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Harvest of hunger

Dear Family and Friends,
There is a massive, massive crisis underway in Zimbabwe. As I write this
letter on Saturday the 26th November 2005, history will remember this date
as the one on which elections for a Senate that we didn't want and
couldn't afford were being held. Ordinary people, however, will remember
this as the time when MDC leaders were tearing their party apart and Zanu
PF were squabbling for the last few scraps on the political bone. This is
the November when both the MDC and Zanu PF seem to have lost track of the
most important struggle in Zimbabwe: the one for food, food and more food.
The rains have begun, the soils are wet, the temperatures high and yet
only weeds are growing as each precious day ticks past. All around us
peasant farmers in the communal areas and new farmers on seized commercial
land, have still not been given seeds to plant. It is ludicrous that five
years into Zimbabwe's land take-overs, these new farmers are still unable
to plough the land they were allocated or even buy their own seed. In a
country where inflation is over 400% and great convoys of trucks stream
endlessly over our borders bringing in food in from other countries,
Zimbabwe it seems is not even going to try and save herself this year.

The question that every Zimbabwean asks their neighbour in November is how
much rain they've had and how their crop is doing. It doesn't matter if
the "crop" is a few lines of maize plants in the back garden, seven acres
in the rural village or a hundred acres on a farm. This year, the answer
to the question is - "what crop." When you ask new farmers or rural
villagers how their crop is coming on, they say they haven't planted yet
and are still waiting for the government to come and give them seed. If
you comment that it's a month into the growing season and virtually too
late to plant, they sigh and shrug their shoulders and say there is
"nothing to do." So far, in Marondera, we've had six inches of rain and
have the makings of a perfect season. "It's looking good for farmers," I
said to one man this week but he just shook his head, laughed sadly and
said "But these farmers they are playing, just playing!"

To make this desperate crisis even worse, there continue to be seizures of
the few productive farms still operating. Every day we hear of another
farmer being evicted by some arbitrary bloke who arrives with "a letter
from the governmment." As it has for five years, these evictions happen
just after the farmer has planted the crop, when the fields are covered
with newly germinated seed. It is plain, outright theft of another man's
labour, seed and fertilizer and yet no one does anything because, "it is
political". This week the former president of the Confederation of
Zimbabwe Industries Kumbirai Katsande said:
"As we sit right here I do not hear any senior government official
condemning the farm invasions which are taking place across the
country...It's criminal when we do not do what we are supposed to do."

Times are very hard for ordinary Zimbabweans in November 2005 but as the
days pass and crops do not get planted, it does not bear thinking what
things will be like this time next year. A harvest of hunger in 2006 seems
inevitable and yet all our combined leaders talk about is the Senate.
Until next week, love cathy.
Copyright cathy buckle 26th November 2005.

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Mugabe a sure winner as Zimbabwe votes


      Sat Nov 26, 2005 9:32 AM GMT

By Cris Chinaka

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe voters trickled to the polls on Saturday in
controversial elections for a new Senate which the opposition is partly
boycotting over accusations the poll is designed to consolidate President
Robert Mugabe's rule.

Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF this year used its parliamentary majority to create
the new 66-seat upper chamber of parliament, which will approve or reject
bills passed by the lower house.

The ZANU-PF went into the elections a certain winner, with 35 of the 66
seats already in the bag thanks to laws which guarantee seats to various
ruling party loyalists and an opposition stay-away call that has seriously
weakened his only real political challengers.

Critics say the new upper house will likely be packed with Mugabe loyalists,
further strengthening his grip over the southern African country.

Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. (5:00 a.m. British time) for people to
cast their votes in 31 constituencies, but analysts expect a low vote
turnout in a process dismissed by some critics as a farce.

In the first hour of voting, several polling stations in the capital Harare
had recorded just a trickle of voters.

"We have started very slowly, but it's smooth. Maybe people are going to
come later," said one official at a polling station which had recorded 30
voters in the first 50 minutes.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) split into two feuding
factions over the polls after leader Morgan Tsvangirai ordered a boycott,
saying participation would lend legitimacy to a government that routinely
rigs elections.

