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SADC heads of state summit kicks off

September 7, 2009

By Our Correspondent

HARARE - The much-anticipated SADC heads of state and government summit
kicks off in the DRC capital, Kinshasa today, Monday, with political crises
in Zimbabwe, Madagascar and the host country set to dominate the

President Robert Mugabe, who is being accused of violating the terms of the
September 15, 2008 Global Political Agreement (GPA) he signed with his
former rivals, left Harare for Kinshasa Sunday to face his peers during the
two-day summit.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was also expected to travel to Kinshasa to
attend the same summit.

Outgoing SADC chairman and South African President, Jacob Zuma is expected
to brief SADC leaders on the state of the Zimbabwean crisis before handing
over the reigns to DRC President Joseph Kabila.

SADC will also conduct a six-month review of the performance of the
inclusive government in Zimbabwe with special focus on the controversial
distribution of ministerial mandates to political parties forming the unity

The MDC is looking forward to seeing a final resolution of outstanding
matters to the GPA that continue to prevent the smooth running of the
inclusive government.

Key among the MDC's concerns is the unilateral appointment by Mugabe, of
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono and Attorney General Johannes

The MDC says the two were appointed to their current terms late last year
outside the provisions of the GPA which stipulate that the parties consult
first before appointing individuals to key government posts.

The MDC also wants Mugabe to swear in party officials into posts that are
being occupied by Zanu-PF loyalists appointed by Mugabe in apparent
violation of the GPA. The party is particularly bitter that its national
treasurer Roy Bennett who is supposed to become deputy Minister of
Agriculture has not been sworn in since February.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the mainstream MDC has decried
the continued bias against his party, by the state media which is still
firmly in the hands of Mugabe loyalists.

"The distortion of the political reality by the State media presents a real
and credible threat to this government and its ability to impact positively
on the lives of all Zimbabweans," Tsvangirai told journalists last week.

The MDC wants a stop to the continued selective application of the rule of
law, including the prosecution of the party's MPs by forces aligned to

The MDC is also worried by the slow pace of progress on the implementation
of key issues connected to human rights, rule of law, constitutional reform
process and media reform.

Tsvangirai on Tuesday appealed to SADC leaders to place Zimbabwe's political
deadlock among the key issues of their summit.

Mugabe, whose Zanu-PF party accuses the MDC of inviting Western imposed
targeted sanctions which it says are the cause of Zimbabwe's economic
decline, wants SADC to instead focus on that matter instead.

Zanu-PF says it will not make any further concessions to the GPA if the MDC
does not effectively denounce the sanctions.

Zanu-PF upped the stakes recently when it wrote to the SADC Tribunal
announcing the country's pull out from the jurisdiction of the regional

The regional leaders are expected to clarify the regional block's position
on the controversial move, which has been dismissed as null and void by some
legal experts.

Past SADC summits have passed resolutions which seemed to favour Zanu-PF.

In the event of an outcome which would not be in MDC's favour, experts have
advised the MDC to approach the African Union and eventually the UN Security
Council to force Mugabe to cede more power to his partners in the coalition

University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Professor John Makumbe
says the MDC should not allow itself to be frustrated into pulling out from
the unity government but should continue to exhaust all available channels
to bring about change.

These he said involved going beyond SADC, the main brokers of the agreement,
to the African Union (AU) and even to the UN force Zanu PF to comply with
the dictates of the unity agreement.

"There is no likelihood at all to say things have failed and so we are
getting out. No, there is nothing to go back to," said Makumbe.

"It is a situation where we either sink or swim together."

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Zimbabwe's neighbors to seek end to sanctions

Mon Sep 7, 2009 3:10am GMT

* Stance of South Africa's Zuma under scrutiny

* Mugabe, Tsvangirai under pressure to end row

By Joe Bavier

KINSHASA, Sept 7 (Reuters) - African leaders will step up calls on Monday
for an end to Western sanctions against Zimbabwe and urge South Africa to
plead Harare's cause within the Group of 20 rich and developing nations,
officials said.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries would also press
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to
end a row over a power-sharing pact that was holding up vital foreign aid,
said the officials.

"We are convinced that if sanctions are lifted, Zimbabwe, within the
framework of its current political agreement, will have the possibility to
move towards development," said Congolese Foreign Minister Alexis Thambwe

"We will also ask South Africa, which is the only sub-Saharan African
country that is a member of the G20, to plead for Zimbabwe's cause," said
Mwamba, whose country is taking over the SADC chair and hosting the meeting
in Kinshasa.

South African President Jakob Zuma is being watched for signs he will take a
tougher line than predecessor Thabo Mbeki over Mugabe, who has been hit by
EU and U.S. sanctions including a travel ban for alleged rights abuses and

Last month, Zuma called on the West to repeal the sanctions. But in what
sounded like a tougher tone on Mugabe, he also stressed the need for respect
of democracy and human rights.

A recovery in Zimbabwe's battered economy is important for South Africa
because millions have been driven to seek work in their much wealthier
neighbour. Zimbabwe says it needs $10 billion in foreign reconstruction aid,
but Western nations are reluctant to release aid without political and
economic reform.

Mugabe and long-time foe Tsvangirai formed a power-sharing government in
February as part of a SADC-backed deal to end a political crisis that
followed disputed polls last year.

The agreement called for Tsvangirai to condemn the sanctions and call for
them to be dropped, as SADC's 15 member countries have already pledged to

But the power-sharing deal is beset with problems.

Tsvangirai's MDC party accuses Mugabe's ZANU-PF of failing to honour an
agreement to reverse the appointments of political allies to key posts.
ZANU-PF, in turn, has charged that the MDC has not done enough to have the
sanctions lifted.

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SADC reviews Zimbabwe power-sharing deal

by Nokuthula Sibanda Monday 07 September 2009

HARARE - Southern African leaders will review Zimbabwe's shaky power-sharing
government at a summit that begins in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
(DRC) today, regional chairman South Africa said at the weekend.

The political crisis in the host country as well as strife in the Indian
ocean island of Madagascar will also come up for discussion at the two-day
29th summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

South Africa, which will handover the regional chair to DRC, said in a
statement: "The summit will consider the report from the chairperson of the
SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation on the political
situation in the region, with specific focus on Zimbabwe and Madagascar.

"Furthermore, the summit will reflect on the report of the ministerial task
force on regional economic integration, particularly on the impact of the
global financial crisis and the region's response thereto; the status of
implementation of the SADC Free Trade Area (FTA); and the proposed SADC
Customs Union."

The summit in the DRC comes two weeks after outgoing chairperson South
African President Jacob Zuma visited Zimbabwe to discuss the country's
power-sharing deal with President Robert Mugabe, Primer Minister Morgan
Tsvangirai and Deputy Premier Arthur Mutambara.

