Zimbabwe this Week.
It’s Easter Sunday – resurrection day for Christians all over the world. I am a Christian by conversion and conviction and still clearly remember the night when I asked God, through Christ, to do something about my life. He did and it changed everything and that was 43 years ago. It is still new every morning.
Last Sunday, my wife and I went along to the last concert in a 4-day festival of music that is held annually in Bulawayo. It was a program with the Bulawayo Philharmonic Orchestra and included as soloists Nokuthula Ngwenyama (Viola), Leslie Howard (Piano) and members of the Odeion String Quartet from the Free State in South Africa. We heard two pieces by Mozart and one by Beethoven. It was a special event and the music was just great.
The lasting impressions however were not musical. Nokuthula (this means peace in Ndebele) was a beautiful, young American whose natural father had been a Ndebele man from Bulawayo. Raised in an American home with adoptive parents, she has become one of the world’s top viola players. Three years ago, after a long search, she found her Ndebele family in the form of her grandmother, an old Ndebele women who knows no English and must have been astonished by this sophisticated young lady of the world "out there". The organizers of the festival brought Nokuthula’s grandmother to the concert and at interval she came out and played a solo for her in the foyer. It was a special moment.
Then the sight of Nokuthula playing Mozart with Abrie de Wet on the violin. This big, bearded Afrikaner from the University of the Orange Free State next to the slight Nokuthula. The image of a new Africa where old enemies play music together and share a common heritage. The young sophisticated Afro-American meeting her grandmother who must seemed like someone from a distant, ancient past. The young, studying divinity at Harvard, the old, never having attended school. That is what makes living in Africa so special.
Its important to remember that these things are happening here – when you hear of the killings, the human rights abuses, the disregard for the rule of law and the violence, do not forget, we are continuing to hold things together as best we can. Musical interludes are important. I remember when the civil war here was at it’s height I instructed the staff at the Dairy Marketing Board that they were to "rattle the milk bottles" outside every home in the country every day. It was a sign that life goes on – despite the abnormality of being at war. One-night Zanla forces attacked the men protecting the Birchenough Bridge over the river Save. After hours of explosions and small arms fire, dawn finally came, and down the road came the Dairiboard ice cream vendor, rattling his bell. For the men in the trenches it was a reminder that life does go on, even when all around them there seems to be chaos.
If we determine that we will not be defeated by events, that we will not be deterred by the bad news, that we, in our own way will do something special every day, then you can be sure we will get through this and be able to look back and say it was worthwhile. Thank you Michael Bullivant, Debbie Barron and Derek Hudson for the music – and for Nokuthula’s grandmother.
Back in the trenches, it seems as if Pretoria is at last serious about doing something here to get things back to normal. The planned meeting with Mugabe has not taken place and this says two things – the proposals that spin doctor Makoni tried to put together after the meeting with counterparts in Pretoria three weeks ago have not been acceptable. It also means that efforts are continuing to try and put a package together which will allow the summit to take place and for some form of agreement to emerge. That is how these things are done.
Morgan has been out and about. He is in his home village this weekend but prior to that he held very successful rallies in a number of key rural constituencies. He is going to concentrate on this program for April and May before again going out to beat the drum externally. Not one word of any of these meetings was carried by any of the State media; it’s a disgrace. I was waiting in a long line of vehicles for diesel on Thursday when I spotted a ZBC vehicle also in the line. I approached him and berated him for the hogwash they serve us for news every day and for the failure to cover opposition events. His response was interesting – he said why was I concerned "nobody listens to us anyway". He also said that behind closed doors they had given the media mogul, Moyo a black eye or two in recent meetings. He also said it was terrible being an employee of ZBC because wherever he went people attacked him and the corporation for what they were not doing.
On the land front there is no relief in sight for the farmers. It now looks as if the winter wheat and barley crop will be smaller than last year and that this will mean even greater imports next year. We are quite capable of growing sufficient of both crops to meet our needs at costs significantly lower than the import parity, so this is another disaster caused by the selfish pursuit of power by Mugabe and his henchmen. The businessmen who are trying to put a compromise together in the belief that Mugabe will hold onto power whatever happens and therefore we must do a "deal" are simply not getting anywhere. They are not alone, neither is the rest of the world and Mbeki. It remains our view that Mugabe believes that the land issue is central to his strategy for survival and that there can be no compromise on the issue. Take that away from him and Zanu and they have nothing left except brute force.
During this past week there has been a lot of evidence that the government is continuing to try and foster violence in the cities. Despite the rhetoric, the Police were back into the Townships this past week knocking down vendors stalls and the shacks in which families have to live because of the shortage of housing (we have 2 million homeless people in the cities). The targets are the poorest and most over crowded areas in the hope that the desperate economic conditions in these areas, coupled to their past record for being flash points of public outrage, will again prove true and the government will get want they want – a State of Emergency coupled with a banning order against the MDC and its leadership.
What we want is quite simple – we want stability in the run up to the next election and an opportunity for each adult Zimbabwean to vote in secret for the presidential candidate of his or her choice. We are not demanding a change in the constitution – we will go to the polls under this constitution if that is what it takes, even though this constitution was the creation of this government and is deeply flawed. We want this because that is what we need and what Africa needs to confirm its new commitment to democracy and good governance. We do not what to overthrow Mugabe by force or through extra legal means, even though that would create great television. Just give us the chance to vote, freely and in secret, after all, that is what the founders of this nation, Nkomo, Sithole and hundreds of others fought for all their lives. It’s the one thing Mugabe fears most.
15th April 2001.
Please note that this note is personal and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Movement for Democratic Change.
From Standard Bank Research (SA), 12 April
SA stiffens its policy on Zimbabwe
South Africa, growing increasingly exasperated at President Robert Mugabe's high-handed actions, is beginning to stiffen the soft "constructive engagement" line it has been taking on Zimbabwe. But the Mbeki Administration still wants to conduct its diplomacy quietly and avoid any public denunciation of Mugabe. The new turn of events began last month with a series of Cabinet workshops to reassess South Africa's policy towards Zimbabwe, culminating in a decision to become more pro-active. This was prompted by intelligence reports that Zimbabwe, which is almost clean out of foreign exchange and liquid fuels, could be facing a food crisis within the next two months as maize supplies run out, raising the prospect of thousands of refugees pouring across its borders. The Cabinet is also worried that Mugabe, who is reluctant to pull out of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where his agents have just concluded big cobalt and copper mining deals and where many of his senior-ranking army officers are reaping financial benefits from the resource-rich country, could stymie current efforts to negotiate a peace settlement there.
