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Armed police patrol Harare as tension grips Zimbabwe

Zim Online

Mon 7 November 2005

HARARE - Armed anti-riot police patrolled the streets of Harare on Sunday as tension gripped the crisis-hit southern African country after a weekend of public demonstrations to demand a new constitution and to protest against senate elections at the month-end.

Zimbabwe is also on the edge after the powerful Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) announced at the weekend that its more than 300 000 members will tomorrow stage public demonstrations against worsening economic hardships and plummeting conditions of living for workers.

The ZCTU said it was taking to the streets after efforts at dialogue with the government flopped. The ZCTU protests are planned for the five biggest cities of Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Masvingo and Mutare.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena would not disclose the reasons for increased armed police patrols in Harare saying he could not discuss a security matters with the Press.

A POLICE officer beats up a demonstrator in Harare on Saturday

On Saturday, police used teargas to break up protests in the five major cities by members of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) civic alliance, which campaigns for a new and democratic constitution for Zimbabwe.

The NCA, which brings together the ZCTU, churches, students, opposition political parties, women's organisations, human and civil rights groups, also opposes elections set for November 26 to create a new senate, saying the government should instead first allow a people-driven constitutional reform process to take place before it can establish the senate.

Twelve members of the NCA who were arrested by the police on Saturday are expected to appear in court today facing charges of allegedly of taking part in an illegal demonstration and of assaulting a policeman.

Under the government's draconian Public Order and Security Act (POSA), Zimbabweans are barred from gathering in groups of three or more to discuss politics or hold public demonstrations without first seeking police permission.

Bvudzijena said: "We have some NCA members we arrested on Saturday and they are likely to appear in court on Monday for breaching POSA."

NCA spokeswoman Jessie Majome denied members of her group assaulted police saying the police officer allegedly beaten up by demonstrators might have injured himself when he fell while chasing after the protestors.

She said: "We were demonstrating in town and maybe the police officer might have fallen down while trying to arrest us for peacefully demonstrating."

Meanwhile, state radio last night alleged that the NCA demonstrators also petrol-bombed a police post in central Harare, injuring a police officer. It was not possible to reach Bvudzijena or Majome for comment on the radio claims. - ZimOnline

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Harare fails to wipe out forex black market

Zim Online

Mon 7 November 2005

      HARARE - Traders have continued to flog much needed foreign currency
on the black market in crisis-torn Zimbabwe despite a newly re-introduced
interbank market, which authorities had predicted would immediately wipe out
illegal   parallel market dealings.

      Black market rates have stabilised around 90 000 to the greenback and
a bit higher depending with the volumes on sale for the past few weeks, but
dealers said they were still getting many customers.

      The dealers said some customers had initially gone to the banks when
the interbank system started because rates were higher, but had since
returned to the black market.

      The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) last month relaxed some controls on
the foreign exchange market by introducing an interbank system where the
Zimbabwe dollar price is supposed to be determined by the market.

      This initially saw the local unit devalued to as high as Z$97 000 to
the American dollar at some banks before mysteriously shaking off those
earlier losses, clawing back to Z$58 300 to Z$62 000 to the US unit the
whole of last week. Dealers have attributed the firming up of the local unit
to intervention by the central bank.

      "Our initial response was to wait and see after the new foreign
currency exchange system was introduced but we have managed to maintain our
clients because our rates are still much preferable compared to the  bank,"
a Harare-based black market dealer told ZimOnline.

      A snap-survey in Harare showed business thriving as usual on the black
market as dealers went about their operations but they said the
unavailability of Zimbabwe dollar cash at times was inconveniencing their

      Zimbabwe is experiencing serious foreign currency shortages, a major
highlight of a six-year economic crisis that has seen hundreds of companies
fold, throwing thousands of workers onto the streets.

      Many of the laid off workers have had to resort to trading hard cash,
as well as basic foodstuffs that are also in short supply in Zimbabwe, on
the black market at the risk of being arrested by the police.

      Analysts said the black market would continue to thrive due to high
demand for imports as Zimbabwe has become a net importer due to failure by
industry to produce. They said the lower interbank rates would also fuel
parallel market   activity.

