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Zanu PF Denies Savage Attack on MDC White Couple

Violet Gonda

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) formation of Prime Minister
Morgan Tsvangirai has blamed Zanu PF youths for a savage attack on their
Midlands provincial treasurer and his wife Wednesday night, an accusation
that the former ruling party denies.

The MDC-T said four Zanu PF youths wearing bandanas on Wednesday attacked
and seriously injured John Kinnaird (56) and his wife Jackie (47) in their
home in Kadoma.

The party said the two were hospitalized due to the severity of injuries
sustained following assaults with wheel spanners and metal rods.

John is said to have sustained multiple head wounds, which required 14
stitches and a fractured arm while his wife, Jackie, got a bruised throat
and fractured arm which was operated on Friday

A police report was filed but no arrests have been made.

The latest attack comes amid reports that there is a so-called heavy
presence of an illegal Zanu PF militia calling itself, Al-Shabab that is
causing terror in Kwekwe and surrounding areas.

Roy Bennett, the exiled treasurer general of the MDC-T told the VOA he spoke
to the victims on the phone and they were convinced that the attack was
politically motivated because of their increasing popularity among locals in

Bennett said the attack is designed to instill fear among local people ahead
of the constitutional referendum and general elections.
Interview Roy Bennett

“John Kinnaird is a fine man. He was elected unanimously by the people of
the Midlands. Obviously he is playing an effective role in that province in
his capacity as treasurer of the party and that is why they were attacked,”
Bennett said.

The MDC official said he did not believe that it was a robbery as the
assailants only took two cellphones and US$2,000 but left a lot of valuables
like laptops and jewelry.

Bennett said it is very sad that reports of politically motivated violence
are continuing despite calls by President Robert Mugabe for peace and

He said: “You have the opening of parliament, you have Robert Mugabe
sidestepping Mujuru to hug Prime Minister Tsvangirai to promise peace and no
violence and while he is hugging PM Tsvangirai a faction of his party is
beating up members of the opposition.”

Bennett warned: “Unless you deal with the security sector reform ... Unless
you can deal with the generals, the brigadiers that hold the stolen wealth
of Zimbabwe ... those people are never going to relinquish power.”

But Zanu PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo denied party supporters were involved in
the attack of the white couple saying this is a strategy being used by the
MDC-T to discredit Zanu-PF and to create an impression that there is
violence in the country.
Interview with Rugare Gumbo

He said: “I think this was a stage-managed affair in order to tarnish the
image of Zanu PF. So I don’t believe the story.”

The Zanu PF spokesman said the MDC-T is capable of sending its own youths to
attack fellow members and supporter as part of a well-orchestrated plan by
the former opposition party “to create noise all over the country to create
an impression that there is violence in Zimbabwe and therefore elections
cannot be held in a free and fair manner.”

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ZIMSTAT: Zimbabwe's Unemployment Rate Drops to 10.7%

Gibbs Dube

The Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZIMSTAT) has pegged the country’s
unemployment rate at 10.7 percent - a figure that has been dismissed as
grossly misleading by economists and the country’s largest labor union.

ZIMSTAT director general Mutasa Dzinotizei, told company executives,
representatives of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and other labor
unions in Bulawayo that a survey conducted between 2011 and 2012 has
revealed that the unemployment rate is far lower than the estimated 90

Dzinotizei said the survey, involving over 6 million respondents between the
ages of 16 and 18, also reveals that only 11 percent of Zimbabweans are in
the formal sector.

It defines unemployment as lack of any means of contributing to the country’s
gross domestic product.

The ZCTU said the new figures are unrealistic as many Zimbabweans are
unemployed and those engaged in ‘street’ businesses cannot be said to be
gainfully employed.

Economist John Robertson said the ZIMSTAT figures are fundamentally flawed
as the state entity has re-defined unemployment.

The Zimbabwe economy nearly collapsed between 2000 and 2008 due to historic
inflation figures resulting from what critics say was the ruling party's
skewed economic policies based on a skewed land reform program which left
more than 4,000 white commercial farmers landless.

The country's unemployment rate was far below 10 percent before the then
Zanu PF government crafted the land reforms.

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24 prties for 2013 poll

Saturday, 03 November 2012 14:42

President Robert Mugabe (right) and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Zanu
PF and MDC parties have dominated.
HARARE - Voters will be spoilt for choice in next year’s presidential and
parliamentary elections, with more than 20 political parties expressing
interest even as the date is yet to be announced.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) confirmed at least two dozen
political parties had approached the body ahead of polls expected to be held
no later than June next year.

President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Zanu PF and
MDC parties have dominated the political landscape since the turn of the
decade and the situation is unlikely to change although the smaller parties
are certain to split votes.

In 2008, Zanu PF and the MDC had to battle it out with Industry and Commerce
minister Welshman Ncube’s smaller MDC formation and former Finance minister
Simba Makoni’s Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn (MKD).

A resurrected Zapu led by former Zanu PF politburo member Dumiso Dabengwa
and an MDC led by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara complete the list
of the parties that are presently visible.

However, Mugabe and Tsvangirai, the two frontrunners since 2000 will have to
contend with the likes of Anslem Karimupfumbi who leads Rusununguko People’s
Party (RPP).

Utoile Silaigwana, Zec’s deputy chief elections officer, said although there
is no law on registration of political parties in the country, the
commission currently has 24 parties on its records.

Zec is the body responsible for conducting elections and recently invited
political parties to a meeting on elections that was attended by a host of

“The problem is that we do not register political parties, they just come
and tell us that they want to contest and we take notice of them. There are
about 24 political parties that we have in our records,” said Silaigwana.

Under the country’s laws, a special Nomination Court is set up just before
elections where candidates of political parties would submit their names for

Currently only parties which have seats in Parliament benefit from the
political parties (Finance) Act (Chapter 2:04).

Egypt Dzinemunhenzva, a cryptic politician, who normally surfaces from his
rural base in Wedza and leads the African National Party (ANP) says he is
going to win the elections if they are conducted under democratic conditions
that can sustain a free and fair election.

Paul Siwela, Nesbert Mtengedzanwa and Reketai Semwayo — leaders of the
Matabeleland Liberation Front, the rebranded African National Congress and
Zanu Ndonga respectively are also some of the parties ready to slug it out
with the so-called political heavyweights.

Maverick politician Job Sikhala, who leads MDC99 and controversial
businessman Raymond Chamba who is an independent politician as well as
Democratic Party leader Wurayayi Zembe are the other candidates.

Kisinoti Mukwazhe leads the Zimbabwe Development Party (ZDP) and is upbeat
that he will form the next government.

“This is a real political change season, we would like to build unity and
achieve reconciliation things that Zanu PF and the MDC formations have
failed to achieve.

“We would like to ensure that Zimbabwe will never be a poor nation as is the
case now,” said Mukwazhe.
Mukwazhe says both Tsvangirai and Mugabe have failed to deliver to the
nation and is buoyant he will be elected president come election time.

Political analysts say the new parties are however, no threat to the two
leading parties, who face their greatest challenge from parties which enjoy
regional support such as Zapu and Ncube’s MDC.

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Zim to establish special elections court for political violence

by Staff reporter
2012 November 03 15:36:47

Zimbabwe will establish special courts to deal with cases of political
violence during the forthcoming elections, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission
(ZEC) said Thursday.

