The ZIMBABWE Situation Our thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.

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 Michael Barnard, Sunday Herald Sun, 20/05/01
 Hypocrisy is a hallmark of our age.  Few politicians could get by without it, especially in international politics and possibly even more especially in the specific area of human rights.
Who is for human rights?  Put this question to any group of people and the betting is that not one will fail to raise a hand.  But get down to the nitty-gritty of WHAT human rights - for whom, and where, - and everything starts to fall apart.
 "Oh, that case is different," or, "Well, I don't think you understand..."
The hands of this columnist may not be entirely clean, but I do claim to recognise Grade A humbug when it is paraded before us.  And you will scarcely find a greater case of humbug than the double standards applied to southern Africa.
 For 20 years or more white misconduct - real and perceived - was hammered by galleries of breast-beating, guilt-ridden Western left-liberal chatterers like it was the devil incarnate.
 But come even the most bloody excesses of black power successors and what do we get?  For the most part, shameful silence.
 Zimbabwe, the former white-ruled Rhodesia, is a classic - make that infamous - example.  Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe was, and always will be no more than a murderous, cold-blooded thug.
 In his craze for power he has crippled the economy, ridden roughshod over the rule of law and has been directly responsible for the killing of thousands upon thousands of fellow blacks, beginning with the mass slaughter of tribespeople of Matabeleland in the early 1980's.
 If he had been white, the chatterers would have called for war crimes trials, or a variation thereof, a long time ago.
 Australia, in the form of Malcolm Fraser, was a key player in the independence "settlement" that opened the way to power for Mugabe and scattered black moderates to the wind.  No praise was too great for our Malcolm at the time.  He became an Eminent Person for his knowledge of all things African.
 One might have hoped that all this eminence could have led to some subsequent, detailed and penetrating explanation from Mr Fraser as to why things have soured so tragically (and for some reason PREDICTABLY) in Mugabe's Zimbabwe.
Soured, that is, to the point where white expertise is being terrorised out of the country and democratic blacks put in fear of their lives by gangs of thugs operating under Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party.
 Could be, of course, that His Eminence will deliver the slap between these words being written and appearing in print.  But that wouldn't answer the question, why so long?
 The past two years alone have witnessed a terrifying chain of events in Zimbabwe, in which the killing and terrorising of white farmers and their black workers have been but a part.
 Recently in Harare, Zimbabwe's capital, an event occurred which I thought simply must provoke public condemnation from Mr Fraser of the Mugabe thuggery.  That event was a raid of the offices of CARE International, an agency with which Mr Fraser has long been intimately connected.
 The Canadian director was abducted for several hours by the usual thugs before being released unharmed.  According to Britain's "The Daily Telegraph", witnesses said police called by Canadian officials did nothing.
 In a separate incident, the head of a German aid agency was held hostage - all part of a terror campaign that has extended even to hospitals and orphanages, and has further reduced opportunities for blacks.
Mr Fraser became chairman of CARE Australia in 1987 and president of CARE International in 1990.  Here was an opportunity for an immediate response in the name of human rights and dignity.
 This column is not about the vendetta against white farmers, much as they, as Zimbabweans, have human rights too.  It is about all the decent blacks who are being persecuted and impoverished.
 Why are they now so neglected by the outside world when it was they who were help up as "the cause" in the first place?
 I'll tell you why.  Humbug.
 Mr Fraser lectures Australians, the Federal Government in particular, about what he sees as frightful treatment of Aborigines and illegal immigrants, yet has seemed quite reluctant to pronounce on an African human rights horror story with which he is inextricably linked, even if only by well-intended ignorance and misplaced trust.
 Just how divisible are human rights?
 Today it is a common lament that in the early days of Nazi Germany more people who knew about Hitler's murderous plans should have spoken up.
 Silence, in these terms, is seen as an evil.
 Yet with Zimbabwe, even if Mugabe is but a pipsqueak Hitler, exactly the reverse seems to apply.
 So what was the Western left-liberal "decolonisation" clamour all about?  Enhancing the future of black folk?  Or merely teaching those horrible white colonialists a bloody good lesson.
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From The Sunday Times (UK), 20 May

Mugabe training 'youth terror wing'

Harare - Zimbabwe’s opposition leader has accused President Robert Mugabe of planning to indoctrinate members of a new youth organisation that could be used to terrorise rival supporters before a presidential election due by next spring. The establishment of a National Training Service (NTS) was announced last week with the stated aim of educating young recruits in the nation's history and culture. However, Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the MDC, said he feared the group would follow the example of war veterans who have seized white farms and businesses in an effort to intimidate Mugabe's opponents.

