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From The Daily News, 13 October
Tsvangirai survives attack
Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC president, yesterday narrowly escaped what his party described as an assassination attempt after his convoy and personal vehicle were attacked at Patchway Mine in Kadoma by a group of about 70 Zanu PF supporters. Addressing a Press conference after the attack, Tsvangirai said: "It was clear. What would you say when a group of between 50 and 70 people attack you and almost destroy your vehicle? The attack could have led to death." The windows on the passenger seat side of the vehicle where Tsvangirai was sitting were completely destroyed, while the rear windows were smashed open, leaving big holes in them. Tsvangirai said: "We were going to Sanyati when a group of about 50 youths attacked our convoy around 11am. My vehicle’s windows were shattered by stones. We had to drive through the crowd, but fortunately no one was hurt."
This was the second attack on Tsvangirai’s convoy this year. On 23 July, Tsvangirai’s motorcade was attacked by Zanu PF youths in Chiveso village in Bindura in the run-up to the Bindura by-election. Learnmore Jongwe, the MDC’s secretary for information and publicity, yesterday said: "We now have firm and solid information that Zanu PF intends to stop Tsvangirai from contesting the forthcoming presidential election by physically eliminating him. The strategy is deliberately designed to be less sophisticated and involves the use of agents disguised as village vigilantes." Jongwe said the damage to Tsvangirai’s Pajero vehicle was in excess of $950 000.
Tsvangirai said the attack occurred as he drove to Sanyati with other MDC officials to educate his party structures on the need for a peaceful election campaign and to encourage them to register to vote for the presidential election. Tsvangirai said the attack, a clear violation of the Abuja agreement in which the government promised to restore the rule of law, took place in the presence of a police inspector he named only as Makaza, the officer commanding Kadoma Rural. "The international community should note that the Abuja agreement was a smokescreen to hoodwink them into believing that law and order would be restored in the country," he said. The incident was reported at Kadoma Central police station. But an Inspector Mpofu, the officer-in-charge of the station, referred questions to Makaza, who was reportedly out of the office. "It would appear that Makaza was around the vicinity of the incident. I hold him responsible for that incident," Tsvangirai said. A police officer at Kadoma Rural who refused to identify himself yesterday said: "The position is that we do not speak to the Press, but it is not true that Makaza was involved in that incident."
From The Independent (UK), 13 October
Zimbabwe moderates massive price cuts on food
Harare - Zimbabwe tempered price cuts on basic foods on Friday after sweeping reductions it had announced earlier in the week threatened to ruin hundreds of companies and cause food shortages. Price cuts of between 10 and 45 per cent on corn meal, the country's staple food, bread, meat, cooking oil and milk which were announced on Wednesday were modified to between 5 and 20 per cent in an official price-freeze order issued by the Ministry of Trade and Industry. Since Wednesday, two supermarket chains had closed several stores after being besieged by shoppers demanding goods at the reduced prices. Business leaders said the prices were below the costs of production. The first announcement decreed that a loaf of bread should sell for Z$34.43, a drop of 33 per cent. After millers and bakers protested that it cost Z$40 to produce a loaf, the government pegged the price at Z$48.40, a drop of about 14 per cent from the current price.
The cuts became effective yesterday as the government battled to control soaring inflation ahead of hotly contested presidential elections early next year. The independent Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) said even the modified reductions would threaten the viability of many businesses suffering high import bills and rising transport and power costs. "Bakers have had to raise their prices throughout the year to stay in business," said Jacob Dube, of the CZI. "Reduced prices will lead to closures and job losses." The price controls were expected to create shortages, hoarding and black marketeering, he said. Howard Sithole, an economist, said the price freeze was impractical and "a populist decision to please voters".