      "The government has no capacity to meet the demand for imports because
most of our requirements are now imported," said Harare-based economist
James Jowa. "Precisely because of that, there will always be demand for
foreign currency and when you look at what banks are offering, some people
might be tempted to go to the black   market." - ZimOnline

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SA finance minister meets Zimbabwean officials over loan

Zim Online

Mon 7 November 2005

      JOHANNESBURG - Zimbabwe's Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa and central
bank governor Gideon Gono last week  met South Africa's Finance Minister
Trevor Manuel in Pretoria in a final push to unlock a US$500 million loan to
avert  economic collapse in Zimbabwe.

      Negotiations for the loan deal, which was gathering dust after
President Robert Mugabe rejected some of South Africa's demands, began six
months ago.

      "There was a meeting and it made considerable progress. We are very
confident that we will be able to conclude the discussions quite soon," said
Logan Wort, South Africa's National Treasury chief operating officer.

      Zimbabwe, which is going through a severe economic crisis blamed on
Mugabe's policies, is seeking a US$500 million loan to pay for fuel, food
and clear a US$160 million debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

      But last August, Harare made a surprise US$120 million payment to the
IMF in a desperate bid to avert expulsion from  the Fund. It has since made
another US$15 million to the IMF to leave the debt at US$160 million.

      South Africa's government spokesman Joel Netshitenzhe also confirmed
the meeting but insisted that Pretoria had not shifted an inch on the
conditions for the aid package.

      "As we have always argued, the starting point is that there should be
capacity to pay back and that would require economic revival and political
stabilisation," he said.

      South Africa has, among other conditions, demanded that Mugabe engages
the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in talks to seek a
negotiated solution to the five-year old political and economic crisis.

      But Mugabe, who holds the MDC in contempt, has flatly refused to talk
to the opposition party which he says is a front  for Western governments
which are out to reverse the gains of the liberation struggle.

      But after last week's meeting, the loan agreement is now said to be
awaiting final ratification from Mugabe. - ZimOnline

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Appeal to help the elderly in Mutare

Letter from Terry Browning follows....


Dear Friends,
I am sending this email to everyone in my address book. This appeal is
aimed at anyone with a Zimbabwe/Rhodesia connection who might be able to
assist the elderly people at the old aged home in Mutare. If you do not
fall into that category, I apologise for putting another unwanted email
into your In Box!
The people of Zimbabwe are suffering terribly. The worst affected seem
to be the elderly. We cannot help everyone, of course, but coming from
Mutare, and knowing how unbearable life has become for some of the old
folk there, I am hoping that we can do something to assist them this
So I intend to drive to Mutare (from Johannesburg) with a large vehicle
and trailer loaded with goodies for Eastern Highlands Trust.
The Trust desperately needs an industrial washing machine. I doubt that
we will raise enough to cover that (but we can hope!). However, the
Trust has given me a Christmas Wish List from the residents. It is so
sad to see what they either cannot get, or cannot afford. Toothpaste,
milk powder, eye drops, plasters and even brown shoe laces! A very long
list, with Christmas mince pies being the only luxury!
So, I am appealing for donations so that I can buy as much as possible
and make this Christmas a little special for these folk. I will give my
bank details below.
But can you trust me? I was president of Rotary in Mutare, chairman for
years of the Island Hospice Service and I served on many other community
service committees over the years. That shows that I am community
minded, but it does not in itself prove my honesty.
If you have any doubts, I will happily put you in contact with several
community leaders who can tell you a bit more about me. Also, you can
contact Eastern Highlands Trust directly on .
The Trust will receive copies of my bank account and all receipts.
Donations can be deposited to...
TMG Browning
Savings account 9089923743
ABSA Fourways, South Africa.
Branch code 632 905.
With my thanks and best wishes,
PS - I sent the draft of this email to the Trust for approval. This was
the reply....
Hi Terry,

Sounds great.    Should they need a personal reference from the Trust it
will be my pleasure as chairperson to oblige.   I have certainly known
you for many years and would not hesitate to vouch for your integrity.  
Your dedication to help others through all the various organisations you
have been, and still are, part of is testimony enough.
On behalf of the Trust, thank you very much.
Kind regards
Yvonne (Philpot, formerly Klette).