"What Mugabe is planning is a large-scale indoctrination scheme for young people who have, until now, sided massively with the MDC," Tsvangirai told The Sunday Times. "It could well be even more sinister. Heaven knows we have enough unemployed school-leavers. Almost certainly the hope is that if you put a few dollars in their pockets and send them to re-education camps, you can produce a new militia whose job will be to terrorise the opposition in the run-up to the presidential election. It's been obvious for a while that there are only enough so-called war vets to terrorise a constituency here and there and that they won't be enough to do the job in a nationwide election. The NTS is probably the answer."

Tsvangirai can never forget how Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party used the war veterans and their unbridled depredations to halt the opposition's momentum after its victory in a constitutional referendum last year. "It's the same again now," he said. "That violence intimidated just enough electors to vote Zanu-PF for them to hang on to power, which in turn created a feeling of anti-climax and disappointment among our supporters. But in recent weeks things have been moving strongly our way. Once again they need to halt our momentum."

In court, the MDC has successfully challenged the validity of last year's general election results in three constituencies where the process was distorted by violence. It lost three other cases but is appealing to the Supreme Court. The Mugabe government has suffered a series of blows in recent weeks. Border Gezi, a brutal but dynamic cabinet minister who was the hammer of the MDC, was killed in a car crash; Nkosana Moyo, the trade minister, resigned and left the country; and the war veterans' occupations of businesses have backfired, bringing international condemnation, the cancellation of aid by Canada and Denmark and protests even from South Africa, which had supported Mugabe. "Without any doubt Mugabe ordered those invasions," said Tsvangirai, mocking the president's television appearances alongside veterans' leaders such as Hitler Hunzvi. "It's as if an American president appeared with Al Capone. Openly Mugabe runs the country through the cabinet but there's a parallel chain of command through these thugs."

On Thursday it was announced that the dockets and videotape crucial to Tsvangirai's forthcoming trial for alleged terrorism, for which he faces a possible life sentence, had been mislaid. "They'll find them again," he says grimly. "They just want to delay the trial so they have time to appoint more pliant judges." Tsvangirai has already been jailed once by Mugabe. It was in 1989, shortly after he became secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. "I made a speech - I can't help laughing at my own naivety now - saying that Zanu-PF was sliding away from its commitment to socialism," he said. "Mugabe couldn't stand such a display of independence and so I was charged with working for the apartheid intelligence services. It was pure invention and intimidation: there was no evidence of any kind. He sent along his wife Grace's brother, Reward Marufu, to arrest me. Each time my detention expired, I would sign release papers and then they'd redetain me. For the first two weeks I wasn't allowed to wash at all. We were just crammed into holding cells and we stank. It was a horrible experience. After six weeks I was dumped in town to make my own way home. My family greeted me like a ghost."

Tsvangirai believes Mugabe is pursuing a policy of "national suicide". "It could lead to civil war," he said. "People see the presidential election as the only remaining way to get peaceful change. If he steals that chance from them, locks me up - or my deputy, Gibson Sibanda, who's facing the same charges – while inflicting enormous violence on them, there could be a popular explosion. Sometimes I think [Mugabe] would actually like a civil war. He's so frightened of being brought to book for the crimes he's committed. But in a civil war everyone gets their hands dirty, everyone becomes guilty and accountability vanishes."

From The Sunday Independent (SA), 20 May

Cops nail woman who set war vets on employer

Harare - A woman who hired a group of war veterans to help her settle a wage dispute with her former employer was arrested on Friday. Margaret Edith Murphy has made history by becoming the first white person to seek the help of the war veterans. The activities of the rampaging war veterans have been targeted mainly at white-owned commercial farms and industries. Murphy was arrested by members of the central intelligence department in a sting operation. They pounced on her soon after she had received a cheque of Z$165 000 (about R23 500) from Adrian Bolze, a bookshop owner.

