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- may peace, truth and justice prevail.

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Sent: Friday, April 16, 2004 12:04 AM
Subject: ZIMBABWE: EC aid to help prevent "looming crisis"

ZIMBABWE: EC aid to help prevent ''looming crisis''

JOHANNESBURG, 15 April (IRIN) - Aid efforts in Zimbabwe this week received a
financial boost from the European Commission (EC) to the tune of ?15 million
(US $17.8 million).

The EC funds are expected to support emergency food aid, bolster
agricultural recovery and improve delivery of social services. The money
will also go towards providing assistance to internally displaced people and
strengthen humanitarian coordination efforts.

"Over the past few years we have witnessed a spectacular decline of living
conditions for millions of Zimbabweans. By working through professional and
independent partners, ECHO [the EC's humanitarian aid office] has been able
to ensure that EU humanitarian aid reaches vulnerable people in need. I urge
the Zimbabwean authorities to continue to allow unfettered access for
humanitarian organisations, so that the further development of this looming
crisis can be prevented," Poul Nielson, EC commissioner for development and
humanitarian said in a statement on Wednesday.

The country's weakening economy was seen as one of the key reasons for the
near-total collapse of water, sanitation and other services in Zimbabwe.
Inflation stood at over 500 percent at the beginning of the year, while over
60 percent of the labour force was out of work. An estimated five million
Zimbabweans are dependent on food aid.

The EC highlighted the soaring levels of HIV infections, noting that during
2003 an average of 2,600 adults and 690 children per week died of
AIDS-related illnesses. "Forgotten" diseases like cholera and dysentery had
also started showing epidemic dimensions.

Assistance would focus on key sectors most affected by declining economic
conditions, namely food security and health, water and sanitation, the EC
said. The funds would also support food distribution to children in schools,
and supplementary and therapeutic feeding for people suffering from

Local farmers will be given seeds, tools and fertilisers to enable them to
continue producing food, while assistance will be provided to help repair
small crop irrigation systems, with vaccinations and other veterinary care
for livestock, the EC said.

Water and sanitation systems in rural communities are to be rehabilitated,
and new water points  constructed.

The aid is also expected to assist ex-commercial farm workers. According to
the EC, farm acquisitions under the government's land reform programme
deprived about 15 percent of the population, who were previously employed on
commercial farms, of a regular income.

"These former farm workers have no access to communal land, and many have
left their region in search of work. These internally displaced people will
be specifically targeted through food aid and access to health services,
water and sanitation sectors," said the EC.

An estimated 1 million children, 500,000 farming households (about 2.5
million people), and 150,000 orphans are expected to benefit from the EC

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Zim Independent

Stockbroking firms under threat
Dumisani Muleya
STOCKBROKING firms are complaining about "exorbitant" stamp duty and bank
charges levied on the deals they conduct on the stock market.

The firms, which buy and sell shares on behalf of clients, say the charges
have remained high while business was plunging due to the equities market's
bearish performance.

A veteran stockbroker yesterday warned that if the situation remains
unchecked a number of companies could close down.

"The situation is really bad because government is deducting stamp duty
which is effectively 4% while banks are effectively charging us 1%," the
stockbroker said.

"The problem is that stamp duty has to be paid the following day after the
transaction and this forces us to borrow money for a couple of days to pay
that. In the process we have to pay huge sums in interest accrued on the
principal sum."

Another stockbroker said government was "killing the goose that lays the
golden egg" through "extortionate taxes".

"The stamp duty is really disproportionate compared with the amount of
business we do these days," the broker said. "Charges have to take into
account the turnover and amount of business. Right now we have business
going down while charges remain constant and the result is dramatically
diminishing returns for us."

A source said one stockbroker on Wednesday bought 800 000 Meikles shares for
a client at $2 000 each in a $1,6 billion deal. The buyer paid $1,6 billion
and the seller $1,5 billion.

The stamp duty paid in total was $64 million, while the brokerage fee was
$16 million. The broker had to borrow the $64 million which had to be paid
to government yesterday and the interest over six days would be $3,8
million. The total charges, which include stamp duty, bank charges, and
interest repayments, would wipe out the brokerage fees, the broker said.

Zimbabwe Stock Exchange chief executive Emmanuel Munyuki said broking firms
were being hurt by the charges levied on them.

"It's true their operations are being affected but we are working with the
Ministry of Finance to resolve the issue," Munyuki said. "It has taken too
long but we hope it will be addressed soon."

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Zim Independent

Govt wildlife record slammed
Munyaradzi Wasosa
GOVERNMENT has been criticised for its laissez faire environmental policy
which has resulted in widespread poaching and deforestation on
newly-resettled farms, the Zimbabwe Independent established this week.

The Zimbabwe Conservation and Development Foundation (ZCDF), a newly-formed
non-governmental organisation, said widespread poaching and deforestation on
newly-acquired farms threatened the environment.

In an interview with the Independent, ZCDF founder member Dr John Fulton
said government's wildlife policy was not conserving flora or fauna.

The wildlife-based land reform programme is a government document that seeks
to declare all conservancies and ranches state land administered by the
Department of National Parks.

"We are deeply concerned with the way the environment has been handled in
the past few years," Fulton said. "As a new organisation, our first step is
to send environmental recovery proposals to the government with like-minded
NGOs and individuals."

He said the policy document was not treated with the respect it deserved,
yet it offered "an opportunity to negotiate with the government over the
future of conservancies and other wildlife-producing areas".

The ZCDF said policy laxity during the land reform had led to an erosion of
the gains of the Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous
Resources (Campfire) in which rural communities benefited from professional

The foundation said it was willing to engage the government in formulating
serious environmental management structures.

The ZCDF said rampant deforestation and poaching by newly resettled people
threatened the existence of conservancies and other wildlife.

"While hunting is traditional, poaching has destroyed wildlife, and
government must show its willingness in effectively eradicating poaching,"
the NGO said.

It said rural communities would be hard hit.

"The foundation is very concerned about the resulting pressure on the
environment that has impacted on the rural communities who largely depend on
wildlife and natural resources," it said.
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Zim Independent

Fresh moves against Mudzuri
Augustine Mukaro
GOVERNMENT is making frantic efforts to force suspended Harare executive
mayor Elias Mudzuri to resign his post so that fresh polls can be held at
the same time as the general election in March next year, the Zimbabwe
Independent heard this week.

Highly placed sources in government said Local Government deputy minister
Fortune Charumbira had been tasked to convince Mudzuri that resigning would
be the best way forward.

"Cabinet has already resolved that Mudzuri must be fired and he could be
served with the dismissal letter anytime," sources said.

"The only stumbling blocks are the court cases that are still pending. If he
resigns the cases before the courts will automatically fall away and
government would have found the best way to sideline him without justifying
its actions in court."

The sources said Charumbira made the overtures two weeks ago when he invited
Mudzuri to his office. Mudzuri was reportedly spotted entering Charumbira's
office and leaving 30 minutes later.

Attempts to lure Mudzuri to quit come at a time when three Harare
councillors have resigned from the opposition MDC. The MDC alleges the
councillors were paid millions of dollars by Zanu PF as bribes for them to
resign from the opposition.

Contacted for comment Mudzuri said he could not discuss his meeting with

"The meeting was a private one so I can't give you details," Mudzuri said.

"However, to set the record straight, I am not considering resigning until
the people who elected me ask me to do so. Above all I am prepared for a
public hearing anytime as long as government avails the necessary documents
for my defence."

Mudzuri conceded that council service delivery has reached record low levels
but blamed Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo for interference in the
running of the city.

"Chombo is stopping councillors from holding meetings at which they should
make decisions on how service delivery could be improved," he said.

Charumbira could not be reached for comment.
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Zim Independent

Medical aid society owes Zimpapers $20 million
Staff Writer
ROYAL Medical Aid Society (RMAS) is having difficulty servicing its
six-month old $20 million debt with the state-controlled Zimpapers, it
emerged this week.

Zimpapers is planning to engage the services of debt collectors in a bid to
recover the money, the Zimbabwe Independent has been informed.

Sources close to Zimpapers said efforts to negotiate with the medical aid
society were not working.

The debt stems in part from the RMAS's soccer adverts for the Zimbabwe
Warriors' participation in the Africa cup of nations tournament held in
Tunisia in January and for the 2003 footballer of the year competition. The
Sunday Mail carried the adverts from early October to December last year.

A source said Zimpapers was considering hiring debt collectors to recover
their money.

Documents in the Independent's possession show that RMAS owes Zimpapers $20
587 582. The medical aid society's last payment to the newspaper group was
$1 834 148 in mid-October last year.

A Zimpapers source said the group stopped carrying adverts for the medical
aid society in December when it failed to pay.

"We stopped advertising for RMAS in December when they defaulted on their
payments, some of which have been outstanding since October last year," the
source said.

RMAS chief executive Innocent Gumbura refused to discuss the debt with the

"Are you sure you can ask me that?" he retorted. "I am sorry I cannot talk
to you about what you are asking."

The Independent spoke to the newspaper group's finance manager, Munyaradzi
Ndoro, who confirmed the RMAS debt, but refused to give details.

"We could have given you the information, but we signed a contract of
confidentiality with them (RMAS), so our hands are tied," he said.
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Zim Independent

Editor's Memo

Besieged guardians

I WAS grateful to have Beatrice Mtetwa's views on the erosion of Zimbabwe's
legal system which we published last week. Beatrice is a prominent local
attorney who last year won the Human Rights Lawyer of the Year award
presented by the Law Society of England and Wales together with other legal

She was also last year the victim of a police assault about which she has
filed a complaint. She had been seeking their assistance at the time over a
vehicle hijacking attempt.