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Rivals to Zimbabwe opposition party leader boycott meeting

Independent, UK

By Angus Shaw, Associated Press Writer
Published: 07 November 2005
Divisions in the main Zimbabwe opposition party hardened over the weekend
after rivals to party leader Morgan Tsvangirai boycotted a meeting to heal
their differences.

Tsvangirai called the meeting of the Movement for Democratic Change's
National Council in Harare to try and rein in colleagues who favor the
opposition's participation in an election to held on 26 November for a newly
created upper house, or Senate.

Mr Tsvangirai ordered the party not to contest the Senate election, but MDC
vice president Gibson Sibanda, secretary general Welshman Ncube and deputy
secretary general Gift Chimanikire have defied the order.

The rebels have nominated 26 candidates to run in the vote for 50 elected
seats in the new upper house.

Mr Tsvangirai argues the creation of an upper house, under a constitutional
amendment the opposition opposed in the House of Assembly, will strengthen
President Robert Mugabe's hold on the legislature and give credibility to a
fraudulent ballot.

Party leaders who favor contesting the November poll did not attend
Saturday's meeting, said Paul Themba-Nyathi, the official party spokesman.

"The meeting was irrelevant," he said.

Mr Tsvangirai's boycott order ignored a vote among the party's leaders on
October 12 that narrowly favored participation in the election.

Mr Themba-Nyathi said the party leader's order breached the MDC's democratic
principles. "He has disregarded those principles and shown newly found
dictatorial tendencies," he said.

Mr Tsvangirai's office, in a statement after the meeting of loyal opposition
officials, said if opposition candidates do not withdraw their participation
within the next week they will not be standing on an opposition ticket.

It said the main body of the party would campaign against the poll.

Divisions in the main Zimbabwe opposition party hardened over the weekend
after rivals to party leader Morgan Tsvangirai boycotted a meeting to heal
their differences.

Tsvangirai called the meeting of the Movement for Democratic Change's
National Council in Harare to try and rein in colleagues who favor the
opposition's participation in an election to held on 26 November for a newly
created upper house, or Senate.

Mr Tsvangirai ordered the party not to contest the Senate election, but MDC
vice president Gibson Sibanda, secretary general Welshman Ncube and deputy
secretary general Gift Chimanikire have defied the order.

The rebels have nominated 26 candidates to run in the vote for 50 elected
seats in the new upper house.

Mr Tsvangirai argues the creation of an upper house, under a constitutional
amendment the opposition opposed in the House of Assembly, will strengthen
President Robert Mugabe's hold on the legislature and give credibility to a
fraudulent ballot.

Party leaders who favor contesting the November poll did not attend
Saturday's meeting, said Paul Themba-Nyathi, the official party spokesman.

"The meeting was irrelevant," he said.

Mr Tsvangirai's boycott order ignored a vote among the party's leaders on
October 12 that narrowly favored participation in the election.

Mr Themba-Nyathi said the party leader's order breached the MDC's democratic
principles. "He has disregarded those principles and shown newly found
dictatorial tendencies," he said.

Mr Tsvangirai's office, in a statement after the meeting of loyal opposition
officials, said if opposition candidates do not withdraw their participation
within the next week they will not be standing on an opposition ticket.

It said the main body of the party would campaign against the poll.

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US diplomat may be expelled from Zimbabwe

Mail and Guardian


      Johannesburg, South Africa

      07 November 2005 07:03

            United States envoy Christopher Dell could be expelled for what
is seen as his meddling in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe's
Herald Online reported on Monday.

            It said precedent showed host countries reserved the right to
expel a diplomat whose behaviour they feel was unbecoming or undiplomatic.

            "Zimbabwe could take that route in the case of Mr Dell."

            Dell, US ambassador to Harare, raised the ire of the Zimbabwean
authorities in a speech he gave at the United Methodist Church-run Africa
University in Mutare last week.

            He said the economic challenges facing Zimbabwe were a result of
"corrupt rule" and not sanctions.

            "Neither drought nor sanctions are at the root of Zimbabwe's
decline," said Dell.

            "The Zimbabwe government's own gross mismanagement of the
economy and its corrupt rule has brought on the crisis."

            A Sunday newspaper in Harare quoted sources in the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs as saying the government had had enough of Dell's conduct.