Bolze said he had been approached on Monday by Murphy, who was accompanied by a gang of six war veterans. Bolze said Murphy had then demanded to be paid Z$1,7-million, which she said was owed to her in wage arrears. Murphy left the company in 1997. Bolze said the firm did not owe Murphy anything, but the war veterans forced the closure of his bookshop. They said they would only allow it to reopen after Bolze had paid the money. Bolze said in later meetings with the war veterans the original demand was revised to Z$165 000. He was advised by Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, a former minister of education, to contact the police. Murphy is expected to appear in court this week on extortion charges. The war veterans have not been arrested yet.

From The Zimbabwe Standard, 20 May

Army chefs loot Congo diamonds

Senior Zimbabwe Defence Forces officers are allegedly heavily involved in the looting of diamonds in the DRC despite being exonerated by a United Nations report on the plunder of DRC resources by foreign forces, The Standard has learnt. Army sources, who recently returned from the DRC, told The Standard that looting of the vast central African country’s minerals had of late taken a new dimension with colonels and their lieutenants creating units specialising in looting. "The chefs are looting diamonds and other precious minerals from the DRC. They organise small units which they send on missions to get diamonds. It is really unfortunate the UN team did not include that in its report," said one source.

The disgruntled soldiers named a number of senior officers whom they said were involved in the plunder of the former Zaire’s mineral resources. Although some relatively junior officers seemed to be at the fore of the diamond rackets, spillovers were said to be benefiting the most senior officers in the armed forces and government. Whole platoons are reported to have come under the personal command of senior officers who send them on looting errands, especially in the mineral-rich Mbuji-Mayi area. A Brigadier Sigauke is said to have stumbled upon such rogue platoons last November and had the details transferred to the war front in Kabinda from Mbuji-Mayi.

The sources explained that whistle-blowers’ attempts to let commanders know what was going on had been rebuked or punished. "It’s difficult to have the shady deals exposed. If you try to bring it to the attention of the powers-that-be, you are victimised. Besides, it’s difficult to know the extent of our seniors’ involvement. You might report to the beneficiaries of the scams, so it’s risky to report anything." A Private Mahachi from 1.2 Infantry Battalion reportedly alerted the army commander, Major General Constantine Chiwenga, at a parade in Mbuji-Mayi last October. He was later severely assaulted by members of the Army Intelligence Corps, said the source. Only those in bad books with their seniors are punished if found to be involved in diamond deals. A corporal (name provided) was severely assaulted when he was caught with diamonds in his possession and had to return home for four months to obtain medical treatment.

The Standard also learnt that there was a shop in central Mbuji-Mayi where senior officers regularly went to collect and sell diamonds from the nearby Senga-Senga Mine. "They fly there at night using jets and are escorted to Makumbikumbi Hotel where they usually spend the night before going to the shop the following day. They do not show any signs of concern about the ongoing military operations in the area," said another source. The shop is manned by three sentries under the command of an officer and the three are forced to work round the clock in an effort to involve as few people as possible in the deals. Senior officers allegedly condone deals in diamonds with one major (name provided) accused of encouraging looting amongst his juniors in a speech he made last October. Addressing the Support Company last year, the major is said to have told the company that war time was time to get rich. "If you don’t become rich now, then when do you expect do so?" he was quoted as saying.

It was also brought to The Standard’s attention that talk of Zimbabwe pulling out of the DRC was not really as sincere as it has been portrayed. More than 3 000 soldiers are currently on standby at I Commando Regiment barracks in Harare, ready to fly to the DRC. The sources said only three companies from 5 Brigade, each comprising 120 men each had been withdrawn from the DRC under the much publicised withdrawal under the Lusaka peace accord. "There was no real pull-out but rather an exchange of companies. Three companies from 5 Brigade returned and on the same day an equal number of companies from 3 Brigade were dispatched to the DRC," said the sources.

Contacted for comment ZDF spokesman, Squadron Leader Mukotekwa, professed ignorance on the matter saying, "The ZDF is not aware of anything... we cannot comment on what we don’t know. This is the first time it is coming to our attention so ZDF is not obliged to reply." On whether the army was going to launch an investigation on the issues raised by The Standard, the spokesman said the decision to act lay with the ZDF. "We are not forced by anyone to do investigations, it is for ZDF to choose to launch an investigation or not," said Mukotekwa.