A blunt proposal
The upshot was a meeting in Pretoria three weeks ago between four members of Mugabe's Cabinet – Finance Minister Simba Makoni, Minerals and Energy Minister Sydney Sekeramayi, Land Minister Joseph Made and Trade and Industry Minister Nkosana Moyo – and their South African counterparts, led by Finance Minister Trevor Manuel. The South Africans put a blunt proposal to the Zimbabweans. South Africa would keep Zimbabwe supplied with fuel and electricity and would help mobilise financial aid from the European Union and other world bodies, provided Zimbabwe reverted to a 1998 agreement to carry out its land redistribution programme on a legal basis with fair compensation – and provided it undertook to conduct next year's presidential election on a free and fair basis.
But no sooner has the proposal been made than Mugabe has upped the ante once again, intensifying his campaign to intimidate and immobilise the opposition and stifle the media ahead of next year's Presidential election. In the past few days Mugabe has:
The first indication of South Africa's growing concern at this increasing belligerence was the appearance of an observer from the High Commission in Harare in the Parliamentary gallery during last week's heated debates on the new Broadcasting Act and the Party Financing Act. This was followed by ANC secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe inviting the secretary-general of the MDC, Welcome Ncube, to a meeting in Pretoria on April 6. It was the second such meeting between the ANC and the Zimbabwean opposition party within a month. Both sides are keeping silent on what was discussed, but I understand Ncube met with several ANC figures and that the South Africans floated the idea of possibly trying to broker a government of national unity.
On the face of it the idea would seem to be a non-starter. While the opposition might be willing, it is hard to imagine the power-obsessed Mugabe giving it a moment's thought. However, the idea in itself is an indication of South Africa's shift in thinking. Another is the fact that Bulawayo has been without petrol and diesel for the past two weeks – an indication that Pretoria is now applying some physical pressure, since this southern Zimbabwean city gets all its liquid fuels from South Africa. But it remains difficult to see what effective policy South Africa might adopt. Diplomatic persuasion is clearly not working, but overt pressure might trigger an even more aggressive response and bring about a swifter economic collapse.
One possibility might be to encourage other like-minded SADC countries, such as Mozambique, Botswana and Zambia, to join South Africa in applying a combination of multilateral pressure and persuasion, while at the same time finding ways to help strengthen the opposition with more diplomatic recognition, organisational help and strategic advice. South African business, too, could seek ways to help the opposition build capacity through their counterparts in Zimbabwe. The shift in emphasis in Pretoria at least opens the way for more imaginative thinking.
From Pan African News Agency, 13 April
Minister Acknowledges Corruption
Harare - "Society has now become pervasively corrupt," Zimbabwe's Finance minister Simba Makoni lamented recently at a Transparency International seminar in Harare, adding that the basic challenge for the country was "to re-engineer society to live normally again." Unofficial estimates indicate a staggering 30 billion Zimbabwean dollars changes hands annually in shady deals in both the public and private sectors. Analysts say the country's present economic troubles, the worst since it gained independence from Britain in 1980, partly stem from deep-rooted top-level white-collar corruption.
Makoni, a former head of SADC, was last year forced to introduce a 10 per cent booty for whistle blowers on ill-gotten loot recovered, in a bid to stamp out the scourge. But the initiative, which was widely applauded, has yet to yield anything tangible, and seems to have been stymied in bureaucracy. "The battle against corruption will be the most difficult, if not impossible, for the government to win," said Andrew Taruvinga, a prominent University of Zimbabwe political analyst. He said Makoni's initiative, while well intended, also served to warn corrupt officials to cover their tracks much more carefully, making detection difficult.
Several high-profile corruption cases are due to come to trial shortly, the biggest involving a former government minister implicated in a multi-million dollar grain export scam. Former Agriculture Minister Kumbirayi Kangai is alleged to have profited to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars from a grain export deal to Malawi. He allegedly authorised the exports at a time Zimbabwe was short of grain, and was itself importing it from South Africa. A number of senior ministry officials are also implicated in the case, and their trial begins in the coming two months.
But by far the worst corruption case involves the alleged siphoning of more than 1 billion Zimbabwean dollars from a state-owned oil company by senior managers, leading to a national fuel crisis, which is still affecting the country. Top officials at the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe are alleged to have stolen fuel and sold it on the black market, and sourced the commodity at above market prices from suppliers who paid them hefty kickbacks. This resulted in the company, which enjoyed a monopoly in oil import, accumulating a staggering debt of 20 billion Zimbabwean dollars because of the unrealistically high price at which it procured the fuel.
In another case, the Sun City international hotel group abandoned multi-billion dollar plans to build hotels in Zimbabwe, and moved over to Zambia, after government officials allegedly persisted in demanding kickbacks to approve the project. The country, as a result, lost direct investment worth 5 billion Zimbabwean dollars, and estimated annual earnings from the project of more than 30 million US dollars.
"This economy is bleeding from corruption. Worse still, this is coming at a time when the fundamentals require shoring up," said Joseph Zulu, a bank economist. Zulu said this was particularly putting off a few foreign investors who are brave enough to want to invest in a country widely perceived internationally as unsafe due to political instability. Analysts say the situation had deteriorated to a level where no deal, especially in government, can be signed without money changing hands under the carpet. This, Taruvinga said, was partly to blame for production cost increases, and some of the general distortions in the economy. Alarmed at the fast pace at which graft was growing, Parliament is contemplating an anti-corruption agency, but few believe it would make headway, if Makoni's attractive offer of a 10 percent booty can come to nothing.
