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London protests against Zimbabwe oppression continue

 Ekklesia -02/10/05

A regular human rights vigil that gathers every Saturday outside the Zimbabwean Embassy in London marked its third anniversary this week. MP Kate Hoey, the chairperson of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe, was present – along with civil rights and church activists.

Among those who have taken part in the vigil is Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo, whose outspoken denunciations of Robert Mugabe’s regime have led to threats against him by the government.

This weekend the vigil focussed on the issue of Zimbabwean refugees, ahead of a major UK tribunal on 5 October 2005 which will decide whether failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers should be deported.

The day was supported by the Refugee Council. Participants have been keen to raise public awareness about the hearing and the dangers of refugees from the Mugabe regime being sent back to Zimbabwe.

Earlier this year Kate Hoey MP visited the country and saw for herself, first-hand, the devastation caused by the government’s Operation Murambatsvina.

The remorseless slum clearance programme, denounced by the United Nations, the international community and the churches, has involved the widespread destruction of the homes and livelihoods of the urban poor.

On Saturday 8 October 2005, Patson Mzuwa, a key figure in the regular vigil, is also taking part in Full Frontal Theatre's production of the play ‘Qabuka’ at the Soho Theatre in London.

Based on true-life testimonies of Zimbabweans-in-exile, the play has been described as a “postcard from the edge which tells their compelling stories with song, dance, humour and mischief”, reports Independent Catholic News. For more information and bookings, call the theatre on 0870 429 6883.

The human rights vigil outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, 429 Strand, London, takes place each Saturday from 2-6pm.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia

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Zimbabwe Vigil Diary – 1st October 2005

An urgent call to the British Government to get Zimbabwe discussed at the United Nations came from the prominent British MP Kate Hoey at the Vigil today.  Kate is Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe and recently made a clandestine visit to see at first hand the devastation caused by Mugabe’s “Operation Murambatsvina”.  She said she couldn’t believe how much the situation had deteriorated in the two years since her previous visit.  She said pressure should be kept up on South Africa to use its influence over Zimbabwe and paid tribute to lawyers who had put so much work into helping asylum seekers.  She commiserated with the Vigil on its third anniversary – but said it had succeeded in keeping Zimbabwe in the spotlight at times when this was difficult.  Kate was presented with a Vigil t-shirt in gratitude for her long-standing support – it went well with the WOZA scarf she was already wearing. 

Other speakers at the Vigil included Tim Finch of the Refugee Council, which supported this special vigil to raise awareness of the plight of failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers. (Next week (from 5th – 7th October) a panel of immigration judges sitting in London will rule on whether it is safe to send people back to Zimbabwe in a special “guidance” case.)  Tim said it beggared belief that people could be sent back to Zimbabwe in such a situation.  The speakers were introduced by drummer and singer-in-chief Patson, who said no Zimbabwean should be returned until Mugabe goes.  On behalf of the Vigil, Dumi thanked Kate Hoey, the Refugee Council and supporters for helping to make such a powerful statement about Zimbabwe.

Kate Hoey was happy to renew acquaintance with several of the asylum seekers whose hunger strike while in detention prompted the test case: Crispen Kulinji, Tafara Nhengu, Mqhubeli Timbha and Harris Nyatsanza.  Their commitment to the Vigil has given it new vitality.  By good fortune it was Crispen’s birthday so he had 100 people to share the cake with.  The Vigil baby, Tinotenda Vigil Muzuwa, was introduced to Kate Hoey by mother Bernita shortly before the clouds opened.  But we had many hands to help raise our tarpaulin in record time.  The hands included those of Geoff Hill, already well-exercised by signing copies of his latest book, now out in paperback, “What happens after Mugabe?”  Geoff will be speaking about his book at the Africa Book Centre, 38 King Street, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8JT on Friday, 7th October from 6.30 pm.  

FOR THE RECORD: at  least 100 supporters came today (thanks to the Refugee Council for their support). 

Vigil co-ordinator

The Vigil, outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, 429 Strand, London, takes place every Saturday from 14.00 to 18.00 to protest against gross violations of human rights by the current regime in Zimbabwe. The Vigil which started in October 2002 will continue until internationally-monitored, free and fair elections are held in Zimbabwe.

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They are fighting freedom

Financial Gazette

9/29/2005 9:42:35 AM (GMT +2)

EDITOR - I would like to express my shock at some of the things ZANU PF claims to have done for the people. I do not think that a sane person will deny the fact that people are starving in the country. This is a crime againist the same people they are claiming to have liberated from colonial rule.