            Zimbabwean security forces recently caught Dell entering a
restricted zone at the National Botanical Gardens in Harare.

            The government described this as an act calculated to provoke an
unnecessary diplomatic row.

            Last Friday, Dell voiced more criticism, saying "bad economic
policies" pursued by government made it difficult to fight the HIV/Aids
pandemic in Zimbabwe.

            The ministry of foreign affairs is expected to summon Dell this
week for an explanation of his actions and utterances, the paper reported. -

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State takes over Chitungwiza

The Herald

Herald Reporter
Government has taken over the running of Chitungwiza Town Council following
failure by the local authority, as currently constituted, to provide

The State will today provide $5 billion to the municipality to buy pumps and
motors for sewage pump stations as a measure to halt the collapsing service
delivery system in the town.

Local Government, Public Works and Urban Development Minister Cde Ignatius
Chombo - who yesterday toured the sprawling town to see for himself the
situation on the ground - also announced that with immediate effect,
Chitungwiza District Administrator Mr Godfrey Tanyanyiwa would move to
Chitungwiza Town Council offices to help in monitor progress of the
turnaround strategy.

"These are changes that would bring sanity to this municipality and there
will not be any pay rise for you all until sanity prevails," he told senior
council officials in an address after the tour.

Harare Metropolitan Resident Minister Cde David Karimanzira, Information and
Publicity Deputy Minister Cde Bright Matonga, Chitungwiza executive mayor Mr
Misheck Shoko and the municipality's heads of departments accompanied Cde
Chombo on the inspection visit.

Cde Chombo took Mr Shoko to task after the mayor had said he had heard for
the first time yesterday about some of the problems bedevilling the town.

"The mayor should know and understand council issues. He should be available
every time and he must not be partisan. He must not spend much time at
Harvest House (MDC headquarters) and come here and say 'I don't know this
and that'," said Cde Chombo.

Mr Shoko won the mayoral seat on an opposition MDC ticket.

Cde Chombo said Chitungwiza being a small town, the mayor was supposed to be
closely familiar with every issue and all goings-on, but Mr Shoko was not on
top of the situation.

He questioned where Mr Shoko was all along for the situation to deteriorate
to such a dire extent without him attempting to find solutions.

"You are not asking for help, but you concentrate on (MDC MP for St Mary's
Job) Sikhala's case.

"We don't want to take your powers, but we feel you need to be monitored
every day. I don't think money here is safe. We must not be at loggerheads
and let's not subscribe to our parties, but deliver services to the
residents," said the minister.

Cde Chombo said it was high time the municipality fully utilised the
available resources in service delivery.

He pointed out that only the town engineer's functions necessitated the use
of a council vehicle.

"The shortage of diesel is not an excuse. Only the engineer might need a
car; the rest - you don't. The engineer is working alone and doing his best
under the circumstances," he said.

Cde Matonga said in Chitungwiza municipality, it was a question of
recklessness and personnel with the skills but an altogether wrong attitude
towards their work.

"If people have not bathed for a week, are we being serious?" he said in
reference to persistent water cuts faced by residents.

"It seems people here don't want things to function.

Let us look at the human part of it besides money."

Cde Matonga said the local authority staff should start to be serious in
their work by sprucing up their offices, which looked as if they were long

Harare City Council acting director of works Engineer Michael Jaravaza said
if Chitungwiza was facing constraints, it should come out in the open and
not wait for the deterioration to leave the town on the verge of collapse.

By way of comparison, he said in the case of Harare, the city lost eight
hours of pumping water time during the weekend but the situation had been
promptly rectified.

Cde Karimanzira said the mayor, by virtue of his position, should, at all
times, know the situation on the ground. He said the municipality had left
things to go wrong over a long period.

"We don't know where the energy is coming from now because work for sure is
being done. People should now get in the habit of working over the
weekends," said Cde Karimanzira.

Cde Karimanzira said the mayor should not have fled when residents recently
demonstrated at council offices for better service delivery.

"You were not supposed to run away, but face the residents and address their
concerns," he said.

Mr Shoko said he had to hurriedly drive off because he felt threatened by
the rising anger of the demonstrators.

He said the demonstrating residents outlined their concerns but he had not
had time to thoroughly scrutinise them.

