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Mini-SADC summit on Zimbabwe deadlock set for October 29

Africa News
Oct 21, 2009, 19:32 GMT

Harare - Southern African leaders will hold talks with Zimbabwe's estranged
leaders in Harare on October 29 to try to break the deadlock in the
country's eight-month-old unity government, two official sources in Harare
said Wednesday.

The meeting has been convened as Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai
embarks on a new diplomatic offensive in Southern Africa to try to drum up
support for his party's position.

On Wednesday, he met South African President Jacob Zuma in Cape Town after
meeting Mozambique's President Armando Guebuza in Mozambique on Tuesday.

A statement issued by Zuma's office said he had 'expressed concern at the
situation in Zimbabwe' and said, 'Zimbabwe should not be allowed to slide
back into instability.'

Last week, Tsvangirai announced his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was
'disengaging' from the coalition government he formed with President Robert
Mugabe in February until Mugabe's Zanu-PF allowed the full implementation of
the country's power-sharing deal.

The Southern African Development Community, the regional political and
trading bloc, is the architect and guarantor of the Global Political
Agreement (GPA), which committed the longtime rivals to share power.

The leaders of the SADC troika on politics, defence and security
co-operation - South Africa, Angola and Mozambique - will meet with
Zimbabwe's leaders on October 29 to try to iron out their differences, both
Tsvangirai's office and an official in the foreign ministry confirmed to the
German Press Agency dpa.

The MDC accuses Zanu-PF of being a 'dishonest and unreliable' partner in
government, while making clear it is not pulling out of the government per

On Tuesday, Zanu-PF ministers and MDC ministers held separate cabinet

The trigger for the MDC boycott was the state's re-arrest last week of MDC
deputy agriculture minister-designate Roy Bennett pending his trial on
charges of plotting to overthrow Mugabe in an discredited 2006 plot.
Tsvangirai accused the state of 'persecuting' Bennett, who has since been
re-released on bail.

The MDC also accuses Zanu-PF of refusing to share key positions of power and
of harassing its MPs. Seven MDC MPs have been charged and convicted of
various crimes since the government was inaugurated.

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Mugabe, Tsvangirai to meet weekend for crisis talks : Official

APA-Harare (Zimbabwe) The secretary general of a splinter faction of
Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change said Wednesday that leaders of the
three main political parties are due to meet by the end of the week in
crisis talks to resolve problems threatening the country's fragile
power-sharing government.

Welshman Ncube, who is the second-in-command in the smaller MDC faction led
by Arthur Mutambara, said leaders of the two MDC formations and President
Robert Mugabe's ZANU PF had agreed to address the causes of the current
impasse in which the MDC wing headed by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai
decided to boycott cabinet meetings.

Tsvangirai's MDC announced last Friday that it was suspending cooperation
with ZANU PF over what it said was lack of seriousness by Mugabe's party to
implementing commitments it made in a power-sharing agreement signed last

Tsvangirai left the country on Monday at the start of a diplomatic offensive
to garner support of southern African leaders in his bid to pressure Mugabe
to honour terms of the agreement which led to the formation of a unity
government in February.

"I hope that in the next two to three days there will be a solution," Ncube
told business executives in the capital Harare on Wednesday.

The MDC boycott has sparked the country's biggest political crisis since the
formation of a new administration.

  JN/nm/APA 2009-10-21

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Zuma says Zim should not be allowed to slide back into instability

By Tichaona Sibanda
21 October 2009

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai met South African President Jacob Zuma in
Cape Town on Wednesday to apprise him on the situation in the country.

Tsvangirai's spokesman James Maridadi told SW Radio Africa that the two
leaders met for a private one-to-one meeting which lasted for an hour. This
was Tsvangirai's second meeting with a regional leader following his talks
on Tuesday with Mozambican President Armando Guebuza.

"The Prime Minister was updating President Zuma on what has transpired in
the country and obviously this included the decision to disengage from ZANU
PF," Maridadi said.
Zuma reportedly told journalists that Zimbabwe must not be allowed to return
to instability, as that country prepares to host the FIFA World Cup next
"Zimbabwe should not be allowed to slide back into instability," Zuma said
after his meeting with Tsvangirai.  The MDC leader embarked on his latest
diplomatic offensive on Monday aiming to put pressure on SADC leaders to
review the unity government since its formation eight months ago.
Robert Mugabe has since last year failed to fully implement the power
sharing deal he signed with Tsvangirai and leader of the other MDC
formation, Arthur Mutambara.
The unity government remains shaky as a result of outstanding non-compliance
issues that continue to impede the transitional government. During his visit
to Chimoio on Tuesday, Tsvangirai signalled his commitment to the unity
government to Guebuza. He noted though that they would only 're-engage' if
the power-sharing agreement is implemented in its entirety.

Tsvangirai told journalists that in just about eight months nothing has been
done by ZANU PF to implement what was agreed upon in the power sharing
agreement. Guebuza reportedly promised to send representatives of the SADC
Troika to assess the situation in the country and meet with MDC and ZANU PF
officials, including Mugabe, next week. Guebuza chairs the SADC's organ on
Politics, Security and Defence.

Other issues that continue to hamper the progress of the government include:
the sharing of posts of provincial governors, diplomats, senior public
servants; the disputed appointments of attorney-general Johannes Tomana and
Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono, and the arrests of MDC MPs.

During the next two days, Tsvangirai is expected to meet key SADC figures
like Angolan President Eduardo Dos Santos and President Joseph Kabila of the
Democratic Republic of the Congo. Kabila currently holds the regional bloc's
rotating Presidency.

Political commentator Solomon Chikohwero blamed SADC for creating the crisis
rocking the country because they've failed to monitor or review the GPA as
stipulated during their extraordinary summit in January.

'On 26th January 2009 a SADC summit directed that the issue of provincial
governors, the Reserve Bank governor and the Attorney-General be resolved by
the parties forthwith. Its eight months and the same SADC bloc is opting to
ignore the fact that Mugabe is blatantly refusing to implement what was
agreed,' Chikohwero said.

