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Power outages strike as finance minister unveils inflation-hit budget in troubled Zimbabwe

International Herald Tribune

The Associated PressPublished: November 29, 2007

HARARE, Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe's finance minister proposed cutting taxes for the
growing number of poor, increasing taxes on some manufacturers and cracking
down on the black market as cures for his nation's economic crisis.

Samuel Mumbengegwi's budget speech Thursday was televised — but unavailable
to many here because of power cuts. Opposition lawmakers jeered when
Mumbengegwi said priority was to be given in 2008 to restoring electricity
supplies and boosting the government's near-dormant rural electrification

Zimbabwe's economic meltdown has seen official inflation reach 8,000
percent, chronic shortages of food, gasoline and hard currency, and daily
water and power outages as public utilities fail to replace aging equipment
and pay for imported spare parts.

"The reality is that we are on our own and need to increase our self
reliance," Mumbengegwi said. "That will entail endurance."

The chief government statistician had said earlier this week that goods used
in calculating average inflation were not available in stores across the
country and so the figures, usually issued at the beginning of each month,
would be delayed.

Thursday, Mumbengegwi told lawmakers hyperinflation remained "a major
concern." He said he aimed to bring inflation down to below 2,000 percent by
the end of next year and predicted a reduction in the overall budget deficit
11 percent in 2008.

State spending in the first 10 months of this year exceeded 30 percent of
its revenues, he said.

Mumbengegwi said the goods shortages were the result of declining
production, Western economic sanctions and what he called "speculative
behavior by businesses."

He announced a crackdown on black market selling of scarce goods for up to
10 times the government's fixed prices, favorable central bank loan
facilities to manufacturers to boost production and export incentives.

Western nations have imposed travel restrictions on President Robert Mugabe
and ruling party leaders but say foreign aid, loans and investment dried up
of their own accord in seven years of political and economic turmoil in the
aftermath of the often violent seizures of thousands of white-owned
commercial farms that began in 2000.

The program to hand over land to blacks disrupted the agriculture-based
economy in the former regional breadbasket.

Mumbengegwi said the nation was pinning its hopes on a revival of
agriculture ahead of the harvests by April but would still have to import
corn and wheat to cover any shortfalls in local production in 2008.

He said those earning less than 30 million Zimbabwe dollars a month (US$20;
€14 at the dominant black market exchange rate) would be exempt from income
tax as Jan. 1. The previous line had been 4 million Zimbabwe dollars.

Mumbengegwi announcing increases of up to 50 percent in excise duty on local
beer brands and cigarettes.

Much of downtown Harare, where Mumbengegwi delivered his budget in the
Parliament house, was without electricity. Most mobile and fixed line phone
services also were out in the capital on Thursday.

A group of businessmen at a downtown social club hoping to watch the budget
speech on state television instead listened to it on the radio in a car
parked outside.

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Zimbabwe sees economic growth, silent on devaluation


Thu 29 Nov 2007, 16:17 GMT

(Adds details, analyst, fresh quotes)

By MacDonald Dzirutwe and Nelson Banya

HARARE, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's economy is forecast to grow by 4.0
percent next year, which would be the first expansion in nearly a decade,
while inflation should slow, the finance minister said on Thursday.

Samuel Mumbengegwi did not devalue the Zimbabwe dollar as expected but
analysts quickly dismissed the growth and inflation expectations, saying
previous targets by President Robert Mugabe's government were too optimistic
and that projections had become largely meaningless.

"The 2008 budget is premised on a real economic growth of 4 percent due to
the anticipated growth in the agriculture sector (and) the industrial
sector," Mumbengegwi said in a televised budget speech to parliament.

The southern African nation is caught in a severe economic meltdown marked
by the world's highest inflation, massive unemployment and shortages of
food, fuel and foreign currency.

The economy has been in recession for eight years and has shrunk by an
estimated 40 percent since 2000.

Mumbengegwi said annual inflation -- which measured nearly 8,000 percent in
September and was labelled number one enemy by the government -- was
forecast to slow to 1,978 percent for 2008.

"The 2008 people's budget is premised ... on a decline in the end period
inflation of 1,978 percent for 2008," he said, adding that October inflation
data was still not available.

Analysts said it was almost impossible for the government to reverse the
economic recession, with investor confidence further hit by the proposed
transfer of foreign-owned firms, including mines and banks, to black


They say previous projections have not been achieved, including the
prediction in last year's budget that inflation would decline from above
1,000 percent to between 350 and 400 percent in 2007.

"I don't see signs of real efforts to turn around the economy ... it's all
geared towards expenditure," Rashid Mudala, a Harare-based economic analyst,

"His growth projection is too optimistic because the factors affecting
growth are not showing any positive signs ... agriculture, on which much of
the hope is anchored, remains a problem."