Some residents spoken to during a tour of different sections of the town,
said although refuse was being collected, the municipality was stretching
their patience too far over water cuts.

"I have not bathed for more than a week. Where do these people think we go
to relieve ourselves when there is no water in our houses for four months?
It's disgusting," shouted a woman at Huruyadzo Shopping Centre in St Mary's.

At Luciano Shopping Centre in Unit H, two refuse collection trucks were
being loaded with garbage that the residents said had been piling for

Sewage in some sections of the town was still flowing along the streets.

"This has become part of our lives. It's a miracle that there has not been a
massive cholera outbreak in this town," said another resident, whose house
is only a stone's throw away from municipality offices.

Cde Chombo said as a way forward, the municipality would also be availed
more funds for the payment of pumps that have been sent for repair but are
being held after being fixed because of non-payment of service.

Some of the pumps had been kept by repairers for more than two years.

"Council's 2006 budget has to adequately capture the capital requirements
for water and sewage reticulation as well as refuse collection.

"In viewing council's budget submission, the ministry will ensure that the
tariffs are pegged at such levels as would enable the municipality to
complete major capital development works as well as sustain acceptable
delivery standards," said Cde Chombo.

The meeting followed the 24-hour ultimatum Government gave to Chitungwiza
Municipality last week to produce and present a turnaround plan to address
the current problems besetting the local authority.

Chitungwiza managed to meet the deadline.

Residents recently demonstrated against poor services, which had seen some
sections of the town going for four months without water and sewage flowing
everywhere in most parts of the town.

Cde Chombo said street and ward marshals from youth groups would be
mobilised to assist in the cleaning-up of streets and targeted public areas
around the town. The Ministry of Youth Development and Employment Creation
would be asked to assist in that area.

He said the municipality would have to ensure that refuse bins for each
household have been procured and provided for before November 16.

"Tractors and trailers will also be mobilised to enhance the capacity of
council to cart away refuse."

The council has a total of 26 refuse collection trucks, but only three are
in use with the rest lying idle due to minor mechanical faults and
non-availability of spares.

Cde Chombo said the town's sewerage network was heavily blocked, resulting
in sewage spewing out of manholes and burst pipelines.

"The sewerage pump stations have also not been working for the past 14
months while the sewage treatment works, which is a sophisticated and
state-of-the-art model, has only been partially functional."

He said a sufficiently manned works department, with qualified, experienced
and innovative engineers, has to be put in place as a matter of urgency.

Engineers from other institutions, including Government departments, had to
be engaged to assist the municipality in bolstering its technical capacity.

Zimbabwe National Army engineers would also be asked to chip in and help
with their technical expertise, especially in vehicle repair and

"Council should also set up sufficient hotlines for residents to quickly
communicate with council. Information on leaflets regarding council
initiatives in dealing with the sewer and water bursts has to be circulated
so as to keep ratepayers abreast with the situation and improvements being
instituted," said Cde Chombo.

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MDC faction rejects Tsvangirai's boycott

Business Day

Posted to the web on: 07 November 2005

Foreign Staff

HARARE - Divisions in Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) deepened yesterday, when a dissident faction dug its heels in and
refused to obey an order by party leader Morgan Tsvangirai to boycott this
month's controversial senate elections.

The row over whether to take part in the November 26 poll has plunged the
MDC into its deepest crisis since it was formed six years ago. Critics say
the elections are aimed at consolidating President Robert Mugabe's hold on

Tsvangirai (pictured right) said at the weekend a majority of his party's
national council had backed his call for a boycott at an MDC conference held
in Harare.

Yesterday, a pro-election faction, which shunned the key meeting, dismissed
the gathering as a "kangaroo council".

MDC vice-president Gibson Sibanda said: "The MDC does not recognise this
kangaroo council meeting that was constituted using provincial members who
are not members of the MDC national council under and in terms of the party

He said Tsvangirai was violating the MDC's constitution and democratic
spirit. "Accordingly, we call upon all lawful organs of the party to ignore
this so-called resolution, and to continue to campaign vigorously for all
MDC senatorial candidates," he said.

Tsvangirai last month ordered a boycott of the senate elections, saying
taking part would lend legitimacy to a government that routinely rigged
votes. However, some MDC members defied his instructions, and registered as
candidates for just over half of the 50 seats being contested.

