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Why we supported amendment - MDC

Zim Standard

  BY our staff

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai says his party endorsed the 18th
Amendment after SADC leaders guaranteed Zanu PF would not renege on the
ongoing dialogue on a new constitution before the 2008 elections.

Tsvangirai told The Standard in an exclusive interview on Friday he
was aware sections of Zimbabwean society were unsettled by the move.

He said he knew some felt it was a surrender to Zanu PF machinations.

But Tsvangirai said history would prove that the two MDC factions had
taken a "necessary political risk" to solve the Zimbabwe crisis.

Representatives of the MDC in Parliament shocked civic allies, the
diplomatic community,and even some of their own rank and file members when
they did not oppose the amendment.

Analysts see the controversial amendment as the latest strategy by
President Robert Mugabe to cling to power and ensure a smooth Zanu PF
succession after the election.

Civic groups, who have rallied behind the MDC in the past, last week
suggested they might dump the party for supporting the controversial

But a supremely upbeat Tsvangirai said he was convinced they had taken
the right course, with the blessing of Sadc leaders.

He said they resolved to support the amended version of the 18th
amendment after SADC said Zanu PF, which is seeking a rescue package from
the regional group, would be bound by the negotiating process, brokered by
South African President Thabo Mbeki.

He said the dialogue would culminate in a signed agreement between
Zanu PF and MDC which would result in a new constitution before the 2008

This would render the 18th amendment "academic", he said.

Beside the constitution, Tsvangirai said he was confident the
agreement would see restrictive and harsh laws being scrapped in time for
the elections. The negotiators would also work on transitional matters, he

Asked why they trusted Zanu PF so much that they believed it would
allow for a new constitution, ruled as a non-starter by President Mugabe
early this year, Tsvangirai said: "I fully understand the history and
duplicity of Zanu PF ... This is not just a South African initiative, but a
SADC initiative. Both MDC and Zanu PF recognise that."

He added: "SADC will guarantee that no-one is going to walk away from
negotiations. Why should we doubt SADC when we are committed to the
negotiations taking place?" said Tsvangirai, adding the MDC supported the
amended 18th Amendment as a confidence-building measure.

He said if Zanu PF abandoned the process, they would not take part in
the elections.

"We want to go in an election which we have full confidence in, not
anything else. We can't get  into an election whose outcome is
predetermined," he said.

The opposition leader confirmed the two MDC factions were negotiating
with Zanu PF as a united front but said this did not mean they would contest
the 2008 elections as one.

"It's MDC as one team but as far as elections are concerned, that is a
political decision that will be decided down the road," he said.

Arthur Mutambara, the leader of the other faction of the MDC could not
be reached for comment. He was said to be out of the country.

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Granny dies for new constitution

Zim Standard

  By Walter Marwizi

TO many Zimbabweans the name Bronislawa Kwinjo might not immediately
ring a bell.

The unheralded pro-democracy activist was buried quietly in Harare
last week.

The 64-year-old grandmother was in a group of ordinary, elderly people
taking an active interest in the fight for change.

Despite her advanced age, Kwinjo had apparently decided she would not
stand idly by while her beloved country sank deeper and deeper into an
economic and political quagmire.

She decided to act, venturing regularly out of her three-roomed house
in New Mabvukuvuku to engage in street protests with other activists of the
National Constitutional Assembly (NCA).

They have been clubbed, tear-gassed and thrown into police cells as
they marched to accentuate their demand for a new "people-driven"

But on one such mission on 25 July this year, Kwinjo was among 243 NCA
activists who, after staging a demonstration in town, went to the
organisation's offices unaware the police intended to raid them.

When the police arrived, forcing open the gate at 348 Herbert Chitepo
Avenue, Kwinjo could not scale the pre-cast wall with the agility of the
many other protesters, younger and stronger than herself, to escape the
terror of the baton-wielding police.

She was picked up by heavily armed police, who started beating her,
and many others, before taking them to Harare's Central police station, now
notorious as one of the centres around the capital of police excesses
against civilians asserting their right to demonstrate.

The other is said to be the police station at Matapi near the Mukuvisi

At Central police station Kwinjo endured six hours of beatings and
torture by the police, who allegedly forced her to the floor, as they
flailed her continuously.

It is alleged they kicked her aging back, alleging she was a witch.

At around 1130AM the police are said to have ordered her out of Harare
Central. No-one seems to know how she managed to reach New Mabvuku in the
dead of the night, considering her injuries.

When her daughter, Taidadirwa (34) woke up the following morning, she
was shocked to discover the serious injuries on her mother's body.

But Kwinjo would not go to the clinic, fearing her injuries would
raise suspicion of where she had sustained them.

Normally, the clinics require police reports in such cases.

When her condition deteriorated, Kwinjo was eventually persuaded to
seek medical treatment.

A doctor advised them she needed urgent medical attention if her life
were to be saved.

A specialist conducted a comprehensive examination of her condition,
concluding Kwinjo might have suffered brain damage and had to be admitted at
a private clinic for treatment.

On 21 August, Kwinjo fell into a coma, from which she did not recover
until her death on 7 September.

Kwinjo was not the only grandmother in the trenches, as she campaigned
for a new constitution for the country. Veronica Chinembiri (60) was her
soul-mate. She told The Standard at Kwinjo's home where mourners were
gathered on Wednesday that she held Kwinjo's hand as they were force-marched
by the police into a truck that took them to Harare Central police station.

"The police were ruthless. It was clear they wanted to beat us in such
a way that we would never venture into the streets again demanding a new
constitution. Batons rained all over our bodies: from the head, back,
everywhere. They would step on our backs with their heavy boots. They didn't
care that we were grandmothers," she said.

"Female police officers were very abusive. One said we were witches,
old women without shame, old women who thought they could take over the

Chinembiri said she did not think they would survive the beatings.

Upon their release late in the night, most of them could hardly walk,
she said.

Chinembiri said she could not persuade her injured friend (Kwinjo) to
go to waiting ambulances at Boomerang. The ambulances had been arranged by
the NCA for the victims of police brutality to receive urgent medical

"If she had come with us," she said, "she probably would have received
the urgent medical assistance. She would have been with us today. God would
have helped her. She is our heroine."

Chinembiri suffers from nagging backaches. She says her departed
friend had a vision of a new Zimbabwe: a country with a constitution that
allowed Zimbabweans to prosper.

"We are too old," she said. "We are not engaging in these battles for
our own sake but for you young people. You deserve a better Zimbabwe. We
want to be remembered as heroes of this struggle."

Chinembiri says she is struggling to look after five orphaned
children. She says she is too poor to afford anything in Zimbabwe these

Another survivor of the ordeal, Patricia Hosoro (36) was at Fife
Avenue Shopping centre when we called her on Wednesday. She intended to walk
to the NCA offices but her brutalised body could not endure the walk.

She told her story: "They would shout:

'She has big buttocks and she can't feel any pain. Let's beat her
hard.' They kept on beating and beating me. I fainted three times."

Hosoro's left hand was bandaged.

The beatings were so severe that doctors were left with no option but
to operate on her buttocks, removing flesh. Doctors contemplated performing
a skin graft, but changed their mind, convinced that she would eventually
recover without it.

