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Zimbabwe Standard

Despair, desperation and disillusion
overthetop By Brian Latham

SOMETIMES you have to veer from the normal route and take a closer look at the weirdness of life, much as all ETs in the central African regime have veered into filling stations. But they're not queuing so they can fill up and ply their trade-or terrify road users with their Lagos School of Motoring tactics.

No, they're filling up so that they can drain their tanks, sell the petrol on the black market and join another queue.
And why not? Lives are being saved, for a start, and how else are they expected to earn a living?
Of course, propagandists earning a dishonest living under the disinformation minister call this sort of thing "sabotaging the economy." The propagandists forget it was the Zany party that sabotaged the economy in the first place. That's why the central African dictatorship has black markets for fuel, bread, sugar, milk, cement, fertiliser, cool drinks, cigarettes, cooking oil and even money.
Yes, it's true. The Zany party has made history by creating the first cash shortage since 1945 when those power-crazed Germans destroyed Europe's economy. (Actually, they destroyed a lot more than just the economy, but we'll leave it there.)
For the paltry sum of five percent, you can now buy cash notes from traders. A cheque for $10 500 buys you $10 000 in notes.
Still, it's all part of the weird game of Zany economics. The same economics that saw the capital's mayor suspended for failing to provide services, but didn't see the energy minister suspended for failing to provide fuel or power. Or the patently deficient agriculture minister suspended for starving seven million people.
Meanwhile hurried attempts to mend the financial puncture-actually more of a blow out-in the central African banana republic have all been stillborn, largely because there is no foreign currency to buy a repair kit.
And to top it all, the central bank hasn't got enough money to print money. Analysts have told Over The Top that this is also a world first. Never before in the field of world finance has a country's central bank's cash flow been so depleted that it couldn't buy paper and fire up the printing presses.
Indeed, even the destitute (then) Zaire didn't sink quite so low. Far from it, the country's loony leader hit on the brainy scheme of printing bank notes with duplicate serial numbers. This allowed him to operate a "one for you, one for me" scheme that saw one unit of currency deposited in his bank account for each unit of currency that went into the national fiscus.
Unable to purchase paper to print enough money even for the country, the Zany Party hasn't been able to institute a similar scheme in the troubled central African nation. Instead, it's alleged, they just cart the stuff out in sacks as and when they can lay their hands on it.
Meanwhile the starving and destitute citizens of the central African dictatorship say they've had about as much as they can take. Workers have complained to OTT that, even assuming they can find transport, it now costs more to get to work than they earn. This bizarre turn of events is symptomatic of Zany Economics, say economists. And its worsened by the fact that not going to work has also been declared an act of economic sabotage.
In a country where unemployment sits at 70% and rising, that makes three quarters of the population economic saboteurs-surely odds not even the Zany party at its most megalomaniacal can hope to overcome.
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Zimbabwe Standard

Stock up food: ZCTU
By Henry Makiwa

KADOMA-THE Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has said that it shall call for an indefinite mass job stayaway at the end of the month and advises Zimbabweans to stock up food and keep some money when they get paid in the next few weeks.

Lovemore Matombo, the ZCTU president told unionists in Kadoma on Friday evening to "store a bucket of mealie meal and save a penny" in anticipation of an indefinite job action at the end of this month.
He said labour would "withdraw its services" unless the fuel prices were reduced to previous levels. The government has in the past ridiculed the ZCTU's demand for cheaper fuel saying the union "was dreaming".
Matombo said: "The government has to clearly, unreservedly and unambiguously reduce the fuel prices if they dream to see the labour machine roll out again.
"We want you (workers) to go home and let the message filter to others who are not here that they should store a bucket of mealie meal and some savings of their meagre earnings at home because when we go on stayaway this time around we will not come back until our demands are addressed," he said.
Matombo accused the government of constantly taking labour for granted and disregarding its demands to peg the minimum wage at $125 000 per month.
"It has always been futile talking to the government about workers' woes because they behave so inhumanely. It is like talking to an insensitive Chimpanzee-they feel no remorse about the current crisis," said Matombo.
"But I promise you that if workers unite, we will tame the Chimpanzee. We want all workers to earn at least $125 000 by the end of June," Matombo said to a tumultuous approval from the 500 plus workers' representatives who braved the early winter evening chill to converge at Kadoma's Rimuka Stadium.
"Even if there are state agents and the secret police among you, surely even the CIOs should by now know that the life workers are living is unsustainable and unpractical. How do you expect a worker who forks out at least $56 000 on transport fares a month to survive on a $47 000 pay?"
The ZCTU executive council was holding a weeklong general meeting in this Midlands town to map out a strategy to cajole the government into addressing workers' grievances.
At the same meeting, Raymond Majongwe, the Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe secretary general, urged workers to "cane" any teacher seen going to work during their ongoing strike.
Teachers across the country downed chalk last week in protest of low pay and poor conditions of service.
The ZCTU's leaders were yesterday expected to continue with their mission to win over workers' hearts for a nationwide mass action with a meeting in Kwekwe.
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Zimbabwe Standard

Cash-hungry Zimbabweans turn to dog-fighting
By our own Staff

SOME dog owners in Harare are cashing in on a lucrative but illegal dog
fighting ring involving dangerous breeds traditionally used in organised
dog-fighting contests overseas.

The dog owners mostly from around Arcadia, Braeside and Hillside bet on
vicious dogs such as the American Pitbuls and the equally dangerous Bull
Terriers which are induced to engage in the vicious organised fights.
Large sums of money exchange hands at the secret contests which take place
at a bushy area between Culverwell Road in Arcadia and the railway station.
Meryl Harrison, national co-ordinator of the Zimbabwe National Society for
the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ZNSPCA), confirmed that she knew of
the ring saying they had severely warned the culprits to stop the illegal
dog fights.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act outlaws dogfights in Zimbabwe, an
offence that attracts a maximum of six months in jail or a fine.
Said Harrison: "Several of the dogs seen had fight wounds on their faces,
some of which had turned septic but had not received attention.
"Further investigations revealed that the dogs are beaten with sticks before
a fight in order to 'psyche' them up. Benzine on bits of cloth is also held
to the dogs' noses."
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Zimbabwe Standard
Byo hit by car-jackings
By our own Staff

BULAWAYO-A SPATE of armed car-jackings have rocked Bulawayo in the last five months with dozens of luxury vehicles snatched from owners by vicious robbers who have left some of their victims for dead.

Bulawayo has previously not been affected by car-jackings but lately the quiet city has turned into a hunting ground for car-jackers and robbers.
Investigations by The Standard revealed that motorists, especially those with luxurious cars, are now resorting to installing sophisticated security features that include the use of cellphones as a deterrent against hijackings.
Vehicles that have been targeted by the car-jackers are VW Golf Gti, Nissan Hard-body and Opel Astras and 4x4s. Some motorists are now scared to drive their vehicles around secluded areas and during late hours.
Police in Bulawayo recently tracked down a car hijacking syndicate resulting in the arrest of five suspects who are believed to be linked to most of the brutal attacks on motorists.
"We are even scared to leave our cars unattended during the day because these car jackers are so tactful and work as gangs. We are also unable to travel at night as we are being followed by suspicious looking cars," said a motorist who survived death by a whisker after an attack.
During the recent Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, some motorists reported that their vehicles were stolen despite the 'maximum security' that was provided.
According to reports, six vehicles valued at $230m were stolen at the Trade Fair grounds as motorists from neighbouring countries thronged Bulawayo with their modern vehicles.
The Anti-Hijack Trust, an organisation which helps victims of car-jackings, said 21 people were counselled from January to date after they were brutally attacked during the incidences in which they lost their cars.
"We have counselled 21 people who fell prey to the car jackers and we have formed a support group for post-medical stress," said an official.
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Zimbabwe Standard
Meldrum deported
By our own Staff

THE government on Friday deported Guardian correspondent, Andrew Meldrum, in clear defiance of a High Court order granted earlier the same day interdicting him from being deported and ordering his release.