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MDC ministers barred from travel as hostilities escalate

Wednesday, 21 October 2009 16:41
HARARE - The Zimbabwean government is refusing to sanction foreign
trips by ministers from Prime Ministers Morgan Tsvangirai's party as tension
escalates between the main parties in the troubled coalition government
(Pictured: Zimbabwean Warlord Robert Mugabe - "I have been denied permission
to travel for a lecture in South Africa," Mr Moyo said while on his way to
the airport in defiance of the directive.)
Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) last week severed
contacts with President Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF following mounting
differences over the implementation of their power sharing agreement.
The party boycotted a cabinet meeting on Tuesday and Mr Tsvangirai
said he will not convene council of ministers meetings - which are
responsible for formulating government policy - until the dispute is
But MDC ministers still carry out their other official duties and
attending parliament, which resumed sitting on Tuesday.
Mr Gorden Moyo, a Minister of State in the Prime Minister's office
said he was denied permission to travel for a lecture on Zimbabwe's eight
month old unity government at a South African university.
According to Zimbabwean law, a minister may not travel out of the
country without cabinet authority. "I have been denied permission to travel
for a lecture in South Africa," Mr Moyo said while on his way to the airport
in defiance of the directive. "This goes to show that they are trying to
prevent MDC ministers from carrying out their duties.
"The disengagement does not mean we have stopped being part of the
government, we only suspended contact with Zanu PF."
On Tuesday, the state media also accused Mr Tsvangirai of travelling
out of the country without cabinet approval. The Prime Minister is on a
regional tour to drum up support for his party's protest against what it
says is Mr Mugabe's reluctance to fully implement the power sharing pact
brokered by the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
SADC and the African Union are the guarantors of the deal that was
touted as the only way out of Zimbabwe's devastating economic and political
Meanwhile, the smaller faction of the MDC led by Deputy Prime Minister
Professor Arthur Mutambara said it would not recognise a government led by
Mr Mugabe's Zanu PF if Mr Tsvangirai's party decides to pull out of the
unity government. The party which is the smallest in the coalition attended
Tuesday's cabinet meeting.
Prof Mutambara has also met Mr Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai since the
crisis began unfolding on Friday to try and bring them together but has
refused to take sides.
"What we have right now is a dysfunctional marriage. We are very upset
and very angry," the deputy prime minister said.
"Mugabe lost to Morgan Tsvangirai in last year's elections. The only
election was in March last year.
"How can he run this country alone? If this Global Political Agreement
is to collapse I would say to Robert Mugabe, you are not the President of
Zimbabwe. You are an illegitimate leader.
"If this GPA is to collapse I would say to Morgan Tsvangirai please no
grandstanding." The MDC says if the AU and SADC fail to find a lasting
solution the United Nations must organise fresh elections. The Nation

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Police & CIOs main witnesses in Bennett's trial

By Violet Gonda
21 0ctober 2009

The controversial trial of MDC Treasurer General Roy Bennett is set for
November 9, and the line up of state witness is full of police officers and
state security agents. Bennett is facing charges of possession of weapons
with the intention to commit insurgency, sabotage, terrorism, and banditry.

Bennett's chief legal counsel Beatrice Mtetwa told SW Radio Africa on
Wednesday that of the 13 key witnesses for the State, 11 are either from the
President's office or from the police. The other two are firearms dealer
Peter Michael Hitschmann and a person from TelOne.

Mtetwa said: "He is somebody from TelOne security who will come to court to
basically give evidence of a technical nature or as an expert regarding the
allegations that these guys wanted to blow up some communications
infrastructure. So he will be coming to give evidence as to the effects of
destroying the infrastructure."

Hitschmann, who was released from prison in July, is the State's key witness
although he made it clear when he was released that he has no evidence
against Roy Bennett. Mtetwa said: "So we don't know how the State is going
to deal with that. We can only hope that nobody has sought to interfere with
him and to compel him to say things that are not correct."

The firearms dealer was arrested for allegedly plotting to assassinate
Robert Mugabe at his birthday celebration in Manicaland in 2006 but was
acquitted. He however served a total of 40 months for possessing dangerous
firearms without a licence.

The defence lawyer said it has been frustrating to handle Bennett's case
which is highly politicised and that there is a lot of 'hide and seek' on
the State's part, and no transparency in the way the Attorney General's
office has handled the matter. The AG Johannes Tomana personally appeared in
a Mutare court on Monday to prosecute in the case of the MDC Treasurer
General designate. Tomana said he was taking over the case because he is
under political pressure to have the matter prosecuted quickly.

The defence team say they have finally been furnished with most of the
indictment papers although Mtetwa said there are two statements that are
still missing. She said the State is refusing to give them access to
Hitschmann's laptop so that they can examine it. It is alleged that certain
emails incriminating Bennett were downloaded from Hitschmann's laptop, but
the defence team have not been allowed to examine it. The lawyer also said
they have still not been given access to the so called weapons, that her
client is accused of acquiring for the purpose of terrorism.

Meanwhile, Radio VOP said: "The other witnesses lined up are Ronald
Muderedzwa, former Officer commanding Manicaland province, Michael Joseph
Nyakatama, a central intelligence agent (CIO), Sipho James Makore, a police
officer, Arnold Zorodzai Dliwayo, police officer, Francis Cole a specialist
firearms police central investigations department (CID) officer, and
Panganai Mugejo who works for the Defence Ministry among others."
Mtetwa said despite the politicisation, she is not worried about the State's
list saying police always give evidence in cases they are investigating and
the court is supposed to take their evidence on the basis that they are
interested parties.

She said: "All their statements are also premised on Hitschmann testifying,
and on Hitschmann's so called confession being before the court, which I am
absolutely certain is not likely to be admissible at all - because he
disowned it at his own trial, and he was believed at his own trial."

"And so it is difficult to see how he can then come to court in Bennett's
case and say what he didn't say in his own case without serious consequences
for him and without committing perjury," Mtetwa explained.

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Tomana justifies own role in Bennett case

October 21, 2009

By Our Correspondent

HARARE - Zimbabwe's controversial Attorney General, Johannes Tomana, says he
has assumed the lead role in the prosecution of Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) treasurer general Roy Bennett because the case poses a serious
security threat to Zimbabwe.

Bennett is the Deputy Agriculture Minister designate. He has not been sworn
into office since his nomination by the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC in
February 2009.

"I am motivated by the mandate that I have of protecting the country from
any security threat and the threat that I am talking about is external from
countries such as Britain, Australia or any other such country," said Tomana
in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.

"This case is a very serious one and carries serious security issues. That
is why it has attracted international attention. But I have a mandate to
protect the country from any sort of security threat. I stand as mandated to
safeguard the interests of the country which are threatened by the case at

Tomana has in the past openly declared his allegiance to President Robert
Mugabe's Zanu-PF party. Some critics have expressed fear that the AG's
political affiliation might influence the outcome of Bennett's trial.

Tomana denied that he took over the case because his officers had failed to
sustain the state's case in the High Court after the indictment of Bennett.
State prosecutor, Michael Mugabe, in a bid to keep Bennett in custody
inappropriately invoked section 121 of the Criminal Procedures and Evidence
Act raising the ire of High Court judge Justice Charles Hungwe. Hungwe
lambasted Mugabe, telling him not to make a fool of himself by invoking the
notorious Act without the facts to support his arguments.

Bennett will face trial on a charge of possessing weapons for purposes of
committing insurgency, sabotage, terrorism and banditry, which carries a
death sentence and another of inciting others to commit insurgency,
sabotage, terrorism and banditry, which carries a life in prison sentence.

Tomana will personally prosecute when Bennett's trial starts on November 9.

During a court session to set Bennett's trial date on Monday in Mutare
Tomana took over the role of lead State counsel from Michael Mugabe, a law
officer in his office who has all along been handling Bennett's prosecution.

Tomana was reported to have conceded that the State had not accorded Bennett
sufficient time to prepare for his trial hence the postponement of the trial
which was supposed to have started on Monday.