During the visit Zuma urged Western nations targeted sanctions against
Mugabe and top leaders of his ZANU PF party. But the South African President
also called on Zimbabwe's political leaders to "to speed up implementation
and to find solutions to disagreements" threatening the six-month-old Harare
unity government

Tsvangirai's MDC accuses Mugabe's ZANU PF of failing to honour an agreement
to reverse the appointments of political allies to the key posts of central
bank governor and attorney general.

On the other hand ZANU PF insists it has done the most to uphold the
power-sharing deal and instead accuses the MDC of reneging on promises to
campaign for lifting of Western sanctions on Mugabe and his allies.

Analysts expect Zuma to take a tougher stance than his predecessor, Thabo
Mbeki, in seeking an end to the impasse and years of turmoil that have
pushed millions of Zimbabweans to seek work in South Africa.

By they say the South African leader may face difficulties rallying the SADC
against Mugabe who still commands a certain degree of respect among some
regional leaders despite his disastrous policies in Zimbabwe.

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SADC states attempt the impossible

From The Weekend Argus (SA), 6 September

Foreign Service

Kinshasa - Southern African Development Community governments seem to be
attempting the impossible - to legitimise the SADC Tribunal and also the
Zimbabwe government's rejection of its jurisdiction. The tribunal has ruled
against the Zimbabwe government's seizure of white farms. Zimbabwe's Zanu PF
justice minister Patrick Chinamasa said Zimbabwe did not recognise the
jurisdiction of the tribunal because its creation was not ratified by two
thirds of SADC's member states. A tribunal report on Zimbabwe's failure to
adhere to its ruling is being discussed by the SADC Council of Ministers
this weekend and heads of state and governments when they meet in the
Democratic Republic of Cong, tomorrow and on Tuesday. The SADC seems to be
trying to reconcile the incompatible positions of Zimbabwe and other member
states on the legitimacy of the SADC Tribunal.

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Constitutional committee goes on strike

September 6, 2009

By Our Correspondent

HARARE - The parliamentary committee tasked with drafting Zimbabwe's new
constitution to pave the way to fresh elections has gone on strike after
government failed to pay their allowances.

The strike by the 25-member committee has halted work on the constitution,
which must be redrawn under the terms of the power-sharing agreement that
created the establishment of the unity government in February.

"The select committee does not even have a dollar and this is affecting our
functions," Paul Mangwana, the committee's co-chairman said

"We have said unless government gives us the resources it would be pointless
to plan. We are just wasting the time of members, some of whom have to
travel to Harare for meetings."

He said members last received their allowances in April and were using
personal resources to support the constitution drafting process.

The UN Development Programme has provided two million US dollars to the
committee, but Mangwana indicated more money was needed and said nothing had
come from the government.

"We expect government to provide the funds. Donors cannot largely provide
the funds because this would make the process donor-driven," he said.

In April, the speaker of parliament announced a 25-member committee drawn
from both President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party and Prime Minister Morgan
Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change.

Under the power-sharing deal, the committee should table a draft
constitution by February 2010, with a referendum to approve it in July.

The draft would have to be introduced to parliament by October next year.
The new constitution would establish the rules for holding new elections,
after last year's polls degenerated into widespread violence targetting
mainly MDC supporters.

Zimbabwe held a constitutional referendum in 2000 but the proposal was
rejected as critics said the published draft gave Mugabe too many powers.

That led to a wave of farm invasions in which commercial farmers were pushed
off the land, accused by Mugabe supporters of having campaigned against the

Representatives from rights groups, churches, the media, women's groups,
labour and the farming community will help the committee's members draft the
new constitution

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Forum's statement on Harare's withdrawal from Tribunal

Monday 07 September 2009


5 September 2009

Status and meaning of ratification of SADC Treaty and Tribunal Protocol

Patrick Chinamasa, the Minister of Justice, is reported as having stated
that Zimbabwe is not bound by the Protocol on the SADC Tribunal (Tribunal
Protocol) as she has not ratified this instrument. He goes on further to
state that the Protocol is not yet in force as only five countries had
ratified it. The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) respectfully
disagrees with this view for the reasons stated below.

The Declaration and Treaty of SADC (SADC Treaty) establishes the
institutions implementing the sub-region's integration policies and founding
principles. Article 16 of the SADC Treaty provides for the establishment of
the SADC Tribunal. In terms of article 16(2) the "the composition, powers,
functions, procedures and other related matters governing the Tribunal shall
be prescribed in a Protocol, which shall, notwithstanding the provisions of
Article 22 of this Treaty, form an integral part of this Treaty, adopted by
the Summit".

Essential Article 16 (2) exempts the Tribunal Protocol from the provisions
of Article 22 of the SADC Treaty, which prescribes that each Protocol
approved by the Summit of Heads of State and Government (Summit) shall
become binding on member states 30 days after two thirds of the 15 SADC
members have ratified the instrument.

This means that 9 SADC member states should ratify a Protocol before it may
be implemented and applied against any of them by the relevant body tasked
with its enforcement. Furthermore since Article 16 (2) by-passes adherence
to Article 22, the Tribunal Protocol became binding when it was approved by
the Summit.

The institutionalisation of the Protocols in the SADC legal framework came
as a realization of the fact that effective implementation of regional
policies required more than just political will, but the existence of
legally binding instruments and enforcement mechanisms such as the SADC
Tribunal and its protocol. Of the over 20 protocols now in force only the
Tribunal Protocol did not require ratification by two thirds of the SADC
member states for it to become a binding instrument.

This therefore means that all SADC states which ratified the SADC Treaty,
that became a legally binding instrument in 1993, are also bound by the SADC
Protocol which became an integral part of the constitutive treaty of the
sub-regional body by virtue of article 16(2).

All SADC member states have ratified or acceded to the SADC Treaty and are
therefore bound by its provisions and by extension the provisions of the
Tribunal Protocol. It is therefore misleading for the Minister of Justice or
any judicial body to argue that Zimbabwe is not bound by the Tribunal
protocol on grounds that the instrument has neither been ratified nor
entered into force. Therefore under international law Zimbabwe is bound by
the decisions recently handed down against her by the SADC Tribunal in terms
of legal instruments that she has voluntarily ratified.

We urge the Summit meeting in September to mount pressure on the Zimbabwean
government to respect the rule of law by complying with court decisions
delivered at the domestic, regional and international level.

We further call upon the Zimbabwean government to put in place laws and
regulations for the registration and enforcement of foreign judgments to
facilitate the execution of decisions from the SADC Tribunal and the newly
operationalised African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights.

We also call upon the Zimbabwean parliament to enact laws consonant with
ratified regional and international legal instruments and amend repugnant
laws accordingly.