From The Zimbabwe Standard, 20 May

ZRP spends $348 000 on sunglasses

The Zimbabwe Republic Police has spent $348 000 on sunglasses for the 40 Criminal Investigations Department [CID] operatives stationed at Harare central police station, The Standard learnt this week. Sources told The Standard that two weeks ago, officers in the Law and Order Maintenance department had each been issued a set of sunglasses worth $8 700. "The guys from Law and Order were given these sunglasses for surveillance purposes since these guys are manly linked to the operations of the CIO. It was felt necessary for them to have them," said the source.

Police spokesman Superintendent Bothwell Mugariri, however, denied the claims. "That is not true; the police do not supply sunglasses. Rather, individuals buy them for themselves. We only assist members who have problems with their sight," he said. The Standard learnt that this was the first time that members of the police force outside the presidential intelligence unit had received dark glasses for their work. The Law and Order wing is mainly associated with political issues and sources close to The Standard said the glasses would make it easier for them to do their surveillance work. "This unit’s duties mainly concern political issues so it will be easy for them to follow the movements of their targets without detection as their eyes will be disguised behind the sunglasses," said the source.

From The Tablet, 17 May

Zimbabwe needs saints, not another martyr

Zimbabwe has dominated international news reportage over the last year, for all the wrong reasons. It has been difficult to discern the will of God in events unfolding there. At a special Mass of Hope for Zimbabwe held at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Mayfair London on the 2nd December I was able to reflect in the company of my own people on the turmoil at home. It was a sad occasion. We felt small and weak. Mass was said in Ndebele, Shona and English. Our tiny congregation included a little girl from Harare who was suddenly orphaned last year; a lady from Bulawayo whose husband died of AIDS four years ago; a priest who had once been beaten by white thugs in South Africa on account of his colour and who was beaten again in Zimbabwe this year by black thugs, on account of his faith. But we were together in Christ, and in our love and anguish for our Motherland.

The last year has been a very difficult one for our Church as well as our country. Notwithstanding the "ostentatious Catholicism" of Robert Mugabe - to use the phrase of Michael Auret, the onetime director of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace and now opposition Member of Parliament. Mugabe's more vehemently xenophobic supporters have beaten and robbed nuns and priests and raped mission teachers and workers and their children. The Church is seen as an enemy. These incidents have largely occurred in Mashonaland and they have not all reached the newspaper headlines. The hierarchy of the Church in Mashonaland has attracted criticism for its muted response to political violence which has seen the deaths of some thirty nine people, including of course, Catholics. It is probable that concern about repercussions against other Church members has influenced this low profile. Perhaps too the "unarticulated Shona nationalism" The Tablet has previously divined in Harare church circles may have played its part. But it is certainly true that the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace under director Tarcisius Zimbiti has categorically blamed Zanu PF for the mayhem.

In the Bulawayo Archdiocese of the formidable Pius Ncube, the Church profile has been very much higher. The Zimbabwe CCJP report "Breaking the Silence" records that during the 1980s in Matabeleland and the Midlands Robert Mugabe's "Gukurahundi" machine killed more than seven thousand people, brutalised tens of thousands and attempted the starvation of hundreds of thousands. The victims were overwhelmingly Ndebele speaking. The soil of the archdiocese continues to offer up the remains of the dead from mass graves, antbear holes and mineshafts, old wells and river sides. Official obstruction prevents Ncube from burying these remains in consecrated ground with proper ceremony. Catharsis and closure are denied to the living and a deep wound continues to suppurate in the soul of Zimbabwe.

Ncube has become the standard bearer of the most marginalised people in the country. For myself, I am all too aware that at the same time this man who suffered oppression in Rhodesia has become the consistent defender of the rights of all Zimbabweans. His valour should be shouted to the vaults of Heaven. Last year he issued a blistering condemnation of the violent pressganging of rural people into the land invasions and the attacks on farmers and labourers. He conducted weekly processions through the streets of Bulawayo and made his views clear to the local and international press. When visited by members of the fearsome Central Intelligence Organisation, he gave a polite but firm lecture about his obligation to address the concerns of his flock. He was described as a "good shepherd" and a "prophet" in the non-government Zimbabwe Independent. When threats were uttered that a vote against Zanu PF would see Gukurahundi's return Ncube's scorn and cold fury reached new heights.