Acting chairperson Joyce Kazembe told news agency New Ziana in an interview
that special magistrates and electoral courts would be set up to try cases
of politically-motivated violence in elections set ostensibly for the first
half of 2013.

Warning that punishment on culprits would be severe, she said the special
courts would deal with complaints of electoral offences raised by aggrieved
political parties.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission would also attend to grievances from
disgruntled political parties and candidates, she added.

"There shall be special magistrates' courts and electoral courts set by the
Chief Justice to address and deal with election related cases," said

The Code of Conduct for political parties, she said, was clear on what would
happen if it was violated.

She said ZEC had held workshops with all 23 political parties in the country
to familiarize them with the election Code of Conduct and the Electoral Act
so they could avoid violating electoral laws.

Among other things, the political parties are expected to form multi-party
liaison committees to deal with conflict resolution in line with the Code of
Conduct and the Electoral Act.

The committees will be at national, provincial, district and ward levels.

"We have engaged the organ of National Healing, Reconciliation and
Integration, the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee, Zimbabwe
Human Rights Commission, Zimbabwe Media Commission and Zimbabwe Republic

"They have already set up a small committee that will lay the groundwork on
how we can collaborate together to combat any conflict within the society so
that it does not degenerate into violence," Kazembe said.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in 2008 withdrew from the presidential
election race alleging that his supporters were being subjected to acts of
political violence.

President Robert Mugabe has of late been emphasizing on citizens co-existing
despite their political affiliations.

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Zimbabwe MPs demand exit package

By KITSEPIE NYATHI in Harare | Saturday, November 3 2012 at 12:47

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe is facing another hurdle in his push for
early elections after legislators' demanded exit packages before Parliament
is dissolved.

The veteran ruler wants to call for general election before the end of March
next year saying the coalition government he formed four years ago has
become dysfunctional.

But his coalition partners are against early elections arguing that the
inclusive government is yet to implement crucial reforms meant to level the
electoral playing field.

The MPs who have been demanding higher pay told Finance minister Tendai Biti
at a pre-budget seminar on Friday that they had been underpaid during their
term office and would insist on compensation.“We are approaching the end of
the session and we have no assurance that we will be coming back,” said MP
Shuwa Mudiwa of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC).

President Mugabe on Tuesday opened the last session of Parliament that must
end in June next year but is likely to be cut short by the polls.

Interest free loans

The MPs early this year forced government to pay them as much as $15,000
each in outstanding sitting allowances after they held Deputy Prime Minister
Arthur Mutambara hostage in Parliament.
Mr Biti told the MPs that exit packages were not mandatory as the
legislators were not full time employees.

“There is a new term that I am hearing for the first time, that of exit
packages,” he said. “You are not full time employees that would get an exit

“However there are things that are statutory such as sitting allowances
pegged at $75 per sitting, which are obligatory.”

Zimbabwe MPs argue that they are the least paid in Africa and often demand
benefits such as interest free vehicle loans.

The Speaker of Parliament, Mr Lovemore Moyo who is also from MDC accused the
Ministry of Finance of undermining the House by starving it of critical

“Why is it that Parliament has to queue alongside ministries to be served?

“Surely is the Ministry of Finance not aware of the difference between a
government ministry and a whole arm of the State?” he asked.

“Now it is the time that we should all stand up and defend the integrity of
Parliament as it is clear that now will defend the right to exist as a
complement institution with a legitimate institution with a legitimate
constitutional mandate.”

Zimbabwe’s Parliament is dominated by MPs from the two MDC formations
although President Mugabe’s Zanu-PF also has a strong representation.

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Ex-MP arrested in Plumtree

Police in Plumtree yesterday arrested former Member of Parliament and MDC-T
Matabeleland South Provincial Secretary for Social Welfare, Norman Mpofu on
allegations of threatening Zanu (PF) supporters and local chiefs with
unspecified action.

by Gladys Ncube

Speaking to The Zimbabwean last night MDC-T Matebeleland South provincial
spokesperson Mthokozisi Bhebhe said Mpofu was picked up by police yesterday
afternoon in Plumtree for threatening Zanu (PF) supporters and traditional
chiefs at a funeral in Thekwane village in Bulilima with unspecified action.

“He has been arrested by officers from Law and Order section of Plumtree
Police Station. They accused the former MP of threatening Zanu (PF)
supporters and local traditional chiefs with unspecified actions at a
funeral early this week.

"He is locked up at Plumtree Police Station right now. This is just
continuous harassment of our members by Zanu (PF) using the police but that
won’t stop us from fighting to bring complete change in this country,” said

Mpofu was the MP for Bulilima East before his expulsion from parliament and
smaller MDC party by Welshman Ncube in 2009 for aligning themselves to the
MDC-T led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. He was expelled together with
Abednico Bhebhe of Nkayi South who is now the MDC-T deputy national
organizing secretary and Njabuliso Mguni of Lupane East who is also now part
of MDC-T provincial leadership in Matebeleland North.

The three MPs dragged Pesident Robert Mugabe and Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission (ZEC) to court to seeking an order to call for by-elections in
their former constituencies and it was granted. But Mugabe later challenged
the court order saying the by-elections should be held in March next year
claiming that the government has no funds.

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HIV positive Zimbabwean women sue over forced sterilisations

Published on : 3 November 2012 - 8:40am | By RNW Africa Desk

In Zimbabwe, HIV positive mothers and soon-to-be mothers used to be
sterilised. The procedure was seen as the only way of preventing the
transmission of HIV to their unborn or newborn babies. Now the tide has
turned. Medical advances mean HIV mothers have a much better chance of
having healthy babies. And some women are now seeking compensation from the

By Garikai Chaunza, Harare

“I was HIV positive when I became pregnant. I went to see my doctor for
counselling. At that time, I had no information whatsoever. My doctor
probably didn't have any either. He told me the best option was
sterilisation,” says Tendayi Westerhof.

The woman was sterilised in the early 1990s. Today she feels duped and is
seeking compensation from the government for what she has been through. “Now
I cannot bear children anymore,” she says. “Even though I was HIV positive,
I had the right to give birth to a healthy child. There were other choices
that I could have made.”

HIV positive babies
Westerhof’s case is not an isolated one. It's believed that many, many HIV
positive women were sterilised without consent. Most of the sterilisation
cases occurred in Zimbabwe between 1985 and 2004, despite the advent of the
prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programme in the
mid-1990s. The procedure was done in both private and public healthcare

Westerhof, who is still using the surname of her ex-husband, Dutch football
coach Clemens Westerhof, is involved in the Pan-African Positive Women’s
Coalition (PAPWC). The organisation, representing women living with HIV, is
documenting such cases in Zimbabwe to establish the actual number of
sterilisation victims. The coalition plans to take their evidence to the
courts to demand compensation from the government.

“We have seen an increase in the number of women living with HIV and being
coerced into sterilisations throughout the region. We assume that the same
thing is happening to poor women as well. To us this is a real challenge. We
are assisting women to make sure that their right to give birth - despite
being HIV positive - is observed and respected,” says Promise Mthembu,
regional coordinator of the International Community of Women Living with

Government denies
Her organisation has been involved in documenting evidence of the forced
sterilisation of HIV positive women since 1998, when Mthembu launched an
investigation in Namibia. But not everyone supports the cause. The head of
the HIV and AIDS and Tuberculosis at Zimbabwe's Ministry of Health and Child
Welfare, Owen Mugurungi, denies that the government adopted sterilisation as
a method of preventing HIV transmission from mother to child.