But a rival MDC faction led by Secretary-General Welshman Ncube has
nevertheless fielded 26 candidates, mostly in the southwestern Matabeleland

Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, denies he rigs
elections or that his controversial policies are to blame for a long-running
economic crisis that has left Zimbabwe's 12 million struggling with food,
fuel and foreign currency shortages.

The 81-year-old leader says the economy is being sabotaged by Western and
domestic opponents trying to oust him for his nationalistic stance but
particularly his seizure and redistribution of white-owned farms to landless

Some 3.2 million voters are registered to vote. Polls close at 7 p.m. (5:00
p.m. British time). Results are expected by Monday

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Voter apathy hits Zimbabwe election

November 26, 2005 7:36 PM

By Cris Chinaka

HARARE (Reuters) - Voter apathy hit Zimbabwe's elections for a new Senate on
Saturday, further denting the credibility of a poll partly boycotted by the
opposition which said its aim was to consolidate President Robert Mugabe's

A spokesman for main opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai said the low
voter turnout -- estimated by some observers at 15 percent -- demonstrated
that Zimbabweans were "tired of fake elections" and that Mugabe had lost
touch with the grassroots.

Mugabe's governing ZANU-PF party used its parliamentary majority to create
the new 66-seat upper chamber of parliament, which will approve or reject
bills passed by the lower house.

ZANU-PF went into Saturday's elections a certain winner, with 35 of the 66
seats already in hand, thanks to laws that guarantee seats to various ruling
party loyalists. An opposition stay-away call that has seriously weakened
Mugabe's only real political challengers virtually assures a ruling party

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission officials said voter turnout figures were not
readily available after the close of polling at 7 p.m. (5 p.m. GMT). But
observers said the number could be around 20 percent of the 3.2 million
registered voters as some of the 31 constituencies had recorded an estimated
12 percent turnout.

Some critics have dismissed the Senate elections as a farce, and on
Saturday, while polling stations were empty, Harare's central business
district was jammed with people either queuing for money or scrounging for
commodities in short supply.

A number said they had no time to waste on voting.

"It doesn't benefit us. Voting for what? For some people to get money and
enjoy their lives while we are starving here?" said one angry motorist stuck
in a fuel queue.

Observers said the turnout was generally low throughout the country despite
a spirited campaign in the past week by Mugabe and his top ZANU-PF officials
to drum up support for the vote.

The vote counting process is expected to start later on Saturday night and
results are expected by Monday.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has split into two
feuding factions over the polls after Tsvangirai ordered a boycott, saying
participation would lend legitimacy to a government that routinely rigs

But a rival MDC faction led by Secretary-General Welshman Ncube has
nevertheless fielded 26 candidates, mostly in the southwestern Matabeleland

Tsvangirai's spokesman William Bango said on Saturday a majority of voters
had heeded Tsvangirai's call to boycott the election because it would not
help solve the Zimbabwe crisis.

"Mr Tsvangirai believes that his views reflect the national sentiment, and
that those who want Zimbabweans to continue taking part in fake elections do
not reflect the feelings of the majority," he told Reuters.

"Internally, in the MDC, the turnout sends a very clear message on who is
resonating with the majority, and externally it also sends a message on who
has the support of the people," he claimed.

Earlier Paul Themba-Nyathi, a spokesman for the pro-senate group, said heavy
rains in Matabeleland on Saturday would affect voter turnout in the region.

Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, denies he rigs
elections or that his controversial policies are to blame for a long-running
economic crisis that has left Zimbabwe's 12 million struggling with food,
fuel and foreign currency shortages.

The 81-year-old leader says the economy is being sabotaged by Western and
domestic opponents trying to oust him for his nationalistic stance but
particularly over his seizure and redistribution of white-owned farms to
landless blacks.


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Signs of apathy in opposition stronghold

Zim Online

Sat 26 November 2005

BULAWAYO - Voting in the ongoing senate election in the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party stronghold of Bulawayo remained slow by midday, as divisions in the opposition party and incessant rains in Zimbabwe's second biggest city appeared to keep people away from the polls.