From The Financial Times, 12 October
Zimbabweans 'desperately need help'
Johannesburg - The economic crisis in Zimbabwe, and rising prices in particular, are having a devastating effect on its people, the South African government said on Friday. Alec Erwin, the minister of trade and industry, said economic mismanagement had led to sky-rocketing inflation that was hurting Zimbabwe's poorest people. "What is happening to ordinary people and workers is devastating, absolutely devastating. And it's not being solved," he said. "They desperately need help." Inflation in Zimbabwe is estimated at 70 per cent, while unemployment is 50 per cent. The country is facing shortages of basic foodstuffs and the International Monetary Fund has ruled out making further loans to the country.
Mr Erwin's comments followed a partial U-turn by the government of Zimbabwe on Friday on its decision to impose price controls on staple foods. Wednesday's announcement of big cuts in the price of bread, maize, meat, cooking oil and milk had led to a run on shops, causing food shortages and threatening to close down hundreds of companies. This acknowledgment of Zimbabwe's economic plight by the South African government is one of its strongest statements yet about the extent of the financial crisis, precipitated by political violence and land invasions in its northern neighbour. Mr Erwin warned that South Africa should avoid the de-industrialisation and job losses that had taken place in Zimbabwe. "In a short period in Zimbabwe, the industrial capacity has been destroyed. It would be very dangerous in South Africa," he said.
The Zimbabwean ministry of trade and industry on Friday ordered that the price cuts of between 10 and 45 per cent announced on Wednesday should be reduced to between 5 and 20 per cent, after business leaders complained the new prices did not cover production costs. Supermarkets and bakeries across the country were forced to close on Friday after running out of bread and other foods and being besieged by customers demanding lower prices. The price of a loaf of bread, which had dropped 33 per cent to around Z$34 ($61 US cents) on Friday, was increased to Z$48, a drop of 14 per cent from the non-regulated price. The price of bread has increased eight times this year. The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) said on Friday that even the modified price cuts were a threat to many businesses. "Reduced prices will lead to closures and job losses," said Jacob Dube, a CZI official.
From the Zimbabwe Independent, 12 October
Army in Manicaland crackdown
The government has deployed the army in parts of Manicaland seen as loyal to the Movement for Democratic Change as part of the ruling party’s nationwide campaign to root out opposition. Latest information reaching the Zimbabwe Independent indicates the military - garrisoning MDC Chimanimani MP Roy Bennett’s Charleswood Estate - went on the rampage this week assaulting people accused of being opposition supporters. Sources said the vicious crackdown, which also involved the police and state intelligence agents, started last weekend and left a trail of victims. "On Saturday, October 6, police, under the command of Assistant Inspector Mujuru, CIO (Central Intelligence Organisation) under Joseph Mwale, and the army, under Captain Charamba from ZNA (Zimbabwe National Army) 3 Brigade Mutare, proceeded with about 25 details to Machongwe village to assault people accused of supporting the MDC," a source said.
Sources said soldiers assaulted a number of people. Some of the victims of what appears to be organised state terrorism were identified as Edmore Mafuse (24), Tobias Machocho (22), Shepherd Kajai (31), Brian Manoma (9), and Never Ruwo (32). "Ruwo sustained a fractured skull, face lacerations, severe bruises and multiple cuts. He is currently undergoing treatment," a source explained. "A headmaster from Kushinga A school had serious lacerations and bruises as well. Some of the victims have not yet got treatment because of death threats they received when they went to hospitals or clinics." It is understood the local MDC leadership reported the incidents to Chimanimani police station. Constable Matubu of Police Internal Security Intelligence was said to be investigating the matter. Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said he was not aware of the situation.
Trouble also struck Biriwiri township in Chimanimani on Sunday. Soldiers and state security operatives were said to have unleashed another wave of terror. This followed a meeting earlier in the day held by senior Zanu PF officials. Present were Didymus Mutasa, Zanu PF secretary for foreign affairs in the politburo and Makoni North MP; Patrick Chinamasa, Justice minister and non-constituency MP; Munacho Mutezo, the Zanu PF candidate who lost to Bennett in last year’s general election; Sidney Gata, Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority chair and chief executive; Jane Knight, a local Zanu PF coordinator and several district officials. A headmaster and two teachers from each school across the district, civil servants, and community leaders were ordered to attend the weekend gathering, it was said.