We are constantly reminded about the past yet this is a developing country.
Any person can see what ZANU PF loyalists mean when they say they are "freedom fighters". They fight freedom when some of us are "fighting for freedom".


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Country in pathetic state

Financial Gazette

9/29/2005 9:42:05 AM (GMT +2)

EDITOR - Hats off to your quality and well researched reports.

After reading your informative report on "potatoes"' and there being "enough fuel" and having seen the pathetic situation in your country during my recent visit, I can only say that your government is full of notorious, shameless liars.

Mcadale Sue
United Kingdom

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Black market fuel can never be justified

Financial Gazette

9/29/2005 9:43:05 AM (GMT +2)

EDITOR - "Harare Municipality buying fuel on black market" screamed a headline in The Herald of September 14 2005. The article surprised most people for the following reasons:

--- Who authorises the black market purchases of fuel ?
--- Who establishes contact with the illegal black market and who negotiates the buying price?
--- Who is sent to go and buy the fuel?
--- Does the buyer bring back an invoice from the black market?
--- Who determines, and when is the determination made that there is an emergency that warrants buying of fuel on the black market?
--- How do the executives within the council know how much has been spent on the fuel and how much has gone into the employee's pocket?
The purchase of fuel on the black market cannot be justified for any reason whatsoever.
It is in violation of business ethics and a violation of government policy and is a clear conflict of interest between the officers or whoever is doing it and the council/commission representing the people of the City of Harare.
The officer or executive doing it must be fired or should resign. In short, the ratepayers are being ripped off by the shady deals of the council executives who are enriching themselves and hiking rates and various charges so often to cover up for the theft of council funds while every service previously provided by city council has collapsed.

Servious N Mhaka

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Beware of vultures at the tills

   Financial Gazette

9/29/2005 8:23:42 AM (GMT +2)

An observant friend of mine has alerted me to a phenomenon through which cash-strapped customers could unknowingly be losing millions to till operators, especially in supermarkets. How so, you might ask.

Well, as you know, in the environment of hyper inflation prevailing in Zimbabwe, the customer has become an endangered species.
In order to break even or operate viably, business enterprises or service providers must always pass extra costs on to the customer.
We all fume at the unrelenting exorbitant price increases confronting us everyday but what can we do? And now, it seems, the shops have come up with another way to make an extra pretty penny on the side by making you surrender $100, $200 ,$300 or $400 at the tills on the pretext that they do not have change in these denominations.
I once worked it out and discovered that I was losing an average of $2000 a day through ceding small amounts of my money this way to various shops.
If this is happening to millions of other shoppers, just imagine what a killing this sector is making! On top of enjoying these rich pickings, these shops now also expect customers to pay for carrier bags.
And now it seems, some enterprising till operators have jumped on the bandwagon to make some personal bucks by fleecing customers outright.
How do they do it? Easy. They simply tell you after you have carefully counted your $10 000 or $20 000 notes to make up the amount you must pay, that it is short by one or two of these notes.
Not wanting to appear confused or hard up, (although you are) or delay other weary customers waiting impatiently in the queue, you decide not to argue and meekly surrender an extra $20 000 note or whatever the case may be.
This happened to me a number of times until one day after my friend's tip, I decided to challenge the till operator to do a recount.
Lo and behold, the amount I had tendered was correct. And all the prospective swindler could say was that every one makes mistakes!
If I had not put up a fight as a consumer, my $20 000 would have gone straight into the till operator's personal survival fund. Just imagine how much such a worker can make if he or she can dupe 50 people this way per day.So, you have been warned.
It is an economic jungle out there and people can be quite aggressive when it comes to their own economic survival. A till operator who withheld my $400 because she did not have change, told me sarcastically that I should not worry about such small amounts because they meant nothing these days.
I got an ovation from fellow shoppers when I asked: "How come a customer can not buy an item in this shop if he or she is short by as little as one dollar.?"