On Saturday, Tsvangirai said the MDC's decision-making national council had
reversed a "purported decision" it had taken last month to participate in
the elections.

Political analysts say the rift in has weakened the MDC's challenge to
81-year-old Mugabe, autocratic ruler since the southern African state's
independence from Britain in 1980.

Meanwhile, Mugabe was expected to summon and confront the US ambassador in
Harare for a stinging attack blaming Zimbabwe's crisis on mismanagement and
corrupt rule, a state-controlled newspaper reported.

In his strongest criticism yet of Mugabe, US envoy Christopher Dell said
last week the Zimbabwe government was responsible for plunging the southern
African country into a crisis. Reuters

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Update: Matebeleland North province

From: Sekai Holland
Sent: Monday, November 07, 2005 5:27 PM
Subject: Re: Update

MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai is on the Matebeleland North leg of his
countrywide tour of the provinces.  With his delegation he travelled from
Harare to Victoria Falls as soon as the newly established four person
committee set up by the National Council to bring the party back together
interviewed him.  He was the first person in their new programme, to answer
pertinent questions regarding the crisis and complaints levelled at him.

The President's delegation includes the 3 MDC Chairpersons, the National
chairperson, the Women's and Youth Assemblies chairpersons.  They left
Harare late on Saturday afternoon with the National Council members from
Matebeleland. Because of the fuel crisis they shared space in all cars
travelling in the direction of the President's route to Victoria Falls. A
brief stop in Bulawayo and the President's delegation continued onto
Victoria Falls to arrive at 3 a.m. Sunday morning.

The situation which developed while they were travelling from Harare was
that four youths deployed from Bulawayo province by the MDC pro senate group
to go door to door   telling MDC members in the areas where the rallies were
organised, that President Tsvangirai's meetings were cancelled as he was
unable to attend. The claim from the MDC Matebeleland North leadership is
that the local MDC Member of Parliament's home was used as the operational
base for these youths to inform his constituency wrong data during the door
to door rounds on Saturday evening. He had advised others that he could not
attend the rally as he was attending the rally in Gwanda to be addressed by
the Vice President.  There was apparently no rally held in Gwanda on that

When the President arrived he was faced with this crisis. The majority of
the Matebeleland North MDC Committee structures attended an emergency
meeting with their National Council representative, Provincial Chairperson
and the Youth Assembly and Women's Assembly Provincial Committees to brief
the President and his delegation on events that had taken place while they
were travelling to the rally.  Around 4 a.m. corrective measures resulting
from this consultation were taken.  People began to travel to the venue
earlier than other times as soon as they heard that the MDC president had
arrived in Victoria Falls.

The rally was as all MDC rallies, exciting and this time a bonding of the
party since this traumatic crisis broke out into the public domain.
Bulawayo province members travelled to Matebeleland North to stand in
solidarity with the Matebeleland North membership. The rally speeches were
on the same theme, the reminder of the party message, its values and
principles and these were reflected in the songs that the crowd sang.  There
was also the demand that the leadership unite, to unite the party to the
party Congress.

The Hwange section of the journey was problematic.  The 4 youths from
Bulawayo province had also gone onto Hwange district and told people that
the President's rally was cancelled.  The permit was denied which meant that
the rally was held at Mpumalanga, 15 kms from the publicised venue.  2 buses
were required to ferry those attending the rally to the new venue but many
walked to the rally.

The rally was inspite of these handicaps also well attended with morale
high.  The President's party today continues his rally tour of Matebeleland
North.  The numbers who attended are estimated to be 4000 - 5000 at each

Steven Mudenda is the Matebeleland North National Executive Committee member
and is also Secretary for National Integration. He can be contacted on:

263 (0) 91 857 295

for further updates on the situation in Matebeleland North province.

Sekai Holland
National Executive Committee member
National Council member
Midlands South
MDC Parliamentary Candidate for Mberengwa East Constituency 2000 and 2005

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In Africa, are 'donor darlings' stifling democracy?

Christian Science Monitor

Clashes between opposition protesters and security forces in Ethiopia killed
more than 46 people in the past week.

