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Zim opposition caught between a rock and hard place

Zim Online

Monday 24 September 2007

By Justin Muponda

HARARE - Zimbabwe's main opposition party last week carved out concessions
from President Robert Mugabe in an effort to ensure free and fair elections
in 2008 but could have trapped itself between a rock and a hard place in the
process while the veteran leader solidifies his grip on power, analysts

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) agreed to the ruling ZANU-PF party's
constitutional amendments it had initially vowed to fight, after the bill
was watered down to clip Mugabe's powers to appoint members of the lower
house of parliament and limit presidential appointees in the upper senate to

The bill also merged presidential, parliamentary and council elections, a
key opposition demand, and will see parliament sitting as an electoral
college to elect a president if an incumbent failed to serve a full term.

There is growing speculation that Mugabe could use that provision to resolve
the contentious succession puzzle in ZANU-PF by stepping down in future and
anoint a loyalist who would be endorsed by parliament, long dominated by the
ruling party.

But so far, there is no sign the veteran leader will leave office despite a
collapsing economy and growing calls locally and abroad for him to quit.
Instead, Mugabe, who at 83 years looks fit for his age, is consolidating
power and seeking re-election for a five-year term in elections scheduled
for 2008.

"This looks like capitulation by any word. The so-called concessions Mugabe
has agreed to are clearly insignificant," John Makumbe, senior political
lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe said.

"In trying to get something out of these talks, the MDC has put itself into
a tight corner on one hand and on the other it would seem Mugabe is actually
consolidating power with the help of the MDC," Makumbe said.

But the MDC says it is pursuing a parallel political process and has not
abandoned its demand for a new constitution and the repealing of harsh press
and security laws it says have hamstrung its capacity to organise

A Southern African Development Community initiative requiring ZANU-PF and
the MDC to negotiate a political settlement to end Zimbabwe's crisis has
seen the two parties meeting 20 times in Pretoria and Harare.

The two have agreed to discuss parameters for a new constitution, review of
controversial media and security legislation and the issue of sanctions,
which ZANU-PF blames for the economic crisis.

Critics say while Mugabe appeared to play ball for now, there are doubts the
veteran leader would walk all the way to implement these key demands as this
would mean negotiating himself out of power.

Analysts also say even if Mugabe and ZANU PF were to agree to the MDC
demands for a new constitution and to scrap restrictive media and security
laws, these were most likely to be implemented after the 2008 elections
which the former guerrilla leader looks set to win under the prevailing
political climate. Some sources in ZANU-PF say this could be Mugabe's last
election, given his old age.

The issue of political violence, gerrymandering and use of state machinery
by ZANU-PF in elections are some key issues that remain unresolved ahead of
the elections but critics say the opposition's acquiescence could make it
difficult to pull out of future elections on the basis of an uneven
political field.

In addition, there is already a wide split between the MDC and its allies in
the civic society movement over the latest constitutional amendment.

The National Constitutional Assembly - which is campaigning for a new
constitution and a strong MDC ally - called the agreement on the
constitutional bill a "treacherous act" while an official in the civic
movement, likened it to "kissing a hungry hyena".

"I can understand the feeling among our allies but this is not an end but
the beginning of a long process initiated by SADC. We are going into this
with our eyes wide open and fully cognisant of the political risks that lie
ahead," an MDC official said.

Mugabe has managed to hang on to power since 2000 when the MDC posed the
most potent threat to sweep him from power.

But today the MDC is severely weakened by personality clashes and infighting
over strategy to tackle Mugabe and a vicious government campaign on its

Analysts said the opposition movement was headed for further split after
angry allies slammed the MDC for acquiescing to ZANU-PF, bad news for
supporters who are growing weary over a deepening recession that has left
Zimbabwe burdened with the world's highest inflation rate of over 6 600
percent, shortages of food, foreign currency and fuel and surging

At the same time international pressure, which at best has been sporadic,
has failed to move Mugabe whose assertion that Western sanctions are
responsible for the crisis resonate with many supporters at home and
Africans who still hail Mugabe as a liberation hero fighting white hegemony.

The veteran leader has outwitted rivals both in ZANU-PF and the MDC.

"They have been outthought in terms of strategy and vision," Eldred
Masunungure, a leading political commentator said.

"It has again showed in these talks because Mugabe has not lost much by
agreeing to the constitutional changes. If anything it is naïve for the MDC
to think they can make a deal with Mugabe," he added.

The opposition, clearly looking out of sorts and depth on how to confront
Mugabe, had little room to manoeuvre and would still have been unable to
block the passing of the bill given ZANU-PF's parliamentary majority,
analysts said.

MDC allies are also weakening, showed by a failed job boycott called by the
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions last week to protest a government wage
freeze and the deteriorating economy.

Civic group organisations have resorted to condemning Mugabe through the
media or at best press conferences held in Western capitals, far away from
where the political and economic crisis is unfolding.

Yet, there could still be hope for the opposition. Analysts say an organised
MDC could pose a strong challenge to Mugabe at the polls, taking advantage
of the discontent over the economic meltdown.