In her article last week Beatrice drew attention to changes in court
procedures and the concerns people have over obtaining a fair trial in the
totalitarian state that has been so assiduously established in Zimbabwe
since the government's electoral setbacks in 2000. She pointed out that
threats against the judiciary in the state media were likely to have -
indeed are designed to have - a chilling effect on judicial practice. Judges
and magistrates may be reluctant to find against the state if they were
likely to be abused in the government press, she noted.

Somebody who has been following threats made against the judiciary in this
country is Dato Param Cumaraswamy, until recently United Nations Special
Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and the Judiciary. Giving the
opening address at the Second World Bar Conference of the Forum for
Barristers and Advocates held in Cape Town this week, he referred to human
rights abuses currently marring Zimbabwe's international standing.

"Today the continued deterioration of the rule of law and human rights
protection in Zimbabwe are matters of grave concern," he said. "Not just the
well-being of its own citizens, but the developments there must be seen as a
threat to the rule of law for all Africa."

Cumaraswamy said when the executive organ of a state refused to comply or
defied orders of the judicial organ there was no hope for the rule of law.

There are some 20 000 legal practitioners across the globe affiliated to the
forum. In addition to threats against judges, Cumaraswamy and his colleagues
have been concerned with assaults on lawyers representing clients. The case
of Gabriel Shumba who recently gave evidence to a US Congressional
sub-committee on his treatment at the hands of Zimbabwean law enforcement
agents has received widespread attention. So has the experience of Gugulethu
Moyo at the Glen View police station.

Also likely to be subjected to professional scrutiny is the case of three
MDC activists accused of kidnapping and murdering war veterans leader Cain
Nkala. High Court judge Justice Sandra Mungwira ruled that state evidence
against the three, including warned-and-cautioned statements and video tape
indications, was inadmissible. The men said their confessions had been
obtained by torture and other forms of duress. The police said the three had
confessed to the murder without any undue influence. But Justice Mungwira
found the police evidence and accounts of their handling of the suspects
"fraught with conflict and inconsistencies".

She said the state witnesses conducted themselves in "a shameless fashion
and displayed utter contempt for the due administration of justice". The
police investigations diary, she said, could only be described as "an
appalling work of fiction".

The discovery of Nkala's remains in November 2001 led to an unprecedented
campaign of calumny and vilification against the MDC in the state media as
the ruling party tried to portray it as a violent terrorist organisation.

The Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe has described the episode as one of
the most shameful in Zimbabwe's media history.

"Every vestige of ethical journalistic practice was cast aside," MMPZ said,
"as the ruling party encouraged the state media to incite a frenzy of anger
and hatred against the MDC."

This resulted in Zanu PF supporters attacking MDC members and destroying
property in Bulawayo and Kadoma. It came just four months ahead of the
presidential poll.

Speaking at Nkala's funeral, President Mugabe was reported as saying: "Cde
Nkala's brutal murder was a bloody outcome of an orchestrated, much wider
and carefully planned terrorist plot by internal and external enemies with
plenty of funding from some commercial farmers and organisations.These
sponsor forces of destruction in the MDC."

Mugabe then named MDC personalities branding them Selous Scouts.

The question that now remains is who killed Nkala? Why does that remain,
together with the bombing of the Daily News offices, one of the great
unsolved crimes of recent times?

Quite clearly in the Nkala case there was a concerted effort to find MDC
activists guilty well before investigations had been completed. What remains
to be seen is how the police investigations diary came to contain what the
judge called "works of fiction". Presumably Police Commissioner Augustine
Chihuri, who was this week telling his Botswana counterparts that their laws
violate human rights, has launched an investigation into all the
circumstances surrounding police handling of the Nkala case including their
treatment of those detained.

We can't have a situation in which we lecture neighbouring countries on
human rights abuses while ignoring those on our own doorstep. The Southern
African Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation and local structures
of Interpol should be documenting all reports of abuse.

Meanwhile, we need lawyers like Beatrice Mtetwa and members of Zimbabwe
Lawyers for Human Rights to keep the country alert to threats to the
judicial process so the state doesn't proceed with impunity to erode those
few liberties we have left, of which the courts remain the besieged

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Zim Independent

Misrule and national decline go together

AS South Africans went to the polls this week 10 years after the demise of
apartheid, the contrast between political cultures on either side of the
Limpopo could not be more stark.

Zimbabwe "celebrates" its Independence on Sunday amidst record contractions
of the economy, growing unemployment, and deepening levels of poverty. It
has one of the fastest shrinking economies in the world and, according to
the Minister of Finance, the highest rate of inflation.

The International Monetary Fund at the conclusion of their recent visit said
real GDP had declined by 30% and inflation had doubled in each of the last
three years to reach 600% at the end of 2003.

This, the team said, had dire social consequences. Unemployment is rising,
poverty has doubled since 1995, school enrollment declined to 65% in 2003,
and HIV/Aids has gone largely unchecked.

As health and education were the two areas where government could boast of
significant achievements since 1980, the IMF's findings that Zimbabwe has
regressed in recent years are timely.

The facts speak for themselves. Zimbabweans are today worse off than they
were in the mid-1970s at the height of the liberation war. And the cause of
their plight is a regime which forbids dissent and punishes critics.

While South Africans were exercising their right to vote - and being
encouraged by their leaders to do so - our leaders have been assiduously
whittling down rights and discouraging people from casting their votes for
any party other than their own. South Africa's Independent Electoral
Commission has been ensuring voters have access to polling stations across
the country. SABC has been slammed by a wide cross-section of stakeholders
for allowing President Mbeki to use the state broadcaster to fire the
opening salvo of his election campaign two months ago. However, throughout
the campaign Mbeki has been careful to underline his party's achievements
instead of attacking the opposition. And SABC has opened its airwaves to a
variety of candidates.

While there have been inci-dents of violence in KwaZulu/Natal, this has been
largely a peaceful and orderly election.

Here, by contrast, in the last presidential poll the number of polling
stations was reduced in areas of opposition support such as Harare. The
Electoral Supervisory Commission is answerable to President Mugabe. ZBC is
nothing more than a crude propaganda instrument of the ruling party. And the
country's leaders use the most inciteful and abusive language when
decampaigning the opposition including the suggestion that it has no right
to function because of colonial links conveniently invented by its accusers.

It is a profoundly anti-democratic message backed up by brute force in many
instances. As a result Zimbabwe is a deeply fractured country where the
democratic majority are thwarted in expressing their views and where
powerful politicians communicate a message of intolerance and menace.

Whatever criticisms we may have had of President Mbeki in recent years, his
sense of a South African national identity and shared rights are in marked
contrast to the narrow exclusivist nationalism practised this side of the
Limpopo. Furthermore South Africa's courts have provided examples of
judicial activism in upholding rights and defending democracy at a time when
Zimbabwean jurists exhibiting even the smallest sign of independence are
subject to threats.

At Independence in 1980 Zimbabwe's government, equipped with a democratic
mandate, addressed colonial anomalies with vigour and enjoyed wide respect
on the international stage. Today the country is isolated and friendless.
With the exception of a handful of countries which are diminishing in number
every year, Zimbabwe's  rulers have sacrificed the goodwill they once
enjoyed by imposing a brutal tyranny upon their people and impoverishing
them in the process.

The claim that land reforms have incited Western hostility is only true in
so far as those "reforms" have been racist, violent, lawless and
catastrophic to agricultural production.

A country that was for over 20 years self-sufficient in food is today a
beggar state dependent upon the generosity of those it resentfully insults
every day.

Zimbabwe is on the 24th anniversary of its Independence more dependent on
others than it has ever been. It is a lesson in the consequences of
misgovernance. Misrule and national decline go hand in hand. That much will
be evident to everybody on Sunday. What use is sovereignty if it doesn't
fill stomachs or meet basic needs?
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Zim Independent

Eric Bloch Column

The real state of the nation

AS Zimbabwe completes its 24th year of Independence, and targets towards
the attainment of its first quarter-century, Zimbabweans will once again be
recipients of a state of the nation address, as occurs annually in close
proximity to Independence Day.

That address will undoubtedly acknowledge that the economy is in a
distressed state, and will ascribe that condition to malevolent acts of
Zimbabwe's enemies in general, and of Tony Blair, George Bush, John Howard
and Zimbabwe's minority white population (in an alleged unity of purpose to
destroy Zimbabwe, led by former commercial farmers and exploitationist
industrialists) in particular.

However, Zimbabweans will also be assured that transformation to a state of
Utopia is imminent, thanks to the deep-seated concern of the Zimbabwean
government for the wellbeing of Zimbabwe's people. That transformation will
be a direct result of the government's brilliantly executed programme of
land acquisition, redistribution and resettlement, and its constructive
measures to restore the economy as a whole to a state of good health.

It may be apposite, therefore, that by way of contrast there be a review of
the real state of the nation, distinct from the imaginary one. That state is
an extremely sorry one. It is one where the economy is on a continuing
decline, albeit that the pace of that decline has been marginally reduced by
some constructive new monetary policies initiated by the governor of the
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Dr Gideon Gono. As vigorously as he has sought to
address the appalling circumstances of the economy, he could not - and
cannot - reverse them. Although he is able to format monetary policies, he
has limited ability to effect fiscal policy reviews, for they be in the hand
of the President, the Cabinet and, in particular, the Ministry of Finance
and Economic Development. And he has no authority to achieve required
modification of politically-driven policies. As it is the impacts of
government's policies and its fiscal acts of omission and commission that
are the key contributants to the economic malaise, the governor's policies
can only have a minimal positive economic impact although he would dearly
wish to engineer an economic transformation.