He is said to have however argued that Bennett faces a serious case which is
of national interest. He said the matter had to be dealt with as a matter of
urgency because it had plunged the transitional coalition government into a

Tomana will be assisted by Florence Ziyambi, the director of public
prosecutions and two law officers, Michael Mugabe and Chris Mutangadura.

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MDC holds separate cabinet meeting

October 21, 2009

By Our Correspondent

HARARE - Zimbabwe's current political crisis deepened Tuesday as the
mainstream MDC party of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai held a cabinet
meeting of its own as President Robert Mugabe and Deputy Prime Minister
Arthur Mutambara jointly attended the regular Cabinet meeting at Munhumutapa

MDC ministers met at the party's Harvest House headquarters at 9 am in a
meeting chaired by acting MDC leader Thokozani Khupe.

The MDC called off at the last minute, plans to hold its parallel Cabinet
meeting in the second boardroom at Munhumutapa Building, just a few metres
away from where the Mugabe and Mutambara were conferring.

The Zimbabwe Times was informed that top advisors warned sternly against the
plan to hold a separate Cabinet meeting inside Munhumutapa Building - the
centre of government. Such action would likely have been viewed as
constituting treason or an attempt to overthrow constitutional order.
Constitutionally, Cabinet meetings can only be convened by the President.

The parallel Cabinet meetings took place as Prime Minister Tsvangirai
arrived in Mozambique on the first day of a 10-day diplomatic consultation
process to appraise regional leaders on last week's decision by his party to
boycott the unity government.

He was scheduled to hold talks with the chairman of a troika of the
15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mozambican
President, Armando Guebuza in Chimoio in Manica Province. He is also due to
meet South African leader Jacob Zuma, Angolan President Eduardo dos Santos
and current SADC chair, President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic
of the Congo.

The MDC's move to hold a parallel Cabinet meeting dangerously heightened
tension in the troubled coalition, with Zanu-PF said to be toying with the
idea of appointing an acting Finance Minister, sources said.

"They see the action by the MDC to hold a parallel Cabinet meeting as deeply
provocative," one source said.

The State-run Herald newspaper claimed that the Prime Minister's
chief-of-staff Ian Makone had attempted to seek State funding for the Prime
Minister's trip from the Chief Secretary to President and Cabinet, Dr
Sibanda, who was reported to have demanded that the MDC submit sufficient
grounds for the release of the money, such as what benefit government as a
whole would derive from Tsvangirai's trip.

The Zimbabwe Times can report that Sibanda is, in fact, currently out of
Zimbabwe. He travelled on the same flight out of Harare as Zimbabwe Times
managing editor Geoffrey Nyarota on Saturday. Sibanda, his wife, Doreen and
Senior Secretary to Parliament Austin Zvoma transferred to a Zurich flight
at O Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.

Meanwhile Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba told The Herald that Tsvangirai
remained Prime Minister of Zimbabwe as he had not formalised his party's
disengagement from government.

"Government is not run through media statements," Charamba was quoted by the
newspaper as saying. "From that point of view nothing has happened. Until
the communication is done formally, the President has no reason or any
grounds to think or know otherwise.

"There has been no indication in writing or through the Chief Secretary that
there will be no attendance en-bloc from MDC-T side."

Tsvangirai announced last Friday that he was disengaging from the government
because seven months after the formation of the coalition sticking-points
remain over the issues of the appointment of provincial governors, the
Reserve Bank governor and the Attorney-General. In addition, the review of
ministerial positions and the GPA remain outstanding. Moreover, there is a
lack of movement on the democratisation of the media, the constitutional
process, the land audit and rule of law issues, Tsvangirai said.

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said any purported Cabinet decision made by the
"Zanu (PF) caucus" in the absence of all the three political parties was
"null and void." Chamisa said the MDC, as the trustees of the people's
mandate, would continue to work towards bringing real change to the people
of Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwe Times was informed that the MDC Cabinet meeting had deliberated
on the issue of inputs ahead of the agricultural season, media reforms and
the stalled Constitution-making process, among others.

"The matter of the outstanding issues is now before SADC and the African
Union as the guarantors of the GPA to help resolve the crisis," Chamisa
said. "The people of Zimbabwe want real change. They want to see meaningful
reforms that can kick-start the economy and open a new patch of development,
freedom, hope and security."

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ZIM government agrees on how to use IMF funds

(AFP) - 8 hours ago

HARARE, Zimbabwe - The Zimbabwe government has agreed on how to use a 400
million dollar grant from International Monetary Fund (IMF), after months of
feuding about its allocation, a minister said on Wednesday.

"Last week cabinet did approve the distribution of this money, which will be
used in the completion of public works programs," said Industry Minister
Welshman Ncube.

"We agreed that 150 million dollars (100 million euros) should go to
productive sectors such as mining and manufacturing," he added.

In September, Finance Minister Tendai Biti clashed with central bank boss
Gideon Gono over the use of the money.

Biti wanted the funds, which were availed in August, to be put into the
country's annual budget, which he is expected to present to parliament in

Gono had insisted that he wants the money be used to boost the mining and
manufacturing industries, as well as public entities.

The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting on October 13, before the
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) boycott of government business that now
threatens the eight-month-old unity regime.

According to Ncube, part of the money would be used to complete the
refurbishment of the Bulawayo airport and repair roads and state hospitals.

Zimbabwe's public infrastructure has been battered by a near decade of
political turmoil which crippled the economy and halted investment.

The country has not received any financial assistance from the IMF in over a
decade, due to its long outstanding debt with the agency.

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Zimbabwe uncertainty scares investors: minister

Yahoo News

Wed Oct 21, 7:33 am ET
HARARE (AFP) - Foreign businesses are holding back investment in Zimbabwe
because of a split in the southern African country's powersharing
government, the industry minister said Wednesday.

Welshman Ncube told a meeting of local business executives that over the
past eight months, several potential investors had made enquiries regarding
state-owned businesses, but now they were reluctant.

"For example, investors who were keen to invest in Zisco (Zimbabwe Iron and
Steel Company) are now phoning asking if it is worthwhile, given the
announcements which were made last week Friday," Ncube said.

His remarks come after Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) suspended official dealings with President Robert
Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).

Tsvangirai has accused Mugabe of failing to fulfil the terms of a pact that
led to the formation of a unity government comprising the country's three
main political forces. That government has ceased to function.

Ncube, who belongs to a splinter faction of the MDC that has kept up its
ties with ZANU-PF, said the uncertainty was having an "an adverse impact on
trade and manufacturing."

"We have to do all over again the work we have done over the last eight
months," Ncube said. "We are in a fragile country. We have the world's eyes
on us."

Ncube added that the three political leaders had agreed to address the
causes of the current impasse.

"I hope that in the next two to three days there will be a solution," he

On Monday Tsvangirai left on a regional tour to seek southern African help
to end the stalemate, while his ministers boycotted a meeting with Mugabe.

