The ZIMBABWE Situation Our thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.

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Friday, 12 October, 2001, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
Mugabe opponent attacked
Mr Tsvangirai  (left)
Mr Tsvangirai is campaigning around the country
The leader of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has escaped unhurt after his vehicle was damaged by a mob of suspected ruling party supporters.

According to MDC spokesman Learnmore Jongwe, a group of about 50 Zanu-PF supporters and war veterans attacked the MDC motorcade with sticks, stones, machetes and spears.

They stoned his vehicle shattering all windows and causing extensive damage to the body of the Pajero that was carrying Tsvangirai

MDC spokesman

All the windows in Mr Tsvangirai's vehicle were said to have all been shattered and the car extensively damaged.

Mr Morgan Tsvangirai was on his way to address a presidential campaign rally about 150 km west of the capital as part of a series of meetings with supporters in preparation for presidential elections next year.

The MDC is treating the attack as an assassination attempt.

The convoy made a U-turn and the rally was cancelled.

Police unhelpful

Mr Jongwe told our BBC reporter in Harare that the police were unhelpful.

Zimbabwean voters
Presidential elections are due early next year

A similar incident happened in July as Mr Tsvangirai was making his way to address a rally in Bindura.

Mr Tsvangirai said after the attack that there were no plans for an election boycott.

At least 30 opposition supporters were killed in the run-up to last year's parliamentary elections in which the ruling party secured a narrow win.

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Zimbabwe rethinks massive price cuts

The Zimbabwe government has tempered sweeping price-cuts it imposed earlier
this week on basic foods.

The reductions had threatened to shut down hundreds of companies and cause
food shortages.

Price cuts of between 10 and 45% on the corn meal, bread, meat, cooking oil
and milk have been modified to between five and 20%.

Since the announcement of more drastic cuts, two supermarket chains closed
several of their stores across the country after being besieged by shoppers
demanding goods at the reduced prices. Business leaders say those prices are
below the cost of production.

The independent Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries says even the modified
reductions will threaten the viability of many businesses suffering high
import bills and rising transport and power costs.
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International Information Programs

Washington File
12 October 2001

Zimbabwean Envoy Relives Anxious Moments During Attacks in U.S.

(Says U.S. government reaction was "exemplary") (960)
By Jim Fisher-Thompson
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- Thousands of Americans and at least one African
diplomat, Zimbabwean Ambassador Simbi Mubako, shared a terrible
thought the morning of September 11: would they ever see loved ones
again from whom they routinely parted to begin what they thought would
be just another workday?

Less than three weeks after self-proclaimed Muslim extremists hijacked
three jet airliners, crashing two into the twin World Trade Center
towers in New York City and the third into the Pentagon building,
headquarters of U.S. military forces, located near Washington in
Arlington, Virginia, Mubako told the Washington File, "It was
difficult to believe that such a thing could happen." A fourth
airliner crashed in Pennsylvania after passengers struggled with
hijackers, it was reported.

When one of the bloodiest days in the history of the United States
finally ended, more than 5,000 people lay dead amidst the smoking
rubble of the collapsed World Trade Center skyscrapers and under the
shattered wall of one side of the five-sided Pentagon. An additional
265 passengers on the hijacked planes were killed.

Mubako said that when he first heard of the attacks he feared that his
daughter, a BBC journalist who was visiting from London, might be one
of the victims. The diplomat was on his way to work at the Zimbabwean
Embassy in Washington, at about 9:40 a.m., when the attack on the
Pentagon took place. "It was very real to me because Revai, my
daughter, had planned to go to the Pentagon that morning to go
shopping," he said. (Pentagon City, where the shopping mall is
located, is not a part of the military complex but is located less
than a mile from it.)

"When she called from her cell phone to tell me she was safe, I was
relieved," said Mubako. "But then as I watched the fire and collapse
of the World Trade Center Towers on television I was struck by the
sheer horror" of the attack.