The Zimbabwean parliament is further called upon to domesticate all ratified
regional and international instruments to enhance the protection of
fundamental human rights at the domestic level. - ZimOnline

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Government Failing To Buy Grain

Triangle, September 06, 2009 - The Government of Zimbabwe if failing
to buy grain from farmers because it is broke, dealing a blow to its efforts
to end wide-spread food shortages in the country.

Vice President Joice Mujuru told hundreds of villagers who gathered at
Nyikavanhu business center at the weekend, to commemorate a belated
International women's Day, that the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) was broke.
"I know that you are having problems because you do not have anywhere
to sell your grain here. However, I want to inform you that there is nothing
we can do for now because the GMB is broke," she said. "There is no money at
GMB ... I am pleading with all the farmers to be patient. Do not sell your
grain to unscrupulous middlemen because the government will be in a position
to buy the grain in the near future."
However most villagers usually rely on the money they get from GMB for
their livelihood and preparation for the next planting season. Zimbabwe is
also facing severe food shortages and most donors have come together to
purchase food for the country or help with farm inputs in order to avert
hunger and boost future agricultural production.
"We have serious problems here, we managed to harvest sorghum and
maize but it is unfortunate that we are not able to sell anything as we only
see middlemen who offer to buy our crops at very low prices," said Ratidzai
Matakanure, a councillor in the area. "GMB is not coming as usual and we are
really stranded. It would be better if the government timely address our
problems as both women and farmers in the Lowveld."
However, Mujuru told farmers that the government is geared to help
farmers with seeds for the next farming season.
"I want to assure farmers here present that the government will be
giving at least one million farmers free seeds and fertilizers throughout
the whole country.  The government made a resolution last Thursday that all
farmers who do not have money shall be assisted through the Ministry of
Agriculture. We want to make sure that we equip all farmers," she said.

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Tsvangirai Media-Onslaught Intensifies

HARARE, September 06, 2009 -The public media has upped its
media-onslaught on the Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai with journalists at
the state-controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings complaining that they
are being continuously forced to denounce him ahead of the forth coming SADC
summit to be held in DRC this week.

Tsvangirai has formally complained to SADC chairman Jacob Zuma, South
Africa's President that Zanu PF continued to flout the Global Political
Agreement that gave birth to the unity government. Zimbabwe is high on the
agenda at the SADC summit this week.
Television and radio producers at ZBC said they were being forced to
interview ZANU (PF) officials selected by the editors.
"Orders have been given by the editorial team that Prime Minister
Morgan Tsvangirai should never be given positive coverage. Every time we are
ordered to re-write scripts that seem to be objective on the Prime
 Minister," said a senior radio news producer who declined to be named for
fear of victimisation.
"ZANU(PF) propagandists  like Nathan Shamuyarira are called for staged
interviews on radio and  television, and we are not given the chances to ask
them questions as everything is prepared for us by the editors. In fact
these politicians come to tell the nation on TV and Radio what they want
people to hear. We have been reduced to secretaries of ZANU (PF)
politicians, and we are no longer journalists. Most of the reporters are
frustrated with the system and given a chance will be glad to leave," said a
senior journalist.
Prime Minister's spokesperson James Maridadi said the move by state
media is against the spirit of the inclusive government.
"Prime Minister Tsvangirai is the head of government because he
formulates, supervises and implements government policies in the inclusive
government. What ZBC and the Herald are doing is very dangerous to the
future of the inclusive government, in which Tsvangirai  is one of the
principals who need to be respected.PM's position to state media has  been
straight forwad,and has  issued a  number of statements complaining about
the issue," said Maridadi.
ZBC and the Herald newspaper have continued lambasting PM Tsvangirai
acting on orders from the ministry of Information and Publicity which is
under the stewardship of President Mugabe's favorites Webster Shamu, and
chief propagandist George Charamba.
Last month both ZBC and the Herald received instructions from the
Ministry of Information that they should address President Mugabe as Head of
State and Government and Commander-In-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence forces.

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UNDP to fund Zim' national healing campaign

by Nokuthula Sibanda Monday 07 September 2009

HARARE - The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has come to the
assistance of Zimbabwe' financially crippled Organ for National Healing, an
arm of government which is meant to assist the state in addressing pre and
post-independence conflict in the country, it was announced.

The Organ of National Healing has three ministers drawn from the country's
three political parties making up the unity government between President
Robert Mugabe and the leaders of the two MDC formations Prime Minister
Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy Arthur Mutambara.

One of the ministers, Sekai Holland recently said the UNDP had come to the
rescue of the ministry which could not carry out its operations due to
financial problems.

"We do not have funds, but the UNDP has come to assistance," Holland said at
the farewell function of former UNDP resident coordinator Agostinho

"We did not have the funding, but the UNDP has decided to listen to our

Holland did not however disclose how much the UNDP has set aside to meet its

To complement the organ's work, the UNDP is now scouting for an
agent/consultant who will provide special service agreement, the UN agency

The consultant will among other things advise the organ on a process to
analyse and map the source of conflict, according terms of reference.

The consultant will also advise the government on options and mechanisms
available for healing, reconciliation and integration in the context of
Zimbabwe benchmarked with best practices obtaining in other countries.

Since independence, Zimbabwe's elections have been characterised by violence
and political tensions, starting in the early 1980s when government cracked
down on dissidents in Matabeleland.

Political violence flared in the southern African country last year as
Mugabe fought to reclaim power in a run-off vote after being defeated by
Tsvangirai although the veteran trade unionist fell short of the margin
required to take over power and avoid a run-off.

The MDC claims that nearly 200 of its supporters were killed.

Tsvangirai eventually pulled out of the run-off citing violence that the MDC
says left more than 100 of its members dead and at least another 200 000
displaced, leaving Mugabe to claim victory uncontested.

Western governments and a host of African nations rejected Mugabe's victory
while the African Union and the regional Southern African Development
Community piled pressure on the Zimbabwean leader to form a power-sharing
government with the opposition.

The national healing campaign was launched in July with a three day
programme after Mugabe declared July 24, 25 and 26 official days for
Zimbabweans to renounce all forms of violence and dedicate themselves to
working together to ensure security of all persons and property and refrain
from inciting political intolerance and ethnic hatred.

Both Mugabe and Tsvangirai - who formed a unity government in February to
end months of political unrest following disputed elections last year -
renounced political violence at the official opening of the national healing
programme. - ZimOnline

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‘I am in charge of IMF funds’ – Gideon Gono

Published: September 6, 2009


[Denford Magora Reports from his blog]

Zimbabwe’s Central Bank Governor, in fighting mood provocatively told state media yesterday that he as the Reserve Bank Governor, is “custodian and disburser” of the recent US$400 million loan injected by the International Monetary Fund.

