By Peta Thornycroft, in Johannesburg
Last Updated: 12:17am BST 06/10/2007
Ten white farmers appeared in court in Zimbabwe yesterday accused of
growing crops on their land - in a country where millions of people will
need food aid within the next few months.
The case in Chegutu district, 70 miles southwest of Harare, exposes
the perversity of President Robert Mugabe's policies. Commerical agriculture
was the mainstay of the economy in the days when Zimbabwe was a food
Since 2000, when the government began seizing white-owned farms, many
of them violently, the agricultural sector has collapsed and the economy has
gone into freefall, with inflation now at 6,600 per cent, the highest in the
The World Food Programme estimates that it will be feeding 4.1 million
Zimbabweans, one third of the population, by the end of the year.
But none of that has stopped the Zanu-PF regime.
Now the Chegutu group is charged with violating the Consequential
Provisions Act, which gave the few hundred remaining white farmers a final
deadline of Sep 30 to leave their land and homes. The colonial-era Chegutu
courtroom was packed by the so-called "war veterans" who are Mr Mugabe's
staunch supporters, and "beneficiaries" who stand to be given the properties
should the 10 be convicted.
Among them are Edna Madzongwe, the speaker of parliament, and Nathan
Shamuyarira, a former information minister and one of President Robert
Mugabe's closest aides.
The farmers, aged from 38 to 75, produce a variety of food from
chickens to oranges and have already given two-thirds of their farms to the
government for resettlement. All but one still work their remaining land
intensively and say they intend to try to continue.
They were remanded on bail and their lawyer David Drury sought to have
the case referred to the supreme court, which is due to rule on the
constitutionality of the land law. They pleaded not guilty and face up to
two years in prison if convicted.
"We have also said that no farmer has received any payment of any kind
whatsoever and that the way compensation is decided means farmers would be
paid nothing, given that Zimbabwe's inflation rate is over 6,000 per cent,"
But a prominent lawyer in Harare said the courts were blocking urgent
applications over land cases. "The atmosphere in the courts has changed
dramatically in the last week," he said.
Didymus Mutasa, the lands minister, has said that the few hundred
remaining white farmers will be forced out, one way or another.
"The position is that food shortages or no food shortages, we are
going ahead to remove the remaining whites," he said recently. "Too many
blacks are still clamouring for land and we will resettle them on the
In fact many farms were given to members of the government and their
cronies, and one minister has admitted that the new farmers have failed in
their cultivation efforts.
Outside the court, the scruffy shops of Chegutu were empty of basic
foods, and street vendors sold small, sour oranges.
They came from a once-prolific citrus farm in the district now
devastated after it was seized by Bright Matonga, the deputy information
minister, earlier this year.
By Hugh Williamson and Alec Russell in Pretoria
Published: October 6 2007 04:10 | Last updated: October 6 2007 04:10
South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki on Friday predicted an imminent
agreement between Zimbabwe's opposition and ruling party.
Mr Mbeki, appointed by regional leaders to mediate in Zimbabwe, has been
involved in talks between the ruling Zanu-PF party and the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change but has not previously commented on progress.
On Friday he said the negotiations were addressing most of the MDC's demands
to ensure a free and fair election campaign ahead of presidential and
parliamentary polls scheduled for next March, including new independent
electoral institutions. The talks would be concluded in time to allow the
agreements to come into force before the poll, he said.
"We are quite confident that there will be a positive outcome [to the
elections] that will create the political conditions to address the very
serious economic crisis in Zimbabwe," he said at a press conference with the
visiting German chancellor, Angela Merkel, in Pretoria.
Mr Mbeki's rosy comments chime with the assessment of MDC officials who are
more confident that Zanu-PF will agree to most of their demands, including
rewriting the constitution. But the MDC is much less confident that Zimbabwe's
President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled increasingly autocratically since
independence in 1980, will keep to any agreement.
German officials suggested the timing of Mr Mbeki's comments might have been
linked to the visit by Ms Merkel, who has publicly urged the South African
leader to be more assertive in his mediation efforts. She did not comment on
the prospects for the talks, which have been criticised by many opponents of
Mr Mugabe as ineffectual, but she indicated that she did not see eye-to-eye
with Mr Mbeki on the crisis.