“As a country, we never at any point recommended sterilisation. Never.
Sterilisation was used as one of our country's family planning methods, but
only with the consent of the mother. For example, it was used when mothers,
who had four or five children, found out that she had contracted HIV. Women
were asked if they would consider sterilisation as a means of family
planning,” Dr Mugurungi told Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

Saying he was busy, Dr Mugurungi refused to make any further comments.

Prevention of mother-to-child transmission is proving extremely effective.
The treatment involves a long course of antiretroviral drugs and the
avoidance of breastfeeding, which reduces the risk to below 2 percent.
According to the World Health Organisation, since the introduction of PMTC
in 1995, hundreds of thousands of children around the globe have avoided
acquiring HIV because of antiretroviral prophylaxis.

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Zim Civil Society in Save Constitution Campaign

Harare, November 03, 2012 - ZIMBABWE’S civil society organisations have are
appealed to the three Global Political Agreement (GPA) principals to allow
Parliament to complete the crafting of the new constitution amid insistence
by President Robert Mugabe only they will have the final say on new supreme
law of the land.
Officially opening the Fifth Session of the Seventh Parliament on Tuesday,
President Mugabe urged the Parliamentary Constitution Select Committee to
expeditiously produce a report of the Second All-stakeholders conference
“summarising the views expressed by the stakeholders, in particular the
divergent views, and submit the report to the principals in government who
will take the necessary steps to set up an appropriate mechanism to build
the required consensus on the way forward.”

He added that there was need now for the government to assume the management
of the process leading to the referendum. But civil society organisations
yesterday were adamant there was need to rescue the final and crucial stage
of the constitution-making process from the grip of the principals to the

Last week the civil society organisations met in Bulawayo to review the
second all-stakeholders conference where it was unanimously agreed to save
the constitution from the tentacles of the principals after it emerged the
GPA bosses were intent on rail-roading the process.

According to Mcdonald Lewanika, the director of the Crisis in Zimbabwe
Coalition, a grouping of more than 300 local civil society organisations,
the principals needed to clearly clarify their position
regarding the finalisation of the last stages of the constitution-making

“Firstly, it is bad enough that politicians presided over the process in its
entirety in the first place. Our call is that -that is enough. Parliament
should be allowed to complete this process without undue interference and
editing by the Principals,” said Lewanika.

He said the fact that President Mugabe in particular wanted to have a final
say on the draft was a betrayal of the aspirations of Zimbabweans.

Both Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube, who leads the
smaller faction of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), have publicly
stated they will not temper with the people’s views and want parliament to
have the final say before the constitution is taken to a national

It is understood Zanu-PF is still insisting on the incorporation of its
266-amendments to the COPAC draft before it is brought to parliament.

Lewanika said civil society organisations intended seeking clarification
from the three principals over the next stage of the constitution process as
a starting point to saving the constitution from possible manipulation by

“In terms of how to save the draft from the principals, we will start by
holding the two MDC presidents accountable but if they are true to their
word, there is no way they will be railroaded by President
Mugabe into tempering with the peoples’ views.

“President Mugabe also will be held accountable based on his previous
statement that every sovereign people have the right to author their own
constitution, he is not the sovereign people of Zimbabwe and as such should
not negate the peoples’ right to their views and having these views stand,”
he said.

The CSOs would escalate the issue to the Southern African Development
Community (SADC), the guarantor, together with the African Union, of the
GPA, if they get no joy from the three principals.

The SADC Summit held in Maputo in August, presented SADC intervention on
matters related to the constitution as an open avenue for engagement,
facilitation and mediation.

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Defend the COPAC draft constitution gains – Mutare residents urged

22-23 Oct
by Crisis Publications

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition in partnership with Zimbabwe Peace Project
(ZPP) held a talk show at Courtald Theatre in Mutare on the 31st of October
2012 under the topic, “The Zimbabwe Constitution Making Pro-cess: Post 2nd
All Stakeholders Confer-ence, What’s New, What’s Now and What’s Next?” The
talk show was held as a platform for review and feedback on the recently
ended Constitution Select Com-mittee (COPAC) Second All Stakeholders’
Conference of 22-23 Oct

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Oldest U.S. Book Club Honors 11 Graduates in Zimbabwe

Harare, November 03, 2012: A 2011 partnership between the U.S. Embassy in
Harare and the oldest continuous book club in American, the Chautauqua
Literary and Scientific Circle (CLSC), on Friday honored 11 individuals who
read 12 CLSC books as members of the inaugural Zimbabwean CLSC club.
“The core concept of the CLSC book club is that adults should never stop
learning,” said Sharon Hudson-Dean, Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S.
Embassy and a 2012 graduate. “Our education should not stop at the last year
of schooling but we should seek to expand our intellectual world every day.”

Hudson-Dean went on to note that the CLSC-Z book discussions also serve to
build bridges of understanding between people by allowing them to share
opinions and perspectives on the books in an uninhibited forum.

“Whenever we meet, it’s not like discussing the book and leaving it there,
leaving the words on the page. It’s like trying to extract the meaning, to
put it in our context,” said Reverend Samuel Sifelani, a minister in the
Anglican Church.

The graduates are Rabison Shumba, a motivational speaker; author Virginia
Phiri; Reverend Samuel Sifelani; journalist Masimba Biriwasha;
Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga; Ettrage
Tawatya, a security guard; Phillip Tawanda Dube, now studying at Bates
College in the U.S.; and Mbizo Chirasha, a poet.

The graduating class also included U.S. Embassy officials Rebecca
Zeigler-Mano, Ambassador Charles Ray, Deputy Chief of Mission David Abell,
and Counselor for Public Affairs Sharon Hudson-Dean.

Launched in 1878 at the Chautauqua Institution ( in
western New York, the CLSC is considered to be the oldest continuous book
club in the United States. It began with two chief aims: the promotion of
habitual reading and study in nature, art, science and in secular and sacred
literature; and the encouragement of lifelong individual study. Today, the
CLSC represents the standard by which all other book clubs, literary circles
and study groups are measured.

The historic partnership between the United States Embassy Harare and the
Chautauqua Institution started in March 2011 with an initial membership of
30 individuals drawn from various parts of Zimbabwean society including
government, churches, private sector and youth.

The Chautauqua Institution waived membership dues for CLSC-Z members and
agreed to certify the members upon completion of the required set of 12
books. Members were given Kindle electronic readers purchased with funding
from the U.S. State Department’s Innovation Fund and loaded with the
selected books on the circle’s reading list. Meetings were held every two
months to discuss the books.
“It was fun. It’s something that I would encourage other people to get
involved in,” said Phiri, an author and a professional accountant. Phiri
cited Hell Hound on His Trail: the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr by
Hampton Sides as one of her favorite books in the list. “When Martin Luther
King Jr was assassinated, I was a little girl and we were all very sad. So
when this opportunity came, I took my time -- word for word, page for
page -- and really I wanted to understand. Reading the book actually made a
difference. I have now understood what happened.”