"It has been a difficult time for us," her husband, Simbarashe Ngoshi,
said. "We have been up and down, going to see the doctors. We just hope
things will be fine."

Another married victim who preferred not be named had rotting flesh on
her buttocks surgically removed. She underwent a skin graft but her buttocks
would never regain their original shape, doctors said. They said if she had
not been operated on, she would have died of her injuries.

We met her in Mbare, still in bandages, almost two months after the
beatings. She can hardly sit and cannot do any domestic chores. Her
supportive husband was by her side in their four-roomed house.

"When they beat us they forced us to sing: KuState House kure,
hakusvikike. (State House is very far. You can't reach it.) They were
determined to send a strong message to us, to abandon the struggle for a new
constitution. But this will not stop us, the struggle continues," she said.

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Key staff exodus blights Zesa

Zim Standard

  By Kholwani Nyathi

BULAWAYO - A controversial restructuring exercise has bled the
Zimbabwe Electricity Authority (Zesa) of key senior executives, snapped up
by similar enterprises in the United Kingdom, Botswana and South Africa.

Moreover, the beleaguered power authority has or still has to pay
hefty severance packages running into billions of dollars to the departing
staff, some of them having served 20 years.

Zesa is already weighed down with sub-economic tariffs imposed by an
electioneering governing party.

Insiders said the power utility is already struggling to buy enough
power for the country due to a nationwide foreign currency crunch.

Among the key staff are Caxton Mzangaza, a Zimbabwe Electricity
Transmission Company (ZETC) director, now in the UK and ZETC managing
director, Edward Rugoyi, now with Botswana Power Corporation.

Others are Hudson Bangalore, general manager small thermal power
stations, Peter Simony, director of operations, Zimbabwe Electricity
Distribution Compnay, Misheck Visakhapatnam's, director of operations, Zesa,
and Godknows Hofisi, finance director of the Zimbabwe Power Company.

A source said the absence of the key staff has been indicated
graphically by the frequent power interruptions, unrelated to the scheduled
load shedding.

"What happened is that the company said it was restructuring its
subsidiaries because they felt that it was top-heavy," said the source. "But
in the end they frustrated the top guys.

"Almost all of them have been snapped up by power utilities in South
Africa and Botswana and there is no one to pass on their skills to the
engineers, fresh from university, even on a consultancy basis."

Zesa spokesperson, Fullard Gwasira, confirmed the exodus but denied it
had affected operations as "it had given others the chance to shine".

He said Zesa recently concluded the restructuring exercise to rid the
market of perceptions that it was top-heavy and most of the executives who
left "did so amicably".

"That they were snapped up by such reputable power utilities shows
that Zesa employs skilled and experienced personnel," he said. "We have a
very large resource base and we never run short of replacements."

He admitted the packages paid out to the executives had had an impact
on the finances of the perennially broke company. But he said the payments
could not be avoided as most of the staff opted for voluntary retrenchment.

Zesa is failing to pay for electricity imports from Mozambique, South
Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The three countries have reduced supplies as a result of the delays in

To make matters worse, three thermal power stations in Bulawayo,
Harare and Munyati are not generating power due to an acute shortage of

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Town clerk held over tariffs

Zim Standard

  By our staff

BULAWAYO - The city council's new town clerk was arrested on Friday
for allegedly defying a directive ordering local authorities to freeze
tariff increases as part of the government's price controls.

The council was accused of violating the recent decree by President
Robert Mugabe banning the indexing of salaries, rents and fees to the
Consumer Price Index, an exchange rate or Value Added Tax.

The arrest came after the government appeared to be revising its
unpopular decree after it allowed retailers and service providers to
increase prices significantly.

Stanley Donga was arrested early in the morning after a "crack" price
monitoring team failed to locate the mayor, Japhet Ndabeni-Ncube.

Donga was released after the lunch hour.

Sources said Donga was released following the intervention of
officials from the Ministry of Local Government, in Harare.

In June, the council approved a $3.6 trillion supplementary budget
which raised rates and supplementary charges by 2 000%.

The budget, effective last month, is still to be approved by the
Minister of Local Government, Ignatious Chombo.

But the council is still permitted to increase some tariffs, excluding
those affecting residents in high-density suburbs, without the minister's
approval. Donga confirmed he was briefly detained and interrogated by the
police but he could only say "a solution is being worked out".

"There was a misunderstanding because council tariffs are reviewed
retrospectively, which means that they were not affected by the price freeze
that came into effect in July when the budget had already been passed," he

But a source said he was released after the council made a commitment
to freeze the new charges.

"This means that the town clerk will have to take the issue back to
the council which is not likely to take the matter lying down," said a

Last month, Ndabeni-Ncube and the then acting town clerk, Joel
Madubeko, were arrested on similar charges but were released without charge.

Police confirmed the arrest but their spokesman for Bulawayo,
Mandlenkosi Moyo, could not be reached for official comment as he was said
to be attending the commissioner's fun fare in Harare.

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CIO fails to stop UK aid function

Zim Standard

  By Leslie Nunu

BULAWAYO - Rowdy Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) agents
harassed teachers and threatened Nkayi legislator, Abednico Bhebhe as they
unsuccessfully tried to block the official opening of classroom blocks at
two schools by the British embassy.

After the harassment, teachers at Sembeule and Gababi primary schools
failed to attend the events, where a senior British embassy official,
Gillian Dare officiated a fortnight ago.

The organisers were only allowed to go ahead with the first ceremony
at Sembeule after Bhebhe, the deputy spokesman for the pro-Senate faction of
the Movement for Democratic Change, threatened to telephone the operatives'

Addressing parents, Bhebhe criticised the government and Zanu PF for
allegedly frustrating development efforts in the impoverished district.

"There are some people among us today who are not happy with the
developments that are taking place in Nkayi because of the fact that I am
the Member of Parliament," Bhebhe said.

"This is why they tried to prevent this ceremony from taking place but
they will not succeed because the government is aware of these projects."

The official opening of the two classroom blocks was to have taken
place two months ago but the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture
blocked the opening, saying it had not been properly informed.

Dare said Britain would continue to provide humanitarian support for
Zimbabwe's poor despite the diplomatic standoff between two governments.

Britain slapped travel sanctions on members of Mugabe's inner circle
and halted development grants after Zimbabwe embarked on a violent land
reform programme in 2000.

But Dare said her government, through the Department of International
Development (DFID), was spending £38 million on Zimbabwe's poor annually.

"This support is aimed specifically at the poor and most disadvantaged
members of society," she said. "The main priority is to support the
international response to the HIV/Aids crisis."

Other areas of intervention were in ensuring food security and
supporting orphans as well as vulnerable children.

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'Enemies' come to Zimbabwe's rescue

Zim Standard

  By Davison Maruziva

WESTERN nations that President Robert Mugabe accuses of promoting his
ouster last week responded in a way they say demonstrates their wish to
"relieve the suffering of ordinary Zimbabweans".

Mugabe blames Western powers, especially Britain, for the economic
crisis and accuses them of plotting with the opposition to oust him.

But Britain, the US and Australia last week announced packages they
say prove their commitment to improving the lot of millions of ordinary
Zimbabweans smarting from a deterioration in humanitarian conditions.

