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

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      Freedom of expression under siege

      Rasweat Mukundu
      5/1/03 9:47:07 AM (GMT +2)

      AS Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world on May 3 to commemorate World
Press Freedom Day, it is noted with sadness that this day comes at a time
when the country is probably facing its worst assault on the fundamental
right of freedom of expression.

      Zimbabwe's chosen theme for World Press Freedom Day, "The media we
have is not the media we need", sums up the predicament the media and
freedom of expression as a right find itself in this country.
      The siege, intimidatory and chaotic environment deliberately created
by the Department of Information and Publicity as far as information is
transmitted in Zimbabwe has gone beyond rationality. The arrests of
journalists under the new laws passed since the year 2000 surpass any other
record in Zimbabwe and probably in the region.
      Zimbabwe now competes very well with such anti media freedom sharks
like Eritrea, China, Iran, Liberia and Pakistan.
      Although the year 2000 is largely seen as the turning point or
watershed in the post independence history of Zimbabwe, 2002 and 2003
provided a new set of challenges that have literally torn Zimbabwe apart.
Not only is the country faced with seemingly insurmountable economic and
political problems, specific to issues of media freedoms the environment has
deteriorated even further.
      So far MISA-Zimbabwe has recorded 63 arrests of journalists and other
media workers since March 2002.
      This number does not include vendors and readers who have been beaten
up and arrested for selling and reading certain newspapers.
      The year 2002 saw the enactment of the Access to Information and
Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), an all-inclusive media and freedom of
expression law that however does not carry the fundamental ingredients of an
Access to Information law. Many laws that deal with issues of broadcasting
and public order were enacted, some in 2001, but the effects of such became
more apparent and operational in 2002.
      These include the Broadcasting Services Act, Zimbabwe Broadcasting
Corporation Commer-cialisation Act and the Public Order and Security Act
      Media workers including journalists, photographers, vendors,
camerapersons and drivers have been beaten, arrested and intimidated on many
occasions in the course of duty.
      The political polarisation prevailing has manifested itself in the
treatment that the media gets from various sectors of the Zimbabwean
society. Newspapers have been labelled and are treated differently by
politicians from opposing parties. The worst developments however are the
attempts to legalise repression of the media through the enactment of
blatantly unconstitutional laws.
      Although state media journalists have not been spared the harassment
and beatings, almost all arrests that have been carried out by the police in
2002 and 2003 are on private media journalists. The impression created has
therefore been that the new laws are for the private media and others who
are seen as belonging to the "opposition" and not for the rest of the media
or society at large.
      Whereas the government has extended its stranglehold of the private
media through the enactment of such laws as AIPPA and POSA, the state-owned
media has equally remained under the grip of the Department of Information
and Publicity in the President's Office. It is not known in the public
sphere how the public media is being run but it is public knowledge as to
who is running it and the reporting says it all.
      One drawback to all the media and quasi-media laws is their total lack
of the inclusion of developmental aspects and needs of the people of
Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe like many third world countries is still media thin and
apart from the drought of rain in 2002, there is an ever-present drought of
      The laws enacted are politically correct to their originators but
visibly lack a vision on the direction Zimbabwe's media is taking in terms
of economic empowerment, new information and communication technologies and
the general use of the media for developmental purposes. This is amply
demonstrated in the telecommunications sector where an aspiring fixed
telephone operator was only licensed in December after protracted
uncertainty and indeed the delays in the licensing of private broadcasters
has no explanation apart from political considerations.
      Zimbabwe is thus lagging behind the region and indeed the rest of the
world as far as the promulgation of development oriented communication
legislation and the development of ICTs that can be used in, for example,
educational programmes. What is clear in all this is the interface between
the political situation in Zimbabwe with the enacted laws and indeed the
undemocratic processes that are being used to enact these laws.
      Parliamentary bodies constituted of Members of Parliament from the
ruling party and the opposition, as well as the Portfolio Committee on
Transport and Communications passed an adverse report on AIPPA, but nothing
of this report was heard of in the debate around this law. Despite being
similar in form and content to the disgraced Law and Order Maintenance Act,
POSA was still pushed through parliament and made into law.
      An array of these laws that include AIPPA, POSA, BSA the ZBC
Commercialisation Act, all infringe on the operations of media houses and
freedom of expression and that of association.
      These laws come at a time when Zimbabwe already has a load of other
laws inherited from the colonial era and that infringe on media freedoms.
Some of these colonial laws were resuscitated in 2002 and used to arrests
journalists. These include the Protected Areas Act and the Censorship Act.
      It must be noted that an Access to Information law cannot exist side
by side with other laws that have conflicting prescriptions on accessing
information either by the media or members of the public. This means that
AIPPA must automatically have seen the repealing of such laws as the
Official Secrets Act and some of the laws mentioned above.
      An Access to Information law in a democratic country is usually a law
of appeal because governments and the corporate world must, as matters of
necessity, transparency and accountability have mechanisms that allow access
to information without any reference to any law. Indeed the experience in
many countries with democracy deficiencies is that such a law is killed at
birth. This is the current position with AIPPA in Zimbabwe which in fact
closes out those in need of information rather than opening up.
      The laws compound an already unstable political environment. There are
still some areas, which remain "no go" areas for journalists. It remains
next to impossible for the private media for example to operate freely in
Zimbabwe's rural areas.
      The fact that privately owned newspapers no longer reach rural areas
means that all the information that is received by nearly 70 percent of the
people of Zimbabwe comes from the government media. This is compounded by
the fact that there are no private broadcasters yet.
      The government, through the Department of Information, has argued that
the media must be directed to report on the developmental needs of the
country and criticism must be "progressive". This has meant that the
reportage of the public media supports the ongoing land reform process and
the ruling party as the implementers of that programme.
      Although no public or official statements have been made on how the
public media especially Zimpapers is being run, it also public knowledge
that the Department of Information in the presidents Office is directing
affairs. The result of this is that national assets are being used
partisanly and have ceased to be representative of everyone in society.

      People, political parties, business leaders, civic society
organizations who hold different views to the government on national issues
are never given a voice by the public media but demonised day in and day
out. The argument again from those in control of the public media is that
Zimbabwe is at "war" with its detractors and it is the duty of everyone in
Zimbabwe to support the government not only in its quest to economically
emancipate the majority black people but also do away with all vestiges of
colonialism and neo colonialism once and for all. In this "war" one of the
victims has been ethical and balanced reporting. Inflammatory and hate
language dominates much of the reporting of the public media Words such as
terrorist, enemies of the state, stooges, oppositional are familiar in the
state media. The state media, which is supported by the taxpayer, has
totally failed to live to expectations.

      Calls for reforms to be made in the operations of the public media
have not been headed so far. Criticism of the public media have come not
only from those who are seen as the "opposition" but in 2002 the Chairperson
of the Electoral Supervisory Commission, Gula Ndebele commented after the
March Presidential elections that the ZBC had been reporting unethically and
partisanly. The Commonwealth and the SADC parliamentary Forum Election
Observer Missions also noted in their reports on the March Presidential
elections that the public media was biased.

      There is however no hope that the current management of the public
media will change any time soon. In the view of MISA-Zimbabwe it would take
something more than just recognition of the need for balanced reporting to
change the situation but a complete policy turnaround, which cannot be
achieved without the requisite political will.
      -Rasweat Mukundu is a research and information officer with MISA-
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      Let Zimbabwe start to have a life again

      Tafirenyika Wekwa Makunike
      5/1/03 10:00:49 AM (GMT +2)

      THOSE of us who have followed the high rope political antics of
President, Robert Mugabe in the last 30 years agree that his recent
indication in a ZBC interview that he is prepared to retire and publicly
open up the succession debate within his own party is one of the most
patriotic acts he has done in recent times.