After years of economic freefall, Zimbabwe is seeking to restore strained
ties with its erstwhile trading partners and to rebuild infrastructure and
social services which have been in a state of disrepair.

But donors said they want to see more reforms before increasing aid.

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Zimbabwe factory output doubles in 1st-half '09 -  industry

Wed Oct 21, 2009 12:10pm GMT

By Nelson Banya

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's factory output doubled in the first six months
of 2009, partly due to policy changes by the country's unity government,
including the use of multiple foreign currencies, an industry group said on

President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai agreed to share
power in February, following last year's disputed elections and have tried
to fix an economy ravaged by years of hyperinflation and political

A survey carried out by the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI)
showed that factory capacity utilisation had risen from below 10 percent
before the unity government was formed, to about 32.3 percent now.

"Consequently, signifying this improvement ... overall output grew by 110
percent in the first six months of the year. At the beginning of the year
there was a positive policy change that saw the government introduce the use
of multiple currencies," CZI chief economist Lorraine Chikanya said at the
launch of the report in Harare.

"This policy framework ushered in a breath of life into what was becoming a
dying sector."

The CZI said the unity government had restored confidence, with $1.5 billion
being invested in the manufacturing sector, mainly for plant rehabilitation
and expansion.


Zimbabwe's average working week, which had come down to two days as firms
laid off staff amid hyperinflation, raw material shortages and price
controls, is now at five days.

At its peak, the manufacturing sector contributed 22 percent to Zimbabwe's
gross domestic product, 37 percent of export earnings and accounted for 40
percent of employment.

The renewed business confidence, however, is at risk now after Tsvangirai
and his MDC party decided to boycott the unity government until Mugabe fully
implements a power-sharing agreement.

Industry and Commerce Minister Welshman Ncube, from a splinter MDC faction,
told industrialists that efforts were underway to resolve the standoff,
which had unsettled investors.

Ncube said Zimbabwe's cabinet had, before the MDC boycott, approved a
long-awaited bilateral investment protection agreement with South Africa.
He, however, did not say if the approved draft excluded land from
investments to be protected.

South African farmers have urged their government not to sign any pact that
did not include a clause to protect land and related property rights.

"I'm in contact with (South African Trade and Industry) Minister Rob Davies
who has received the documentation. By the end of this month, we have
planned that we should sign it by then. We are now waiting a response from
the south Africans," he said.

Ncube added the government had agreed to use a $500 million IMF loan given
to Zimbabwe to repay debt, for infrastructural development and local

"Part of the money will be used to pay off IMF arrears so that we can have
access to another IMF loan. We agreed that $150 million of this money should
go towards productive sectors such as mining and manufacturing," Ncube said.

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State employed farm & factory workers protest in Harare

By Alex Bell
21 October 2009

Scores of farm and factory workers, hired through a government sponsored
industrial development group, have this week descended on Harare to protest
seven month's worth of non-payment.

The group, representing an estimated 1000 workers employed by the government's
Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), arrived in the city on Sunday to
confront IDC management. The Corporation has not paid full salaries to its
staff, from several farms, and the BonneZim packaging factory for almost a
year. It has instead been forcing workers to keep working under false
promises, but no payments have been made to the roughly 900 farm workers and
300 factory employees. The representative group of up to 80 workers arrived
in trucks and vans in Harare, pledging to carry on with the demonstration
until the IDC agrees to pay full salaries, backdated for seven months. The
group has been sleeping in the vans since Sunday, waiting desperately for
some positive move from IDC management.

SW Radio Africa's Harare correspondent Simon Muchemwa explained that the IDC
has only conceded to pay out a small amount to its desperate workers, but he
added the figure only works out to a mere US$20 per month per employee.

"US$20 is not enough money for even one person and most of these workers are
supporting whole families," Muchemwa reported. "They've said they will carry
on with this demonstration until their full salaries are paid."

Muchemwa continued that the situation is indicative of the desperation
facing most government employees across the country, as parastatals such as
the IDC can no longer pay their staff. Muchemwa added that the knock-on
effects are dire in the areas surrounding Harare, with many children not
attending school, a rise in prostitution and increasing desperation.

The IDC has taken over a number of farms and factories in recent years as
part of the land 'reform' programme, including the BonneZim agro-packaging
factory in Chegutu in 2005. In 2006, BonneZim and the IDC took over Kondozi
Estate in a move that bolstered the ZANU PF grip on Zimbabwean horticulture.
The Estate had been left almost completely ruined by land marauders in 2004,
after the farm, owned by a black horticulturalist Edwin Moyo, was seized for

Other similar farms were also 'ceded' to the IDC in the past few years, but
Muchemwa explained that the government's refusal to allow 'white blood' back
onto the properties, means there has been a major loss of management skills.

"The IDC is completely broke and there have been offers by former commercial
farmers and investors to help bring the IDC farms into profit," Muchemwa
said. "But the government refuses to allow white blood back into the
commercial sector."

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Zimbabwe's Al Jazeera Correspondent Detained At Mugabe's Offices

Harare, October 21, 2009  - Security details manning President Robert
Mugabe's offices at Munhumutapa Building on Tuesday detained two journalists
for allegedly attempting to cover Tuesday's cabinet meeting.

Overzealous security details manning the reception at Munhumutapa
Building where President Robert Mugabe's offices are located detained Haru
Mutasa, a correspondent for Al Jazeera and her cameraman Austin Gundani for
enquiring on the possibility of getting a photo opportunity of Tuesday's
cabinet meeting.

The two journalists were first detained at a small police post located
at Munhumutapa Building at around 09:00 am before being transferred to
Harare Central Police Station.

Witnesses who saw the incident told this reporter that the security
detail who detained the two journalists verbally harassed them and accused
them of trying to show to the world the gaps created in the cabinet meeting
room because of the boycott by Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader
Morgan Tsvangirai and ministers from his party.

"They (security details) accused the journalists of being agents of
regime change and of attempting to show the empty seats in cabinet to the
whole world and make an impression that Tsvangirai is the boss in the
coalition government," said the witnesses.

The two journalists were only released at around 11:50 am after the
intervention of President Robert Mugabe's spokesperson and the permanent
secretary in the Ministry of Media, Information and Publicity George
Charamba. Charamba reportedly intervened after officials from Al Jazeera
telephoned Charamba to enquire on the detention.

Al Jazeera's bureau in Harare is manned by veteran producer Cyrus
Nhara, correspondent Haru Mutasa and cameraman Austin Gundani.

Al-Jazeera, which is headquartered in Doha become the first
international TV news channel in more than three years to be allowed to set
up a permanent base in Zimbabwe after President Robert Mugabe's previous
government chased away almost all western television and radio broadcasters.

Other western networks such as BBC and CNN were recently allowed
access to cover events Zimbabwe after the formation of the shaky
transitional coalition government formed early this year by Prime Minister
Morgan Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe.