"There is no easy solution to end this suffering," Britain's new Prime
Minister Gordon Brown said last week. "But I am determined that Britain
continues to do everything it can to help the Zimbabwean people.

"We are currently the second largest donor in Zimbabwe, providing up
to £40 million a year in humanitarian assistance and for HIV and AIDS care
in support of the most vulnerable. In addition, the British Government is
announcing today (Thursday) an additional £8 million for Zimbabwe this year,
to be delivered through the World Food Programme (WFP)."

The WFP estimates that 4.1 million Zimbabweans are in need of food

While Brown announced measures designed to alleviate suffering, he
made a distinction on those the West holds responsible for Zimbabwe's
unprecedented decline.

He said: ". . .And working with our international partners we must do
more to press the Zimbabwean Government to change. We will ensure that the
EU maintains sanctions against the 131 individuals in the ruling elite,
including President Mugabe, who have committed human rights abuses - and
extend sanctions to other individuals where necessary.

"We will suggest to EU partners the appointment of an EU envoy to help
support the transition to democracy. We will press the UN Security Council
to review more regularly the situation on the ground, and to despatch a
humanitarian mission to Zimbabwe."

Brown said Britain and the EU would support the important efforts of
Presidents (Jakaya) Kikwete of Tanzania and (Thabo) Mbeki of South Africa to
negotiate a return to democracy.

"We need to be ready," said the British premier, "for the day
democracy returns to Zimbabwe. We are working with African and international
partners to prepare a long-term recovery package for when conditions exist
to allow economic reconstruction to begin."

This would include measures to help Zimbabwe restart and stabilise its
economy, restructure and reduce its debt, help skilled people who have left
the country return home, renovate schools and hospitals, and very
importantly support fair land reform.

"It is also right," Brown said, "that I make clear my position on the
forthcoming EU-Africa Summit. I want this Summit - under the leadership of
Prime Minister Socrates (of Portugal) - to be a real success. It is a
serious opportunity to forge a stronger partnership between the EU and
Africa in order to fight poverty, tackle climate change, and agree new
initiatives on education, health and peacekeeping.

"President Mugabe is the only African leader to face an EU travel ban.
There is a reason for this - the abuse of his own people. There is no
freedom in Zimbabwe: no freedom of association; no freedom of the press. And
there is widespread torture and mass intimidation of the political

President Mugabe's attendance, Brown said, would mean lifting the EU
visa ban that "we have collectively imposed".

He said if Mugabe attended, he would undermine the Summit, diverting
attention from the important issues that need to be resolved. "In those
circumstances, my attendance would not be appropriate. Britain will not
shirk our responsibilities to the people of Zimbabwe and I am determined
that we do all we can to help them forge a better future for themselves and
their children."

In responding to allegations that it was bankrolling the opposition
MDC, Australia last week said it had made a contribution of A$3.5 million to
the WFP, to help feed Zimbabweans facing severe food shortages.

"Assistance through the Australian Fund for Zimbabwe in the 2006-2007
financial year was approximately $6 million, and Australia is prepared to
provide potentially double this level of assistance in 2007-2008," said Jon
Sheppard, Australia's Ambassador to Zimbabwe. "These are humanitarian, not
political, funds."

Australia, Sheppard said, had not and does not provide any material
support or funding for political parties anywhere in Africa.

"That," he said, "does not mean, however, we do not give moral support
to parties, such as the MDC, that espouse democratic ideals while suffering
from continuing brutal repression."

The incoming US ambassador to Zimbabwe, James D McGee, who has served
in Swaziland, Madagascar and the Comoros, told the Senate Committee on
Foreign Relations on Wednesday America is helping to feed nearly one in
every five Zimbabweans.

"We must also continue our humanitarian assistance to the Zimbabwean
people and ensure that it reaches the people in need," he said. "In fiscal
year 2007, United States food aid amounted to over $170 million . . ."

Non-food aid humanitarian assistance is approximately $5.1 million,
and HIV/AIDS programmes were increased to $31 million in fiscal year 2007.

"This funding is helping to deliver anti-retroviral treatment to 40
000 Zimbabweans. These actions," he said, "demonstrate the generosity and
compassion of the American people."

Two weeks ago the Canadian embassy in Zimbabwe donated CA$350 000 to
help "mobile and vulnerable populations of Zimbabwe" to be channelled
through the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Unveiling the donation, the Canadian ambassador to Zimbabwe, Roxanne
Dubé, said the project would assist vulnerable Zimbabweans who are victims
of the economic meltdown and help struggling urban families rendered
destitute by the crisis.

"These funds," Dubé said, "will help alleviate some of the stress felt
by those most in need living in urban communities by providing support to
meet basic human needs, including health care."

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Police officer charged with homicide

Zim Standard

  By our staff

BULAWAYO - A senior police officer who fatally shot a Bulawayo man as
he dispersed a crowd celebrating the New Year has been charged with culpable

Milos Moyo, the officer commanding police camps in Bulawayo allegedly
shot Artwell Magagada as he tried to make his way home after work.

The trial opens on Wednesday and it is one of the many that have been
set for hearing during the third term of the High Court in Bulawayo.
Already, Magagada's family, with the help of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human
Rights has sued Home Affairs Minister, Kembo Mohadi, and the Police
Commissioner, Augustine Chihuri over the death.

The family is demanding $20 billion in damages.

Magagada was shot in the head and died at Mater Dei Hospital a few
days after the shooting, the bullet still lodged in his head.

The trial opens amid a sudden upsurge in the number of innocent
civilians shot dead by police officers throughout the country.

In Bulawayo, the police have fatally shot two unarmed residents this
month alone. A fortnight ago, police shot Misheck Gumbo (31) of Pumula North
after accusing him of drinking at a shebeen. On Sunday, Collin Siziba (23)
died from injuries sustained after police shot him on 6 September during a
high-speed car chase.

Siziba was fleeing from the police, believing they were carjackers as
they had not produced identity papers and were using a car with South
African number plates.

Early this month, a teenager, Bekithemba Ndlovu from Nketa suburb,
sustained serious injuries after being shot by the police for allegedly
making noise at night while coming from a birthday party in neighbouring
Nkulumane suburb.

In March, police shot and killed opposition activist Gift Tandare as
they broke up a prayer meeting organised by the Save Zimbabwe Campaign at
Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield, Harare.

The government, relying increasingly on the police and army to contain
public discontent, denies the uniformed forces have violated human rights.

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It's all here - but at a price!

Zim Standard

  By Our Staff

WHILE local products are still scarce, Harare's enterprising retailers
are gradually restocking - with pricey luxury imports.

A snap survey by The Standard yesterday showed the shops had about 80%
South African on their shelves Zimbabwean, Zambian and Mozambican items made
up the remaining 20%.

Prominant were Kellogg's, cereal, Appollo Shrimp Noodles, OMO washing
powder, Refresh soft drink and an assortment of imported biscuits.

At Bon Marche, Mount Pleasant, a 75g tube of South African toothpaste
sold for $552 000 while 125g of Cremora powdered cream was $1 736 100.

At Travel Plaza Supermarket, a 1kg box of OMO and a small box of Manna
Super Soya Mince were going for $2 346 000 and $621 000 respectively, while
790g Mayonnaise cost $1 994 000 and 750g was $1 656 000.

