shelter to teenage girls who fall pregnant, largely through incest and rape, and takes in their babies if they feel unable to do so.
“While, in the case of rape and incest, we would not stand in their way if they wanted to terminate the pregnancy, the girls who come to us have all chosen to give birth to their babies, not a single one has chosen to have an abortion. A large number of the girls choose to care for their babies themselves, sometimes not immediately, but after a year or two, when they feel ready, they come back and get them.”
Women who do choose the abortion route say that although a “safe” legal abortion is exorbitant – around $350 – it’s still a lot cheaper than the cost of giving birth to a child in a city hospital. And the birth is only the start of the expenses that begin to mount when a baby is born.
There are those who can not afford the “safe” option and resort, instead, to consulting traditional healers.
A concoction of pungent herbs sold by traditional healers plying their wares from a seedy-looking market in one of Zimbabwe’s major cities, sells for around US$40 a dose.
A woman posing as a potential customer, was initially told the “medication” would cost her $100 to abort her pregnancy. When she quibbled over the price, the traditional healer she consulted immediately dropped the price to $50, promising “instant, safe results”.
When the Termination of Pregnancy Act, in what was then Rhodesia, was amended in 1977, it was, compared to its predecessor, considered positively revolutionary.
The archaic Roman-Dutch common law permitted an abortion to be performed solely to save the life of the pregnant woman. The new law extended the grounds under which a legal abortion could be obtained, permitting the performance of an abortion if its continuation so endangered the life of the woman, or posed a serious threat or permanent impairment to her physical health.
In addition, the grounds covered pregnancies in which there was a serious risk that, if the child was born, it would suffer from a physical or mental defect of such a nature as to be severely handicapped, as well as pregnancies in which there was a reasonable possibility that the fetus had been conceived as a result of unlawful intercourse, including rape, incest or intercourse with a mentally handicapped woman.
But the question which begs answering in all of this is what do women in Zimbabwe want? It’s a question legislators and human rights advocates have been grappling with for many years.
The problem, explains a lawyer who specialises in women’s issues, is that women aren’t speaking up:
“Traditionally, in Zimbabwe, women have not been called on to voice their opinions, so the concept of saying what they want is foreign to them,” she said. “Human rights organisations will advocate for women’s issues, such as the legalisation of abortion, and the government will say, let’s ask the women what they want. And, of course, no-one will say a word.”
The issue, she continued, presented a three-pronged dilemma: moral, human right and societal. Few women were going to be brave enough to stand up and be the isolated voice that went against the moral and societal foundations on which the country had been established:
“It would be suicide. Instead they choose to stay silent…and then risk a back-street abortion.”
Her viewpoint is backed by a survey on the constitution, carried out recently by an advocacy group.
The results show a very small majority of those interviewed (40%) are in favour of the constitution preserving full rights for women to have an abortion, while a few less (39%) believe it should be preserved only in certain instances, which must be clearly stated by law. Only 19%, however, were completely opposed to the constitution preserving any rights for a woman to have an abortion.
Most telling of all, however, was the fact that, when separated into gender groups, more men than women were in favour of full rights for women to seek an abortion, 46% as opposed to 39%.
But even those who support the legalisation of abortion in Zimbabwe, are watching the situation across the border, in South Africa, very carefully.
The Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act in South Africa was changed in 1997, providing abortion on demand to any woman of any age if she was less than 20 weeks pregnant, with no reasons required. Women were encouraged, but not obliged, to seek pre-abortion counseling, while those under 18 years of age or in a committed relationship were, once again, advised to seek parental consent or consult with their partner, but not obliged to do so.
The result is a woman like Thandi, who has already had three abortions…and is only 17 years old.
The government, which says it is aware of the rampant practice of illegal abortions, claims the only solution is the promotion of safe sex, but a spokesman for the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare admitted this was a huge challenge due to the unavailability of – and cultural resistance to – contraceptives.
Said a local medical practitioner: “In a country where safe, effective and affordable sex education and contraception are not widely-available, we can not suddenly start offering abortions to anyone who wants one, or we run the very real risk of it becoming the birth control method of choice. And that’s not something any right-minded person would support,” he said.
In this instalment of Street Life, GREG NICOLSON talks to a Zimbabwean who came to South Africa when his country’s economy declined. These days, he sells curios on the streets of Johannesburg and dreams about returning home.
Shepherd Changi arrives on 7th Street, Melville, at nine o’clock and lays a blue sheet on the footpath. The 36-year-old arranges the wireframe roses, dolphins and rhinos in rows. It looks like a scene from the Lion King. Melville was once just as bright, but the cloth sits outside an empty building on a street dotted with closed businesses.