High Court judge, Justice Charles Hungwe, had ordered immigration officials to produce Meldrum, who they had served with a deportation order after he was declared a prohibited immigrant, in court on Friday afternoon. They did not do so.
Meldrum was bundled onto an Air Zimbabwe plane bound for London on Friday night despite the fact that copies of the order had been shown to Air Zimbabwe officials.
The High Court order was served on senior immigration officers and Minister of Home Affairs, Kembo Mohadi's staff at 2.00pm and 2.10pm respectively.
After immigration officers failed to produce Meldrum in the afternoon as directed by High Court, Justice Hungwe issued a further order at 8.15pm ordering the immigration department to produce him.
Justice Hungwe also instructed Lois Matanda-Moyo of the Civil Division in the Attorney General's Office, to accompany Meldrum's lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, to serve the order on immigration officials at the airport.
But Matanda-Moyo refused to accompany Mtetwa to the airport.
At the airport, Mtetwa tried to serve the order on the immigration officer on duty, but she jumped out of her booth and ran away when she saw Mtetwa coming.
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Zimbabwe Standard
Masipula Sithole remembered
By our own Staff

RELATIVES, friends and colleagues of the late professor, Masipula Sithole, who died last month, remembered and celebrated his illustrious life that was characterised by fierce resistance to an increasingly autocratic Zanu PF at a memorial service held at the University of Zimbabwe.

Speaker after speaker from different civic organisations hailed the late political analyst as a true nationalist whose unwavering support for the democratisation of Zimbabwe was undeterred.
Professor Hasu Patel, a long time colleague of the late Sithole, said this was not an occasion to mourn but to celebrate Sithole's life and works that shall always be remembered.
Masipula published a number of works on politics, among these is the famous Zimbabwe-Struggles within the Struggle.
John Makumbe, who worked with Sithole, said. "I once applied for promotion but the then vice-chancellor of this institution told me straight that I was not going to be promoted as long as I continued to criticise the government. I told Masipula this and he told me to calm down and let the people judge for themselves," said Makumbe who is also the boss of Transparency International Zimbabwe.
Former students of Sithole believed in their teacher's analyses said they will live to remember him as their source of inspiration, with his famous saying, "Let them lead and we shall analyse."
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Zimbabwe Standard
ZCC deeply concerned about media
By our own staff

THE Zimbabwe Council of churches (ZCC), deeply concerned about the disappearance of media ethics at a time when the nation yearns to hear the truth, has set up a communication office to gather and disseminate information.

In a communique released after a four-day workshop, the church body expressed deep concern about the current state of corruption, lack of good governance and politicisation of food aid in the country.
The ZCC, which now have stringers throughout the country from various churches and organisations, said it would strive to produce stories that reflected the reality on the ground.
The church body also expressed concern about the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), which stifles press freedom rather than guarantees it, as well as the effects of HIV/Aids on the family unit.
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Zimbabwe Standard
Standard journalist up for CNN award
By our own Staff

THE Standard news editor, Walter Marwizi, has been selected a finalist of the premier journalistic competition on the continent-the prestigious CNN African Journalist of the Year 2003 award.

Marwizi, 28, is the only Zimbabwean among 13 journalists drawn from South Africa, Namibia, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Benin, Tanzania and Malawi who are in the running for the overall grand prize which is the most coveted journalistic award on the continent.
The CNN African Journalist of the Year and other winners of the various categories of the competition will be announced at a gala at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, on 18 June.
Announcing the finalists on Tuesday, Doyinsola Abiola, the chairperson of the independent judging panel which received hundreds of entries from 32 African countries, said: "It was very rewarding and encouraging to see an even wider spread of nations taking part in the competition. This year saw entries from Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Guinea, Lesotho Mozambique, Rwanda and Sierra Leone, to name just a few.
"The finalists can all be very proud to have been chosen against stiff competition."
Marwizi will join the other finalists in Johannesburg on 15 June for the finalists' programme, whose highlights include meeting the judges of the competition and attending a workshop to discuss journalism in Africa.
Commenting on Marwizi's selection, Bornwell Chakaodza, the Editor of The Standard, said: "Walter is unquestionably one of the finest journalists that this paper has ever had and his selection as a finalist for the CNN award is a clear testimony of that."
The competition, now in its eighth year, is open to professional journalists on the African continent.
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Zimbabwe Standard
Oil firms, government deadlocked
By Caiphas Chimhete

PRIVATE oil companies that were last year licensed to import fuel to complement the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (Noczim)'s efforts have reached a deadlock with government over the pricing of the commodity, The Standard has established.

The private companies have vowed that they would only start importing fuel once the gazetted prices were reviewed upwards. Presently, they are relying on the erratic supplies from the debt-ridden Noczim for distribution on the market.
The companies are importing fuel only for their "commercial clients", who provide them with foreign currency in advance, it has also been established.
The new oil importers, most of whom are black businesses with links to the governing party, have said petrol should cost at least $1 300 per litre while diesel should go up to $620 a litre if they are to make some profit.
Presently, the pump price of leaded petrol is $450 a litre while that of diesel is $200.
"Negotiations are still going on with government on the issue of pricing but what I can tell you is that no oil company has started importing fuel for the retail market, except for customers who provide their own foreign currency," said the source.
Mobil Oil Zimbabwe managing director, Stanley Njenga, confirmed the stalemate saying the problem was compounded by the scarcity of foreign currency.
"Firstly, we cannot import any fuel because we will make huge losses if we import and sell at the gazetted prices. Secondly, we do not have the foreign currency to import the fuel," said Njenga.
He said Mobil still relied on supplies from Noczim "because it is subsidised and if we sell it we make a small profit".
An official with Caltex Oil Zimbabwe (Pvt) Limited, who refused to identify himself, also confirmed that the company had not started importing fuel.
The government last year invited private oil companies to import their own fuel to lessen the burden on Noczim, which has failed to buy enough fuel to satisfy local demand.
Companies that were licensed to import fuel include Mobil Oil Zimbabwe, Total Zimbabwe (Pvt) Limited and BP & Shell.
Also licensed are small players of mainly black-owned companies like Comoil, Exor Petroleum, Country Petroleum, Engen, Juvenna, Royal Oil, Wedzera, FSI Petroleum, Ateb Investments and Power Fuel.
Comoil (Pvt) Limited sales and operations manager, Fanuel Kangondo, said hard currency shortages forced his company to import fuel only for its commercial clients.
"We can't import for everyone because we do not have the foreign currency," said Kangondo.
Regis Nyamakanga, SMM Holdings' group corporate affairs executive, said at the rate of US$1 to Z$1500, the price of diesel should be Z$620 per litre. Using the same rate, a litre of petrol would cost about $1 395.
Noczim boss, Webster Muriritirwa, through his secretary, directed questions to the minister of energy, Amos Midzi, who continually switched off his cellphone when contacted by this paper.
Last week, Midzi said fuel pumping through Feruka pipeline in Mutare had resumed and was optimistic of an improvement in supply. However the situation has remained critical.
Zimbabwe uses about 67 million litres of fuel a month, which it imports at an estimated cost of US$40m.
The fuel crisis, which has paralysed every sector of the country's economy, started towards the end of 1999 when Zimbabwe started experiencing shortages of foreign currency.
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Zimbabwe Standard
What strategy to dislodge Mugabe?
newsfocus By Henry Makiwa

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe's seemingly unshaken stance in the wake of two crippling national strikes, has amplified growing concerns over whether the popular mass stayaways are the best way to push the veteran politician out of State House.