Kellogg's cornflakes were going for $573 000 for 200g while 300g and
500g boxes of the same product cost $973 840 and $1 323 000 respectively. A
400g box of Kellogg's Rice Crispies cost $1 474 630

A shop attendant at Spar explained that the goods were expensive
because they were imports.

"Seven hundred thousand dollars! No, we are not that thirsty", a woman
exclaimed on seeing the price tag of a two-litre bottle of Refresh Soft
Drink, another South African import.

There is a severe shortage of basic commodities following the
government's price blitz. But regional suppliers are taking over. Recent
incentives to resuscitate business, among them approval of a 20 % price
mark-up for some commodities has not worked.

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Woman survives six days with dead foetus

Zim Standard

  By Bertha Shoko

A 34-year-old Harare woman spent six days with a dead foetus in her
womb, risking infection from the decomposing remains, after staff at Harare
hospital told her that they had no general anaesthetic.

The Standard was told by Judith Mutokozi-Tivabirire she was attended
to at Harare hospital on 3 September after she lost her baby on 31 August.

Tivabirire was then told to return the next day (4 September) by
doctors who told her and husband there were no drugs to enable them to
operate and retrieve the dead foetus.

She was asked to return on 11 September "to check" if the drugs would
be available then.

But because of the health implications this delay would have had on
Tivabirire's health, she eventually did not wait that long.

With the help of relatives, Judith and her husband, Taurai ended up in
the private sector where they paid more than $20 million in general expenses
and the actual

The foetus was finally removed on 6 September.

An emotional Judith of Mbare suburb told Standardhealth at her sister's
house in Highfield she was seriously traumatised by the incident and that
"it would take her a long time to forget".

She is being nursed back to good mental and physical health by her

"The pain of having lost my child was serious enough to give me
sleepless nights for sometime," she said. But the pain of carrying that dead
child for six days is certainly going to drive me insane. "I was deeply hurt
and really felt betrayed by this system. I never thought a day would come
that I would walk into a government hospital and be denied treatment. If we
poor people cannot get treatment at a government hospital where else are we
expected to get it from?"

Contacted for comment, the Minister of Health and Child Welfare, David
Parirenyatwa, said he had not received a report on the incident and would
Asked about the drug supply situation at Harare hospital, Parirenyatwa
said he had not received a report that there was no general anaesthetic to
operate "on this woman".

Harare hospital superintendent Jealous Nderere, could not be reached
for comment as he was constantly said to be in meetings.

Judith said she had always thought the stories about Zimbabwe's
problems in the health sector were exaggerated, until she went through this
ordeal. She said: "Things have really gone out of control and unfortunately,
I had a personal experience of it. It's one thing to hear it on the radio or
to read it in the newspaper. But going through it as I did is something
else. I am really bitter."

Judith's husband said after being turned away from Harare hospital he
and his wife realised they did not have enough money to go to a private
hospital. As a result she spent six days with the dead foetus in
her womb.

Taurai said: "I was really deeply pained, watching my wife go through
all this. Sometimes we men take for granted how much our women go through,
but I tell you I had a very good idea of what Judith was going through.

"Imagine carrying a child to the full term and just when you think you
are almost there, you lose that child. Then, even worse, you spend six days
carrying that lifeless foetus. It is painful. I really felt inadequate as a
man, being unable to shield my family from the harsh realities of this

Harare central hospital is one of the country's largest government-run
referral health centres and is supposed to offer specialist services and
quality health care to those who cannot afford to go to the
private sector.

But due to poor budget allocations by the Ministry of Finance over the
years, health service delivery in most government-run institutions has
deteriorated and the Tivabirires' had a first-hand experience of the tragic

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Child mortality rate down says Unicef

Zim Standard

  By our staff

ZIMBABWE has posted a "significant success" in child survival with new
findings released by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and its
partners showing a 20% decline in child mortality.

According to Unicef, Zimbabwe is one of the countries that has made a
particularly "dramatic progress" since the previous surveys of 1999-2000 on
child mortality rates were done.

This progress is in spite of the harsh economic environment obtaining
in the country and the ravaging HIV and Aids pandemic. The National Aids
Council estimates that there are at least 158 798 children infected with HIV
while 39 808 children die each year from Aids-related illnesses. It also
says that only 6 200 of the 10 000 children who need Antiretrovirals have
access to them.

Other countries who are said to have made "dramatic progress include
Morocco, Vietnam and the Dominican Republic who reduced their under-five
mortality rates by more than one-third. Madagascar has cut its rate by 41%,
while Sao Tome and Principe has seen its rate fall by 48%.

Of the 9.7 million children who perish each year, 3.1 million are from
South Asia, and 4.8 million are from Sub-Saharan Africa. In the developing
world, child mortality is considerably higher among children living in rural
areas and in the poorest households, according to Unicef.

These child survival rates have not just been recorded in Zimbabwe and
the developing world countries mentioned earlier who have been singled out
for having made "dramatic progress" in reducing child mortality but they
have also been recorded at a global level.

According to Unicef, Global child deaths (under fives) have reached a
record low falling below 10 million per year to 9.7 million, down from
almost 13 million in 1990. Unicef Executive Director Ann Veneman believes
this is "a historic moment".

"More children are surviving today than ever before. Now we must build
on this public health success to push for the achievement of the Millennium
Development Goals," she said. Among these goals is a commitment to a
two-thirds reduction in child mortality between 1990 and 2015, a result
which would save an additional 5.4 million children by 2015. Veneman pointed
out that there was no room for complacency.

"The loss of 9.7 million young lives each year is unacceptable. Most
of these deaths are preventable and, as recent progress shows, the solutions
are tried and tested. We know that lives can be saved when children have
access to integrated, community-based health services, backed by a strong
referral system."

There has also been significant progress in parts of Sub-Saharan
Africa. Under-five mortality has declined 29% between 2000 and 2004 in
Malawi. In Ethiopia, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda and Tanzania child
mortality rates have declined by more than 20%.

The highest rates of child mortality are still found in West and
Central African countries. In southern Africa hard-won gains in child
survival have been undermined by the spread of HIV and Aids, says Unicef.

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Construction industry in serious trouble

Zim Standard


THE construction industry faces imminent collapse due to a critical
shortage of inputs and skilled personnel, the Zimbabwe Building Contractors'
Association (ZBCA) has said.

The chairman of the ZBCA's national executive materials committee,
Christopher Mawere, said most building projects were at a "standstill"
because cement, diesel, manpower and foreign currency were in perennial
short supply.

"The situation is very bad," he said. "The industry is on its knees
now. I can safely say it's operating at about 10% of capacity."

One such project is Joina Centre, a towering building in Harare, which
has been under construction for the past decade.

Over the past seven years, the industry has shed thousands of jobs as
part of desperate survival measures. At the same time, the industry has lost
experts to the brain drain.

Builders, carpenters, quantity surveyors, architects, engineers and
artisans - have joined the great trek to South Africa.

South African construction companies have embarked on a massive drive
to recruit skilled personnel to meet their deadlines for World Cup
2010-related projects.

South Africa is looking at R17 billion in new investments, expected to
create 123 000 new jobs in the construction sector.