He said that his “principals” would decide who exactly gets what and he would be the one to dish it out and set the conditions for dishing it out to the beneficiaries.
This is basically setting up the stage for a fight with Tendai Biti, whose statement to the international media that Zimbabwe could not take the money because it could not afford to repay it, we can now dismiss.
Mugabe and Gono have made it clear this weekend that the money ’stays’. Gono also said at the weekend that he would be happy to give some of the money out “to fund certain provisions of Minister Biti’s STERP”!

So, he would be happy to dish some of his largesse to Tendai Biti, the Minister of Finance!! Like I said, it was provocative. In reporting on the matter, the government owned media is very careful to stress that the receipt of the money from the IMF “was announced by Reserve Bank Governor Dr Gideon Gono.”

There is going to be, as I said, a dogfight over control of these funds, but I think recent events show us that Mugabe and Gono will win out in the end. The MDC in government simply does not have any cards to play and it is almost certain that some of this money will be diverted for ZANU PF purposes. This is much more so with Gono insisting that he is in charge of the funds.

The strategy is quite clear from this early in the process:

The MDC, new to government, has no governmental programmes that it has set up itself, like ZANU PF. Mugabe’s party, on the other hand, has spread its tentacles into every sphere of governance and even service delivery in Zimbabwe. Government-owned companies like ZESA, the power utility, are entirely staffed by ZANU PF loyalists, who owe their positions to Mugabe’s party and in some cases are even active members of that party. You can rest assured that some of the money is going to go these companies in order to allow them to “revitalise” the economy.

It will go the way of other projects. Do you recall Mugabe launching with fanfare a project to plant acres upon acre of the Jatropha plant (how easily gullible Zimbabweans are, and how short their memories!)?
It was announced that huge sums of money had been given to the project to get it to kick off.
Yet, it later transpired after the March elections that there were no acres of Jatropha plants that had been announced almost a year before. Instead, government officials now admitted openly that all they could find of one such project were two plants!

That matter has died a quiet death. No one has since asked what all the money (running into millions of US dollars) given for this project has been used for if there are barely 100 trees of the Jatropha in the project areas.
ZANU PF now boasts that all they have done is ensure that the MDC join the gravy train. As long as they are promised that some of their own supporters will benefit from the abuses of funds, they will be happy.

This is what the dishing out out of posts along political lines is all about, after all.
The MDC has failed to appoint a single independent technocrat to any of the posts it is entitled to under the GPA, which is something that a person truly committed to changing the fortunes of the party would do.
It is like, say, in the United States, where you will see a new administration going to Wall Street to get a Chief Executive of a major Finance House there to be Chairman of the Federal Reserve or to be Treasury Secretary.
Instead of seeking the best and the brightest in each particular industry, the new partners in government are following the ZANU PF way and appointing politicians into posts, taking activists and putting them in charge of technical matters.
No wonder there is no recovery.
The way things are going now, I can assure you that even this money from the IMF, which is enough only to cover half of the national budget for this year, will disappear into a black hole.

Two factors will be at play as this money goes down the drain without an improvement in the state of our roads, water delivery system, power shortages or even revival of industrial production.
These are:
  • The MDC is, even now, unsure of its own future. Since Morgan Tsvangirai has said repeatedly that his party will “sink or swim” together with ZANU PF, his officials will also be looking to feather their nests. They will be looking to gorge themselves while they can, because they may find themselves back in the streets before long.
  • ZANU PF, by the same token, is also full of people who believe that their party is seeing the sunset of its life. Led and held together by an 85 year old man who can kick the bucket at any time, they will also be clamouring to ensure that they do at least walk away with something.
There is a reason why government is the biggest employer in Zimbabwe. In fact it is the only industry still employing excess capacity, paying militant youths to this day despite hollow promises of an audit from Tendai Biti.

But the politicians know their people very well. They know that all they need to do is “announce the intention” and then do nothing about it and it will soon be forgotten and Zimbabweans have a habit of mistaking announcement of the intention for actual implementation.
Even MDC supporters are no different here. Look at how they celebrated “the intention” by Mugabe to swear in Roy Bennett and Governors at “the end of August 2009″.

They were ecstatic. But where are we now?
It is the song of Zimbabwean politics and the hype around the money from the IMF will put forward all sorts of intentions, but no one will ever be held accountable for failure to deliver it. No explanation will be given for this.
The MDC and Tsvangirai are as bad as Mugabe and ZANU PF on this.
Just look at the so-called 100-day plan. Tsvangirai admitted publicly in Nyanga at its review that it had failed “dismally”. The people of Zimbabwe have still to get a report or an explanation on why this is so.
There were things in it that did not need money and yet even these failed to take off and no explanation is forthcoming. ( (ZimEye, Zimbabwe)

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Officials fail to quell strike by 2000 miners

September 7, 2009

By Our Reporter

ZVISHAVANE - The government and management at the country's major asbestos
producer, Shabanie Mashava Mines, have failed to stop a week-long strike by
the estimated 2 000 mine workers there.

Industry experts warn the prolonged job boycott by the asbestos miners could
compound the company's financial problems and cost the country millions of
dollars in lost export earnings.

The workers downed tools last Monday to press the State-owned Shabanie
Mashaba Mines (SMM) to pay them salaries due to them since the beginning of
the year.

The Zimbabwe Times was informed that the now largely bankrupt company has
failed to pay workers since January and has randomly selected a few workers
each month to pay appallingly low monthly stipends of as low as US$30. It
has since emerged some of the workers are now demanding that the State-run
multimillion-dollar asbestos producer be returned back to self-exiled
businessman Mutumwa Mawere, the former owner.

Since January, the company has made only three pay outs and only to a
quarter of the 2 000-strong workforce.

The stand-off was referred to an arbitrator in Masvingo in August, but he
has failed to resolve the drawn-out labour dispute.

"Grades 1-10 employees have been given not more than three batches of US$30
and US$50 since the beginning of the year," a workers'' spokesman told The
Zimbabwe Times. "Cat C+ (senior) employees were only given US$100 across the
board end of March 2009 against a US700+ salary (supposed to be paid) for
the lowest Cat C grade per month. Only 500 employees were given US$50 for
their August 2009 salaries."

Disgusted workers have now downed their tools and vowed not to return to
work until their full salaries have been paid.

The livid workers have impounded two mine vehicles which they are
threatening to liquidate in order to pay themselves their outstanding dues.

Mine management declined to answer questions. Deputy Mines Minister Murisi
Zwizwai said he was not aware of the strike but promised to look into the

The workers' spokesman said workers were unequivocal in their demand that
the State-run multimillion-rand asbestos producer be returned back to
Johannesburg-based entrepreneur Mawere.

SMM was nationalised in 2005 through a presidential decree. Government
accused Mawere of illegally sending proceeds from the mine to South Africa
illegally. Mugabe later unsuccessfully tried to get Mawere extradited to
face jail in Zimbabwe, but the courts in South Africa rejected the bid.
Mawere is now a South African citizen.