In the past two months, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), have organised successful stayaways, sending a very strong message to Mugabe's government about the people's anger now reaching boiling point.
Although the protests virtually paralysed industry and commerce worsening Zimbabwe's economic crisis, Mugabe's political resolve apparently remained largely unshaken raising questions about the ability of mass actions to show the Zanu PF leader the exit door.
While evidently there is a strong appetite for more stayaways among the angry and hungry Zimbabweans who now have to contend with a life on queues, The Standard has noted a growing feeling of frustration among the populace many of whom have religiously heeded calls for stayaways.
The frustration stems from the fact that despite the obvious adverse effects of the stayaways on the economy, Mugabe has largely remained unmoved, a 'granite figure' stoically clinging to the helm of a crisis-wracked country.
The 79-year-old Zimbabwean leader has, in fact, contemptuously shrugged off the mass protests dismissing them as acts of terrorism by the opposition.
His junior Information Minister, Jonathan Moyo has also launched a deluge of Orwellian-type propaganda advertisements in the government media aimed at portraying the stayaways as acts of economic sabotage.
That Mugabe is a battle-hardened strongman who will probably need more than mere stayaways to end his controversial reign - set to go on until the next presidential election in 2008 - appears to be the sad reality that is emerging.
Some members of the public told The Standard that they now doubted whether stayawys would force Mugabe out of office. They noted, however, that mass action remained the only available option to express their displeasure with Zanu PF.
Albert Mutembo of Harare's Kuwadzana high-density suburb said: "The people are starving; they have no money and most basic commodities have become unaffordable.
"Mass action is our only way to communicate with this insensitive government that will not listen to our cries of suffering," he said.
"But I must admit I have not seen any change of heart in Mugabe in response to the stayaways other than the increase of state-fomented acts of repression," added Mutembo.
Leon Khomu of Masvingo said although the stayaways would not "necessarily put bread on our tables", he urged Zimbabweans to graduate from being a docile and gullible lot and stand up against the repressive government.
"I think one positive aspect that has come out of mass action is that Mugabe has finally recognised the existence of the opposition. You can listen to his cries for recognition from the MDC," Khomu said.
Veteran nationalist and politician, Edgar Tekere who knows Mugabe on a personal level, said the stayaways would gradually produce some results but the "President was a very difficult old man".
Tekere said: "Mugabe anonetsa, anonetsaŠanonetsa. (Mugabe is very, very, very difficult). He is a 'Mr.-know-it-all' who will not entertain any voices of reason and advice.
"It is important to maintain the fire of mass action because it is the only way the people can register and express their anger until Mugabe learns to listen to the people," Tekere said.
Welshman Ncube, the MDC secretary general, said his party believed the mass actions were producing the desired results.
"To the MDC, the purpose of mass action is not fulfilled in a one-off event. Mass action has to be a systematic and sustained process beginning with mobilising the people to face a regime that governs them contrary to their will.
"Such protests also teach the people to exercise their democratic rights freely and to act collectively without fear of repression," said Ncube.
Ncube, a university lecturer, added: "So the mere fact that the people heeded calls for stayaways is to us a demonstration of success and that the people are denouncing economic depravation and political mayhem. The people must realise that despotic dictatorships of the Zanu PF nature should never be expected to fall instantaneously."
The fact that leaders of South Africa, Nigeria and Malawi had now stepped up their efforts in trying to solve the Zimbabwean crisis, was testimony of the effect of the mass stayaways, said Ncube.
The ZCTU, which also organised a successful three-day stayaway last month, said similar types of mass action would continue.
Lovemore Matombo, the ZCTU president, said: "Agarira nhanzva, chasara kuenda kumawere (Mugabe is doomed). If anything, Zanu PF's arrogance is a manifestation of their mental delinquency."
Educationist, traditional healer and acclaimed social scientist Gordon Chavhunduka said the mass action forebode the demise of Mugabe.
"Stayaways and other acts of mass protests are only natural in a situation such as Zimbabwe's," said Chavhunduka, a leading politician during the country's 1970s struggle for independence.
He added: "All this fermenting anger is expected once the political and economic set up of a country deteriorates. The people are very angry and if Mugabe is asleep, achavhundutswa-the mass action shall jerk him up."
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Zimbabwe Standard
Teaching profession loses its sparkle
By Henry Makiwa

FOR Freedom Hove and thousands of other teachers, the profession has lost all its glamour and teachers are now the laughing stock of society because of their poor salaries and the low regard they are being held by society.

Twenty-seven-year old Hove says students in his class, who more often than not are more affluent than he is, no longer respected their teacher because they know that on his salary, he can not even afford a cellphone, let alone a car of his own.
Hove says it is a struggle every month to meet basic expenses such as rent food, transport and clothes on his paltry pay of $60 000.
"My students know that I earn peanuts. I cannot afford a mobile phone and I do not drive. I don't even own my own accommodation," says Hove bitterly.
"I know that behind my back some of them call me'mukomana wekuseri' (lodger) and I am embarrassed to hike to work and home everyday when some of my students drive to school.
"When I stand right there in front of them I feel so humiliated and degraded because they do not look up to me with the esteem befitting a teacher," he says.
For a profession that was once held with high regard and respect in the entire southern African region, poor remuneration and working conditions have reduced teaching in Zimbabwe to one of those professions taken only by the most desperate.
Retired teachers and headmasters talk wistfully of the good old days when the profession was so well respected and admired that teachers were leaders of their society and many of them became key to the struggle for independence during the colonial era.
In fact, it is from the ranks of teachers and headmasters that the young nationalist movements throughout Africa drew most of their leaders from.
A good teacher's reservoir of knowledge soon became noticed outside their communities and former teachers such as the late Julius Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda and Robert Mugabe-among others-rose in the nationalist movements to even become the post independence leaders of their countries.
In Zimbabwe, teachers were indeed considered special and handsomely remunerated during the colonial years to an extent that they were considered the middle class of the black communities.
Misheck Sibanda, a retired headmaster in Chitungwiza, says the teaching fratenity's problems started soon after independence.
"Teachers used to be held highly in the society. They were the trendsetters even in terms of dress, music tastes and ownership of properties," he said.
"But at independence, our new government set out on a mass training exercise of teachers -some with mediocre qualifications-in order to satisfy the need for a broad-based education structure. The government was soon overwhelmed by too many teachers whom they cannot pay adequately," Sibanda said.
He said politics also contributed adversely to the crumbling of the teachers' welfare and teaching as a profession.
"From onset, the first minister of education in 1980 Dzingai Mutumbuka tried to politicise education. One could not be promoted from a teacher to a headmaster if he was 'not politically correct.'
"Subsequent ministers such as Edward Garwe, Samuel Mumbengegwi and now Aeneas Chigwedere have also inherited the same traits. To make matters worse, the education budget was significantly reduced with resources being re-directed to cater for the war in the Congo and the gratuities paid to the war veterans," he added.
What had also compounded the situation was the constant change of education ministers since independence from Britain in 1980.
Raymond Majongwe, the secretary general of the Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe, says it was the constant change in ministers that hindered the proper management of teachers' welfare over the years.
Majongwe said: "Education needs a clear and sustained implementation programme Š. unfortunately our government appears unaware of this truth. All they do is to change ministers like bed sheets while continuing to disregard and discriminate teachers.
"Each new minister comes with his own lies and Chigwedere has dwelt on trivial matters such as the change of school names, proposing a national uniform and promising hefty salaries that never were," said Majongwe.
Majongwe said teachers were no longer able to provide for their families yet when he joined the profession in 1989 earning $1 200, "I bought a radio, a television set and a bed with my first salary".
A visiting delegation of the global Education International last month ranked Zimbabwean teachers as the least paid in the southern African region.
The three-man mission attributed the failure of 78 percent of "O" level students in high school in Zimbabwe last year to possible low morale among teachers.
Dennis Sinyolo, the secretary general of the Zimbabwe Teachers' Association described local teachers as the "greatest casualties of the country's economic turbulence".
"Our salaries do not meet our basic needs because they have been drastically reduced by the government. It is even more saddening to note the huge disparities that exist between the salaries of teachers and other members of the civil service such as soldiers, police officers and nurses who earn much more," said Sinyolo.
He said teachers had now lost patience with the government over salaries and better working conditions and would continue with the strike action that started when schools re-opened recently.
The teachers have been on strike over low pay for the past two weeks and indications are that the job action, which had started on a very low key, was now gathering momentum.
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Zimbabwe Standard
Ombudsman fades into obscurity
By our own Staff