      For someone who has never released the word sorry in his political
career or acknowledged that someone somewhere may have a better idea on
running our beloved nation, that must have taken quite some guts.
      There is need, both within ZANU PF and the Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC), to reciprocate this act of magnanimity with cool calculated
positions that will extricate Zimbabwe from the current economic abyss
instead of the now too familiar political posturing.
      If allowing the President to gracefully vacate the highest office in
the land will allow us to have our dreams back I think this is a small price
to pay for a country's future and all obstacles should immediately be
removed from his departure path.
      I recall a heated discussion I had with a militant friend of mine from
Bulawayo way back in early 1988 just after the 1987 so-called Unity Accord
between ZANU and ZAPU. His argument was that Joshua Nkomo had sold out the
aspirations of the people of his region by joining forces with ZANU but to
me he had demonstrated the highest form of leadership for he had put other
people first before himself.
      He had forgiven those who had run him out of the country in the most
humiliating way with the then Sunday Mail cartoonist showing him in an
undignified sprint to Botswana dressed as a woman.
      Having been the founder of African nationalism he agreed to
subordinate himself and his party to ZANU PF. Although that act was to later
kill any semblance of democracy in Zimbabwe for years to come, it stopped
the killings in Matabeleland.
      In my book anybody who was prepared to let go of his own aspirations
to stop the killing of innocent people and attempt to get them to partake in
the national cake was a hero several fold.
      Incessant political posturing leads to hardening of attitudes and when
this happens - evidence abounds elsewhere in Africa - this can lead to
unnecessary bloodshed with the most poignant cases being the Rwanda
genocide, Angola, Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Somali debacle.
      Nations were reduced to heaps of ruins because of some men with bigger
egos than the well being of the rest of the people. If only some people had
given in perhaps the animalistic devastation could have been averted.
      In all these scenarios I do not care who was right because as a
Christian there is nothing divine in letting innocent folk lose their lives
just to prove a point.
      To the MDC, I say the most patriotic endeavour you can pursue is to
allow the President to peacefully vacate the country's highest office and
thereafter anything can be fair game. I think there is consensus that
economic revival cannot begin with him occupying that seat.
      If allowing Morgan Tsvangirai to meet the President will buy back our
future and that of our children then I think MDC should pursue it as a
matter of priority. I know there is a school of thought within its ranks
pushing for militant confrontation but at what cost?
      Once the culture of violence grips the national physique can we
guarantee that it would be purged after that? I think every peaceful
opportunity for regime change must be tested for authenticity and radical
means must always be a last resort.
      While we are arranging His Excellency's exit we could concurrently
call upon Lovemore Madhuku and his National Constitutional Assembly
counterparts to speed up the process of coming up with a proper inclusive
bill of rights for this nation and tear down Eddison Zvobgo's
"people-under-a-tree" constitutional make believe.
      This should be accompanied with depoliticising the police force, army
and CIO and restore them as national institutions and not instruments of
political patronage.
      That way we can ensure that for the rest of the nation's life it will
never be enslaved to the whims of one man.
      For the ZANU PF hawks you have been given the opportunity to openly
debate the leadership succession.
      I hope for once you will allow genuine democracy to prevail in the
ranks of your party without allowing the Chinotimba-inspired political
hysteria we have witnessed hitherto. I hope there will be non-tribal
canvassing and a transparent voting process.
      For many people in Zimbabwe it has been easy to simply blame Robert
Mugabe, the man at the helm of the mess while excluding the coterie of
geriatrics, Politburo and central committee members who periodically stream
in and out of the Zanu PF headquarters clutching files. If they are to
convince us that they are not the problem they have been given their chance
to come up with their own solutions.
      Of course the departure of President Mugabe will have its own
casualties but that is a small price to pay for the restoration of the
country's dreams.
      Early victims could be un-elected MPs such as Jonathan Moyo, Joseph
Made, Amos Midzi and Patrick Chinamasa who owe their entire current
political credentials to the whims of one person.
      This would cleanse the national airwaves and give a future leader a
clean start. In future I think there should be a clause in our political act
that anyone aspiring for ministerial appointment should be an elected
      We have witnessed first hand the carnage un-elected officials can
cause to the political landscape. Others who have perpetrated violence in
the name of ZANU PF will try to keep the President as a prisoner in his
position for fear of facing the wrath of the law. These groups, together
with the chiefs, have been at the forefront of trying to convince the
President to rule until he drops dead.
      I urge the President to ignore this clique and follow his conscience.
      -Tafirenyika Wekwa Makunike is a man in the street currently based out
of Johannesburg and can be contacted on
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      Further mass action likely to rock ZSE

      McDonald Dzirutwe
      5/1/03 9:43:06 AM (GMT +2)

      THE Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE), hit by last week's three-day
stayaway, could be rattled by further mass action threatened by the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), according to analysts, who
this week said the damage to the local share bourse could be massive if the
mass action turned violent.

      Last week's stayaway - called by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions
(ZCTU) to protest a huge fuel price increase - closed down most financial
institutions two days after the end of the Easter/Independence holiday,
which shut down the financial markets on Friday April 18 and last Monday.
      Most fund managers heeded the stayaway, which brought most of business
to a halt from Wednesday to Friday last week, slowing down activity on the
      Stock market watchers this week predicted that the share bourse was
likely to be hard hit if mass action proposed by the MDC went ahead this
month. The opposition party has yet to give a date for the mass action,
which will be used to press the government to resolve Zimbabwe's economic
and political crisis.
      "Most fund managers were not at work (last week) because of the
stayaway and I think the market will struggle to recover from that," an
analyst with Sagit Stockbrokers told the Financial Gazette
      "But we see the stock market taking a heavy knock if this (MDC) mass
action is to go ahead, especially coming on the back of the disruptions
caused by the stayaway," the analyst said.
      Market watchers said they feared that the mass action could turn
violent, which could be bad news for a stock market that in the past two
years has offered a safe haven for investors eager to escape the effect of
rampant inflation.
      They pointed out that a two-day stayaway called by the MDC in March
had sparked incidents of violence.
      "What we all fear is the prospect of a violent mass action, which
would have consequential effects," an analyst with Fidelity Securities said.
      Although the ZSE was subdued last week, Old Mutual gained 30.5 percent
to $1 305 as the South African rand strengthened against the United States
dollar. The share however lost some of its momentum this Monday, closing the
day at $1 200.
      The rand has gone from strength to strength against the American
greenback in the last few weeks, firming to R7.13:US$1 on Monday from R7.27,
with South African exporters complaining that the appreciation of the
currency was threatening their competitiveness.
      In contrast, the Zimbabwe dollar has been pegged at $824 against the
greenback, with very little foreign currency trickling into the country.
      Meanwhile, most counters on the ZSE opened this week weaker or
unchanged as the market struggled to regain its footing after the stayaway.
      Trading was thin and volumes were low, with market watchers saying
investors were now awaiting the release of results by companies with March
reporting periods.
      Some listed firms have already issued profit warnings to shareholders,
informing them that they are expecting earnings above initial forecasts.
      The key industrial index retreated to 181 483.85 points on Monday from
182 505.04 points last Friday.
      On the money market, dealers said inter-bank rates fell to 65 percent
on Monday from a high of 70 percent last Friday.
      The dealers attributed this to the payment of civil servants salaries
by the government, which improved liquidity on the money market.
      "We had a sudden fall in inter-bank overnight rates from 70 to 65
percent and this was as a result of the civil servants salaries, which added
liquidity," said a dealer with a local commercial bank.
      The dealers said the government had brought two 720-day tenders to the
market on Thursday and Friday last week, and allotted a combined $9 billion
at a discount rate of 31.6 and 31.8 percent for the two tenders.
      The discount rates carry an effective yield of 86.95 percent down from
around 92 percent the previous week.
      The dealers said taxpayers would pay a principal amount of $25 billion
at the maturity of the two Treasury bills (TBs) and interest of $9 billion.
      As a result of the increased liquidity, the market was $6.8 billion up
at the start of this week and was forecast to remain firm the whole week.
      Call rates dipped to 50 percent on Monday from around 60 percent last
week, while seven and 14-day rates also eased to 57 percent from the 60
percent range last week.
      The 30, 60 and 90-day TBs were however quoted firmer at 60, 62 and 63
percent respectively from an average 52 percent last week.
      Dealers on the foreign currency market said shortages remained
critical in the absence of meaningful inflows and partly as a result of the
ZCTU stayaway, which affected industry and commerce.
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      Time to take stock: where is the economy heading?

      5/1/03 10:32:45 AM (GMT +2)

      WE tend to smile when we "travel" the growth path. In Zimbabwe, we
last enjoyed relatively better economic conditions in 1996.