"I think this (economy) is one area where the government has no answers and
obviously it's a window for the opposition to exploit. It could be an ace in
the sleeve depending with how it is used," Masunungure said. - ZimOnline

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Economic crisis puts damper on Harare's nightlife

Zim Online

Monday 24 September 2007

By Tafirei Shumba

HARARE - The middle class Avenues area on the northern peripheries of Harare's
city centre is a residential and commercial office zone with stark

One minute the sound of gun shots fills the morning air as police exchange
fire with robbers. The next minute church bells are tolling and harmonic
voices are heard as women sing hymns in church, while out on the streets
middle aged men and women, dressed in executive suits, can be seen walking
down to the office to start a new day.

As night falls, the area assumes another character as scantly dressed young
hookers stand by street corners flashing their bodies at passing motorists.

With black middle class professionals and "dealers" - Zimbabwe's new breed
of worker who does everything and anything for a quick buck - now the
predominant residents in the formerly white Avenues, numerous leisure and
entertainment hangouts have sprouted over the years.

Exclusive restaurants and top cafeterias, highlife nightclubs and pubs,
dingy shebeens, brothels and crime have given the Avenues its contradicting

Paguta was established in recent years as a pub offering overnight lodgings.
The pub quickly transformed into a popular after-hours joint where office
workers would relax drinking and barbecuing, taxis lining up outside for

Gutaz, (short for Paguta) as the pub came to be known by its growing
clientele, enjoyed brisk business outdoing its contemporaries in the
Avenues, as the home for binges, its doors opening until morning hours,
beers flowing with abundant food to be served.

As shortages of basic commodities worsened, Gutaz and the rest of the pubs,
restaurants, would intermittently run out of beer, beef, the staple
maize-meal, rice and cooking oil. However, pub owners would go to the
black-market to source the commodities and the following night everything
would look normal with replenished stocks.

But in recent months, the situation has gone critical and Gutaz could no
longer sustain business as black-market prices shot sharply beyond the reach
of the pub. Gutaz has closed without notice.

The Gutaz binges are gone so has the aroma from the ovens and barbecue. The
spring winds now sweep the dirt in the pub's courtyard. Even the prostitutes
who loitered in the vicinity have disappeared with lost business.

The taxi-men who waited outside for customers have, too, driven off.

A lone security guard now sits on an empty beer crate gazing at passersby as
he keeps guard at the lifeless structure, a spacious old house that had been
refurbished and converted into a leisure joint, and now a mere shadow of its
former self.

"We are closed," the guard told ZimOnline. "In fact, the pub closed during
the Heroes Day holidays (13-14 August). The owners said there wasn't
business anymore, no drinks no food, so they have gone back to the farm."

Gutaz is not alone in dire straits. Crunch beer and beef shortages are
squeezing business in the leisure and entertainment industry where
nightclubs, cinemas, restaurants and casinos are in limbo as they count

The Book Café and a jazz club The Mannenberg are two of Harare's leading and
most cosmopolitan leisure and entertainment spots offering food, drink and
live music. Shortages are threatening the viability of both places.

"The shortages are bad to be honest and we have lost customers already,"
said Steve Khoza, managing director of both The Book Café and The
Mannenberg. He added: "We buy beer at inflated prices from a few
bottle-stores who occasionally have beer and we resell it here. If we don't
buy from the black-market we will close down tomorrow."

Once one of Africa's most prosperous economies, Zimbabwe is in the grip of
an unprecedented recession marked by the world's highest inflation rate of
over 6 000 percent, rising poverty and chronic shortages of every basic
survival commodity.

For example, an acute shortage of foreign currency to import water treatment
chemicals means Harare city council regularly fails to provide enough water
to residents and on many occasions Khoza and his staff have to drive around
the city in search of water to prepare meals and for clients to use flush

Josh Hozheri, managing director of Jazz 105, one of the city's premier
restaurants and music spots told ZimOnline: "We are doomed. We are in this
business to sell beer and food and to provide entertainment. (But) I have
run out of food as we speak."

With persistent fuel shortages, intermittent electricity and water cuts
contributing to the dramatic reduction in business, the once bustling city
nightlife that Harare was once famed for is now almost history.

Harare by night and daytime is glaring testimony of the severity of Zimbabwe's
economic meltdown and its devastating impact on the, hitherto, buoyant
leisure and hospitality sector.

Hundreds of other downstream industries such as the music and arts, private
security firms and taxi companies have also suffered as hotels, restaurants,
pubs and nightclubs downsize operations or shutdown completely.

Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) president Fungai Mutseyekwa said:
"The shortages are for real . . . we (HAZ) are having to fire-fight daily
because the situation is putting severe strain on operators."

Mutseyekwa said HAZ was engaging the government's Zimbabwe Tourism Authority
to try to rescue the hospitality and leisure sector. HAZ was also meeting
suppliers, such as the moribund state-run Cold Storage Commission that
supplies beef, to agree on a framework for the continued availability of

In the meanwhile, the ordinary worker is the biggest victim with scores of
nightclubs and restaurants said to have already put staff on short working
days while others now open only for limited hours depending on available
quantities of drink and food.

Some joints have closed shop hoping to reopen when the economic situation
improves. When this will be, no one knows, with the International Crisis
Group (ICG) warning in a report released last week that Zimbabwe was "closer
than ever to complete collapse."