She said she had given Mr Mbeki "my assessment of the situation as I saw it
and he shared his assessment of the situation as he saw it?.... The
situation is a very difficult one, not to say a disastrous one, which I very
clearly stated in our conversation".
Ms Merkel's strong language on Zimbabwe reflects her determination to
highlight human rights concerns as part of Germany's diplomatic agenda.
She has also made clear that she believes the European Union needs to
rebuild relations with Africa following a lull caused by divisions over
The crisis there has threatened a European Union conference on Africa
scheduled for Lisbon in December.
Saturday 06 October 2007
By Lizwe Sebatha
BULAWAYO - Zimbabwe's leading clothing retail chain Edgars Stores has sent
scores of workers home after closing some of its shops in Bulawayo, ignoring
a government threat to take over firms downsizing in response to a
controversial state blitz on prices.
Edgars had last month announced plans to close 19 of its 55 outlets citing
viability problems triggered by a controversial government blitz on prices
that forced producers and retailers to sell at a loss.
The retail chain said it would be closing down five of its branches in
Bulawayo, Gweru, Chitungwiza, Highglen and Gwanda.
It would also close 14 of its Express shops in Harare, Bulawayo, Marondera,
Rusape, Chitungwiza, Bindura, Chegutu, Chiredzi, Plumtree, Gokwe, Karoi,
Mutare and Kwekwe.
Industry and International Trade Minister Obert Mpofu reacted to the news by
threatening to take-over Edgars at a meeting held with clothing shops at a
Bulawayo hotel last month.
ZimOnline established yesterday that Edgars ignored Mpofu's threats and
proceeded to shut down some of its shops in Bulawayo, citing difficulties in
restocking after the government's order to companies to halve prices in
Edgars managing director Raymond Mlotshwa confirmed the closures yesterday.
"We are struggling to restock and have closed some retail shops in Bulawayo.
The current restrictions make it difficult to run a formal retail business,"
He said they had communicated to the authorities the problems "we have
ZimOnline understands that re-stocking costs now outweighed sales income,
which presented challenges to the company, including difficulties in meeting
The company manufactures some of its merchandise through a subsidiary called
In the interim financial results released last month, Edgars spoke of a
bleak future, warning that in addition to the negative effects of the
government price blitz, the retail giant also faced a serious debt problem.
Contacted for comment yesterday, Mpofu said Edgars should approach the
government before closing its outlets.
"The government will not allow a situation where workers are left with no
jobs and something will be done to make sure that the jobs are protected,"
the minister said without elaborating. - ZimOnline
Saturday 06 October 2007
By Nqobizitha Khumalo
BULAWAYO - Zimbabwean junior doctors on Friday called off their strike after
they struck an agreement with the Health Services Board that will see the
government hiking doctors' salaries by a significant percentage.
The junior doctors downed tools last month demanding that the government
hike their salaries from Z$8 million to Z$120 million a month.
Hospital Doctors' Association president Amos Severegi said although they had
not been offered the salaries they had been demanding, they had reached a
"reasonable" compromise with the government.
"We have reached a consensus with the government on salaries, we will
continue with negotiations while we are back at work and all this was done
with the interests of the patients," said Serevegi.
Severegi refused to divulge the new doctors' salaries saying they had put
under oath not to reveal the figures.
"We were put under oath and what I can only say is that we met halfway with
the government. We did not get want we wanted but we reached a position
where the salaries were acceptable to both parties," Severegi said.
The doctors' strike had paralysed operations at all major state hospitals in
Zimbabwe with reports suggesting that some patients were being turned away
at Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare.
Strikes by doctors over poor pay and working conditions are common in
Zimbabwe that is grappling a severe economic crisis that has been described
as unprecedented for a country not at war.
Hundreds of Zimbabwean doctors have left the country over the past seven
years to seek better paying jobs in the southern African region and
beyond. - ZimOnline
By Carole Gombakomba
05 October 2007
Shelves in some Zimbabwean supermarkets are starting to look less empty,
months after being emptied by an ill-conceived government price-cutting
drive, but food items are being snatched by black market dealers for sale at
much higher prices.
