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

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Zim editor to 'face the music'

Manila - Zimbabwean journalist Geoffrey Nyarota has vowed to return to
Harare despite possible arrest for writing stories considered defamatory by
his government.
The 51-year-old Nyarota, recipient of this year's Unesco Guillermo Cano
Press Freedom prize, said that, while an arrest warrant had not been issued
against him, he expected to be arrested on his arrival in Harare on Tuesday.
"I hope I am not dramatising my fears nor my expectation of what will happen
in Harare," he told reporters in Manila after receiving the award. "It is
safe to assume that if they are to follow previous procedure, they should
arrest me."
Nyarota, editor of Zimbabwe's Daily News, said two of his reporters already
had been arrested.
The three are charged with criminal defamation for stories accusing
government officials of falsifying voting results in the presidential
election in March when President Robert Mugabe won another six-year term. He
has been president for 22 years.
Nyarota was in Manila to attend a two-day conference on media and terrorism
held to mark World Press Freedom Day.
Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who led ceremonies marking
World Press Freedom Day at the presidential palace, hailed Nyarota's courage
and determination to keep the flame of free press alive in Zimbabwe, despite
threats to his life.
Tells of torture claims
"I would like to congratulate the recipient of this year's Unesco Guillermo
Cano World Press Freedom Prize," Arroyo said. "He has been the subject of so
much terrorism upon him, his institution and his colleagues."
Nyarota did not hide envy for the Philippines' free press and expressed hope
that one day his country would enjoy the same freedom.
"I hope one day we achieve the status of journalism in the Philippines where
everybody seems to operate so freely," Nyarota said after receiving the
He decried the stiff media regulations imposed by his government in
Zimbabwe, where journalists were not only arrested without warrants, but
also tortured.
"There have been reported cases of torture in Zimbabwe," he told reporters.
"The most celebrated case was two years ago when the editor of the Sunday
Standard and his reporter were arrested ... and tortured over a period of
two weeks."
Apart from Nyarota, Unesco also gave a posthumous award to slain American
journalist Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped and killed by extremists in
Pakistan in February. - Sapa-DPA

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Not a nice place for a reporter

Pierre Steyn

Washington - An international watchdog organisation for press freedom termed
Zimbabwe as one of the ten worst places in the world to be a journalist.
The West Bank, where journalists daily face Israeli and Palestinian gunfire,
and where they generally find it difficult to work, tops the list issued on
Friday by the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ).
The release of the list coincided with International Press Freedom Day.
Zimbabwe and Eritrea are the only two African countries listed. The CPJ
maintains Zimbabwe once had an excellent reputation as a country where an
active press could work without the threat of censorship.
During the past two years President Robert Mugabe's government has arrested
more than 50 journalists, of which at least two were tortured. The
government launched almost forty court cases against journalists and their
Recent legislation has rendered it practically impossible to criticise
Mugabe. In addition, police and Zanu-PF militants have often assaulted
Eritrea, one of Africa's smallest countries, is also the biggest suppressor
of press freedom on the continent. At least 13 journalists are currently
being held and the entire private press has been banned since September last
Referring to Afghanistan, where eight journalists were killed last year, the
CPJ said actions by the US defence force in that country hampered
independent reporting about the war.
Columbia, Belarus, Burma, Iran, Kyrgyzstan and Cuba are also listed.
CPJ executive director Ann Cooper said journalists in those countries endure
assaults, authoritarian actions by governments and financially punitive
measures aimed as deterrents.
"It is incredible that journalists in many of those countries still manage
to report on news events despite personal risks," she said.

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Press free if 'it toes the line'

Johannesburg - The media in Zimbabwe will remain free as long as they follow
the rules and regulations of that country, the South African office of
Zimbabwe's ruling African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) said in a
World Press Freedom Day message on Friday.

"We are a democratic state that recognises the media's right to carry out
its functions," office chairperson Bigvai Gumede said.

"But when they bedevil our government, as at the moment, they are abusing
those rights and should be dealt with in terms of the law."

World Press Freedom Day coincides with the trial in Zimbabwe of three
journalists charged with "abuse of journalistic privilege".

Their arrest is the latest under a new media law, which gives Information
Minister Jonathan Moyo sweeping powers to decide on the conduct of the

Gumede said: "The media in every country are bound, just like anybody else,
to respect the autonomy of that country and to be balanced when reporting on
social, political and economic issues.