The Brussels-based political think-tank said four out of every five
Zimbabweans live below the poverty datum line while a military-led campaign
to slash prices had produced acute food and fuel shortages, and it had
become almost impossible to conduct any business in the country.

However, President Robert Mugabe - in power since the country's 1980
independence from Britain - denies Zimbabwe will collapse, telling
supporters last month: "Zimbabwe has not collapsed and will not collapse." -

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Mugabe's militia attacks civilians in Harare suburb

Zim Online

Monday 24 September 2007

By Tafirei Shumba

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe's ragtag youth militias at the weekend
descended on Epworth in eastern Harare and indiscriminately attacked
civilians as the Zimbabwean leader jetted off to the United Nations in New

The attacks could signal the beginning of a possibly violent campaign, ahead
of the March harmonised presidential and parliamentary elections, as
political parties start preparing campaign strategies.

Eyewitnesses told ZimOnline the militias went door-to-door Saturday, in the
densely populated settlement and marshaled civilians to a meeting of Mugabe's
ruling ZANU PF party taking place in the area. The militia beat up those who
refused to attend the meeting.

Epworth, home to some of Zimbabwe's poorest families, is a hotbed of
opposition support and has regularly voted for the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) party in all major elections since 2000.

According to witnesses, the militias - who together with war veterans have
waged violence and terror against opposition supporters at every major
election since 2000 to win victory for Mugabe and ZANU PF - managed to cow
scores of civilians mostly women from the Overspill section of Epworth to
attend the ruling party meeting.

But they apparently ignited trouble when the attempted to commandeer to the
meeting a minibus ferrying commuters home, eyewitnesses said.

"The militias wielded batons and tried to force-march commuters to their
meeting but the passengers refused and tried to fight the youths back,"
narrated Chido Mlambo, a vegetable vendor who witnessed the scene.

"Then militias called for reinforcements and the commuters were beaten up
badly. We now live in fear as elections approach (because) we know how those
party (ZANU PF) youths treat people. They beat to kill," she said.

A shopkeeper, who wanted to be identified only by his first name, Martin,
said the militias had ordered shops to close during the course of the ZANU
PF meeting.

"I closed the shop out of fear after one of the shoppers was beaten in the
shop and had to be ferried home in a wheelbarrow as he could not walk."

Hatfield police, the main station responsible for Epworth, confirmed the
incidents without giving detail in an apparent attempt to play down the

"There were scuffles between some rival youths and police stopped the
trouble, that was all," an officer who would not identify himself told
ZimOnline by telephone.  Officials at Police General Headquarters were not
immediately available for further comment.

The MDC and independent human rights groups often accuse the police of
applying the law selectively and turning a blind eye on ZANU PF militants
who harass opposition supporters.

Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri, a self confessed supporter of Mugabe,
denies favouring the ruling party and says his officers do not consider
political affiliation when they arrest people suspected of breaking the law.

Nelson Chamisa, spokesman of the larger faction of the Morgan Tsvangirai-led
MDC, said he did not have information on the beatings in Epworth but said
the mere fact that ZANU PF still ran militias was an indictment on the party's
sincerity in supporting a regional initiative for free and fair elections in
Zimbabwe next year.

 "Why does anyone in this day and age require militias when we have the
police and the army?" he said.

ZANU PF spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira could not be reached for comment on the
matter. However, the ruling party has in the past denied using violence to
win elections, insisting it has won elections because of its policies and
record of accomplishment as the party that led the 1970s armed struggle for
Zimbabwe's independence from Britain.

Politically motivated violence and human rights abuses, mostly blamed on
pro-government militia and war veterans, traditionally pick up in the run-up
to major elections.

Zimbabwe holds presidential and parliamentary elections next year that
however could be held under a new electoral and legal framework after the
MDC and ZANU PF last week agreed in Parliament to amend the constitution.

The MDC has said it endorsed the constitutional reforms that give Mugabe
room to name a successor to help advance ongoing dialogue with ZANU PF, with
Tsvangirai telling his followers last Friday that he was optimistic
negotiations with the government could lead to free and fair elections next

Political analysts and non-governmental organisations however say there is
no guarantee political violence will end or that the government would allow
a level political field especially because tough media and security laws
that have hampered Mugabe's opponents remain firmly in place. - ZimOnline

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Prison guards quit jobs in droves

Zim Online

Monday 24 September 2007

By Chenai Maramba

CHINHOYI - The Zimbabwe Prison Service (ZPS) is embarking on a massive
recruitment drive to replace thousands of officers who have resigned in
protest over poor pay and working conditions, ZimOnline has learnt.

Sources within the prison service told ZimOnline at the weekend that morale
had hit rock bottom forcing most junior officers to quit their jobs in
disgust over the pathetic salaries.

The lowest paid officer is earning Z$1.3 million a month, way below the
poverty datum line that currently stands at $12 million a month.

The prison service, which had a staff complement of 5 000 workers, was now
in the process of recruiting 3 000 new officers to plug the gap that had
been left by the massive resignations and desertions over the past few

Most of the junior officers who left the country are said to have crossed
the border into Zimbabwe's more prosperous neighbours such as South Africa
and Botswana to take up security jobs.