“I personally move around with my Kindle electronic reader from time to
time,” said Rabison Shumba, a motivational speaker. “I no longer have time
wasted because anytime I can read from it.”

The initial book list includes Harvard professor Michael Sandel’s Justice:
What’s the Right Thing to Do?; Stephen Schlesinger’s Act of Creation: The
Founding of the United Nations: A story of Superpowers, Secret Agents,
Wartime Allies and Enemies and Their Quest for a Peaceful World; Robin
Wright’s The Last Great Revolution: Turmoil and Transformation in Iran; and
Mark Bowden’s Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War (Somalia)

The U.S. Embassy American Resources Center in Harare (Public Affairs
Section, Eastgate) and the Bulawayo American Corner (Bulawayo Public
Library) now have a large collection of hard-copy CLSC books and welcome
members of the public to join the reading club. CLSC-Z members who read
twelve books from the collection receive a CLSC graduation certificate

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Sekai Holland in Sydney for Peace Prize lecture

This is a transcript from World News Australia Radio.

The winners of the Sydney Peace Prize make up a mightily impressive list,
from South African archbishop Desmond Tutu to East Timor independence hero
Xanana Gusmao.

Now, the latest winner has come to Sydney to give the annual lecture by the
Peace Prize honoree.

Ron Sutton has her story.

Desmond Tutu. Nelson Mandela. Mahatma Gandhi. Martin Luther King. Aung San
Suu Kyi.

As the head of the Sydney Peace Foundation, Stuart Rees, sees it, all were
models for Sekai Holland -- and she would have been one for them.

But as the Zimbabwean Reconciliation Minister, winner of the 2012 Sydney
Peace Prize, sees it, her models from the beginning were simply two
people -- her mother and father.

"My parents were very clear that, if you are fighting something, you have to
use nonviolent methods. They said those were rich and there were lots of
them. And up to the time my father died this year in June, the 25th, at 97
years and 10 months, he was still emphasising the importance of nonviolence,
and smirking away that, of course, those who went to war to defeat the
whites had really taken the country on a very long path, they could have
done it another way."

Sekai Holland, herself a grandmother nearing her 70th birthday now, has
known violence and the threat of violence for most of the last half-century.

It is how she has returned her fire with nonviolence that, Professor Rees
says, led to the honour that brings her to Australia to deliver the Peace
Prize lecture.

"I think (it's) the capacity for reconciliation and forgiveness (for) people
who murdered hundreds, if not thousands, of her supporters -- and who
tortured her -- so that, a bit like Archbishop Tutu's 'No future without
forgiveness,' Sekai is big enough and bold enough and visionary enough to
know that seeking revenge will produce only more violence and more rancour
and that making peace with your enemy, if you like, is the way to go."

Sekai Holland left her native Zimbabwe, or then Rhodesia, for Australia in
1964 to pursue her education, and she quickly waded into the brewing fight
over Aboriginal rights.

When she helped start the anti-apartheid movement in the country as well in
the late '60s, she and Australian husband Jim Holland began getting death
threats from nazi groups.

They went back to Africa in the '70s so she could help Robert Mugabe's
liberation movement against Rhodesian white rule, and more death threats

This time, she learned she had been sentenced to death after speaking out on
the movement's violence against its recruits, on the sexual abuse of female

How serious was it?

Ms Holland fled back to Australia, only to watch one newspaper actually
publish her obituary.

Her reaction almost 40 years later, full of mirth and laughter even as the
danger continues, perhaps says as much about her life as anything can.

She still has the clipping.

"It had a photo. And people believed this story -- they weren't aware that
I'd come back. And they printed a full story: 'Black Joan of Arc Murdered'
was the headline. And, so, people came to pass their condolences to Jim, and
I opened the door, and people ran away, thinking it was a ghost. This
actually happened for a year. People ... the news travelled very slowly.
There were no cellphones." (Laughter ...)

Sekai Holland was, in fact, just getting started.

The pair returned to Zimbabwe after independence in the 1980s, but she
eventually fell out with Mr Mugabe and helped found the opposition Movement
for Democratic Change.

In 2003, police chased her to their home, climbed the fence and tried to
shoot her as she escaped into the house, then surrounded it, calling for her
to come out.

Only a dinner engagement at the French embassy spared her, because, when she
was late, a friend came looking, then quickly brought back the diplomats to
break it up.

Finally, in 2007, Ms Holland was tortured in a Harare police station after
being arrested with other leaders of the MDC.

She reportedly suffered 80 injuries, including a broken arm, a fractured
knee and broken ribs, but Australian officials got her to the airport and on
to South Africa, and she recovered.

How does such a woman then agree to be Co-Minister for National Healing,
Reconciliation and Integration in a coalition government under Robert Mugabe
two years later?

"It's an African saying that the honey that is the best to taste has bees
that really bite -- badly! And so you know that, if we are going to have
freedom, if we are really going to have a respect of the vote, we have to go
through the paces. And they're not easy. I think it's one of the South
Africans, the Boers, who said, 'In Africa, politics is not a game for
sissies.' So, it's not a game for people who are lily-livered.* It's a game
of people who are actually, the Africans would say, skop donnerers --
meaning people who are really tough. But toughness is not necessarily
violence. It's actually standing your ground ... repeating your message ...
however you're hit."

Sekai Holland is not easy to pin down when she talks of whether the
88-year-old President Mugabe can be part of the solution instead of the

One time, she talks hopefully of his interest in protecting his legacy, but,
another time, she merely trusts that what goes up must come down.

Regardless, her restraint after all these years and all that has happened
astounds a friend and fellow protester from the early days.

Peter Murphy, who went on to become secretary of the Zimbabwe Information
Centre in Sydney, started out on the anti-apartheid lines with her.

She may point back to her parents as her most important teachers, but he
says time has taught her something very valuable, too.

"She's changed enormously, in the sense that she's got a sharp eye for what
will bring people together. She's always looking for what will bring people
together instead of what you do in your youth, which is much more to
distinguish (between) the different people and criticise other groups and
stuff like that. So, she's a very mature person, politically speaking, now,
and she cuts through a lot of nonsense very fast. In fact, she's very
intolerant of people wasting time with minor differences. And I think she's
been a strategic thinker in these last, say, 15 years in Zimbabwe in a way
she didn't have an opportunity to in the '70s in Australia."

After all these years, Peter Murphy finds Sekai Holland is unlike anybody
else he has ever met.

He says, if pressed for a historical comparison, he would suggest the United
States political activist who rose to fame in the 1960s, Angela Davis.

"She isn't so strong in her impact, you know, in her public discussion on
whatever as Sekai is, but they're both women who've really ... you know,
they're really in their late ... at the end of their lives, in a way, and
they've spent their whole lives standing up for their principles and,
really, in difficult campaigns."

Ms Holland, indeed, takes over a room when she enters, a mass of ornate
headscarf, colourful wraparound print dress and looming physical presence.

In fact, Jim Holland, a slim man, relaxed and quiet in blue jeans and
open-necked, short-sleeved shirt, could easily pass for the peace-prize
winner of the two.

And as Sekai Holland wraps up an interview, she turns the conversation to
all he has done for Zimbabwe.