"In the case of Zimbabwe, the international media seem to refuse to toe that

Gumede accused foreign media of biased reporting on the political situation
in Zimbabwe, saying they favoured the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC).

"We are not a holy cow, and have our fair share of problems. But these have
to be reported in a balanced and researched manner."

Gumede rejected reports that pro-government war veterans were poised to
seize Asian-owned properties.

"Such news articles are discriminatory and not true. Our Indian community
will not be rooted out," he said.
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Dear Family and Friends,
Thank you all for the staggering response to my letter last week and sorry for so few letters back from me. A number of newspapers and radio stations have publicized that letter exposing this insanity which makes me both proud and humble. It has been a very fraught time for me this week as Wind and two of his helpers moved into my house on the farm. They had a comfortable few days, nice hot baths and listened to their radio at a very loud volume until Wednesday when they ran the borehole dry and burnt out the electric motor. They sent a message to me saying that as I was still the owner of the farm I should pay for the borehole motor to be repaired as they could not survive without water. My response to their demand was short, explosive and consisted of two words which I cannot repeat in this letter. The tenants have made repeated requests to the electricity company (ZESA) to have the supply to the farm disconnected but this has not yet been done for two reasons. One is that Wind and his helpers want the power left on and are threatening in the extreme and the other is that there have been so many farmers forcibly evicted recently that ZESA cannot cope with the backlog of disconnection requests. Towards the end of the week I finally managed to get in to see a senior local government official to advise him that three unknown men were now living in my house, had broken the borehole and that the situation was completely out of control. I explained politely that as the government had not served me with any acquisition papers at all I was extremely worried about assets which may now be being destroyed such as geysers, water fittings, fitted cupboards etc. The "official" got extremely angry with me and gave me a very long lecture about the history of Zimbabwe and said the reason the country was now in this state was due to  "you people" who have made concerted efforts to "demonise Zimbabwe" and "tell lies to the world." Some of the things this "official" said to me were extremely offensive and absolutely shocking, particularly coming from a civil servant. The official told me that in order to have my property valued I must go to another government department, fill in forms and hand over the title deeds. When this has been done government valuers will go in and then compensation would be paid at some future date. Throughout the "interview" I was polite and courteous and did not raise my voice or lose my temper and had expected a similar response from a man whose salary is paid by my taxes. The entire encounter, which perhaps lasted fifteen minutes, left me feeling very uncomfortable about my personal safety but incredibly sad about the future of the country I was born in. When I left the man's office he and his Central Intelligence Officer stood watching me from their window and I tried to stand tall but it is becoming increasingly difficult as I am more and more often made to feel unwanted in Zimbabwe. In the car park I met other farmers in a similar position to mine including one man who had been visited by men like Wind and given 30 minutes to get out of his house. He did so under duress and that night his house and workshops were looted. There have been dozens of similar cases in the past fortnight. While this goes on the food supply situation is continuing to deteriorate. This week the government announced price increases on cooking oil, margarine, soap, bread and milk. Most of these products have been in very short supply for many months and now, with milk having increased by 73%, have become completely unaffordable to hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans. In the midst of this nightmare and with my last source of income from the farm rent now gone I again appealed to the publishers of African Tears to pay me any of the royalty or serialization payments now grossly overdue. They continue to say how sorry they are for my plight and the situation but that they are unable to pay me anything at all and have again asked me to be patient which is not so easy when the wolf is at the door and I can no longer afford lawyers. In the meantime I continue to work on the update to African Tears which I hope to submit to another publisher very soon. My week ended on a wonderful note when a parcel arrived from a complete stranger filled with little treats, thank you so much Ann. This coming week Parliament at last goes back into session and I should think it will be a very stormy one which will hopefully do something to rapidly address the massive starvation which is right at our doorsteps. Until next week, with love, cathy.
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White woman farmer shot in Zimbabwe-farmers union

HARARE, May 4 - An Australian woman was shot and critically wounded at her
farm east of Harare, but the motive for the shooting was unclear, a
spokeswoman for Zimbabwe's Commercial Farmers Union said on Saturday.