LACK of adequate personnel and under-funding of the office of the Ombudsman has rendered it almost irrelevant at a time when it is greatly needed to counter state-sponsored human rights abuses which have become too rampant, analysts have said.

The office is operating with one law officer, who handles most of the cases, a situation that has greatly affected its operations.
In its latest report produced last year, which covers the period from January 1 to December 31 1996, the Ombudsman, Bridget Chanetsa, admitted that the office was affected by the shortage of staff and financial constraints.
The Ombudsman's Office, established by an Act of Parliament in 1982, is mandated to investigate cases of administrative malpractice and alleged contravention of the Declaration of Rights by members of the defence forces, police, government departments and the prison service on civil society.
It, however, does not have powers to enforce its findings but can only make recommendations to various arms of government, which they can easily ignore, and have tended to do.
ZimRights chairman Arnold Tsunga said legally, the office was toothless because it did not have the powers to enforce anything after carrying investigations.
"It is toothlessness and its failure to compile annual reports makes the office irrelevant in the human rights field especially now, when abuses by state agents appear to be more frequent," said Tsunga, who however, pointed out that under normal situations the existence of such an office would be necessary.
Most people did not report cases of abuse to the Ombudsman's Office because "it takes years before a case is looked into and apart from that it is not known", said Tsunga.
The office has a backlog of more than 2 500 cases dating back to 1996. Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) MP for Harare East Tendai Biti, lambasted the office describing it as useless because the Act of Parliament under which it was established does not give it enough powers.
He added that the fact that the Ombudsman was a political appointee made the office even more irrelevant.
Said Biti: "Even if she (Ombudsman) is given the powers, she can't use them because she is the wife of a Zanu PF-appointed governor and she has taken a political position to support the ruling party."
Bridget Chanetsa, the current Ombudsman, is the wife of Peter Chanetsa, the Zanu PF governor of Mashonaland West.
Biti said the issue of the Ombudsman's Office should be dealt with in the context of a new constitution, giving it new powers and electing a non-partisan and non-political head.
Some analysts said as a result of the problems, the Ombudsman's office has failed to investigate increasing incidents of government agents and departments, which are being used by ruling Zanu PF party to abuse ordinary citizens in order for it to cling to power.
Government agents, especially from the Central Intelligence Organisation, the police and the army, have been implicated in cases of gross human rights abuses, including assaults and murder.
Among outstanding cases of abuse mentioned are those of people who have disappeared without trace such as Rashiwe Guzha, whom the government has since presumed dead, the late Talent Mabika and Tichaona Chiminya-petrol bombed allegedly by a CIO operative-and Tonderai Machiridza, who reportedly died after being brutally assaulted by the police.
However, Heneri Dzinotyiwei of the University of Zimbabwe still believes the Ombudsman's office is relevant even under the current political dispension.
Dzinotyiwei said the Ombudsman was failing to cope with her workload because the cases she handled were too many and apart from that, she covered a wide diversity of cases at a time when the country is in a political crisis.
"There is need to strengthen the office in terms of funding and staffing because when the political crisis normalises it will function well," said Dzinotyiwei, who is also the chairperson the Zimbabwe Integrated Programme (ZIP). Chanetsa turned down a request for an interview.
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Zimbabwe Standard
MDC: 'We are tired of your barking'

"Sometimes a patriot has to protect his own nation against its governmemt". This loaded statement is an accurate summary of the duty of an opposition party. An opposition party provides checks and balances in any democratic society.

However, the overall and encompassing purpose of any political party, be it a ruling party or an opposition party, is to serve the nation and its people. As such an opposition party should strive for wealth creation, poverty alleviation and employment creation amongst other endeavors aimed towards socio-economic development.
Unfortunately at present our local opposition do not seem to have a convincing strategy as to where they intend to take Zimbabwe and how they intend on getting there.
Why is it that the opposition is only drawn into activity by some oppressive action on the part of the government? People are only reminded of the existence of the opposition when there is a fuel hike or other national grievances.
Numerous members of the MDC have been imprisoned. Some of these individuals have been imprisoned justifiably and other unfairly.
However, never once did Morgan Tsvangirai come to the aid of his supporters. Job Sikhala, Nelson Chamisa and Learnmore Jongwe are a few members of the opposition who have been harassed in one way or another by Zanu PF, all to deafening silence from the MDC national leadership. If the lowest Zanu PF cadre is harassed in any way by the opposition, hell literally descends of the perpetrators. Surely is it too much to ask that a shepherd protect his flock.
A stayaway for the sake of a stayaway is nothing more than an undeserved and illegal holiday. It is highly unlikely that a regime that effectively controls the armed forces, various intelligence organisations not to mention paramilitary groups, can be dislodged by stayaways. We have had enough barking, what we now need is some biting.
We all know the police brutality, corruption, shopping sprees etc, currently going on. What we need is a solid answer from the opposition on how they intend to solve these and other perceived problems, given their much-publicised handicap of an even playing ground.
Incidentally Zanu PF fought also their own way to power on a grossly uneven playing ground. They also had to challenge oppressive legislation, face harassment from partisan security forces and other repressive factors that the opposition face today.
Ladies and gentlemen, let us avoid opposing for the sake of opposing. Let all opposition be constructive, logical and aimed towards nation building.
Nyasha Dhliwayo
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Zimbabwe Standard

Mugabe worse than Idi Amin

"A dictator is an authoritarian and absolute ruler who is not bound by any constitution or law and acts in a tyrannical manner. Our President clearly does not fit the bill of a dictator. In fact, he is probably one of the most democratic presidents" (DN Sandleford, Harare, The Chronicle Tuesday 6 May).