It is ground-breaking work, from the country's water-and-sanitation system
to its original Internet service to Internet work today with the country's

All this, she jokes, from a couple that any visitor would think is breaking
up an hour after meeting them.

"And, of course, the fight is because I don't understand engineers (and) Jim
doesn't understand people like me, who act from what we feel. I don't
understand people who act from what they think! So, our house is chaos."

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Political violence is inevitable in Zimbabwe

on November 3, 2012 at 4:59 pm

By Mutsa Murenje

The Commander in Chief of violence President Robert Mugabe does not have the
legitimacy to be in the job. It is clear this 88 year old tyrant is
reluctant to leave office and is prepared to die in office at any cost to
the people of Zimbabwe.

Mutsa Murenje
My criticism of the Zimbabwean dictator attributable to both my patriotic
duty and professional call grows by each passing day and probably the same
way I see dangerous political polarisation growing in our motherland.

Mine is a humanitarian call and am wholly committed to seeing human
suffering coming to an end, I don’t want any more lives to be lost and we
are all sick and tired of witnessing the flagrant violation of our most
prized possession.

We all have it, we all want it and nobody wants to lose it. We are all born
with it. Yes, I am talking about the intrinsic value that we all have, that
value that we call human dignity.

We all are aware that conditions prevailing in Zimbabwe aren’t conducive to
the successful holding of a free, fair and credible election. From this
standpoint, I have thus built a case for reconciling our highly polarised

As long as the political and tribal divisions remain, I am afraid, Zimbabwe
will remain an infant (of course in political and economic terms). Diversity
is important, but unity surpasses diversity.

I don’t understand development in its limited sense of economic progress
though. I have seen over the years that economic progress means nothing to
us if our more pressing needs are always frustrated. I understand
development in its integral sense because its orientation is towards holism.

But in reconciling our divided nation, I intend to bring to your attention
the fact that in this troubled continent of ours, Africa that is,
approximately one person in two subsists on less than USD1.25 per day, with
approximately 70 percent living in rural areas; thirty-two of the
forty-eight poorest countries are located in Sub-Saharan Africa, which is
plagued by conflicts, dysfunctional governments, and clinical diseases like

Food security and livelihood for the rural poor are at risk as almost all
Sub-Saharan agriculture is rain-fed and has become vulnerable to weather

Perhaps this explains why the gap between rural and urban communities and
the need for integration have drawn much attention from government and civil
society in Africa. There can be no doubt that issues of social exclusion and
integration have become crucial to the building of a harmonious African

Moreover, I have in my mental depository this information that our continent
profiles the highest statistics of violent conflicts in the world and each
time that I think about Robert Mugabe’s defiant and harum scarum behaviour,
I am shortly reminded that he is preparing the nation for a violent

It is redundant for me to remind peace-loving Zimbabweans about Mugabe’s
panoply of coercive tools. We all know them and in the event that you are
hearing this for the first time then I will not hesitate to list them for
you dear reader:

The Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), the army, the police, war
veterans and the youth militia. The possibility of a violent confrontation
is very high especially given the high levels of polarisation in our
country. We have to deal with this ‘we’ versus ‘them’ mentality because it
is rife.

I am not convinced though that ours are irreconcilable differences. We have
selfish individuals in our country who are piling riches for themselves at
the expense of all of us. This alone is a potential cause of conflict (if we
don’t become like the Niger Delta or Jos in Nigeria then we risk seeing yet
another nation being formed from a secession process).

The point is: our needs are being frustrated and sooner rather than later,
we will start doing what we have since witnessed in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya
and other Arab countries in the Middle East. And when we do this, we don’t
want to hear anybody saying that we are attempting to overthrow a
‘legitimate’ government using unconstitutional means.

Solomon Madzore et al (all 31 members of the Movement for Democratic Change
led by Prime Minister Dr. Morgan Richard Tsvangirai) are languishing in
prison because of spurious charges of murdering a police officer.

It is quite disquieting to learn that these prisoners have been behind bars
for over a year now and there appears to be no hope that they will be
released soon. And only God knows where we are heading.

Zimbabwe is being led to the dogs and the responsibility is ours to stop
this unfortunate happening. This can be reversed.

I can be sure about one thing though. Political violence is inevitable in
Zimbabwe and as I am writing this, our brothers and sisters, mothers and
fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers are being terrorised by Mugabe’s

Nyikayaramba, Chedondo, Chinamasa and Gumbo have been making incendiary
statements (yes inflammatory remarks) ahead of the much-talked about
elections expected next year.

And I am, more than anything else, worried about the plight of our women and
children. This is largely so because these account for 80% of the casualties
of conflict and war as well as 80% of the 40 million people worldwide who
are homeless.

Children are especially vulnerable in conflict and violent situations due to
their age, physical and mental immaturity, limited abilities and dependency
on adults. Conflict threatens children’s access to quality health care,
nutrition, clean water and sanitation.

It disrupts childhood when schools are closed or used to house displaced
families; in some settings, educational institutions are at risk of attack
(ZANU PF uses these as bases or torture chambers). Children are particularly
vulnerable to violence and recruitment by ZANU PF thugs.

As for women, we already know that they are discriminated against during
times of peace and conflicts further exacerbate their plight. Women’s
experience of violent conflict is multi-faceted: it means separation, loss
of relatives, physical and economic insecurity, and increased risk of sexual
violence, wounding, detention, deprivation and even death.

Rape and other forms of sexual brutality are integral to violent conflict
and often carried with impunity. You can imagine: all this happens to them
because they or their husbands or relatives are members of a certain
political party!

The coalition government has failed to take us to the democratic land of
milk and honey. South Africa is trying her very best but without confidence
in her mediation role, there is no doubt that no amount of meetings or
delegations will reconcile our seemingly irreconcilable differences.

I have been paying rapt attention to recent and unfortunate developments in
our country and have realised that we are destroying confidence instead of
building it. The recent incident in Kadoma in which ZANU PF thugs savagely
attacked and wounded an MDC family is quite unfortunate.

This is a recipe for disaster. I happen to be a disciple of early warning
systems and conflict prevention and I prefer conflict prevention to

So what’s the way forward? We all want peace. Peace doesn’t, however, mean
the absence of conflict/divisions/disagreements. It rather refers to how we
handle conflict in the presence of justice.

Reconciling our divided nation therefore requires nothing short of truth,
justice, mercy and forgiveness. I understand them in the manner in which I
presented them and I believe that together we can reconcile our polarised
nation. Yes we can.

God help Zimbabwe!

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For Zimbabwe, reviving agriculture is the only way out

Posted On : November 3rd, 2012

Agricultural revival in Zimbabwe is the trigger for creating a virtuous
cycle of wealth creation not only in Zimbabwe, but in the SADC region as a

Let me begin by beseeching my patient readers to forgive me for a rather
longish article. The subject matter herein is of national importance and
security. It therefore requires that I dispatch my thoughts on it in one
sitting for your benefit. Kindly tolerate my indulgence.

It is unbelievable when you begin to appreciate the opportunity in and the
potential of Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector. I say opportunity because, you
simply cannot imagine the value which we are currently sitting on, and how
quickly we can correct the prodigious blunders of ZANU (PF). The unintended
consequences of past actions based anger and political expediency, like a
nightmare, continue to linger in our brains and truly arrest the potential
of our country. It’s time to be proactive.