National Treasure
Superstar Oliver Mtukudzi is one of those charismatic people who make you feel warm-hearted to be a Zimbabwean. You just feel proud and privileged to have him as a compatriot. He is an entertainer in the true sense of the word and I have been a fan of his for many years.
I first became aware of Mtukudzi in 1980 when I listened to his song, Muroyi Ndiani for the first time. Since then, he has just become better and better With his expressive face, sure-footed phrasing and unique voice, listening to his music is an exceptional experience. I do not know Mtukudzi personally, but I admire his dignity and integrity.
I have noticed that in these days of newspaper gossip columns, where aspersions of all kinds are routinely cast, the singer does not waste his time on petty issues and has cultivated the art of knowing when to speak and when to ride out a storm.
It sometimes sounds like a cliché to say some people are national treasures that can not be replaced but I have found it to be true of icons like Mtukudzi, who brings joy to millions. Let's cherish them while we can, because things will never be the same when they are gone.
Let me give examples. The OK Grand Challenge, which I used to follow avidly, (from the comfort of my armchair!) has never been the same for me since the death of Lawford Sutton-Pryce. This respected broadcaster used to mesmerize the nation with his unforgettable voice in the OK Grand challenge promotional advertisements.In those days, I knew that in spite of myself I would swallow the hype hook, line and sinker each time I heard Lawford's booming voice announcing : "And they are off..."
By the way, the man who took over after Sutton-Pryce's death has done a great job but unfortunately, he is just not Lawford Sutton-Pryce.
I still feel aggrieved and robbed by his death as I do by the demise of that great comedian and singer, Safirio Madzikatire.

A cure for death?
A thousand apologies if I sound like someone obsessed with tales of the macabre.
However, if you are a mere human like me, you must be as mortally afraid of death as I am (pardon the terror- inspired pun). I am so terrified in fact, that I can never understand people who take their own lives. I do not believe any situation can be so bad as to justify anyone taking that final, irrevocable step of ending one's life.
Personally, I am still hoping someone will find a cure for death in my life time-a tall order as I am no spring chicken! But I read somewhere that scientists at Cambridge University have unlocked the secret to longevity. These scientists are reported to have perfected new gene therapies and vaccinations that can stop or reverse the ageing process
I should be ecstatic, right? Wrong. Human nature being what it is, I have found myself having nagging doubts on whether living for ever would really be a good thing. It seems to me that the moment you are born, Mother Nature goes to work straight away to prepare you for death.
The changes are subtle but eventually they begin to take their toll Gravity ensures that everything moves south and suddenly you are a shrunken little old man or woman.
Can scientists cheat Mother Nature sufficiently to make a centuries-long existence possible and worthwhile?

To err is human
Despite it being the language of our former colonisers, I must confess a great love for and fascination with the English language.
It is an expressive language which , whether we like it or not, is the lingua franca of the world. English is such a rich language because its native speakers have been willing to borrow from other tongues and incorporate new words into their vocabulary.
For me, a brilliant turn of phrase in English can be as memorable and humorous as the worst malapropism or fractured grammatical construction.
I have, over the years, enjoyed collecting from newspapers, magazines and other sources phrases and sentences that do not exactly say what the speaker intended but which are nevertheless memorable in their own ironic way as seen in the example below:
Do you have similar humorous flubs to share with our readers? If so send them to

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Quality of Life Hits Rock Bottom

All Africa

Financial Gazette (Harare)
September 29, 2005
Posted to the web September 29, 2005
Rangarirai Mberi
ZIMBABWE has seen one of the world's sharpest drops in the quality of life in recent years and most of its citizens do not expect to live past 40, a new United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report has said.
Zimbabwe has dropped 23 places to 145th position in the world in terms of human development between 1990 and 2003, and is at the bottom of a list of countries grouped in the "medium human development" category, according to the latest UN Human Development Index (HDI). Norway is ranked first while Niger is at the bottom, at position 177.

The UNDP report says 66 percent of Zimbabweans do not expect to reach the age of 40, attributing their alarming pessimism to deepening poverty and HIV/AIDS. The report puts life expectancy in Zimbabwe at 36.9 years.
The report says the quality of life in Zimbabwe is worse than in countries such as Mongolia, Equatorial Guinea and Cambodia. The UNDP blames Zimbabwe's plunge down the index on the decline in the economy, weak investment in education and the impact of the HIV and AIDS pandemic.
"In Sub-Saharan Africa, the lethal interaction of economic stagnation, slow progress in education and the spread of HIV/AIDS has produced a free-fall in HDI ranking," said the report.
However, because the latest findings are only based on research concluded in 2003, Zimbabwe's ranking may well be far lower due to the drastic decline in GDP growth since then.
Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa has adjusted his 2005 growth forecasts to 2 percent from 3.5-5 percent, but economists expect negative growth of up to 8 percent this year. The economy has already shrunk by 30 percent in the past five years.

A February World Bank report showed that 70 percent of Zimbabweans were living below the poverty line, with bank president Paul Wolfowitz saying the speed of Zimbabwe's decline over the past six years is unprecedented for a country not at war.
The UN Human Development Index (HDI) is a comparative measure of poverty, literacy, education, life expectancy and other factors for countries worldwide. It is a standard means of measuring well-being and has been used since 1993 by the UNDP in its annual report. Former Soviet and African countries have experienced the worst increases in poverty levels, the report said. South Africa, Africa's strongest economy, saw the broadest recession in HDI, losing 35 places to 120. Bot-swana is ranked 131st, while Mozambi-que is up three places to 168, although it remains in the bottom 10.