Food experts say that while Zimbabwe has experienced food shortages since
2001, the price controls imposed in July have dramatically worsened the
crisis, leaving more than 5 million people across the country in need of
President Robert Mugabe and his government continue to deny the country
needs assistance. United Nations sources said that when he met recently with
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, he turned down humanitarian aid
Mr. Mugabe was said to have told Ban that problems in Zimbabwe are as a
result of "illegal sanctions" imposed by the United States and other Western
But critics say the shortages reflect bungled land reform and poor economic
A U.N. source said the international organization cannot force humanitarian
or food aid upon on a country, if its government declines the offer, but
said Mr. Mugabe's position could result in the U.N. declining to issue an
appeal to donors.
Meanwhile, ordinary Zimbabweans say they are running from one store to
another in search of basic commodities such as bread, flour, mealie meal,
cooking oil or sugar.
Western nations including the United States, Britain and Australia continue
to provide food aid through the U.N. World Food Program and non-governmental
organizations such as the Consortium for Southern African Food Security
Emergency, which unites CARE, Catholic Relief Services and World Vision
International in aid provision.
With presidential and parliamentary elections due next year, opposition
members and other human rights groups say the need for food assistance is
now greater and that the use of food as a political tool is already in
evidence through out the country.
The Swedish Cooperative Center, a Swedish non-governmental organization,
urged the European Union and the WFP to set up an observer force to monitor
food aid distribution in Zimbabwe to prevent its politicization. But the WFP
said there is no need for an observer force to monitor the distribution of
food assistance in Zimbabwe.
For perspective,reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe
spoke with Richard Lee, WFP Southern African regional spokesman, and
Reverend Forbes Matonga, national director of Christian Care, a main WFP's
partner in Zimbabwe.
Matonga said demand for food aid is increasing in rural and urban areas
By Patience Rusere
05 October 2007
The Zimbabwe government averted a damaging strike by civil servants this
week, said sources close to negotiations between the government and the
Public Service Association, which represents state employees other than
those in uniform.
PSA officials could not be reached for confirmation or comment. But sources
said the PSA had canceled a strike set for Monday, releasing a statement
saying civil servants had received an increase in salary sufficient to call
off the threatened strike - though it fell short of demands, so the PSA
would continue to engage the government.
The association had asked for base salaries over the poverty line now at $16
million a month. But the Internet-based news agency ZimOnline reported that
the deal meant most civil servants would earn $14 million a month or about
The increase of some 420% was the same as that granted members of the
Zimbabwe Teachers Association, which settled with the government though its
larger rival, the Progressive Teachers Association of Zimbabwe said its
strike would continue.
Director Dennis Nikisi of the Graduate School of Management at the
University of Zimbabwe told reporter Patience Rusere that the new deal will
stoke inflation as the government does not have the funds and will have to
print more money.
By Jonga Kandemiiri
05 October 2007
While they negotiate in Pretoria, South Africa, Zimbabwe's ruling party and
opposition are arguing in Harare over preparations for proposed March 2008
This week the Morgan Tsvangirai faction of the Movement for Democratic
Change put a question in parliament to Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa,
one of the ruling party negotiators in crisis talks being mediated by South
African President Thabo Mbeki. It asked whether voter rolls would be
established for each ward in all constituencies - including those created
under the constitutional amendment passed last month.
Chinamasa said there would be no new voter registration or revision of voter
Chinamasa added that redistricting would be carried out as soon as after
President Robert Mugabe signs constitutional amendment legislation, making
But the opposition said there must be a registration exercise between now
and March to allow all voters to confirm their registration and re-register
Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Tsvangirai MDC faction told reporter Jonga
Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the refusal to hold such an
exercise indicates that ZANU-PF is not negotiating in good faith in the
October 5, 2007 11:55 p.m. EST
Vittorio Hernandez - AHN News Writer
Harare, Zimbabwe (AHN) - Despite the fact that the price of beer has
skyrocketed over 100 percent to $280,000 from $70,000 a pint, Zimbabwe's
inflation rate nevertheless registered a slowdown to 6,592 percent in
August; down from July's 7,635 percent. On Friday, a new consumer monitoring
body was established to keep an eye on price tags. Zimbabwe's Central
Statistical Office attributed the inflation deceleration to price controls
imposed in June by President Robert Mugabe.