From News24 (SA), 13 April
SA bus rams Zim army truck
Harare - Seven people were killed and four seriously injured when a bus belonging to a South African regional passenger service rammed into a stationary Zimbabwean army truck outside Masvingo in southern Zimbabwe on Thursday morning, Harare police said on Friday. The Inter-Cape Mainliner coach bound for Johannesburg from Lusaka hit the broken-down armoured personnel carrier eight kilometres south of Masvingo just before dawn, Inspector Arthur Makanda said. Five of the dead were Zambians, one was South African and one a Zimbabwean. Sixteen passengers suffered minor injuries. The names of the dead are being withheld until their next of kin have been informed.
From The Daily News, 12 April
Student tells Minister off
Herbert Murerwa, the Minister of Higher Education and Technology, was yesterday dressed down in front of about 10 000 University of Zimbabwe (UZ) authorities and students at a memorial service for Batanai Hadzizi, the first year student who died in a room at Manfred Hodson hostel in the early hours of Monday after being allegedly brutally assaulted by the riot police.
Brilliant Mhlanga, the Students’ Executive Council (SEC) secretary-general, snatched the microphone from Reverend Charles Mugaviri, the acting dean of students, following Murerwa’s address to the students and got what he thought of the minister off his chest. "You are not the Minister of Higher Educations and Technology," said Mhlanga, to thunderous applause from the students. "I want to say it to you loud and clear: Doctor Murerwa, you are no longer the Minister of Higher Education." Shrugging off attempts by Dewa Mavhinga, the SEC president, to take the microphone from him, Mhlanga continued: "To me you stand as the Minister of National Parks because the UZ has been reduced to a national park where poachers can just kill elephants." He said all the students’ parents had participated in the liberation struggle and students, were, therefore, entitled to basic human rights such as the right to life. Initially not on the service’s programme, Murerwa had earlier been pressurised by the students to address them. They wanted him to apologise for Hadzizi’s death and to offer the government’s condolences. Even efforts by Mugaviri, who was a favourite with the students, failed to save Murerwa. "Please, for the sake of Hadzizi who was an intercessor, let us be calm," said Mugaviri, but the students insisted that Murerwa address them. The students, who demanded that Murerwa accept the government was to blame for Hadzizi’s death, repeatedly interrupted his speech with boos.
Earlier, students had prevented Elizabeth Karonga, the UZ’s director of information and public relations, from entering the UZ’s Great Hall where the service was held. She was only saved from further embarrassment by the arrival of Hadzizi’s body for the service. Even after that, however, Karonga did not attend the service. She left in the direction of the administration block. Students were angered by her claims that they had demonstrated over inadequate funding for the Zimbabwe University Students’ Association Games, scheduled for this week, and that no students were arrested in the demonstration. Thirty-four students were arrested and have appeared in court charged with public violence.
Students occasionally broke into song, accusing Augustine Chihuri, the Police Commissioner, of causing Hadzizi's death. The rest of the service was in a sombre mood with several students and Hadzizi's family members weeping. Hadzizi's post-mortem report gave the cause of death as "Asphyxia due to bilateral lung contusions and rib-cage soft tissue injuries caused by blunt force." Police have denied Hadzizi was fatally battered, saying he was trampled on by his fellow students in a stampede to flee from the hostels. The students were fleeing from teargas canisters fired into the hostels. Doctor Salvator Mapunda, a pathologist at Parirenyatwa Hospital, refused to comment further than saying that the full post-mortem report was expected to be released to Avondale Police Station after the Easter holidays and that doctors were still going through Hadzizi's medical records from the UZ Students' Clinic. Hadzizi had a history of asthma. He will be buried at his rural home at Chipara Village in Gutu today.
From The Zimbabwe Independent, 13 April
Farmers still waiting for alternative farms
Commercial farmers owning a single farm but listed under the controversial fast-track land reform are still waiting for government to provide them with an alternative farm, the Zimbabwe Independent has gathered. President Mugabe has said on several occasions, particularly when addressing foreign audiences, that the government will provide a replacement farm to any farmer who has had his only property acquired. A CFU official told the Independent that there were such farms which had been listed for acquisition but no replacements had been offered. "No farmer has been given alternative land for his single farm which has been listed," said the CFU official, who asked not to be named. "And there is no tangible demonstration to show commitment to replace those farms that have been incorrectly identified," he added.
According to the revised Land Acquisition Act passed in September last year, government could list farms abutting communal areas but had to immediately replace the listed farm with another one. However, since the land acquisition process began, landless people were hurriedly resettled with farmers left with nothing. "Any logic would tell one that the moment a single-owned farm has been listed, an alternative replacement should automatically be put in place. But that’s not the case," the official said. "Evidence of cases pending in the Administrative Courts indicates that the whole exercise was incorrectly done."
Farmers who spoke to the Independent said the major problem they were facing was that the land distribution exercise was wholly unfavourable to the plight of commercial farmers. "It’s clear in the Act that a single-owned farm, if listed, should be replaced, but no farmer was relocated despite having been promised this by government," said a tobacco farmer in a telephone interview from Macheke. "I have been a tobacco farmer for more than 15 years on my single farm and I enjoy farming. I don’t object to my farm being listed as long as I am transferred to another farm where I will continue growing my tobacco."
Critics blamed the government for using the land acquisition process for political gains while plunging the agro-based economy into turmoil. "Land reform has become a political instrument rather than a programme based on economic rationale, wealth redistribution and development," said the CFU in a working document prepared after an extraordinary meeting held at Art Farm on March 21. The CFU was worried that the continued disagreement on compensation would be a major stumbling block in crafting a way forward. Lands minister Joseph Made told the official media recently that the government had started compensating farmers, an issue which was categorically denied by commercial farmers whose farms have been listed.
From The Star (SA), 13 April
Zimbabwe soldiers back home from DRC
Harare - Zimbabwean Defence Minister Moven Mahachi formally welcomed 567 soldiers home on Thursday from the DRC, where they were deployed to fight alongside government forces. The returning contingent represents a small fraction of the estimated 12 000 Zimbabwean soldiers fighting the DRC along with troops from Angola and Namibia. But Mahachi praised their return as another sign of the progress in implementing a ceasefire that until this year was largely ignored. He praised the troops' mission "to assist that country's legitimate government to repel a foreign invasion by Rwanda and Uganda". Rwanda and Uganda back rebel movements who have fought the government for two-and-a-half years.
