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Zimbabwe power-sharing talks collapse

Africa News
Oct 17, 2008, 22:41 GMT

Harare - A month after the signing of a power-sharing accord in this
troubled southern African country, talks collapsed late Friday over
formation of a coalition government.

Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC),
described the situation as a dead end. He called for help from the African
Union and the 14-nation regional political group, the Southern African
Development Community (SADC).

The international mediation panel that has been involved in the conflict
plans to meet Monday in the mountain kingdom of Swaziland to confer.

MDC delivered the first election defeat ever to President Robert Mugabe's
ZANU (PF) party in March, denying it the parliamentary majority. Mugabe was
declared the winner of a run-off presidential election, the legitimacy of
which has been called into question by the international community.

'We are concerned by the attempt to push the MDC into a meaningless position
in the coalition government,' Tsvangirai said late Friday evening.

Earlier, Mugabe indicated the talks were not going in the direction he had

Under the agreement brokered on September 15 by former South African
President Thabo Mbeki, ZANU (PF) was to receive 15 cabinet posts, MDC 13 and
a smaller opposition group three.

ZANU (PF) and MDC have been wrestling over which party gets what post in a
coalition government that would leave Mugabe as president and Tsvangirai as
head of government.

Mbeki returned to Harare on Monday to find the agreement on the brink of
collapsing after Mugabe last weekend unilaterally allocated the most
important cabinet posts to Zanu-PF - including the defence ministry and home
affairs, which would give him total control of the country's security

The collapse of the talks come as aid organizations are warning of a famine
catastrophe in the country once known as the breadbasket of Africa.

The major stumbling block in negotiations has been the ministry of home
affairs, which includes control of the police force.

Tsvangirai insists that control of the uniformed forces has to be balanced,
and has conceded the control of the defence ministry to the 84-year-old

Under his control for the last 28 years since independence, the country's
economy has collapsed with inflation conservatively put at 231 million per
cent, while the currency yesterday continued its headlong crash, reaching 50
million Zimbabwe dollars to the US dollar on Thursday, from 100 Zimbabwe
dollars to the US dollar in early August, when the regime redenominated its
currency by slashing off 10 zeroes.
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Sources said that Mugabe on Thursday night agreed to cede control of the
finance ministry to the MDC.

MDC sources said Friday Tsvangirai had been made an offer on Thursday night
of a new home affairs ministry with control revolving between the two.

'Morgan rejected it,' said the source. 'He is resolute, and so is his
negotiating team. It's home affairs or nothing. ZANU(PF) has nothing new to
offer. They are just trying to wear him down into accepting. Morgan says he
cannot deliver to the people without home affairs.'

Observers say the impasse is dramatically aggravating a humanitarian
catastrophe, as famine begins to claim the lives of hundreds of starving
children whose parents have no food.

By January almost one in two people will be dependent on food aid, although
famine relief operations have barely resumed after a three- month ban
imposed by Mugabe.

Late Thursday, James McGee, the United States ambassador to Zimbabwe said
aid - except humanitarian - would not be resumed, nor would targeted
sanctions against members of Mugabe's power clique be lifted until there was
'evidence of long-term political and economic reform. 'Until then, it will
not happen,' he said.

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Mbeki denies deadlock in Zimbabwe power-sharing talks

Yahoo News

2 hrs 21 mins ago
HARARE (AFP) - Former South African president Thabo Mbeki denied late Friday
that Zimbabwe's power-sharing talks had hit a deadlock, saying negotiations
would continue next week in Swaziland.

"The negotiations are continuing. I wouldn't say there is a deadlock," Mbeki
told reporters shortly after midnight, in his first public remarks on the
four days of talks.

He said that talks would continue on Monday in Swaziland with the three
nations known as the Troika, which make up a security panel of the Southern
African Development Community (SADC).

"I know for a fact that the Troika is very very keen that this matter is
resolved as a matter of urgency," Mbeki said.

Mbeki brokered the power-sharing deal signed one month ago by Zimbabwe
President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, calling for
the formation of a unity government to end months of deadly political

The deal hit the rocks over disputes about how to divide control of the most
powerful cabinet posts, so Mbeki flew to Harare this week to try to mediate
a solution.

Mbeki insisted that he remained optimistic about the proposed unity
government, saying the remaining matters in dispute "are capable of solving
themselves quite easily."

"All the parties are committed to the process. Everyone has an obligation
that this process does not collapse. All of them said they will not walk out
and they are committed," he said.

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Regional bloc to meet Monday on Zimbabwe: opposition

Yahoo News

HARARE (Reuters) - Some southern African leaders will meet on Monday to try
to help Zimbabwe's rival parties end a deadlock on forming a new government,
opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said on Friday.