"Right now we don't have engineers, builders, electricians and
carpenters," said Mawere. "They have all gone and most of our polytechnics
have stopped training such people."

Tendayi Chimuriwo, president of the Zimbabwe Construction Industry
Council said soon there would be no construction industry to talk about
because of the massive brain drain.

"Companies will collapse because there will be no manpower," Chimuriwo
told SABC news recently.

The shortage of cement is a major stumbling block, the ZBCA said. It
claimed cement producers were only selling the commodity to dealers, who
resell it at the black market at inflated prices.

The retail price of cement is $500 for a 50 kg but the few dealers who
have the commodity sell it at $2.5 million.

The ZBCA, which represents mostly black-owned construction companies,
accused the government of neglecting the industry.

Like the new farmers, said Mawere, the indigenous building contractors
must be included in the government's mechanisation programme, as well as
being given preference in foreign currency allocation to buy new machinery.

"Farmers are being given fertilizers, seeds and tractors by the
government," he said. "Why are they leaving us out?"

Analysts have blamed the economic recession on President Robert Mugabe's
controversial policies. But the 83-year-old leader has denied ruining
Zimbabwe's once thriving economy, blaming it all on targeted sanctions
slapped on his government.

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Court rules against Charamba

Zim Standard

  By Our Staff

HIGH Court judge Justice Ben Hlatshwayo on Friday dismissed with costs
a matter in which President Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba was suing The
Zimbabwe Independent and its distributors for defamation.

Charamba, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information and
Publicity, and his lawyers, failed to attend the pre-trial conference or
make an appearance on the matter, in Harare.

Justice Hlatshwayo then issued a default judgement.

In March last year, Charamba, filed a $15 billion lawsuit at the High
Court after the weekly published four articles.

The first was published on the front page on 3 March, with the
headline "Charamba in hot soup over Tsholotsho".

Other articles were published on 10 March, headlined "Charamba
threatens Zimind" and "Tsholotsho ghost haunts Charamba", and on 17 March,
with the headline "Tsholotsho saga: evidence of Charamba's role exposed".

But in issuing the judgement on Friday, Justice Hlatshwayo dismissed
Charamba's application with costs.

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Zanu PF youth leader orders 'Green Bombers' to raid homes for basics

Zim Standard

Nqobani Ndlovu

BULAWAYO - Zanu PF might be mobilising the much-feared Green Bombers
to seize basic commodities from ordinary people's homes as part of the
government's discredited price control policy.

This is likely to send shivers down the spines of many Zimbabweans as
the graduates of the youth service are notorious for employing violence in
their implementation of Zanu PF directives.

The youths were involved in the looting of shops during the government's
price clampdown.

So far the controversial price blitz operation has been limited to the
shops and supermarkets most of which are now bare.

But Obert Mpofu, the Minister of Industry and International Trade,
denied that it was the government policy to raid people's homes in search of
scarce basic commodities.

"Zimbabwe respects the rule of law," he said. "This operation has been
done under the required legal instruments and is regulated".

The Zanu PF secretary for youth, Absolom Sikhosana, last week urged
the youths to target homes and companies that have stopped production in
protest against the price blitz.

Sikhosana said the youths should "target people hoarding basic
commodities" at their homes and "bring the goods to the formal market".

"It is your duty to make right what is wrong," Sikhosana told the
youths at Davies Hall, the party headquarters last week.

"We have houses that have become shops; you have a duty to identify
those and confiscate all the goods and bring them to the formal market."

Sikhosana said there was a place that had been nicknamed "the World
Bank" in Bulawayo, where the illegal exchange of foreign currency is
rampant. He said it was the duty of the youths to "wipe it out".

"We have factories that are no longer producing," he said. "You have
got a duty to identify these and bring them to book."

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GMB mulls SA flour imports

Zim Standard

  by Our staff

THE Grain Marketing Board is exploring ways of importing flour from
South Africa to alleviate the countrywide bread shortage, sources said last

The intention comes in spite of the GMB's failure to pay for 36 000
tonnes of wheat from South Africa and Mozambique stuck in Beira for about
five months.

Two weeks ago, the GMB would not respond to questions on the snag, but
reliable sources said the parastatal had repeatedly failed to secure Reserve
Bank of Zimbabwe funding for the consignment.

If brought into the country, the wheat would last for only four weeks
as Zimbabwe requires 9 000 tonnes of wheat a week to satisfy local demand.

Sources said the baking industry proposed that government import flour
rather than buy wheat from both local and foreign millers until October when
the country reaps winter wheat.

But it is estimated foreign supplies will push the price of bread from
the official $22 000 a loaf to anything between $150 000 and $200 000, the
current black market price.

National Bakers' Association chairman Vincent Mangoma last week
confirmed negotiating with government for flour imports.

"Yes, we did make such a suggestion and the government said they were
looking at it. I have also been to South Africa to assess the viability of
such a move and yes, it will increase the input costs, hence inevitably
necessitate a mark-up on the current bread price," Mangoma said.

The baking industry has in the past said the flour shortage was
threatening its survival. The industry said its woes were exacerbated by
unviable prices enforced by the government. The recent price blitz has
hastened the industry's imminent downfall.

In the past two weeks alone, the industry suffered several casualties,
among them the closure of the two major bakeries, Lobels and Superbake and
the Chinese-owned Mart Bakery in Chitungwiza.

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Economists say CSO inflation figures raise doubts

Zim Standard

  Jennifer Dube

THE recent inflation figures released by the Central Statistical
Office merely reflect suppressed inflation, not an improvement in the
economy, economists said last week.

In separate interviews, they said the decline in the annual inflation
rate announced by the CSO last week was not worth celebrating as it was
merely a result of the unrealistic prices imposed by the government through
its price controls.

The CSO last week reported that monthly inflation figures for August
dropped by 19.8 percentage points to a "two-year low" of 11.8% while annual
inflation slowed from a July peak of 7 634.8% to 6 592. 8%.

"I do not believe that," an independent economist John Robertson said.
"Their calculations were based on assumptions and not the real prices
prevailing on the black market.

"We cannot take the figures seriously, considering there were very few
goods on the official market at the time of their compilation. People relied
heavily on the black market where prices of goods are much higher than the
assumed prices they (CSO) used."

Others said the slowdown was artificial as the CSO merely used
government gazetted prices, ignoring the fact that the month was
characterised by a chronic shortage of goods, most of them components of the
list used in calculating inflation figures.

The CSO list consists of such commodities as sugar, cooking oil, soap
and beef. Recently, most supermarkets and retail shops have had a severe
shortage of these items.

On the black market, where they are readily available, such goods
normally fetch a price two or three times higher than the official one.

The economists said price controls merely suppressed inflation.

It was hopeless, they said, to try and alleviate inflation through the
imposition of price controls in an economy hit by shortages. Such drastic
measures tended to push people out of the formal market, pushing up prices
and raising the inflation rate.

"Suppressed inflation is not genuine inflation," said Kingdom's
Witness Chinyama. "If there were no shortages, we would see inflation coming

"If supermarkets were well-stocked and goods were available, we would
see it coming down."

For a long time now, CSO figures have been dogged by controversy, with
some independent analysts placing their inflation figures invariably higher
than those of the government agency.