Mahachi insisted that Zimbabwe had no ulterior motives in deploying about one-third of its armed forces to the DRC. "There is nothing sinister or extraordinary about Zimbabwe's contribution to the DRC," Mahachi told the troops at a ceremony at the commando barracks in Harare. "Zimbabwe has no territorial ambitions," he said. "She only treasures peace and stability in southern Africa." The DRC war has generated a number of lucrative business interests for Zimbabwe, notably in energy, mining, transport and communications. Peace efforts in the DRC have stepped up since the January assassination of president Laurent Kabila by a bodyguard. His son Joseph Kabila succeeded him and immediately began pushing a ceasefire deal forward.
From SouthScan (UK), 13 April
Two Cheers for Small-Scale Withdrawal of Congo Troops
Harare - Zimbabwe has withdrawn the first contingent of 300 troops from the DR Congo under a disengagement plan to end the war there, but the government has ruled out 'total' withdrawal for the mean time. Most Zimbabweans remained unimpressed by the gesture, and many felt that only a speedy deployment of UN troops to the Congo would close a forgettable chapter that has all but destroyed their country. Analysts said the withdrawal was not likely to be felt by ordinary Zimbabweans and that the impact would have been greater if the troops were reduced by half. "At least there is a flicker of hope that there is a solution to this crisis and that ultimately, we will withdraw our forces in that country," Howard Sithole, chief economist with Kingdom Financial Holdings, commented.
Zimbabwe's defence minister, Moven Mahachi, said his government was reducing the number of its troops in the DRC but would not withdraw, adding that the situation had improved and peace prospects were high since Joseph Kabila took over the presidency. However, analysts say a major factor in the resistance to a withdrawal may concern the benefits the army officers are drawing from their occupation. The Ministry of Defence has a budgetary allocation of Z$13.2 billion this year, down from Z$15.3 billion for the previous year. Mahachi says that around 85 percent of the ministry's expenditure is in salaries and allowances. Junior officers like second lieutenants - over the past two years there has been an expansion in this category - earn globally as much as Z$1 million per month in allowances alone. Most cadet officers have had a tour of duty. The government says it spent Z$10 billion in the DRC war by August last year, a figure disputed by local economists who put the monthly figure at US$1.3 million per day. The expenditure, they said, precipitated the fall of Zimbabwe's economy, which now characterised by chronic shortages of fuel and foreign currency.
Mahachi refused to disclose the number of troops to be repatriated, saying it would compromise the security of the remaining troops. However, sources says about 2,000 Zimbabwean troops in the Equateur Province are expected to be sent home under the plan to end two-and-a-half years of fighting in the DRC which has sucked in six foreign armies. Mahachi confirmed that the government had reinforced its military presence in the Congo following the assassination of Laurent Kabila in January, adding to the 11,000 troops already there.
From The Zimbabwe Independent, 13 April
Tsvangirai addresses 10 000 in Tsholotsho
A massive turnout of 10 000 villagers yesterday defied threats from war veterans and ward councillors to attend a meeting addressed by Morgan Tsvangirai, the president of the opposition MDC, who was touring flood-hit Tsholotsho. The war veterans, who moved around the tented village at the Siphepha service centre, threatened the villagers with a "return to the Gukurahundi era" if they attended the meeting. However, the villagers at the makeshift camp defied the order and congregated at the hospital where they were addressed by Tsvangirai who donated five tonnes of maize.
An on-going land committee meeting organised by Zanu PF to distract the masses from the event did not deter the 10 000 crowd from attending Tsvangirai’s meeting. Tsvangirai, who was accompanied by MDC MPs, Welshman Ncube, Jealous Sansole, Fletcher Dulini, Mutoliki Sibanda and Esaph Mdlongwa, told the villagers that the MDC was not donating the maize to win votes but to address an impending calamity. "The food that Zanu PF is giving to the people is food coming from the taxpayer’s money despite claims from Zanu PF that it is from the party. But we as MDC are saying that the food is not for MDC supporters alone but for everyone affected by the disaster," Tsvangirai said.
He said the people should not be afraid of the war veterans. "I know most of you were afraid to attend this meeting because of the threats from the war veterans," Tsvangirai said. "You should not be afraid of the war veterans. They are our own people and we are grateful for the role they played in the liberation of this country." The MDC leader and his entourage later toured Siphepha hospital where most of the flood victims are temporarily housed. Tsvangirai also visited Mako village where a mass grave of 12 people massacred by the Fifth Brigade during the Gukurahundi era in the early 1980s is located. The site is one of 20 sites dotted around the district.From The Daily News, 12 April
FBI tight-lipped on Moyo
The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Washington yesterday said, as a matter of policy, they would not disclose how far they had gone with investigations into the alleged money laundering and impersonation allegations against Jonathan Moyo, the Minister of State for Information and Publicity in the President's Office. Rex Tomb, of the FBI public affairs section in Washington, yesterday refused to disclose how far the investigations had gone. He referred questions to another FBI official identifying herself only as Tracey, who would not reveal details of the progress either. She said: "Normally, the confirmation you get from the person who wrote the letter is enough."
The FBI was commenting on a petition by Mutahi Ngunyi, the executive director of a Nairobi based non-governmental research organisation, the Series on Alternative Research in East Africa (Sareat). Ngunyi has petitioned the FBI investigations to cover Moyo and his former colleagues at the Ford Foundation in Kenya and New York on allegations of money laundering and impersonation. Ngunyi and Sareat are two of the five defendants, including Moyo, in a civil suit in which the donor is seeking to recover about $6 million in a suspected fraud. Ngunyi told the FBI that the civil suit that was still pending in Nairobi did not adequately address the overwhelming evidence of impersonation and fraud involving Moyo and his colleagues at Ford Foundation in Nairobi and New York.