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Teachers in Zimbabwe End Strike After Three Weeks

By Scott Bobb
20 October 2009

Teachers across Zimbabwe struck for three weeks last month over demands for
higher pay, closing schools and causing parents to worry that their children
might lose a second school year to Zimbabwe's economic crisis. The country's
unity government is coming under increasing pressure as it struggles to
raise funds for education and other basics in the face of depleted revenues
caused by the country's economic crisis.

Teachers, like most civil servants in Zimbabwe, have been earning about $100
a month. The power sharing government offered this salary to all civil
servants after its inauguration in March.

Raymond Majongwe is president of the Progressive Teachers Union, one of two
main unions for teachers. He says teachers want $500 a month, but that he
decided to end the strike because it was hurting the children.

"The best way for teachers is to engage, go back to the schools and teach
and allow their leadership to engage government," he said. "Then more
positive results are going to come."

Zimbabwe's education system has been in decline for a decade due to falling
government revenues and an exodus of teachers. Analysts blame the crisis on
the policies of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party. But the party
blames it on sanctions imposed by western countries.

Education Minister David Coltart is a member of the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC), brought into the government as part of the power
sharing agreement between Mr. Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
Coltart is sympathetic to teachers and other civil servants.

"The problem that we face, however, as a government, is that our economy is
in state of near-collapse," he explained. "Our treasury coffers are almost

The United Nations recently donated $70 million for school materials, but
donor countries hesitate to subsidize salaries for fear the funds will be
diverted by the government.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions groups 350,000 workers. Its president,
Lovemore Matombo, says most Zimbabwean workers are in similar straits.

"The workers now know that the economy has started to stabilize and that
there should be an increase of salaries," he said. "Should they fail to do
that, there is very much this feeling among workers that we should take

He says if some worker demands are not met, there could be a strike before
the end of the year placing more pressure on the unity government as it
struggles to revive the economy.

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Moyo decries lack of rule of law

October 21, 2009

By Owen Chikari

MASVINGO - There is currently no rule of law, or respect for property and
human rights Zimbabwe, despite the formation of the inclusive government
last February, the Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office, Gorden
Moyo, has said.

Addressing students at the Great Zimbabwe University over the weekend Moyo
said that the country was battling to return to the rule of law, respect for
human rights and democratisation of institutions since no change had taken
place in these areas, even after the formation of the inclusive government.

"We have several challenges as the inclusive government because there is no
rule of law as we speak now", said Moyo. "If you look at what is happening
on the farms and the selective application of the law it means there is much
which needs to be done.

"What is happening on the farms is a sorry state," Moyo said. "On some of
the farms I have visited I found out that there are war lords. Some have
their own armed people and I think this has to be corrected.

"We need to democratize everything in the country so that Zimbabweans live
in harmony. But seven months after the formation of the inclusive government
nothing has changed."

Moyo said that the country's land question would remain unresolved if there
was no proper land audit to determine who owns what land and where.

"The purpose of the audit is not to reverse the land reform programme but to
do away with the issue of multiple farm ownership. The government policy is
one man one farm and that has to be respected."

"We have heard of people with several farms who are now registering them in
their sons' or daughters' names and that has to stop."

Turning to the economy of the country Moyo said that although some strides
had been made in taming inflation there was still more to be done in terms
of paying civil servants decent salaries.

He said when the mainstream MDC entered into government the national coffers
were empty. He said he, therefore, supported Finance Minister Tendai Biti's
stance in declaring Zimbabwe a Heavily Indebted Poor Country or HIPC.

"The country has no money and cannot afford to repay all its debts hence we
support the HIPC project", said Moyo. "Once we do that our debts will be
cancelled and we will be able to start afresh.

"We are talking about HIPC because the country has no money at the moment."
We cannot afford to borrow money to clear that debt."

Moyo however said that the situation in terms of proper remuneration of
civil servants would improve but that would take time.

"We cannot borrow money to clear a debt which was accrued by the Zanu-PF
government when we cannot pay civil servants better salaries.

"We would rather borrow money to pay civil servants than borrow money to
clear an unexplained debt".

Moyo made these comments at a time when Zanu-PF and the mainstream MDC have
been disagreeing on whether to declare Zimbabwe an HIPC country or not.

Zanu-PF maintains that declaring Zimbabwe an HIPC country would lead in
President Robert Mugabe being probed for ruining the country's economy while
the mainstream MDC feels that the move would ensure improvement in Zimbabwe's
economic recovery.

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Cholera breaks out in Zimbabwe again amid fears of an epidemic in summer rains

October 21, 2009

Jan Raath in Budiriro
The great banks of fly-infested refuse lining the streets rot undisturbed in
the heat. The dense, sweetish stink of faeces is not as strong as it was,
but it will be, as soon as the rains come in the next few weeks.

Nothing appears to have changed in this squalid, overcrowded township on
Harare's southern outskirts that six months ago was the epicentre of one of
the worst cholera epidemics in Africa that killed 4,300 of the 100,000 that
were infected.

Four months after the epidemic ended, it has broken out again. Unicef
confirmed yesterday that five people had died in a remote northern district
in a fresh outbreak of cholera. The Zimbabwean Health Ministry said that 117
cases had been confirmed across the east, centre and north of the country in
the past month.

Cholera was never endemic in Zimbabwe until last August, when it became
entrenched in rivers of raw sewage that seeped into shallow wells township
residents were forced to rely on. Water supplies dried up and sewage
disposal systems clogged through chronic neglect by President Mugabe's

Aid agencies have been warning for months that another outbreak was
inevitable with the onset of the summer rains that will provide the ideal
medium for the spread of the waterborne bacteria. "The fundamentals of the
last epidemic are still there. Water is only sporadically available, and
sewerage reticulation and refuse collection are only partially working," the
Unicef spokeswoman Tsitsi Singizi said.

Aid agency officials forecast privately that the number of infections will
drop to about 60,000. "It's not the catastrophe that it was last year but it's
still a big epidemic of an easily preventable disease that should never have
been allowed to happen," said an aid agency doctor who asked not to be

The decline is expected as a result of a big operation to provide massive
quantities of water purification tablets, boreholes, huge communal water
tanks and narrow-necked water containers (to limit the spread of the
bacteria) to make drinking water safe. Medical agencies say they have
ensured that supplies of the simple medication to treat cholera have been
distributed down to every remote clinic, with back-up supplies. Volunteers
in rural and urban communities have been undergoing crash courses in cholera

"The measures will mean not only that the number of infections will drop but
also the fatalities," said the doctor. When last year's epidemic started,
the Health Ministry was moribund, with no drugs, most equipment broken down
and the staff on strike.

The inauguration of the power-sharing Government between Mr Mugabe and the
pro-democracy leader Morgan Tsvangirai allowed Western humanitarian
assistance, then heavily restricted by Mr Mugabe, to begin. Doctors and
nurses are at work and being paid, and hospitals and clinics have drugs.