Some of the specifics that evidence that the economy is in a state of almost
total collapse, resulting in the state of the nation being one which is
destitute and derelict, include:

The foundation of the economy has always been agriculture. No other economic
sector has yielded as great a contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP),
generated as much foreign exchange, or employed as many, as has the
agricultural sector. But that is something of the past. Today the tobacco
crop is one-quarter of that of four years ago. Commercially produced maize
is now approximately one-sixth of national need, whereas previously Zimbabwe
was not only self-sufficient, but it was also able to supply much of the
needs of neighbouring countries. Similarly, Zimbabwe no longer produces the
quantities of wheat that it requires, and output of most other agricultural
commodities has also fallen very considerably.

Government will, of course, attribute these disastrous circumstances to
allegedly adverse climatic conditions, to the unwillingness of displaced
white farmers to exacerbate their overwhelming losses by gifting their
irrigation equipment, tractors and other movables to those settled on the
lands formerly occupied by them, and the inexplicable reluctance of
suppliers of inputs to supply at sub-economic prices and with extended
credit. However, all but the naïve and those that revel in self-delusion
know otherwise. They know that government fabricated and disseminated a
belief that the white commercial farmers had "stolen" the land,
notwithstanding that most of Zimbabwe's lands had been unoccupied and
unutilised prior to those commercial farmers rendering them productive.

Having falsified and distorted history, government then dissembled that it
would ensure that all, irrespective of race, as desirous of farming the
land, would be entitled to one farm, subject to size limitation, but instead
it deprived the majority of the white commercial farmers of all the lands
they had worked productively, to the benefit of the nation, for many years.
The government redistributed the land to its chosen few, promised them the
wherewithal and inputs necessary but recurrently breached its promises, and
did not even give those settled upon the land any lawful title to that land.
Thus, those settled neither had collateral to support borrowings of working
capital, nor the assurance of continuing occupancy. That assurance was a
prerequisite to motivation and endeavour and, without finance, inputs and
motivation, most of the lands became unproductive.

The mining industry has also been a victim of government and of the economic
environment. Production costs have soared upwards, as the national
hyperinflation and increased costs of imports rose steadily. However,
revenues did not rise commensurately, reducing most mining operations to
ongoing losses. Gold producers were exceptionally hard hit. For some
incomprehensible reason the major producers are paid one-third of the price,
per kilogramme of gold, as are small-scale producers, despite the former's
costs of production being markedly higher than those of the latter. Many
mines have had to discontinue operations, whilst others have been forced to
scale back production considerably.

From the late 1980s to the late 1990s, the tourism industry was one that
enjoyed spectacular growth. Rising from a few hundred thousand to over two
million, tourists poured into Zimbabwe to revel in the splendour of the
Victoria Falls, the awe of the Matopos Hills, the majesty of Zimbabwe's
diverse wild life in Hwange National Park, Gonarezhou, Matusadona and other
fantastic wild life reserves, the excitement of Lake Kariba, the beauty of
Nyanga, Vumba and Chimanimani, and the mysteries of Great Zimbabwe and of
Khami, and much more. Although government repeatedly blames others for
destroying Zimbabwe's image and, as a result, for the decline in tourism
over the last seven years to the low levels of 24 years ago, the reality is
that it has been government itself that has cast a deep shadow over the
Zimbabwean image. It is government that fomented a disregard for law and
order, and then failed to restore a state of law and order essential for
tourists, foreign investors, and others to perceive Zimbabwe as a secure

The manufacturing sector's distress is as great as that of the other
economic sectors. Local market demand is as deflated as a burst balloon, for
hyperinflation has eroded consumer purchasing power, and mass unemployment
has vastly reduced the population's disposable income. At the same time, the
ability of industry to export has fallen sharply, for the inflation which
has ravaged Zimbabwe in recent years radically escalated production costs.
Nevertheless, exports would have remained viable if the government had
allowed the Zimbabwean dollar to depreciate to its real (minimal!) value.

But that it was not prepared to do. In a vain attempt to contain inflation,
and in an equally vain attempt to preserve national pride and not admit,
even if only by implication, to economic failure, government obdurately
resisted all pressures and economic needs for the nation's currency to
devalue to realistic levels. In the process, it destroyed export market
competitiveness, collapsed many export-orientated industries, intensified
unemployment, and worsened the scarcity of foreign exchange. That scarcity
fuelled the parallel and black markets, causing massive exchange rate
movements which, in turn, stimulated intense growth in the very rate of
inflation that government had sought to reduce.

Thus, the present state of the nation is one of an extremely frail economy
on the threshold of total demise. It is one where over 75% of the employable
population is unemployed, and there are now very considerably more
Zimbabweans employed abroad than are employed in Zimbabwe. The nation is one
that has witnessed an immense brain drain, with many thousands of skilled
Zimbabweans seeking more lucrative employment in other countries than
available to them at home.
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Zim Independent

You may rejoice, I must mourn

Vincent Kahiya

ON Sunday Zimbabwe turns 24. But there will be no fireworks this year.
Independence Day, April 18, has lost the lustre it used to enjoy as narrow
partisan interests now hold sway.

The government, in its quest for self-preservation and to ratchet up old
revolutionary passion, has in the past two weeks used its media to subject
the nation to a jack-hammer assault of propaganda which in some instances
has proclaimed hateful messages against minorities and the opposition. As a
result Zimbabwe remains polarised along party and social lines - even on a
day where everyone should remember the sacrifices made for nationhood.

Political scientist and chairman of Crisis in Zimbabwe Brian Kagoro said
there could be reason to celebrate this year.

"I think that we can celebrate," he said, "that finally before our 24th
birthday Mugabe has admitted that his own people have been looting the
country," - a reference to announcements by government that it would probe
Zanu PF companies.

Kagoro said the admission by Zimbabwe's "high priest of politics" was
crucial as it marked the beginning of the dismantling of a system that had
thrived on heaping blame for its shortcomings on the British.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) last year proclaimed
there was nothing to celebrate when the nation was wallowing in poverty. The
party said the original goals of liberation struggle - social equality,
justice and the equitable utilisation of resources - had been negated by
misgovernance and corruption.

In a statement this week MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai said the situation on
the ground had continued to degenerate.  "Unfortunately the 24 years merely
registered a period of sustained regression,"  said Tsvangirai.

"We have nothing to show for it, except overwhelming poverty, economic
decay, a systematic loss of our basic freedoms and a national crisis whose
dimensions are mutating and fast becoming more pervasive in every facet of
our political, economic and social life.

Millions returned home from exile (at Independence). Today the ordinary
citizen is confused and shocked to live in a country where, once again, the
forces of democracy are under siege. They are desperate to get out,"  he

Mass Public Opinion Institute chairman and social scientist Professor Gordon
Chavunduka said there was nothing to celebrate.

"There is nothing to celebrate because Independence has not brought
happiness to our people," said Chavunduka. "There is still oppression, there
are too many economic problems and the people are not happy."

"The people can only be happy if the country holds free and fair elections
as soon as possible," he said.

The Independence celebrations have become personal property of Zanu PF hence
they have done little to bridge the political divide by advocating national
unity and national development.

The celebrations have become uninspiring events where a torrent of official
humbug and unfulfilled promises have done little to stir a restive
population whose expectations are way beyond party slogans, speeches and

Political analysts have pointed out that the Zanu PF government has failed
to transform itself from a guerilla movement into a modern political party.
They say the party has remained entombed in the revolutionary mantra that it
alone brought freedom and therefore it should be the custodian and dispenser
of all freedoms and rights. Anyone demanding extra rights outside the
prescribed ones is considered a counter-revolutionary and an enemy of the

Critics have said Independence Day only reveals the gap between the
blessings the ruling elite enjoys and the deprivation of the commoners.

"The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and Independence
bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me," wrote a former
American slave Frederick Douglass in 1852 of the white establishment.

"The sunlight that brought light and healing to you has brought stripes and
death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must
mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of
liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman
mockery and sacrilegious irony," he said.

Douglass' lament mi-ght sound familiar to Zimbabweans today. The nation,
prostrate in its fetters wrought by the Zanu PF government's political
intolerance and gross human rights violations, are being cajoled to fete
their poverty.

President Mugabe has used the Independence Day celebrations in the past to
cast blame on his adversaries. Mugabe's main address to the nation on such
occasions has criticised foreigners and the opposition for alleged sabotage.
At the National Sports Stadium last year - as former minister and political
heavyweight Eddison Zvobgo put it - Mugabe blamed "other people for each and
every ill that befell" the nation.

Mugabe criticised the opposition for the political turbulence in the
country. He blamed the outside world, especially former colonial power
Britain, for interference thundering: "Mr Blair, hands off please." He spoke
highly of the controversial land reform, which he described as a success.

In the past Mugabe would use such occasions to espouse the country's
achievements in provision of social services like health and education,
agricultural expansion and industrial advancement.

Mugabe's script this year could be brightened up by his new-found status as
a corruption buster. He will tell the nation that the economy is on the mend
courtesy of Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono's economic blueprint. He will
once again parade himself as the emancipator of the black populace by
singing the mantras of his "successful land reform programme". Ironically,
Mugabe has appointed a whole ministry led by John Nkomo to "correct" the
successful land reform!