From Pan African News Agency, 12 April
Zimbabwe Endures Fuel Crisis in Silence
Harare - Increasingly, motorists in Zimbabwe are having to go through an agonising hunt each day to lay their hands on what has become their most precious commodity: fuel. For more than a year and half the country has suffered fuel shortages due to lack of foreign currency to import sufficient quantities to meet local demand. Zimbabwe's hard currency tills have dried up since bilateral and multilateral donors withdrew key balance of payment support in 1999, in protest at the government's human rights abuses, suppression of dissent and support for forcible seizure of idle farms from white farmers by landless peasants.
The undeclared international sanctions have wreaked much havoc on Zimbabwe's economy, forcing it to contract by 4.2 per cent last year, and early indications this year point to a much bigger downturn. The most graphic illustration of the country's economic decay are long queues at fuel pump stations as desperate motorists spend agonising hours and even days to secure the commodity. But the fuel shortage has opened up business opportunities, both orthodox and otherwise, for some.
Meikles Hotel has entered into an unusual alliance with a local subsidiary of France's Total oil giant to entice customers with an offer of fuel. "Meikles Hotel brings you a total experience. Stay for two nights in a double room, with breakfast, newspapers, free parking, tea and coffee and 40 litres of fuel," runs an advertisement in a Zimbabwean newspaper. For many, especially business executives, the lure of 40 litres of fuel the hotel offers in exchange for staying at Meikles is far more attractive than queuing for long hours at an empty pump station waiting for the commodity, with no guarantee it would ever come, let alone of securing it if it did. "I've taken up the hotel's offer once a week for more than two months now and I find it more convenient to queuing. Besides the offer is for a double room and I will be with my wife," a company chief executive, who declined to be named, averred.
But the shortage has produced less safe business opportunities for others: vendors have joined the fray and are now selling fuel in the backyards and streets. Several houses, used as fuel storage facilities by street vendors, have gone up in smoke after fires were lit accidentally, claiming lives. In one such incident, an entire family, including small children, was burnt to death in an inferno when fuel tanks stored at their home caught fire. But the incidents have failed to deter people from the lucrative fuel-vending business, in which influential government officials and businessmen are suspected to be also deeply involved through third parties.
The business is hugely rewarding: the vendors sell the commodity at anything up to double the official retail price, and the demand still far outstrips supply. "On average I gross between 60 000 and 90 000 Zimbabwean dollars a day and could make much more if I can manage to get supplies that can last a whole day," says Elliot Mapika, a street vendor in the capital Harare. "Some of my customers are on contract and place orders twice or three times a week. I've had to turn down new customers because I can't meet demand," Mapika adds. As expected, he would neither reveal his source of supplies, nor explain why he always had supplies. This gives credence to reports of deliberate hoarding and the involvement of influential people in the backyard fuel business.
Fuel procurement in Zimbabwe has always been shrouded in secrecy, which has provided good breeding ground for top-level corruption. Last year, the government fired almost the entire top management of a state-owned oil company, after discovering they had allegedly siphoned off more than 1 billion Zimbabwean dollars from the firm through shady deals. This forced the authorities to strip the company of the monopoly to import fuel into the country, a move that was expected to improve supplies. But the fuel import liberalisation seems to have created new and worse problems, according to industry sources. They allege that some of the oil companies licensed by the government to import fuel, in competition with the state-owned company, are exclusively channelling their supplies to the black market, instead of the official one, to earn more. "A large portion of the fuel imported into this country is finding itself on the black market, and this is mainly coming from the new importers," said an official of one of Zimbabwe's long established oil retail companies. "That means production costs are going up, and the government doesn't seem to have any control of the situation," he added. But for Mapika and other street vendors, such concerns are immaterial, and are made by people "who have not done their market research."
From Business Day, 12 April
Rautenbach dealt blow as State wins first round
Legal technicalities should not get in the way of the purpose of the Proceeds of Organised Crime Act, the judge in the Billy Rautenbach case said on Thursday. The National Directorate of Public Prosecutions' Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) is pressing the Johannesburg High Court for a final restraint order to seize property worth R60 million from Hyundai distributor and fugitive Zimbabwean businessman Billy Rautenbach. Judge Jonathan Heher on Thursday ruled in favour of the unit's use of a tactical move to get past the fact that fraud allegations Rautenbach faced could not be tried in a South African court because the crimes had allegedly been perpetrated in Botswana. The unit, using the same facts, changed the allegations to contraventions of the Customs and Excise Act, alleging that Rautenbach had defeated the purposes of the Southern African Customs Union. Heher also ruled Rautenbach should be given time to answer to the charge, and the case is likely to be postponed for six weeks.
After the ruling Rautenbach's senior counsel Mike Maritz argued that in the time between Thursday morning's ruling and the resumption of the case, the R60 million worth of assets frozen and confiscated by the unit in September last year, including a wine farm in Paarl and a Falcon 10 private jet, should be returned to Rautenbach. Argument on this aspect continued after lunch. Rautenbach, the former head of the Wheels of Africa group, left SA in 1999, after a raid on his business and home. The Investigative Directorate: Serious Economic Offences and the South African Revenue Services seized three truckloads of Rautenbach's papers and computer data during the raid. Rautenbach has said he is the victim of a vendetta because he is a friend of former Zairian president Mobutu Sese Seko. Mobutu fled Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo embroiled in a civil war) amid escalating violence in 1998. He died in Europe. Rautenbach has interests in the DRC mining house Gecamines.
From The Mail & Guardian (SA), 13 April
DRC town struggles under siege
Nyunzu's 15 000 people, cut-off from the world by a blockade imposed by DRC government forces, lives from hand to mouth
The rusting train wagon was a welcome sight when it arrived late last week in this besieged town in southwest DRC. Pushed by a score of men along rails overrun with weeds, it was stuffed with cassavas, a local staple of which Nyunzu's 15 000 inhabitants have been largely deprived since December on account of a blockade imposed by forces loyal to the government in Kinshasa. The wagon was escorted by troops from Rwanda, which backs the rebel group whose front line lies some 200km to the west of the town. "Cut off from the world," except for the occasional rail deliveries that "manage to break through enemy lines with Kalashnikov fire," summed up the situation, said Dieudonne Moussera Kalunga, a local administration official.