The prime cause of the recurrence of the epidemic are the choked sewers and
broken-down water supply system,. Western governments have made clear that
the huge aid funds needed to restore the country's ruined infrastructure,
including water and sewerage services, will not come until there are signs
of "irreversible change" in how the country was run. "If you expect water
and sewer reticulation to be fixed, they are not," the European ambassador
Xavier Marchal said. "We are still in a difficult political environment. We
still have restrictive policies."

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With Arrival of Rainy Season, Perennial Scramble in Zimbabwe for Seed, Fertilizer

By Jonga Kandemiiri
20 October 2009

As Zimbabwe's rainy season approaches, farmers in Mashonaland East
province's Wedza district are worried that again this year they won't be
able to locate or afford the seed, fertilizer and other inputs needed to get
a maize crop in the ground.

VOA Studio 7 correspondent Safari Njema reported from Wedza.

Aiming to relieve such shortages of inputs, Christian Care is among the
non-governmental organizations working with the United Nations Food and
Agriculture Organization and the European Union to implement an agricultural
inputs support scheme.

Christian Care said it is now providing farmers in the Midlands with
fertilizer and seeds.

Experts said most farmers are struggling to obtain inputs because the
government has cut back on programs to finance planting, instead urging
farmers to borrow from banks. But banks insist on land as collateral, though
all farmland has been nationalized.

Even farmers resettled under land reform since 2000 have only so-called
offer letters granting them working rights, but banks will neither accept
these nor livestock as collateral.

Christian Care Director Forbes Matonga told VOA Studio 7 reporter Jonga
Kandemiiri that his is one of seven organizations reaching out to small
farmers under the FAO program.

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US surgeons perform free surgery on 67 kids

Hope ... Dr. Travis Tollefson with an unidentified child and her father after she received new nose

20/10/2009 00:00:00
Before ... An unidentified child is seen before undergoing an operation to give her a new nose

A VOLUNTEER surgical team from the United States has brought smiles back – literally – to 67 Zimbabwean kids with facial deformities.

Led by Dr Joseph Clawson, the founder and director of Operation of Hope, the team was making its fourth visit to Zimbabwe.

Since 2006, over 450 children have received free operations from the medical team. Although most of the operations are simple procedures in developed countries, Zimbabwe's struggling health service has been unable to help the children.

Based at St. Anne's Hospital in Harare, the doctors conducted operations to correct deformities like cleft-lip and palates.

All costs associated with the surgery were free -- no doctor, hospital, medication or surgical fees was charged. The surgery would typically cost between $35,000 and $85,000 in the US, a statement from Operation of Hope said.

Dr Clawson said: “We are very excited to return to Zimbabwe where we once again help those in need, offering hope and relief to the families of Zimbabwe needing this care.

Jennifer Trubenbach, Executive Director of Operation of Hope added: "We had a very successful mission due to the support of the staff and administration of St. Anne's Hospital, the Ministry of Health and local Zimbabweans that understand and support our work."

The doctors plan to return to St. Anne's on April 11 next year.

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Makoni says MDC boycott driven by 'jobs for the boys' mentality

By Lance Guma
21 October 2009

Former Finance Minister and Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn party interim President Dr
Simba Makoni has criticised the MDC-T for 'disengaging' from the coalition
government. In an in-depth interview on our Behind the Headlines series
Makoni argued that, "the issues over which the MDC are disengaging from ZANU
PF are issues of 'jobs for the boys and girls,' and not policies that can
deliver real change for Zimbabweans."

Makoni said it was always clear from the beginning that ZANU PF and Mugabe
were never serious about engaging Tsvangirai's party and the MDC should not
have accepted a flawed deal. He criticised Tsvangirai for telling the world
that Mugabe was committed to the deal, despite mounting evidence MDC-T
supporters and MP's were being persecuted and harassed all over the country.
He said the MDC had so far not put forward policies aimed at changing people's
lives but had focused mainly on, 'being allowed a bigger share of public
sector jobs, motor cars, travel allowances and good living.'

Makoni spent over a decade at the helm of the Southern African Development
Community (SADC) serving the regional grouping as Executive Secretary from
1984 to 1993. He told Newsreel, although the dynamics have changed since his
tenure he does not expect the MDC-T will get any relief from SADC. He said
the SADC position was that the power sharing government had the Joint
Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC), and this was meant to deal
with disputes. Makoni said he does not see the regional body deviating too
much from that stance.

Challenged on what he would have done if he and his party were the ones in a
coalition with ZANU PF, and for over 8 months nothing agreed to had been
implemented, Makoni castigated the MDC-T for not being wiser at the
beginning. He argued, 'I would have worked for a better deal.' He said the
agreement signed by the parties was 'unworkable' and 'unbalanced.' Asked if
he was belittling the concerns raised by the MDC-T, Makoni denied doing so,
adding, the issues merited resolution but should not have warranted them

NB: To listen to the full interview with Dr Simba Makoni tune in to Behind
the Headlines on Thursday 22 October.

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Botswana's Dynasty of Good Democracy

By Rejoice Ngwenya,
Feature Article | 2 hours ago

Feature Article : "The views expressed here are those of the authors and do
not necessarily represent or reflect the views of"

There is something fundamentally flawed with so-called 'democracies' that
perpetuate political, monarchical or tribal dynasty. In Swaziland where The
Mswatis rule by decree, in the Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC] where the
Kabilas cheat at the ballot box; the Bongos, the Kaddafis and the Mugabes
who enforce their will using AK47s - we Africans have grown to tolerate
dynastical oppression. But in a country where freedom, choice, multiplicity,
tolerance, tranquility and respect for property rights are virtually a way
of life, it is impossible to figure out why one political party, the
Botswana Democratic Party [BDP] can exert such paralysing influence for over
half a century. It is either the Tswanas are too naive or the Khamas are so
incredibly good!

Most international institutions of 'good governance' - including our very
own IMANI - tout Botswana as one of the 'best' democracies in the modern
world, and for good reason. The Khama dynasty has long presided over peace,
stability and exponential economic growth in the former British protectorate
that has never tested political acrimony. With an overall population fewer
than two and half million and the world's largest known reserves of gem
diamonds in Jwaneng, this Southern African country has escaped Africa's
traditional resource curse of corruption and crude management that plunges
similar economies like Nigeria and the DRC into heart-rending strife. An
average 9% growth rate yielding a US$14,000 Gross Domestic Product per
capita and sophisticated infrastructure is any African's dream destination.

And yet critics of reigning President Seretse Ian Khama argue that good
governance goes beyond the usual indicators of 'democratic fitness' like a
free economy, zero tolerance to corruption, respect of property rights and
"A" grade credit ratings. The retired military man has been accused of heavy
handedness when it comes to using the majority that his BDP enjoys in
government. As late as last week, political opponents pointed fingers at him
for misusing government funds and resources to 'reinforce Botswana
Democratic Party campaigns in constituencies where the opposition is
considered to pose a threat'. The bedrock of Botswana's democratic culture -
the 'kgotla' village consultative forum - has been one of the entities that
Ian Khama is said to exploit in furthering autocratic and populist

Moreover, Botswana's season of bliss has to contend with a forty percent HIV
and AIDS rate, a phenomenal orphan population of one hundred and twenty
thousand, and an economy largely dependent on one resource with key sectors
driven by expatriates. It is therefore understandable why Khama's critics
have a case against a 'dynasty' that has driven a country on a dangerous
path of dependency. Rural poverty and drunkenness have been for decades, the
Achilles Heel of BDP's seemingly untarnished political high scores that
opposition parties have failed to exploit in their bid to neutralise Khama's
monopoly, more so at a time when this resource-rich country has been plunged
into the fray of global recession.