I do not know whether this writer is white or living in Zimbabwe or is just trying to be funny. How can he justify the above statement when Mugabe wanted to eliminate Joshua Nkomo and Ndabaningi Sithole during the early eighties.
How can he say Mugabe is the most democratic president when MDC MPs and members are arrested and harassed on an daily basis. Hundreds of them have been killed and maimed. Does he think what was done to commercial farmers was fair. You can not correct a wrong by doing something wrong. Two wrongs do not make a right.
Did Mugabe not order his soldiers to persecute thousands of defenceless civilians in Matabeleland. Some people were buried alive, pregnant women had their stomachs pierced using knives to kill the so called dissident babies.
Was Lookout Masuku not murdered by Mugabe's agents? What happened to Tongogara, Chitepo and more recently Learnmore Juda Jongwe?
Mugabe is indeed a worse dictator than Idi Amin, Siad Barre, Mobutu Sese Seko and many others before him.
He should be tried and face the music. American and British soldiers in Iraq showed us what should be done to dictators.
Son of the soil
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Zimbabwe Standard

AirZim lays off workers
By Henry Makiwa

TROUBLED national air carrier, Air Zimbabwe, which is battling loss of business and lack of jet engine fuel has been forced to put some workers on long unpaid leave in order to cut its huge wage bill, The Standard has learnt.

Workers at the parastatal last week said management were encouraging them to take long unpaid leave because of the worsening financial crisis and the airline's huge debt to save on the wages bill.
Many workers were now opting for the "great trek" to the United Kingdom, taking advantage of their cheap special travelling allowances provided for by the airline.
"Staff here is disappearing fast since this unpaid leave programme was introduced. Most have now settled in the UK doing menial jobs even though they might have been professionals back home," said one airline employee.
Airline sources said among those who have taken advantage of the cheap fares for employees and the long leave to trek abroad for jobs are some of Air Zimbabwe's top engineers.
A senior airline official said the airline has been grappling with a critical financial problem since the hard currency shortages that began almost two years ago and the scarcity of jet engine fuel.
Air Zimbabwe is also in serious viability problems because of lack of business as many tourists and businessmen have stopped travelling to Zimbabwe since the country acquired its international pariah status two years ago.
Local and regional travel has also almost dwindled to a halt as many locals can no longer afford the huge fares for domestic, foreign or regional travel because of the economic hardships.
An official source at the company said the airline was actually encouraging workers to take the long unpaid leave and get employed abroad.
Airline spokesman David Mwenga admitted that some employees who had left the country had not bothered to return for work at the end their leave days.
"It is true that some workers have skipped the country on unpaid leave but it is also old news Š we have been doing it for almost two years now," Mwenga said.
Analysts say the national airline's survival might only be secured if it sought an international partner or the government injected huge amounts into its operations.
Air Zimbabwe has an aging fleet that badly needs replacement and its problems are also compounded by the lack of hard currency to buy spares from foreign manufacturers.
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Zimbabwe Standard

Murerwa cobbles up supplementary budget
By Kumbirai Mafunda

THE ministry of Finance and Economic Development is polishing up a supplementary budget to raise more money that will be tabled before Parliament adjourns from its current sitting, but is likely to dampen hopes of any economic recovery, it was learnt this week.

Standard Business has been told by official government sources that Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa would seek more money to double government spending to about $100 million.
The sources said runaway inflation had gobbled up most of the funds allocated to ministries during this year's Budget and they now needed more money to pay salaries and other expenses.
"The numbers are being done now and we are consulting with Parliament for the exact dates of presentation," said the source.
It has become habitual for the ruling Zanu PF government to go to Parliament every year seeking extra amounts because ministries would have exhausted their allocations.
Parliament approved a supplementary budget of $52,97 million in July last year that was channeled towards food imports, cost of living adjustments and the funding for agricultural inputs needed during the agrarian reforms.
Zimbabwean ministries' failure to live within budgets has been heavily criticised locally and international for causing the government's huge internal borrowings.
Although Murerwa had allocated $266,5 billion to cover the salaries and allowances for civil servants, analysts said the spiraling inflation, which is officially pegged at 220.08 percent, had eroded workers' remuneration.
Most of the new money would therefore go to salaries and allowances.
Currently teachers are on strike demanding wage increments of more than 100 percent and their colleagues in the civil service are expected to ask for similar adjustments in the second half of the year.
The other amounts, analysts said, would be allocated to food imports and other critical needs like electricity and fuel which have grounded industry to a halt.
Economic critics said with inflation blazing through to the stratosphere and the current crippling food crisis, indications were that the government would cobble up yet another supplementary budget towards the end of the year.
They said this would further push the budget deficit upwards and leave the government, which has just embarked on a new economic recovery programme, in a precarious position.
"We have a much bigger problem coming up. By August, current maize stocks and wheat stocks will be finished and we will be depended on imports," said John Robertson, a leading independent economic consultant.
Robertson said with the current downturn in companies' profitability, it was impossible for the government to raise taxes to finance the supplementary budget leaving it with the only option of printing more money which in turn would fuel inflation.
"Raising taxes is unthinkable because of the fuel shortages, power cuts and price controls. That leaves government with one option which is to print money," he said.
Tapiwa Mashakada, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change's shadow minister of finance, rapped the government for failing to live within its own means.
"This crisis is a result of a political choice that has had disastrous consequences for economic growth," said Mashakada.
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Zimbabwe Standard
Time has come to call Zanu PF's bluff

ZIMBABWE has once again shot itself in the foot-and in the full glare of international media, for that matter-by deliberately flouting its own laws and throwing caution to the wind just to allow Information Minister Jonathan Moyo and the department of immigration to settle old scores.

We are here talking about the government's handling of the residence permit issue of Andrew Meldrum, the locally-based correspondent of the British newspaper, The Guardian, who was bundled out of Zimbabwe on Friday night even though the High Court had ruled last July that he was a bona fide resident of this country.
There is no doubt that the government, and Moyo, were highly embarrassed after Meldrum successfully challenged their deportation order in the High Court in July last year.
In fact, it might even be now safe to say that the decision to physically remove Meldrum from Zimbabwe must have been taken the day that the High Court overturned his deportation order and allowed him to stay in the country.
It was only a matter of time before President Robert Mugabe's vindictive advisers met to formulate what they believed would be the most appropriate way to deal with the meddlesome Meldrum once and for all.
But dealing with delicate matters such as residence permits denied by the state and then successfully challenged in court, does take a bit of time and some sophistication which, alas, even our rocket scientists in the governing party do not seem to have in abundance.
What could have been a routine matter for the courts to handle, for instance, filing an immediate appeal against the High Court ruling in the Supreme Court, has left Zanu PF, Moyo and the department of immigration with egg all over their faces.
The way the government -especially the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Home Affairs and its immigration department-handled the Meldrum affair therefore makes a mockery of Harare's monotonous and tired complains that Zimbabwe does not deserve the bad press it is attracting overseas.
What better way to attract a negative international image can there be than the primitive, amateurish and vindictive way this simple matter of a residence permit was handled?
Instead of filing an appeal in the Supreme Court, whose bench incidentally is full of Mugabe appointees, the government chose to apply the law of the jungle; kidnapping the defenceless journalist and physically bundling him into an Air Zimbabwe flight bound for London-all in the full glare of the international media.
Do we need any further testimony that our rulers have gone bonkers and now want to demonstrate to the whole world that the animal called the rule of law is dead and buried in Zimbabwe?
Sadly, the abuse of Meldrum and his family, is not an isolated affair. There have been many Zimbabwean journalists have who have been beaten, tortured, harassed, detained and forced to leave this country because they dared report about the rampant corruption that is perpetrated by the current Zanu PF administration.
Ordinary Zimbabweans have not fared any better: numerous reports have been carried by the media in this country about the voiceless and powerless who, in the dead of the night, have been pounced upon by state sponsored thugs dressed in police and army uniforms.
The crime that many of these Zimbabweans have committed is that they have dared to complain that they are not being governed properly.
It is their own government that is daily abusing them in the townships and the rural areas because Zanu PF believes it is its God-given right to govern or misgovern this country.
After all, we are told every day in the daily lies peddled by the State media, it is Zanu PF that brought independence to this country when it won the 1970s war of independence and so, by extension, it is the only party that should rule Zimbabwe.
But Zanu PF is like the little village bully who rules through fear and violence but who surely one day would have his bluff called.
We Zimbabweans must comfort ourselves that indeed Zanu PF's bullying days will soon be over because ordinary people in this country have now decided to expose, once and for all, that the bullying Zanu PF owl has no horns at all and that its day of reckoning is no longer far away.
No amount of posturing, that includes even the ridiculous show of trying to link Zimbabwe's problems to the return of one half of the Zimbabwean bird from Germany, will divert the populace from the real cause of their current misery; the mismanagement of the country by the governing Zanu PF party.
It is only a desperate administration that tries to link a historical artefact that has been rightly returned to its owners, and through dialogue, to the violent way it has addressed very pertinent issues such as land hunger.
Zimbabweans have been fooled for 23 years but are now much wiser: they know the difference between who is responsible for their current problems and who are not.
And it's certainly not Germany, Meldrum, the colonialists nor the one half of the Zimbabwean bird! It is Mugabe and his governing Zanu PF party.
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Zimbabwe Standard