The election saw Zanu PF's political annihilation in nineteen of Matabeleland's twenty-one seats. The President was unable to accept the voters' verdict on his record in office. The Archbishop was blamed for the rout instead. Word swiftly leaked out that Archbishop Ncube's life was under imminent threat. Amnesty International reported that it was "seriously concerned" about his safety. Though the Zimbabwean Catholic Bishops' Conference maintained its characteristically low profile, the South African Catholic Bishops' Conference issued an unprecedented warning that the Zimbabwean government would be held to account for the life of Pius Ncube. Many well-wishers from abroad wrote to him to express their solidarity. This international expression of concern would not have been lost on Zimbabwe's intelligence services. Should you telephone Ncube's office, his cheerful secretary punctiliously greets the unseen listeners on the line, undoubtedly to their chagrin! As Ncube's telephone is tapped so we can be certain his mail is subject to the attentions of our authorities.

Last November the Archbishop gave my niece her first Holy Communion. People there remarked on the sense of strength and certainty he evinces. He gives them heart. At the Mass for Zimbabwe Father Michael O'Halloran SJ alluded to the martyrdom of Thomas More and Thomas of Canterbury. We all knew what he meant. A Bulawayo lady spontaneously called out Pius Ncube's name. I am haunted by the memory of the last time I saw him. When the death threat came, I realised that in Ncube I had seen a saint for the first time in my life. He is rumoured to be in hiding such a pass has the situation reached. God must spare him. Zimbabwe needs saints, but not another martyr.

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Lawyers move in to block Chidyausiku appointment

Farai Mutsaka
A GROUP of about 200 black lawyers has questioned the suitability of acting Chief Justice, Godfrey Chidyau-siku, to take over as the substantive top judge describing him as partial, incompetent and of a character not befitting that office.

In a letter to the Judicial Services Comission (JSC) the lawyers said Chidya-usiku’s appointment as acting Chief Justice was not based on merit but hinged on political affiliation. The JSC recommends the appointment of judges to the high and supreme courts.

Chidyausiku was appointed acting Chief Justice after the forced resignation of incumbent Justice Anthony Gubbay and the former is likely to be confirmed to the post, a move the lawyers said would compromise the justice system.

About 200 lawyers are understood to be behind the letter which also questions the recent appointments of three high court judges said to have strong links to the ruling Zanu PF party.

“We must at the outset state categorically that we are not opposed to the indigenisation of the judiciary, neither are we oppossed to appointments to redress gender imbalances as long as competency, integrity, professionalism and impartiality are not compromised.

“It is with such background that we request you to consider the suitability of the acting Chief Justice for the post of substantive Chief Justice. As you are aware allegations have been made that the appointment was for political reasons as the acting Chief Justice is seen as an ally of the ruling party” reads the letter. It was copied to justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, the Law Society, the Zimbabwe Women’s Lawyers Association, the Attorney General’s Office, Zanu PF and the MDC .

The group cited Chidya-usiku’s conduct as head of the constitutional commission where he authorised unwarranted payments to fellow commissioner, Gloria Muko-mbachoto, during what Chidyausiku himself described as “a moment of weakness”.

The judge was later accused of making sexual advances on another commissioner, Lupi Mushayakara, during an overseas trip to sell the commission’s agenda.

The lawyers cited some judgements made by Chidyausiku during his tenure as a High Court judge as part of the reasons he must not be confirmed Chief Justice.

“Mr Chidyausiku’s suitability as chief justice must therefore be thoroughly investigated to ensure that his character is suited for the position. Mr Chidyausiku’s legal acumen has been brought to question in a number of cases including the Samson Mhuriro case, the citizenship case where he critised the draftsperson when he as Attorney General had presided over the drafting of the Act.

“During the constitutional commission there were allegations of approaches to a female commissioner which were never properly investigated. Mr Chidyausiku admitted having taken certain decisions during ‘a moment of weakness’ and it is our view that all his other weaknesses be investigated,” said the lawyers.

The group suggested that appointments for the Judge President and Chief Justice be based on seniority and merit. They said that Bulawayo-based judge Justice Misheck Cheda be appointed judge president.