A price freeze in June to try to curb runaway inflation further dented
growth. The policy resulted in empty shop shelves and shortages of basic
goods, while several businesses drastically cut operations to avoid losses.

Mumbengegwi also said the country's food import bill was expected to more
than double in 2007, underpinning severe food shortages which critics blame
on Mugabe's drive to seize commercial farms from whites to resettle blacks.

"Food imports are expected to grow from $178 million last year to $405
million this year."

In what he called the "people's budget", Mumbengegwi offered tax relief to
workers and allocated 7,840 trillion Zimbabwe dollars ($261 billion at the
official exchange rate but $5.2 billion on the parallel black market) in

The figure is nearly 200 times total spending and borrowings for 2007, which
analysts say showed the inflation outlook had worsened.

"The challenges of reducing inflation and restoring increased production
necessary for economic recovery are ernomous, but surmountable," said
Mumbengegwi, adding that sanctions were hurting the economy.

Mugabe's government has faced international isolation over charges of human
rights abuses and economic mismanagement.

The veteran leader, who denies mismanaging the economy and says western
nations opposed to his rule have sabotaged it, has staked recovery on the
agriculture sector, which his government has extensively supported through
special loans and subsidies.

Analysts say the economic slide rather than a divided opposition poses the
biggest challenge to his 27-year-old grip on power as pressure mounts from
an increasingly restive population ahead of next year's vote. (Editing by
Tony Austin)

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Zimbabwe says ready to confront critics at EU summit


Thu 29 Nov 2007, 17:06 GMT

By Cris Chinaka

HARARE, Nov 29 (Reuters) - President Robert Mugabe's government said on
Thursday it hoped Zimbabwe's problems would not feature at an EU-Africa
summit in Lisbon next month, but warned it was ready to confront its

Mugabe, accused by the West of widespread human rights violations but
regarded in Africa as an independence hero, got an invitation to the Dec.
8-9 summit after previous efforts to convene the meeting floundered on
whether he should participate.

"In the event that any participant tries to attack Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe is
more than capable of defending itself. Zimbabwe has an excellent case to
present ... and that will be a wonderful opportunity," Foreign Minister
Simbarashe Mumbengegwi said.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is boycotting the summit over Mugabe's
presence, saying nothing will be gained from dialogue between Britain and
Mugabe whom he said must "take full responsibility" for the collapse of
Zimbabwe's economy.

Speaking to journalists on Thursday after a meeting with African diplomats
accredited to Harare, Mumbengegwi said Mugabe had been invited because a
majority of EU members realised Zimbabwe had no problems with the union but
rather former coloniser Britain.

"It has now been realised that the relationship between the two regions
cannot be held ransom by a dispute of a bilateral nature between two of
their members," he said.

"It is hoped that when the two regions meet they focus on matters between
the two regions, not a bilateral dispute between two countries."

Mumbengegwi charged that Zimbabwe was a victim of a racist hate campaign
triggered by Mugabe's seizure of white-owned farms for redistribution to
blacks without compensation, after Britain refused to pay for the land.

"The dispute between the UK and Zimbabwe is purely bilateral, arising from
the colonisation of Zimbabwe by the UK and its refusal to honour
obligations," he said.

The Zimbabwean minister said Africa had taken a principled stand over
Mugabe's participation because the EU had no right to decide on questions of
political leadership on the continent.

"The two regions meet as equal partners and the summit will take place in a
spirit and atmosphere of sovereign equality."

Analysts say the EU is determined this year's summit should take place,
partly to solidify its position as Africa's largest trading partner in the
face of rising competition from China.

Zimbabwe is struggling with the world's highest inflation rate of about
8,000 percent, chronic shortages of food, fuel and foreign currency, soaring
poverty and unemployment of about 80 percent.

Mugabe, in power since independence in 1980, blames the economic crisis on
sabotage by political opponents trying to end his rule. (Editing by Janet

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Zimbabwe 2007 food import bill more than doubles


Thu 29 Nov 2007, 13:21 GMT

HARARE, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's food import bill was expected to more
than double in 2007, Finance Minister Samuel Mumbengegwi said on Thursday.

"Food imports are expected to grow from US$178 million last year to $405
million this year," Mumbengegwi said in a televised budget speech to

Zimbabwe is suffering chronic food shortages due to drought and disruptions
to agriculture, which critics blame on the government's controversial land
reform programme. (Reporting by Harare newsroom)

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Zim won't accept more dialogue help


    November 29 2007 at 10:40AM

by Susan Njanji

Harare - Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade has said he would try and
get African leaders to help mend fences between Harare and London but
Zimbabwe's veteran ruler Robert Mugabe appeared to spurn the offer.

Wade, in Harare for talks with Mugabe in a bid to defuse tensions
between Zimbabwe and its erstwhile colonial master, also urged British Prime
Minister Gordon Brown to reverse his decision to shun next month's EU-Africa
summit in Portugal over Mugabe's attendance.