By Abraham McLaughlin | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA - In Africa's decade-plus experiment with multiparty
democracy, there appears to be significant backsliding, ironically, among
some heads of state once heralded as the next generation of great leaders on
the continent. And the slippage, observers say, is sometimes being abetted
by the US and other rich-nation donors - in part because of the war on
The most current example is Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who was a
member of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's Commission for Africa and is
an important partner in America's terror war. After a disputed election in
May, he's mounted a brass-knuckles crackdown on opponents in which at least
76 people have died. He's also edging toward restarting one of Africa's most
deadly wars.

Other examples include the leaders of Uganda, Eritrea, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe.
All have one thing in common: They came to power as rebel fighters. Many
have opened some democratic space, for instance allowing opposition parties.
But they're balking at the final step in democracy's process: giving up

"These guys fought for 17 years in the bush to get into power," explains one
capital-city resident about Ethiopia's ruling party. "So they're going to
give it up after one election? No, no, no."

African revolutionaries have stepped down. Zambia's Kenneth Kaunda did in
1991. So did Ghana's Jerry Rawlings in 2000 and Kenya's Daniel arap Moi in
2002. But it hasn't become the norm.

In Ethiopia, the most recent crackdown began after the opposition last week
refused to join parliament - in ongoing protest of what they call a rigged
May 15 election, which they believe they won. With mobs throwing stones and
smashing cars, police have arrested thousands of opposition members and
supporters. At least 46 people have died in the clashes, in which security
forces reportedly used live ammunition against protesters. The violence has
now mostly morphed into a tense calm in the capital. But unrest has
reportedly spread to outlying towns.

One reason the opposition is so fierce is because their expectations were
high going into the elections. In the campaign, the government allowed eight
televised debates in which opposition candidates lobbed rhetorical bombs.
Their supporters began to expect to win. When they didn't - in an election
outside observers saw as flawed - it created a democratic whiplash and
sparked anger.

The ruling party was "willing to accommodate the opposition - but not to the
point of conceding power," says one local observer, who asked not to be
named because of the tense situation. Since the election, he says, "The
government has really changed. They don't feel like they can afford the
luxury of democracy any more, and they're heading toward being an
authoritarian regime."

In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni is also tilting antidemocratic, most
notably by changing the Constitution to enable him to run for a third term.
His words from a 2002 speech reverberate: "We are people in suits by day but
in uniform at night. We fought a liberation war," he said. "Don't play
around with freedom fighters."

Diplomats could turn the screws to force democratic reform. Donors fund
roughly half of governments' budgets in Ethiopia, Uganda, and other African
nations, but they haven't wanted to push too hard.

After touting these leaders as paragons, and investing billions in them,
"The west doesn't want to say, 'We failed,' " says the local observer.

The terror war is also key, especially for the US. Ethiopia is the biggest
regional power in the terror-prone Horn of Africa. US troops deployed here
keep an eye on chaotic Somalia and other places.

Meles, Museveni, and others have also fostered strong growth. Ethiopia's
economy surged by 12 percent last year. Addis Ababa is full of scores of new
buildings. And Meles has mostly averted serious famines.

In Ethiopia, there's also a sense among donors that Meles is still the best
option. There's little confidence in the opposition, which is seen as
irresponsible. And many domestic Meles critics are very hawkish about
Eritrea, the neighbor Ethiopia fought in an inconclusive war that ended in
2000. His critics would be more likely to restart the war - another reason
for diplomats to favor Meles.

Yet donors are increasingly in a bind. "What they saw as a fairly legitimate
and palatable situation is looking increasingly less so," says Matthew
Bryden of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group. "So you'll probably
see a tougher line being taken."

On Saturday, Meles appointed a commission to investigate police conduct in
the violence - a donor demand, and evidence of growing pressure on him.

Mr. Blair has received fresh criticism from conservatives in Britain over
his ties to Meles. And members of the generally anti-Meles Ethiopian
diaspora staged a protest outside the White House.

There's growing concern in Washington. "This is becoming much bigger than,
'Do we like Meles or not?' " says Stephen Morrison of the Center for
Strategic and International Studies in Washington. If instability continues
or worsens, he expects the US to get tough - to even threaten to punish
Meles through the UN Security Council and the World Bank. Of the US he says,
"They're looking very seriously at stepping up their engagement."

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