But with inflation - described by Finance minister Chris Kuruneri as the
highest in the world  - at 602,5%, a decline in exports by over 15% in the
last 12 months, and a corresponding drop in the GDP, this year's
celebrations, like last year's, should ring hollow. In the rural areas civil
servants and poor villagers were asked to pay for the celebrations which
they are forced to attend or face the wrath of Zanu PF hoodlums.

The villagers will be forced to celebrate better harvests which government
will attribute to the land reform exercise. But production of major cash
crops which bring in foreign currency has continued to drop. Chief among
them is tobacco whose production has nose-dived from 236 million kg at the
peak of production in the 1999/2000 season to 65 million kg expected to be
delivered to the floors this year.

Estimates say more than three-quarters of the population live below the
poverty datum line while about 70 % of the adult population is unemployed.
HIV and Aids have continued to wreak havoc on a country with a collapsing if
not non-existent social security system.

The presidential address should this year assume a more jingoistic tone as
the country prepares for another blood-and-thunder general election next
year. Mugabe's mollifying words spoken last year during a flirtation with
the idea of talks between the two parties will probably be abandoned for
more militant phrases.

The attack on the MDC from the Zanu PF leadership has already started and
should reach its peak after the festivities when Zanu PF is expected to
officially launch its campaign. But Tsvangirai has promised to stand up to
the bullying.

"We cannot allow this regime to impose its false supremacy over the people,"
he said. "Only action and political pressure shall bring the desired results
and lead us to resuscitate our failed state and all its institutions."

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Zim Independent

Barter trade helps parastatals cope
Ngoni Chanakira
THE cash-strapped trio comprising the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority
(Zesa), National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) and Wankie Colliery Company Ltd
(Wankie) are now engaging in barter deals among themselves to avoid paying
cash for goods and services.

Insiders this week said the companies had decided to engage in the
"unofficial" barter to bypass the serious cash crunch bedevilling them.

The trio is understood to be crediting each other for services rendered and
goods sold instead of asking for cash upfront.

Zesa, Wankie and NRZ owe each other billions and their services are

Zesa supplies electricity, Wankie produces coal that is needed for
electricity generation, while the NRZ transports the coal.

However, because of the serious cash crisis the trio have failed to pay for
services offered sometimes resulting in mudslinging among them.

"Zesa switched us off on the Harare/Mutare railway line," said an NRZ
source. "Instead of fighting with them we just decided to stop delivering
their coal, seriously disrupting operations. It was a case of tit-for-tat."

Zesa is reliably understood to have lost at least $300 million when the NRZ
stopped delivering their coal.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono in his monetary policy
statement told parastatals to stand on their own feet and not depend on
government handouts.

He said penalties would soon be introduced to parastatals that continued to
beg from government via the central bank.

"Why should we be penalised while Zesa are treated as good boys," the NRZ
source said. "We decided that enough is enough."

Wankie, which made a $9 billion loss last year, has confirmed that coal
sales at 854 605 tonnes were 29% below the previous year resulting in
numerous shortages countrywide and on the export market. Customers faced
transportation problems because the NRZ could not offer wagons.

"Transportation of coal should be relatively eased following the different
arrangements which some major customers entered into with the National
Railways of Zimbabwe to refurbish wagons and hire locomotives from South
Africa," Wankie chairman Munacho Mutezo said.

"Road freight would continue to be the alternative mode of transport."

Wankie has now asked the RBZ for approval to bill in foreign currency
customers who export their products.
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Zim Independent

Zim dollar recovery uncertain - Finhold
Godfrey Marawanyika
PROSPECTS of the Zimbabwe dollar stabilising against major international and
regional currencies are still uncertain as the country's foreign currency
sources are still limited, Zimbabwe Financial Holdings Ltd (Finhold) has
said. In its monthly economic bulletin for April the bank said the Zimbabwe
dollar had lost against most key currencies on the foreign currency auction,
particularly the Japanese yen, South African rand and Botswana pula.

"In the short-term, prospects of a stable Zimbabwe dollar are uncertain, as
the country's foreign sources are still limited, if not declining," Finhold

"Firstly, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has failed to materialise due to
high inflation differentials and continued negative investor sentiment.
Secondly, inflows from international donors have remained depressed on the
back of increasing demand for imports."

According to Ministry of Finance and Economic Development figures contained
in the last Treasury quarterly report for last year, Zimbabwe's current and
capital accounts have been on the decline since 2000.

The last time both accounts recorded growth were in 1999.

In 2000, the current account recorded negative growth of US$138 million
before shooting up to US$635 million.

The report also reveals that in 2000, the capital account recorded a US$289
million deficit and in 2001 it recorded a US$389 million deficit.

Finhold said the uncertainty was also being caused by the inflation
differentials with trading partners while a rising import bill on the back
of poor side fundamentals had continued to weigh against the local currency.

Although the central bank has introduced the auction system for foreign
currency, bids have persistently surpassed the fixed supply from the RBZ
which has seen the number of rejected bids increasing.

"Owing to excess demand for foreign currency, the Zimbabwe dollar has
continued to depreciate since February leading to higher operating costs
which may consequently lead to higher domestic prices," Finhold said.

"In addition, the country capacity to generate foreign currency is still
depressed, while corrective measures with respect to fiscal restraint still
need to be implemented."

During April Finhold said the money market was in persistent deficit during
the month under review following successful financial bill tender issues by
the RBZ. Shortages, which stood at $171,6 on March 1, worsened to $215
billion on March 15, before improving to close at negative $123,8 on March
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Zim Independent

Leave members alone, AAG told
Ngoni Chanakira
REAL Estate Industry of Zimbabwe (REIZ) president Abraham Sadomba says the
Bulawayo-based Affirmative Action Group (AAG) should concentrate more on
politicising Members of Parliament and government officials than terrorising
his members.

In an interview with businessdigest this week Sadomba said the AAG was going
around Zimbabwe pretending to be lawmakers.

Last week the Bulawayo-based AAG told tenants to stop paying rent to estate
agents saying they were "excessive and increasing monthly".

"Who are these people and where do they get their power from?" asked
Sadomba. "They should concentrate on putting pressure on the government and
Members of Parliament instead of disrupting commerce and industry which is
being run professionally."

Sadomba said the AAG had tried to intimidate his members without sufficient
knowledge of how the rent increases were arrived at.

"Commerce and industry are very sophisticated and these AAG guys are just
political," he said. "Actually they have no right stopping tenants from
paying their rent to a legal organisation that is sanctioned by an Act of
Parliament. They are breaking the law."

Sadomba said the AAG should not bring politics into business.

"Where are they getting their mandate from to deal with our members the way
they are doing?" he asked. "Next time they will go around the country asking
for identification papers."

Sadomba said the REIZ represents members countrywide and before any
increases are done tenants signed and agreed to the percentages.

He said these were now done on a quarterly basis because of the country's
hyperinflationary environment.

Sadomba said in cases where there were disagreements, individuals could seek

Bulawayo-based residents have been up in arms over what they allege are
unplanned rent increases by unscrupulous estate agents.

They engaged the AAG which took up the matter and summoned the REIZ

The AAG encouraged members to disregard the increased rentals and report any
landlords insisting on payments "to them".

Sadomba said the Bulawayo misunderstanding was still unresolved because the
AAG did not understand his association's operations.

He said there was no need for the AAG to turn the matter political because
it was strictly a business issue.

"We are a business grouping and our increases make business sense," Sadomba
said. "We wonder whose mandate the AAG had when it stopped our members from
paying rentals."

An AAG official yesterday said the issue was "very sensitive at the moment".

Meanwhile properties for letting, especially garden flats, are becoming
extremely hard to find because there is an acute accommodation shortage in
Harare, a leading estate agent said this week.

A spokesman for Southgate & Bancroft Company (Pvt) Ltd said the rentals
business was currently "very brisk".

"Business is very brisk right now," he said. "Whatever property we get for
rent just goes. Actually right now we don't have anything for rent and I
think this is mainly because there is a shortage of accommodation in

He said even office space was hard to find in the capital city.

"There is no stock at the moment," he said. "Garden flats are also being
snapped up quickly because individuals sometimes turn these into offices
such that they live and work from one place."

He however said on the sales side business was rather slow and individuals
were finding it difficult to secure land whose prices had recently shot
through the roof.

There is speculation on the property market resulting from foreign currency
transactions being conducted on the parallel market where the British pound
is nearing the $10 000 mark against the Zimbabwe dollar among dealers.

Landlords are however holding on to their properties anticipating that
prices will skyrocket when the financial services sector returns to normalcy
after having been given a whipping by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe in their
new monetary policy statement.

Zimbabweans, especially those living in the United Kingdom and United States
have caused the jump in property prices as they keep sending pounds and
dollars to snap up land and equipment in the country.
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Zim Independent


Chihuri hot on the trail of the big brains

SUNDAY Mail editor William Chikoto asked Police Commissioner Augustine
Chihuri some pertinent questions in his interview last Sunday. He was asked
if he was not just pandering to Zanu PF's electoral needs.

Chihuri was at pains to stress the ZRP does not arrest people on the orders
of ministers. They are guided by the constitution.

"The police have been empowered by the constitution," he assured us. "They
don't need the minister or the police commissioner or any other higher
authority to say arrest or don't arrest."

He didn't explain why then we have seen a minister on the front page of the
Herald telling the police to arrest people. And when those arrested ask why
they are being held they are told it is on the orders of "a higher

What about those who have fled the country, Chihuri was asked? Did he   have
the capacity to return them?