       Farmer Sheryl Jones, 34, was returning to her property on Friday
night after collecting wages for her staff from a bank when she was ambushed
and shot twice as she tried to open the locked farm gate, CFU spokeswoman
Jenny Williams told Reuters.
       ''We can confirm that she is in a private hospital in Harare in
intensive care and on a respirator. She is stable but critical,'' Williams
       Jones, who was shot in the back and in the arm, had her cellular
telephone and handbag with all the wages taken. Police were investigating,
but the motive for the shooting was unclear, Williams said. Police were
unavailable for comment.
       The farm had been earmarked for seizure by the government in its
programme to redistribute land to blacks, but Williams said she did not know
if it was occupied by veterans of Zimbabwe's independence war.
       She said the state-run Zimbabwe Investment Centre had approved the
market fruit and vegetable project which Jones was running at her farm in
Headland, 150 km (93 miles) east of Harare, as part of its efforts to
attrack foreign investment.
       Ten white farmers have died since February 2000 in militant invasions
of hundreds of farms in support of a state drive to forcibly acquire
white-owned land for redistribution to landless blacks.
       Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe -- who says it is immoral for
4,500 white farmers to occupy 70 percent of the country's best farmland --
vowed in March to press ahead with his land reform programme after he was
re-elected in a vote rejected by many observer missions as fraudulent.

News release
Reports indicate that a lady farmer, Dr. Cheryl Joan Jones (47 yrs) is in
the intensive care unit of a private hospital in Harare after she was
ambushed on Friday evening at her farm, Lot 10 of Yorkshire in the Headlands
farming area east of Harare. She was shot and seriously injured, but is in
stable condition after having undergone emergency surgery early this
morning. It is suspected that she was shot with a 303 rifle by criminal

The hospital matron confirmed that Jones underwent 4-hour surgery and has
internal injuries and a shattered arm. She is heavily sedated for pain
control and is on a ventilator.

Her business partner who declined to be named explained the circumstances
leading to the near fatal shooting. Jones is said to have gone to Harare to
collect cash for wages before returning home between 6 and 7pm on Friday

Her partner and son drove arrived home 20 minutes before her and found the
entrance gate closed and wired up. They removed the wire and drove through
to the homestead. She arrived at the same gate to find it wired up and is
said to have made to get out of the car to open the gate. It is believed
that she was shot 2 meters from the car and there is evidence of a struggle.
She made a call on her mobile for assistance but the call was abruptly
terminated. Her handbag with personal effects, cell phone and the payroll of
Zd $ 80 000 was stolen.

Bleeding profusely, Jones managed to remove the wire from the gate and drove
her twin cab to the homestead three kilometres (about 2 miles) away
whereupon emergency arrangements were made. Jones told her partners that she
had on occasion seen 2 of the 3 assailants walking on the road that runs
between the old and new resettlement villages nearby.

Reports received so far indicate that police and support unit responded when
called, and were on site all day Saturday, but are yet to affect any

Jones is an Australian national but has lived in Zimbabwe for the last four
years and is from Wagga Wagga. The farm is only under a preliminary notice
of acquisition and is a rocky 1 000 hectares with only a quarter of it
arable. It is a market gardening venture growing citrus, stone fruit and
most recently has ventured into coffee. The farm had no settlers resident,
as it was deemed not suitable for resettlement.

Resettlement villages surround Jones farm, Yorkshire, one of these is a new
settlement called Pambeli, and it is believed that the criminals could have
resided there and Jones would have seen as she travels to and fro along that

Jones has become a popular farmer in the area as she works well with local
villagers. She plays an active role in advising them on securing markets for
their produce and helps to run an out grower gardening programme. She is a
recognised Zimbabwe Investment Centre (ZIC) marketer of agricultural produce
for export, utilising her business doctorate.

CFU President Colin Cloete has been appraised of the developments and said,
" I have confidence that the prompt response by police in this instance will
result in an early arrest. This will send a positive signal that our police
force is capable of doing a good job. We need to be confident that law and
order can still be restored in our country."

4th May 2002
For more information, please contact Jenni Williams
Mobile +263 11 213 885 or +263 91 300 456
Email or