The lawyer and high court judge turned diplomat said: "Nothing could
ever justify the killing of innocent people -- children in the street
and women going shopping. Everybody is horrified by this attack that
was clearly meant to kill as many people as possible."

Considering that the terrorist attack killed more Americans than died
in the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor -- the event that
brought America into World War II -- Mubako said, "President Bush's
reaction was exemplary" in showing military restraint while reassuring
Muslims in America by visiting a mosque shortly after the attacks.
"After great provocation, when there is such national anger, for
government to go against popular fervor is very admirable," the
diplomat said.

Mubako, who said that as a "human being" he was still trying to make
sense of the slaughter, pointed out that "even if the attacks were
motivated by hatred of Americans, it made absolutely no sense when you
realize the World Trade Center had a lot of foreign people working in
it." It is now estimated that between 25 and 30 Africans were among
the victims from more than 80 nations in the New York City assault.
Zimbabweans were luckier than others, the diplomat said, because "of
the eight citizens who were known to have worked in the towers, six

Other African nations that had citizens reported missing in the Trade
Center attacks included Burundi, 1; Ghana, 1; Kenya, 1; Nigeria, 10;
and South Africa, 6.

As a judge, Mubako indicated he would be very tough when it came to
sentencing the terrorists if they ever came before his court. "They've
broken just about every rule of international law, including making
direct war on civilians rather than military targets. Even if you
believed the Pentagon was a military target, why would you attack it
in peacetime? It was basically a warlike act when no war was

Even after such a provocation, Mubako repeated his praise of U.S.
government actions "that basically said, 'We don't want to lump
together all Muslims and Arabs in this act.'"

He said, "The very first act that impressed us diplomats was the
national prayer service at the National Cathedral" that President Bush
and other top U.S. officials attended on the Friday following the
attacks. "You had a rabbi and Muslim cleric as well as Christian
minister at the ceremony honoring the victims. I spoke to a number of
Muslim diplomats following the service and they were very impressed
with that gesture."

The diplomats were also touched, Mubako said, with Bush's visit to the
mosque and Islamic center in Washington following the attacks because
"they felt it was a very positive endorsement of tolerance and a
statement that the U.S. government would never support violence
against Muslims as people."

Mubako, who is a Roman Catholic, said: "At my own church here in
Washington the priest devoted one whole sermon to religious tolerance.
His message was that it was wrong to victimize people because of their
faith -- again, endorsing the line that President Bush had taken

Commenting on what he thought Africans could do to help combat
international terrorism, Mubako said he and the African diplomatic
corps met with Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Walter
Kansteiner shortly after the tragedy to offer their support. "We told
Kansteiner that the best way for us to fight terrorism is to make sure
they don't use our territory. This is our basic duty. If we each do
it, terror will have no place to breed."

(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
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Friday, 12 October, 2001, 16:44 GMT 17:44 UK
Zambia cashes in on Victoria Falls
Hotel grounds at Victoria Falls
Zambia is only now putting tourist facilities in place
By Barnaby Phillips at Victoria Falls, Zambia

The Victoria Falls are famous across the world where the mighty Zambezi River, almost one mile wide, hurtles over the abyss into a deep stone gorge, sending up great plumes of mist and spray that rise up into the sky.

Perhaps less well known is the fact that two counties share the Falls: Zimbabwe, which has built a whole tourism industry around them, and Zambia, which has failed to cash in to anywhere near the same extent.

Victoria Falls at dawn
Victoria Falls are good news for Zambians

But with Zimbabwe's current political problems - the farm invasions and attacks on opposition supporters - Zambia is beginning to wake up to new opportunities.

More and more visitors are choosing to see Victoria Falls from the Zambian side of the Zambezi River.

And they are discovering that the view is just as good.

Wonders of the world

"I believe Zambians need to capitalise on this, because this is one of the seven wonders of the world" says one white South African woman, who says that she and her friends are frightened by reports of the situation in Zimbabwe.