"I wish that the African Union (AU) set up a commission of five heads
of state... to normalise relations for dialogue between Zimbabwe and
England. I think that is indispensable," Wade said after meeting with

But Mugabe late Wednesday said Zimbabwe would not accept what he
called "unhelpful parallel initiatives" outside the southern African
regional bloc Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) to resolve his
country's crises.

"Zimbabwe will not brook such interferences...unhelpful parallel
initiatives," he said, appearing to reject a proposal earlier in the day by

South Africa's Mbeki has been mandated by SADC to broker talks between
Zimbabwe's ruling party and the main opposition to end a political crisis
which has been exacerbated by the country's economic meltdown.

Britain meanwhile said late Wednesday that will send a former junior
minister at the December 8-9 EU-Africa summit in Lisbon if Mugabe turns up.

Valerie Amos will represent Britain rather than any serving members of
the cabinet, said a spokesman for Brown. Amos served as international
development minister from 1998 until earlier this year.

But Wade, who said he has tried unsuccessfully to telephone Brown
stressed that he planned to speak to Brown or travel to Britain before the
Lisbon summit.

"I think that the British government has a problem there, I think we
will not let the situation continue," said Wade, who concludes his visit

Asked whether Brown's absence will impact the Lisbon summit, Mugabe
said: "From our point of view, he is just an individual. That is the point
of view of Africa."

The octogenarian leader - once adored in the West for leading his
country to independence from white-minority rule but now shunned as an
authoritarian leader who has stifled democracy - said he was open to talks
with Britain.

"(Wade) wanted to know if we object to dialogue and I told him no. We
have never ever said no to any dialogue with the British. We will talk even
if we may not agree after talking. We don't fear talking," he said.

Brown's office said earlier that Britain would not leave its summit
chair empty, although Brown ruled out himself or senior ministers from

Relations between Zimbabwe and Britain were strained from 2000, when
Mugabe's government began taking land from white farmers, the majority of
whom are of British origin, for redistribution to landless blacks.

Britain has also been one of the chief critics of Mugabe's government
for alleged human rights violations.

Ties between the two countries plummeted during former British prime
minister Tony Blair's tenure. Mugabe was one one of Blair's most virulent
critics, telling him to "keep his pink nose" out of Zimbabwe's internal
politics and accusing him of trying to topple his government.

Blair's government was the prime instigator behind a package of
targeted sanctions imposed on Mugabe and his inner circle - including a
travel ban and freezing of bank accounts - following allegations that he
rigged his re-election in 2002. - Sapa-AFP

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FEWS Southern Africa Food Security Update Nov 2007 - Food supplies tighten as hunger season sets in


This report covers the period from 10/31/2007 to 11/29/2007

Current reports indicate a general tightening of food supplies throughout the region as the hunger season sets in. However, food security conditions continue to be mixed; with the situation remaining generally stable in surplus producing countries; while conditions will deteriorate further in deficit countries as the hunger period intensifies between now and February.

FAO/WFP and VAC assessments indicated that from July 2007 until March 2008, 401,200 people in Lesotho were expected to face food shortages, 407,000 in Swaziland, and up to 4.1 million in Zimbabwe. Most of the households identified in these assessments have already exhausted their meager food reserves and some are now employing negative coping strategies. In Mozambique, the GAV estimated that 520,000 people, mostly in the south, are would require food assistance from July through March 2008. Food security conditions in areas identified as food insecure have remained moderate mainly due to a combination of a good second season crop and on-going humanitarian interventions.

In Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, and northern Mozambique, the food security situation remains satisfactory, due to above average harvests and sizable carryover stocks from the previous season. Consequently, staple food prices have remained stable, and although rising seasonably, are lower when compared to the past five-year average, facilitating adequate food access for market dependant households.

Available data suggests that Malawi, Zambia and Tanzania have already exported significant quantities in intra-regional trade with neighboring deficit countries including South Africa. However, overall availability cannot meet the full needs of the region�s grain deficit countries; in addition, the limited intra-regional market and transport infrastructure, and the costs involved means that deficit countries will still need to import substantial quantities from overseas.

The rainfall season is currently being established in southern Africa, and significant rainfall was received mainly in the northern and the southern parts of the sub-region, with the central parts receiving little to no rainfall. Many farmers have taken advantage of the early rains and have started field activities, mainly land preparation. It is critical that adequate inputs be availed to all farmers and especially in vulnerable households so that they can take advantage of the normal rainfall that has been forecast for most parts of the region this season.

Early Warning Timeline

Full_Report (pdf* format - 372.4 Kbytes)

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Top army officer to head ZEC in Manicaland

By Tichaona Sibanda
29 November 2007

A senior officer in the Zimbabwe National Army, Colonel Moffat Masabeya, has
been appointed as the provincial elections officer for Manicaland.