There was no need for anybody to be running away, Chihuri replied.

"If you are Zimbabwean, come home and talk to Zimbabweans, they will punish
you accordingly. They will not slaughter you."

But Britain was posing problems. It was establishing itself as "a safe haven
for our criminals". This was all political of course.

"The British government has no right whatsoever to keep criminals who should
be here to answer charges," Chihuri complained. They were laying down
impossible conditions and coming up with lame excuses, he said. His officers
currently in the UK had made it clear to the British that they were unhappy
with that.

"There is nothing political about them being criminals," the police
commissioner argued. "We are talking about economic saboteurs."

Are we? Have the individuals in question been charged and tried in court?
You would have thought so from Chihuri's remarks.

"The issue of the NMB directors was correctly handled," Chihuri told us.
"People must not steal from the nation's coffers and expect to be handled
with kid gloves. The law in this country is very clear. It says any criminal
should be arrested, taken before the courts where he is prosecuted and
sentence passed by the courts."

Yes, but first it has to be established whether the "criminal" is in fact a
"criminal". How professional is it to declare people "criminals" and
"saboteurs" when they have not been convicted of those offences?

One reason individuals have fled the country could be because they have no
confidence in the criminal justice system. That includes detention without
trial which, curiously, Chihuri was not asked about.

He was asked though about whether the case of the NMB directors did not
suggest that the best brains were leaving the country.

"I don't respect the brains of any thief," Chihuri replied, once again
prejudging his suspects. People in Zimbabwe have no medicine. Last year
there were fuel shortages and cash shortages. "Some people think they have
the brains to create such a scenario and when they are caught they run

The NMB directors, it would seem, are responsible for more than they can

"To make matters worse, they (those with brains) say the president is
mismanaging the economy yet they are the ones who are creating that type of

So, the current crisis has nothing to do with the president's economic
policies. It's all the fault of his critics. We must at least be grateful
for that piece of brainy detective work, even if it does look more like a
party-political statement!

And just in case you thought these slippery bankers were about to outwit
their pursuers, Chihuri put the public's mind to rest: "There are no too big
brains which we can fail to handle," he assured us.

We can all breathe easier now! Meanwhile, we are delighted to see that
Britain's open-door policy permits the long arm of President Mugabe's law
enforcement agents to catch up with individuals who are accused of creating
havoc in Zimbabwe by causing cash and fuel shortages!

The Sunday Mirror's Tendai Chari has been advertising the sort of brainy
thinking that is now required for lecturing in Media Studies at UZ.

"A close scrutiny of the Zimbabwean media would reveal that media agendas
are donated by Western media," he claims. "Concepts that are little
understood - democracy, human rights, and good governance are good
examples - sayings and words that have little cultural relevance are
regurgitated with reckless abandon."

As a result local journalism becomes a caricature of Western journalism, he

"If the Western media say the Zengeza by-election wasn't free and fair, the
local media have an obligation to echo the refrain."

Perhaps he could advise us which local media he is referring to. The private
press in Zimbabwe reported largely the conclusions of the Zimbabwe Election
Support Network and other independent observers based right here in
Zimbabwe. Those conclusions included evidence of widespread intimidation and

Chari suggests, in views identical to those of the state, that people
shouldn't be too concerned with concepts such as democracy, human rights and
good governance. They are Western values and therefore have no cultural

Now isn't that convenient? If Zimbabweans are not to be bothered by these
pesky concepts Zanu PF can continue with its electoral rigging and
intimidation unmolested. Which means it can cling on to power well past its
shelf-life when it is manifestly short on popular support.

Chari repeats the tired old argument that the American media would never
call Bush daft or a crook. "They would rally behind him through thick or

Chari has evidently not been reading the US press recently. We published in
this paper a few months ago what American writers were saying about Bush.
And it was far from polite. Now it is a great deal worse. But we suspect
Chari doesn't want to know what the US press is saying about Bush because it
would interfere with his line of argument. Just as he continues to doubt
that Ari Ben-Menashe stage-managed his video recording!

Muckraker is only too aware of the toll taken on civil society by the
depredations of government. But it is only in recent weeks that we have
realised just how weakened and confused the civic sector has become.

First the Herald carried a statement from Crisis in Zimbabwe, among others,
congratulating the state for its arrest of the 70 "mercenaries" at Harare
airport last month. It made no reference to the role of ZDI but it did at
least criticise prejudgement of the men in the media (that bit omitted by
the Herald).

Then Bishops Sebastian Bakare, Patrick Mutume and Trevor Manhanga released
an Easter message saying they were "encouraged" by President Mugabe's
efforts to tackle corruption and "applauded" the measures taken by Reserve
Bank governor Gideon Gono.

There was no mention of the president's abridgement of the right of
individuals to a court hearing and a fair trial, or the need for an
independent body to investigate wrong-doing. And certainly no mention of the
ruling party's role in creating the conditions for corruption to thrive. In
fact it was typical of the morally neutral statements churches have become
associated with in recent years.

Finally, last weekend we saw a group of women journalists falling over
themselves to disown a reported suggestion by one of their members that
Information minister Jonathan Moyo take a paternity test.

The Federation of African Media Women Zimbabwe's regional coordinator, Qonda
Moyo, who spoke to our reporter in Bulawayo, said she had no idea she would
be quoted. It was an "informal discussion" she claimed.

Fair enough. But FAMWZ then weighed in to "register its concern and distance
itself" from their official's remarks. Her views did not in any way
represent the  views of the organisation, Acting National Director Sinikiwe
Msipa stated.

Anyway the whole matter was sub-judice she claimed.

What's going on here? It looks very much like somebody was leaned on. But
whatever the case, we are sorry an organisation claiming to embrace women in
the media has so completely lost its voice and, indeed, would appear not to
have a view on the victimisation of one apparently inconvenient woman who
didn't have the advantage of media access!

And could somebody tell them what sub-judice means. They appear to think
having somebody arrested means you can't talk about it. These women should
get a life!

The Herald sometimes runs short of opinion pieces. This should be expected
of a daily paper that chews copy. But it does not excuse running misleading
pieces such as the one by Nangai Zvasangana on Monday.

The article was titled "Zimbabweans have benefited from president's
policies". These policies include political reconciliation and expansion of
the health and education service sectors, we are told.

Then comes a shocker: "The president preaches unity and has managed to
achieve peace and stability despite machinations by reactionary forces
fronted by Matsanga, Zanu Mwenje, Super Zapu and MDC masquerading as
champions of freedom, democracy, human rights, transparency and the rule of

There is no doubt the writer is anxious to see his name in print, hence the
attempt to portray a flawless human being in the form of Mugabe and the
choice of the Herald as the medium. What worries Muckraker is an editor who
allows to be published in his paper nonsense like Matsanga, Zanu Mwenje,
Super Zapu and the MDC being used by so-called reactionary forces.

When did the writer last hear of these organisations? Even Zanu PF,
desperate as it is for anything that can smear the MDC, has never had to
resurrect Zanu Mwenje and Matsanga.

Lest we are accused of intolerance Zvasangana can choose whatever medium and
subject he wants. But we are worried about aspiring bootlickers creating
phantoms and editors treating these as fact.

Will there be any takers for First Lady Grace Mugabe's challenge? The First
Lady told a gathering in Chitungwiza last week that people in positions of
leadership should help remove the stigma about HIV/Aids infection by going

"It is high time we started at the top," the Herald quoted Grace as saying
last week, "whether we are encouraging voluntary counselling and testing or
behavioural change. Maybe it is high time the ministers themselves went for
testing and come out in the open about their status. I am worried that when
we talk about HIV/Aids, voluntary testing and counselling, we seem to be
saying only the poor are affected."

Attending the occasion were Health minister David Parirenyatwa, Mining
Development minister Amos Midzi and Harare governor Witness Mangwende.
Somebody should take the lead so we have less talk and more action.

Muckraker wouldn't want to be in Information minister Jonathan Moyo's shoes
for all that his position is worth. First he made a strange metamorphosis
that left his erstwhile colleagues stunned when he turned round to become
President Mugabe's spokesperson from one of his most acerbic critics. Since
then he has been an uncompromising critic of the privately-owned press. He
in fact led the crusade against the Daily News until it was closed down
under some crudely crafted law that survives on our statutes courtesy of
Zanu PF's majority in parliament and a supportive judiciary.

Since he crossed the moat and was allowed to taste life in the castle, Moyo
now tells those outside that they don't need a voice.

In an article in the Herald last Thursday titled "Press freedom baggage of
unipolarism", the minister is said to have told diplomats in Harare that
Zimbabwe did not agree to ideologies of press freedom as a critical human
right at par with freedom of expression.

Resorting to casuistry to defend his personal self-interest in speaking for
everybody, Moyo claimed freedom of expression was different from press
freedom because everyone was born with the right to freedom of expression.
Which is patently true were it not for the cynicism it implies - that
everybody who wants to speak must use Zanu PF channels such as papers in the
Zimpapers stable and ZBC so he can screen them first. Which referendum by
the way revealed Zimbabwe did not believe in "ideologies of press freedom"?

Moyo claimed the press was created by institutions who wanted to use it to
achieve their own objectives. He didn't say why this was inherently wrong.
Why is the Daily News any different from RTG or Zimbank as business

Here is Moyo's not-so-clever answer: "We believe that information is a
strategic issue which is critical in maintaining a country's sovereignty and
you cannot claim to be sovereign if you do not own the means to disseminate

Therein lies the rub. Moyo should talk about his quest for monopoly over all
information channels instead of misleading people about sovereignty. And how
are those out in the rural areas expected to be heard while Moyo hogs the
limelight in the newspapers and television?