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Zim Standard

Whites flee Chinotimba

By Loughty Dube
BULAWAYO-White guests booked in at a local three-star hotel in the city
centre scurried for cover on Wednesday morning when they saw self-styled
commander of farm invasions, Joseph Chinotimba, loitering in the hotel
The bearded Chinotimba was booked in at the same hotel as the white guests
and was on his way to address a Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU)
gathering at Stanley Square in Makokoba.
A hotel staffer who spoke to the Standard said pandemonium broke out when
the guests, who were sitting down to breakfast, spotted Chinotimba.
"When they saw Chinotimba, most of the whites fled. Initially, we thought a
part of the hotel was on fire only to see Chinos (Chinotimba) casually
strolling into the reception area," said the staffer.
Some of the guests said they feared Chinotimba because of the terror he has
been unleashing on the farms.
"The man is a racist, he hates whites, he is a very a dangerous person
because he is above the law in Zimbabwe, so I fled with my family because we
feared for our lives," said a guest who did not want to be named.
Chinotimba confirmed the incident. "The whites ran in all directions when
they saw me, I wonder why they made a nuisance of themselves, but it is the
guilty who are afraid," he said.
Chinotimba put their fear down to his being a 'revolutionary'.
"Why should they run away from me? I am not a dog, but because of the land
issue they must be taught a lesson," he said.
Chinotimba is the Zanu PF political commissar for Harare and also the vice
president of the Zanu PF sponsored ZFTU.
In his address at Stanley Square, Chinotimba threatened to deal with "hot
headed" white and black employers alike.
"Nothing will stop me from liberating Bulawayo from rogue managers. When I
leave Bulawayo, I want the city to be clean and liberated. I am here on a
mission. My aim is to blast those white and black employers who are treating
our people like dogs. I want to warn our black brothers that we have been
watching them exploit their fellow black men and we do not care whether you
are MDC or Zanu PF-we will smoke you out," said Chinotimba, adding that he
would lobby for the minimum wage to be increased to $30 000.
The crowd of about 2 000, was bussed in from the high density suburbs
following promises of clear and opaque beer.

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Zim Standard

By John Makura
BULAWAYO-Zimbabwe's wildlife industry is under threat from newly resettled
farmers who are indiscriminately hunting down previously protected game for
meat, The Standard has learnt.
Farmers who have been allocated land close to national and private game
parks and conservancies have found a new delicacy in game, judging by the
rate at which animals are being killed, players in the industry said at the
Zimbabwe International Trade Fair recently.
"Nearly all the farmers who have found themselves surrounded by animals like
kudus came from dry and patchy areas where only baboons and monkeys were
common," said a farmer from Hwange who came to the Department of National
Parks and Wildlife stand to register his concern.
"Most of them have already shifted their focus from preparing virgin land to
hunting, and now spend days hunting in the bush and mountains in game parks.
Animals are in trouble as it is now a daily reality to see fresh bones,
horns and animal skin everywhere.
"You hear dogs barking and people whistling even at night. It's just a
wanton destruction of animals that have been well kept over the years. We
make reports to the police about these people but no action is taken against
them. Some of them who call themselves war veterans walk into one's farm
with a troop of dogs and start hunting .If you confront them they will tell
you that they fought Ian Smith to liberate the land," added the farmer.
Young boys are also reported to be engaging in competitions to shoot various
type of birds with catapults, thus disturbing the tranquillity of the parks.
An official from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife refused to
comment on the matter saying it was a hot political issue.
"That issue can only be addressed by the deputy director, research extension
interpretation, or our head office. We do not talk about political issues,"
the official told The Standard.

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Zim Standard

       Tekere warns MDC over talks
      By Kumbirai Mafunda

      THE ongoing talks between the Movement for Democratic Change and the
ruling Zanu PF party could result in the death of opposition politics in the
country, former Zanu PF secretary-general Edgar Tekere has warned.