Early in the morning of December 20, four battalions of pro-Kinshasa forces, made up mainly of Rwandan fighters from the Interahamwe – the Hutu extremist group that carried out the 1994 genocide – attacked Nyunzu. Fighting raged for almost a fortnight as the attacking forces reached the edges of Tchanga-Tchanga, "just a few hundred meters from the centre of town," recalled Moussera. During this period, mortar shells rained down on the town's old colonial villas and its mango tree-lined streets. "One hundred seventy-six bombs in 12 days," Moussera said. "Everybody hid in the houses. We had nothing to eat or drink. There was not an hour that passed without the sound of rifles."
Although the attack was repelled, the assailants managed to lay siege to Nyunzu, whose residents all gathered in central districts. Food shortages soon set in. "No sugar, no salt, no beer, hardly any cassava because nobody could go out to the fields. We really got to know about hunger," explained Nonda, a skinny man in his fifties. Oeople made do by cultivating any available earth within the town: between ruined public buildings, in private gardens, the grounds of a factory. Once an important centre of maize production, Nyunzu is now run down. The buildings on the main avenue appear abandoned or inhabited by displaced people. Many of those who venture out of the town to work the earth do not return: they are kidnapped or killed by the Interahamwe and their allies in the Mai Mai, another pro-Kinshasa militia.
The only ones with enough to eat are the Rwandan soldiers, who receive supplies from the occasional plane. Locals call their part of town Kigali, after the Rwandan capital. "When we arrived in February, the nutritional situation was serious," explained Achille Garavelli, an Italian doctor working with Nuova Frontiera-Alizei, the only foreign non-governmental organisation to have returned to Nyunzu. "The general malnutrition rate was more than 25%. This led to deaths and hundreds of skeletal children with swollen bellies," Garavelli said.
Only now, four months after the assault, is the situation easing. The road to Kabalo, 130km to the west, has been reopened. "But people are still afraid," Moussera said, explaining that only a few brave cyclists dared use the road. The Rwandans are expected soon to hook up with compatriots based in Kalemie, a town about 190km by road to the east, on the shore of Lake Tanganyika. "With improvements to the security situation, we are getting a better understanding of the humanitarian problem, not only in the town but around it as well," Garavelli said. "People in the bush are also hungry because they are often taken hostage. Such people are pouring into the hospital's nutritional centre," he said.
From The Daily News, 11 April
FBI asked to probe Moyo
The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Washington has been asked to investigate Jonathan Moyo, the Minister of State for Information and Publicity in the President’s Office. Their investigations would also cover Moyo’s former colleagues at Ford Foundation in Kenya and in the US on allegations of money laundering and impersonation. The call for the investigation is contained in a petition to the US authorities by Mutahi Ngunyi, the executive director of a Nairobi-based non-governmental research organisation, the Series on Alternative Research in East Africa(Sareat). Robert Wright, attached to the FBI regional offices in Pretoria, yesterday said he could only give details on the matter if he was granted permission by his superiors and clearance from the US embassy in Harare. Ngunyi initially wrote to the FBI in New York, but The Daily News has obtained a copy of a letter in which the Office of the Inspector-General of the Department of Justice in New York referred Ngunyi’s allegations of money laundering to the Criminal Investigation Department of the FBI in Washington. Ngunyi and Sareat are two of the five defendants, including Moyo, in a civil suit filed by the Ford Foundation in Kenya, in which the donor is seeking to recover about $6 million in a suspected fraud.
Yesterday, Moyo said he was not aware the FBI had taken up the matter. "I am only aware of the pending civil suit. I am not aware of what Mutahi is doing or not doing. I only know that he has been named as a defendant in the Ford case." But Ngunyi, in his letter to the FBI in New York, said though a civil suit on the matter was still pending in Nairobi, it did not adequately address the overwhelming evidence of impersonation and fraud involving Moyo and his colleagues at Ford Foundation in Nairobi and New York. Part of his letter reads: "The purpose of our writing is to request for an investigation into a money laundering case involving the Ford Foundation offices in Nairobi, Kenya, with the beneficiary being the Zimbabwe Minister of Information and Publicity, Jonathan Moyo."
Ngunyi says the Ford Foundation, for which Moyo worked, created his (Ngunyi's) organisation, Sareat. He said it was in the process of creating Sareat and providing funds for it to set up offices in East Africa that the Ford Foundation loaded extra funds to his organisation. He said an audit by PriceWaterhouse-Coopers last year revealed that officials at Ford in Kenya would forge letters and budgets purportedly coming from Sareat, but on disbursement of the funds, instructions would be given to them to transfer the extra funds to, among others, Moyo. Ngunyi says the audit noted that on one occasion, Sareat had asked for US$200 000 but was instead given US$287 000. "The extra US$87 000 was loaded by officials in New York and Sareat was instructed by Ford officials in Nairobi to transfer the moneys to a bank account in South Africa. These are the funds that later went to benefit the Zimbabwe politician," reads Ngunyi’s letter to the FBI.
He said he believes Ford officials in both Nairobi and New York were using his organisation as a conduit to siphon funds. Reference is made to a Ford Foundation inter-office memo, dated 17 December 1997, which Moyo wrote to Gower Rivzi, the then New-York based Deputy Director of the Civil Society Program. In the memo, Moyo makes the following proposal to Rivzi: "My suggestion is that we see if the Sareat grant has been processed, if not then you can see whether you can add to the grant’s existing budget lines the $88 000 . . . I believe it is still possible to modify the pending grant. However, and this is very important, all of this would have to be informal." The memo concludes: ". . . I have discussed all this with Nick (Nick Menezes, the then Ford acting representative in Eastern Africa) but he does not want to 'know’ anything - officially, that is."
Ngunyi said further correspondence between Moyo and Rivzi showed that within the New York offices, several officials had authorised the disbursements of the extra grants. Moyo yesterday refused to comment on the memo, saying all internal documents were with the Ford Foundation in Kenya. He later phoned to say the matter was sub judice and threatened to sue The Daily News if it reported on the investigation. He advised the newspaper to concentrate on the civil suit. Ngunyi’s letter to the FBI says in conclusion: "Our request, therefore, is that your good office institutes a criminal investigation on the forgery of Sareat grants application letters and budgets both in the Nairobi and New York offices of the Ford Foundation in order to load extra funds to be downloaded off-shore by the Ford accountant and the Zimbabwe politician."