Speaking after four days of inconclusive talks mediated by former South
African President Thabo Mbeki, Tsvangirai said his MDC party would not walk
away from negotiations despite the difficulties.

The Southern African Development Community's security defense and political
troika -- made up of the heads of state of Swaziland, Mozambique and
Angola -- will meet in Swaziland on Monday to try to find a way of
overcoming the stalemate.

"We call upon the SADC and the AU (African Union) to use their collective
wisdom to help unlock the deadlock," Tsvangirai said.

The power-sharing deal brokered by Mbeki a month ago is seen as Zimbabwe's
best hope for rescuing an economy where fuel and food are scarce and
inflation stands at 231 million percent, the world's highest.

Mugabe, in power since 1980, said the talks were derailed.

"It went very well in the wrong direction," Mugabe told reporters, adding
that Mbeki will make a statement on Saturday on the way forward.

Tsvangirai threatened to pull out on Sunday after Mugabe allocated powerful
ministries such as defense, finance and home affairs to his own party.

Mugabe's long-time foe still seemed hopeful after several rounds of failed
talks and relentless trading of accusations.

When he was asked about the atmosphere in the talks, Tsvangirai said: "There
is a hurdle accepted by all the parties. There was no animosity. It was very
cordial, no rancor."

The MDC leader beat Mugabe in a March 29 presidential election but fell
short of enough votes to avoid a June run-off, which was won by Mugabe
unopposed after Tsvangirai pulled out, citing violence and intimidation
against his supporters.

Mugabe's victory in the run-off was condemned around the world and drew
toughened sanctions from Western countries whose support is vital for
reviving Zimbabwe's ruined economy.

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Mugabe says cabinet talks went in wrong direction


Fri 17 Oct 2008, 20:33 GMT

HARARE, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said four days
of talks on forming a cabinet with the opposition which ended on Friday went
in the wrong direction.

"It went very well in the wrong direction," Mugabe told reporters, adding
that former South African president Thabo Mbeki, who has been mediating in
the negotiations, will make a statement on Saturday on the way forward.
(Reporting by Nelson Banya)

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Tsvangirai says still committed to deal with Mugabe


Fri 17 Oct 2008, 20:02 GMT

HARARE, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said on
Friday he was still committed to a broad power-sharing agrrement with
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe despite four days of talks that failed to
end a deadlock.

"We are not walking away from this. We hope that with the spirit of
cooperation, there will be finality," he told reporters.

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Zim specialist doctors strike over pay

by Cuthbert Nzou Saturday 18 October 2008

HARARE - Specialists doctors at Zimbabwe state hospitals have gone on
strike, paralysing a public health sector that is barely functional at the
best of times due to an overload of HIV/AIDS-related cases amid an acute
shortage of drugs and equipment.

The more senior and experienced specialist doctors had kept public hospitals
running after intern doctors, known as junior doctors in Zimbabwe, and
nurses stopped coming to work in August to press for more pay and better
working conditions.

The specialist doctors, among them surgeons, neurologists and gynecologists,
went on strike on Thursday after reaching a deadlock on salary reviews with
the Health Services Board (HSB).

Some of the country's biggest hospitals such as Parirenyatwa Group of
Hospitals and Harare Central hospital both in the capital and Mpilo General
hospital in the second largest city of Bulawayo were from yesterday
discharging some patients, advising them to seek treatment from private
doctors and hospitals.

The senior doctors are understood to be demanding that their salaries be
paid in hard currency and not in the local dollar, which hit by inflation of
231 million percent continues to lose value faster than any other currency
on earth.

Hospitals Doctors Association (HDA) president Amos Severengi on Friday
confirmed that specialist doctors had embarked on an industrial action and
adding that they would not return to work until their salaries are pegged in
foreign currency.

Severegi said: "The specialists have joined junior doctors and nurses on
strike. As I speak, Parirenyatwa hospital is discharging patients because no
one can attend to them. Our demands should be met before we go back to

Severengi said the HSB told the doctors that the government had no capacity
to pay them in foreign currency. State doctors currently earn between $50
000 and $100 000 monthly which they want hiked to US$2 000 per month.

A visit to Parirenyatwa and Harare Central hospitals revealed the suffering
of patients because of the strike.

"I have been asked to leave the hospital this morning because the doctors
and nurses are on strike," said a patient at Parirenyatwa.

The patient, who identified herself as Chipo Mutsago, said hospital
authorities had told her "to consult private doctors and hospitals".

Doctors who spoke on condition of anonymity vowed not to return to work
until all their grievances were met.

"What I can tell you right now is that I am not at work, and until we are
paid what I want I am not going to work," a Harare-based doctor said.

Health minister David Parirenyatwa confirmed the strike. "I was informed on
Thursday of the strike by the specialist doctors. The government is looking
into their grievances and appeals to them to return to work for the sake of
the suffering patients," he said.