Sources within the prison service said at least five junior officers were
quitting their jobs every month at Chinhoyi prison with similar reports
being recorded across the country as Zimbabwe's economic crisis showed no
signs of easing up.

"We are getting a basic salary of $1.3 million a month. The working
conditions are pathetic and not many of us can take it any longer," said a
junior officer at Chinhoyi prison who refused to be named for fear of

The Justice Ministry, under which the Prison Service falls, has already
begun a crash programme to train junior officers for just two months before
throwing them into the deep end to take up positions left by experienced
officers. Training for prison guards normally takes about six months.

Senior officials from the prison services refused to take questions from
ZimOnline over the mass exodus of prison guards.

Contacted for comment, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said: "I cannot
talk about that as it is a security matter."

President Robert Mugabe's government is battling its worst ever economic
recession that has manifested itself in the world's highest inflation rate
of over 6 000 percent, massive joblessness and poverty.

The majority of Zimbabwean workers, those still lucky to hold on to a job,
are struggling to put food on the table for their families with most of
their salaries barely able to push them to the next pay day.

The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and major Western
governments blame the economic crisis on repression and bad economic
policies by Mugabe, in power over the past 27 years.

The Zimbabwean leader however denies the charge accusing Britain and her
Western allies of leading an international campaign to discredit his
government and oust it from power. - ZimOnline

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WOZA Coordinator Speaks Up Against Zimbabwe Government


By Akwei Thompson
Washington, DC
23 September 2007

Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) is a civil disobedient movement in Zimbabwe.
Since it was founded four years ago, several of its members have been
arrested by Robert Mugabe's government. The most recent was the arrest in
Bulawayo Tuesday, of Magodonga Mahlangu who helped found the movement. She
was picked up hours before the opposition Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) united with the ruling ZANU-PF party on a proposed constitutional
amendment. Jenny Williams is national coordinator of WOZA. From Harare, she
spoke with Nightline's Akwei Thompson.

"WOZA is civil disobedient movement for women to speak out on bread and
butter issues and to hold this government accountable."

"very often we are arrested just because we speak up about social justice
issues" Williams said.

She said it was unclear why Magodonga Mahlangu was arrested "but when we
reflected on it later we heard that the president was due to be in Bulawayo
and we think this was related to the President not wanting any leader of
WOZA to be at large.while he was in Bulawayo.they didn't want any
demonstrations to interfere with the so called unity in parliament " She

Williams said WOZA "became part of the movement for the people-driven
constitution, a constitution that had people at heart, a constitution whose
lawmakers consulted people, a constitution that was written by the people
and we remain committed to that. She said WOZA will not accept any
peace-meal amendment."

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Further isolation of Zimbabwe will fuel paranoia

Ian Bell's Saturday essay on Zimbabwe was timely in highlighting the
dilemmas facing any who care about that country and its people. I returned
from Zimbabwe last week after a brief visit to close friends and I saw some
remarkable projects that continue to serve the poorest and most vulnerable.

I am a veteran of demonstrations, not least against Ian Smith's Rhodesia and
apartheid South Africa. It is tempting to take the same path over Robert
Mugabe's Zimbabwe, and that seems to be the direction being considered by
the Prime Minister over the extension of sanctions.

Such a course would annoy the President and those who surround him, but I am
far from convinced that it would assist the suffering people of Zimbabwe.
Their unemployment and increasing poverty is related to the isolation of
their country and the meltdown of investment.

The picture painted of Zimbabwe is of a country that has already collapsed.
To go around Harare as I did is to find a city that, incredibly, is still
functioning. Yes, the economy is dependent on a black market that changes
daily and there are shortages (but not emptiness) in the shops.

But plenty of cars move around, people go about their business and a white
visitor is greeted with warmth and courtesy in a way no different from

I do not doubt the violent suppression of dissent but I saw no evidence of
the police and army presence on the streets that I have seen in other
countries where civic society has all but broken down. I found considerable
anger from my Zimbabwean friends (every one of whom strongly opposes the
present regime) over press reports that imply that nothing is functioning or
happening and over some scenes shot by the media which they identify as
doctored from outside.

This does a disservice to the amazing resilience that is such a
characteristic in Africa, where 90% of the population struggle for food and
necessities and the allocation of farms to select "comrades" has run down
agriculture. But when I visited Ghana in 1982 amid an economic crisis, worse
shortages and more catastrophic breakdowns had not broken the spirit, nor
paralysed activity. So it is in Zimbabwe. Further isolation of Zimbabwe by
the colonial power will just fuel paranoia among those in power.

The South African option which I have been critical of in the past, still
seems to offer some hope of change. Reports there are that Thabo Mbeki has
injected a new urgency on realistic talks with the opposition. Both MDC and
Zanu PF are deeply divided but it cannot be long before a government of
national unity will replace the present regime.

For Britain to attempt another "regime change" in Africa, this time allying
itself with Australia and other predominantly white nations, bypassing and
ignoring African efforts, might make some of us who care deeply about
Zimbabwe feel good. It will do nothing for some of those victims of the
appalling Operation Murambatsvina whom I met last week.