According to the state statistical body, last year's annual inflation rate
of 1,193 percent as of May 2006 pales in comparison to this year's runaway
numbers. It said August's deceleration was mainly applied on food and
To address the country's runaway inflation - currently the world's highest -
Mugabe has issued edicts punishing price gougers with up to six years in
Zimbabwe's soaring prices are just a part of the nation's economic meltdown.
Supermarkets have empty shelves, electricity is cut off and unemployment at
an all time high. Those who can no longer bear the harsh life are leaving by
busloads for neighboring South Africa.
By Staff Reporter
Last updated: 10/06/2007 06:28:11
ZIMBABWEAN police have arrested a self-styled spirit medium who duped the
government into believing that she had "discovered" pure diesel oozing from
a hill in Chinhoyi, official media reported.
Rotina Mavhunga, alias Sekuru Mboni, reportedly skipped the country to South
Africa after it was discovered that her story was a hoax.
Mavhunga was arrested at Police General Headquarters in the capital Harare
on Tuesday this week by detectives who lured her by saying Police
Commissioner Augustine Chihuri wanted to see her over some personal matter
needing her super-natural expertise.
Believing that Chihuri was her latest "high profile" customer, Machunga
rushed to PGHQ, into a police trap.
She was on the wanted list for two months. The state-run Herald newspaper
said a high-ranking government official it did not name had been harbouring
In May, Mavhunga was sucked into Zanu PF's contentious succession saga
together with two senior ministers in President Robert Mugabe's cabinet.
State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa and Local Government Minister
Ignatious Chombo - whose connections to Mavhunga came under the spotlight in
both the cabinet and the politburo -were linked to the 35-year old healer.
Mutasa and Chombo were confronted by Mugabe in cabinet over their
presidential ambitions. The two heavyweights enlisted the services of
Mavhunga to divine their prospects of becoming president.
So serious was the belief in the diesel story that President Mugabe set up a
Cabinet taskforce to look into the project. The initial report was that
there "was diesel", but doubts set in when scientific investigations
discovered that the diesel coming out of the mountain was pure. Scientists
later raised suspicion, causing a collapse of Mavhunga's plan.
Mutasa was part of a delegation headed by Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi
including Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi and police and intelligence
officers, to Maningwa Farm in Chinhoyi in June to ascertain the veracity of
the fuel claims. He also visited Makuti, another site where diesel was
A number of ceremonies were conducted in order to access the diesel.
However, the team abandoned its mission on June 18 after Mavhunga failed to
show them where the diesel was located. The team concluded the diesel claims
were a "hoax".
Mutasa is later reported to have asked Mavhunga if there was anything she
could do to cleanse him to become president. A cleansing ceremony is said to
have been held in Rusape where Mutasa made his intentions clear that he
wanted to succeed Mugabe. State security agents are said to have reported
the issue to Mugabe. The Zimbabwean leader - who has repeatedly complained
that top Zanu PF politicians were approaching witchdoctors to get charms to
be president - is said to have been riled by this incident.
As details of how Mavunga ran her scam emerged, state media said se teamed
up with long distance truck drivers who supplied her with diesel. The diesel
would be fed into a pipe on the hill and released in spats to deceive people
who visited the hill into believing that it was coming from the hill.
She said the diesel was from ancestors who wanted to help the country that
was "suffering" due to critical fuel problems.
Police spokesman Chief Superintendent Oliver Mandipaka confirmed the arrest.
"I can confirm that we have arrested Rotina Mavhunga but that's all I can
say at the moment. We are still carrying further investigations into the
mater," he said.
The detectives took her to Chinhoyi, some 100kms north west of Harare for
indications on the site where she operated from. She showed police skins and
other tools of her trade at the scene.