Described as a die-hard Zanu-PF man, Colonel Masabeya lost in the 2005
primaries to represent the ruling party in the Chimanimani constituency,
currently held by State Enterprises and Anti-corruption minister Samuel

Based at Dangamvura’s Chikanga 3 Brigade battalion, Colonel Masabeya was one
of the army officers who led an assault team of soldiers on to Charleswood
Estate, which they eventually grabbed at gunpoint from Roy Bennett, the
former MDC MP for Chimanimani.

Pishai Muchauraya, MDC spokesman for Manicaland, said their reaction was
that of shock when they realised Colonel Masabeya was going to head the
Zimbabwe Election Commission in the province. The MDC is accusing the
government of putting in place its ‘rigging specialists’ ahead of the
crucial parliamentary and presidential polls. The opposition says the
playing field has not been levelled for elections and that the political
climate is still volatile, eliminating any possibility of a peaceful voting

‘There is no doubt as to where he belongs. His heart is with Zanu-PF and he’s
a senior serving member in the army, which is loyal to Robert Mugabe. He has
participated in party primaries and we understand he is also in the
provincial executive of Zanu-PF in Manicaland. So how can he be impartial in
this situation? Asked Muchauraya.

Facing perhaps their biggest electoral challenge from the opposition MDC,
Mugabe and his ruling party have become increasingly reliant on the military
for political survival.
Mugabe continues to appoint serving and retired members of the armed forces
to the ZEC, despite a provision in Constitutional Amendment number 18,
barring the military, police and prison officers from any involvement in
elections, beyond providing security.
Almost all elections in the country have been tainted by charges of
electoral fraud and complaints over the role of the military in the running
of the polls.

SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news

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Zanu PF buses supporters

The Daily Catalyst
29 November, 2007

The ruling Zanu PF party has bank rolled the bussing of people from outside
Harare on the eve of it stage managed solidarity march in support of
President Robert Mugabe’s candidature for the 2008 elections. The ruling
party has dubbed the march ‘one million men march’.

The Daily Catalyst team which visited the Fourth Street bus terminus in
Harare spotted more than nine Zupco buses dropping off Zanu PF supporters
all dressed in the party regalia. The supporters were singing and dancing
songs encouraging Mugabe to remain in office for life.

The Coalition notes with concern the lack of policy consistence by the
government. The march is coming at a time when the country is facing a
myriad of social, political and economic problems which calls for the
government to address rather than pouring the scarce resources into the
march. If Mugabe is the one and only candidate, then why the hassle of
straining the national fiscus by sponsoring and stage managing the event?

Zimbabwe has the highest inflation levels in the whole world standing above
14000%. The people of Zimbabwe are living the shortest life span under the
sun with men and women living up to 36 and 34 years respectively.

The march has no national significance as it fails to address the
fundamental issues affecting more than 85% of people living below poverty
datum line. It does not address the national pathology of more than 85%
people facing unemployment. These problems are not a culmination of natural
disasters but rather it’s a man made disaster. Since the disaster is
man-made, it can only be addressed through crafting prudent policies which
encourages transparency, accountability and non corrupt practices in the
management of the macro-economic environment.

The ruling party should collectively and deliberately move towards
addressing the critical issues of the social, political and economic issues
affecting the citizenry rather than settling for the narrow party interests.
After the solidarity march, the queues of transport, food, basic commodities
will not disappear.

The failure by the Zanu PF government to address the long standing
malfunctions of the national economy is by and large attributed to the loss
of mandate by the incumbent government to lead the country after the
contested results of 2000, 2002 and 2005 elections. The ruling party can no
longer account to the electorate due to the legitimacy crisis.

In the Coalition’s views, the march has no value addition to national
development. It has more to do with the party crisis of succession. It is
also aimed at diverting the attention of the people of Zimbabwe from the
pressing issues of the economic, social and political crisis. The hired
crowds bussed into town today will not retain the incumbent government to
democratic legitimacy.

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UK women’s groups organise conference to mobilise Diaspora

By Lance Guma
29 November 2007

A conference bringing together Zimbabwean women’s groups in the United
Kingdom will kick off this weekend at the London School of Economics. Under
the theme ‘Zimbabwe Diaspora Women Stand Up and be Counted,’ the speakers
lined up include Yvonne Marimo (Zimbabwe Women’s Network UK), Lois Davis
(WOZA Solidarity-UK) and Wiz Bishop from the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO

Carys Afoko from Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA Dignity Period Campaign)
will also be there, as will Kat Stark and Hind Hassan from the National
Union of Students in the UK. The conference comes on the sidelines of 16
days of activism against gender violence, an international campaign started
by the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991.