Since the takeover by government four years ago, the company has faced
critical cash flow problems amid allegations of looting by top Zanu-PF
officials. The mining firm is reportedly facing critical viability problems
because of a hostile operating environment, and has for the past eight
months failed to reach a compromise with the workers.

Several of Zimbabwe's mining firms face collapse also because of lack of
hard cash to buy new machinery and spares.

The perceived high political risk because of Zimbabwe's lawlessness and
political violence has also scared away foreign investors with investment
funds to shore up the depressed mining sector.

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Shamu hits back at Tsvangirai

September 7, 2009

By Our Correspondent

HARARE - Information and Publicity Minister Webster Shamu has hit back at
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who claims State media continue to be
biased against his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.

Tsvangirai told a media briefing last week his party was being vilified by
the state media through what he called a combination of lies and hate

"The political climate in Zimbabwe continues to be marred by unfortunate and
vicious propaganda that emanates from the State media," Tsvangirai told a
media briefing last Tuesday.

"It appears that the State media continue to see the three political parties
in the inclusive government through its historic perspective of hatred and
acrimony, blatantly advancing the interests of a single political party.

"The distortion of the political reality by the State media presents a real
and credible threat to this government and its ability to impact positively
on the lives of all Zimbabweans."

Despite the existence of the inclusive government which brought into one
government former political rivals Zanu-PF and the two MDC parties, state
media are still firmly in the control of President Robert Mugabe's

But in an apparent response to Tsvangirai's comments, Shamu said those
criticizing the state media for undermining the GPA were failing to do the
same on the independent media.

"The notion that the burden of meeting the expectations of GPA reside in
that part of the media sector which falls under Government influence, is
clearly mistaken if genuine, or mischievous if politically motivated," Shamu

He was speaking in Harare Friday at the launch of Harare Metro, a new
publication published under the Zimbabwe Newspapers stable which will focus
on news happening in Harare.

The paper hits the streets for the first time today, Monday.

Shamu continued, "The requirement to refrain from hate language is a
standard requirement for all media, for all publishers regardless of who
owns them.

"The requirement to respect facts is inherent to ethics of journalism,
regardless of in whose favour an editorial policy is weighted. Yes, the call
to support a nascent and fragile political experiment, which is what the
inclusive Government is, is a call to all regardless of ownership."

State media are being accused of whipping up political emotions during last
year's violent elections which left over 200 mostly MDC supporters dead.

Half a dozen state media journalists have since been included on a list of
Zimbabwean journalists banned from travelling to America and European Union

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Zisco sells scrap metal to keep going

Monday, September 07, 2009

By Takunda Maodza, recently in Kwekwe

THE Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company has stopped operations and is now
depending on selling scrap metal to generate income and its workforce has
slumped from 4 000 at its peak to less than 1 000.

The company is also surviving on selling coke breeze and chilled pull that
had accumulated over the past 40 years.

A visit by The Herald last week revealed a sorry state of affairs at the
once giant steel maker, whose residential compound now resembles a ghost

Blast furnace number four, the only one functional, was switched off last

Blast furnace number three has been down for years.

These furnaces are supposed to operate non-stop for at least eight years to
avert contraction and collapse of inside brick lining.

Over US$12 million is needed for the re-alignment of blast furnace number
four only and a Chinese company, China Shougang International, has been
contracted to do the job.

Lack of funds has stalled progress though Ziscosteel recently received 60
percent of the re-aligning materials from China.

The material comprises special blast furnace bricks.

Coke ovens should run continuously for about 20 years, but are not
functional and require major repairs that cost millions of dollars.

The company has an accumulated three-month salary backlog and has placed its
employees on a compulsory rotational two-week duty roster.

Employees are only paid for the two weeks that they report for duty and are
struggling to make ends meet.

At its peak, Ziscosteel employed 4 000 employees, but at the moment
management says the company has around 2 000 workers, while work-

ers say the workforce is less than 1 000.

The majority of the skilled personnel such as engineers and artisans have
left the company en-masse for greener pastures elsewhere.

Ziscosteel is capable of producing between 700 000 and one million tonnes of
steel annually, but presently no production is taking place as major
infrastructure has collapsed.

Both Industry and Commerce Minister Welshman Ncube and Ziscosteel chief
executive officer Mr Alois Gowo confirmed the company was in dire straits.

Indications are that production might resume around February next year.

Employees report for duty for "housekeeping purposes" save for those
preparing for the re-alignment of blast furnace number four.

In an interview on Wednesday, Mr Gowo attributed the company's collapse to
the illegal US sanctions, electricity and water shortages experienced last

He confirmed Ziscosteel had a backlog in salaries and expects to pay its
employees July salaries this month.

Mr Gowo confirmed that employees were on a rotational two weeks duty roaster
saying the move was meant to avert retrenchment

He said the arrangement would be in place up to December this year.

Ziscosteel was lagging behind in paying Shougang International, which was
awarded the re-aligning contract in 2007.

"We lost total production of hot metal in January 2008 because of power and
water shortages. Blast furnace number four went cold. In November last year
we abandoned resuscitating the blast furnace opting for re-alignment," he

Mr Gowo said Ziscosteel had so far paid Shougang International US$5,3
million out of the US$12 million.

"We met with Shougang International officials including its president in
Harare last month and we signed a Memorandum of Understanding that we pay
them US$1 million in August and September and another US$1 million in
November," he said.

Mr Gowo said re-alignment of blast furnace number four was expected to start
in December this year and it would be commissioned in February next year.

"We are discussing with one local bank which indicated that they will be
making available that facility so that we meet conditions set by the
Chinese," he said.

Mr Gowo said about US$4 million was needed to repair the coke oven batteries
and Ziscosteel was currently looking for possible financiers.

There are indications that a number of companies are interested in assisting
the company repair its coke oven batteries.

News of the dire straits that have hit the giant steelmaker, impacting
heavily on both the local community of Redcliff and the national economy,
comes after Government had pumped around US$100 million into Zisco in a bid
to rejuvenate its operations.

Industry and Commerce Minister Prof Ncube confirmed Government had pumped
millions of dollars into Ziscosteel, but the company was still not

He said the parastatal had resorted to selling scrap metal for survival.

"Zisco has not been producing since last year. They have just been selling
scrap while trying to refurbish blast furnace number four.

"When they shut down last year, it was for purposes of re-aligning the blast
furnace, which was the only one which was still working."

Minister Ncube said Government arranged loans for Ziscosteel on several
occasions, but no meaningful production had materialised.

"Government organised loans for Ziscosteel before the formation of the
inclusive Government. Every time money was pumped in, it went into a
bottomless pit," he said, adding that they had poured US$100 million into
the company to date.

"Government cannot give more and more money when it is basically broke," he

The minister said Government was considering a number of options among them
selling its stake in the company.