Ian Khama has endeared himself with the free world by being the only
president in the troubled Southern African Development Community [SADC] who
openly condemns Robert Mugabe's violent and coercive rule. He has been
quoted as pouring scorn on any form of coalition government - even the
Madagascar version - and for good reasons - as a cheap shot at rewarding
losers. The Kamas know better. Botswana played host to Zimbabwean refugees
as far back as 1973 at the height of Ian Smith-sponsored Rhodesian war. This
author was one of the early beneficiaries of Sir Seretse Khama's hospitality
in the late seventies, but thousands of my fellow citizens have since
paralysed Botswana's immigration system to escape of Mugabe's blood thirsty

So what is the problem with Ian Khama's renewed five-year tenure? Looked
every which way, there is evidence, more so in Africa, that one-party
political dominance, even if it is a product of a perfect democracy, is not
healthy for a nation. South Africans have only known two political parties -
the Apartheid sponsored National Party and Nelson Mandela's African National
Congress [ANC]. Generations of Zimbabweans have come and gone under Ian
Smith's Rhodesian Front and Robert Mugabe's painful rule, not to mention
Mozambicans who cannot perceive life without Samora Machel's FRELIMO party.
In all the above cases, the systems have produced complacency, poverty,
crime, homelessness, illiteracy and in Zimbabwe's case, genocide.

One can argue a case of good fortune from Ian Khama's 'red corner', but
employment generated mainly by public expenditure is hardly a reason for
ululation. Mr Khama is a soldier-turned-politician who sooner or later will
choke in his own popularity - and the signs are visible. It may be a myth,
but pronouncements that beer drinking after 'certain hours' of the day is
not exactly a decree associated with citadels of effective leadership is
sad. Legend also has it that when the sun sets on the presidential
motorcade, he 'demands' to spend the night in the nearest village with total
disregard of his host's security. In his own BDP, there are divisions that
some critics insist were it that opposition parties are themselves not
fractured, the 'doomgra' - a phonetic nickname of Khama's party - would have
crumbled at last week's polls.

Put another way, the case of Khama's political domination may not
necessarily be a gift to the world democratic movement, but compared to
American friends in Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and of late, the
embattled Afghanistan - we Sothern Africans have to give Botswana a standing
ovation. An election where literarily all parties campaign under the same
roof without a single [political] water glass being broken must be a
Guinness Book entry! Zimbabweans may be 'smarter' than their Tswana
neighbours intellectually, but they have a lot to learn. Mugabe's resentment
of 'Sir Seretse Khama's young boy' is founded in jealousy and envy. Between
1980 and June 2008, Mugabe's brand of 'constitutional democracy' has
accounted for over twenty five thousand deaths and three million economic
refuges. If this had happened in Botswana, there would be no country to
write about! Mr Mugabe, for crying out loud, look across the border, watch
and learn on how REAL elections are run.

Rejoice Ngwenya is a columnist with and director of
Coaltion for Liberal Market Solutions.

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Zimbabwe September 2009 GNU Watch

Click here to views the September 2009 GNU Watch - Zimbabwe (1st Anniversary of the GPA) 

This document is not meant to be a comprehensive report on the state of the Interim Government (IG) of Zimbabwe. Rather it is aimed at giving an overview, month by month, of political developments under the terms set out in the Global Political Agreement (GPA). The sections profiled in monthly outputs may vary depending on events and issues raised in that particular report. Where possible, the relevant article as stipulated in the GPA has been provided. As this documentation began in April, there may at times be references to activities or events that took place in previous months.

This month, the articles covered include the following:

 Article II Commitment
Article VI Constitution
Article III Economic Development
Article XXI Electoral Vacancies
Article XX Framework for a National Government
Article IV Funding
Article VII, XVI Humanitarian & Food Assistance
Article XXII Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee – JOMIC
Article V Land Question
Article XVII Legislative Agenda Priorities
Article XI, XVIII National Security Council
Article XV National Youth Training Programme
Article X Free Political Activity
Article IV Sanctions
Article VII, XII Reconciliation 
Articles XII, XIX Rights and Freedoms 
Article XI Rule of Law 
Article VI, VII, XIII Civil Society Mechanisms 

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Letter To the Deputy Minister of Youth (MDC) re the pronouncements by Kasukuwere

9th July, 2009.


Hon: T Mhlangu

Dep Min of Youth


Re: Youth training camps


Firstly I would like to express my grave concern at Mr. Kasukuwere's statement that the Youth training camps will be reopened under the pretext that it is for "inculcating patriotism and life skills".


As you are aware the youth (militia) were used during last years March and June elections, together with other state agents to brutalise, kill, rape, maim, loot and pillage anyone known or construed to be in opposition to Zanu PF.


As the Secretary for Welfare for the MDC T I regrettably saw the results of many thousands of these brutal attacks on our members and want to draw your attention to the fact that the signs are all there for another round of violence to "persuade" the people to vote for the Kariba draft constitution. Hence my concern about the re opening of these training camps at this very time.


I respectfully request that you as Deputy Minister in the transitional government:

We, as custodians of Zimbabwe's future generation, cannot allow our youth to be subjected to the conditions that have prevailed in previous "youth training" camps.  Teaching our youth methods of torture, killing, disposing of bodies, arson, kidnapping, rape and looting does not come into the definition of "life skills".  In so doing we are building a generation of psychologically traumatized people, and the cycle of violence, with impunity, will continue.


It may be of interest that there are NGO's whose mandate is to assist in disbanding and training youth militia's to be reintegrated into society with genuine skills to economically empower them.  I offer my assistance in this regard.


Very sincerely and with deep concern,


Kerry Lynn Kay,

Secretary for Welfare,

Movement for Democratic Change.


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Letter To Kasukuwere, Minister of Youth










12th October, 2009.



Hon. Saviour Kasukuwere,

Minister of Youth.




Re:  Youth Training Camps.


Please find attached hereto a letter written on the 9th July, 2009, to the deputy Minister raising my concerns about the reopening of the Youth Training Camps.


The information coming from the people in the rural areas is that Zanu PF youth, with in some cases Army details, are threatening the people “if you thought beating on the buttocks was bad last year, it will be a bullet in the head this year”.


Minister, we cannot allow a repeat of the terrible and vicious campaign, with total impunity, of violence against the people of Zimbabwe to happen again.  The perpetrators of last year’s violence have still not been brought to justice.  How can we talk of reconciliation and integration, inclusive government, a Global Political agreement, when the victims of the state sponsored and perpetrated violence of last year have not been compensated for their immense material losses, not to mention the over 230 murdered and the approximately 200 still missing.