Moyo said the Media and Information Commission, the Broadcasting Authority
of Zimbabwe and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act were
born out of this need to control the flow of information. But surely if
Zimbabweans did not want a free press it would die a natural death. It doesn
't need Moyo to play messiah to save us from a monster called the free

However, it does seem that we are getting more and more patriotic. That is
if the mention of "sovereignty" is a measure of patriotism. So it was that
Reason Wafawanaka, deputy director of national youth training, and Claude
Maredza, author and commentator, talked about nothing else but sovereignty
when they appeared on Tazzen Mandizvidza's Media Watch programme on Monday.

The main topic for discussion, according to Mandizvidza, was Independence
and "what the role of the media should be".

He was disheartened, he said, that some sections of the media did not
appreciate that many lives were lost to bring the freedom that people take
for granted. Mandizvidza was disheartened that some sections of the media
were influenced by Western culture not to show respect for elders. He was
again disheartened that some sections of the media were being used by
foreign interests against their own country.

In the end all media that were critical of government policies were accused
of being foreign-funded and representing their master's voice. And why does
Mandizvidza think we should respect elders who mismanage our national
resources? Is that what this so-called culture says? Is there not a proverb
in Shona that says an elder must be well-behaved if he expects respect from

All that Wafawanaka and Maredza said was that our sovereignty came first.
That our sovereignty was under threat from Western interests. Maredza
revealed that he had discovered that the United States was the great Satan.

"But Americans are united when it comes to the 14th of July, the 14th of
July. I mean the fourth, that's their Independence Day."

Muckraker was "disheartened" that he was left no wiser for watching the

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Zim Independent

In placid Malawi, shades of Mugabe's Zim
By Peter Banda
IT has a reputation for being as calm as the lake that bears its name, but
as Malawi heads into its third multiparty presidential and parliamentary
elections in May, serial attacks allegedly perpetrated by ruling party youth
militias against opposition leaders and journalists cast doubts over the
stability of the sliver-shaped central African country.

The Malawi Human Rights Commission has warned that rising incidents of
pre-election violence by the Young Democrats, the militant youth wing of the
ruling United Democratic Front, is polarising the country along ethnic and
regional lines. Political analysts, furthermore, worry that voters are
losing faith in the democratic process. The upcoming vote marks the second
consecutive poll to be marred by ruling- party violence.

"Anywhere in the world, elections are not declared free and fair when
violence reigns supreme," said Rodgers Newa, chairman of the Human Rights
Consultative Committee in Malawi.

Scheduled for May 18, the elections should present Malawians with an open
choice. Having failed in his bid to change the constitution to seek a third
term, President Bakili Muluzi must retire. Divisions among the opposition
notwithstanding, few expect much of a contest.

In late February, Mary Clara Makungwa, vice president of the opposition
National Democratic Alliance, was beaten by a band of youths in Makungwa in
central Malawi. Her vehicle was set ablaze. Another politician, Kizito
Ngwembe, a member of parliament for the opposition Malawi Congress Party,
was assaulted by youths while addressing a rally in the district of Kasungu.

Party officials, youth leaders and the police deny claims either of their
involvement or complicity in acts of political terror.

But human rights advocates say the violence reflects one of the most
troubling and unresolved elements of party politics in Africa: the use of
youth squads to perpetuate power and prevent the free contestation of

Since the early 1990s, when multiparty politics began to spread across
Africa, militant ruling party youth wings have been a political fixture,
violently disrupting elections in Kenya and Zimbabwe and intimidating
political opponents in Ivory Coast and Burundi. But Nixon Khembo, a
political scientist at the University of Malawi, describes the trend as a
gross abuse of youth volunteerism by political parties, reaching back to the
earliest years of independence. Botswana had its Boy Brigades, Zambia its
National Youth Service.

Even where regimes have changed, practices haven't. Dr Kamuzu Hastings
Banda, Malawi's erstwhile despot, employed the Malawi Young Pioneers to
intimidate budding opposition movements. Five years after Muluzi took power
in Malawi's first multiparty elections, the UDF was doing the same. Violence
by the Young Democrats during the 1999 elections was well chronicled and has
been a mainstay ever since.

During a parliamentary by-ele-ction in Blantrye in 2001, for example, UDF
supporters attempted to disrupt a campaign rally that was to be addressed by
Gwanda Chakuamba, leader of the opposition Malawi Congress Party. In the
ensuing chaos, the machete wielding youths accidentally knifed one of their
own, Duncan Kanjuchi, killing him on the spot.

The UDF claimed Kanjuchi was a member of the ruling party and that
opposition supporters had beaten him to death. Chakuamba countered that
Kanjuchi was mistakenly killed by Young Democrats. The police arrested six
MCP supporters, all of whom were ultimately acquitted.

As the May elections near, such incidents have increased. Rafiq Hajat,
director of the Institute for Policy Interaction in Malawi, says the
violence perpetrated by the UDF Young Democrats demonstrates the fragility
of newly democratised countries. "It is a continuation perhaps of the
ignorance that is prevalent regarding the role of the youth wings of
political parties," he said. "The Young Democrats are certainly a threat to
the democratisation process, of which elections are a crucial part."

In a report entitled Taking Root: Violence and Intimidation in Malawi, the
Voice of Micah, a political think tank based in Balaka, argued that the
Young Democrats operated with the blessings of the UDF leadership.

"There have been reports that in certain cases cars supplied by the UDF
cadres have been used in the execution of the acts of violence by the Young
Democrats," the report states. "Therefore it can not be doubted that these
people act with full knowledge and mandate of party leaders."'

It adds: "It appears the UDF is gradually pulling one leaf after the other
from the tactics of the Zanu PF of Robert Mugabe. While Mugabe boasts of the
political exploits of the war veterans, which have reigned havoc for some
time now, bringing to its knees one of the strongest economies in this part
of Africa, the UDF with its Young Democrats is bringing to its knees one of
the most stable and peace loving people."

The violence is accompanied by a second phenomenon: the appearance of police

Following her attack in February, opposition leader Mary Makungwa took the
matter to the police. Upon filing a complaint she was jailed for 48 hours
without explanation. Deputy Police spokesman Kelvin Maigwa disputes
Makungwa's claim of unlawful detention. "The police are allowed by law to
summon any citizen to question him or her on any issue when they are
carrying out investigations," he said.

Ngwembe, the opposition member of parliament, alleges that he was beaten by
UDF youth a second time as he tried to report the initial assault to the
police. Eyewitnesses corroborate the claim.

One police officer, speaking on condition of strict anonymity, said any
officer who dares to interfere in the operations of the UDF Young Democrats
could easily lose his/her job. "First of all they transfer you to a police
post in a remote area and once you make a mistake, you immediately lose your
job," he said, speaking near the Kasungu police station, where he is posted.

Another officer, also speaking anonymously, said when alleged victims of the
Young Democrats report the incidents to police, top UDF members and some
members of the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) pressurise the police
officers to destroy files of such cases.

"The problem is that at every police station there is a member of NIB, and
these intelligence officers in a sense work as loyal servants of the ruling
party, so every police officer who opposes their informal instructions is
treated as a supporter of the opposition," he said.

"If this continues," Hajat warns, "we might face massive upheavals, because
when the public lose faith in officers of the law, then they start
disregarding the law itself." He cited an incident in February when police
fired shots during an opposition rally at Njamba Freedom Park in Blantyre,
wounding two people.

UDF spokesman Ken Lipenga said the party officially does not sanction the
use of violence but admits the Young Democrats have at one time or the other
been involved in violent acts. "It is common knowledge that some UDF
politicians have used the boys to perpetrate violence," he said in a
surprisingly frank admission. "Just recently some of our own boys were used
to disrupt our own party primary elections. Politicians who use violence are
failures or believe that they will fail in the elections."

UDF National Director of Youth Henry Moyo vehemently rebuffs such claims:
"The UDF Young Democrats are disciplined. Their main duty is to mobilise
fellow youths in development activities."

Although Malawi has a peaceful reputation compared to other Southern Africa
nations, its people suffered in silence from intimidation, threats,
abductions and killings for three decades under the autocratic rule of
Hastings Kamuzu Banda and his Malawi Congress Party. Under the late
dictator, the red-shirted Malawi Young Pioneers, a youth paramilitary group,
were infamous for political violence.

Banda established the Young Pioneers in 1963, the year the country gained
independence. Modelled after Kwame Nkrumah's Young Pioneers in Ghana and the
National Service Brigade in Israel, they were originally conceived as a
means for mobilising the youth in national development causes.

In the early years of their existence, the Young Pioneers were mainly
concerned with rural development work and political indoctrination. The
Pioneers were indoctrinated to believe in Kamuzuism, Banda's political
philosophy of unity, obedience, loyalty and discipline.

"I organised the Young Pioneers so that the youth would make useful citizens
of the country," Banda told a rally in Lilongwe in 1975. "I did not want our
youth to roam the streets of Zomba, Blantyre, and Lilongwe, loafing with
their hands in their pockets."

But with the passage of time, the role of the Young Pioneers evolved. "The
MYPs added a security role to their range of responsibilities, and gradually
became competitors in this regard vis-à-vis the formal security organs of
state in the form of the police and the army," said Kings Phiri, a professor
at the University of Malawi. "Their training for this role involved physical
exercises and drill, the use of small arms, and the gathering and analysis
of intelligence reports."