"We don't want to be worried about security whilst we are on holiday, we just want to relax" says a South African man.

Its not clear whether such fears are justified - it is black opposition supporters, and, to a lesser extent, white farmers, who have been specifically targeted by pro-government militants in Zimbabwe.

But for the Zambians who live near the falls, the problems over the river are good news.

Big new hotels have opened up on the Zambian side, bringing new jobs.

And in the markets, there are more opportunities for local people to make money, by selling crafts to tourists.

Remain peaceful

"Tourists who were supposed to go to Zimbabwe would now rather come to Zambia, and as a result our business will boom," says one man, selling an assortment of drums and animals carved from wood.

A market near Victoria Falls in Zambia
There are business opportunities for locals

The Zambians are also offering sunset cruises along the Zambezi, upstream from the falls.

Sitting on exotic pleasure boats with names like "The African Queen", tourists sip their cocktails, and watch the elephants and giraffes which have come down to the water's edge to drink.

Obviously Zambia has a lot to offer, and the potential is there for tourism to carry on growing.

But the problem Zambia faces is that tourism is a notoriously fickle business, perhaps especially here in Africa.

At the first sign of trouble the tourists disappear, as Zimbabwe has discovered to its cost.

Zambia will have to remain peaceful and stable if it wants to carry on attracting visitors to its side of the Zambezi River.

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ZIMBABWE: ZimRights petitions parliament to bar deployment of troops

JOHANNESBURG, 12 October (IRIN) - The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) on Monday petitioned Parliament to ban the deployment of soldiers to curb civic disturbances, the 'Daily News' reported on Friday.

David Jamali, ZimRights' acting national director, was quoted as citing the incident of a soldier who opened fire on strikers at the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company in Redcliff on 8 August. Two workers were killed and several others injured.

The petition was quoted as saying: "Some people have been killed, others injured, others forced to wash their bodies in raw sewerage and muddy water, and to eat raw meat and rotten tomatoes, while others had their hair uprooted, at times for supporting the opposition MDC. We feel that government should come up with recommendations that would bar the use of the army in the maintenance of law and order." The statement lists dozens of alleged assaults by the army on civilians in different parts of the country.
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ZIMBABWE: Price controls trigger shortages

JOHANNESBURG, 12 October (IRIN) - The imposition of price controls had already resulted in shortages of key products such bread, agencies said on Friday. According to AFP bread ran low in the Zimbabwean capital Harare on Friday, while shops in smaller towns closed after the government imposed price controls on basic commodities.

AFP added that one supermarket bakery in the city centre had people jostling for the last loaves of freshly baked bread, while another had sold out of bread shortly after business opened on Friday. The government said on Wednesday that it would impose price controls on most basic commodities, including bread, sugar, maize meal and cooking oil.

Manufacturers have criticised the controls, which cut the retail price of bread from around 70 Zimbabwean dollars (US $1.27) to 48.40 Zimbabwean dollars (88 US cents), saying it will kill the industry. "The proposed bread prices will render the industry unviable and regrettably, will lead to closures resulting in massive job losses from both the baking and milling industries," a statement from the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) was quoted as saying. 
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Call for sanctions against Mugabe

Andrew Meldrum in Harare
Friday October 12, 2001
The Guardian

The international community should introduce sanctions against President
Robert Mugabe and other members of the Zimbabwean government, the
International Crisis Group says in a report released today.
The report, Zimbabwe: Time for International Action, stresses that political
violence and farm invasions have continued and even increased, despite Mr
Mugabe's promise at the Commonwealth meeting in Nigeria to restore the rule
of law.

"It is time for the international community to raise pressure to the next
level by instituting 'smart' sanctions against Mugabe and the Zanu-PF
leadership and [by] providing direct aid to the opposition and civil society
organisations," it says.

"The purpose of these measures is to encourage positive policy changes in
Zimbabwe while time remains and to give encouragement to the people of that
country who are working for such change."