      The economy was at its peak. Since 1997, there has not been much to
smile about in Zimbabwe. The economic situation has deteriorated to an
extent that it will require some bold measures to turn it around.
      Inflation soared to 228 percent in March 2003 from 198.9 percent in
December 2002. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its latest World
Economic Outlook, has revised Zimbabwe's 2003 year-end inflation to 450
percent from 522 percent (IMF, March 2003).
      The foreign currency and fuel situations have remained critical. The
Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority has started load shedding. Valuable
production time is lost; industry is operating with excess capacity because
of shortages of essential inputs. Productivity is declining, while the costs
of running operations continue to skyrocket.
      Domestic debt continues to threaten to shoot through the roof.
Available domestic debt statistics from the Reserve Bank Zimbabwe (RBZ) show
that domestic debt has been on the rise since 1991. However, 2000 marked the
beginning of an unsustainable debt situation.
      Debt rose from $73.9 billion in 1999 to $162.8 billion in 2000.
Presently debt is sitting at more than $330 billion. About 85 percent to 90
percent of domestic debt is sitting in 91-day and two-year Treasury
      Thus, rising short-term interest rates will inevitably affect the
level of domestic debt.
      Revisions to monetary policy on November 19 2002 saw the introduction
of the repurchase rate (repo rate) as a substitute to the bank rate. The
repo rate refers to the rate at which banks regularly tender for central
bank funds through repurchase transactions i.e. by temporarily selling
securities to the RBZ. The repo rate was at 56.15 percent as of April 25
2003. The rate gained 14.27 percentage points on the end of February 2003
rate of 41.88 percent.
      Effectively, the cost of secured borrowings from the RBZ has risen
from 61.88 percent to 76.15 percent while that for unsecured deals (in
principle), has risen from 81.88 percent to 96.15 percet.
      The primary market rates have continued to firm, with yields on 91-day
Treasury bills firming from 25.95 percent in December 2002 to 54.77 percent
in April 2003.
      A similar upward trend has been seen in the two-year Treasury notes
area, with rates firming by more than 50.47 percentage points between
December 2002 and April 2003. Commercial banks raised the minimum lending
rates in a bid to maintain their margins and remain afloat.
      In February, the authorities devalued the local unit by 93.3 percent
in a bid to kick-start activities in the exporting sector. However, this is
not likely to have any significant impact on activities, given the skewed
macroeconomic fundamentals.
      Pricing is one of the variables in the profit equation. There is need
to restore macroeconomic stability i.e. arrest inflation, improve the level
of capacity utilisation, raise productivity etc in order to contain costs.
      Latest reports from the Famine Early Warning System Network reveal
that the food situation may be improving. The preliminary report shows that
the current season's crop grew by 160 percent over the 2001/02 season's
      However, this may not be enough to meet Zimbabwe's basic food
      A fundamental question that analysts and commentators would want
addressed is "what are the implications of these developments for the
      A number of commentators are cautious about putting their heads on the
block when it comes to macroeconomic analysis. Forward-looking indicators
remain weak.
      The current developments have implications for the future of the
economy: The deteriorating foreign currency and fuel situation despite
massive price adjustments tells us something about distortions in the
      One would have expected a significant supply response following the
93.3 percent and 300 percent exchange rate and fuel price adjustments. In an
economy free from distortions, such significant price jumps could have
resulted in significant inflows of the commodities in question. However,
this remains a dream in Zimbabwe.
      The dual exchange rate system, where a rate of $55:1USD will be used
for the importation of essential inputs and $824 for exporters, may have a
bearing on the problems we are currently facing.
      Surely, creditors are aware of the existence of the so-called
exporters' rate of $824 to the greenback. It will take an irrational
economic agent to continue trading at $55 while others are getting at least
      Thus, the price adjustment will not act in any way to stimulate
activities in the real sector. To this end, we expect devaluation and fuel
price adjustments to be felt in the consumer price index. The cost of living
is becoming unbearable.
      The minimum wages to be gazetted by the authorities fall far below the
true cost of living. New minimum wages have been set at $23 070, $42 168 and
$47 696 per month for workers in agriculture, agro-industry and horticulture
as well as industry and commerce and mining respectively. Crime, illegal
activities and poverty levels are likely to worsen.
      On the back of deteriorating fundamentals, rising cost of loanable
funds, declining productive activities etc, authorities are reported to be
contemplating subsidising fuel prices.
      I shudder to think about the implications of the policy reversals. Why
adjust the price first and then come up with a subsidy?
      Empirical studies on subsidies have shown that subsidy policies are
fraught with a number of problems. In most cases, subsidies are difficult to
administer and also tend to be mis-targeted.
      The budgetary implications may also be huge. The authorities have a
mammoth task to balance their books since the assumptions, we believe, of
the 2003 national budget were superficial. We doubt whether the authorities
had dreamt of a 93.3 percent devaluation, a jump in the yield on two-year
Treasury notes from 36.85 percent in December 2002 to 90 percent in April
2003 or inflation threatening to hit more than 300 percent.
      It's also not likely that they envisaged fuel prices rising six-fold
or the cost of living threatening the social fabric of our economy. The list
is endless.
      High geared corporations, individuals etc are threatened with demise
following the rise in the cost of borrowed money and other essential inputs
such as labour.
      Unemployment, estimated at more than 70 percent, will hit at least 80
percent by year-end. The financial institutions, credit stores etc are
likely to see a spate of defaults. There is going to be "gnashing of teeth"
in various sectors of the economy.
      Good risk managers will be identified in these challenging times. We
would urge the central bank to speed up the implementation of the Deposit
Insurance Scheme.
      While 2003 may prove to be worse than 2002, there are positives that
we need to highlight. The food situation is reported to have improved.
However, we need to be cautious about the early reports. But it is something
that we are going to be taking a keen interest in to establish the true
      The IMF in the World Economic Outlook of March 2003 is projecting 5.1
percent real economic growth for Zimbabwe in 2004. We hope they did not make
an error or omit a negative. All fundamentals are expected to improve in
      Inflation will remain high but decline (300 percent), the current
account balance as a percentage of GDP is expected to improve marginally
from negative 13.9 percent in 2003 to negative 9.5 percent in 2004.
      Concerted effort is needed in order to address the current economic
challenges. The demand management proposals made in the 2003 national
budget, monetary policy and the National Economic Recovery Programme, we
hope, should see us escaping the current economic malaise.

        .. Lovemore Kadenge is president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society.
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      Zimbos a happy lot : view from State House

      Sydney Masamvu
      5/1/03 10:05:57 AM (GMT +2)

      I ALWAYS argue with those ZANU PF zealots who say that President
Robert Mugabe is a visionary leader.

      After the interview broadcast on state television last week, I have no
choice but to put the argument to rest because what I have been saying all
along is now clearly documented for all to see.
      In a profound statement that showed how detached he is from the
electorate and the Zimbabwean populace at large, a beaming Mugabe boldly
declared that "Zimbabweans are a happy lot".
      Really, Mr President!
      Given the suffering that Zimbabweans are experiencing right now, it is
naïve for any person, let alone a politician living in Zimbabwe, to suggest
that there is any happiness in this country, except for the very few who are
still sitting pretty.
      To say Zimbabweans are angry is even an understatement judging by the
very tense mood on the ground.
      Zimbabweans have suppressed emotions that if they were allowed to
express would leave Mugabe in no doubt about what's really going on in this
      Mr President, don't mistake people's quietness for happiness.
      Mugabe seems to believe that wherever they are - be it in a 10-hour
fuel queue in Msasa or Chitungwiza, Zimbabweans remain part of a large happy
      Whether they are in that bread queue at Machipisa, in the transport
queue in Kuwadzana or even as they comb Mbare's black market for a plate of
mealie-meal, Zimbabweans have nothing to worry about, the President
      Even those Zimbabweans who have sold their personal properties to
become economic refugees eking out a living in neighbouring countries and in
Europe are a happy lot.
      When people are literally battling to make ends meet on a daily basis
and some are scavenging for food, Mugabe has the guts to say we are a happy
      It shows how ill informed he is by the people who surround him in the
comfort of State House.
      It is difficult for him to understand the reality on the ground when
he is surrounded by well-fed, filthy-rich sycophants and bootlicking cronies
who have enriched themselves through the system while the majority of
Zimbabweans are suffering.
      Mugabe's cronies, who are enriching themselves under the status quo,
are the ones who fall all over each other to tell him that Zimbabweans are a
happy lot because they want him to rule until Amen.
      Unfortunately, Mugabe sees these people as fine examples of the
success story of independent Zimbabwe.
      Most of the politicians and businesspeople who form Mugabe's circle
have used the distortions now prevailing in the economy to enrich themselves
and cannot operate in any normal environment or under an alternative regime
where the rule of law is observed.
      It is time Mugabe gets real and appreciates the gravity of the
situation in Zimbabwe.
      It is high time he went on a 'meet the people' tour in Mbare,
Highfield, Mutoko and Magwegwe so that he gains some insight and first hand
experience of how people are living in Zimbabwe.
      It is time he came to terms with the mess he has plunged us into.
      It is also high time ruling party politicians stopped hallucinating
about the well being of Zimbabweans and really see how they have wrecked the
lives of the people of this country.
      Zimbabweans are not a happy lot, Mr President. Zimbabweans are angry.
The facts on the ground speak for themselves.
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Zim Dollar Plunges By 93.5 % Against Major Currencies

Financial Gazette (Harare)

May 1, 2003
Posted to the web May 1, 2003

Staff Reporter

THE Zimbabwe dollar depreciated by up to 93.5 percent against the world's
major currencies in March, according to Zimbabwe Financial Holdings
(FINHOLD), which forecast that the local currency would in the short-term
remain stable at $824 against the American greenback.

In its monthly economic report, FINHOLD also noted that despite the
devaluation of the Zimbabwe dollar from $55:US$1 to $824 in February,
foreign currency inflows into Zimbabwe had remained low in March.

"In spite of the realignment of the exchange rate from US$1:Z$55 to
US$1:Z$824 in February 2003, demand for foreign currency continued to
outstrip supply in March 2003," the bank said.

"The Zimbabwe dollar also depreciated by 93.5 percent, 93.3 percent, 93.2
percent and 45.2 percent against the Euro, the South African rand, the
Japanese yen and the British pound sterling, respectively," FINHOLD said in
its report.

However, on the parallel market for hard cash, the result of the country's
severe forex shortages, the Zimbabwe dollar was quoted within the range of
$1 500 against the US dollar and $2 000 against the British pound in March.

FINHOLD forecast that in the short to medium-term, the Zimbabwe dollar would
remain stable at $824 against the American greenback, even though foreign
currency inflows were expected to remain below demand.

Pressure is expected to mount against foreign currency supplies as the
government attempts to import fuel, electricity and food to feed close to
eight million Zimbabweans in need of emergency food aid because of drought
and a controversial land reform programme.

Hard cash supplies are however not expected to improve in the next few
months, even though the tobacco selling season, during which hard cash
inflows normally pick up in Zimbabwe, kicked off last week.

Tobacco is the country's single largest foreign currency earner but farmers
are expected to bring a significantly reduced crop to the auction floors
this year.

Meanwhile, exports of other products are also on the decline and
international multi-lateral agencies and foreign investors are withholding
their money because of policies that have eroded the rule of law and
property rights.

Best Doroh, a senior economist with FINHOLD, also told the Financial Gazette
that the gap between Zimbabwe's rate of inflation and those of its major
trading partners was widening, which under normal circumstances would result
in further depreciation of the local currency.

Zimbabwe's year-on-year rate of inflation rose 228 percent in March and is
expected to end the year at more than 500 percent, while its major trading
partners have single digit inflation.

