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MDC scores direct hit on Australian tour

A group of three MDC officials, currently touring major Australian
metropolitan capital cities ahead of the October 6 - 9 Commonwealth Heads
of Government meeting in Brisbane say they have been overwhelmed by the
breadth of public interest in developments in Zimbabwe, half a world away.

On Tuesday and Wednesday this week in Melbourne - Australia's
second-largest city - the team of Nelson Chamisa, MDC secretary for youth
affairs, Sekai Holland, secretary for international relations, and Roy
Bennett, MDC Member of Parliament for Chimanimani met with leaders of the
Australian Council of Trade Unions, student unions, women's forums,
business groups and the electronic and print media.  They were also invited
to a private function at the state parliament of Victoria where they were
earlier officially welcomed to the Legislatative Assembly by the speaker of
the house on behalf of members of parliament on both sides of politics.

Bennett, who was singled out by the speaker as a fellow parliamentarian of
the assembled MPs, said he was humbled by the reception he and his MDC
colleagues had received in the chamber from the Victorian MPs, and later
when they met at the private function.  "The State Parliament of Victoria
is one of the oldest democratic institutions in the world, representing as
it does the values of democracy and good governance that we Zimbabweans are
striving so dearly to achieve," said Bennett.  "It came as a pleasant
surprise that members of both major political parties were so informed
about the grave crisis in Zimbabwe.  They expressed their concerns at
developments and wished us well in our fight for democracy."

Earlier, the group presented an outline of the MDC's economic policy  to a
large group of senior business executives, many of whom with a decade or
more of business dealings with Zimbabwe, across a wide range of trades and
industries.  "Without exception", said one council executive who requested
anonimity, and is involved in the travel industry, "we have seen the value
of our investments in Zimbabwe over many years dwindle to almost nothing
and we fervently hope that the restoration of democracy in that country
will swiftly bring about a resumption in trade and investment for the good
of all concerned - not least the ordinary men and women - especially in the
rural communities - where my company has been trying to maintain overseas
interest in the awesome natural resources and tourism potential."

On Tuesday, MDC secretary for youth affairs Nelson Chamisa addressed an
audience of more than 600 Melbourne University students on the general
situation in Zimbabwe and the aims of the MDC.  Chamisa said that he was
overwhelmed by the sheer number and variety of questions from the
undergraduates.  "I was prepared for some interest in Zimbabwe but these
young Australians were much more informed than I had been told to expect."

Chamisa went on to add "One of the first matters I was asked to explain was
the presence of whites in the party as some had believed ZANU PFs
propaganda line that whites were organising us. When they heard our side of
the story that white people are such a tiny part of our population and that
it is the Zimbabwe masses who are driving change, they were clear on this

Sekai Holland, MDC secretary for international affairs, married to
Harare-based Australian Jim Holland, is well-known in Australia where she
attended university, for her work with the anti-apartheid movement in the
70s and 80s.  She and Bennett took to the airwaves yesterday and Tuesday,
conducting eight joint radio interviews on public and commercial radio
stations with a total estimated listenership of almost 1,4 million.
Holland said that the interest from the Melbourne media and radio talkback
callers eager to hear about Zimbabwe's plight had been quite moving. "The
Australian government and people were at the forefront of the fight to help
liberate Zimbabwe in the 70s and I was very proud of my friends here that
they have again expressed their solidarity with Zimbabweans in our hour of
need." We have taken very strong encouragement from this, the first leg of
our Australian visit, and we are looking forward to speaking to the media
and ordinary Australians on our next two stops." She continued "We were
able to draw the stark similarities between the genocide of Gukurahundi in
the 80s with the recent unbelievable atrocities in New York and Washington.
Terror is terror, wherever, and by whomsoever it is committed " she added.
Many listeners agreed with the comparison when the lines were later opened
for callers.  Some expressed surprise that the MDC did not agree with
sanctions against Zoimbabwe.  As Holland explained "We are totally against
sanctions as they will hurt the masses - not ZANU PF.  Instead, the
president himself, and his close confidants, must bear the full brunt of
the devastation they are inflicting on our people."  In this Holland
referred to the MDC's position on the Zimbabwe Democracy Bill, which is
shortly to be tabled for final conclusion by American lawmakers.

A common theme brought up most interviewers was the matter of the Abuja
accord which, as has been reported in Australia and elsewhere is meant to
bring farm invasions to a halt.  Bennett shocked many listeners with his
harrowing personal accounts of confrontations on his property in
Chimanimani, and the fact that as he spoke, his carefully-nutured coffee
lands were being ploughed using DDF tractors while an army unit camped on
the property looked on.  "This clearly highlights the lie of the so-called
Abuja accord", said Bennett.  "Mugabe seeks to buy time with the accord,
but no-one can now deny the evidence" he said.  "I intend providing the
media in Australia with irrefutable photographic evidence of the
uninterrupted and ongoing invasion of commercial farms in Zimbabwe and  the
world will know the truth."  One talkback caller said, like Bennett, he was
a fourth generation "settler' in a farming community and he felt ashamed
that his (Australian) government, and the world at large had allowed Mugabe
to "literally get away with murder for so long".

On Wednesday morning, Bennett was asked by Ross Stevenson, co-host of the
"Breakfast Show" on 3AW, Melbourne's highest-rating radio station, what he
would say to President Mugabe if he saw him in Brisbane or, if indeed,
Bennett might feel the desire to make a statement of a more physical
nature.  Bennett chuckled, but then became serious. "We're past that... if
you get physical and violent you are just endorsing his sort of regime."

The MDC roadshow next travels to Sydney, Australia's largest city with six
million inhabitants, where Chamisa, Bennett and Holland will also brief
recently-arrived MDC president Morgan Tsvangarai, and then to Brisbane for
a further round of formal and informal meetings in the lead-up to the CHOGM

Even if CHOGM is cancelled, and President Mugabe's imminent visit
evaporates, they believe they will have more than succeeded in their task
of informing the Australian public about current events in Zimbabwe.

Photo caption
MDC delegates to Australia pictured Tuesday 25 September outside Victoria
State Parliament, Melbourne. L-R Roy Bennett, MP. Nelson Chamisa, Sekai
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