Pregnant woman leads mass uprising
By Peter Moyo

"GOD has no time for this country, my sister. This country is now on auto pilot!"

Welcome to the Super Patriots and Morons where our "Great Leader" is a tormented man.
The "Great Leader" has not been well for quite some time and now sees imaginary ghosts, and hears strange voices and sounds every time he tries to convince himself that everybody still wants him.
"Look around you, you have failed! Throw in the towel if you care about the people. Go whilst there is still time!" say the voices amidst the ear-splitting sound of drums which make our "Great Leader" hold his ears with pain.
However, he remains quite defiant as he continues to pamper himself with praise.
"There is no history better than my history. Mine is a history of a legend. ... I am their saviour. Their black Moses ...," he says, but the ear-splitting sound of drums throws him to the ground and makes him hide under his table.
Super Patriots and Morons, which opened last Tuesday, is the latest play at Theatre in the Park. Penned by the controversial Raisedon Baya (Witnesses and Victims, Rags and Garbage, Madmen and Fools) and Leonard Matsa (Ganyau Express), the story is about social and political survival as portrayed by a pregnant woman who is on the brink of starvation after spending days in queues just to get a loaf of bread. As her husband was killed by "The Militia" of The Super Patriots the woman, who is expecting her fifth child, takes the initiative to confront the "Great Leader" for answers to the country's problems.
"Maybe we should round up all the frustrated people from everywhere and march to government square!" she finally says after enduring the intense pushing and shoving at bread queues.
"Ha, iwe mukwasha..." she shouts at a former university student (Jasen Mphepo) who has been unemployed for the past six years. While shoving the jobless cheeky young man replies: "If you don't want any contact with anybody, then get out of the queue. There is no decency in a queue and people become animals, and animals have no decency."
The play is set in a country suffering from severe food shortages, fuel and food queues coupled with a repressive government which has cut a niche in using the fearsome and dreaded state security agents to silence the dissenting masses.
To the "Great Leader", the people and voters are morons as they can't seem to think or do anything for themselves, while the government and the ruling party are the super patriots by virtue of being the chosen ones-the anti-imperialists.
They can never do wrong. Any dissent by the people is a sign of imperialist infiltration which has to be crushed at all costs by "The Great Leader".
To cushion and reassure himself, he has a palace sangoma (played by Mackay Tickeys) who licks his feet to stay alive. He also has Bazooka, his most trusted comrade. Bazooka is also a boot licker.
"...I see your face replacing that of Franklin on the US dollar note. I see your birthday being changed to an international holiday ..." licks up Bazooka, played by Obrien Mudyiwenyama.
This seems to do wonders to the "Great Leader" who immediately shouts: "I am not giving up my throne, never ever!"
Bazooka has to go out and investigate and in the queues he faces the wrath of the people, led by the pregnant woman.
"So, tell me Bazooka, what are the people saying..."
"You are always on their lips yet very far away from their hearts ... ," Bazooka is quite open on this one.
Back on the streets the pregnant woman, played by Ehyara Mathazia, is mobilising people in the queues and asking the people to sign a petition.
"Lets march towards government square saying, 'enough is enough!'"
Bazooka who is on a mission to spy suddenly bursts: "My sister, you will be arrested for inciting people ..."
"Do you think that being arrested is worse than this living hell! The people are angry, hungry and frustrated Your Excellency. They are saying you and your ministers should stop lying like liars," she says as she braces for a showdown with the "Great Leader".
But what happens to her later as the "Great Leader" believes she is an agent of imperialists? What of the people who she believes and trusts would pass on the petition to His Excellency who turn out to be the notorious militias? Will she manage to mobilise the people for the final showdown with His Excellency?
"Who has run this country better than me? Haven't I put subsidies and price controls?" the "Great Leader" asks.
"With all due respect Your Excellency, how can you put subsidies on things that are not even there?"
The play, rehearsed in Sweden over two weeks, runs at Theatre in the Park until May 25. It has all the humour and explosive quarrels which will leave audiences deep in thought.
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Khaleej Times Online
Forty die of malnutrition in Zimbabwe: Report

18 May 2003

HARARE - Forty people have died from malnutrition in Zimbabwe’s southern city of Bulawayo due to food shortages gripping the country, a newspaper reported Sunday.
Quoting a city health official, the private Daily News on Sunday said the people had died in the first two months of the year.  “People do not have food,” the city’s director of health services, Rita Dlodlo told the paper.
 Aid agencies say at the height of food shortages last year, at least two-thirds of Zimbabwe’s 11.6 million people required food aid. The numbers of those in need this year have been revised downwards due to forecasts of better harvests.
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Sunday Times - SA
Zimbabwe elite 'looted DRC'
Sunday Times Foreign Desk