"As long as demand continues to outstrip supply and inflation is not curbed,
in the short to medium-term, the Zimbabwe dollar is expected to remain weak
and further depreciate," Doroh said.
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      Deputy mayor yet to accept appointment

      Staff Reporter
      5/1/03 10:24:01 AM (GMT +2)

      HARARE deputy mayor Sekesai Makwavarara has not accepted her
appointment as acting mayor by Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo,
pending a full council meeting this weekend to discuss the suspension of
Harare mayor Elias Mudzuri.

      Mudzuri was suspended without pay on Tuesday, pending an inquiry into
charges of mismanagement.
      Makwavarara told the Financial Gazette that a full council meeting
would be held over the weekend to make a decision on how to respond to
Chombo's suspension of Mudzuri and her appointment as acting mayor.
      "I am still deputy mayor, not the acting mayor. The council will meet
on Saturday to decide on the way forward," she said.
      However sources said Makwavarara and several Harare councillors
attended a meeting at the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
headquarters yesterday, where it was agreed to resist Chombo's interference
and his appointment of Makwavarara.
      Mudzuri was elected Harare mayor in 2002 on an MDC ticket and has
clashed with Chombo several times, with the mayor accusing the Local
Government Minister of attempting to frustrate him out of office.
      Makwavarara, who is also an MDC member, confirmed that she had
attended a party meeting to discuss Mudzuri's suspension, but insisted that
a final position on the matter would only be taken at this weekend's
meeting, "after tempers have cooled down".
      Charges also levelled against the Harare mayor by Chombo include
inefficiency, arrogance, corruption and victimisation of senior council
      Mudzuri, who has dismissed the allegations as "rubbish", yesterday
said he was still consulting over the matter and could not make further
      But the Combined Harare Residents' Association (CHRA) said there was
no basis for Chombo to suspend Mudzuri as the problems facing the city were
a legacy of mismanagement by a ZANU PF council and a government- appointed
commission that ran the city years before Mudzuri was elected.
      "We totally condemn the continued interference by the minister in the
affairs of the city," said CHRA chairman Mike Davies.
      "The minister should put his house in order first before he accuses
the mayor of failing to run the city properly. He is part of the regime that
has ruined this country and it is hypocrisy of the highest order for him to
say the mayor has failed to do his job," he added.
      He said the CHRA viewed Mudzuri's suspension as a political act aimed
at giving the ruling ZANU PF control over the opposition-dominated capital
      He said his organisation was considering legal options available to
challenge Mudzuri's suspension.
      Mudzuri's suspension has coincided with a visit by a delegation of
officials from Munich, Harare's Germany twin-city, who are in the capital
city to see for themselves the problems bedevilling their Zimbabwean
      In a statement issued yesterday evening, Munich mayor Hep Monatzeder
described Mudzuri's suspension as "astonishing".
      "From our own experience, we know Mayor Mudzuri as a highly qualified,
responsible and engaged partner who is working hard to turn around the
situation in Harare, which has deteriorated during years of previous
mismanagement," the statement said.
      "The decision to suspend the mayor of Harare on the grounds of general
and unproved allegations is contrary to our understanding of basic
democratic principles. For the sake of democracy in Zimbabwe and in the best
interest of the citizens of Harare, we believe that this suspension should
be reversed immediately," the Munich delegation said.
      The statement said only a democratically legitimate local authority in
Harare could be a partner of the city of Munich.
      Meanwhile, the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) said the
suspension of a democratically elected mayor by Chombo was "a stab in the
back of the little that remains of Zimbabwe's ailing democracy".
      "It is NCA's view that Mudzuri is a victim of a well-orchestrated plan
to paralyse opposition politics in Zimbabwe," the organisation said in a
      It added: "Our observation is that Mudzuri has been, under the most
difficult of conditions, doing his best to discharge the duties for which he
was resoundingly elected by the residents of Harare."
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Tsvangirai challenges Mbeki's credibility

      May 01 2003 at 10:50AM

Zimbabwe's main opposition leader fired a broadside against President Thabo
Mbeki saying he had to "renew his credibility" ahead of his arrival in
Harare on Monday to try to help resolve the rapidly deteriorating crisis

Confirming the visit on Wednesday, presidential spokesperson Bheki Khumalo
said Mbeki would be joined by Nigerian leader Olusegun Obasanjo and Malawi's
President Bakili Muluzi.

Khumalo, however, denied press reports that the three leaders are visiting
Zimbabwe to discuss a possible regime change by facilitating a deal to
secure President Robert Mugabe's retirement.

Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, warned
that Mbeki's mission would be futile unless he and Obasanjo decided to be
honest brokers in the crisis.

"They have demonstrated in the past their total support for the illegitimate
Mugabe regime," he said.

Tsvangirai said his party was willing to give Mbeki and Obasanjo a second
chance but emphasised that the two leaders had to re-establish their
credibility to regain his party's confidence.

"Their impartiality must be beyond question and there must be a practical
and tangible demonstration of their even-handedness in their dealings with
the parties to the Zimbabwe crisis," he said. - Foreign Service
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      Workers need $132 000 a month to survive

      5/1/03 10:28:21 AM (GMT +2)

      ZIMBABWEAN workers today mark Workers' Day amid unprecedented
suffering caused by macroeconomic instability and aggravated by drought and
the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