By 10am, only about 2 000 people were said to have cast their ballots in Bulawayo, which has more than 300 000 registered voters. Polls opened at 7am.

ZimOnline reporters in Matabeleland North and South provinces, surrounding Bulawayo and also strongholds of the MDC, said turnout was relatively brisker there than in Bulawayo.

Voting in the capital Harare also got off to a slow start but analysts had expected better turnout in Bulawayo and the Matabeleland provinces, home of MDC secretary general Welshman Ncube, who is leading a faction of the party that revolted against president Morgan Tsvangirai to field 26 candidates in the poll.


Tsvangirai ordered the MDC to boycott the poll and mounted a vigorous campaign urging ordinary supporters not to vote today in an election he says will be rigged by President Robert Mugabe and his ruling ZANU PF party. The opposition leader has also opposed the poll saying it is a waste of resources for a country facing severe hunger.

Ncube and four other top leaders of the MDC have opposed Tsvangirai's position saying the opposition party should run in the poll after its national council voted for it to do so. They also say it is unwise to surrender political space to Mugabe by boycotting the election, adding that Tsvangirai is being dictatorial in refusing to abide by the MDC council vote.

But political analysts had predicted that the divisions in the MDC over the poll would nourish apathy in an electorate already ballot-weary after three major elections since 2000 that have had little, if any, positive impact on their mostly miserable lives.

Today's election is the fourth time Zimbabweans are being called to the polls after having voted in two general elections in 2000 and 2005 and in a presidential poll in 2002. All have been won by Mugabe and ZANU PF.

The analysts said a poor voter turnout would favour Mugabe and ZANU PF who they say have more loyal voters than the opposition. They said barring a last minute rush to the polls by MDC supporters, ZANU PF could even win some seats in Bulawayo, Harare and the Matabeleland provinces where it has less support than the opposition.

Ncube conceded the MDC could fare badly in the poll saying his faction was hoping to garner at least 11 seats.

He said: "One thing you must understand is that we are going against all odds here but we are hoping to win at least 11 seats or even more." - ZimOnline


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Voting off to a slow start in Harare

Zim Online
Sat 26 November 2005

HARARE - Voting in today's senate election kicked off to a slow start in the capital Harare with most polling stations registering very few voters an hour after polling began at 7am.

A ZimOnline crew which visited polling stations in central Harare saw very few voters casting their votes in the controversial poll which has been boycotted by a faction of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.

Some polling stations were virtually deserted while polling officials could be seen dosing off, some in the shade outside polling stations.

There were no voters at the Harare Polytechnic College, in Harare Central constituency while at Prince Edward school, also in Harare Central, only three people were seen casting their votes.


The spokesperson for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission which is running the election, Utoile Silaigwana, said all polling stations had opened at 7am as scheduled.

Silaigwana said a queue of about 40 people had already formed in St Mary's at around 7am and people were voting peacefully.

The MDC, rocked by internal feud over whether it should contest the poll, is contesting only 26 seats after the party's leader Morgan Tsvangirai called for a boycott of the election which he says will be rigged by President Robert Mugabe and his government.

But four other top leaders of the party led by secretary general Welshman Ncube revolted against Tsvangirai arguing the party should contest the poll as boycott would surrender political space to the ruling ZANU PF party.

Political analysts have warned that bickering in the MDC would only worsen voter apathy and have predicted that turnout today could be one of the lowest ever recorded in a national election.

The non-governmental Zimbabwe Election Support Network in a report released this week also predicted a low turnout and said the MDC could lose even in some urban areas where the party has traditionally enjoyed more support.

Only 31senators will be elected today after Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party won unopposed in 19 other constituencies mainly because the MDC failed to field candidates in those constituencies.