From The Guardian (UK), 12 April
Lawyers beaten by Mugabe followers
Harare - Zimbabwe's spreading lawlessness was again highlighted by news yesterday of a brutal attack by police and other supporters of President Robert Mugabe's ruling party on the chairman of a prominent lawyers' group. Tawanda Hondora's jaw was broken and he was left badly bruised. The three-hour assault on the chairman of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights took place in the Sadza area, about 50 miles south of Harare.
Violence by Mr Mugabe's supporters, including police, has been reported across the country as the ruling party, the Zanu-PF, tries to stamp out support for the opposition MDC before presidential elections next year. Mr Hondora went to Sadza at the weekend with two other lawyers to investigate reports that police were assaulting people scheduled to testify in a court case challenging the victory in last year's parliamentary election of a Zanu-PF candidate, the war veterans' leader Chenjerai Hunzvi. They saw about 30 people, most wearing Zanu-PF T shirts, beating Nelson Chivanga, one of the witnesses in the case, a statement issued by the lawyers' group said. Uniformed police officers stood by and watched, it said.
The assailants then turned on the three lawyers, calling them "foreigners", although they are black Zimbabweans. Mr Hondora was kicked, slapped, punched, whipped and hit behind the ear with a stone. He was forced to chant Zanu-PF slogans while marching to the police station, where he and Mr Chivanga were further tortured by police, the statement said. At the station, the police told them that the MDC was just a front for white people. The lawyers' group said yesterday it was "outraged by the continued brutality, lack of respect for fundamental human rights and political partisanship of the Zimbabwe Republic Police". "We condemn police involvement with the vigilante groups of Zanu-PF supporters who are creating a reign of terror in Zimbabwe."
From News24 (SA), 12 April
UZ students mourn colleague
Harare - About 3000 students from the University of Zimbabwe on Wednesday held a sombre memorial service, interrupted by outbursts of anger against President Robert Mugabe's regime, for a fellow student allegedly beaten to death by heavily-armed police this week. The Great Hall of the university was filled to capacity with students singing hymns as the body of Batanai Hadzizi, 21, a first-year-student, was carried in.
Tension rose sharply after Higher Education Minister Herbert Murerwa agreed to students' demands to address them but was angrily jeered when he refused to apologise, and instead expressed his "regret". The students also stood up and chanted "ZBC out" when a camera crew from the state-controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation walked into the hall. There were fears that the service would ignite anti-government rage on the campus after a weekend of police violence there, but the service continued without incident. "It was very tense, but the students handled it very maturely," said Dr Charles Mugariri, the dean of students. "It's a very terrible time for all of us."
Hadzizi died after scores of riot police raided the campus on Sunday midnight - for the second day in a row – storming the hostels, firing teargas into rooms and whipping students with batons. Student representatives and university officials have reacted angrily to police claims that Hadzizi died from being trampled in a stampede at his residence. Hostel colleagues claim they witnessed the assault, and relatives say they saw weals all over Hadzizi's body, left apparently by the long, heavy rubber batons used by the riot squad. The memorial service started an hour late, delayed until the end of a post mortem examination carried out on the body. The results are expected to confirm whether Hadzizi died of assault or, as authorities claim, was crushed by panicking students fleeing the police in the narrow halls of the hostels. "We can only hope this will bring the culprits to book," said Mugariri.
The raids were in answer to scattered outbreaks of violence at the weekend when demonstrations against low state payments to students turned unruly. Unrest continued on Monday with the announcement of Hadzizi's death, when again police used teargas and batons to disperse several hundred demonstrators marching towards town. Thirty-four students arrested during the weekend were charged with public violence and released from prison yesterday. Police also arrested Innocent Mupara, president of the Students Representative Council, on allegations of incitement to violence, but released him after questioning. A total of 28 students were treated for injuries, university authorities said.
From The Financial Gazette, 12 April
SA in bid to extradite Zim tycoon
South African authorities this week said they had started proceedings to extradite Zimbabwean billionaire Billy Rautenbach to stand trial in Johannesburg on customs fraud, theft and corruption involving R100 million ($800 million), among several charges. But media reports in South Africa say Pretoria will have a rough time trying to extradite Rautenbach, the former head of Hyundai and Volvo distribution and Wheels of Africa businesses in South Africa, because of his top political connections in Zimbabwe.
Rautenbach, whose South Africa-based companies have been liquidated since Pretoria raided the tycoon’s homes and properties last November, has been linked to President Robert Mugabe and the Speaker of Parliament, Emmerson Mnangagwa. Moves to have Rautenbach extradited were begun after the arrest of his former associate, John Dewar, at his home in Fourways in Johannesburg last Wednesday. Dewar has since been granted R20 000 bail by the Germiston Magistrates Court in Johannesburg. The spokesman for South Africa’s investigating directorate of serious economic offences department, Sipho Ngwema, told the South African media his department had this week started the paperwork to extradite Rautenbach. Dewar is the fifth person arrested on charges connected with Rautenbach. Ngwema said his department was now turning its attention on Rautenbach and would approach Zimbabwe once it had finalised the paperwork involved.
Both South Africa and Zimbabwe are bound by the Commonwealth Agreement for the Rendition of Fugitive Offenders. Dewar will stand trial with two co-accused, John Anderson and Konstant Claasen, who are also on R20 000 bail each. The three are accused of conspiring with Rautenbach to fraudulently reduce the tax liability of Wheels Parts Distributors, a subsidiary of Wheels of Africa, by R11 million. They are alleged to have "written off" a R30 million debt to Wheels Parts Distributors by its sister company, Swedish Truck Distributors, in August 1999. Wheels Parts Distributors supplied Swedish Truck Distributors with Hyundai and Volvo parts. They are also alleged to have issued false credit notes for R30 million to reduce the company’s tax liability and to reduce Swedish Truck Distributors’ book debt from R57 million to R27 million. The charge sheet alleges that the write-off was intended to increase the net asset value of Swedish Truck Distributors, which Rautenbach was trying to sell to AB Volvo in Sweden. The sale did not materialise and the company has been liquidated alongside other Rautenbach-owned companies in South Africa. The liquidations were granted after the investigating directorate raided Rautenbach’s home and premises in November 1999.