Zimbabwe has about 15 million hectares of arable agricultural land, of which
an estimated 4 million was bought by serious black farmers, on a willing
buyer willing seller basis before 2000. Around 11 million hectares,
currently sit under the control of our government as a dead asset. Yes, a
dead asset, because that land has no commercial value to anyone whatsoever.

This is simply because; we do not have a land tenure act that allows
occupiers of that land to hold unencumbered title and use that as collateral
to borrow funds for working capital. The government has the sole discretion,
on who can stay on that that land and you can lose it “at the discretion of
the minister”. This applies whether you have a permit, or an offer letter
for any piece of agricultural land in Zimbabwe. The obvious effect of this
is that, nobody in their right mind is going to further develop that land,
nor is any bank going to lend anyone money to farm on it. Around USD10
billon or more of value, sits on the country’s balance sheet, dormant and

Now let me put it simply, imagine you have a title deed to the land on which
you have built your house, and the state walks in and says; “Hey this land
does not belong to you anymore so move off but don’t worry, we will pay you
for the developments that you have done in the future at a value which we
deem fit. Unfortunately we don’t have the money now, so you are going to
have to wait.” Of course, this is regardless how you may have acquired that
land in the first place or, and in the case of farm land, whether you had
made some improvements or are just about to harvest a crop that you invested
your lifetime savings in or borrowed funds to do so. Overnight you are
evicted and, you are worth zero. Now that is traumatic. Isn’t it?

If you had borrowed money from the bank to build your house, to make
improvements or to buy inputs, it would mean that the bank that lent you
that money ends up with nothing and you too end up with nothing plus
incredible stress. Now you tell me which bank, local, indigenous or
international, would lend money to anyone who is in farming? What framer
would continue to invest his time and money in such a situation? The
consequences are that; in 2000, the financial sector had around USD2 billion
invested in the agricultural sector, compared to a mere USD100 million in
2010. In addition, real GDP fell 40% from $6.6 billion in 2000 to $4.1
billion in 2010. It is estimated that about 2 million families employed in
the sector lost their jobs and livelihoods. Surprised?

Further imagine that, you are an international or local investor, who is
looking for an opportunity to invest in; would you invest in property or any
asset in a country like that? Would you also consider investing in a country
where companies are being taken over in almost the same manner, without even
the new owners paying fair value or having the competence to manage and grow
the company? You would not only be insane but downright stupid to do so.

The sacrosanct cornerstone of free and profitable enterprise upon which any
successful economy is built namely; the legal protection of private property
ownership has been disregarded to our extreme prejudice. That is our
fundamental problem.

For the benefit of my black South African brothers and sisters, who are now
baying for the same “Zimbabwe solution” and taking over what’s “rightfully
theirs”, let the inevitable consequences of their aspirations be evident

Investors will move out or go elsewhere, land and property values will
collapse and the economy will experience a serious contraction. Industries
will close, unemployment will increase and liquidity will dry up while
inflation will increase, especially if the country decides to print money
since it can no longer borrow from any bank anywhere. Any individual with
any savings or investment will be ruined, as happened to millions of
pensioners, insurance policyholders, asset managers, currency speculators
and others. The banking sector will collapse as loans to the agricultural
sector become unrecoverable. The impact is catastrophic. Overnight, we
wiped off billions of US dollars of value from the country’s balance sheet,
and caused unprecedented trauma to every Zimbabwean, black and white.

These inescapable interrelated consequences are NOT as a result of sanctions
or a devious conspiracy by the West. They are the workings of simple
economics 101 ignored. We created our own spider’ web and remain caught in
it up to today.

I am reliably told that, before 2000, for every USD1 invested in agriculture
in Zimbabwe, USD3 was invested in related and downstream industry. Meaning
that; the potential “multiplier or knock-on effects” on the economy of
investing in a stable and viable agricultural sector, underpinned by a land
tenure act that respects private property have since disappeared to our

Let me be very honest: without correcting the devastating past mistakes ZANU
(PF) with regard to land ownership redistribution (to use a civilized term)
and now indigenization of private companies, our economy will never recover.
That is the inconvenient truth that we must all accept regardless of the
color of our skin or political leanings.

For the benefit of my tolerant readers and detractors alike, please note
that, I am neither supporting the racially skewed ownership of land which we
inherited at independence, nor am I disrespecting the purpose of the armed
struggle and the sacrifices made by all during that time. I certainly do not
support the skewed ownership of land by black Zimbabweans, where a select
few pick and choose multiple lucrative land assets because they are ZANU
(PF) praise singers. Especially where there is no demonstrable evidence of
their ability or a keen interest to use that land to the benefit of the
country and ensure our food security and employment creation.

Believe me, I agree with Mugabe on his principle that ALL black Zimbabweans
must own and manage a majority stake of agricultural, mineral and industrial
assets. The problem is the methodology being applied to achieve that
objective and the hyenas and vultures that are circling around him.

The solution to our land ownership conundrum for me is very straightforward.
We must revive these dead assets first, by ascertaining their fair value
through a land audit and compensating the holders of the title deeds for the
improvements they did on the land. This must be independently ascertained
and if necessary, arbitrated upon. That is the right thing to do, despite
our anger and the harshness of our colonial history.

Second, we must then fund the “ownership” of this land by new black farmers,
who are committed and experienced, and who comprehend that farming is
neither a part time national hobby nor is it about boasting on how many
farms you have in a pub conversation. Third, we must create value by having
a land tenure act that allows the new farmers to borrow against the land
they occupy. Lastly, we must capacitate the new farmers, and draw the
expertise of experienced white and black farmers, so that we can accelerate
the productive capability of this dead asset, within the shortest possible

There are billions of funds awaiting their entry into Zimbabwe and all they
need is our serious attention to the above matters. We must take
responsibility and all work hard towards creating a stable and democratic
political environment.

If we do that, we would have suddenly created value on the country’s balance
sheet and we will certainly see international financiers coming back.
Property and asset values will increase (including commercial and
residential property.) This would mean that we can further create access to
new credit for all property owners, related industries and then some.

Our industry, which is hugely dependent on agriculture, will begin to
recover; employment will improve so will liquidity and therefore, disposable
incomes in the economy. On top of that, Zimbabwean blacks will now own a
significant and productive portion of the economy in agriculture and related
sectors. We will be able to feed ourselves and the region once again. We
would have triggered a “virtuous cycle of wealth creation” to the benefit of
not only Zimbabweans, but the SADC region as a whole.

Agriculture is therefore the “red button”, for re-launching the Zimbabwean
economy into the stratosphere.

Interestingly enough, I explained this to my fourteen year old son the other
day and he simply said: “Wow dad, it sounds quite an obvious and simple
solution, why isn’t it getting done?”

“From the crooked timber of humanity”, I answered him, “no straight thing
was ever made.” (Quoting Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher)

In conclusion, I must also quote Albert Einstein, as I often do, that “The
significant problems we face can not be solved at the same level of thinking
we were at when we created them.”

Pray, somebody out there; are you hearing what I am saying?