The ICG in Brussels says that limited sanctions should be imposed to prevent
Mr Mu gabe fthinking he has free run to intensify repression because the
international community is focused on Afghanistan.

Its report calls for international travel sanctions and a freeze on the
financial assets of Mr Mugabe and senior members of the government . It says
sanctions will "isolate Mugabe and bring further pressure to bear for
positive change."

It coincides with renewed political violence. Six members of the Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition showed evidence of torture they say
was carried out by supporters of Zanu-PF.

MDC officials in the Gokwe area of central Zimbabwe showed feet severely
swollen by beatings with iron bars. They said they were told it was the
beginning of the presidential election campaign.

Mr Mugabe is seeking a new term at the election, which must be held by the
end of March.

The ICG report says Zanu-PF is carrying intimidation to ensure that he wins.

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**Trudy’s Diary appears monthly in the Zimbabwe Independent.
It is reproduced here for the benefit of those who do not read the Independent.

Trudy's Diary
Number 8 - September 2001

The attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon
in the United States have swept everything happening here in Zimbabwe into
the background, internationally.  This is not surprising, since those
attacks were so unexpected and so outrageous in their scope, aimed at prime
symbols of American power.  The thousands of innocent victims who died and
their families, colleagues and friends were considered just so much debris
by the attackers, who themselves joined the debris.  It was the symbolic
strike that mattered, not the number killed.

With our electronic media and information technology we, thousands of miles
away, witnessed the whole thing unfold - mesmerized, horror-struck and
praying that it would stop.  I had organized my MP's clinic at Northside for
6pm, so had to tear myself away from the screen just as they announced the
4th plane down near Pittsburg. All during the meeting our thoughts kept
flying half way round the world, wondering if more attacks were under way
and remembering the vivid images we had seen replayed over and over again
just a few minutes before.  Eddie Cross managed to hold our attention
amazingly well, which speaks volumes either for our Economic Stabilization
and Recovery Programme, his delivery or both.  We prayed, too - and I am
certain that even people who don't normally believe in prayer joined in,
that evening!

When it became clear that there would be no new attacks that day, we began
to come to grips with what had happened, and to wonder what could lead
people to be prepared to kill themselves for the glory of.hitting America.
With Osama bin Laden named as the prime suspect, analysis of "terrorist
organizations", the "terrorist mind", etc. have been flying around the
world.  One article in particular, written by an Afghan-American, Tamim
Ansary in California, re-printed in the Daily News, has stuck in my mind,
not so much because of his analysis of terrorism as his description of
Afghanistan today.  I quote at length:

"Some say, why don't the Afghans rise up and overthrow the Taliban? The
answer is, they're starved, exhausted, hurt, incapacitated, suffering. A few
years ago, the United Nations estimated that there are 500,000 disabled
orphans in Afghanistan -- a country with no economy, no food. There are
millions of widows .. the farms were all destroyed by the Soviets. These are
a few of the reasons why the Afghan people have not overthrown the Taliban.

We come now to the question of bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age.
Trouble is, that's been done. The Soviets took care of it already. Make the
Afghans suffer? They're already suffering. Level their houses? Done. Turn
their schools into piles of rubble? Done. Eradicate their hospitals? Done.
Destroy their infrastructure? Cut them off from medicine and healthcare? Too
late. Someone already did all that. New bombs would only stir the rubble of
earlier bombs. Would they at least get the Taliban? Not likely.
In today's Afghanistan, only the Taliban eat, only they have the means to
move around. They'd slip away and hide."

I trust that by now you see what I am driving at, that we in Zimbabwe are
perilously close to the situation of the Afghanis.  This is how we could all
end up, very soon, if Mugabe and his cronies remain in power!  In fact, we
already have 500 000 Aids orphans, no economy, running out of food, widows,
farms destroyed, houses and schools destroyed - what's the difference,
really?  We don't yet think of ourselves as incapable of rising up against
tyranny - but we are not far off that pitiful state, and this should give us
pause for very serious thought.