I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience,








Kerry Lynn Kay,

Secretary for Welfare,

Movement for Democratic Change.



cc. Hon. Prime Minister M.R. Tsvangirai, President MDC.

cc. Hon. N. Chamisa MP

cc. Hon. T. Makone MP

cc. Hon. P. Ganyanya MP



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Betting the farm against Mugabe
Wednesday, 21 October 2009 12:35 UK
By Tom de Castella

Born and raised in Britain, Ben Freeth has become one of a handful of farmers in Zimbabwe to resist, often against violent intimidation, the seizure of his land. Now his fight is the subject of a film.

Freeth and Campbell and farm workers
Ben Freeth and his father-in-law, Michael Campbell, with their workers

How far would you go to keep your home? Most of us would consider legal action. But would you be willing to take on a dictator in court and risk the lives of your family?

Ben Freeth has made that decision. The Briton along with his Zimbabwean family has for the past few years been in a tug of war for land with President Robert Mugabe, the country's strong and ruthless leader.

The 40-year-old Freeth was born and brought up in Kent, and learned his farming skills at Cirencester agricultural college. He moved to Zimbabwe in 1996 where he settled down with his Zimbabwean wife, Laura, on her family's Mount Carmel farm, 70 miles south west of the capital, Harare.

The fruit farm was once the biggest producer of mangoes in the country and supplied Marks & Spencer but since 2005 has been under virtual siege from militias intent on seizing the land.

Now the family's refusal to abandon their home has been captured in an undercover documentary, Mugabe and the White African, which premieres in Britain on Wednesday night at the London Film Festival. The white African of the title is Michael Campbell, Mr Freeth's Zimbabwean father-in-law, who owns the farm and in 2008 took the government of Zimbabwe to an international court.

Savage beating

The case was simple: the family claimed they were being targeted for one reason - their colour. Their aim was to set a legal precedent that whites had the same right to legal protection as any other oppressed minority.

Farm workers in Matebeleland
Whites took land from Zimbabwe's black farmers by force at the start of the 20th Century
Before 2000, just 4,400 white farmers held a third of Zimbabwe's land - much of it the best farms
A million black peasant farmers scratched a living on about the same area
Since then all but a handful of white-owned land has been seized

The case was heard by the Southern African Development Community tribunal in Namibia, and it is this unprecedented legal challenge that forms the narrative spine of the British-made documentary.

Mr Freeth says there were numerous stalling tactics by government lawyers who tried to wear the family down with costly delays. Then days before the case was due to be heard, Mr Freeth, Mr Campbell and his wife Angela were horrifically beaten after refusing to call off the case.

While Mr Campbell's injuries prevented him from travelling to Namibia, Mr Freeth was in court to hear the judges rule that the government's move to "nationalise" white farmland was illegal and racially discriminatory. (See factbox, right for background.)

It was a historic victory. And yet the film concludes on a chilling note. Not only has Zimbabwe's government refused to accept the verdict of the southern African body of which it is a member. But in September the Freeths' home and the houses of their workers were burnt down. The family appears to have lost everything.

But Mr Freeth, whose moustachioed appearance and stoical good humour owes something to a Victorian explorer, says the family will never give in to the violence and intimidation which he believes can be traced back to Mr Mugabe.

"We were in a position where we were going to lose everything anyway. So you realise there's nothing to lose, you have to fight for it."

Mad stoicism?

The family is living in temporary accommodation near the farm and visit their workers most days to give moral support and clear away the fire damage. The plan is to rebuild the workers' houses, restart his wife's laundry business before reconstructing the family home.

Laura Freeth
Mr Freeth's wife, Laura, is hoping to restart her laundry business

Watching the film, many will admire the family's determination. But some may feel such stubbornness in the face of a regime associated with violent retribution is mad, especially with three children aged four, seven and nine.

But Mr Freeth and his wife are committed Christians and believe they have been put there for a reason by God.

"If no-one is prepared to do anything then you're in effect ending the lives of all the children and this country's future. The people will end up in camps being beaten, brainwashed and taught to hate us (white people). We need to make a difference. We can't just up sticks and run away. That's what a third of the population has done and it is not going to help."

He knows they risk being killed.

"It's always a possibility under a dictator. Does that stop you?"

Last year, Mr Mugabe was compared to Hitler, by a South African Anglican bishop, and Mr Freeth refers to how appeasement allowed the Nazis to dominate Europe.

"If more people had stood up to Hitler perhaps he wouldn't have been able to massacre six million Jews. You have to take some risks."

The British directors of the film, Lucy Bailey and Andrew Thompson, were also taking a huge gamble.

Camera smuggling

Western journalists were banned from working in Zimbabwe and by shooting a feature film there - the first for many years - they risked imprisonment. Much of the film was shot covertly but as a self confessed "camera snob" Thompson insisted on smuggling in a large format camera to ensure the film would make an impact on the big screen.

Robert Mugabe
Mr Mugabe has faced increasing international criticism

Thompson has worked in Iraq, Gaza and Afghanistan but says nowhere was as terrifying as Mugabe's Zimbabwe.

"There's a culture of fear and no rule of law. You've got the isolation of the rural areas with these armed militias out and about. It's so tough for the family. One day Ben is in the supermarket queue standing beside someone, the next night this person is out on the farm with a machete vowing to kill his children."

There will be awkward moments for western audiences not used to the paternalistic relationship between white farmers and their black workforce. But the film-makers argue the fate of the workers and white farmers are inextricably linked.

Thompson believes it is time for people to see white people in Africa differently. "I think the story very clearly debunks the view that white people shouldn't be in Africa. It's in the same vein as people in Britain who say blacks shouldn't live here - we call them Nazis. The subject is a hot potato but we make it clear that yes, you can be white and African."

Having won in the courts, Mr Freeth hopes the film will ratchet up international pressure on President Mugabe. In practice, the octogenarian leader controls the police, army and judges and in the rural areas the violent attacks have intensified.

If Zimbabwe is ever to recover, Mr Freeth believes white farmers will be part of its reconstruction.

"We know it'll take huge amounts of money to get Zimbabwe back on its feet. And without property rights there's no way that agriculture can get up and running again."

His latest idea for the film reveals chutzpah to go with the stubbornness - he wants to arrange a screening in Harare. Like so much of what he sets out to do, one wonders if he may eventually get his way.

Mugabe and the White African will be shown at the London Film Festival on Wednesday 21 October and Friday 23 October. For details, see internet links, above right.

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‘Mugabe and The White African’, screened at the London Film Festival today

‘Mugabe and the White African’ is being screened at the London Film Festival today and on the 23 October (Friday). Details here. Unfortunately for Londoners, it looks as if tickets are sold out – but that’s good news for the Campbell and Freeth families whose story is told through the film. The trailor gives a sense of how much they have endured. Links to archived posts about the two families available below

Archived blogs on Mount Carmel Farm

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