Vince Musewe is an independent economist currently in Harare. You may
contact him on

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Snake in the grass

Dear Family and Friends,
Walking barefoot in a newly rain-drenched garden I came across a snake
in the grass. It must have felt my footsteps and I stopped, kept my
distance, watched and waited as it slipped back into a hole and
disappeared underground. It left a strange, unsettling feeling knowing
there was a snake, right there, under my feet and its very similar to
the way many people are feeling about life in Zimbabwe this November.
For most of us its been a very difficult year. Money has been short;
rents, fees and utilities have consumed every spare dollar; businesses
have struggled to keep going and jobs have been almost impossible to
find. And always, waiting like a snake in the grass, is the knowledge
that at any moment we could spiral back into political violence and
economic collapse. We are, after all, still using another country’s
currency and are now just months away from an election.

Some very mixed messages are coming from Zimbabwe as we get closer to
a constitutional referendum and election. On the surface of it some
things are looking encouraging. The IMF have just announced they have
eased restrictions on Zimbabwe. There is no money involved and no
financial support to be given to Zimbabwe but IMF say their staff will
provide advice, technical support and assist in monitoring economic
programs. The IMF said they had made the decision because of
"significant improvement in Zimbabwe's cooperation on economic
policies." For a country which has an external debt of 10,7 billion US
dollars, this is the first step on a very long road but it is a step

Other encouraging news came when KLM resumed direct flights between
Zimbabwe and Amsterdam after a thirteen year absence and then LAM
Mozambique announced the introduction of flights between Harare, Beira
and Maputo. But the question everyone is asking is why now?

Anyone who knows anything about elections in Zimbabwe knows just how
quickly the snake can, and does, reappear in the grass. Just a
fortnight ago the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office updated
information on their website relating to Zimbabwe. They say that
‘political tensions remain, particularly in light of a potential
constitutional referendum and elections.’ They advise their
nationals who are resident in Zimbabwe to : ‘have a contingency plan
in place in case you need to leave at short notice.’ The FCO advise
caution when travelling in unfamiliar areas saying: ‘Farm invasions
continue, often accompanied by violence and looting of property.’ To
demonstrate just how fragile the situation is in Zimbabwe, the FCO
advise people to be aware that an open hand is the political symbol of
the MDC- T and say: ‘a friendly wave may therefore be
misinterpreted. Wearing T-shirts with political slogans, can provoke a
hostile reaction.’

As absurd as knowing that a ‘friendly wave may be misinterpreted,’
is the knowledge that at any time and any place there may well be a
snake, right there under your feet. Until next time, thanks for
reading, love cathy. 3rd November 2012. Copyright � Cathy Buckle.

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On safari in Zimbabwe: a country in search of tourism

Zimbabwe's troubles scared tourists away, but tour operators are pushing it again. Is travel there rewarding, asks Kevin Rushby, and is it right?

Dave Carson (left) and fellow guide Felix watching elephants at Camp HwangeView larger picture
Dave Carson (left) and fellow guide Felix watching elephants on their way to a watering hole at Camp Hwange, Zimbabwe. Photograph: Kevin Rushby for the Guardian

Ray squats down and inspects the tracks carefully, his rifle held in the crook of one arm. "These are from yesterday," he says, pointing to where the fine dusty edge of the print has been blurred by the breeze. "It's a big male – very big. The one we heard roaring just before dawn."

That was an hour ago. I glance around the silent trees, half expecting to see a big cat staring back at me. Ray gets up and searches the ground nearby. "Looks like there are two lionesses with him," he says.

We walk on through the dry forest. At a glance the area looks dead, but closer inspection reveals signs of recovery: green shoots are appearing, the trees are gambling on rain coming soon. Ray leads on for about a mile then stops and inspects another lion print. This time the track is fresh. There is a stiff breeze blowing but the print is perfect. Ray nods and says: "They were moving around this morning." He glances at me. "Remember the rules. Stay with the gun. Never run."

I was wondering how I could politely ask: "Are you a good shot?" But I knew the answer: all guides in Zimbabwe are great shots. It's part of their training, an apprenticeship that consistently produces top wildlife guides who are supremely competent in those awkward social moments, like a lion charge. In Ray's case, I knew he had spent his life handling such tricky situations, having been born and brought up in this place: Hwange national park. It's a giant of a reserve, 5,400 square miles, bigger than Yorkshire or the state of Massachusetts, but just one element in a vast ecosystem that extends into Botswana, Namibia and southern Angola.

We move on again. The bush is thicker and visibility at times down to as little as 10 metres. Then we come to a small clearing. "They slept here," whispers Ray. He kneels down by a patch of wet, sandy earth – lion urine – and sticks his finger in to take the temperature. "They are very close."

He stands and finds the cats' trail leaving the clearing. We follow it. Then we see the dead buffalo, a female lying in the shade of a tree. Its eyes have been pecked out, but it has yet to be disembowelled. Ray touches the carcass.

"Cold." He frowns. "It can't have been killed last night: the birds wouldn't have got to the eyes yet. But if it was the night before last, why have they eaten so little?"

I'm standing, camera at the ready. There are fresh tracks all around us. I feel like I'm watching a chef who is about to whip open the oven door: "Voila! It's ready!" All the ingredients in place for a feast of lion-watching – or maybe just a feast. Who is the masterchef here: is it Ray, or the lion? Three of them against two men and one gun – which is not with me, thankfully, but I do wish I'd brought something resembling a weapon. Will a Canon EOS 7D camera block up a lion's mouth?

Zimbabwe map

I'd arrived in Zimbabwe expecting surprises and with lots of questions. This was a country that had gone from being the bread basket of southern Africa to a basket case in a few short years. The catalogue of disasters was damning: thousands of villagers in Matabeleland had been slaughtered; white farmers had been terrorised and robbed; thousands of black farmworkers had lost their homes and jobs; the economy had been ruined and much of the population had fled abroad. Now there was talk of a recovery and a tourist influx but in the face of such an indictment, I asked myself, should anyone go to Zimbabwe?

No sooner had I arrived than I was asking that same question to everyone I met. The replies were always frank.

"It's different now," one man told me. "We have a power-sharing government. Tourists should definitely come," he said.

"When there were no tourists," said another, "I never knew if my family would eat."

Others honed in on underlying issues. "How much of your money actually goes to the government? I'll tell you – just the $55 visa fee." And, of course, land redistribution came up: "It had to be done," was a common refrain. "The British stole it, then sold it to each other and thought that was all fine. But the land seizures … aish!"

That sound: aish, you hear it a lot in Zimbabwe when words are inadequate. When people talk about the period between the 2002 and 2008 elections, you hear it constantly. This was a time when visitor numbers nosedived. Zimbabwe's market share of African tourism had peaked in the 90s at around 8% but that halved in five years. In Hwange the total number of permanent safari lodges and seasonal camps fell from around 35-40 into single figures.

Tour operators in the UK had difficult decisions to make. "We kept Zimbabwe in our brochures," says Chris McIntyre of Expert Africa. "It was important – especially for the small, owner-run operations that we'd known for years – to show them that we wouldn't abandon them in the bad times and that we took our responsibilities to them seriously."

Out in the country I found that loyalty did not go unnoticed. "We had so few tourists," said one man who had kept his job, "But those few kept us alive." When people say such things, the true significance of a decision to boycott a country sinks in.