We need to make the world understand that we Zimbabweans are also subjected
to terrorism, that we have government-sponsored terrorists killing us with
impunity and destroying our country, and that we need urgent help to get rid
of these terrorists.  It seems the word "terrorist" is what is needed to
galvanise the international community to come to our aid.  Much as before I
always bristled at the word, especially its shortened form "Ter", so be it!
With Gaddafi cosying up to Mugabe and Libyans pouring into the country with
their weapons and their jihad mentality, the Americans should be concerned
about what is going on here, even if their main attention is focused on

On the day of the attacks on the United States, we received the final
results of the Bulawayo and Makoni West elections - the loss in the latter
was unfortunately not unexpected, in view of the ever-present violence and
intimidation (terrorism) in rural constituencies, but the overwhelming win
in Bulawayo suffered from the American attack - we simply could not bring
ourselves to rejoice and dance as we wanted to, and as all those people
involved in the win so richly deserved, because we were thrown into shock
and mourning.  We are just starting to return to that victory, however, and
we are rejoicing, loud and clear!  Harare is envious - for once!  Chikomba
by-election is under way this weekend - I regret that I predict the outcome
will be as Makoni West, though I would love to be proved wrong.  When you
start killing headmasters, it's the end of the road for democracy, and the
sooner everyone wakes up and recognizes the danger we are in, the better.

We had a whole clutch of high-profile international meetings, agreements and
resolutions on Zimbabwe - Abuja (Commonwealth pre-Brisbane), SADC Heads of
State in Harare and the EU.  No question, the pressure is on, and for that
we are immensely grateful to the international community.  The continuing
lawlessness, farm designations and invasions, violence, etc. are no
surprise - but also part of the process, since until the Zimbabwe government
shows that it is not adhering to the agreements made, the international
community can do nothing.  Once any such solumn international agreement is
breached, the consequences are generally dire!

We have only been back in Parliament one week, after a 2-week break, but the
Supplementary Budget quickly brought us to our senses.  Minister Simba
Makoni had warned us of this last month when he presented the half-year
report and its dismal story: everything is "moving southwards" as ZTV
newsreaders so coyly say, these days!  Nevertheless, being presented with
actual amounts to approve was a shock, since he had promised he would not
come back with a supplementary budget this year - so much for this
politician's word.  He didn't even bother to justify the extra $ 5 billion
for Unallocated Reserve (read presidential campaign), but the greatest
disappointment is the Health allocation.  Stamps asked for only $1 billion
extra, when we know he needs at least $7 billion (the bid for the 2001
budget was $18 bn, they only got $11 bn) but he proceeded to DENY that he
needed more money!  We in MDC proposed increasing his ministry's budget by
$7 billion, and suggested several ways it could be done, but he would have
none of it: his ministry is well run, the hospitals are in good condition
and well supplied with doctors, nurses and drugs, people are not dying of
neglect or lack of drugs, no-one has ever been able to prove that all these
tales are true, all is jolly fine, and they certainly don't need any help
from the MDC!  This Vote was held over until Thursday since we were in a
majority, but of course by then he had found a "compromise" ($ 300 million,
as opposed to our offer of $ 7 billion) and members had lost their
motivation, so Health will continue to limp along and the minister will
again blame lack of resources.maddening!

It is interesting to note that the amount requested in the Supplementary -
$17 billion - is almost exactly the amount the privatization exercise has
failed to raise.  It was calculated that privatisation would raise $22 bn,
whereas so far it has only raised around $4 bn, and things seem to have
slowed down - no one is even trying to predict how much more could be
raised!  Chiyangwa, meanwhile, one of the great wheeler-dealers, tabled a
motion condemning price increases due to profiteering "by Indians among
others", and calling for price controls, as though he is not one of the most
prominent businessmen to have made a killing from price increases!