We owe it to them and to our other Zimbabwean friends to walk the difficult
tightrope between collusion with a dying regime and colonial collision. We
will not make headlines but it may be more statesmenlike.

Rev Dr Iain Whyte, 14 Carlingnose Point, North Queensferry.

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Britain must rethink its Zimbabwe policy

Financial Times

By Paul Twyman

Published: September 24 2007 03:00 | Last updated: September 24 2007 03:00

From Mr Paul Twyman.

Sir, Having scanned the African media and sounded out my African friends in
the UK and back home in Africa your assessment of the prime minister's
intervention on Zimbabwe ("Concern at Brown's Mugabe broadside", September
21) seems to be absolutely spot-on.

The British government has dug itself into a very deep hole and its attempts
to climb out require a rather more sophisticated and better-informed
strategy than that currently being followed. I do not know who is leading on
this strategy - the Foreign Office or advisers based in Number 10 Downing
Street - but either way, they need to look afresh at their tactics and

One key missing element is an effective public diplomacy effort. The general
public (the voters) and opinion formers in African countries need to be made
aware of what is actually going on in Zimbabwe and the position of the
British government needs be explained more clearly.

African politicians - and I am thinking particularly of President Mbeki -
are not going to pay much attention to western politicians huffing and
puffing. They are going to be influenced by the views of their own people.
In most countries, Mugabe (quite rightly) is seen as a hero of the
anti-colonial struggle. The last thing we need is a perception that this is
a battle between Zimbabwe and the former colonial power.

Having just extracted from a slow and unhelpful Foreign Office their
strategy paper "Public Diplomacy in South Africa 2007/08", I am amazed to
find that the word "Zimbabwe" does not appear once. Given the key role of Mr
Mbeki, the influential position of South Africa generally, and the political
situation in South Africa (where, of course, they have their own sensitive
land reform issues) the failure to use our diplomatic resources in Pretoria
in support of policy objectives on Zimbabwe amounts to an astounding failure
on the part of diplomats and ministers.

Paul Twyman,

Birchington-on-Sea, CT7 9NS

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UN steps into rescue starving Zimbabweans


     September 23 2007 at 03:54PM

By Eleanor Momberg

More than 3 million Zimbabweans will be receiving food aid from the
United Nations by the end of the year.

This week the UN World Food Programme (WFP) started expanding its
feeding programme in Zimbabwe, hoping to reach a million starving people by
the end of this month, and triple that number by year's end.

The increase in food aid came in a week when a new report declared
that the country was closer than ever to total collapse, and a storm brewed
over the announcement by Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, that he
will boycott the December European Union-African Union meeting in Portugal
if Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe is allowed to attend.

The economic meltdown and lack of food and other essential items in
Zimbabwe has been blamed on hyperinflation, the impact of HIV/Aids and the
decline in the past seven years of commercial agricultural production.

Mugabe has consistently denied that his policies have been the cause
of the collapse, instead blaming the West.

The crisis has prompted an exodus of millions of Zimbabweans to
neighbouring countries, mainly South Africa. Figures from the department of
home affairs indicate that the number of deportations of illegal immigrants
back to Zimbabwe in July and August was nearly 18 000 a month, but that this
was lower than the deportations in May (19 801) and January (20 132).

Last year, Zimbabwe became the country to provide the most seekers of
asylum in South Africa when 18 973 applications were received - more than
double those in 2005.

During the first quarter of this year 3 074 Zimbabweans applied for
asylum and 79 for refugee status. Most applications cited economic issues
related to poverty, hunger and employment as the reason for coming to South

According to the WFP, the distribution of monthly food rations in what
was once called Africa's breadbasket is being directed at communities worst
affected by the drought in 26 districts, most of which are in the south,
where tens of thousands of people are facing starvation.

"We are working with 14 local and international NGOs to distribute the
food," said Richard Lee, a spokesman for the WFP in southern Africa.

The aim is to increase food supplies to 2 million Zimbabweans by
November and 3 million by December. The distribution of food aid will
continue until the next harvest season in April.

NGOs said this week that the number of starving Zimbabweans requiring
food aid was closer to 4,1 million, or a third of the population of 14

This year's cereal production will meet only 55 percent of Zimbabwe's
requirements. As a result, the Zimbabwean government plans to procure 400
000 tons of grain from Malawi and to purchase half the national harvest
through the Grain Marketing Board for distribution.

But this will leave a shortfall of around 352 000 tons, which the WFP
and C-Safe - a consortium of NGOs, including CARE, CRS and World Vision -
are importing and distributing as food aid.

Rather than selling crops to the Grain Marketing Board, citizens are
storing food they produce locally and bartering to access local food stocks.

"Terms of trade for barter, especially between livestock and grain,
are worsening, meaning that poor families are increasingly selling more of
their livestock to buy the same amount of food," said an aid worker. "The
result is increased impoverishment and vulnerability to malnutrition,
ill-health and destitution. Families that do not have livestock to sell are
that much worse off."

Oxfam said it would be distributing food in five of the hardest-hit
areas and would be working closely with the UN agencies to distribute food

Caroline Hooper-Box, Oxfam's southern Africa spokeswoman, said the
agency was working in seven districts in the north, north-east, central and
south-west of Zimbabwe.