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Failed stayaway raises questions about ZCTU's consultations

Zim Standard

  THERE is
something seriously defective when the leadership of the country's largest
workers' representative organisation calls for a nationwide strike but
workers ignore the call.

It is tempting to suggest the leadership of the Zimbabwe Congress of
Trade Unions is in danger of being divorced from the reality that every
ordinary worker confronts.

What is also probably true is that the ordinary worker has lost
confidence in the leadership of the ZCTU and does not want to be used as
cannon fodder. The last successful strike staged by the labour movement was
in 1997. But soon after that the leadership changed. There hasn't been a
strike of the magnitude of the one in 1997 yet the current conditions are
far worse than those of 10 years ago.

The failed two-day ZCTU nation-wide stayaway on Wednesday and Thursday
last week exposed a serious flaw in how the ZCTU engages its membership.
Most workers on Wednesday were surprised to hear there was a stayaway. Yet
the whole of last weekend and the days before Wednesday, the single most
important discussion in commuter buses should have been around the merits
and demerits of a stayaway, with leaflets being widely distributed at bus
stops and advisory sms text messages in overdrive.

The ZCTU will cite the arrest of its officials and intimidation by
security agents in the period leading up to the stayaway. But such is the
nature of any given struggle, and the response by the State and its agents
should have been anticipated.

It is an insult for the ZCTU leadership to suggest that the stayaway
was a success - a successful failure? - when the overwhelming majority of
workers did not heed the call for a stayaway. It is not as if every single
district, provincial and national leader of the labour movement was arrested
on the eve of the stayaway.

The entire workforce in the country is far greater than the total
security personnel in the country and clearly if a majority of the workers
had stayed away from work, in all the urban areas countrywide, the
law-enforcement agencies would not have coped. They just do not have that
many officers to go around.

But it is precisely because of the dearth of strategies on how to
negotiate the treacherous terrain we operate in that workers have become
apathetic to any calls to join strikes. This is not the first time there has
been such a failure, but this one was spectacular and raises serious doubts
about the labour movement's leadership and its strategists. The ZCTU also
needs to consult those before them who were successful in calling for mass

In the 60s and 70s the nationalist leadership was able to outwit the
Rhodesians because they anticipated the State's response. They were always
one step ahead. If the ZCTU leadership intends to confront the regime, they
will need people capable of going beyond mere announcements. Pronouncements
are one component in the arsenal of the struggle to get the regime to begin
to respect workers and their rights.

While the State may have won the battle last week, they have not won
the war. In fact, they were pretty shaken. That is why the State media
carried statements recanting the government's wage freeze as well as
announcing an upward review of prices of commodities that had vanished from
the shop shelves because manufacturers found it uneconomic to produce goods
they were required to sell at below production costs.

For the ZCTU this was an opportunity squandered and its leadership may
have illustrated its irrelevance to the cause of Zimbabwean workers

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The Zimbabwe we don't want

Zim Standard

  sundayopinion by Bill Saidi

ONLY a handful of people could swear that, in its present, God-awful
state of decay - both economic and political - this ramshackle of a country
is the real Zimbabwe that thousands died for.

Or that they themselves would die for it today. Four to five million
citizens - give or take a few hundreds of thousands - decided, according to
the statistics, that they wouldn't even live in the country, not for the
moment, anyway.

The government can deny the existence of a large Zimbabwean population
in The Diaspora, until the Victoria Falls dries up. That will not erase the

By some calculations, half the population in the country can no longer
afford three square meals a day, half the country goes without water and
power for days on end. Half the people go without transport: even when they
do find it, half the time it probably costs them a leg, an arm and other
parts of the anatomy it would not be decent to mention here.

At the same time, you have to marvel at the contradictions. The
Zimbabwe Stock Exchange claims it is performing so well it is rated among
the best in the world.

Which world? The same one whose citizens won't visit Zimbabwe as
tourists in the same numbers they used to before 2000, when the five-star
hotels had all the soap and soup they needed?

Today, some have to make do with the cheaper variety of both, or warn
guests with a Not Available sign.

This same world warns its citizens not to visit Zimbabwe as tourists,
because they might starve to death. The country is so short of food most
supermarket shelves are empty. And so on and so forth . . .

If there are people raking in money in the midst of this whirlpool of
agony, then they must be profiting from the misery of others, which must be
a sin of some sort in any religion. But people have committed such sins with
breath-taking impunity since that fantastic story of the apple.

If all God-fearing people insist that this Zimbabwe - with its world
record-breaking inflation rate, its world-shattering life expectancy of a
pathetic 34 years or less, its stultifying lack of respect for freedom of
expression and assembly, and the impunity with which the ordinary citizen is
subjected to violence by the State - is the one they would lay down their
lives for, then no wonder we could all be on the point of drowning in this

There must be so many people with their screws loose upstairs the
racket must be worse than Bedlam, whenever they shake their heads.

Such criticism of the country, naturally, angers the government and
the ruling elite. To them, it is tantamount to disloyalty, betrayal and the
most shameless display of lack of patriotism.

Why? Not because it is the truth, but because such truths are expected
to be uttered only by the enemies of the State - the British, the Americans,
some Europeans, some Asians and some Africans, including Zimbabwean
opposition members and the independent media.

This is the Zimbabwe all citizens should fight against - a Zimbabwe
full of lies and bullies.

Someone Out There is punishing us for trying to stand the Truth on its
head. How can this country, with its bare, cracked feet trudging painfully
into the intense care unit, be a success story?

That success story can happen only if last week's amazing political
developments in Parliament turn out not to be a mirage, or another lie.

If Zanu PF and the MDC, after serious horse-trading, agreed to let
Constitutional Amendment No.18 go all the way, with a few alterations, we
could be entering a new era of political sanity.

Initially, the amendments Zanu PF proposed could not be cloaked in
good, old-fashioned patriotic altruism, such as the US Marshall Plan after
World War II.

Zanu PF's intentions were to safeguard its political hegemony, to
ensure, once again, that it would remain in power after any election, now or
in the foreseeable future.

By giving in to some of the opposition demands, the party is
signalling its willingness to compromise, to be human again, to consider the
opinions of ordinary people in all political equations - a rarity for this
party yeropa (a party born out of blood or a party bathed in blood - take
your pick).

In truth, this is a litmus test for Zanu PF, more than for the MDC or
other critics who have previously labelled the party as one impervious to

For the first time in many years, Zanu PF may be campaigning for the
same Zimbabwe that most of us have always wished for - a Zimbabwe without
lies and bullies.

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'Nearing the end of a frightful tragedy. . .'

Zim Standard

  sundayview by Judith Todd

I couldn't get the thought of the drugs sitting at the airport waiting
to be cleared by Customs out of my mind, so on Friday I phoned Bryant Elliot
and told him about the situation.

I also phoned Dr Galen and asked if he could possibly speak to
Professor Thomas, who was a colleague of his and in charge of Lookout's
treatment, to see what could be done. I was constantly torn between the fear
of interfering and the fear of being irresponsible . . . I also thought it
might upset Lookout if he thought I was interferring.