He said five companies were bidding for Zisco among them Kwekwe-based
SteelMakers Zimbabwe (Pvt) Limited, Murray Roberts and Gateway.

Also vying for Zisco are Reclamation Group of South Africa and India's
Sunflag Iron and Steel Company.

There are reports another Indian company - Arcelor Mittal, the world's
largest steel company - is also interested in Ziscosteel as well as China's
Metallurgical Construction Company.

Reports say SteelMakers has made a joint bid of US$180 million with Sunflag
Iron and Steel Company to take over Ziscosteel after Government invited bids
from local and foreign investors to revive Ziscosteel.

Unconfirmed reports also link corruption and poor corporate governance to
the state of the steel company.

In 2006, the then Minister of Industry and International Trade, Obert Mpofu
told a parliamentary portfolio committee on Foreign Affairs, Industry and
International Trade that the steelmaker had been looted by unnamed
legislators and other senior company and government officials.

He later backtracked on his allegations and was subsequently charged for
contravening a section of the Privileges, Immunities and Powers of
Parliament Act.

Minister Mpofu made the corruption assertions while giving evidence on the
management contract awarded to Global Steel Holdings and Ziscosteel that
collapsed after the Indian firm did not release any of US$400 million as had
been contractually agreed.

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War veterans encouraged to work as a team

Posted: Sun, 06 Sep 2009 12:45:17 +0200

Harare Metropolitan Province Governor and Resident Minister Cde David
Karimanzira says members of the Zimbabwe Liberation War Collaborators
Association should work as a unit and come up with binding resolutions for
forthcoming Zanu-PF national congress.

Convening a national meeting organised by the Zimbabwe Liberation War
Collaborators Association, Cde Karimanzira said there is need for unity
among association members such that they can speak with one voice on
national issues.

"Your members should be united to ensure that they come up with resolutions
at the forthcoming Zanu-PF national congress for the national leadership to
appreciate your role in the development of Zimbabwe as well as the party,"
said Cde Karimanzira.

Chairperson of the vetting committee who is also the former chairman of
Zimbabwe War Veterans Association, Cde Patrick Nyaruwata said vetting
exercise which is meant to differentiate bogus members and genuine members
will go ahead as planned.

"The vetting process should continue as previously planned such that they
can be honoured for the role they played in the liberation struggle," noted
Cde Nyaruwata.

ZNLWCA national chairman Cde Joseph Kandemiri said members of the
association should take their positions in rebuilding the country's economy
through working together with war veterans.

"We should work together with war veterans to ensure that we champion the
interests of the people hence the need to come up with proper register for

The meeting comes after concerns have been raised on bogus members who are
claiming that they took part in the struggle yet some of them were born
after Zimbabwe's Independence in 1980.

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Zimbabwe Vigil Diary – 5th September 2009

The Vigil felt vindicated at the announcement this week that the Zimbabwe regime has agreed an amnesty for some 1,500 prisoners. We are often asked by passers-by what we hope to achieve.  A group of former Zimbabweans came past and asked us this very question today. Well, we think that by our amnesty campaign alone we have saved some lives.  We launched our campaign on Independence Day (18/04/09) following an SABC television report on the horrific conditions in Zimbabwean jails. Our proposal was initially derided the regime and we are glad that they have now seen the light.  We continue to demand that Zimbabwe imprisons only the number of people it can cope with humanely. 


Ahead of the SADC summit in Kinshasha, the Vigil sent two petitions to the organisation’s Executive Secretary, Dr Tomaz Augusto Salomão, with a request that he draw them to the attention of SADC leaders. The petitions, signed by thousands of people, were:

1.  We call upon the Southern African Development Community – as guarantors of the Zimbabwe power-sharing agreement – to put pressure on the new Zimbabwean government of national unity to stop the blatant abuse of human rights of prisoners in Zimbabwe who are dying of starvation, disease and torture.

2.  We call upon the Southern African Development Community – as guarantors of the Zimbabwe power-sharing government – to put pressure on President Mugabe to honour the agreement.  More than six months into the unity government, Mugabe is still resisting a return to the rule of law, deterring essential foreign development aid and investment.


As for hopes that SADC would act honourably on Zimbabwe, we are not optimistic. We were particularly offended by the patronizing tone of South Africa’s  Director-General of International Relations and Co-operation, Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba, who said ‘Congo will struggle (as the new chair of SADC) – but it could benefit from the experience’. Great! So much for Zimbabwe – a toy for the Congolese to practice on. 


We were encouraged  that a former senior British diplomat to Zimbabwe dropped by and signed the following petition: ‘A petition to the UK government: We welcome the UK’s humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe but call on the UK government to withhold development aid until it is confident that the money will benefit the people rather than the corrupt Mugabe regime.’


We were joined at the Vigil by two human rights campaigners, one English and the other American.  One topic of conversation was the possibility of a citizen’s arrest should the European Union again allow entrance to someone on the targeted sanctions list.  We were unhappy that Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengengwi was allowed in on Tsvangirai’s visit and do not want to allow this to go unchallenged in future.


One reason we all come to the Vigil is because of the warm support we get from passers-by. An American came by and gave us a wad of one hundred trillion (100,000,000,000,000) Zimbabwean dollar notes. We decided to sell them at one pound each but we were so successful we will, in true Zimbabwe inflationary style, raise the price to £5 next week.


Another visitor was our friend Steve Garvey, a teacher at Dolphin School in South London. He raised money for the Vigil by running the London marathon and together with efforts by his pupils gave us some £900. Today he brought along another contribution from one of his pupils, Ben Fletcher, who single-handedly raised £56.  We took the opportunity to discuss with Steve how we are using this money – we are in the process of buying sports equipment and stationery for Zimbabwean schools.


It was good to hear from Mike Auret this week. He told us about his new book due to be published this month. See ‘Events and Notices’ section for details. (This replaces our ‘For your Diary’ section so that we can include notices and not just diary items.)


We were pleased that our attendance held up despite two rival attractions – Zimfest and an MDC UK meeting on the 10th anniversary of the MDC called to discuss missing funds.


Thanks to Sue Toft who brought ‘Mugabe Must Go’ wristbands which proved very popular. Thanks also to Josephine Zhuga and George Mapanda who were waiting ahead of the start of the Vigil to help set up.


For latest Vigil pictures check:


FOR THE RECORD:  97 signed the register.



·    ROHR Northampton and Kettering general meeting. Saturday 12th September from 1.30 – 5.30 pm. Venue: St Mary's Church, Abbey Road, Northampton, NN4 8EZ. ROHR UK Executive present.  Contact: Norian Chindowa 07954379426, A Chimimba 07799855806, Willard Mudonzvo 07591686724, Marshall Rusike 07884246888, Hazvineyi Masuka 07795164664. P Mapfumo 07915926323/07932216070.