Mugabe is going to hand-pick six people to the senate while the pro-government traditional chiefs' council will elect 10 people to the second chamber, which has a total 66 seats. - ZimOnline

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Emails from Zim

Sent: Saturday, November 26, 2005 8:34 PM
Subject:  "Massive Turnout"

I was not even aware that there was a Senatorial contest in our
(Hatfield) But I can report that there is a tent opposite the TM in
and a few very bored looking ZRP (I won't call them Police) milling around.
think most people are in the TM counting what little they have and trying to
make ends meet at the end of the month. Nobody seems interested in entering
the tent.

No doubt tomorrows Sunday Mail will report a "Massive Voter Turnout"?

 The non-event of the year.

Regards, Des.

Sent: Saturday, November 26, 2005 8:38 PM
Subject: Vote

Just to inform you.  All quiet at Chisipite Senior School polling
I went down to check if I am on the voter's roll (easier than going to
 Market Square).  My name has been removed!
They took down my details and sent me to the Command Centre at Oriel
 Boys School.
 "Sorry our computer is down,  we can phone KG6 Barracks to find out
 what has happened, but the phone
is occupied right now"   Guy on a cell phone with a list of all polling
 stations, presumably checking on what is
happening.  I say that I cannot wait, I am going to the airport.  My
 details are taken down on a very scruffy piece of paper.
 So, I can go back later and perhaps the Command Post computer will be
Question is, why has my name gone when my husband's name is there?
My father was born in the UK but I renounced my Brit connections and
 kept my Zim. Passport.  I was born in Bulawayo.
 I recently applied for  a Long Birth Certificate........
 I will keep pushing for my rights, whatever they are.
 Thought this might be of interest.

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Zimbabwe's cricket bowled out by political thuggery

Sydney Morning Herald

By Rochelle Mutton
November 27, 2005

TATENDA Taibu admits he first thought about leaving Zimbabwe three weeks

That was before the Zimbabwe cricket captain, his wife and infant son were
forced into hiding for two days, after threats of violence from a cricket
official with government connections. And before Taibu last week announced
his retirement from all forms of cricket, in protest at the way politics has
infected his sport's management.

Cricket is just one of many aspects of Zimbabwe life to be infiltrated by
the brutal power plays that have flourished amid the winner-takes-all
politics of President Robert Mugabe's regime. Since Zimbabwe was given Test
status in 1992, all its captaincies have been troubled, including the
high-profile sacking of Andy Flower after he and teammate Henry Olonga wore
black armbands in 2003 to protest against the country's "death of

Citing concerns that included player safety, threats and non-payments for
the last two international matches, Taibu led 34 other professional players
into a dramatic press conference on November 10.

Their main concern is the lack of transparency. Zimbabwe Cricket chairman
Peter Chingoka is allegedly under police investigation for misappropriation
of $117,000 from the proceeds of Zimbabwe's co-hosting of the 2003 World Cup
with South Africa.

The players declared a loss of confidence in Chingoka and managing director
Ozias Bvute, and expressed dismay at other members of the board who are
party powerbrokers but have no cricket experience.

Just hours after the press conference, Taibu says one of those powerbrokers,
Themba Mliswa, threatened to harm Taibu's family, then was given free reign
in the government media to run smears against Taibu.

Mliswa has close ties to the ruling party and, while void of cricket
experience, was catapulted on to the Zimbabwe Cricket board by the creation
of a new province.

There are fears that trouble at Zimbabwe Cricket is threatening the
integrity of the international game.

But International Cricket Council general manager of corporate affairs
Brendan McClements said the federation didn't have the mandate or authority
to comment on domestic issues of member countries, unless invited.

John Stremlau, professor of international affairs at South Africa's
Witwatersrand University, said the Zimbabwe Cricket meltdown could become
the catalyst for a much broader internal revolt.

"Inflation is more than 400 per cent, the US dollar to the Zim [Zimbabwe
dollar] is running at 1 to 100,000 [on the black market] and everything's
been criminalised and linked to the survival of the Zimbabwe cabal," he

"The mystery is when the tipping point will come and it'd be an interesting
footnote to history if it was the flap over the cricket team."

Taibu says he will move his family soon to South Africa, where he will play
alongside Australia's Ian Harvey, of Victoria, for the Cape Cobras.