The position of Judge President fell vacant after Chidyausiku’s appointment as acting Chief Justice. Justice Paddington Garwe is the acting Judge President. Chidyausiku was appointed ahead of four senior supreme court judges. Many felt that Justice Wilson Sandura should have been appointed Chief Justice.

“Much as indigenisation is desirable, this should not be an excuse to advance the interests of a tribal group. Mr Justice Cheda is senior to Garwe and it is our view that very good reasons must be given for bypassing him. It is our view that seniority, merit competency, and impartiality should be the major criteria for consideration for judicial appointment, “ said the lawyers.

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Chakaodza slams government

Staff Writer
KADOMA—Former editor of the state-controlled The Herald newspaper has criticised government for leading the country into decay.

Addressing journalists attending an investigative journalism workshop in Kadoma on Friday, Bornwell Chakaodza said government had failed to implement policies that would lift the country out of the current economic crisis.

“There is general decay in the country. Some of the government policy statements cannot be taken seriously as forecasters of events or performance because there is no noticeable link between what is officially stated by the government and what is being achieved or what is happening in practice. This is the tragedy of Zimbabwe,” said Chakaodza.

“Government policy might be sound and perfectly okay but it is the practice of it that is a major problem. Loyalty to the state is an unwavering allegiance to one’s country regardless of changes in its structure of authority or governments,” said Chakaodza who was fired from The Herald editorship last year.

Chakaodza for the first time revealed that Zanu PF officials had forced him to publish a report on an alleged plot by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to oust the government by force.

The document was dismissed by the MDC as a total fabrication. The then information minister, Chen Chimutengwende, went to town claiming the document was genuine, accusing the MDC of attempting to sabotage the country.

Said Chakaodza: “The government made it clear as soon as the referendum results had been digested that our newspapers (Zimpapers) must give maximum coverage to Zanu PF and the government. The only publicity to be afforded to the opposition, especially the MDC, was that which put it in a negative light. The turning point came when The Herald was ordered to publish, against my better judgment, a report of an alleged plot by MDC.”

Chakaodza said The Herald had been reduced to a public relations mouthpiece for the ruling party and this has resulted in the paper losing its market share to The Daily News, its rival.

He, however, noted that the public relations job was failing.

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Scenes from hunting for petrol

Masipula Sithole
5/17/01 7:12:27 PM (GMT +2)

FIRST of all, ZANU PF chaive chiororo, but it's now no longer. You can intimidate and terrorise people so far and no further. Chinokura chinokotama musoro wegudo chave chinokoro. Okungapheliyo kuyahlola.

All this vernacular means we are nearing the end of an era. Well done people of Masvingo for voting courageously and wisely. It was an ordinary mayoral election but ZANU PF made it larger than life by sending to Masvingo the entire government to campaign but to no avail.

But later for this theme. For now let's go petrol hunting.

Usually, I send Reketayi, my "logistics" assistant, for fuel hunting. But last weekend I decided to join him on both days, Saturday and Sunday, to experience his experiences or, rather, to confirm them because I didn't always believe his usual explanations when he would come late.

We were unsuccessful on both days. We were actually near the "well" on both days, only five cars away on Saturday, and three on Sunday!

On Saturday we had been in the queue from 12:30 to 6:30pm. On Sunday we had waited for four hours, from 9:30am to 1:30 pm. On Sunday we had to abandon the car in town because it had run out of petrol. We couldn't waste the last drop to take us to another station the next day.

Next morning the car wasn't there.

No, no, no. The worst hadn't happened, though I nearly had a heart attack!

"Logistics" had picked it up at 7:00am and returned it at 9: 00 on a full tank!

What a relief, on both counts: petrol and the car, in that order! (Reketayi believes my presence gave him bad luck on the other two days! Maybe).

Waiting in the queue was irritating at first but "Logistics", who apparently is used to it, kept on saying: "We will soon get there," even when there were 50 cars in front of us. "Look, Prof, we were the last behind the queue, now we are in the middle. There are 40 cars behind us now," he would say by way of encouragement.

When we were 10 cars away from the "well", I saw him looking at me as if to say: "I told you so. We are almost there." How long we had been waiting in the queue did not seem to faze him a bit.

Then five cars away from the "well" came the announcement from a non-feeling petrol attendant:

"Petrol yapera!".