The Zimbabwean female activists will be seeking a diaspora strategy to deal
with violence, HIV/AIDS issues and to create opportunities for women living
in marginalised communities. Zimbabwean women in the diaspora have been
urged to play a bigger role in shaping the destiny of their motherland,
despite the many challenges they face.

Yeukai Taruvinga from the women’s wing of the Free-Zim Youth pressure group
said women bear the brunt of the crisis at home and away, and this made it
important for them to be more actively involved in decision-making that will
help solve the country’s problems. She urged women to convert their majority
status in population figures into real political muscle.

The plight of marginalised communities often tends to be ignored in many
crises around the world, including Zimbabwe, and Taruvinga said they were
eager to highlight these issues. She said as people focus on daily survival
the rights of women and children are easily put to one side.
The average woman in Zimbabwe will dead by the time she is 34 – the lowest
life expectancy in the world. 1.6 million children are AIDS orphans, the
highest rate in the world for the size of the population.

Turning to the recent decision by the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal in the
UK, effectively clearing the way for the UK Home Office to deport failed
Zimbabwean asylum seekers, Taruvinga said over 50 percent of these were
women and now constituted a very vulnerable group needing support from the

SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news

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Mugabe commandeers plane - report


    November 29 2007 at 12:14PM

Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe commandeered a flight - bound for
Victoria Falls - to take him to Mozambique, Beeld reported on Thursday.

Passengers at Harare International airport were left stranded for six
hours after their flight was cancelled on Tuesday.

An airport announcement informed passengers that their flight had been
cancelled but gave no explanation.

Airport personnel told some passengers that it was because Mugabe had
commandeered the flight, the report said.

Mugabe was seen arriving at the airport half an hour after the
announcement was made.

Airport sources confirmed that the flight meant for Victoria Falls
went to Mozambique with Mugabe on board, Beeld said.

A source at the airport told Beeld: "Mugabe's plane probably developed

"Most Air Zimbabwe planes are not working as there are not enough
parts to repair them." - Sapa

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20 Suburbs Plunged Into Darkness

The Herald (Harare)  Published by the government of Zimbabwe

29 November 2007
Posted to the web 29 November 2007


A swathe of northern and north-eastern Harare suburbs were plunged into
darkness following a fault in the high-voltage cable feeding the 20 suburbs
on Tuesday.

Zesa Holdings spokesperson Mr Fullard Gwasira said the fault was caused by
rain on Tuesday afternoon and Zesa engineers and technicians were working on
restoring supplies.

"The Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company wishes to
apologise to its valued customers for the loss of power. This has been as a
result of a fault on the 33kV high-voltage cable supplying the substations
feeding the areas," Mr Gwasira said.

The affected areas are Borrowdale, Ballantyne Park, Colray, Rolf Valley,
Colne Valley, Borrowdale West, Pomona, Arcturus, Greystone Park,
Reitfontein, Highlands, Runniville, Lewisam, Chisipite, Philadelphia,
Quinnington, Helensvale, Marlborough, Avonlea and Mount Pleasant.

Mr Gwasira said at the beginning of every rainy season, Zesa cables are
affected and this usually leads to short circuits, which damage

"Zesa Holdings engineers are doing everything possible to restore power
supply in the affected areas. The utility expects to restore power to all
affected areas by the end of the week," he said.

Aerodrome suburb in Bindura has gone for almost two months without
electricity after a transformer was damaged following the theft of oil.

Mashonaland Central Zesa network manager Mr Fredrick Mafoko said the power
utility had bought a bigger transformer to replace the damaged one and it
would be installed soon.

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Mugabe slams "interference" outside SADC initiative in Zimbabwe

Yahoo News

HARARE (AFP) - President Robert Mugabe late Wednesday said Zimbabwe would
not accept what he called "unhelpful parallel initiatives" outside regional
bloc SADC to solve his country's crises.

"Zimbabwe will not brook such interferences...unhelpful parallel
initiatives," he said, appearing to reject a proposal earlier in the day by
visiting Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade to create a committee of
African heads of state to mend broken relations between Harare and London.

In Harare to try to defuse tensions between the two capitals, Wade also
urged British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to reverse his decision to boycott
an upcoming EU-Africa summit because of Mugabe's attendance.

The Senegalese leader said Africa had not done enough to resolve Zimbabwe's
problems, adding that initiatives by neighbouring South Africa at the behest
of the Southern African Development Community were inadequate.

But speaking at a dinner in honour of Wade, on a two-day visit here, Mugabe
urged African countries to lend their full support to the SADC initiative to
reconcile his ruling government with the opposition.

He said that SADC mandate on the issue, given to South African President
Thabo Mbeki, should be the only one on Zimbabwe.

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Senegalese President Fails In Quixotic Bid To Reconcile Mugabe and Brown


By Blessing Zulu
28 November 2007

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade arrived in Harare, Zimbabwe, on
Wednesday on what some saw as a futile mission of trying to bridge the
diplomatic gap between Zimbabwe and Britain ahead of December's European
Union-African Union summit.