·    ROHR Birmingham general meeting. Saturday 12th September at 2 pm. Venue: Bishop Latimer Church, 28 Handsworth New Road, Birmingham B18 4PT. Contact: Adrey Marere 07788797365,Tsiti Mavhura 07932477842, Morris Mutanga 07882602249, P Mapfumo 07915926323 or Des Parayiwa 07815565335

·    Zimbabwe Worship Service. Sunday 27th September from 10.30 – 12.00 followed by Zimbabwean food from 12 – 3 pm. Venue: Elim Christian Centre, Dews Road, Salisbury SP2 7SN. Zimbabwean speaker. Contact: Adrian Smale, 01722 770024,,

·    Zimbabwe Vigil – 7th Anniversary. Saturday 10th October at 6.30 pm.  The Vigil started on 12th October 2002 and we are marking this anniversary on the nearest Saturday to that date.  There will be a social gathering after the Vigil, downstairs at 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.

·    ROHR West Bromwich general meeting. Saturday 31st October from 1.30 – 5.30 pm. Venue: St Peters Church Hall, Whitehall Road, West Bromwich B70 0HF. ROHR Executive and a well known lawyer present. Contact Pamela Dunduru 07958386718, Diana Mtendereki 07768682961, Peter Nkomo 07817096594 or P Mapfumo 07915926323 / 0793221607

·    Zimbabwe Association’s Women’s Weekly Drop-in Centre. Fridays 10.30 am – 4 pm. Venue: The Fire Station Community and ICT Centre, 84 Mayton Street, London N7 6QT, Tel: 020 7607 9764. Nearest underground: Finsbury Park. For more information contact the Zimbabwe Association 020 7549 0355 (open Tuesdays and Thursdays).

·    From Liberator to Dictator by Mike Auret. This is a personal account of the unravelling of Zimbabwe, written by an insider who was prepared to keep faith with Robert Mugabe until it was almost too late. Michael Auret served for many years on Zimbabwe's respected Catholic Commission of Justice and Peace, which worked tirelessly to defend human rights in that country. In this absorbing memoir, he traces his involvement in the politics of his country, from his days as an opposition MP in Ian Smith's Rhodesia to his involvement with the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and his election as MP for Harare Central in the brutal election of 2000.

·    Strategic Internship for Zimbabweans organised by Citizens for Sanctuary which is trying to secure work placements for qualified Zimbabweans with refugee status or asylum seekers. For more information check: or contact:


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 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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This scorched earth
Published:Sep 07, 2009

ASHES: ‘New owner’ of Mount Carmel, Simbarashe ‘Cremora’ Mutswapo (peaked military cap), and his bodyguards show off burned bullets he claims caused the fire that gutted the house

Moses Mudzwiti visits Mount Carmel, the farm in Zimbabwe which burned to the ground last week after being seized by land invaders loyal to a former Cabinet member.

The smell of burning still lingers. Looking through the front door of what was a grand property, all that is left of it are cinders.

Gone forever are memories collected over three decades.

“My parents have lived in that house for 35 years,” laments Laura Freeth, the daughter of elderly farmer Mike Campbell.

Broken pieces of expensive-looking crockery visible among the ashes on the floor tell a tale of resilience. Like the owners of Mount Carmel, the crockery refuses to vanish.

Everything else that meant anything has been reduced to ashes. There are no wall ornaments, family pictures or any other items of value left.

All that is left of the double storey house is its ruined walls. A small cottage next to the house and other buildings have miraculously survived the inferno.

An election poster of President Robert Mugabe waving his fist has been affixed to the gate .

Campbell, 76, was one of only 400 white farmers remaining in Zimbabwe. Before Mugabe’s land reforms there were about 4500 commercial white farmers.

Campbell has put up a brave fight to hold onto his property. Resilient and determined, he initiated the legal challenge between a group of 78 white farmers and President Robert Mugabe’s regime at the SADC tribunal after Zimbabwean courts failed to rule in their favour. Last year in November, the tribunal ruled in their favour. They could remain on their farms and “the respondent [the Zimbabwe government] is directed to take all necessary measures, through its agents, to protect the possession, occupation and ownership of the lands of the applicants”. SADC found that the farmers had been discriminated against on the ground of race.

But since the ruling, the harassment has continued and Campbell has been beaten and hounded by war veterans. Until April he refused to budge but after he was assaulted once again by people who wanted to take over his farm, Campbell left for Harare.

Then, last Wednesday, his house caught fire and burned to the ground. The fire came just three days after his son-in- law’s nearby house burned down. Arson is suspected.

As a result of the ongoing tug of war for Mount Carmel the once-thriving citrus farm has ground to a halt.

Mount Carmel used to supply mangos to the world-famous Marks & Spencer in the UK — now the neglected mango trees are unlikely to bear any fruit.

Until last Sunday, Laura Freeth and her husband, Ben, lived a kilometre from her parents’ home on Mount Carmel Farm. While they were in church their house inexplicably caught fire. By the time they arrived there was nothing to salvage.

“We have nothing … we no longer have a home … no furniture,” said Laura.

Yesterday she was a little upbeat — her brother Bruce Campbell had married his sweetheart Grace Valentine the day before. “It was good,” said Laura of the wedding.

Unlike his father and sister Laura , Bruce was spared — his house remains intact.

Mavies Chipala, a domestic worker at Bruce’s house, exclaimed: “We were lucky our house was not burned.”

Chipala said she could not understand why any one would attack the Campbells.

“Bruce is a good man. He buys us groceries and helps us with medication for the children,” she said.

The man suspected of being behind a long-running campaign to have Mount Carmel removed from Campbell is a former Cabinet minister and member of President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF politburo, one Nathan Shamuyarira.

Shamuyarira, 81, has been trying to take over Mount Carmel farm for several years.

Farmers in the area have alleged that Shamuyarira has tried everything to force the Campbells out, including violence. He is alleged to have sent people masquerading as war veterans to try to run the Campbells out.

Now, people apparently linked to Shamuyarira have forcibly moved onto the farm and have taken over some of the operations.

“These thugs stole the whole crop,” says Freeth, adding that her parents and brother were unable to make any money this year because of the actions of these land invaders.

Freeth is also concerned that the livelihoods of hundreds of people who worked on the farm have been ruined by the violent takeover.

“My linen factory on the farm, which employed 50 people, was burned to the ground. All my equipment is gone.”

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwean government, stung by the SADC Tribunal ruling and fearing further criticism from the regional bloc, announced it was pulling out of the SADC tribunal — in its opinion this nullifies the tribunal’s November ruling in favour of the farmers.

However, legal opinion sought by The Times indicates that Zimbabwe’s government has got it wrong. The beleaguered country cannot avoid its liabilities by simply quitting the legal process.