I looked at my watch. It was 6:30 pm. I gave Reketayi a genuine smile. I wasn't going to show him how disgusted I was. After all, it wasn't his fault. So I said: "Tomorrow then mwanangu," as we parted. Sunday it was the same routine.

On both days I met and made friends with people who shared the same fate. Many seemed to share Reketayi's optimism rather than my disgust. They seemed to be more patient, often laughing it out.

There were these fellows who were partying in the queue, playing tape after tape of good music. And this elderly white man in front of us who kept saying: "I don't mind waiting as long as I can get my full tank." (The charming Reketayi seemed to have made friends with him. Each time I went away they would remain chatting away).

And there would be those who would recognise me as I strolled back and forth in a desperate attempt to influence the pace of the queue. Quite a few of them remembered the contribution I made a few weeks ago (for which I got some flak from Jonathan) and suggested I had become part of "normalising the abnormal".

But, significantly, there were these three chaps who were locked in a discussion about this fuel "situation". (I deliberately use the term "situation" because the term "crisis" tends to offend people in high places unless you are referring to the crisis of the "landless"! But then again, I have to use the term because these chaps kept on using it!).

"What is unsettling is that there is no 'plan', coherent or otherwise, to get us out of the present fuel crisis. This is the most disturbing aspect of this whole thing. We are just drifting as if we are blind. Mapofu atori nani. (The blind are better)," one of them observed.

He continued: "Right at this minute the whole Cabinet is in Masvingo or dancing kongonya at some growth point or other, celebrating an irrelevant event. It's all one big circus," he lambasted our politicians as if they earn money doing nothing but clowning.

Really, half of these people's time seems to be spent "restructuring" ZANU PF provincial structures. No wonder we are so badly governed.

"Maybe the MDC has a 'plan'," suggested the second chap.

"Naivo veMDC havana nyangwe ne 'plan' besides always criticising (President Robert) Mugabe ne ZANU PF yake," replied the critic, as if he was a member of Shakespeare Maya's party or about to form his own.

"But I have heard that the MDC has a 'grand plan' for economic recovery and that should include getting us out of this fuel crisis," said the apparently MDC man. "Wait until the MDC gets into power," he pleaded for patience.

"But when are they going to be in power? This country will be in ruins by that time," said the impatient man about to form his own party. "By then the grand plan will be for recovering from the ruins. We want a rescue 'plan' now," he demanded.

"Do you have a 'plan'?" asked the third chap who was all the time listening intently, but hadn't uttered a word.

"Mugabe and his Cabinet should resign," answered the Movement for Democratic Change man.

"But that is hardly a plan," said the third chap.

"There is no other plan. There can't be any better plan than Mugabe and his Cabinet resigning. They are sitting on the plan. Things won't move with them there . . ." He went on and on to prove the obvious.

The point is that people are talking of a plan, even in the petrol queues.

A "plan" to get out of the fuel "situation".

Significantly, that plan, to some, includes getting rid of the present government. I didn't say "violently" and none of the three chaps said so.

A plan comes from the minds of men and women with plenty of time to think of a plan - whatever plan. The point I am making is that our people now are doing nothing but thinking of a plan. And people thinking of a plan will get it.

But I was beginning to enjoy hunting for petrol. Oops, I am "normalising the abnormal"!

lProfessor Masipula Sithole is a lecturer of political science at the University of Zimbabwe.

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Chaimiti says his victory was on merit

Wallace Chuma

THE newly elected executive mayor of Masvingo, Alois Chaimiti, says his victory had nothing to do with protracted factionalism within Zanu PF in the province, but a statement of appreciation of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)’s agenda by residents.

Chaimiti says his victory was on merit Wallace Chuma THE newly elected executive mayor of Masvingo, Alois Chaimiti, says his victory had nothing to do with protracted factionalism within Zanu PF in the province, but a statement of appreciation of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)’s agenda by residents. Chaimiti was responding to speculation that his victory against the ruling Zanu PF’s Jacob Chademana could have been facilitated by the long-standing political feud between factions led by ruling party strongmen Dr Eddison Zvobgo and Vice President Simon Muzenda.