Elsewhere,  the Southern African Development Community’s top administrative
official said the Zimbabwe crisis should not figure on the summit agenda.
SADC Executive Secretary Tomaz Salomao said the summit should focus on EU-AU

But European diplomatic sources told VOA that his statement is likely to
create further friction between Europeans and Africans. The European states
that argued in favor of inviting Mr. Mugabe did so on the premise that the
crisis and related human rights issues could be taken up on the sidelines of
the development and trade summit.

Mr. Wade had earlier sought to convince Mr. Mugabe to expand the number of
African leaders involved in the effort to resolve the long-running Zimbabwe
crisis rather than leaving it in the hands of South African President Thabo

Mr. Wade proposed Wednesday that five African leaders including Mr. Mbeki
join forces to seek a resolution of the bilateral feud between Harare and
London. British Prime minister Gordon Brown opposed Mr. Mugabe’s
participation in the summit and confirmed Tuesday that neither he nor any
top British official will be at the summit.

But senior Harare officials told VOA  that Mr. Wade’s offer to mediate the
differences between Harare and London has been rejected by President Mugabe.

Government sources in Harare said that in fact they were hoping until the
last minute that Mr. Wade would call off his trip, leading to much confusion
in the capital Wednesday as officials frantically organized a state dinner.

South African-based political analyst Hermann Hanekom told reporter Blessing
Zulu of VOA's  Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Mr. Wade's initiative was doomed
to failure.

SADC executive secretary Salomao’s statement injected further controversy
into the preparations for the Lisbon summit, given that many diplomats,
activists and other observers believe Zimbabwe should be discussed on the
summit sidelines.

But political analyst Brian Kagoro said from Nairobi, Kenya, that however
grave the Zimbabwe crisis may be, the summit is the wrong place to confront
Mr. Mugabe.

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Govt to send peer to EU-Africa summit: PM's office

Yahoo News

LONDON (AFP) - Britain will send a former junior minister to represent it at
next month's EU-Africa summit if Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe attends,
the prime minister's office said Wednesday.

Valerie Amos will represent Britain rather than any serving members of the
cabinet if Mugabe attends, said a spokesman for Gordon Brown. Amos served as
international development minister from 1998 until earlier this year.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has vowed to boycott the December 8-9 summit if
Mugabe attends, saying that he does not believe anything can be gained from
direct engagement with the Zimbabwean leader.

Mugabe said this week that he would attend the Lisbon summit.

The prime minister's spokesman Michael Ellam told reporters at Brown's
Downing Street office on Wednesday that "there would be no UK minister at
the EU-Africa summit on the assumption that Mr Mugabe would attend."

He added: "Should Mr Mugabe attend, the prime minister would ask Baroness
Valerie Amos to represent him."

Amos is a member of Britain's upper parliamentary chamber the House of

Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since its 1980 independence from Britain, is
accused by the West of stifling democracy and leading his southern African
nation to economic ruin.

Summit host Portugal has been trying to ensure that Zimbabwe's presence
would not eclipse the chance for a true partnership between the EU and the
world's poorest continent.

In the Zimbabwean capital Harare earlier Wednesday, Senegalese President
Abdoulaye Wade called on Brown to change his mind about the boycott.

He also proposed the creation of a committee of African heads of state to
mend broken relations between Zimbabwe and former colonial power Britain.

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A shot in time - govt scores immunisation success

HARARE, 29 November 2007 (IRIN) - Zimbabwe's crumbling health sector has
received a boost with the launch of a week-long campaign called Child Health
Days (CHDs), delivering a polio vaccine, vitamin A supplementation and basic
childhood immunisation to two million children.

"The majority of people that are going to benefit from such programmes are
ordinary people who can no longer afford to pay the health fees," said Itai
Rusike, Executive Director of the Community Working Group on Health, a
network of civic and community-based organisations.

Health services have been hit hard by the economic meltdown, and Dadirai
Mutongomani, a mother in the capital, Harare, said the campaign was a relief
as the cost of healthcare was now beyond her reach.

The CHDs are coordinated by the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, in
partnership with the UN Children's Fund, (UNICEF), the World Health
Organisation and Helen Keller International, a global non-profit
organisation focusing on preventable blindness, malnutrition and poverty.

As a result of the decades-long partnership between the four agencies,
Zimbabwe has not reported a single case of polio since 1990, while reported
cases of suspected measles have dropped by 84 percent since 2004.

Now in their third consecutive year, the CHDs have played a significant role
in raising immunisation rates, reducing measles and boosting child survival

"On the back of the health campaigns, immunisation coverage for children
under five has increased to more than 80 percent [from below 60 percent in
2001] for all childhood vaccinations and Vitamin A supplementation, and no
cases of whooping cough have been reported in the last two years," said
UNICEF spokesman James Elder.