"Our assessment is that 30 to 40 percent of households in those
regions are in need of assistance to meet basic food and livelihood needs at
present, and an additional 15 to 25 percent will need assistance by

"It is vital to have timely relief to prevent a further slide of the
poor from conditions of insecure livelihoods to absolute destitution beyond
recovery; that is, to avoid unsustainable sales of livestock and household
items," Hooper-Box said.

Lee said that while the WFP had already received $30 million (R213
million) to fund its operations in Zimbabwe, a further $97 million was
needed to cover costs and food purchases until the next harvest.

This article was originally published on page 1 of Sunday Independent
on September 23, 2007

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Zim bakers to import own flour


Sep 23 2007 02:11 PM
Chris Muronzi - Finweek's Harare correspondent
Harare - A union representing Zimbabwean bakers has sought government
approval to import flour using their own funds in a bid to end bread
shortage.The state-owned Sunday Mail reported that the National Bakers
Association (NBA) has written to Industry Minister Obert Mpofu seeking
permission to bring in their own funds using "free funds" outside the
country.The Grain Marketing Board (GMB), a government enterprise, is the
sole importer of grain in the troubled southern African country.Although NBA
chairperson Vincent Mangoma could not comment on the matter, he confirmed
his association is working on proposals, which will be presented before
government."We are indeed working on certain proposals which we will soon
table before government, but at the moment I cannot go into detail," he
said. The paper said NBA members had come up with idea after GMB's coffers
ran out a month ago owing to an acute shortage of foreign currency.This
comes after the Zimbabwean government failed to pay for 36 000 tonnes of
wheat the troubled country imported for US$15m from South Africa and
Zambia.It also emerged this week that President Robert Mugabe's government
had secured the release of only 2 000 tonnes of the consignment currently
held in Mozambique because of non-payment. Zimbabwe is facing a severe
shortage of foreign currency after the International Monetary Fund withdrew
balance of payment support.The country has the highest inflation rate in the
world, now over 6 000%. Critics blame Mugabe's economic policies for the
economic mess  - now its eighth year.

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Zimbabwe Vigil Diary - 22nd September 2007

Another big crowd with many new faces - not surprising given the British
media's saturation coverage of the Zimbabwe meltdown. Every day there have
been detailed reports in the papers and on television and radio. The
demonstration held with our trade union friends on Thursday was featured in
the television news that night, with the drumming and singing of Vigil
supporters prominent.

There was anxious discussion at the Vigil of the MDC's decision to support
the constitutional amendment going through Parliament but unqualified
support for Gordon Brown's announcement that he would not attend the AU / EU
summit in Portugal if Mugabe attends.  One of our young supporters,
Francesca, showed us a letter she had written to Mr Brown demanding action
on Zimbabwe. "Time is running out. Action is needed. We have had statements
and they have not worked.  Action is needed not words." The Vigil notes that
Mr Brown is to approach the UN Security Council and the UN Human Rights
Council to send representatives to Zimbabwe to see the situation for
themselves. Both bodies have been sitting on Vigil petitions calling for
this signed by many thousands of people.

Another supporter, Sue Shaw, wrote to the Archbishop of York thanking him
for speaking out about Zimbabwe. She received the following reply from his
office "The Archbishop has seen your e-mail and, like you, believes that the
time for African solutions has now passed and we should be working towards
imposing sanctions that are targeted against those purveyors of misery whose
luxury is bought at the cost of unbearable poverty."

We were pleased to be joined again by Justin Shaw-Gray of the Restoration of
Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHRZimbabwe). There is an article on them in the
latest UK Sunday Times - check:  The
article says that in the few months they have existed they have signed up
15,000 members.  They have also set up a website: The
Vigil is discussing ways of working with ROHR on a campaign to name and
shame perpetrators of violence.

 We have also heard from a young woman who consulted us before visiting
Zimbabwe recently. She described her trip to see things at first hand as

A straw in the wind? . . . the driver of the food van who for years has
shouted curses at us as he passes down the Strand seems to have been
converted.  We got only a friendly wave! Perhaps we shouldn't make too much
of this as he may just have been amused by the roaming menagerie of
revellers in animal costumes joining in the dancing and queueing up to sign
our petitions.

For this week's Vigil pictures:

FOR THE RECORD:  113 signed the register. Supporters from Birmingham, Corby,
Coventry, Crawley, Leicester, Luton, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Newcastle,
Nottingham, Oxford, Romford, Sheffield, South Wales, Southampton, Southend,
Sussex, Tunbridge Wells, Wolverhampton, Worthing and many from London and

-   Monday, 24th September 2007 -Central London Zimbabwe Forum.
Justin Shaw-Gray of Restoration of Human Rights Zimbabwe (ROHR) will be the
speaker. We will be meeting in the downstairs function room of the Bell and
Compass, 9-11 Villiers Street, London, WC2N 6NA, next to Charing Cross
Station at the corner of Villiers Street and John Adam Street (near our
usual venue the Theodore Bullfrog).
-   Saturday, 13th October, 2 - 6 pm. Zimbabwe Vigil's 5th Anniversary
followed by a social event at RampART Creative Centre and Social Space,
15-17 Rampart Street, London E1 2LA.  Plans for the anniversary are moving
forward following a meeting after the Vigil - grateful thanks to the many
supporters who have volunteered to help out and are already organising food,
drink, music and transport.