By the early 1970s, Banda was using the Young Pioneers to kill, expel and
deport members of Jehovah's Witnesses, who were refusing to buy Malawi
Congress Party membership cards because of their religious beliefs.

Sources within the Malawi Army say Banda also used the Young Pioneers to
torture his opponents, and also dispatched them to support the Mozambican
rebel group Renamo in the 1980s.

The end came in December 1993, when members of the Young Pioneers got into a
brawl with Malawi Army soldiers at the Moyale Barracks in the northern city
of Mzuzu. In the fracas, the overzealous Young Pioneers shot dead two Malawi
army soldiers. In retaliation, gangs of off-duty soldiers went on the

According to a senior army officer speaking on condition of anonymity, the
army determined to completely disarm and dismantle the Young Pioneers.
Soldiers traversed the country, demolishing Young Pioneer bases and
establishments. That purge also heralded the defeat of the Malawi Congress
Party, which lost elections to the UDF in 1994.

That poll, the country's first democratic elections, was peaceful. But party
political violence began to rear its head once again as the country moved
toward its second multiparty poll five years later.

Political commentators now say there is no marked difference between Banda's
Young Pioneers and the UDF's Young Democrats. Some of the latter were once
members of the former. But unlike Banda's Young Pioneers, which was
established by an act of parliament, the Young Democrats are not part of the
government machinery.

Even so, the Malawi constitution is very silent on the establishment of
militias and no legislation exists to either regulate such groups or make
them illegal.

Violence flared around Muluzi's bid to change the constitution early last
year to seek a third term. According to Vera Chirwa, a human rights lawyer,
the Young Democrats were responsible for several atrocities. At one point,
she said, they assaulted Anglican Bishop James Tengatenga for speaking
against Muluzi's bid. On another occasion, they attacked the president of
the civil society Movement for Genuine Democracy just 200 metres outside
Parliament for his vocal opposition against the proposed Third Term Bill.

Chirwa, who runs the Malawi Centre for Advice, Research, Education and
Rehabilitation, charges that it is a mockery of human rights for Muluzi to
be involved in mediating peace talks in Zimbabwe when he is failing to
control the Young Democrats.

"It is very difficult for African leaders to take tough action against
Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe because they are in the same boat of wishing
to stay in power for a long time," she said. "Just imagine, over 20 MPs were
assaulted by the Young Democrats as the UDF campaigned for Muluzi's
third-term bid. How can the same Muluzi tell Mugabe to step down from power?
How can he tell Mugabe to advise the Green Bombers to refrain from violence
when the UDF Young Democrats are doing the same?"

Chirwa, who along with her husband was once imprisoned for opposing Banda,
argues that current instruments set by the African Union, Southern African
Development Community and Nepad do not adequately address the problem of
political abuses: "African leaders who rig elections are hailed by their
comrades and some autocratic leaders are elected chairpersons of these
regional and continental bodies." - eAfrica.
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Zim Independent

A posse of guns for hire
By Steven Gruzd/Michael van Winden
THE foiled coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea in March provided an urgent
reminder of the destabilising consequences when two of Africa's most
troubling unsolved problems intersect: poor governance and the platoons of
former soldiers and guerilla fighters left scattered and idling across the
continent's former battlefields. The one creates a job market for the
opportunistic other.

"I used to command these guys," said Johann Smith, a former South African
Defence Force commander, referring to the 80 suspected mercenaries now
awaiting trial in Equatorial Guinea and Zimbabwe, where many were arrested
allegedly en route to topple the government of President Obiang Nguema.

"There are 2 500 to 3 000 of them in South Africa. This will definitely
happen again, given their current economic realities. One former soldier
lamented that he had missed the Equatorial Guinea 'recruitment drive' by 30

Just how many ex-combatants are at loose ends in Africa is probably
impossible to know. Certainly tens of thousands, given the number of
conflicts raging or waning across the continent.

At the height of the recent war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for
example, some 21 formal and rebel armies were entangled in just that one
splintered conflict. Few jobs awaited those soldiers when the peace accords
were signed. Few know how to do anything else.

But with conflicts drawing to a close in several African countries, a new
recruitment base for mercenaries is emerging. The World Bank has allocated
US$500 million for disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programmes
in Africa's Great Lakes region.

Millions of dollars had been spent on demobilising armies, but several
studies have nonetheless shown that making contented civilians out of
unskilled former soldiers in plodding economies is frustrating work.

Namibia, Mozambique and South Africa, all stable after prolonged conflicts,

have successfully built new national armies out of former warring factions.

But their societies fester with former cadres who lack the skills to build
meaningful lives beyond the bush and barracks. A 2001 report by the
Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, South Africa, indicated that 37%
of ex-combatants - from both sides of the apartheid divide - were

Some turn to crime, many analysts suspect. Others find new ways to practise
the old profession.

When Zimbabwean security forces surrounded an unmarked aircraft at Harare
airport in March and arrested its passengers for allegedly plotting
mercenary activities, many observers quickly concluded that they were
remnants of southern Africa's erstwhile racist security forces up to their
old tricks again. They were right - up to a point.

As the facts unfolded, it turned out that most of those detained were black
former soldiers in the apartheid South African Defence Force. Many served in
the 32 Battalion, an infamous former South African unit known for its
shadowy brutality in the latter years of Pretoria's wars of regional
destabilisation. Although many of them were Namibia, Angolan and Congolese,
they were given South African citizenship after being demobilised.

The Equatorial Guinea affair highlights weaknesses in national and
continental legal provisions for curbing mercenary activity in Africa. The
African Union, for example, has not reviewed the Convention for the
Elimination of Mercenarism in Africa - a document produced by its
predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity, in 1977.

As the nature of conflict changes dramatically and rapidly in the post-Cold
War global arena, private military activity is on the rise. The challenge,
argued Michael Grunberg of Sandline International, a Bahamas-based security
company, is to create a legal framework that enables private armies to
function constructively while preventing mercenary activity. - eAfrica.

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Zim Independent

Car theft increases countrywide
Ngoni Chanakira
ZIMBABWE had a national record of 1 051 reported cases of car theft by the
end of December with Harare topping the list at 633, according to ZRP
spokesperson inspector Andrew Phiri.

The country's second largest city of Bulawayo followed Harare with 226

Phiri said statistics for otherprovinces were as follows - Mani-caland 25,
Mashonaland 22, Masho-naland East 32, Mashonaland West 43, Masvingo 14,
Matabeleland North 2, Matabeleland South 20 and Midlands 27.

The high level of car thefts has resulted in the Insurance Council of
Zimbabwe (ICZ) hosting a stakeholder's conference in Nyanga on May 10 /11.

Cars have also been stolen from neighbouring countries such as Zambia and
South Africa and later resold in Zimbabwe.

Luxury vehicles including BMWs, Mercedes Benz and 4X4s are the most popular
as they are faster to sell as they command a cash market.

A spokesperson for the ICZ said the conference was aimed at averting crime
owing to the huge costs that were being incurred by the insurance industry.

The theme of the conference will be "Alliance against crime".

"The lack of coordinated effort from key stakeholders in insurance related
industry has prompted ICZ to instigate the conference to open dialogue among
interested parties," she said. "Although the main thrust of the conference
will be on traditional crimes affecting the insurance industry such as motor
vehicle and property theft, other forms of crime will also be looked at."

She said during the conference, stakeholders would discuss means of curbing
crime as well as practical, sustainable and lasting solutions to the
problems of crime.

The ICZ solicited the support of government, the private sector and the
public sector organisations that are affected by the increased rate of

Stakeholders from the Ministries of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs
and Finance and Economic Development, car insurance companies, anti-hijack
unit, the ZRP, Interpol, security companies, car protection companies, motor
vehicle manufacturers, the media and members of lobby groups that fight
against crime are expected to attend the conference.

Among other suggested factors leading to the increase in the rate of crime,
ICZ cited the current economic conditions prevailing in the country as the
major contributor to the high levels of crime in Zimbabwe.

"Possible ways of addressing the major constraints currently hampering the
sustainable effectiveness of the law enforcement agencies locally and abroad
will also be probed," she said.

"The campaign aims to increase awareness regarding the most common crimes
and the role that members of the public can play to assist the law
enforcement agencies in curbing crime."

She said to this end, ICZ had engaged media support to ensure effective
dissemination of relevant information to members of the public aimed at
generating increased awareness on matters concerning crime.

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Zim Independent

Cabs to retrench
Staff Writer
THE Central Africa Building Society (Cabs), the country's largest building
society, is retrenching and offering staff packages to leave.

The financial institution this week said the exercise was voluntary and was
meant to reduce staff levels, which had become "excessive".

Cabs managing director Derek Stephenson said the exercise had already begun
at the "highest level" with four members of the general management team
accepting packages.

"The packages are generous and similar to those offered by Old Mutual last
year," he said. "The exercise is expected to be completed by the end of May

Stephenson said the retrenchment exercise should be viewed as part of the
company's initiative to "improve future prospects by prudent financial
management, rather than as a reaction to the current banking crises".

The banking sector has been retrenching after Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ)
began cracking the whip within the financial services sector with its new
monetary policy statement.

Standard Chartered Bank of Zimbabwe, Barclays Bank of Zimbabwe and Kingdom
Bank Ltd have also retrenched workers and given them golden handshakes.

"This exercise in fact started in November 2001 when we implemented a staff
freeze," Stephenson said. "Smaller margins in the future mean that we need
to reduce our cost base and restructure the organisation accordingly."