      A fuel price increase of up to 309 percent announced by the government
two weeks ago is expected to worsen the plight of workers, who last week
undertook a successful three-day work stayaway called by the Zimbabwe
Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) to press for a reversal of the hike.
      Because of the unilaterally declared fuel price increase, the ZCTU has
withdrawn from the government-business-labour Tripartite Negotiating Forum
(TNF) that is supposed to be examining ways of resolving Zimbabwe's economic
crisis and is planning further mass action.
      Financial Gazette Senior Reporter Farai Mutsaka this week spoke to
ZCTU secretary-general Wellington Chibhebhe about the plight of workers, his
organisation's deteriorating relationship with the government and plans for
further mass action, among other
      issues. Excerpts:
      Question: As you mark Workers' Day, how would you describe the
situation of the average Zimbabwean worker, 23 years after independence?
      Answer: The average worker has been reduced to a pauper, to a beggar.
The situation is very gloomy given the fact that the economy is on the spin.
      You can't even make comparisons with the 80s because the situation now
is terrible. As we speak today, most workers can't even afford one meal a
day for themselves or to feed their families.
      The majority are forced to walk long distances to work. Today, being
employed doesn't seem to be a source of pride or livelihood anymore, and
that is of great concern to us.
      Q: What then are the major issues that the ZCTU will tackle this year,
given the gloomy picture you have just painted?
      A: You should realise that the situation has been worsening for a very
long time, especially in the late 80s and the 90s. The issues of concern are
unemployment, which is now standing at more than 75 percent and poverty that
is at 80 percent. Over and above these issues is the problem of
      It's very difficult for us to say how we will tackle unemployment and
underemployment because these are complex problems that are not of our
making and that we cannot do much about.
      Another issue we hope to tackle is HIV/AIDS. As workers, we are the
ones that have been contributing towards the AIDS levy but unfortunately,
workers have not benefited from the fund, which we believe has been abused.
      We are now taking the government to task to account for that money. We
want to ensure that workers get priority when it comes to disbursing the
money. We have asked for an audit of the funds because workers have been
      Apart from that, we have been running programmes on the shop floor in
factories regarding this issue.
      There is also the issue of the lack of democratic space. If workers or
the generality of Zimbabweans want to express their views, they are
subjected to torture and harassment and this is unacceptable.
      For us to survive as trade unions, there has to be good governance so
we will try by any means to influence the government to be democratic by
actions that are appropriate at any particular time.
      The actions we will take to force government to be democratic will be
influenced by the circumstances.
      Q: How do you hope to tackle these issues since dialogue seems to have
broken down between ZCTU and the government? And how are relations between
labour and business?
      A: I think it is a question of facing the government head-on because
we cannot continue to allow, for example, the government to use the
uniformed forces for the benefit of one particular constituency.
      We want the police and the army to be professional because they are
supposed to serve Zimbabwe and not function as a party organ. It is not as
if we are saying there are no professional policemen or soldiers in this
country. There are lots of them but once they start being professional, then
they are victimised.
      We also want the government to be people-oriented and not to work
against the same people it is supposed to serve.
      Relations with business have been cordial as evidenced by the fact
that we have been negotiating together and in good faith at the TNF before
our pull-out.
      We are still trying as partners to reach an amicable agreement on
salaries. Industry knows that the minimum wages announced by the government
are not enough to cushion workers and they understand the suffering of their
      So we will be using the works councils at companies to push for a
minimum wage that is more realistic than that announced by the government.
We are sure this will be effective.
      Q: The ZCTU has dismissed the minimum wages announced by the
government last week. What does labour think should be the minimum wage?
Several of your member unions have actually welcomed the minimum wages. How
do you reconcile these differences?
      A: We don't blame those members supporting the minimum wages because
if it was you being uplifted from $19 000 to $47 000, that's a great
movement at face value.
      But our position is that those figures, which were equated to February
poverty datum levels and should have been effected before this fuel price
increase, are nothing.
      We are not saying people should not take the minimum wages. We are
saying those are not the correct levels if the government wants to keep the
new fuel prices because the money would be eroded by transport costs alone.
      We at the ZCTU had agreed to minimum wages that were equitable to the
poverty datum line, which was last calculated at $53 029 as at the end of
March. But if you look at the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe breadbasket for
April, you will find that a family of six now requires $132 000 for basic
necessities alone.
      Now that the government, in a state of panic, has already announced
unrealistic minimum wages, we have to go through the collective bargaining
channels to push for realistic salaries. We will now resort to using the
works councils to achieve this.
      Q: What influence does the ZCTU still have considering that your
membership has been eroded by retrenchments and company closures?
      A: We may not be as strong in membership as before but by the same
token, we are not only representing those who are gainfully employed.
Whatever we do will have an effect on the generality of Zimbabweans so in
essence, we are representing the interests of all Zimbabweans.
      Over and above the paid membership, we are representing the
disadvantaged people in society. So our strength can be judged from that.
      Also judging by the respect the ZCTU has been getting in social
circles and from the civic movement, we have the support of most
      It should also be noted that our actual membership has not really gone
down dramatically. We have been on a vigorous recruitment exercise and our
numbers have been boosted of late. Since the advent of ESAP, our membership
has been fluctuating but we have managed to keep a steady figure, which I
would put at over 300 000.
      Q: Despite the stayaway last week, the government has not acceded to
your demands to reverse the fuel price increase. What then would you say the
stayaway achieved?
      A: Yes, you may want to say there was no achievement, but if you check
the desperation with which the government came up with a concoction of what
they termed solutions to alleviate the people's suffering, it shows that it
was panic stations for them.
      We are more than sure that our action was successful and effective.
But like in any other struggle, people should take the struggle as a
      In this case, what we want to assure you is that this struggle to
emancipate workers and free people from the burden of economic hardships
will take a long time and we are prepared to travel the distance.
      Q: The ZCTU has threatened further action if the government does not
reverse the fuel price increase. What form is this action likely to take and
when will it be launched?
      A: Well, I think it's not practical politics, given the situation we
are operating under, to announce your intentions and give further details.
It will sell out the strategy.
      Let's wait until the time comes.
      And as I said, the struggle will take longer than people expect so
they should not be frustrated that stayaways are not bringing the needed
results. Let's travel the journey and victory will be ours.
      Q: Besides mass action, what other means are open to you to put
pressure on the government to address the plight of workers?
      A: As I said, it's not practical in our environment to sell out the
details of the battles before you engage in the actual fighting.
      Q: Since labour has pulled out from the TNF, what are the chances of a
negotiated solution to the country's problems?
      A: You will find that as was stated even in 1999, that although
government might want to give an impression that it is committed to
resolving issues at the TNF level, this is a farce.
      When it comes to the finer details and solutions, the government is
afraid that if it comes up with solutions with the help of organisations
such as the ZCTU, it would have given credence to the ZCTU. Therefore, it
always wants to pull the rug from under our feet.
      Yes, it is being forced to engage the ZCTU out of desperation but in
reality, it views us as enemies and this puts the future of the TNF in the
      Unless and until the government comes clean and states that it wants
to effectively engage other social partners on an equal basis, then there is
no dialogue to talk about.
      Q: The ZCTU leadership has been accused of conniving with the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in a broader political
agenda to undermine the government and eventually effect a regime change
through mass action. How would you respond to that?
      A: The guilty are afraid. We warned the government at TNF that
whatever we do at TNF, if there was ever any side-stepping by government, it
would get the response it deserves from the ZCTU.
      The message was very clear and I think people from the President's
Office who attend these meetings have the records. So if (Energy Minister
Amos) Midzi had not announced this major hike, we would not have had this
three-day stayaway.
      So all this is of the government's own creation.
      Q: How independent are you from the MDC since several high-ranking MDC
officials are also office-bearers of the ZCTU?
      A: We are very independent. Our Zimbabwean constitution is very clear
on the freedom of association and the International Labour Organisation
Convention 87 is very clear on that as well. So who are we to tell people
not to be with us?
      We also have high-ranking ZANU PF people within ZCTU, so people should
not be hoodwinked into thinking that the ZCTU is harbouring MDC people. ZANU
PF should come out in the open and actually mention its own people within
the ZCTU.
      Q: Since both the MDC and ZCTU have intentions of undertaking further
mass action, how would you handle a situation where the two actions
      A: It would be coincidental and the situation would have to handle
itself, but there would be no collusion at all. It would be instigated by
the situation on the ground because hunger knows no date and time.
      The more you postpone, the more the guns will be turned against you as
a leader. We were being accused of being docile all along. Now that we have
put our action into gear, it is being said we are craving power.
      We believe we are fighting a just war for the worker and we don't
really look at who joins us in this war.
      Q: Lastly, what would be your message to the worker?
      A: We have come this far, despite the hardships. If we remain focused
and united and refuse to be diverted by people peddling their own personal
interests, we will get there.
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      NOCZIM needs $150bln to import fuel

      Staff Reporter
      5/1/03 9:47:55 AM (GMT +2)

      THE financially troubled National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (NOCZIM)
needs to raise between $120 billion and $150 billion to import fuel this
year, but analysts say the market's negative perception of the
state-controlled firm will hamper efforts to raise the required funds.

      NOCZIM's financial advisor, Syfrets Corporate and Merchant Bank
(Sybank), this week said the oil procurer initially wanted to raise $60
billion for fuel imports, but officials at the financial institution told
the Financial Gazette that the parastatal ultimately needed up to $150
      The officials would not indicate the size of the tranches in which the
money would be raised, but said medium and long-term bonds would be floated
on behalf of NOCZIM.
      "NOCZIM would want ultimately to raise $150 billion to pay for fuel
imports and we believe they will be able to repay the money," an official at
Syfrets said on condition he was not named.
      "We want to negotiate and mobilise the required finance locally and
offshore," the official added.
      NOCZIM, which almost collapsed three years ago under a crushing cash
flow and debt crisis, is also expected to spend more than $38 billion on a
five-year fuel bond floated in 2000.
      The $38 billion is about 10 times more than the amount borrowed.
      According to a document submitted by Zimbabwe's bankers to the
government-business-labour Tripartite Negotiating Forum committee on fuel,
the bond was very expensive compared to other instruments available on the
market in 2000.
      The $4.1 billion bond attracted interest of 50 percent a year compared
to about 30 percent charged on other money market instruments at that time.
      But some analysts said without a government guarantee, it would be
difficult for NOCZIM to raise the large amount of money needed to import
fuel and to service its 2000 debt.
      The analysts said investors were sceptical about the parastatal's
operational capabilities and its ability to repay any money borrowed.
      They said with interest rates hovering at above 60 percent, the yield
on the bond floated on behalf of the state oil firm would have to be very
high to convince wary investors to subscribe to it.
      "I think they will be able to raise part of the money but not all of
it because of the image that the market has about NOCZIM," said an analyst
with Intermarket Discount House.
      The analyst added: "Unless we see the government chipping in to
guarantee the petrofin bonds, this (raising the money) could be impossible.
We also have to consider the issue of the coupon on the bonds.
      "Right now it is quite expensive to raise money on the market, unless
of course you attract high interest rates."
      Economist Witness Chinyama added: "Investors will look at the yield of
these bonds to be able to subscribe fully."
      Zimbabwe consumes 67 million litres of fuel a month, which it has to
import at a cost of about US$40 million.
      Severe foreign currency shortages have hampered efforts to import
enough fuel to meet domestic demand, adversely affecting motorists and the
viability of local industry.
      Shortages of fuel, whose price rose by more than 200 percent last
month, are also blamed on years of mismanagement at NOCZIM, whose financial
problems have been exacerbated by the withdrawal of foreign lines of credit
by fuel suppliers over erratic payments
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      Zim on knife edge

      5/1/03 10:32:03 AM (GMT +2)

      UNPRECEDENTED chaos is engulfing Zimbabwe as the government, the
opposition and the labour movement play a high stakes game in which the
national good could be swept aside, with disastrous consequences for the
very people the three parties say they are so eager to protect.

      On the one hand, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has
rightly refused to be hoodwinked by a regime that is ready to clutch at any
straw to prolong its life amid escalating public discontent.
      The populist measures announced by the government last week, in
response to the ZCTU's successful three-day stayaway, are short-term
solutions at best that will only temporarily ease the plight of
long-suffering workers.
      The increase in minimum wages that is supposed to cushion workers from
the steep fuel price increase that the ZCTU is protesting can only push up
inflation, which will without doubt reduce the new wages to a mere pittance.
      Inflation, already at 228 percent and expected to reach 500 percent
before year-end, will most certainly render the commuter fares announced by
the government last week uneconomic, forcing transport operators to increase
their tariffs, bringing workers full circle again in only a few short
      Eager to pull off the best deal for its members, the ZCTU has dug in
its heels and threatened further mass action if the government does not
withdraw its fuel price increase.
      The opposition Movement for Democratic Change also continues to talk
tough, also threatening further mass action as it presses the government to
make the political and economic changes that could halt Zimbabwe's descent
into chaos.
      Meanwhile the government will not budge. Neither on the fuel price nor
on the ruinous policies that have reduced Zimbabwe to a beggar nation.
      But as each group seeks to have the higher moral ground in a tense
standoff, the sobering reality is that the threats and counter-threats of
tough action from each side are only worsening the plight of Zimbabweans and
the country's battered economy.
      The nation's financial markets are nervous as they ponder the impact
of potentially violent mass action in the next few months, scaring away
foreign investors who have already deserted the country in droves.
      Industry and commerce will increasingly find it difficult to pay
inflation-linked wage adjustments if further output is lost because of
future work stayaways and because the government is unwilling to take the
tough steps that will put the economy on the road to recovery.
      There is little discernible action on Zimbabwe's worsening fuel crisis
nor on electricity shortages that are threatening the viability of local
industry and thousands of jobs.
      Meanwhile, what is likely to be a disappointing tobacco season will
worsen foreign currency shortages, while food insecurity for millions of
people will increase in the next few months.
      As stakeholders draw their battle lines and square off "in the people'
s interests" it is imperative that the national good is not sidelined in the
pursuit of victory.
      Clearly, a head-on confrontation is not in the best interests of the
nation, even though it is increasingly looking like the only solution to the
stalemate that has brought Zimbabwe to a virtual standstill.
      Dialogue entered into honestly by all stakeholders remains the most
desirable means of achieving a solution to the crises bedevilling the
      It is important that all stakeholders soberly examine the consequences
of the course of action they seem determined to carry through to the bitter
end, before they commit themselves irrevocably.
      Once the nation is set on this destructive path, there is no going
back and the consequences will take many painful years to reverse..
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Robert Mugabe Softens His Line