Question time this week proved entertaining, if not very informative.
Foreign Minister Mudenge was targeted, following Abuja and SADC: he
thundered out the weary ZanuPF rhetoric, but took our breath away as he
described how whites had organized the invasions and destruction of their
own farms and property in Mashonaland West: "It was reported that there were
airplanes flying overhead to film this violence, aircraft with fixed wings
("glad they weren't floppy" we whispered to each other) so the Governor said
he would call the Air Marshall to shoot down the planes."  "Would the Hon
Minister repeat what he has just said?" (Speaker Mnangagwa) which he did,
all the time we on our side were convulsed with hysterical laughter - this
is the depth to which our great nation has sunk!  When I raised the issue of
Chiyangwa being on record in his province inciting violence against MDC
members, the Speaker simply ruled me out of order:  "I am not sure this is a
policy question."

Once again, truth bites the dust.

Trudy Stevenson
MP, Harare North
Secretary for Policy and Research
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Comment from The Daily Graphic (Ghana), 11 October

Mugabe’s wrong move

The global chessboard that our world has become is very sophisticated. As globalisation hits us hard and our economies and livelihoods become intertwined, it has become interesting some of the political moves that even developed countries are making. In Africa, a continent that lags behind the rest of the world in every imaginable dimension, one can see external global factors at play in the few successful African countries; Libya, Zimbabwe and South Africa. It is remarkable that Jewish presence or influence in America continuously shifts American foreign policy in favour of Israel. The same applies to British foreign policy when Australia comes in. Progressively, India, Pakistan, and even China, are moving in that same direction when it comes to American foreign policy. Interestingly as well, America is now under the Diversity Visa Lottery programme, taking intellectuals from Third World countries into their country.

Zimbabwe, South Africa and Libya are three African countries where external global factors have been playing a very major and positive global role for the people and the economy. Because they have their kinsmen in Zimbabwe, British foreign policy towards Zimbabwe has been more favourable than to the rest of Africa. South Africa has also benefited because of the presence of a vast number of people of European descent in that country. Also, Libya, by its dual position as African and Arab, has benefited tremendously. In West Africa, notably Ghana, it has become a big debate that it was wrong to have totally sacked all whites from the country after independence. Opinion is that the country would have had a better bargaining power in international affairs if she had had some of these Europeans as her citizens. After all, what is globalisation about than using your global links to turn things in your favour?

Although there is land reform problem in Zimbabwe that has to be addressed, President Robert Mugabe has set the clock of Africa back a few centuries. He is practising old century politics in a more advanced one. He is creating a war situation in a country that is not at war, and for me, an African, that is very retrogressive for an already troubled continent. Land has been used as a political tool in Zimbabwe for many, many years now. Land distribution to landless blacks has been on the books for years. Funds were once provided for this to be done. However, all the land that was taken didn’t end up going to the landless blacks but rather, as in most African countries, the land ended up as property for Mugabe’s cronies in government.

It is easy to get disillusioned and think that the current situation in Zimbabwe is about Mugabe’s resolve to revert the injustice that has been done to his country’s black population. However, the old guerrilla fighter virtually did nothing about the land situation for years until the people of Zimbabwe, through a referendum, rejected an amendment to the constitution that would have favoured Mugabe and also done something about the land. Rather than respect the will of the people, Mugabe went on a warpath in order to secure his own political future. Even though Zimbabwe’s economy is largely dependent on tobacco exports, Mugabe, in his wisdom, decided, in a populist move, to send war veterans to go and invade tobacco farms. Of course, the economy went tumbling. Even black farm workers lost their lives, there was social unrest, media men talked and were jailed and there begun the process of mass migration out of the country. Was Mugabe’s action actually to provide land for landless blacks or was it a populist move meant to maintain his continuous stay in power?