Festo Kavishe, UNICEF Representative in Zimbabwe, commented in a statement,
"Zimbabwe is winning the war against measles and polio - measles vaccination
is at 90 percent and not a single case of polio has been reported in 18
years - but the new polio cases around Africa necessitate that we remain

He added: "At the same time, Child Health Days are a critical boost to
health services that are under great stress, as CHDs have dramatically
increased coverage of immunisation for Zimbabwe's children."


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

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Court Strike Leaves Detainees Stranded

Institute for War & Peace Reporting

Industrial action by judges and prosecutors highlights fundamental problems
with the law in Zimbabwe.

By Yamikani Mwando in Bulawayo (AR No. 145, 29-Nov-07)

The month-long pay strike by magistrates and prosecutors has added another
dimension to the breakdown of the rule of law in Zimbabwe.

Legal experts are raising concerns that the constitutional rights of
suspects are being violated as the strike means they continue to be held
pending trial in the country’s congested jails.

Critics of the Zimbabwe government have accused President Robert Mugabe of
disregarding the rule of law ever since the controversial seizure of white
farmland began in 2000.

Local and international observers claimed that rule of law simply does not
exist in Zimbabwe. The authorities have dismissed such remarks as
politically loaded, saying they came from opponents of land reform.

Independent judges were hounded off the bench when they refused to endorse
the takeovers, while veterans of the 1970s liberation war and other
government supporters ran roughshod over the rights of both white farmers
and other Zimbabweans who supported opposition parties.

The outcry reached a crescendo when abductions and killings went unpunished
by the courts. Yet the Zimbabwean authorities insisted the rule of law was
still in force.

Prosecutors and magistrates have now been on strike since the end of
October, bringing the wheels of justice to a complete standstill.

Zimbabwe is one of many African countries with poor regard for detainees’
rights, and the strike has only compounded their plight, lawyers say.

Holding cells are becoming increasingly congested as police continue to
arrest suspects, while there are no courts to try them.

Meanwhile, the government says it will only review the magistrates’ demands
for higher wages next year.

“There are constitutional violations here,” a Bulawayo lawyer, who did not
want to be named, told IWPR.

“While the police can extend the time they hold a suspect within the
provisions of the law, the strike has meant suspects and inmates on remand
are held for longer times than provided for by the constitution. This means
government may be sued for these violations.”

But the lawyer said it would be a daunting task to pursue such cases, as
litigation brought against the government has tended to exist only in
theory, with the authorities dismissing such attempts out of hand.

To compound the freefall of the justice system, law officers are leaving the
country in droves because of the low pay.

The strike has also made the situation much worse for political prisoners,
with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, complaining that
members arrested on dubious charges are languishing in holding cells as they
cannot be brought before the courts.

“We have a system here that has no regard for people’s rights,” a Bulawayo
official from the main faction of the MDC told IWPR.

Zimbabwe’s law society has criticised the government for failing to avert
the strike, but officials say the justice ministry has exhausted its
budgetary funding and can only address the matter in January, after the 2008
budget has been announced.

In past years, ministries have received supplementary allocations after
overspending because the country’s voracious inflation erodes the value of
the local currency.

While the Zimbabwean authorities have always insisted they uphold the rule
of law, many of those held without trial do not share that confidence.

“The government must deal with the strike with urgency, as our work is also
being hurt by the industrial action,” the Bulawayo lawyer, reflecting a
mounting sense of frustration across the country’s legal fraternity.

Yamikani Mwando is the pseudonym of an IWPR journalist in Zimbabwe.

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Mbeki Struggling to Bridge Political Chasm

Institute for War & Peace Reporting

He claims progress in mediation between Mugabe and opposition, but analysts
say little has been achieved.

By Joseph Sithole in Harare (AR No. 145, 29-Nov-07)

South Africa’s president Thabo Mbeki last week met both leaders of the
divided Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, and President Robert Mugabe in
Harare in what was seen as a bid to inject a sense of urgency into
negotiations which have been going on since May.

Symbolically, however, Mbeki met the negotiating parties on November 22
separately – Mugabe at State House and the two MDC leaders at the South
African ambassador’s residence. It was not clear whether Mbeki has made any
headway in bridging the chasm between the ruling ZANU-PF and the MDC
factions led by Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, whose party split in
October 2005.

Mbeki was mandated in March by leaders of the regional Southern African
Development Community, SADC, to mediate between ZANU-PF and the MDC to end
Zimbabwe’s eight-year crisis, which has seen inflation shooting to close to
15,000 per cent and the country’s gross domestic product declining by half.

Asked about the prospects of the talks after meeting both sides of the
political divide, Mbeki predictably said he was “very confident” they would

“The process has been going on very well,” he said. “I came to Harare so
that we can reflect where we are now and give my own perspective.” He said
he wanted to brief the leaders of both ZANU-PF and the MDC on progress.