Mail & Guardian (Johannesburg)

April 28, 2003
Posted to the web May 1, 2003

David Masunda

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is finally cracking under relentless
pressure by African leaders to meet opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and
solve the economic and political crisis in the Southern African country, say

Mugabe, who has ridiculed and belittled Tsvangirai as a Western stooge in
the past, stunned Zimbabweans this week by saying he was ready to meet the
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader for unprecedented face-to-face
talks to stop Zimbabwe's further decline into ruin.

Zanu-PF and MDC sources confirmed this week that South African President
Thabo Mbeki and Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo were behind the latest
initiative to get the two bitter foes at the same table and find ways to
rescue the Zimbabwean economy.

Speaking on national television on Monday, Mugabe, however, once again put a
damper on the proposed talks by saying Tsvangirai had to first acknowledge
that he was the duly elected president of the country and, therefore, stop
court action challenging his rule.

Mugabe walked out of South African-brokered talks with Tsvangirai last year
after insisting that the opposition leader drop a court case challenging the
Zanu-PF 's controversial re-election in the hotly contested 2002 poll.

Tsvangirai this week said he had no intention of dropping the court case,
which is is expected to be heard in the Harare high court within two months.

"We have not changed our position. We remain committed to pressing our legal
challenge which is our legal right," Tsvangirai, who is on trial for
allegedly plotting to assassinate Mugabe, told journalists in Harare this
week in response to the Zimbabwean president's statement.

Mugabe also hinted that he may soon be ready to retire and for the first
time admitted he was keen to meet his old enemy, British Prime Minister Tony
Blair, to regain acceptance by the West.

The 79-year-old Mugabe, who insists he is "as fit as a fiddle", said he may
soon leave office as his land redistribution programme was almost complete.
"We are getting to a stage where we shall say 'ah fine, we have settled this
matter and people can retire,'" he said.

Mugabe, however, ruled out the possibility of a transitional government as
demanded by Western powers such as the United States and Britain, saying he
was the democratically elected Zimbabwean president and the US could "go

Mugabe, who was surprisingly very candid in this rare appearance, also
announced that he was not against the succession issue being debated openly
within his ruling party.

He has in the past castigated any talk of his departure from office and has
ruthlessly suppressed young Turks in Zanu-PF who were considered ambitious
enough to openly discuss their intention to succeed him.

"But when one looks ahead and starts clandestinely to organise in groups or
in tribal lines or in personal lines that bring conflict in the party
system, then the idea [of succession] loses its sound basis. We encourage
open debate rather than meetings endowed in secrecy," he said, in reference
to reports that some factions were already building up within Zanu-PF.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe was this week paralysed by a national three-day stayaway
that started on Wednesday and was organised by the country's largest trade
union, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), to protest against the
recent fuel price increase.

Public transport ground to a standstill and banks and shops remained shut
throughout the country as workers and employers heeded the ZCTU call to stay
at home until the state revised the 300% fuel price increase.

The Zimbabwean government last week hiked the price of petrol and diesel
citing rising procurement costs encountered by the state-owned National Oil
Procurement Company of Zimbabwe (Noczim) and the need to ensure that newly
licensed black fuel importers become viable.

Oil experts, however, say that while the price increase was inevitable,
rampant corruption at Noczim had also worsened the situation and that the
price could stabilise if the government abandoned the parastatal and allowed
for the free importation of the commodity.

The fuel price hike has incensed Zimbabweans, who are reeling from the
effects of runaway inflation - the March figures were recorded at 228% -
unemployment, a crumbling social service and mounting poverty.

The ZCTU warned the government that it was considering indefinite nationwide
mass action unless the state revised the fuel price by April 25.
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      Subsidise food

      5/1/03 9:42:30 AM (GMT +2)

      EDITOR - The fuel subsidy being considered does not make any sense as
the government itself is failing to subsidise food or the milling companies
which need to maintain the prices as low as possible.

      The government once removed subsidies, saying it was a prerequisite
needed by the International Monetary Fund if the government were to receive
any funding. The move was also said to be part of the opening up of the
economy, as the country was becoming liberalised as required by the World
Trade Organisation.
      The government was trying to convince and justify why it was removing
the subsidies that were in place under the Ian Smith regime. The ZANU PF
government could not simply come out in the open and tell the people that it
did not have the means or the money to maintain the subsidies, for in the
government's eyes it was paying money to white companies.
      Only a few days after hiking fuel prices, the government now wants to
be seen as if it is doing something to alleviate the suffering of the people
by talking about subsidies.
      Food subsidies are what the people want. Why is it the government is
not doing anything in this sector now that the productive farms are in its
      Zimbabweans need to understand that ZANU PF is out to line its own
pockets at the expense of the public. Winning votes is the party's main
interest and that is to be done at all costs, even if the taxes are to be
increased to fund those subsidies.
      Someone is taking Zimbabweans for a ride and it's high time the
politicians know that people are not fools.
      Let the oil companies supply their own service stations since the
economy is a liberalised one.
      Why is it certain sectors are opened up to competition and others are
not? Wake up and smell the coffee.

      N Kainga,
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      Ancram: England cricketers should not play Zimbabwe

Shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram has said he believes England's
cricketers should not be playing against Zimbabwe.

The team arrived for a tour in the country on Thursday. They are set to take
on England in two Test matches and a triangular one-day tournament.

Mr Ancram said the tour would effectively give a platform for Zimbabwe's
president Robert Mugabe, who he accuses of human rights abuses.

But the England and Wales Cricket Board have made clear they will not call
off the tour.

Cancellation would cost the ECB millions of pounds, but chief executive Tim
Lamb today insisted that the sport's governing body is not motivated by
financial considerations.

He told BBC Radio Five Live: "It upsets me when people say we are putting
money before morality. I think there are double standards here. It is unfair
for cricket to have to make political decisions.

"We don't think the Zimbabwe cricketers are any more the henchmen of Robert
Mugabe than the England players are the foot soldiers of Tony Blair. They
are representing their country at cricket."

But Mr Ancram told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme: "I would much
rather that they hadn't come and that these games were not taking place.

"The very existence of this team in the form it is in at the moment does
bring politics into sport. Its patron is Mugabe, who describes himself on
their writing paper as 'President Comrade Mugabe'.

Mr Ancram was critical of the Government, which has not introduced any form
of sporting boycott of Zimbabwe. He said: "I wanted to see the Government
taking a much firmer stand in this, as I wanted them to take a much firmer
stand on the World Cup.

Story filed: 14:48 Thursday 1st May 2003
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The Economist
Zimbabwean rumours

Reading tea leaves by candlelight
May 1st 2003 | HARARE
From The Economist print edition

Is Robert Mugabe really planning to retire?


Old regime, new money, no fuel

WORKERS arrived at a factory in Harare at 7am, donned their protective goggles and overalls, and started the production line humming. Three hours later, without warning, the electricity was cut off, and every cog and motor clunked to a halt. The power stayed off for four hours. By the standards of say, Nigeria, a four-hour blackout is no big deal. But Zimbabweans are used to uninterrupted electricity, so they find such things disconcerting. Also, unlike Nigerian industrialists, they rarely have back-up generators.

It is as good a symbol as any of Zimbabwe's decline. In the past five years, as President Robert Mugabe has pursued ever-more radical economic policies, such as seizing private property, printing stacks of money and seeking to dictate prices, Zimbabwe has steadily de-industrialised. Shortages are common, of everything from bread to car parts, so it was only a matter of time before electricity joined the list. The state power company, ZESA, has not paid for the power it imports, so suppliers in neighbouring countries are finally cutting off the juice.

The more optimistic Zimbabweans are wondering, however, if the increasingly frequent blackouts might have a silver lining. Zimbabwe imports 35% of its power from Mozambique, Congo and South Africa. The first two countries are much too poor to subsidise Mr Mugabe, and have responded to Zimbabwe's non-payment of its bills by reducing the amount they supply. South Africa, however, is richer, and has a president, Thabo Mbeki, who is anxious to not to precipitate chaos in Zimbabwe. So the South African state electricity firm, which supplies 15% of Zimbabwe's requirements, has so far kept on supplying, despite an unpaid bill of $115m. But what if South Africa were to use electricity as a tool to persuade Mr Mugabe to give up the other sort of power?