He prefers to sell his wares to foreigners, says Changi. US dollars are easier to send back to Zimbabwe.
He and his eight siblings were raised in Chitungwiza, Harare. As the second oldest he would lead expeditions to Lake Chivuro to fish or to the nearby bushes to pick mangoes and guavas. They would leave the township with their dogs and hunt for kudus to sell in town. In the dusty streets, Changi was a defender when they played soccer.
“It was very nice, beautiful. You could find everything there,” he says of Harare. He grew up in the 1980s, when Robert Mugabe was a hero and praised for Zimbabwe’s steps to transformation. “Everyone loved him. Most of us who are here had hopes of being doctors, engineers, pilots.”
Changi’s sentences are like paragraphs. After each, he pauses, sips his coffee and considers his words before speaking again. Sitting in a trendy cafe that still draws visitors to Melville, he’s wearing a sweatshirt and jeans.
After finishing high school in 1992, Changi worked as an apprentice motor mechanic and had a series of related jobs while studying mechanics at college. There was partying, drinking and girls, he laughs.
“But Harare, it changed, it changed too much,” he shakes his head. “It didn’t matter how educated you were, you couldn’t find work. People were underpaid. That’s when people started leaving the country.”
As the 1990s ticked by things got worse. Public support shifted from Mugabe to his challengers and the independence leader came down heavily on his opposition, implementing policies challenging everyday life in the country.
“Jobs were affected, people couldn’t afford to work, crop output was low,” says Changi. “Crime increased. There was a rise in prostitution… Everything was affected. Everything. The money I was getting was too little.”
He left for Cape Town in 2000 after the death of his mother. She made regular trips to South Africa to sell goods to supplement Changi’s father’s income. Once she died, the responsibility to support the family fell on Changi and his older siblings.
But he was home for Operation Murambatsvina – drive out rubbish. The United Nations estimates 700,000 people were affected as the government demolished illegal dwellings, seen as punishment for the urban poor who voted against Mugabe in 2005.
Changi watched the bulldozers destroy the outside rooms on his family’s property. If you tried to intervene you were beaten. “They destroyed many, many houses.” Thereafter, his family were forced to cram into the main house.
The story is laced with disappointment rather than malice and Changi pauses to greet the Zimbabwean waitress. “You can meet people from different countries and cultures here in Johannesburg,” he says.
The company he was working for in Cape Town closed after a year and he moved to Johannesburg. He was afraid of the city but moved in with friends in Hillbrow. He could hear gunshots at night.
“I was coming from a bar at around midnight and I was drunk,” he smiles. He passed a group of four men. They grabbed him from behind and hit him. He fell and was stabbed below the neck with a screwdriver.
They took his phone and wallet.
His flat was next to an abandoned building where thugs would wait. Eventually, the police raided the hideout and arrested them. Changi was called to the police station, along with half of Hillbrow, to identify his attackers. “Ah, I couldn’t remember. I was too drunk,” he says, laughing while looking into his coffee.
Without work in Joburg, his friends encouraged him to try making figures out of wire and beads to sell to tourists. “The thing about Zimbabweans is most people have learnt a lot from hardship. They’ve learnt to work for themselves. Everyone is trying to make a living… It’s not easy to just stay and do nothing. You can’t survive in Zim.”
After fumbling through his first wire figures, he’s been selling his own work on the street for 10 years. “Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s bad.” He sells between two and five pieces a day. It’s enough to survive, as long as the metro cops don’t confiscate his wares.
“They come when you don’t expect it. When they come you have to run with everything you can carry… That’s why we put the sheet down, to pick it up and run,” he explains, scooping his hands. In 2011, metro cops came more than 30 times.
It’s a story, like countless more, from Changi’s 12 years in SA. He says he’s happy, but he says it as though he’d be happier if he’d never had to leave Harare.
“We’ve been here for a long time and only go back once or twice a year. We become homesick. We just wish things can go back to normal,” he says. “I wish things in Zimbabwe would go back to the way it was because home is best.”
He misses the township life, playing soccer with friends in the streets. If there were jobs, he’d go back. Until then, he’ll keep working in Melville and sending US dollars back to Zimbabwe to help his family.
The problem, he explains, is that so many adults of working age have left, which leaves them in a catch-22 situation. “There’s only the elderly and the young ones in Zimbabwe now. If we were there, there could have been a revolution.”
Instead, Changi’s sitting in the streets of Melville. In Cape Town he has a son. In Harare he has a retired father and a 16-year-old sister who is still in high school. They need financial support.
So he’s stuck here until things improve at “home”, which seems like one of his wireframe figures – beautiful, but only an imitation of the real thing. DM