He said the voluntary retrenchment exercise was "proactive and will help
ensure continued growth in the future".

Cabs recently said the introduction of statutory reserves that "earn O%"
while lodged with the RBZ would result in loss of revenue for the society.

Cabs said however mortgage loans are still available to interested

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Zim Independent

Moza expands 14% as Zim shrinks 13%
Munyaradzi Wasosa
THE Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has criticised the government for
failing to formulate economic policies that are agreeable to the
International Monetary Fund to secure much-needed financial assistance from
the Bretton Woods institution.

Commenting on the IMF statement at the end of Article IV consultations with
Zimbabwe, MDC secretary for economic affairs, Tendai Biti, said: "The
underlying issue highlighted by the IMF is that of a skewed economic and
political system of governance," he said.

"As long as the government does not revise its policies, we can forget about
ever getting assistance."

The IMF released a negative report on March 31 after holding consultations
with the government, opposition political parties, representatives of civil
society and the business community, among others.

In its report, the IMF said Zimbabwe had experienced a sharp economic and
political decline since 1999. Biti told the Zimbabwe Independent that his
party concurred with the IMF.

"Ours is the fastest shrinking economy in the world. This year alone, the
economy is projected to shrink by about 13,2% while Mozambique's economy is
expected to grow by 14%," he said.

The IMF has declared it will not resume balance of payments support to
Zimbabwe because of unworkable policies and an unstable political

The country owes the Bretton Woods institution at least US$290 million, a
debt that government had not been servicing over the past two years.

The MDC said the government must introduce a debt cartel that will see an
improvement in debt repayment.

"The government must set up a sector of the economy that is capable of
generating foreign currency strictly for servicing international debt," Biti
said. "This can only happen if we have a government that operates
transparently, which is not the case in Zimbabwe."

According to the IMF, the country's gross domestic product has declined by a
bout 30%, and is expected to decline further. Inflation is currently
hovering around 600%, and the country continues to record negative growth.
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Zim Independent

'Zim must learn from SA' - MDC
Dumisani Muleya
THE opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has intensified calls
for electoral law reform following South Africa's third democratic election
since the fall of apartheid in 1994.

MDC secretary-general Wel-shman Ncube said his party wanted fundamental
changes to the electoral system to ensure free and fair elections.

He said Zimbabwe should learn from South Africa how to conduct elections in
a democratic and civilised way. South Africans went to the polls on
Wednesday in an election pronounced by parties themselves and electoral
authorities as free and fair.

"What is happening in South Africa is what we are simply calling for, that
is free and fair elections run by an independent authority which is managed
by impartial officers," he said.

"We want Zimbabwe to adhere to the Sadc (Southern African Development
Community) norms and standards for elections. Zimbabwe is the only country
in the region which runs polls on the basis of profoundly flawed and
undemocratic laws."

The MDC has now repackaged and consolidated its original 15 demands on
electoral reform into five broad items that still capture the gist of their
basic concerns.

Ncube said his party wanted a conducive political climate and restoration of
confidence in the electoral system; assurance of the secret ballot as well
as voting and counting of votes in one day; restoration of the rule of law
and impartial conduct by state security agents during campaigns; and the
restoration of political and civil liberties.

He said Zimbabwe should adopt elements of the South African electoral system
to ensure elections did not produce illegitimate and dictatorial regimes
that subverted the people's will in polls.

"I'm quite sure we won't hear any parties in South Africa complaining about
blatant electoral fra-ud or vote-rigging like here in Zimbabwe," he said.

"Their system is tight and works well. Whatever problems such as political
violence in provinces like KwaZulu/Natal there was no state involvement. In
fact, the ruling party (African National Congress) endlessly preached the
message of the need for a peaceful election."

Ncube said the situation in Zimbabwe was different because government wreaks
havoc during every election.

"Here we have aruling party and gov-ernment that con-sistently unleash
vio-lence on a massive scale and commit electoral fraud during every
election," he said.

"Now instead ofamending the Ele-ctoral Act to improve the organisation and
running of elections the government has made changes which will make the
situation worse."

Ncube said the recent modification of the electoral law was designed to
ensure a predetermined outcome for Zanu PF in next year's general election.

"The registrar-general (of ele-ctions) now has power to unilaterally remove
names of registered voters from the roll and Zanu PF functionaries in
electoral agencies have been given more power to control the electoral
process," he said.

"This negates all the reforms we are calling for and, indeed, the Sadc norms
and standards for elections."

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Zim Independent

Hippo Pools Camp re-opens
Augustine Mukaro
HIPPO Pools Wilderness Camp has re-opened its doors to tourists and
holidaymakers after five months of forced closure by invading Zanu PF

The camp was first invaded on October 16 last year forcing booked clients to
vacate the resort in the middle of the night.

Camp owner Ian Jarvis this week confirmed the re-opening.

"We have been operating for the past three weeks without any problems,"
Jarvis said. "There have been some assurances that our operations will not
be disturbed again."

He said the Wilderness Trust held meetings with Environment and Tourism
minister Francis Nhema and National Parks officials in which a proposal to
form a partnership to develop the area with the authority was mooted.

"We have since submitted the proposal on how the safari area could be
restocked as well as develop projects for the community. We are currently
waiting for government response," he said.

Jarvis said the area had the potential to become one of the country's
biggest tourist destinations if the National Parks controlled rampant gold
panning and poaching in the safari area.

The camp is situated in the Umfurudzi Safari area in Mashonaland Central,
which falls under government's Parks and Wildlife Authority.

Jarvis said most of the equipment that was looted had not been returned and
he was having problems in restocking.

"The camp keys which I was forced to hand over during the invasion have not
been returned and we are in the process of buying new keys for the whole

Jarvis said the invasion has disrupted Wilderness Africa Trust projects
being supported by the camp. The trust was involved in the translocation of
game species from invaded farms.

Umfurudzi Safari area is a 74 000-hectare game park 150 kilometres north of
Harare in the Mazowe-Shamva area.
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Zim Independent

Minor parties fail to register Lupane candidates
Loughty Dube
BATTLE lines have been drawn between the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) and the ruling Zanu PF in the Lupane constituency after other
political parties failed to field candidates at the close of nominations
this week in a by-election that could see another opposition setback.

The MDC's Njabuliso Mguni and Zanu PF's Martin Khumalo were the only
registered candidates at the close of the nomination court in Lupane on
Wednesday. Other political parties that include NAGG, Zapu and Liberty Party
failed to field candidates.

Zanu PF and the MDC will square up for the second time this year following
the bitterly fought Zengeza by-election which Zanu PF won.

Zanu PF is seeking to snatch its first seat in Matabeleland North from the
MDC after it lost everything to the opposition in the 2000 parliamentary
election. It is likely to use the same means as in Zengeza, observers said.

Bulawayo district registrar Shadreck Zvimba presided over the nomination
court that sat at the Lupane magistrates court. There were no reported
incidents of violence on the day of the nominations and the registration of

The Lupane seat fell vacant following the death of MDC MP David Mpala from
wounds he sustained when ruling party mobs abducted and assaulted him in

The constituency polls are scheduled for the weekend of May 15/16.

Meanwhile, an MDC activist was allegedly abducted and heavily assaulted by
war veterans at Lupane business centre last Wednesday resulting in clashes
between the supporters of the opposition and the war veterans.

MDC district information and publicity secretary, David Nyathi, says Gerald
Khumalo is now in hiding in Bulawayo after Lupane police came to their
offices seeking to arrest him for fleeing with handcuffs belonging to the
police. He had been handcuffed by the war veterans.

Nyathi said Zanu PF militia had been deployed in Lupane and were camped at
Siziphile Primary School, at the DDF rest camp in St Paul's, at Kusile Guest
House, and at Mabhikwa Secondary School.
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Zim Independent

ZITF attracts only two new exhibitors
Loughty Dube
THE Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF), which kicks off in two weeks
time, has managed to attract only two new exhibitors despite claims by the
government that the country's relations with the international community
have improved.

This year's trade fair will see only 11 countries taking part in the waning
national showcase. Nine countries took part at ZITF last year.

Preparations for this year's trade fair, whose theme is "Promoting
inter-regional trade", kicked off without the company's chairman, Mthuli
Ncube, who is allegedly on the run from law enforcement agents on
allegations of externalising foreign currency.

At a press briefing this week, Industry and International Trade minister
Simbarashe Mumbengegwi dismissed claims that the international community was
snubbing Zimbabwe.

"The increase in the number of countries taking part indicates that the
countries are showing confidence in Zimbabwe," said Mumbengegwi.

"They come because they see mutual indications of trade opportunities."

Commenting on Ncube's absence, Mumbengegwi said this would not affect the
running of the fair.

"The ZITF chairman is not here but things are moving on. It's not true that
his absence is compromising the ZITF," he said.

Quizzed on the absence of major European countries at the show Mumbengegwi
said people only thought of the international community in the sphere of
European states.

"There are over 100 countries in the world and there are people who tend to
think that when you talk about the international community you are talking
about Europe but that is not it. We have other countries and we are happy
with the international response to the ZITF," he said.

Asked about the absence of the majority of countries from the Far East that
government has been targeting as economic trading partners, Mumbengegwi
cited the presence of China as representing the Far East.

A total of 401 local exhibitors will take part at the 2004 Trade Fair
representing an increase of only two exhibitors from last year's figure of

Other countries taking part at ZITF are Botswana, Malawi, Kenya, Italy,
Nigeria, Mozambique and Austria.

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