"We are working tirelessly to improve their remuneration and working
conditions," he added.

State hospitals are the source of health services for the majority of
Zimbabweans. But standards and service at the health institutions that were
once lauded as some of the best public hospitals in Africa have collapsed
after years of under-funding and mismanagement. - ZimOnline

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A letter from the diaspora

17th October 2008
Dear Friends.
Zimbabwe is not alone in its distrust of politics and politicians. In the
west too there is widespread scepticism about politics; here in the UK a
commonly heard remark is that 'Politics is a dirty game, it doesn't matter
which party is in power, they're all the same.' Power is the key word and
the ongoing impasse between the two sides in the current negotiations in
Zimbabwe is characterised in the media as a 'struggle for power' as if power
in itself was a dirty word and the two sides are no better than dogs
fighting over a bone. I would argue, however, that the desire for power is
not necessarily harmful in itself. The desire for political power for its
own sake, for personal gain and self- aggrandizement is very different from
wanting power in order to bring about change in people's lives; to make life
better for the majority of the population.
Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF have been in power for twenty eight years. They
have become used to the trappings of power; they are richer than their
wildest dreams. All of this has been made possible through their
unquestioning support for Mugabe and the ruling party. Personal integrity
has gone by the board; judges have delivered their judgements not in accord
with justice but according to the political dictates of Robert Mugabe and
Zanu PF; policemen have long forgotten their true mandate to serve and
protect the people and have instead become no more than party functionaries
willing to beat and kill the people they deem to be the enemies of the
state. In Zanu PF's eyes they are the state, all power is theirs and the
people are merely appendages to be used and abused as the state sees fit.
Absolute power has corrupted Zanu PF absolutely. After twenty eight years of
unchallenged power they simply cannot accept that any other party is
entitled or competent to share power. A statement in the government
mouthpiece, The Herald, this week claimed that: "The MDC is too
inexperienced to run finance.Government" they added "is formed by the
President .the MDC is not fit to oversee security agencies. We urge them to
get into government to learn the ropes and build trust." Unintended irony
perhaps, I wondered as I read the Herald comments alongside the list of
ministries that Robert Mugabe abrogated to himself in an Extraordinary
Government Gazette, issued late one evening just before Thabo Mbeki arrived
on yet another attempt to rescue the floundering negotiations. Could anyone,
even within the ruling party, with a modicum of intelligence claim that the
Ministries of Finance, Foreign Affairs, Defence, Home Affairs, Justice and
Information had been competently run by the present holders of power? The
evidence of financial mismanagement is clear for all to see. You don't need
to be an economist to know that inflation makes your salary worthless before
you have even withdrawn it from the bank or bought a loaf of bread or paid
the bus fare home again, let alone put food on the table or paid the school
fees. Are we seriously supposed to believe that the MDC is 'too
inexperienced (ie.incompetent) to run finance' as the Herald would have us
believe? And what of Home Affairs, the Ministry that runs the elections? The
electoral roll is stuffed with names of long dead voters and under the
hopelessly incompetent Mugabe puppet, Tobiwa Mudede, has reduced the
country's electoral system to a laughing stock. The police, the army and the
justice system have similarly been reduced to nothing but caricatures under
Zanu PF mismanagement but still Mugabe claims he wants all of them and his
puppets at the Herald and ZBC continue to spew out their poisonous lies to
the effect that 'no one could have done it better'

But, you can't fool all the people all the time and this week there are
signs that Hungry people are indeed Angry people. Civic society appears to
be on the move, sporadic as yet and certainly not free of police violence.
It was the students on Tuesday in Harare trying to present a petition as the
House re-assembled and getting beaten and gaoled for their trouble; on
Tuesday and Wednesday it was journalists thrown out of the Talks venue for
supposedly not being accredited; on Thursday it was the Woza women in
Bulawayo, inexplicably beaten and arrested this time despite last week's
peaceful demo and today, Friday, the residents of Chitungwiza take to the
streets in an action organised by NANGO and titled Do the Right Thing,
designed to send a message to the government about the desperate lack of
water and sanitation in their home town. "The government has always been
doing the right thing," claimed one Clever Mutukwa a senior civil servant
and war veteran, "The crisis is directly linked to the imposition of
sanctions. Instead of calling on the government to do the right thing it is
the NGOs and their allies in the opposition who should do the right thing
and call for the lifting of sanctions."