"For evil to prevail," one black Zimbabwean hotel owner told me, "it only needs good men to do nothing."

These people, I thought, see tourism as something with real economic and moral power, something that can have a significant and beneficial effect on Zimbabwe's future.

So, I am standing there, an hour after first light, watching Ray dip his finger in a dead buffalo, one that belongs to a lion pride that is undoubtedly only metres away. And I start grinning because I had never asked the question: "Is Zimbabwe safe?" And if I had, it would have been with people in mind: angry war vets, baton-wielding police, violent mobs. Any safety threat, I'd imagined, would come charging at me in a uniform, not a sandy yellow fur coat with canines as long as my hand. Why hadn't I thought of that? Because the short-term political world distracts us from the deeper, more eternal questions of the natural order, questions such as: am I about to become a feline breakfast?

Ray motions with his rifle and moves off. I follow. It is almost impossible to be silent in these dry leaves but fortunately the lions have left a big dusty trail. We walk in their footprints. Then suddenly Ray is pointing. "There!"

I catch sight of a lioness's backside, then a few flickers of straw-coloured bodies through the trees. Through one gap, a face pauses momentarily. My gaze connects for an instant with a pair of sombre, yellow eyes, then they are gone. We set off in pursuit, but after a few minutes Ray stops. "They got spooked. We'll never catch them now."

I hadn't expected that: the king of the jungle to be afraid of us. But Ray nods. "Sometimes they will sit, rarely they will charge, but usually they run away." It doesn't matter to me. I'm elated. Seeing lions on foot is an adrenaline-charged pleasure even when very brief. We decide to call off our lion hunt and go find some breakfast back at Somalisa Camp.

Somalisa Camp, Hwange ZimbabweSomalisa Camp

A tented site, Somalisa is built with minimal impact under a bunch of tall acacia trees that spread between two waterholes. At each there is a small pool, not more than three metres across protected by a shallow moat. As the heat of the day fades, elephants come to both. Once there they drop their trunks in, suck up water, and then pour it down their throats. The particular experience here, however, is to slide into the pool and sit quietly in the water, the vast animals looming overhead as the evening comes. After their drink the giants stroll off through the camp – there is no fence.

When Beks Ndlovu, a black, Zimbabwean wildlife guide, started Somalisa in 2006, it was his first venture and also the worst possible time: electoral violence and land seizures had brought economic chaos. By November 2008 basic commodities were doubling in price every hour of the day and the currency was, quite literally, not worth the paper it was printed on.

But elections led to a power-sharing government the following February and after that came recognition that the Zimbabwean dollar was dead. No one would accept it any more. The US dollar was declared the main currency. Since then Zimbabwe has been crawling its way back from the edge of the abyss. "Things are getting better," says Ndlovu. "Our business has grown to eight camps in Zimbabwe and Botswana."

Next day I find a sign of the growing confidence a few hours' drive away at Camp Hwange, a new operation set up by Dave Carson. In the dark days of hyperinflation, Dave moved his employees out to wildlife camps in Botswana, saving them from a fate that came to many black Zimbabweans: a border run and escape to Johannesburg. Now there is a new semi-circle of six luxury lodges strung around a waterhole that is filled from a borehole.

"Hwange is a very dry area," explains Dave. "The boreholes and pumps were started in the 1930s and without them, the animals could not survive. They'd all have to move away," he says.

Female elephant charges Kevin's Land Rover.A female elephant charges Kevin's Land Rover. Photograph: Kevin Rushby for the Guardian

Even with the extra water, this time at the end of the dry season is a deadly period. Everywhere we see baobab trees that have been gnawed through by hungry elephants, while each waterhole seems to have the carcass of a young animal that didn't survive, always presided over by a committee of vultures. That evening we see long lines of elephants marching towards the waterhole, a few of them running.

"Some come long distances," says Dave as we stand by the campfire, just a couple of hundred metres away. "We don't know what those animals have been through. Some have probably had bad experiences." As if to prove him right, the herd is about to throw up an example of one such individual.

Our original plan was to walk out to a hide that Dave has built under an African ebony tree next to the water. Unfortunately, we've left it too late and there are so many elephants rushing in that we need to drive. First, we skirt the pan. In the treeline we spot kudu, impala and sable, all waiting for the elephants to finish. The birds have no such qualms: lines of guinea fowl come chuckling along in the dust while the sky is strafed with pigeons. The elephants take long drinks, then chuck themselves in, throwing great splatters of mud over themselves, and us. The air fills with dust and the contented sounds of animals that know they have survived another day.

We motor slowly around the back, attempting to reach the hide. One cow elephant is behaving aggressively, rushing at other animals, waving her ears and trunk. The object of her anger, however, always seems to be other females of similar age and size. She doesn't tackle the big males. She doesn't tackle Land Rovers. Dave goes slowly, keeping a respectful distance. "We'll just see if she'll let us into the hide."

No sooner are the words out of his mouth than she drops her head and charges. Our forward path is blocked by lines of elephants who are still pouring in towards the water. Dave slams us into reverse, wrenches the wheel around. We shoot back and around. Then for a split second we are motionless. The elephant is six or seven car lengths away and closing fast. Dave bangs the driver's door and shouts at her, but she is determined to show this tin pachyderm who is boss. We speed away. The mad cow stops, shakes her trunk and ears, then looks around, like a playground bully seeking any signs of mockery in the onlookers. There is another smaller cow elephant standing near. She'd seen everything. Maybe she sniggered. Next thing, the mad cow is chasing her off behind the ebony tree.

"Some of theses elephants might not have seen vehicles or even humans before," says Carson. "So we are careful with them."

Later on, when the skittish female has gone, we climb into the hide – a pile of protective logs around the bole of the ebony tree. All around are huge elephants and the sounds of water gurgling down large and thirsty throats. The sun dies in a blazing thorn tree behind us. After dark, when all the big animals have gone, I walk back to the lodge with Dave and we talk about tourism and conservation.

"The wildlife rangers do an amazing job keeping Hwange going," says Dave, shining his torch up into a tree to reveal an African scops owl. "But without tourists it would be very vulnerable."

Mana Pools National Park, ZimbabweMana Pools, one of Zimbabwe’s’s leading attractions, is under threat from mining companies. Photograph: Christopher Scott/Getty Images

It seems as straightforward an argument for visiting Zimbabwe as any I've heard. Without the economic clout that tourism brings, wilderness areas can offer little resistance to pressure from other business interests, notably mining. Mana Pools, a world heritage site and one of the country's leading attractions, is under threat from mining companies interested in its mineral sands, and Hwange itself is bordered by open-cast coal operations that are spilling over into the park. Everywhere wildlife is being called on to justify its existence. Beks Ndlovu puts it like this: "If it is to survive, wildlife must have a value and tourism provides that. When we say that these areas should be protected and not mined or exploited in any other way that appears economically viable, it is tourism that gives us a powerful argument."

Way to go

How to do it
The trip was provided by Expert Africa (020-8232 9777, Its 10-night trip to Zimbabwe, with a visit to Hwange, Matobo Hills and Bulawayo costs 2,596pp, including flights from Heathrow with British Airways, meals and most drinks, parks fees and activities

More information
For more information, see
zimbabwe For the latest Foreign Office travel advice, go to

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