Mr Mbeki could probably topple Mr Mugabe with the flick of a switch, but he prefers diplomacy. Next week, with the presidents of Nigeria and Malawi, he is to pay Mr Mugabe a visit, in the hope of “encouraging dialogue” between Zimbabwe's ruling party, ZANU-PF, and the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The MDC hopes that the visiting heads of state will discuss Mr Mugabe's retirement, and the holding of a fresh, internationally-supervised election to supersede last year's rigged one.

Mr Mbeki's spokesman denied it, telling Reuters, a news agency, that “It is not for the president of South Africa to go to another sovereign country and tell the leader to step down.” But many Zimbabweans think that something is afoot. Mr Mugabe encouraged such speculation this week with a cryptic remark on state television. He seemed to say that now that he had redistributed white-owned farm land to blacks, his work was done. His exact words were: “It was mainly the land issue actually that needed to be addressed before getting to a stage where we say fine, we have settled this matter and people can retire.” His information minister insisted, however, that Mr Mugabe had every intention of staying in office until his term expires in 2008.

The MDC says it is ready for talks with the government, although it is wary of being co-opted, as the last serious opposition movement was. Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC leader, said he was willing to give the visiting presidents a chance to mediate, so long as they remain impartial. In the past, they have tended to side with the regime and scorn the MDC, so neither Mr Tsvangirai nor his supporters trust them.

In recent weeks, Mr Mugabe has faced increased pressure at home. A three-day strike last week brought cities to a halt. A two-day strike last month was equally avidly observed. The MDC's latest campaign of newspaper advertisements shows photographs of torture victims' gruesome injuries and the slogan “Change demands action”, which is also scrawled on township walls. But there have been no large demonstrations, because potential demonstrators fear ending up with their picture in the papers.

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Zimbabwe union threatens more protests over fuel

By Stella Mapenzauswa

HARARE, May 1 - Zimbabwe's main labour union on Thursday threatened more
mass protests if the governmment did not reverse recent steep fuel price
hikes and urged President Robert Mugabe to leave office.
       The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) led a three-day strike
in late April against the fuel price hikes of up to 300 percent, paralysing
industry and commerce in the country's main urban centres and turning up
pressure on Mugabe's government.
       ZCTU Secretary-General Wellington Chibebe told a May Day rally Mugabe
''should go now with honour and dignity, so that when we meet in the streets
tomorrow we can still be civil to one another.''
       Mugabe accuses domestic and Western opponents of sabotaging the
economy to punish his campaign to seize white-owned farms for redistribution
to landless blacks.
       Main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, whose party put its weight
behind the ZCTU protest, said Zimbabweans had a right to stage peaceful
protests ''and we shall continue to exercise this option at anytime of our
own choosing.''
       Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change itself led one of the
biggest protests against Mugabe's 23-year rule in March.
       Zimbabwe's problems have spiralled since Mugabe defeated Tsvangirai
in 2002 presidential polls which some Western governments condemned as
fraudulent. Many blame Mugabe for high unemployment and shortages of fuel,
food and foreign exchange.
       ''The only safe exit for Mugabe and his cronies is through a
restoration of the rights of the people, the restoration of the legitimacy
of government,'' Tsvangirai said. He said this week the MDC was ready to
meet Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party on the crisis after reports that the
leaders of South Africa, Nigeria and Malawi would travel to Harare next week
to urge dialogue between the two parties.
       The MDC has said its demands in any talks would include the
restoration of law and order, the repeal of harsh security and media laws,
an end to political violence, and a review of electoral laws to guarantee
free and fair elections.
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Where Hardship is a Way of Life

Cape Argus (Cape Town)

May 1, 2003
Posted to the web May 1, 2003

Brian Latham

Mass strikes are no extra hardship for Zimbabweans who are enduring a life
of endless food shortages and queues, spiralling inflation, unemployment and
poverty - but the government refuses to budge.

Strikes and mass action do not add any hardship to their lives, say ordinary
Zimbabweans. Runaway inflation, crippling shortages and transport woes are
bad enough.

A threefold petrol price hike earlier this month has forced hundreds of
thousands of commuters to fork out between half and their entire salaries
just to get to work each day.

Battling with an official 228% inflation, Zimbabwe's ever-rising Poverty
Datum Line now seems an unreachable luxury for the overwhelming majority of
the population.

With over 70% of the adult population out of work in the organised sectors,
traditional extended families have been stretched beyond breaking point.

John Mupawira, a messenger in central Harare, says a fraction under half his
Z$25 000 (R139) monthly salary is spent just getting to work each day.

"It costs me Z$12 000 (R67) a month to come from Mabvuku and to get home
again every day. When I started work in 1986, I was spending Z$4 a day on
transport," Mupawira said.

The Zimbabwe dollar, which has plummeted on Zimbabwe's foreign currency
black market, is a fraction of its value before the crisis began in 2000.

It can take a staggering Z$180 to buy just R1 in Harare's streets, the only
guaranteed source of foreign exchange in the country.

That means Mupawira's salary works out to about R140 a month in what some
economists have said is now Africa's most expensive city.

"In 1986 I was a domestic worker on Z$400 a month and I was much better off.
I had money, but now a loaf of bread on the black market costs between Z$300
(R1.70) and Z$400 (R2.20) so I am broke," he said.

Bread - in desperately short supply because of food shortages sparked by the
seizure of white-owned farms by President Robert Mugabe's supporters - can
sometimes be found in supermarkets and bakeries, but only by joining lengthy

Many people forced to queue for transport and other basic food find little
time to join yet more queues on the city's dusty, litter-strewn pavements.

"In 1986 I used to finish the month and still have money. My pay would last
me the whole month, now it lasts just days," Mupawira said.

"I don't have money left for food. Each month I spend Z$12 000 (R67) on
transport, my rent is Z$7 500 (R42) a month, water and electricity costs me
Z$5 000 (R28) a month and I spend Z$1 400 (R8) a month on school fees for my
two children. That comes to more than I earn. There is nothing left for food
or even clothes," he complained.

But Mupawira's woes go beyond balancing an unattainable budget. Transport,
apart from its sky-rocketing cost, is hard to find.

"To get to work by eight in the morning, I must leave home by five just to
look for a commuter taxi. There are long queues for the few taxis that have
fuel," he explained.

In a country where there is little state-owned public transport, taxis have
ignored new fares imposed by the government following the massive price hike
of fuel.

Despite trebling the cost of petrol, the government said taxi and bus
drivers should use increases in the region of 20%.

The state-imposed fares came in the middle of last week's three-day strike
to protest fuel hikes in what many saw as a capitulation.

But Zimbabwe's beleaguered energy minister has said Zimbabweans "must be
dreaming" if they think the cost of fuel can be lowered.

The country's fuel crisis has been caused by massive debts owed by the
monopolistic and corruption-plagued National Oil Company of Zimbabwe
(Noczim) to foreign suppliers.

For months Zimbabwe's Zanu-PF cabinet insisted fuel prices must remain
static, despite the fact that Noczim was buying fuel with foreign currency
sourced on the black market, a move that led to fuel being sold, in real
terms, at less than five US cents a litre.

As a result, Zimbabwe has been crippled by continuing fuel shortages for
over two years, forcing motorists to buy petrol and diesel at inflated
prices from secretive vendors who use their pavement cut-flower businesses
as cover for fuel sales.

And while petrol and diesel work out relatively cheap at black market
exchange rates, Zimbabwean salaries have lagged behind the region.

Most Zimbabweans are worse off than they were before independence in 1980,
sparking anger that real-term incomes were higher under Ian Smith's regime.

"It is very harsh," said Mupawira. "I leave home before it is light and if I
finish work again at 5pm, I get home only after 8pm. It takes three hours
just to travel a few kilometres."

Mabvuku, an old and impoverished township on Harare's eastern city limits,
is about 20km from Harare's Central Business District.

But lengthy queues and a chronic shortage of fuel adds six hours to
Mupa-wira's grinding eight-hour working day. And, he adds, that is before
time spent queuing for mealie meal, sugar and cooking oil is taken into
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This is London

Zimbabwe cricketers greeted by protesters
By Patrick Sawer, Evening Standard
1 May 2003

The victims of Robert Mugabe's torture gangs today appealed to the British
public to join their protests against the Zimbabwean cricket tour.

As the team landed at Heathrow, men and women who have suffered at the
Zimbabwean president's hands appealed: "Please don't let Mugabe off the
hook. The message must go back to our country that his team is not welcome
in England."

Many of the thousands of exiles who have fled their homes to seek refuge in
Britain are furious that the English Cricket Board has welcomed the
Zimbabwean team, despite Mugabe's reign of terror.

Stop the Tour 2003 is planning peaceful protests outside every ground the
team plays, starting with its game at Edgbaston, Birmingham, against the
combined British Universities team on Saturday.
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Focus On New Thinking On Land Reform

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

May 1, 2003
Posted to the web May 1, 2003

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

An informal group of land experts met in South Africa recently at the
invitation of the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) to analyse
contraints to sustainable land reform in Southern Africa.

Several countries in the region face chronic land problems which have roots
in the dispossession of Africans under colonialism and apartheid, or an
"unbalanced" approach to land allocation in post-independence policies. "In
all cases, there is a general failure by governments to integrate land
policy into either a rural development strategy or a wider social and
economic development vision," said a report on the 'think-tank' meeting.