I tried to telephone Professor Thomas myself, although I didn't know
him and thought he might hate my intervention. He was out, so I spoke to his
secretary, who was very reasonable. I said I was anxious not to be
interferring, but was worried about the medicine at the airport awaiting
clearance. The weekend would start the next day and Customs wouldn't do
anything on a Saturday or Sunday. She said she was sure Professor Thomas
would know, as he saw Lookout every day, but she would make a note to tell
him when he came back.

Later I talked to Jeremy Brickhill. He thought of the excellent idea
of ringing a top official in the ministry of Health, S K Moyo, who would
certainly, if needs be, go to the airport and clear the consignment himself
immediately, if he knew of the problem. So that was a relief.

I went to see Lookout that evening. Still no drip, but he said he had
been told that the medicine had been cleared and was now available. They
were going to give him different medicine meanwhile and put him back on the
drip the next day. He showed me the needle in his arm, preparatory for the
drip. Lookout said that after I left him the previous night, his temperature
had shot up. Earlier in the day, he said, it had been 39 degrees Celsius. I
noticed he was shaking slightly. He had been the previous day too. Maybe he
had been all the time and I had noticed it only recently.

Lookout said a lot of blood samples had been taken from him. Both he
and I used highly non-technical and unsuitable language, as we didn't know
anything about medicine. He said they told him they were taking samples from
different places in his arms and legs in case the blood was clear in one
place, but there was a "germ" in another. That morning he had been taken for
X-rays because his chest was hurting, he said "just as though I had been
lifting weights".

I felt we were nearing the end of a frightful tragedy of which neither
he, nor Gift, nor I, nor the lawyer, nor lots of other people, knew the
truth. Lookout referring to the past years and to the authorities, said:
"They have mishandled me."

At some point the week before, he said to me: "I have learned not to
trust people."

He also said: "I always prefer to know the truth. If have an hour to
live, I want to be told, 'Masuku, you have an hour to live.'"

There were rumours around town. The previous week, Godwin Matatu had
rung me. Somehow the name Lookout cropped up, and Godwin said: "Ah, yes, he
is in his dying days."

I said: "What do you mean?"

He said Eddison Zvobgo had told him that Lookout's condition was

The night before, someone else had said to me: "Do you think our
friend has any chance of survival?" I said I didn't know, but on that
Thursday, Lookout gave me an application to join the American Marketing

"I am glad to let you know that I have been released from detention."
I had to post it for him the next day.

On Saturday 22 March, I took him a small tray with four slices of
roast fillet and a very small roasted sweet potato. He had said recently
that he could live on meat alone, but it must still smell of being meat.
Meat in prisons and hospitals was always overcooked. Lookout was back on the
drip. For a few seconds I didn't realise how horribly sick he was feeling.
Visiting hours started at 3.30PM, but he had asked me to be there at two
while it was still quiet . . .

I was expected at Molli's at 3.30 and it was now only 2.20. I drove
slowly past the house of Noel and Doris Galen. I wanted to talk to Noel. It
was he who had first alerted me to how serious the whole situation was. But
there was no car in the garage, which meant they must be out. So I drove
slowly on, wondering where to go, what to do so that I was sure I'd be in
control of myself when I got to Molli.

I ended up at Landscape Nurseries and found a secluded wall near the
roses, where I sat quietly. A group looked at me curiously but then wandered
on, leaving me alone. I looked up at the sky like any fundamentalist who
believes that God is shaped like a man and sits on a throne up there, and
flung my heart heavenwards. I don't understand even computers and microchips
and how electricity works so how can I begin to understand You?

I don't know how to pray and I don't know how to ask for help for
Lookout. I don't know what kind of help to ask for. But if it were possible
for me to communicate with you in an acceptable way, please, please enfold
Lookout with whatever would be the best thing for me to be able to pray for

On Sunday 23 March I had lunch with Noel and Doris Galen. An American
microbiologist, David Katzenstein, who was doing research in Zimbabwe, was
present. He confirmed what Noel had warned me of. Lookout had AIDS and could
not be expected to recover from his Cryptococcal meningitis.

David told me that in a case like his it would probably be best to
stop medication. I confronted him with the age-old problem. Lookout didn't
know of his situation. His family didn't know. But he kept asking questions.
In fact, he had ordered me to go and find out what was wrong with him,
because he felt something was being concealed from him. Now that I had found
out, I didn't know what to do with the knowledge.

David asked if he could possibly have had a blood transfusion in
Zambia. I explained how Lookout and his family had been shot up in a
Rhodesian attack in Lusaka, and how he had lost part of his hand. I said
almost certainly he could have had a blood transfusion that night.

"There you are," David said. He went on to explain that research
indicated that Zambia for some years had been a high-risk country for AIDS.
So this meant that all those ex-combatants who had been wounded and received
blood transfusions were a group at risk.

Excerpt from Judith Todd's latest book, Through the Darkness; A Life
in Zimbabwe, available from

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The Pharisees of our politics

Zim Standard

  sundayview by Tamuka Charles Chirimambowa

THE recent political developments regarding Constitutional Amendment
18 compel me to contribute to the debates that have arisen within civil
society and the country in general. Key to my contribution is to implore
ourselves to ponder on the role of civil society and the political parties
in finding a solution to the Zimbabwe crisis.

There seems to be some misinformed and fundamentalist innuendos
particularly within civil society in Zimbabwe. The accession by the MDC
formations to Amendment 18 is seen as a betrayal, and some have even further
vowed to server ties with the opposition.

Let me hasten to say such actions are unfortunate and cocoon ourselves
in grand delusions of self piousness. There seems to be a tendency of
increasing culture of political Pharisees, who preach right and walk left in
the evening. Such behaviour reminds me of an old fable of the grasshopper
which my grandmother used to tell me about, which I termed the grasshopper
syndrome. It would react vigorously whenever you touch it and in the process
break its hind legs yet it would need them for take off to fly and the
result has always been it gets stuck and becomes vulnerable to prey.

There seems to be lack of appreciation of the SADC initiative within
our civil society movement. There is a great distinction between civil
society and political parties. Whilst political parties can enter into
alliances with civil society organisations, the two entities will never be
the same and always pursue the same agendas. One thing that has to be
acknowledged by civil society as so far done by all political parties is
that we have a major crisis and as such we can't have the
burn-the-house-to-kill-the-snake mentality. The accession by the MDC in
tandem with promoting the SADC led dialogue is to create conducive and
confidence building measures to the inroads made so far.

It should be noted that even Zanu PF has agreed to discuss and
possibly reform contentious issues such as the Public Order Security Act,
Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and governance issues.

In this case most of the people who have become critics of this
process have failed to appreciate that any process that tries to unlock our
deadlock and encourage negotiations, has to be promoted. This does not mean
that this route has no political risks, and at the same time is sacrosanct
to the MDC and can therefore not be abandoned if it fails to deliver. More
so, there is a deliberate mischief of the reductionism syndrome that because
there is still violence then agreeing to the amendment is betrayal.

What people are failing to note is that these talks are actually meant
to deal with that violence and there is nowhere the MDC has claimed that
Zimbabwe's problems are over. Therefore there is need for us to begin to
engage within the framework of the SADC initiative as finally agreed to by
Zanu PF and the MDC. It seems we are also failing to recognize that Zanu PF
all along has been saying there was no crisis in Zimbabwe. The positive step
in this case is that there is that recognition and they have agreed to play
ball. Reducing everything to Robert Mugabe or Zanu PF misses the essence of
the talks.