The Zimbabwe cricket team aren't due to play together until their match
against the West Indies in May next year. Taibu hopes that during the
interim Zimbabwe Cricket can "sort things out". Mentoring younger cricketers
is the main reason he hasn't yet resigned from Zimbabwe's cricket team,
Taibu says. He's also been talking to players in England about promising
cricket opportunities.

If the players' concerns aren't resolved before the next fixture, the
subsequent migration of the talent pool is likely to be a death knell for
Zimbabwe's international cricket status.

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Mugabe slams US sanctions list


          November 26 2005 at 05:44AM

      Harare - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has slammed the US
government for extending travel bans targeted at him and his closest aides,
state-controlled daily The Herald said Saturday.

      "Comrade Mugabe said it was surprising that the US was imposing
sanctions against people who were working for democracy and letting those
stifling democracy off he hook," the paper said.

      The paper quoted Mugabe speaking at a campaign rally in Sanyati, about
250km west of the capital, for elections seen to buttress his grip on power.

      The leading opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has been
divided over the polls with the party leader Morgan Tsvangirai advocating a
boycott, arguing the polls were a farce.

      However a faction of the MDC has defied Tsvangirai and signed up 26

      The Herald said Mugabe's government had called for Saturday's senate
elections "in furtherance of democracy while MDC leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai
was agitating for a boycott of he polls, thwarting democracy in the

      "We clearly proved how democratic we are by asking for everyone to
participate in these elections and we are on a democratic path to build our
parliament, but Morgan (Tsvangirai) has decided to boycott these elections
and yet he claims to be democratic," said Mugabe.

      Mugabe spoke a day after Washington widened the list of people,
including himself, whose assets were frozen in March 2003, from 77 to 128
for "hindering democratic reform in Zimbabwe."

      Bush warned that "conditions in Zimbabwe have continued to

      "The government continues to suppress opposition groups and civil
society, undermine the independent media, ignore decisions by its courts,
and refuse to enter into meaningful negotiations with other political
actors," he said.

      "Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections in March 2005 were not free or
fair. Recent demolitions of low income housing and informal markets have
caused 700 000 people to lose their homes, jobs, or both. Additional
measures are required to promote democratic change," he said.

      Mugabe has refused to dialogue with the MDC to resolve the country's
political and economic crisis, arguing the party is a puppet of former
colonial ruler Britain.

      Bush spokesperson Dana Perino said the sanctions were not aimed at
ordinary Zimbabweans "but rather at those most responsible for their
plight." - Sapa-AFP

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Mugabe paid US$20m "thank you"?

From ZWNEWS, 26 November

Robert Mugabe was personally paid US$20 million as a "thank you" for
Zimbabwe's role in thwarting the attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea last
year, according to a Spanish-based website. El Muni, an Equatorial Guinean
anti-government publication in exile, alleges that the payment was made to
one of Mugabe's private accounts in September this year in gratitude for his
"decisive contribution" to the apprehending of the mercenaries planning to
execute the coup. The US$20 million was part of a much larger sum of US$700
million repatriated from the United States. The funds had been held at Riggs
Bank in Washington DC, bankers for, amongst others, Chile's General
Pinochet, members of the Saudi royal family, and Teodoro Obiang Nguema, the
president of Equatorial Guinea. The bank was the subject of a recent US
Senate investigation, which found that it had facilitated money-laundering
by Pinochet, Obiang, and others. The Senate was told of one bank executive
who deposited US$3 million in shrink-wrapped dollar bills on behalf of
Obiang. The repatriated US$700 million was supposedly to be used for
infrastructural projects in Equatorial Guinea, but el Mundi claims the funds
were moved first to the Bank of Central African States, and from there to
accounts in China, Angola, Morocco and South Africa. The alleged personal
payment to Mugabe is in addition to other honours heaped on the Zimbabwe
president. Obiang has already conferred on him the Grand Collar of the Order
of Independence. The president of the Equatorial Guinean parliament called
him "the saviour of Equatorial Guinea", and he was given the freedom of the
capital Malabo, and proclaimed "dear child of the nation" by the mayor.

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