"They were told their jobs and lives were on the line if they continued supporting the opposition," a source said. "The headmaster for Nenhowe School was ordered to stand up and identified as a suspected MDC supporter and threatened with reprisal." It is understood Mutasa opened the meeting claiming Mutezo was the legitimate MP for Chimanimani and not Bennett who beat Mutezo the Zanu PF rural stronghold by 11 410 to 8 072 votes. A source close to the get-together said Mutasa announced: "I’m now declaring Munacho Mutezo as the official MP for Chimanimani and Roy Bennett as history." Sources said Chinamasa asked the audience how they could have voted for a "Boer" and why they wanted to return the country to whites.
"He said Zanu PF was there to stay and people better get used to it because things will never change," another source said. "They all dwelt in war-like rhetoric threatening villagers with retribution in the most menacing manner possible." It was said Gata - who is President Robert Mugabe’s brother-in-law - alleged he had received applications for electricity from a number of MPs but Bennett had not been interested in bringing power to his constituency. "The Zanu PF officials also urged people to proceed to Bennett’s Charleswood Farm to seize the property," a source noted. "They said if you want to kill a hornet you destroy its nest." "In the evening around 5pm two plainclothes soldiers entered Charleswood Estate bar and started harassing farm employees," another source revealed. "Scuffles ensued and several people were beaten up." Violence has been going on in Chimanimani for sometime now. Bennett’s farm and MDC supporters have been targets for government-sponsored mobs and the state security apparatus.
From The Financial Gazette, 11 October
Plot to expel farmers foiled
Influential leaders of Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu PF party and senior intelligence officers hatched an "Idi Amin-type" plan to expel almost all white farmers from Zimbabwe by December if international efforts to resolve the land crisis failed but the plan has apparently been abandoned, it emerged this week. The government however denied the existence of such a plan, saying the introduction of the fast-track land reform programme was meant to address such concerns as the slow pace of resettlement. Idi Amin, the 1970s ruler of Uganda, expelled all Asians from the East African country after accusing them of corruption and excessively exploiting the economy. The Zimbabwean plan, which seems to have been aborted following the signing of the Abuja agreement last month, would have begun with riots on farms in the Chinhoyi and Mhangura areas of Mashonaland West, intelligence sources told the Financial Gazette. Many farmers in August fled the rich farming areas from rampaging government supporters who targeted their small communities for random assaults. According to the sources, the plan by the CIO and Zanu PF hinged on landless villagers, party youths and self-styled war veterans being inflamed to attack farmers and drive them out of properties as the quickest way of implementing the government's fast-track land reforms.
Marauding bands of villagers and war veterans attacked farmers in Mashonaland West in August and looted properties, forcing owners and their workers to flee after an altercation at Liston Shield, a farm about 15 km from Chinhoyi, ignited the rampage. It is alleged that some senior Zanu PF leaders had visited the farming area and urged villagers to physically attack farmers to force them to abandon their properties. Twenty-one white farmers were later arrested and are being charged with common assault. Their case attracted international attention when the courts initially refused them bail. According to the sources, the exercise to induce the mass exodus of white farmers from Zimbabwe was only abandoned after Nigeria successfully cobbled up a truce between Zimbabwe and Britain, its former colonial master, in Abuja on September 6. What also helped to cool tempers was the generous land reform plan offered before Abuja by some members of the Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU) as part of the Zimbabwe Joint Resettlement Initiative. Under the Abuja agreement, Zimbabwe assured the international community it would restore law and order in exchange for the resumption of Western aid and the funding of its land programme.