Unfazed by SADC and its tribunal, by the plight of the white farmers and the Mount Carmel workers, Simbarashe “Cremora” Mutswapo, a 42-year-old man who claims to be the new owner, complained that Campbell’s workers were lazy.

Mutswapo said: “They are refusing to work for us because Campbell is paying them for doing nothing. They will not vacate the house so that our workers can move in.”

Flanked by four “bodyguards”, Mutswapo said (Mike) Campbell had been ready to leave but that his son-in-law, Freeth, was being stubborn.

“The farm had been taken over by Mudara [old man] Shamuyarira and they must accept that,” said Mutswapo. He said Shamuyarira was a good man who had even offered to share the farm with Campbell.

“Campbell refused. He said he cannot share with blacks.”

Mutswapo said the accusations that they had set the house on fire were untrue. “How can I burn my own house?”

He said as “new owners” they were “reasonable” and kind towards the “previous” owners.

“We even allowed them [the Campbells] to keep their cows on our farm.”

Asked about the multiple fires on the farm, Mutswapo claimed the Campbells had kept “dangerous weapons of war” in their house, which could have ignited and caused the inferno.

“When we were helping them to remove some of the things from the burning house, a bomb went off,” Mutswapo claimed.

To back his allegation, Mustwapo displayed shells recovered from the house after the fire. He said the police were investigating the presence of dangerous weapons on the property.

However, Freeth dismissed the concerns as unwarranted saying her parents, like most farmers, had legally owned weapons on their properties.

The police in the nearby town of Chegutu were not willing to comment on the matter. It remained unclear whether any investigations of arson were taking place.

For now, Freeth and her husband are living on charity.

“The community have rented a house for us in Chegutu.”

As to the future, it remains anyone’s guess, and the outcome of SADC’s meeting this week, where Zimbabwe’s land problems are expected to come under discussion, will be much anticipated by many.

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Finding a place to call home

Sekai Nzenza
September 7, 2009

It's difficult as a new arrival to feel that you belong when everyone
questions where you are from.

I CAME to Australia to get civilisation and to find a home. Before coming
here, I lived in an African village. In Zimbabwe. That was more than 20
years ago. Since then, I have tried to call Australia home. Sometimes I feel
this is home. But just when I am beginning to feel Australian, a friendly
person on the tram says, ''And where are you from, love?'' Sometimes the
friendly person is specific: ''Which part of Africa are you from?'' Who
wants to say they come from Zimbabwe these days? A bad name for a country
should not stop it from being my home.

My mother said you can have as many homes as you want, but your real home
will always be the place where your umbilical cord is buried. But I must
remind my mother that children here are not born on the floors of a smoky
little hut the way I was born. In civilised societies, children are born in
hospitals; their umbilical cords go to the incinerator.

I used to think that when I got settled in Melbourne and was fully
civilised, I would forget all about poverty, disease and my village past.
This has not happened. I know where my umbilical cord is buried. I have
memories of the mountains, the rivers, stars and moonlight so bright you
could learn to read from it. Sounds of the faraway drum, the songs by the
river when we danced naked on rocks and discovered our puberty.

Recently I was in San Diego explaining to my American friends why Africa is
poor. Then I took a walk along the San Diego River to unwind. Rivers
remember the good and the evil and are connected to the ancestral spirits of
a place. That is what my mother used to say. ''Every time you see a river,''
she said, ''Think of home. Look at the reflection of yourself in the water,
then go down and wash your face. That way, you connect with the land and the
ancestors of that land.''

Along the river, I meet a man sitting on the bench with a full trolley. He
says, ''Sit down for a while, it's too hot to keep walking.'' I sit next to
him. ''I am Jerry, by the way.'' He has a warm handsome face and cannot be
more than 50. He looks tired and has red blotches on his skin. His legs are
swollen around the knees and his tummy is really big. In his trolley there
is a rolled up sleeping bag, cream bucket with a yellow lid, thermos flask
and a radio. At the bottom of the trolley is a small suitcase and what looks
like saucepans and cutlery.

Unlike the other men with disturbed looks walking around, Jerry is nice,
friendly and surprisingly articulate. He asks me where my home is. I say,
Australia. And Jerry says, ''I love Australia. I have always wanted to go
there.'' Most Americans I meet say that. Jerry does not ask me where I am
originally from. Jerry tells me that he has always lived in San Diego.
''This is my home,'' he says.

Then he tells me about the Kumeyaay Native Americans who were here 9000
years ago. ''They were good hunters and fishermen, basket weavers, pottery
makers and traders. Their lives were full of dance, songs, music and many
social and religious events. We Europeans have not been here for long but
look at how much damage we have done to the river.'' He worries about the
survival of the rattlesnakes, sea birds, racoons and turtles inhabiting the
water. ''Indigenous people treated the Earth with respect,'' he says. I tell
Jerry that there were some similarities between the Kumeyaay Indians' way of
life and my tribe in Africa and maybe with the Aboriginal people in
Australia as well.

Jerry then asks me about the Aboriginal people; how they lived in the past,
their religion and current economic conditions. I tell him that I know
little about the Aboriginal people of Australia - except that they have bad
living conditions. I also know that at some meetings, Australians
acknowledge the Aboriginal owners of the land or they invite an Aboriginal
person to welcome people to country. That is all I know.

Jerry says every afternoon he comes to sit on this bench. ''Once I had a
job, a nice family and a home. Then I lost it all when I got ill.
Depression.'' He joined several other homeless river dwellers on the banks
of the San Diego River two years ago. He sleeps wherever he parks his
trolley. When his health gets better, he says, he will find a job and maybe
one day, if President Barack Obama does ''what's right for the homeless'',
he will find a home.

A man walks past shaking his head from side to side. His T-shirt proclaims:
''I have been to the battlefront.'' Jerry tells me this is Dwayne. ''Nice
fellow,'' he says. He never fought any war. ''Not in Iraq or Afghanistan.''
Another man with a bruise on his head comes along, laughing to himself, and
sits next to us. I think it is time to leave and go to the bookshop across
the river. Jerry says it was such a pleasure to meet me and that he is
thinking of going to the bookshop himself later. ''If you are still there,
we might catch up again,'' he says. Jerry will have to ask one of his
tribesmen to care for the trolley while he is away.

I walk back and cross the San Diego River bridge. The next day I will be at
Los Angeles International Airport boarding the plane back to Australia, the
country that has given me most of my Western civilisation. And a home.

I should go down a river sometime soon, see a reflection of myself in the
water and wash my face. And apologise for staying for so long without
knowing and acknowledging the original owners of this land. Perhaps, their
spirits will allow me to call Australia home.

Dr Sekai Nzenza is an author and international development consultant. Her
last novel Songs to an African Sunset was published by Lonely Planet.

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