The visible absence of the Zvobgo faction in the pre-election campaigns, which arguably stemmed from the isolation of its leader in the ongoing restructuring programme, is viewed to have contributed to voter apathy and victory for the MDC. Zvobgo has acknowledged the controversial restructuring agenda had a role to play in the ruling party’s poor showing. In an interview with The Zimbabwe Mirror this week, Chaimiti dismissed the speculation, insisting he won on his and his party’s merit. “Voters were impressed by the calibre of my candidature, and the party that I represent,” he said. “I am not keen to comment about the factionalism in another party, but I believe my victory had nothing to do with that. Residents want change, and they voted for a party which will bring it, and this is just the beginning of a process which will culminate in next year’s presidential election.” The 53-year-old retired civil engineer said alluding his victory to events within the Zanu PF camp amounts to discrediting him. Chaimiti polled 4 532 votes against Zanu PF’s Jacob Chademana’s 2 188, in an election that was characterised by fierce pre-election contest and violence, and apathy on the actual days of voting. He became the first MDC executive mayor in the country. But he will have to work with a predominantly Zanu PF council. Analysts have argued that he may have difficulties in managing the Civic Centre, given the open hostilities which characterise the two parties’ relations. Chaimiti said the councillors should either be prepared to work with him, or risk “digging their own graves” in the underdeveloped town of 60 000. “I am ready to work with them for the benefit of the residents who voted for both myself and them,” he said. “However, if they refuse to co-operate with me, they will be digging their own graves because residents will not take that.” He said he will be forced to mobilise residents to protest any discrimination that he may face in the council. “My victory means the people of Masvingo want a new mayor, from a new party with a progressive agenda for change. So if anyone tries to frustrate this, then they can do so at the expense of themselves and the ruling party.” Despite being the oldest town in Zimbabwe, Masvingo is still one of the least developed in the country. Recently, the small town was stripped of its town status and reduced to a growth point. Over time, the town has also largely failed to exploit its strategic location along the busy commercial highway that links Harare with South Africa. Observers have argued that the stunted development in the town has been partially caused by the long-standing factionalism within the ruling party camp in the province. Chaimiti said the solution to the problem in Masvingo was an overhaul of the entire political structure in the country, which would create a conducive atmosphere for economic expansion. “Masvingo, like other towns, is affected by the unfavourable economic situation in the country, and we believe the best solution is to change the entire political structure. However, we will not just wait for that, we also must be seen to be doing something for the residents, even within this hostile environment.” Born in the Zaka district of Masvingo, Chaimiti worked as a surveyor, technician and senior civil engineer in the Department of Water Development, prior to his retirement in 1993. He joined the MDC at its inception in 1999. While the ruling party’s secretary for administration, Emmerson Mnangagwa, says he sees Zanu PF’s poor showing in the election as a “wake-up call” which has to be seriously heeded, Chaimiti believes his victory is a pointer to the outcome of next year’s presidential contest. “This is an unstoppable tide, and what has just happened in Masvingo is just but a small pointer,” he said. “Calls for change are difficult to stop before the presidential elections, and no amount of stage-managed defections will help.” Chaimiti won an election characterised by shocking lethargy, with less than one third of the registered voters going to the polls – a situation described by analysts as a serious test case for representative democracy.

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Cops nail woman who set war vets on employer

May 19 2001 at 06:25PM

Harare - A woman who hired a group of war veterans to help her settle a wage dispute with her former employer was arrested on Friday. Margaret Edith Murphy has made history by becoming the first white person to seek the help of the war veterans.

The activities of the rampaging war veterans have been targeted mainly at white-owned commercial farms and industries.

Murphy was arrested by members of the central intelligence department in a sting operation. They pounced on her soon after she had received a cheque of Z$165 000 (about R23 500) from Adrian Bolze, a bookshop owner.

Bolze said he had been approached on Monday by Murphy, who was accompanied by a gang of six war veterans. Bolze said Murphy had then demanded to be paid Z$1,7-million, which she said was owed to her in wage arrears. Murphy left the company in 1997.

Bolze said the firm did not owe Murphy anything, but the war veterans forced the closure of his bookshop. They said they would only allow it to reopen after Bolze had paid the money.

Bolze said in later meetings with the war veterans the original demand was revised to Z$165 000.

He was advised by Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, a former minister of education, to contact the police.

Murphy is expected to appear in court this week on extortion charges. The war veterans have not been arrested yet. - Foreign Service

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