"Governments have also failed to allocate the financial and human resources
needed to address land problems. At the same time, donors have found it
increasingly difficult to justify the allocation of aid resources to land
reform in the region. This reluctance is due to the lack of viable policies
and programmes and is also a response to policy trends - in practice if not
in rhetorical terms - away from the pro-poor agenda that donors feel should
be the focus of land reform policies," the 14-member think-tank noted.


"We are concerned over the lack of real progress with redistributive land
reform in South Africa and Namibia, and faltering or uneven processes in
other countries," the experts said.

Part of the reason has been the principle of "willing-buyer, willing-seller"
which was insisted upon by the British during Zimbabwe's independence
negotiations. The willing-seller side of the equation is an obstacle to "any
form of systematic designation of land for redistribution", the think-tank
observed. This condition was not imposed by donors funding South Africa's
land reform process during 1994 to 1999.

"There are unreconstructed power relationships in South Africa, in Zimbabwe
until recently, and Namibia. These formal and informal power structures [the
banks, for example] are rigged against emergent black farmers. When you are
supposed to have willing-buyer, willing-seller what you often get is an
unequal relationship," Oxfam land police adviser, Robin Palmer, told IRIN.

As a result of economic disempowerment under structural adjustment
programmes, land reform has become all the more important. "Land is often
all that people have as a bottom line for livelihood security," Palmer said.

South African land expert Scott Drimie explained that, for Southern Africa,
there is also a context of restitution. "The primary reason is about
history. There are vast inequalities that have to be addressed for
historical and economic reasons ... A comprehensive rural development
strategy will help those marginalised on the periphery."

However, the think-tank cautioned: "The misfit between land policy and rural
development is most evident where land reform is being pursued by a
government primarily as a 'quasi-constitutional right' or a means of
redressing past injustices, rather than as a basis for sustainable rural
livelihoods ... Redressing gross racial imbalances in land ownership and
access is one thing; recreating sustainable livelihoods on the land is
infinitely more difficult."

"All the southern African countries face a huge crisis in land access and
use as a result of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Their agricultural sectors are in
a moribund state due to unfavourable international terms of trade and the
structural constraints facing especially small-scale farmers in the wider
context of the global economy."


However, there are ideological differences at the heart of the issue of land
reform. "Debates about land reform everywhere have seen a confrontation
between those who believe that land reform must be centred on the
redistribution of ownership (or land rights over) productive agricultural
land in favour of the rural poor, and those opposed to extensive
redistribution who wish the reform to focus on measures to raise
agricultural productivity and/or create a new class of (black) African
commercial farmers," the two-day meeting noted.

But Drimie believes that the small-scale versus large-scale debate "may in
many ways be a false dichotomy in terms of policy choices". Rather than a
blanket model, a more nuanced blend based on location (climate, land
suitability) and resources within a context of rural development would
better achieve poverty alleviation.

The meeting, organised by FAO-Zimbabwe and the Southern African Regional
Poverty Network, was also critical of donor responses to land reform.

"Donors in Southern Africa increasingly see assistance to land reform as
politically sensitive and complex, likely to result in negative
consequences, whatever the moral foundation, and therefore best avoided. In
addition, recipient governments have become suspicious that donors, by
insisting on a range of conditions - a 'pro-poor' focus, the willing-buyer,
willing-seller principle, maintaining economic stability - are using support
to land reform as a neo-colonialist 'Trojan Horse', which in some cases is
also perpetuating racial imbalances in land ownership."

The report commented: "What is clear is that donors should not walk away
when things turn sour, but rather tread carefully and maintain a base flow
of support. Nor should they give up on promoting a redistribution agenda,
notwithstanding the disaster unfolding in Zimbabwe, which seems to have
become the reference point in spite of it really being the 'very worst case
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by Alan Hale

(This essay was originally written in March 2001, and published in the Alamogordo (New Mexico) Daily News)

For almost as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by the universe that surrounds us, and I have been driven to learn as much as I can about it. Much of my fascination derives from the fact that, the more we look out into space, the more we are confronted with the reality that our Earth is a very tiny grain of cosmic dust compared to the universe as a whole. We see this in the Hubble Space Telescope photographs that show a universe teeming with galaxies to as far as we can see. We see it in the images of Earth taken from the Apollo missions which show our planet as a tiny little jewel floating in the vastness of space. Upon this utterly insignificant, and yet almost indescribably beautiful, planet there has arisen a race of beings that occasionally takes the time to look out into the universe and wonder about where it all fits together.

Although it almost seems trite to point this out, these images of Earth verify that the political boundaries with which we always seem so obsessed are nothing but artificial and arbitrary constructs. If we think seriously about this we should realize that the human race that populates this planet is all one species, one people. We might also realize that nature is not going to respect our artificial political boundaries; if, for example, we disturb the atmosphere in one location, the entire planet ends up being affected.

Another item we might realize is that our planet’s lack of importance in the universe tells us in no uncertain terms that there is no one segment of humanity that is divinely ordained as being the "privileged" group. There is no one segment of humanity that is "better" than any other segment. There is no one segment of humanity that has somehow been awarded access to "the Truth" to the exclusion of other segments of humanity. No, we are all one people, and we are all on this ride together. Once we realize this, we can understand that the trials and challenges we face, and the solutions we must develop to overcome these, are the collective responsibility of all of us.

When I examine our history, along with much of our present-day world, I must confess that I sometimes find it difficult to be optimistic. I think of all the wars we have had, and are having, and of all of our resources that are being devoted to developing new and exotic ways of blowing each other up. I think of the millions of people throughout history, and today, who have been and are being hated, tortured, and killed because they have the "wrong" skin color, or speak the "wrong" language, or subscribe to the "wrong" religion, or have the "wrong" sexual orientation, or embody any one of a number of other "wrong" characteristics. I think of all the many people living in poverty and squalor here in America and elsewhere throughout the world. I think of how many children will die of starvation by the time the day is over. I think of those who live in war-torn areas around the planet who wonder whether or not they will make it through the night without being killed.

Those of us who are fortunate enough not to have to deal with these situations can find it all too easy to pretend that they don’t exist. Is the size of a tax cut so much more important than the fact that millions of children in the world will go to bed hungry tonight, and that some of them may starve to death before sunrise? Are we really acting responsibly when we indiscriminately pump more and more pollutants into the atmosphere, condemning the less fortunate members of the human race — not to mention our own posterity — to dealing with its calamitous effects, just so our richest corporations can add a few more million dollars to their portfolios? How many times do we need to be reminded that our Earth does not know about, or respect, our arbitrary boundaries?

Despite all this, however, there are many times when I do feel optimistic about humanity. I feel this way when I witness the almost innumerable occasions when neighbors, and sometimes even strangers, will stop to lend a helping hand when someone experiences a difficulty. I feel it when I see communities pulling together after a disaster to help those who were affected. I feel it when I see people making a concerted effort to understand, and meet with, their counterparts from elsewhere on planet Earth, and who actively seek ways to bring about peace, health, and preservation of a clean environment.

Sometimes, I am almost astounded by some of the progress we have made. Of course, there are those events which showcase humanity at its best, for example, Neil Armstrong’s "one small step" upon the Sea of Tranquility. There are those technological developments such as the Internet that have given us the capability of communicating almost instantaneously with people all over the world, making our planet smaller than it has ever been before. But I am perhaps even more encouraged by the ways we have found to eliminate old hatreds. One of my favorite photographs was taken on the 40th anniversary of the battle of Iwo Jima, and shows former Japanese and American soldiers who had faced each other as enemies in that hideous conflict, returning to the island as friends. More recently, after this past January’s earthquake that devastated parts of India one of the primary relief efforts arrived from, of all places, their ostensible mortal enemy Pakistan. I’ve been fortunate enough to witness this type of phenomenon for myself, when during my recent visits to Iran I was overwhelmed by the displays of friendship from the people I once considered my enemies. I cannot possibly forget the gentleman named Hossein who, on a moment’s notice, dropped what he was doing so he could chauffeur another American scientist and me around the city of Esfahan, or the young man who stopped me in a restaurant to tell me "After twenty years it’s great to have Americans back in Iran again!"

It’s a cliché expression, perhaps, but I believe the human race is really at a crossroads. Of course, the space enthusiast within me likes to visualize a wise and mature human civilization expanding into the solar system and outwards. I also like to visualize other scientific and technological advancements, such as eradication of diseases and further improvements in transportation and communications. But along with all this I like to visualize a human race where our old hatreds have been left behind on the rubbish pile of history where they belong, and where every person is treated with dignity and respect, regardless of skin color, religious belief, sexual orientation, and so on. I visualize that this future, with its many wonders, is open to everyone, not just to the handful of those who are fortunate enough to live in the "right" parts of the world. But while such a future is within our grasp, at the same time we have the power to destroy ourselves with our weapons and our hatreds, and to ravage our planet’s fragile environment with our devil-may-care recklessness.

The choice is up to us. If we are to pursue the higher road, and avoid the pits into which we can so easily fall, then we must make the conscious choice to do so, and have the courage, and perseverance, to overcome the obstacles we face. Are we up to it? I believe we can be. But are we worthy? When I see pictures of the dead bodies of innocent people lying around after yet another street battle somewhere, or observe our ostensible political leaders refusing to see how their self-interested decisions are harming the rest of the planet, the temptation is strong to say "no." But then I see my sons playing together and I think of their hopes and dreams for their future, or I remember the outpouring of friendship I received from the people of Iran, or I think again of that Iwo Jima photograph, and I want to utter a most emphatic "yes!"

Which shall it be?

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