Our world has advanced, yet many, like Mugabe, are still living in the past. There are ways to distribute assets among people without the type of havoc in Zimbabwe. There are people living in America, for example, who own shares all over the world. There are Africans who own percentage shares in American and European companies. It would have been prudent, for example, if an arrangement had been made to give percentages of the land as shares to blacks. They would automatically have become part owners of the farms and economic turmoil would not have resulted. It is naive to assume that sending a group of war veterans to invade farms would have solved the problem. How was the distribution going to be done? Would anybody automatically own the land he stands on? What if 50 people go to a large farm and 100 to a small farm? Proper management of the land would have done the economy a lot of good. However, without any country having fired a single bullet, Mugabe has created a war situation in a country that is not at war.

Unfortunately, Mugabe’s mishandling of the situation has affected a key ally, South Africa, whose currency, the rand, has tumbled. Thabo Mbeki, the South African president, can no longer sit on the fence. Clearly, in today’s global world, with its stock markets, and multinational corporations, events in Zimbabwe can have effect far beyond the sub region. No wonder commonwealth leaders met to try to resolve the situation. Obviously, Mugabe’s poor move, like the move by the international terrorists in the United States, threatens to overturn the whole chessboard. Resolving the problem, however, might be a tall order. Mugabe is an old man used to the old ways and, as they say, it is difficult to teach an old dog new tricks.

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From The Financial Gazette, 11 October

RG ordered to postpone Harare polls

THE governing Zanu PF party has instructed the government to postpone the mayoral elections in Harare and Chitungwiza until after next year's presidential poll to avoid possible embarrassment by hostile urban voters, it was learnt this week. Sources said Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede's office has been told to stop preparing for the Chitungwiza mayoral election that was supposed to have been held in the second week of December and to concentrate on this month's elections in Chegutu. The sources, who work in Mudede's office, said they were also told "to forget" about the Harare mayoral election until after next year's critical presidential poll, which must be held by the end of March. President Robert Mugabe, whose party was heavily drubbed in urban centres by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) during last year's watershed June plebiscite, is expected to face the stiffest challenge to his 21-year-old rule from the MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai.

Harare, the country's largest city with a population of more than two million people, has been run by a commission led by former diplomat Elijah Chanakira since the Zanu PF-dominated Solomon Tawengwa executive was fired in 1999 for gross mismanagement and corruption. The Chanakira Commission's term, which has been extended three times, is expected to end in December. Chanakira himself, according to his family, has however indicated that he would want to quit after December to concentrate on his businesses. Should Chanakira leave, the government would possibly dissolve the commission in December and appoint another Zanu PF-dominated one to run the city until after the presidential elections next year.

The sources said the government was now also toying with the idea of appointing a similar commission to run Chitungwiza when Mayor Joseph Macheka's four-year term ends in December but residents and the MDC might challenge that on legal terms. According to the Urban Councils' Act, a commission can only be appointed once there is a vacuum created by the dismissal of the mayor and his executive. The departure of Macheka, who is not seeking re-election, does not create "such a vacuum" because there would be some councillors still left to complete their terms, an expert told the Financial Gazette. The expert said the delaying tactics Zanu PF could use might be similar to those it employed in Bulawayo when it used the Registrar-General's Office to claim that it was not yet ready to hold a mayoral election. When that election was finally held in August, the MDC's Japhet Ndabeni Ncube heavily defeated Zanu PF's George Mlilo.

"The Registrar-General's Office can always say the voters' roll is not ready and then when it is ready, it can call for an inspection, delaying the election for some more months," said the expert who preferred anonymity. He said Zanu PF's strategy was to delay the mayoral polls until after the presidential ballot because these were an "indicative morale booster" to whichever party that won them. The ruling party, which has fared badly in the major towns and cities, is worried that it will be embarrassed in Harare and Chitungwiza, two of the most densely populated cities in Zimbabwe.

"What Zanu PF is trying to do is to come up with a strategy to improve services in the two cities hoping that this would improve their standing with urban voters," the expert observed. David Samudzimu, the chairman of the Greater Harare Residents' Association, said his association would contest the extension of the Chanakira Commission's term or the appointment of a new one to replace it. He has already filed an urgent application in the High Court challenging the legality of the Chanakira Commission but the matter is still with the courts.

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