      Addressing a seminar hosted by the Mass Public Opinion Institute last
week, called to evaluate the talks between the two rival political parties,
the former president of the Zimbabwe Unity Movement (ZUM), who is the
embodiment of the collapse of the one-party state system, said the MDC
risked being swallowed by a "deceitful" Zanu PF.
      "There is the possibility of being swallowed up like Zapu. The MDC has
to be careful. We will end up with no opposition. This exercise means
someone will be tricked. It will be to the benefit of Mugabe and Zanu PF if
the talks continue," said Tekere.
      He argued that there were no talks going on, but just a
window-dressing exercise. "It is hypocritical talk, my friends, Zanu PF
don't like the idea of talks. VaMugabe vakatsunga (Mugabe is very
intolerant). Havadi."
      Tekere said the Zanu PF delegation was negotiating for Mugabe and not
for the party because no one in the party disputed what Mugabe said. "The
politburo and the central committee dances to Mugabe's whims and adheres to
his decisions," said Tekere.
      Last month, Mugabe summoned his central committee to a meeting where
he openly ruled out the possibility of a rerun of the presidential election.
      The former ZUM leader said the talks would be to Mugabe's advantage.
      "It will be to the benefit of Mugabe and Zanu PF, but more for
VaMugabe. Hazviiti."
      He lashed out at his former leader for using state machinery to
ridicule the talks. "ZBC and state-owned newspapers are contemptuous and are
used as Zanu PF propaganda instruments. Mugabe uses force to ridicule the
entire talks. ZBC lines up lots of voices on television to say these talks
will not go on. They have been commenting and jeering at everything that is
not about Mugabe," said Tekere.
      The outspoken politician scorned at Mugabe's repeated calls for
national unity and co-operation. "Mugabe speaks of co-operation, day in and
day out, but in Chimanimani, his district administrator rejected the MDC's
donation of $100 000 and a beast for the independence celebrations saying it
was MDC money, and this happened amidst what you call talks between MDC and
Zanu PF," said Tekere.
      He dismissed the mediation efforts of Nigeria and South Africa, saying
they were a mere cover for their initial inaction. "Those who want the talks
are not Zimbabweans, but other African countries. It is they who want the
talks to save their faces. They meddled with our election and people died
because they didn't take action," said Tekere.
      The talks are set to resume on 13 May, despite the intensification of
government sponsored terror, torture and mayhem.

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Zim Standard

NAM split over Zim

By our own Staff
THE Non-Aligned Movement did not unanimously support Robert Mugabe's victory
in the controversial March presidential poll, as suggested by the
state-controlled media, The Standard has learnt.
The language used to endorse the election was substantially toned down, said
a report on the meeting, following threats by Chile and Jamaica to produce a
"stand-alone" report which would have left serious divisions at the NAM
While Zimbabwe's foreign minister, Stan Mudenge, was lobbying hard for an
all-out endorsement of his government's policies, Jamaica and Chile were
threatening to withdraw, with the result that the report was toned down.
The NAM conference "broke away from the precedent of allowing regional
groups to decide the language and insisted on changes in the language on
Zimbabwe," said the report.
And while Chile and Jamaica were most prominent in their criticism, Ghana
also expressed misgivings about the endorsement, proving that Zanu PF
propaganda about pan-African unity was misplaced.

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Zim Standard

      Mudzuri defies MDC order

      By Chengetai Zvauya

      HARARE mayor, Elias Mudzuri, continues to court controversy following
revelations that he ignored a written MDC directive to vacate the mayoral
mansion by Tuesday last week.

      Mudzuri, elected in March, went on to show disdain for his own
election pledges by moving into the massive Gunhill mansion and accepting a
$22 million Mercedes Benz S320 as part of his package.
      Stung by public criticism, the MDC, ordered Mudzuri to vacate the
mansion and seek more modest accommodation.
      Despite Mudzuri's claims that he has not yet been officially notified
of his party's position, The Standard is in possession of a written
directive to Mudzuri to that effect, dated 29 April.
      The letter, signed by MDC secretary-general Welshman Ncube, reads: "I
make reference to the National Executive Meeting of 16 April 2002 and my
subsequent meeting with you the following day in the presence of the MDC
shadow minister for local government, the honourable Mr Paul T Nyathi and
hereby reduce to writing, for the record, our communication to you of the
decision of the national executive that you should vacate the mayoral guest
house by the 30th April 2002.
      "Please note that the decision of the MDC national executive that you
vacate the guest house is not conditional upon council finding you
alternative accommodation. The decision must be complied with regardless of
whether or not council has secured alternative accommodation for the mayor."
      The Standard is also reliably informed that five properties have been
identified as suitable accommodation for the mayor, but Mudzuri is allegedly
reluctant to move out of the guest house of the mayoral mansion and is said
to have his eye on the main house.
      Mudzuri confirmed that he was staying at the $70 million mansion.
While denying that he had seen his party's directive, he claimed that his
move to the mansion had been overwhelmingly supported by the city's 45
councillors, all but one of whom are from the MDC. "I have not seen that
letter, but you must understand that decision was made by the council so I
can't defy a council resolution. But anyway, I hope that we will be able to
resolve this amicably with my party without having to fight each other in
the press."
      When The Standard put it to Ncube that Mudzuri denied ever having
received the party's directive, the secretary-general said: "All I can
confirm is the decision of the MDC leadership, that the party communicated
with him. We believe that he will comply with the directive."
      City councillors contacted by The Standard denied that they had urged
Mudzuri to move into the mansion and instead passed the buck to the town
clerk, accusing him of seeking favours from Mudzuri.
      "Mudzuri was advised by the town clerk to implement resolutions made
during the tenure of the Chanakira Commission. We don't know whether he
(Chideya) was acting in good faith because, when Mudzuri came in there was
talk of many changes, so maybe some people would have wanted to protect
themselves by giving this kind of advice," said a councillor who refused to
be identified.
      But the town clerk Nomutsa Chideya dismissed these allegations, saying
he had performed his duty as the mayor's chief adviser.
      "I did my job professionally, that was to advise on the correct
procedure. We have a mayor who has to be respected and accorded the status
that comes with his office. We have nothing to hide as we have done
everything above board. I will continue to play my role by advising him and
I believe the executive committee gave the mayor their honest view. We are
not worried about the views which are to be expected from people," Chideya
told The Standard.
      "As a city, why do we want to reduce our mayor to a beggar? People
should understand that the vehicle and the house are just his benefits."
      Harare residents contacted by The Standard warned the MDC against
taking the mayoral mansion saga lightly.
      The mansion at the centre of the controversy was built during the
Solomon Tawengwa tenure amid widespread disapproval from ratepayers. Harare
residents have come to see it as a symbol of Zanu PF extravagance and
conspicious consumption of public funds