One source said the "Idi Amin" plan was actually part of a "grand strategy" hatched by members of the spy Central Intelligence Organisation, war veterans and some Zanu PF leaders as the final countdown that would have culminated in attacks on leading members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Aspects of the plan that apparently found favour among senior military and intelligence officers included forcing MDC leaders to flee the country before next year's presidential poll. "When it comes to the nitty-gritty, these people do not care. They are guerrillas, they are just like the Talibans," said one intelligence source, referring to the militant Islamic government being pounded by the United States for allegedly supporting international terrorism. Almost all of Zimbabwe's senior military and intelligence officers are former members of Robert Mugabe's pre-independence ZANLA guerrilla army.
The source said Britain and the CFU must have got wind of the plan and immediately agreed to attend the Abuja talks. The CFU, through a spokesman, however said this week the organisation did not know of the plan. Contacted for comment, a senior Zanu PF legislator this week said in confidence that while not privy to the original plan to scare away farmers, the intention to get rid of them was well known within the party and would continue "whether there is Abuja or not". "It is simple," said the legislator who preferred anonymity, "the whites have to leave the farms. The difference now is that with Abuja, they will be paid. Before they would have left with only the compensation for improvements they made on the properties." The Zanu PF leader said in provinces such as Mashonaland Central, white farmers had already realised that only working with the ruling party would assure their continued stay on their properties.
Welshman Ncube, the MDC's secretary-general, said his party was aware of the plan to force some of its senior executives into exile or into detention and scrap next year's presidential election. "We are aware that that is one of the contingency plans which is said to be preferred by Zanu PF even now. It's not as if this has been abandoned because of Abuja," Ncube said. He said his party's own intelligence sources had warned the MDC that the ruling party would use all means at its disposal to retain power and these might include introducing martial law and arresting opposition party leaders. The department of information yesterday evening brushed off the so-called "Idi Amin" plan saying the fact that the government had introduced the fast track land reform programme was to address concerns over the slow pace of resettlement since the Lancaster House conference in 1980. A government spokesman directed the Financial Gazette to Zanu PF or the Zimbabwe Liberation War Veterans Association to check whether they knew about the alleged plan to chase away farmers to speed up the resettlement exercise. It was not possible to do so before going to print.
From The Zimbabwe Independent, 12 October
Muzenda flouts ban on maize
Vice-President Simon Muzenda is openly flouting the law by buying maize through one of his companies, Murefu Investments, in contravention of a statutory instrument banning private trade in maize and wheat, it has been established. In July the government passed a law which prohibits trading in maize and wheat outside the Grain Marketing Board. Farmers delivering their maize to Murefu Investments - which he opened in the Soti-Source resettlement scheme in Gutu - said Muzenda was currently buying maize at $160 a bucket, which weighs about 15kg. This translates to $10 560 a tonne, about $1 000 more than the GMB buying price.
"His buying maize here is a big advantage to us because it cuts transport costs we incur when we take the maize to the nearest GMB depot and if we deliver to GMB it would take at least a week to get our cheques," one farmer said. The nearest GMB depot is at Gutu-Mpandawana, about 50km from Soti. The farmer said Muzenda’s company supplied transport to collect maize from the small-scale farmers who were paid immediately after delivery. However, there was a catch to the deal as sellers had to purchase agricultural inputs from Murefu Investments using the proceeds from the maize sale. They are then paid the balance in cash. Considering the fact that Muzenda’s company is buying the maize at a price higher than the gazetted one, it is unlikely that he would send the grain to the GMB at a loss, commentators said.
Sources said Muzenda was buying maize to support his piggery project. There is also speculation that some of the maize is being resold on the black market for a profit. Currently maize is selling at $200 a bucket from street vendors in urban areas. The GMB has deployed more than 50 inspectors to monitor the movement of cereals throughout the country. Sources at the GMB said once the inspectors caught-up with a truck carrying maize to any destination other than the GMB, the consignment would be diverted to the nearest depot. The GMB had not responded to written questions enquiring about Muzenda’s maize trade by the time of going to press.