You have to hand it to Robert Mugabe; the one ministry he has really run
well is his (mis)Information Ministry. Those pesky sanctions must really be
hurting him and the other listed Zanu PF top people. For the rest of
Zimbabwe, it is not sanctions that are making people's lives unbearable, it
is one old man and his power hungry Zanu PF followers who are unable to see
beyond their own greed. A heart-breaking story from the eastern district of
Nyanga tellingly illustrates that very point. A group of MDC officials had
managed to gather donations of food for starving AIDS orphans and were busy
distributing the food when a lorry load of police and war vets in Zanu PF
shirts arrived and drove the Good Samaritans out claiming they were not
licensed to distribute food. The biblical parallel is painfully clear:
Suffer the little children. Such gross inhumanity, such blatant abuse of
power defies belief; yet still Mugabe and Zanu PF claim they are the only
ones fit to govern Zimbabwe.
Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH

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Xenophobia attack victims live in squalor

October 17, 2008

By Mxolisi Ncube

JOHANNESBURG - Hundreds of African immigrants, displaced by xenophobic
attacks which hit most parts of South Africa 's Gauteng Province in May, are
now living under sub-human conditions, after the host government razed down
their safety camps.

On Monday last week, the South African government dismantled the last
remaining safety camp, Akasia, in the capital Pretoria, which housed more
than 300 victims of the xenophobic violence, which rocked Gauteng and left
more than 60 people, most of them foreign nationals, dead.

Some of the immigrants, who spoke to The Zimbabwe Times on Friday, accused
the South African government officials of trying to forcibly re-integrate
them back into the communities which sent them packing only five months ago,
without first making sure that they would be safe there.

"I will stay here because there is nowhere else for me to go. I cannot just
return to those people, who chased me away in such a violent manner," said
Benson Shoko, a Zimbabwean father of two, who comes from Masvingo.

"I saw people die like animals during that violence and it is not fair for
the government to try to force us back there. We are living a difficult life
here, but it is safe. Government should find somewhere else for us to stay
because we hear that some of our colleagues who returned to the suburbs have
been threatened again.

"We are not being stubborn, but the government should know what we went
through," said a Somali national, who only identified himself as Benny.

"We have very young children and we also do not want them to remain here
under these conditions, but we have no choice. We would rather have them
here where it is difficult but safe than take them back to where they can be
killed any time. Already some of our colleagues who returned there have been
killed, but government tells us that it is safe."

There have been reports that some locals are targeting Somali nationals,
with at least four of them having been killed in suspected xenophobic
attacks countrywide within the past month alone.

The immigrants, now living in the open, vowed that they would resist any
government efforts to force them back to the local communities until they
were sure that it was safe.

Many other foreigners, who include Somalis, Ethiopians and Burundians,
echoed the same sentiments, accusing government of abandoning them at their
greatest hour of need by bringing down the camp.

On the other hand, the South African government maintains that favourable
conditions now exist for the foreigners to return to the communities they
lived in, and that a repeat of the May blood bath is now highly unlikely.

"The camps have all closed and we are re-integrating these people back to
their societies. There is no way they can remain in isolation forever," said
Tshwane Mayor, Gwen Ramogkapa.

"Most of them have already joined up with their former neighbours and there
been no violence directed to them."

However, the latest action by the government has seen South Africa 's human
rights record take a huge knock, as civil society organisations maintain
that they have not received adequate support or commitment from provincial
authorities in Gauteng province in their efforts to engage local communities
for the safe return of the displaced persons.

"The financial assistance offered by international agencies to displaced
persons is seriously insufficient to find safe accommodation and to meet
other aspects of a sustainable return," said Amnesty International, a
humanitarian organisation last week.

"Violence against displaced persons attempting to return to local South
African communities continues, in particular against Somali nationals, with
police failing to accept that these crimes are part of a continuing pattern
of xenophobic attacks.

The displaced victims were each given R500 grants for them to re-start their
lives back in the communities, but human rights groups say the money is not
enough for people who lost almost everything during the attacks, which were
also accompanied by a high degree of looting of property by the locals.

They also called for an immediate halt to any deportations of the displaced
people, most of who fled continuing political unrest from their countries,
pending access to an effective appeal process with full procedural

Lawyers for Human Rights, another organisation that safeguards the rights of
vulnerable individuals, also raised fears of a serious disease outbreak from
the camps, now an eyesore.

"There is no proper sanitation in those areas and the conditions deteriorate
everyday. Government should move in and curtail this before it is too late,"
said an official from the LHR.

"This is a serious humanitarian crisis which government created, when it
left these people during their hour of greatest need. These people were also
not given post-trauma counselling and they will always be haunted by fear of
what they went through. Remember that some of them lost their close
relatives during the violent attacks"

The human rights groups are trying to assist the victims with food, but they
seem to be overwhelmed by the growing number of those in need.

Arguably Africa's strongest economy, South Africa is home to millions of
foreign nationals from other African countries, including Ethiopia, Burundi,
Malawi and Zimbabwe, most of who would have fled either economic meltdown or
political persecution from their home countries.

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