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Zim Standard

Board meets over New Ziana

By our own Staff
SENIOR management of the Community Newspapers Group (CNG) and personnel at
Ziana met the New Ziana board in Harare on Friday at a crucial meeting
called to lay the groundwork for the launching of the state-owned multimedia
Sources told The Standard that the meeting, which failed to come up with
anything concrete, was one of a series of meetings being held this month to
help the board come up with a clear structure for the organisation.
So far, the seven-member board, chaired by businessman Munacho Mutezo, is
yet to agree on the structure of the Community News Publishers, formerly the
Community Newspapers Group, among many other issues.
While information minister, Jonathan Moyo had proposed that the CNP publish
eight provincial papers, The Standard has learnt that some members of the
board felt this was a costly and unworkable agreement.
"They are proposing that there be one national paper to come out on either
Thursday or Friday to break the monopoly of the Zimbabwe Independent or The
Financial Gazette, papers considered hostile to the government. However, it
remains to be seen if they can change Moyo's original plan which was meant
to ensure that propaganda goes right down to village level," said the
Ziana and the CNG management also voiced concern at the new board's proposal
of a leaner structure which could see editors and journalist lose their
"The board took note of the concerns and promised to go back to the drawing
board," the source said.
Meanwhile, the board has awarded workers of New Ziana a 55% salary increment
backdated to January this year.

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FoodCrisis Looms Over Zimbabwe: UN Agency

ROME A food crisis looms over Zimbabwe threatening more than one million people with hunger, the United Nations' food body said Thursday.

"The situation is precarious in Zimbabwe and continues to deteriorate," said Judith Lewis, the head of southern and east African operations for the World Food Program (WFP).

Last week Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe declared a state of disaster over the food shortages, blaming a severe drought for the emergency.

"Half a million people are at immediate risk but that number could triple in the next 60 days," Lewis told Reuters, speaking by telephone from Nairobi, adding: "In a few weeks we are going to have a serious situation."

Lewis said the lean season had come early and some 80,000 tons of food aid were needed to avert the immediate crisis.

She said the Rome-based WFP estimated that Zimbabwe's net maize deficit will be 1.4 million tons in the 2000-2003 period, while the surplus for the entire southern Africa region would be 30,000 tons.

Separately, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies in Geneva warned on Thursday of a looming food crisis in southern Africa because of erratic weather, Reuters reported.

Lewis agreed that bad weather had played a part in the crisis, but said other factors, such as the Harare government's seizure of white-owned farms, had exacerbated the situation.

"The drought has had a significant impact, but also the disruption caused by the seizure of commercial farms, the economic downturn and a lack of hard currency," she said.

The global response to earlier aid appeals has been slow due to Zimbabwe's international isolation over its human rights record and Mugabe's disputed victory in March presidential elections, Lewis added.

Last week Zimbabwe's state media reported the country had imported 28,000 tons of yellow maize, a grain used for both human and animal consumption, as part of the state grain marketing board's program to import 200,000 tons to cover the food deficit.

Maize rationing has been instituted in communal areas, with some households being limited to sharing a monthly 50kg (110.2 lb) bag of maize meal -- enough to feed a family of five for one month, according to the WFP.

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