Last month the head of customs in South Africa’s Mpumalanga and Northern Province, Dolfe Harmse, became the first person to be convicted in connection with Rautenbach’s cases. He was convicted in the Pietersburg regional court of corruption for receiving two Hyundai vehicles from Rautenbach in exchange for a favour which in effect saved Rautenbach R300 000. He was sentenced to six years in jail and refused leave to appeal. Jean Charles-Pirlet, a former senior vice president in charge of the corporate division at ABN Amro Bank, was also arrested on charges of fraud and corruption relating to Rautenbach in November last year. He has since resigned from the bank and is on R50 000 bail. South Africa’s Asset Forfeiture Unit last year seized Rautenbach’s property worth R60 million. Among the assets seized were a helicopter, a house and six flats in Sandton, a Cape wine farm and another farm in KwaZulu Natal. The unit was this week expected to apply for a final restraint order allowing it to keep the property. The Johannesburg High Court ruled last month that a provisional order allowing the unit to keep the property would stand. Rautenbach had opposed the order on the grounds that it had been issued in his absence. He asked the court to overturn it as "it was defective" but the court refused.
South Africa’s Sunday Independent newspaper said this week there was no hope of the South African courts ever reaching the fugitive Rautenbach because he is "nestling in (President) Mugabe’s bosom". The newspaper referred to a statement last year in which Mnangagwa declared that he was close to Rautenbach and that he had helped the transport mogul in his business dealings in the Congo. The newspaper said Rautenbach was close to Mugabe and these political connections would make it difficult to have him extradited to South Africa. Rautenbach still operates his Wheels of Africa business in Harare, although he has been keeping a low profile in Zimbabwe since his ordeals began in South Africa and the Congo, where he was fired as the head of mining parastatal Gecamines by the late president Laurent Kabila. He also owns a farm in Karoi. Persistent efforts to interview Rautenbach have proved fruitless. He has not answered questions submitted to him in writing by this newspaper two weeks ago.
From IRIN (UN), 11 April
Botswana Worried About Zimbabwe State of Emergency Threat
Nairobi - Reports that the Zimbabwean government may declare a state of emergency have been met with concern by authorities in Botswana. Minister of Commerce and Industry Tebelelo Seretse was quoted as saying in reports on Wednesday that "it indeed would not augur well and it would be unfortunate" if the state of emergency was declared in Zimbabwe. Seretse said a state of emergency would affect tourism not only in Botswana but the region as a whole. "We would have to look at the situation and see how we can protect our people who deal with Zimbabwe. We also have Batswana children who go to school in Zimbabwe," she said. Last Friday, two Zimbabwean newspapers carried stories that the government was considering a state of emergency.
From The Financial Gazette, 12 April
CIO boss faces the axe
Vice President Simon Muzenda, the brains behind the ruling ZANU PF’s succession plan and key appointments in the government, is masterminding the removal of CIO director-general Elisha Muzonzini, it was established this week. Muzonzini’s removal from the dreaded spy agency, used by the government to neutralise political opponents, was apparently due to take effect at the end of February. But it now appears to have been shelved after a government committee overseeing defence and security expressed concern at having a fresh purge of the CIO, reshuffled only a year ago, months before next year’s crucial presidential election, official sources said this week. The rank and leadership of the intelligence agency were purged last September, when several directors were re-assigned while others were seconded to Zimbabwe’s foreign missions. The purge was carried out after the CIO was accused of failing to correctly monitor and inform the government about the activities of the opposition MDC, which nearly defeated ZANU PF in the landmark general elections last June.
"Vice President Muzenda is behind the scheme to get Muzonzini out," a senior government source privy to the plan told the Financial Gazette. "It is all being done in the scheme of succession because the government wants to put a figure in the CIO who works in line with the succession. Unfortunately the CIO boss does not come from the right camp so they want him out," the source said, speaking on condition of not being named for fear of possible victimisation. Muzenda apparently wants Muzonzini to be replaced by Happyton Bonyongwe, the present CIO deputy director-general. Efforts to get comment from Muzenda’s office this week on the reported goings-on at the CIO proved fruitless. His spokesman, H Ndanga, could also not be reached.
The sources said the succession plan aimed to promote officers who are supportive of the elevation in the government of Parliamentary Speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa to succeed President Robert Mugabe when he retires. Muzenda and Mugabe agree on Mnangagwa as the suitable candidate to eventually take over the leadership of ZANU PF and of the country. Muzonzini, named CIO head in 1998 together with his deputy Bonyongwe, is believed to be linked to retired army general Solomon Mujuru’s camp, which is against Mnangagwa’s promotion. The sources said it was not clear, at least this week, if the plan to dismiss Muzonzini had been merely put on hold or completely aborted in the light of concerns from some senior security and defence officials.
Muzenda, who has become a trouble-shooter and a kingmaker in Mugabe’s government, was behind the appointment last year of key ministers in the new Cabinet, including Security Minister Nicholas Goche, who is a relative. Goche replaced Sydney Sekeramayi, now Mines and Energy Minister. Besides Goche, Muzenda pushed for the appointment of Cabinet ministers Samuel Mumbengegwi, Flora Buka, July Moyo, Border Gezi, Stan Mudenge and Shuvai Mahofa, as well as that of permanent secretaries Willard Chiwewe and Nicholas Kitikiti. He also campaigned for Mnangagwa’s appointment to head ZANU PF’s administration. Soon after the June parliamentary poll, senior politicians in ZANU PF and prominent businessmen made numerous visits to Muzenda’s homestead in Zvavahera in Gutu to lobby for appointment to Cabinet positions. Muzenda, who has business interests in the energy and transport sectors, successfully plotted the removal of Eddison Zvobgo from ZANU PF’s supreme Politburo organ and the government. The two men had been locked in a long-running power struggle for control of Zimbabwe’s most populous Masvingo province, their political power base and birth place.
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