Vigil co-ordinators

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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Zimbabwe bishop says sex charges were state-driven


Sun 23 Sep 2007, 12:53 GMT

LONDON (Reuters) - The Zimbabwean archbishop who resigned after allegations
of adultery, said on Sunday the charges were orchestrated by the state in
order to prevent him from speaking out on human rights.

Bishop Pius Ncube told the BBC that images allegedly showing him in bed with
his married female secretary had been produced by the government in order to
try to "break" him.

"This was the evil plan of the government to isolate me and to cut me off
from the human rights drive in the country, evil plans of trying to break
me," Ncube said.

"That has not succeeded," he said. He did not deny the claims and said he
could not discuss the case as yet.

The 60-year-old cleric, head of the southern Bulawayo archdiocese since
1997, resigned earlier this month after Zimbabwe's state-run media published
what it said were photos of Ncube in bed with a woman.

Ncube's supporters said the report was part of a government smear campaign
prompted by the archbishop's anti-Mugabe stance. The cleric has accused
Mugabe and his government of human rights abuses and suppressing political

Ncube told the BBC that his accusers had not proved the adultery and that
the video they produced was illegal and unjustified.

He said he would not categorically deny the allegations against him as the
case was still under the judgement of a court, but added he expected the
case to "fizzle out anyway" as "there is no case really."

Ncube said the government was using the allegations against him to distract
people's attention from the country's problems.

Zimbabwe is mired in a deep economic and political crisis. The country faces
chronic shortages of food, fuel and foreign currency, as well as
unemployment over 80 percent and the highest inflation rate in the world of
6,600 percent.

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African leaders rally around Mugabe


    Staff Reporters
    September 23 2007 at 01:15PM

As Zimbabwe faces "complete collapse", a diplomatic row has erupted
over the announcement by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown that he will
boycott December's Europe-Africa talks in Portugal if Zimbabwe's president,
Robert Mugabe, is invited.

Brown this week declared that he was not prepared to be at the same
conference as a leader responsible for the abuse of his own people, for
widespread torture and for the mass intimidation of his political opponents.

He announced his decision in an article in The Independent of London.
He said Mugabe's presence at the first European Union-African Union summit
meeting in seven years would undermine the event and divert attention from
more pressing issues.

If Mugabe is invited, the travel ban imposed by the EU against
Africa's last ruling liberation-era president would have to be temporarily
lifted - something Brown does not want.

Instead, the British prime minister has proposed extending the list of
the Zimbabwean ruling elite targeted by asset freezes and travel bans. The
EU imposed the sanctions against Mugabe and 131 of his top officials. Now
Brown wants them to be extended to their family members and other
individuals who have committed human rights abuses.

In his article, which is republished inside on page seven, Brown
refers to reports from Zimbabwe that have graphically illustrated the
"appalling and tragic situation" of the people of that country.

"The facts are stark: 4 million people have fled the country, 80
percent of the population is unemployed, 4 million will be on food aid by
the end of the year and the average life expectancy has fallen to only 37."

Brown said Britain, Zimbabwe's second-largest donor, would continue to
do everything it could for the country. Besides the £40 million [about R572
million] a year in humanitarian assistance and for HIV/Aids programmes
already donated by the UK to Zimbabwe, Brown announced £8 million for this
year to be delivered through the World Food Programme.

As part of efforts to help restore democracy to Zimbabwe, Brown wants
the UN to get more involved in tackling the crisis and will urge the UN
security council to send a humanitarian mission to Zimbabwe.

The prime minister acknowledges that the best hope for a solution is
Africa itself and has pledged support for the efforts being led by South
Africa and Tanzania.

It was on that front that there was a compromise development this
week - Zimbabwean lawmakers agreed to constitutional amendments that the
government and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change hailed as a
breakthrough in resolving the country's political and economic crisis.

In terms of the amendment, the general elections are to be brought
forward by two years and will be held at the same time as the presidential
polls next year. The legislature will be enlarged and Mugabe's prerogative
of appointing 30 members to the house of assembly will be scrapped. And
opposition demands for a new, independent electoral commission were met.

Though some critics believe the agreement will further entrench Mugabe
and Zanu-PF rule, others believe it will pave the way for his exit. Some
analysts saw it as a sign of progress in the talks about ending the crisis.

But Brown's boycott call caused some consternation. He was accused of
"arm twisting" and was warned that African leaders would boycott the talks
if Mugabe was not allowed to attend.

Boniface Chidyausiku, Zimbabwe's UN ambassador, on Saturday said Brown
had "no right to dictate" who should be at the summit, and that Mugabe would
attend if invited.

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, also attacked Brown, saying he would
not attend the summit if Mugabe was not invited.

Gertrude Mongella, the Tanzanian president of the Pan-African
Parliament, accused Brown of trying to "manipulate" Africa.

"We know there are some problems, but if somebody wants to arm-twist
Zimbabwe, that's not the best way to solve the problems.