Key senior members of the Zimbabwe government are to be investigated by the United Nations for allegedly looting and illegally exploiting natural resources, including a fortune in diamonds, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to UN sources in Nairobi, investigators are to travel to Harare within days, where they will question, among others, the Speaker of the Zimbabwean parliament and former National Security Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa - the man widely tipped as a possible successor to President Robert Mugabe.
Mnangagwa was identified in a UN report on the looting of Congo, released in October last year, as the "key strategist" for the Zimbabwean branch of an elite network that benefited from a variety of criminal activities in Congo, including theft, embezzlement and the diversion of public funds, undervaluation of goods, smuggling, false invoicing, nonpayment of taxes, kickbacks to public officials and outright bribery.
Mnangagwa told the Sunday Times he was unaware of any investigation into his affairs while he served as chairman of a joint committee of ministers responsible for the war-torn Congo. He also denied that UN investigators had written to him or otherwise contacted him with their questions.
"But let them come," he said. "That report is full of lies. They had better come now and talk to us."
The UN document - titled The Final Report of the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of DR Congo - details how this "elite network" benefited from instability in Congo and sought to fuel that instability by supporting armed groups opposed to Rwanda and Burundi.
"The elite network of Congolese and Zimbabwean political, military and commercial interests seeks to maintain its grip on the main mineral resources - diamonds, cobalt, copper, germanium - of the government-controlled area," the document says.
"This network has transferred ownership of at least 5-billion of assets from the state mining sector to private companies under its control in the past three years with no compensation or benefit for the state treasury."
The document identifies Mnangagwa's key ally as Zimbabwe Defence Force commander General Vitalis Zvinavashe, and names several other key ZDF figures as being involved. "The general and his family," it says, "have been involved in diamond trading and supply contracts in the DRC."
It also claims Air Marshal Perence Shiri, a long-time ally of Mugabe, has been involved in military procurement and in organising air support for the pro-Kinshasa armed groups fighting in the eastern Congo. Shiri is also part of the inner circle of ZDF diamond traders who have turned Harare into a significant illicit diamond-trading centre, the document says.
Zimbabwean Defence Minister Sidney Sekeramayi is also implicated in the report.
A preliminary report on the panel's investigation is to be handed to the UN Security Council next month. A final report is due in September.
Meanwhile, a Ugandan probe following UN charges that Uganda and Rwanda illegally exploited Congo's natural resources has exonerated Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni but has suggested members of his family and top military officers may have been involved, Reuters reports.
The judicial investigation has recommended further investigation of Museveni's sister-in-law and brother, the army commander and the head of military intelligence.
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Mugabe Policies Doing "Enormous Damage" to Zimbabwe Food System

(USAID chief Natsios testifies before Congress) (880)
By Charles W. Corey
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The ongoing repression of the Zimbabwean people by the Mugabe
government and its ill-advised land and agriculture polices have done an
"enormous amount of damage" to the country's food security system, warned
Andrew Natsios, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International
Development (USAID).

In testimony before the Committee on International Relations in the U.S.
House of Representatives April 1, Natsios said "the government seems not to
understand that the confiscation of the large farms by the state and then
the giving of those farms to members of the inner circle of the ruling
party and relatives of President Mugabe has done an enormous amount of
damage..." to the nation's food security.

The seizure of the farms, combined with bad management, has resulted in an
80% reduction of food crops for this year, a "massive reduction of food
production in the country to a disastrous level," he warned.

The USAID administrator also told the lawmakers that in a relatively
prosperous country, as Zimbabwe once was, people can usually survive one
year of drought without suffering mass casualties. "They cannot do it for
two years" in a row, he warned, and the second year has begun.

The Zimbabwean people, Natsios told the committee, were among the best
educated in Africa with a 92% literacy rate, along with an advanced
infrastructure and agricultural system, but Mugabe "literally destroyed
that." Mugabe's Zimbabwe, he said, now stands as "one of the worst examples
in African history of gross mismanagement of predatory government policy
and of tyranny over its own people."  Natsios also accused the Mugabe
regime of using food as a weapon, as he said has been the case in

"Matebeleland is a region of the country that has traditionally been in
opposition to Dr. Mugabe and his party. They have never liked him and never
voted for him," Natsios said, and the government has "attempted to shut off
all food distributions in those areas and prevents reporters from going in
to see what the consequence is. We are not seeing mass starvation yet, but
with the second year of reduced harvests, we are going to face famine

Malnutrition rates are rising, he warned, and "we have examples in some
provinces...of children whose parents are of the opposition being pulled
out of feeding lines and told they will not eat because their parents
supported the opposition candidates in the last election."

There is a "politicization" of food distribution going on, Natsios said,
but he stressed that the Mugabe government has not been able to use U.S.
food aid as a weapon. U.S. food aid, Natsios told the lawmakers, "has gone
through NGOs and the World Food Programme, and none of it has gone through
the government, nor will it go through the government. "

Underlying the Zimbabwe crisis is the general African problem of
agricultural development. Natsios stressed the importance of helping
African nations wean themselves from emergency food aid and break the
constant cycles of famine through consistent agricultural development.
Although he cited recent increases in U.S. funding for agricultural
development, Natsios characterized them as woefully short of what is truly

In 2001, USAID spent $113 million (on agricultural development); there has
been a $50 million increase this year to $163 million, he said, but that is
still not enough. And there are other competing interests for funding such
as HIV/AIDS or environmental issues that rely on their stronger
constituencies to siphon money from agricultural development.

"If you ask African heads of state, prime ministers, finance ministers --
not the agricultural ministers who have a vested interest - and other
ministers where we should be putting money in Africa, they will all tell
you agriculture because 80% of poor people in Africa live on the farms," he

"If you want to reduce poverty, you have to invest in agriculture," he
stressed. As an example, Natsios cited three things that need to be
institutionalized to help Africa and especially Ethiopia survive its
current crisis:

-- Greater use of irrigation on a small-scale. Citing India as an example,
he said that country has not had a famine since its independence, largely
because it practices widespread agricultural irrigation;

-- The utilization of new varieties of drought-resistant wheat and maize
now being developed through biotechnology in South Africa that are
specifically targeted at the African markets;

-- The education of the next generation of African scientists to conduct
appropriate research focused on what is needed in Africa.

One of the key factors in the last item, Natsios said, are the USAID
agricultural scholarships that once played so large a role in improving
agriculture in Africa and around the world. "In 1980, the United States
funded 20,000 scholarships a year in agriculture. Today, that number has
shrunk to 900," he lamented.

"I think it is scandalous that there has been such a dramatic reduction in
the number of scholarships to people from the Third World in American
universities -- to take that technology back to their own countries and use
it for their own benefit. So we are putting a new investment into
[agriculture] scholarships in the United States."
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Please send any material for publication in the Open Letter Forum to with "For Open Letter Forum" in the subject line.


Letter 1:

A return to Macheke/Virginia Farming Area.

Macheke/Virginia lies 90 kilometres due east of Harare. It ranges in height
from 1500 metres above mean sea level (Macheke) down to 1100 metres above
mean sea level (Virginia).  Soils mostly low fertility granite sands, some
areas of red soil. Traditionally a not very exciting dry land tobacco,
maize and beef area. After 1980 Macheke/Virginia underwent a farming
transformation. Sons and farm managers started taking over the family
businesses. New ideas, and enthusiasms pursued or created new
opportunities. About 25 medium/large-sized dams were built. Irrigated
tobacco was grown alongside dry land.  Hectarage, yield and quality
increased dramatically. Horticulture and greenhouse production became a
common feature. Wheat and barley featured in the farming programme,
particularly in the Macheke end of the district. In a few short years
Macheke/Virginia had transformed from a rather drab farming address into an
up-market place to be. Investment, confidence and enterprise was the order
of the day.