But analysts said next to nothing had been achieved since the talks began in
May because the opposition was fragmented while the ruling party refuses to
compromise. They said Mbeki, who stopped over in Harare on his way to the
Commonwealth Heads of
Government Meeting, CHOGM, which ran in Uganda over the weekend, wanted to
demonstrate to the SADC leaders at the meeting that he was making progress
in the talks.

They said there was growing pressure from Britain for an expansion of the
negotiating forum to include more people than just Mbeki, who is seen as
deferring too much to Mugabe.

“It was a fine gesture by Mbeki to stop by. It gives him the courage to tell
his peers that he is the point man on Zimbabwe’s crisis, but in terms of the
talks there is nothing of substance to show,” said a Harare political
analyst who did not want to be named.

He pointed out that the MDC had supported ZANU-PF in passing Constitutional
Amendment No 18 last month to synchronise presidential and parliamentary
elections set for early next year, but there had been no tangible
concessions by the ruling party. Instead, he said, politically motivated
violence against MDC activists had escalated, despite the acquittal of 56
opposition supporters who had been accused of conducting petrol-bombings
across the country.

The MDC’s key demands at the talks include an end to political violence,
electoral law reforms, a new constitution, a repeal of repressive laws such
as the Public Order and Security Act, POSA, and the Access to Information
and Protection of Privacy Act, AIPPA, all of which, it alleges, hinder its

The opposition is also demanding free and impartial access to the public
media and the sole public broadcaster which is used as an organ of the
ruling party. So far the ruling party’s negotiators, Legal Affairs Minister
Patrick Chinamasa and Labour Minister Nicholas Goche, have only made
promises to review POSA and AIPPA but nothing has been done.

Mugabe has flatly rejected the idea of a new constitution before the
elections. The two sides are also still haggling over whether the date for
the elections should be moved from March to June to give the opposition time
to campaign.

The chief negotiator for the Tsvangirai MDC faction, secretary-general
Tendai Biti, said they had full confidence in Mbeki as mediator in the
talks. “We believe he is an honest and genuine facilitator concerned about
the suffering of fellow Africans,” Biti told journalists after their meeting
with Mbeki.

But there is considerable public frustration that the process has been
taking too long without any major breakthroughs on the MDC’s key demands.
This has been cited as the major bone of contention which caused this month’s
clashes in the Tsvangirai MDC faction after the head of the MDC Women’s
Assembly requested that they be briefed on “progress in the talks”.

The analyst said whatever Mbeki was going to tell SADC leaders in Uganda was
a dress rehearsal for the Africa-European Union summit in Portugal in early
December, which has generated bitter exchanges between the two trading blocs
over Mugabe’s attendance.

British prime minister Gordon Brown has threatened to boycott the summit if
the Zimbabwean leader attends, a position which has driven a wedge between
EU members themselves, with some saying Mugabe should be confronted
face-to-face and others saying his presence would undermine the main purpose
of the summit, which is to discuss trade.

A number of African leaders have said Africa is indivisible and they will
therefore boycott the Lisbon summit if Mugabe is not invited. Mugabe has
already been invited.
The EU and the US have imposed travel restrictions on Mugabe and his cronies
for alleged human rights violations and for destroying the once vibrant
economy of the former British colony.

Millions of Zimbabweans have fled the country since 2000, when Mugabe
launched a violent land reform programme to drive out white commercial
farmers. Those Zimbabweans who remain mostly depend on donor food aid or
money sent by relatives living in other Southern African countries, or in

“Mbeki is under pressure to show fellow African leaders that there is
progress on the Zimbabwean crisis to justify why they should sacrifice the
interests of their countries for a common cause,” said the political
analyst. “At the same time Africans as a whole are eager to demonstrate to
the rest of the world that they can resolve their own problems without
external interference. So whether there is really progress or not remains as
secretive as the talks themselves.”

Joseph Sithole is the pseudonym of an IWPR journalist in Zimbabwe.

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Expensive beer

This is Zimbabwe, Sokwanele
Expensive beer

A very expensive beer

There are days when you work really really hard and long for a cold beer at the end of it.

Then there are other days, when you work really really hard, and then have to work even harder just so you can have that cold beer at the end of the day. By that I mean the effort that goes into lugging lots of cash with you to pay for it!

This picture is doing the rounds on email. Someone queued for ages to receive cash (remember, we reported cash was short in Zimbabwe) and was eventually paid out in Z$500 bills.

The beer cost (at this bar) cost $Z1million, so the patron produced four piles of Z$500 bills, each amounting to Z$250,000.

The email helpfully reminds us that Gideon Gono lopped zeros off our currency last year in August, so in ‘old money’ terms, this beer actually costs Z$1 billion.

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