"I think this is again another way of manipulating Africa. Zimbabwe is
a nation which got independence," Mongella added.

The Portuguese said the summit would go ahead, and that they wanted
Brown to contribute. "This is much more important than Mr Mugabe," said Luis
Amado, Portugal's foreign minister.

This article was originally published on page 1 of Sunday Independent
on September 23, 2007

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Zimbabwe's Opposition MDC Decries Violence


By Peter Clottey
Washington, D.C.
24 September 2007

Zimbabwe's main opposition Movement For Democratic Change (MDC) has
expressed concern about what it describes as the increasing level of
violence against its supporters, and other opponents of president Robert
Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party. The MDC had reportedly send an emissary to
South African president Thabo Mbeki asking him to pressure the Harare
government to end the violence otherwise the MDC would withdraw from the
Southern African Development Community-sponsored peace talks with the ruling
party. The MDC contends that the situation on the ground is not inspiring
confidence in the ongoing peace talks in South Africa.

Nelson Chamisa is the spokesman of the MDC. From the capital, Harare he
tells reporter Peter Clottey that the MDC is disappointed in the ruling
party's lack of commitment to end the violence in the country.

"On the ground, we are worried as the MDC in terms of the sincerity and
commitment of ZANU-PF to the negotiations that are taking place in South
Africa, particularly, in the context of continued assault, cases of
political violence, cases of political intimidation, arrests and torture in
the various areas, the rural areas particularly. And those issues are cause
for concern for us, and we are also not seeing any movement in terms of the
loosening of the screws on political repressions," Chamisa noted.

He said political freedom has been dramatically stifled under the Mugabe
government, despite the ongoing peace talks to resolve the political

"Political meetings are still being denied, we just had to battle and to get
things to the courts over the weekend. On the meeting, we want to have in
Massingo, our anniversary, which has been postponed to next week on
Saturday. We are still having problems with access to the press,
particularly newspapers that are also owned by the government. These remain
nagging questions that we would obviously want some significant movement on
the part of the ZANNU-PF," he explained.

Chamisa said confidentiality clauses in the document the party signed does
not allow him to expatiate on issues surrounding the ongoing peace talks in
South Africa, between the MDC and the ruling ZANU-PF party.

"It's very difficult for me to try and unpack an outline to you the progress
so far because there is a particular request not to delve much into the
details or nitty-gritty of the ongoing dialogue, until as and when the
concerned parties feel that it is now right about the various arrangements
and agreements," Chamisa pointed out.

He said although the MDC feels frustrated with the commitment of the ongoing
peace negotiations, it is committed to finding a solution to the political
crisis in the country.

"I would say that we are in this process 100%. And our faith is 100%, and
this is why we would continue within the context of the negotiation to say
that there has to be movement on the ground. In terms of the issues to do
with political repression, it does not make sense for us to be in talks in
South Africa when the nation is in a state of acrimony, polarization and
disharmony because of political differences. so the situation has to reflect
on the ground that indeed there is some movement," he said.

Chamisa said although the MDC is not in favor of giving President Mugabe the
right to choose a successor, it has to assent to that bill in order to gain
political leverage in future deliberations with the ruling party.

"We are also quite uncomfortable with the 18th Amendment. But we must know
that we are in a negotiation process; it's a give and take situation, and it's
a quid pro quo kind of arrangement. In any negotiation, you are not
negotiating with your friend; you are negotiating with your opponent, and
you are negotiating with your adversary. And as such, there are certain
points that you have to concede and certain points also that you have to
also gain. So as far as we are concerned, what we have done through the 18th
Amendment by bending ourselves backwards is just a face to take a
preliminary step, which we believe is going to unlock future processes, and
a series of other developments that are going to inspire confidence among
Zimbabweans," Chamisa noted.

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New twist in 'mega-diamond' tale


23/09/2007 17:24  - (SA)

Johan Eybers

Schweizer-Reneke - There has been another twist in the saga of the
"mega-diamond" found in North West.

Now, claims are that it was found in Zimbabwe and smuggled to North West.

A rumour doing the the rounds here - allegedly after a bar chat with a
member of the Scorpions - is that the Jade Giant was found by diamond miners
in the northern parts of Zimbabwe.

And - in true Wilbur Smith fashion - a South African heard about the diamond
and bought it. He (or she) then turned down an offer of $29m (R200m) made by
an American and smuggled the stone to North West.

Experts have been puzzled by the colour of the "diamond", which is typical
of those found in Zimbabwe.

Whether there is any truth in the bar-tale remains to be seen.

What is true, however, is that the cheque books are ready to buy surrounding
land as soon as the owners are prepared to say exactly where it was found.

Meanwhile, three weeks after being appointed to confirm the authenticity of
the stone - said to be over 7 000 carats - Ernest Blom has yet to see it.

Blom, who is President of the World Federation of Diamond Bourses, has put
this down to security concerns.

A cellphone image of the diamond - released on August 29, is the only
"evidence" of the gem, raising questions about whether it even exists.

Blom says the man who found the diamond has been a miner for many years and
would know the difference between a diamond and any other gem.

"The man fears for his life - and his family's - so the matter is very

The safety of all the role players is of the utmost importance and has to be
considered before any information is released.

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