Besides, there is a failure to recognize that Zanu PF has a two thirds
majority in both houses that can allow it to change the Constitution. Thus
the argument of going to bed with Zanu PF is rather more than grandstanding

There is a need within civil society to begin to forward substantive
issues to be considered for debate within these talks. However, it seems
civil society is ignorant of its responsibility and assumes that Rome was
built in a day. I firmly believe what the MDC has done is part of the many
steps that various Zimbabweans may take on the journey to our liberation
from dictatorship. Henceforth, the debate should focus more on the agenda of
these talks, rather than labelling each other as sell- outs.

Just as food for thought both the National Constitutional Assembly and
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition recently changed constitutions to keep certain
dynasties. This reminds us of Jesus' words to the Pharisees that let he who
has not sinned pick the first stone to strike the woman adulterer. Not
saying that the MDC has sinned, but the point being that let us stop this
self vindictiveness.

If civil society organisations feel that the MDC and Zanu PF should
not  negotiate then they should not try to impose their will on these
parties. I think my colleagues in these movements fail to understand
rudimentary processes of conflict resolution. There is no way we can say we
won't negotiate with Zanu PF, when they are occupying organs of the State.
That is not realistic at all even in a utopian world, and as such our
energies need to be synergized getting the best out of all opportunities
present to liberate us from serfdom.

What is fundamental for us as Zimbabweans is to make sure that we do
not sleep on our laurels as we did in 1987. There is strong conscious need
to guard against a deal that would lead to the two parties agreeing to form
another gravy train as happened between Zanu PF and PF Zapu.

The role of the SADC mediation is not to install any leader or
political party, but to create an environment that is free and fair. It is
my humble opinion that within the framework of parliament there is hope to
achieve what we have been searching for. The argument that Mugabe is cunning
can't stop negotiations but serve as a call to be alert in our dealings with
the regime.

Participation or giving a chance to the SADC initiative should not be
an end but one of the means to an end. It is my contention that attempts to
demonise the MDC leadership by some civic leaders are unfortunate and self
serving. They are not at all representative of the people, and it would be
foolhardy for them to assume that their interests are the people. There is a
danger of some civic organizations and leaders becoming irrelevant and out
of touch with reality.

Let us explore all alternatives before us and if it fails we leave it,
and move on. The ahistoric interpretation of the 1987 Unity Accord will note
take us anywhere.

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Zim Standard Letters

Price blitz: The chickens coming home to roost
NOW that the chickens are coming home to roost, what's next for this
clueless and blundering regime?

The results are there for all to see. All supermarkets are empty. They
have no commodities to sell. We were told that business people were pushing
for a regime change because they were "recklessly" increasing prices.

Obert Mpofu and Elliot Manyika of the Cabinet Taskforce on Price
Monitoring, announced after launching the price blitz that those who wanted
to sabotage the government by not producing and selling goods at the
extensively slashed prices, would be arrested and business taken over by the

It is unfortunate and regrettable that Zimbabweans are made to suffer
at the expense of a few power-hungry individuals, who show no mercy or
remorse for their evil deeds. It is no longer an opinion or perception, but
a fact that President Robert Mugabe on the advice of his hangers-on launched
Operation Slash Prices against advice from well-informed professionals on
the consequences of such an initiative. Sadly, Mugabe's arrogance means that
he will never take sound advice from anyone.

It is also imperative to note that the world over, the practice of
price cuts has never worked. When Zanu PF supporters were celebrating the
price cuts, they were oblivious of the fact that it was a short honeymoon
with deadly long-term effects. You do not reduce inflation by "slashing"
prices, that is suppression of inflation and the most painful thing is when
you relax these controls prices "balloon", causing inflation to increase

In our situation, the regime is now cornered because it has no
strategy in place. The shortage of all commodities is so severe and
compounding the problem, it has no capacity to produce. The regime's
insecurity has been shown because when it launched the Operation that was a
reactionary move to former US Ambassador Christopher Dell's remarks that "no
government in the world has survived six-digit figure inflation".

The chilling statement that sent Mugabe running around was Dell's
remark that "the Mugabe regime would be gone by December".

If Mugabe and his regime had a strategy, we would not be facing these
shortages at the moment. People have lost confidence in Mugabe. This is a
sign of rejection.

Mugabe cries a lot about sanctions and blames these on Morgan
Tsvangirai. If this is true then it means Tsvangirai is more powerful and
should be ruling.

The regime does not comment about the widespread shortages it has
created. It goes on pretending as if things are normal. Yet, people are
suffering and are going for days without a decent meal. Mugabe and his
ministers have become so detached from reality and the plight of the
ordinary people it is frighteningly sickening.

Andy Mangoma


 TZ desperate for sponsorship, but not broke
I was perturbed by the article which appeared in The Standard on
Tennis Zimbabwe (TZ).

The article states that TZ is broke and is looking to host the Davis
Cup as a way of improving its financial position. When I spoke to your
reporter I tried to educate him on what was happening in tennis, but I guess
he already had a pre-meditated angle he wanted to hammer home.

Firstly, hosting the Davis Cup will not provide TZ with any monetary
benefits. The hosting of the Davis Cup is purely developmental. We hope that
by hosting the Davis Cup, tennis players and the tennis loving public will
benefit a lot from the event as seven countries will be taking part. It is
our mandate to ensure that local tennis players get as much exposure as

With the construction of the Tennis Centre at Harare Sports Club, TZ
now has a facility that will meet the ITF standard for hosting events like
the Davis Cup (Group 3). Like any of the other countries in the Euro-Africa
Zone Group 3, TZ has to apply to the International Tennis Federation for the
right to host the Davis Cup. We are not aware of which other countries have
applied for the right to host the event.

Secondly, TZ is not broke. Like most organisations, TZ may not have
funds to perform certain tasks or undertake some projects due to financial
limitations. This, however, does not in any way imply that the association
is broke.

We do have funds in our coffers and have been able to maintain a
modest office. We have been able to undertake most of our desired projects
without the assistance of local sponsors.

This does not in any way imply that we do not need sponsorship. We are
desperate for sponsorship, but as an organisation we have had to learn to
survive with minimum internal resources.

T P Chinamo


Tennis Zimbabwe

 Warped priorities
IT has been decided by the Zanu PF government that MPs and Senators
are going to be increased soon. Surely this will be extra financial burden
on the ficus at a time when government claims it has no money!

The money for the proposed increase in the number of MPs and Senators
should instead be used for increases in student loans, stocking up drugs in
hospitals and clinics and increasing pensions for retired civil servants, as
well as repairing rural roads.

Students in colleges and universities are attending lectures on empty
stomachs. That government officials' children are being sent back home is
only fair because Zimbabwean students are suffering here while the black
oppressors' children never go hungry at the overseas colleges and

D R Mutungagore


 A Ndebele for president HOW about a Ndebele for President? If Tanzanians
are managing to give each minority group the chance to become president why
should we not try it as well?

I believe the next President should come from the minority groups -
Ndau, Tonga, Shangaani, Ndebeles, Korekore, Manyika and others. The
presidency should be held on a rotational basis. How about that?



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