My wife and I plus our two married sons were forced off our three
properties 8 months ago. I had spent the past thirty years working, paying
off, investing and improving my farms. I was curious to see my farms again
and to take a look around Macheke/Virginia.  We hope one day to return to
our homes and resume farming. I travelled south down the Macheke-Murewa
Road and turned into the Koodoo Range road at the 33 km peg. My farm
buildings were only 200 metres away, already they looked sad, neglected and
unused, long grass everywhere. I carried on for a couple of kilometres, I
wanted to see my dam again. Got a smile and cheery wave from two of my ex
employees. I stopped on the bridge I had built at the head of the dam,
obviously good rains, the dam was nearly full. Three women fishing, when
they recognized me they started waving their arms and shouting "sekuru".
Nice to know that someone misses me. I carried on for two more kilometres
to where I could get a good view of the Munykwe river valley. This valley
is highly arable, quite a bit of it red soil, all irrigable from 3 large
dams upstream.  Four farms shared this valley and normally at this time of
year it would be carrying a large hectarage of wheat. This year not one
hectare to be seen, nor was there any evidence that summer crops had been
grown. A few huts here and there, they did not look inhabited, no smoke, no
people, no chickens, do dogs and only a handful of mombies.  Hundreds of
hectares of unused and unwanted prime land.  Just over the crest is the lat
Dave Stevens farm. The awful irony attached to Dave's murder is that for
many years Dave was a strong supporter of Robert Mugabe.  I went back to
the Murewa Road and headed down to Maryland Road. Several hectares of
tobacco next to the road.  All reaped now, but looks as though it was a
fairly good crop, topped on the high side joined the Virginia Road and went
down towards the club, more of the same.  A few huts here and there, but no
apparent increase from when I left. Harvested maize crops small in size and
area, most look as though the yield will hardly cover the cost of planting.
A few contours of sunflower and sorghum, new to the area. Called in for tea
with one of the few commercial farmers lift in Virginia. Says he had a good
tobacco and paprika crop and his cattle are doing well.  He has had a
section 8 so he will be closing down soon. Very depressed and not sure what
he will do, probably emigrate. Carried on down the Settlers Road, obviously
been a bit short of rain at some time during the seasons, that's not
unusual for this end of the district. Arrived at the Mutare Road and turned
for Harare, our newly enforced home.

What I had seen over the previous four hours was shocking and depressing,
criminally so in a hungry and bankrupt country. In my drive I did not see
one tractor at work, I did not see one hectare of land prepared for next
year. I estimated the value of what has been produced in Macheke/Virginia
this year will not exceed 5% of that produced four years ago.

In Harare the fat cat politicians and money changers call what I have just
witnessed land reform. In Macheke/Virginia it is called poverty.  The
destruction that has taken place throughout the commercial farming area is
truly mind boggling.  Only a rigid Zanu(PF) mind could describe it as
progress or visionary. It was an act of political vengeance. There is no
denying the MDC had wide support in the commercial farming areas.  Land
reform was the battle standard under which the second chimurenga was of
liberation was fought.  Today the so called Third Chimurenga is being
fought under the same battle standard. The difference today is the battle
standard is no more that a ghost from the past. The third Chimurenga is a
chimera and has no moral content. You may recall V.I.D.C.O.'S and
W.A.D.C.O.'s failed in the past because they were political impositions. A1
and A2 settlement will also fail because they too are political
impositions. The real wealth of this country which all the people can share
will be generated in the factories, mines, the workshops and the offices,
not in the fields.


Letter 2:

I spent sometime in Zimbabwe in 1982 and visited many farmers there. In
particular I visited some wonderful friends the Hallams (Ruby and Basil,
and I was friends with their son Mike who I believed started to raise Emu
on the farm in Mvuma (sp?)). I have not heard from them in 3-4 years and am
wondering if you have information about them. Was there farm taken? Are
they still in Zimbabwe? etc

Thanks for any help you can give me. Anya McGuirk Professor Agricultural
Economics Virginia Tech


Letter 3:

I have received your Open Letters Forum via the e-mail and am just
wondering if Frank Urquart or Simon Spooner have been able to send their
letters to Interpol so that there may be some way of getting our message

We, as a family, have also written to the British Government (further to
Jack Straw's statement last week) stating our reaction to the appointment
and will let you know if we receive any reply.

I would appreciate if you treat this message with confidentiality and I
look forward to hearing from you.


Letter 4:

Title: ZTA on Demise of "Zimbabwe's Tobacco" in Farmer's Weekly 11.4.2003

In the article "Zimbabwean Tobacco" of the Farmer's Weekly of 11.4.2003 a
report by the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association (ZTA) is quoted giving reasons
for the halving of Zimbabwe's virginia tobacco production from 165 -million
kg (2001/02 season) to an estimated 85-million kg (2002/03 current
marketing season). They are: input shortages, and "uncertainty" in the
farming community. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In the New York Times of 8 May 2003 (quoted by ZWNEWS), the real reasons
are clearly stated in an article entitled "Zimbabwe at the breaking point"

"Zimbabwe is a mess. There are drastic shortages of food and fuel, the
rates of inflation and unemployment are soaring, coercive land reforms have
shrunk agricultural production, and public frustration is at a breaking

The ZTA has, through its past, and continued policy and actions of "quiet
diplomacy" contributed its share to the demise of Zimbabwe's vibrant,
internationally competitive tobacco production sector.

Foreign currency is available on the parallel market to source any input
required, including chemicals, fertilisers, and diesel for transport.
Zimbabwe tobacco growers do not use diesel for curing the crop (as stated
by Farmer's Weekly). For the ZTA to call the illegal, violent, and
wholesale eviction of approximately two thirds of Zimbabwe commercial
farmers from their land without due process, unbiased recourse to the law,
or compensation of any kind a factor of "uncertainty" in the demise of
tobacco and commercial farming in general in Zimbabwe, is to be cynical in
the least, and plainly dishonest.

Anyone still a member of this threatened dinosaur?

Yours faithfully

Alex Hangartner


Letter 5:

Solera Farm
P O Box 30

Phone: 064-7535

Tuesday, 13 May 2003-05-15

Mr J Worsley-Worswick

Dear Sir,

On Friday the 2nd May 2003, I went to speak to Mr Chitomba, District Lands
Officer for Hurungwe in his office in Chinhoyi.

I had received a section 5 dated the 10th January, in January.  I lodged my
objection with the Ministry of Lands two weeks after receiving my section
5, and have not heard anything from that office since then.

As a tobacco farmer, I need to start preparing my seedbeds now in May so
that I can sow seed early in June.  I wanted to know what was going to
happen, because on the one side you have President Mugabe saying at every
opportunity that the lands issue is over, then on the other hand you hear
of people getting section eights and sevens.

Mr Chitomba showed me my section eight form and that of many other Tengwe
people.  He told me that all the farms in Tengwe are to be given section
eight's and those that had slipped through the net as far as section fives
were concerned, would be given their fives at the same time followed by
their eights.  He then showed me the list of all the Tengwe and Karoi farms
that were to be served with section eights in the middle of May.  He did
not want me to make any notes but I could read the list.  I looked for the
farms of my children and those of my friends.  They were all on the list.

He then informed me that I would have to be off my farm by the middle of
August.  I replied that I could not finish grading my tobacco before then.
He said that I could apply for an extension.

I do feel that this must be exposed, as the present government is claiming
to have stopped all land reform.  They are speaking to farmers, asking them
to please go back to their farms and farm because they have no food or
money to produce it with.  The farmers are taking them to court, winning
their cases but with no law and order and police force to evict the
squatters off our lands, it is no point of taking them to court.

Yours truly,

Willie Watson


Letter 5:

Once again it is time for Dairyman of the Year Field Days and AGMs at

If I was a dispossessed farmer, the sight of these farmer jollifications at
vast expense would make me quite ill.  For many years we have believed that
these Expensive jaunts to high places are in ill taste, and we maintain
this view today, with even greater disgust.

We cannot condone the "all right Jack" attitude, and we see no cause for
celebration when the viability of Dairy is so poor, when farmers who are
still in business have had to slaughter so many of their animals just to
stay in business, and when so many farmers have been forced from their
homes and businesses.

"So just stay away" Yes, we will.

(Oh, and we see that there is a bus laid on from Harare - what about the
farmers who live away from the Centre of the World?)

Clive and Ann Hein.


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