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Zimbabwe Central Bank Resists Full Dollarization

by STAFF EDITORS (10/1/2005)

 Despite having legalized the use of U.S. dollars and other hard currencies to purchase fuel amidst critical shortages, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono has stated his opposition to full dollarization of the national economy.
The government-controlled Herald newspaper reported that Mr. Gono spelled this out to a group of traders from the country's Asian community, explaining that making the dollar legal tender for fuel purchases was an exceptional measure.
The Herald quoted Gono as saying that "to extend (the policy) to other products and services would be tantamount to dollarization of the economy."
But the central bank's decision to authorize certain outlets to sell gasoline or diesel for dollars or South African rand - also in wide circulation along with the pound sterling - made the dollar the currency of choice among fuel sellers and accelerated the depreciation of the Zimbabwean dollar against the U.S. dollar.
Even government agencies are reported to have been obliged to acquire fuel on the parallel market, and official flows have further weighed on the local currency.
Currently the U.S. dollar is trading on the street at around Z$75,000, three times the official rate of $26,000 set by the central bank in its weekly forex auctions. This has heightened expectation of yet another official devaluation of the currency.
Reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke with analyst Dennis Mandudzo, a Zimbabwean now based in Stanford, California, who concludes that dollarization of the economy is already taking place and should be formalized.

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Forex Auction Ineffective, Industry Says

Financial Gazette (Harare)
September 29, 2005
Posted to the web September 29, 2005
Felix Njini
ZIMBABWE's business sector has called upon the central bank to scrap the
foreign currency auction market and move towards a market-determined
exchange rate if the deepening hard currency crisis is to be arrested.
Business leaders, who last week said the auction system-introduced in
January 2004- had lost its relevance in the foreign currency market, urged
the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) to consider another "system which pushes
towards a market-controlled system.'

Zimbabwe chamber of mines president Jack Murehwa said the foreign currency
auction market was no longer working.
His sentiments echoed industry-wide calls for the central bank to loosen its
grip on the foreign currency market to attract more currency into the
official channels.
The country is reeling under a protracted foreign currency crunch with the
persistent shortages worsening during the past months due to competing
demands from fuel, food and electricity imports, which have resulted in
industry being crowded out of the market.
Demand at the foreign currency auction has shot up to more than US$200
million during the past weeks against a fixed allocation of US$12.5 million.
At the moment, Zimbabwe is getting very little in export earnings, a
situation, which has been compounded by the lack of balance of payment
support from multi-lateral financial institutions, analysts said.
Rates on the foreign currency parallel market have been rising dramatically
with business executives having been reduced to absolute scavengers of the
scarce hard currency.
The United States dollar is now fetching $80 000 on the parallel market
while the South African rand is hovering around $12 500.
Rates on the official market, where foreign currency is hardly available,
are around $26 000 to the US dollar and $4 098 for the rand.
"The auction market is no longer working, it is approaching the end of its
life span and the bank should consider a system where we move from this
market to another system which pushes us towards a greater market control,"
said Murehwa.
Industry has been crying foul over the disparity between the official and
the unofficial exchange rates and their failure to access foreign currency
on the official market.
The number of bids being rejected has shot up at the foreign currency
trading floors amid revelations that the accepted bids are not usually met
with the foreign currency applied for.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) chief executive Joseph Malaba
said the RBZ should timeously adjust ineffective policies.
"The foreign currency auction has ceased to be an auction and it should be
scrapped," Malaba said.
Timothy Mukahlera, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) member of parliament
for Gweru Urban, who chairs a Parliamentary committee on industry and
international trade, said the foreign currency parallel market is the 'real
"The law of supply and demand is a proven principle of how to control prices
and we do not need to re-invent the wheel," Mukahlera said.
"The parallel market is the real market and the central bank should let
market forces play a pivotal role in prices," Mukahlera said.
Calls from industry for the RBZ to scrap off the auction system coincide
with plans by the Parliamentary portfolio committee on budget, finance and
economic development to recommend to Parliament that government should
consider re-opening bureau de changes in a bid to create more official
channels of foreign currency.

Bureaux de Change were shut down in December 2002 amid allegations that they
were at the centre of illegal foreign currency deals.
"Re-opening them would at least ensure that the authorities know where the
foreign currency is, even if they will not be able to control the rates.
Right now we only talk of a parallel market, but we cannot even guess how
much money is in circulation and where," said a local analyst.

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