From The Daily Telegraph (UK), 19 April
Football fans are forced to hear Mugabe's tirade
Harare - The national stadium's clock had stopped and the sound system failed, yet nothing could prevent President Mugabe from launching his now familiar tirade against "vicious" Britain during Zimbabwe's chaotic celebration of Independence Day yesterday. By the time Mr Mugabe rose to speak, Harare's football stadium was packed with more than 50,000 people, apparently eager to commemorate 21 years of freedom from colonial rule. But when he arrived, at 10am, with an entourage of 30 men wearing dark glasses, vast sections of the grandstand were empty and he was received in silence. The terraces filled only as the highlight of the day approached: a free football match between the Highlanders and the Dynamos, Zimbabwe's top teams. Kick-off was timed for immediately after Mr Mugabe's address and the doors were closed as he began speaking. Anyone wishing to see the match had also to listen to the president.
He sat, looking inscrutable, beside an array of cabinet ministers, MPs, generals, air marshals and judges as proceedings began with a prayer. As the Rev Noah Pashapa asked for God's blessing on independent Zimbabwe, the sound system failed and the priest's voice was abruptly lost. For 40 minutes, the stadium was in silence. Mr Mugabe, who had been about to commence his speech, flicked through his programme, as frantic officials scurried about. Acrobats were hastily summoned to entertain the crowd until the sound system came back to life with a sudden screech. The announcer hinted that dark forces had been at work and blamed "our enemies" for the speaker failure.
Then Mr Mugabe was introduced as "a man who on the basis of principle is prepared to sacrifice himself for the good of the country". It took the president barely five minutes to blame the former colonial power for all of Zimbabwe's problems. Britain was guilty of "vicious and iniquitous acts conducted against us throughout the world" with the aim of sabotaging the land seizure programme. Mr Mugabe said: "We cannot be seen, as Zimbabwean sons of the soil, to be begging a former colonial power, Britain, for us to take back our land. And we say to Britain here and now, hands off. Hands off, Britain. Don't continue interfering in our sovereignty. We are not part of the British empire. We are not an extension of Britain so, Mr Blair, hands off please." Mr Mugabe said 60,000 families had been resettled on 5.9 million acres since August last year, when he launched his "fast-track" land reform scheme. That area represents about half the white-owned land his government wants to seize and resettle with poor blacks. But the scheme has been accompanied by the violent invasion of white farms, which has brought the nation's agriculture-based economy to its knees.
Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party lost all 19 of Harare's parliamentary seats in last year's election and his 30-minute speech was heard in silence by a restless crowd. Facing re-election next year, the president has almost no support in the capital. As he spoke, his face was projected on to a large screen that dominated one end of the stadium. Beside the screen, filled with Mr Mugabe's features, were the motionless hands of a giant clock. They had stopped at a few minutes past midnight.
From Business Day (SA), 19 April
Mugabe's candidacy could cost Zanu (PF) next election
Harare - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's decision to stand for re-election next year is a big gamble that might condemn his Zanu (PF) party to defeat, political analysts said yesterday. They said his decision stemmed from a combination of hunger for power, insecurity and a long-held belief that his fractious party would disintegrate if it had to find a new leader. At 77, Mugabe has been in power for more than 20 years, and he said on Tuesday he would contest next year's presidential election because he was his party's best hope.
But many critics say his increasingly eccentric rule has driven a country that was a beacon of hope at independence in 1980 into its worst political and economic crisis and that Mugabe is the problem, not the solution. The economy is in its third year of recession and a foreign currency crisis has led to a chronic fuel shortage, placing an unbearable strain on commerce and industry. Economists say Mugabe has shown little regard to resolving the problems, which he simplistically blames on the white minority and alleged sabotage by the former colonial power, Britain.
"I think you can safely say the man has condemned his party to defeat. For many Zimbabweans, Mugabe is the problem, and if he says he wants to hang on then there is no hope," said John Makumbe, a political analyst and one of Mugabe's critics. "I don't see anything that Zanu (PF) can do with him to avoid defeat. There was a small chance the party could improve its fortunes by sponsoring another candidate." Emmanuel Magade, a political analyst and law lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, said: Mugabe has put Zanu (PF) in a much more difficult position. It's going to be very difficult for the party to win the election because Mugabe, as a person and leader, now has a serious image problem."
Despite the intense domestic and international criticism of a controversial land-grab programme and the crumbling economy, Mugabe insists he remains popular. "All this noise about Mugabe and so on is fear of the old man. So the old man must see the party win, and we will take our decision thereafter," he told Zimbabwe Television on Tuesday. Many believed he would pass the baton to 56-year-old Emmerson Mnangagwa, his long-serving political confidant whom he has placed in the key positions of speaker of parliament and Zanu (PF) administrator in the past eight months. But privately, Zanu (PF) officials said there was no consensus in the party over the former justice and security minister, who lost his seat in last June's parliamentary election.
"The problem in Zanu (PF) is that those Mugabe may want to succeed him are seen as a liability as well, and you get people in the party who say: What is the difference, we may as well continue with Mugabe'. That is the loophole Mugabe is exploiting," said Brian Raftopoulos, an analyst and researcher at the Zimbabwe Institute of Development Studies. It is generally agreed that Mugabe has always kept his options open, and part of that strategy has included sidelining serious potential rivals." Mugabe has in the past said there is potential for a bloody succession battle in Zanu (PF). Critics say he wants to retain power for life to guard against prosecution for alleged human rights crimes during his rule, but officials say he has always put party interests first. The main opposition MDC says Mugabe will not win a free and fair election. "Mugabe's decision does not change anything," said MDC spokesman Learnmore Jongwe.From The Daily News, 18 April
Moyo vows to target individual journalists
Jonathan Moyo, the Minister of State in the President's Office responsible for Information and Publicity, has said individual journalists are to be targeted for unspecified action. "You ain't seen nothing yet," Moyo, who is Zanu PF's deputy secretary for information and publicity, is reported to have said to Daily News political reporter Sandra Nyaira on Saturday. "We are now going to target individual journalists." Nyaira met Moyo in Mt Darwin where the two attended a house-warming party thrown by the Member of Parliament for Mt Darwin South, Saviour Kasukuwere. It was at this function that Vice-President Joseph Msika urged Edgar Tekere to rejoin Zanu PF. Msika, the guest of honour at the party, urged Tekere to rejoin Zanu PF, saying he had left the party in 1988 because of selfishness on both sides. Tekere is a former secretary-general of Zanu PF. In a lengthy story published on the front page of The Herald yesterday, Moyo refuted the story and attacked the newspaper as a mouthpiece of the British government. He also attacked Nyaira's performance as a journalist.
Yesterday Nyaira said she stood by her story. She said the statements she attributed to Msika, as published yesterday, were accurate. "Contrary to the statement by Professor Moyo that Msika did not urge Tekere to rejoin Zanu PF, the statements attributed to the Vice-President in The Daily News story are accurate," she said. When he delivered his speech, Msika started by acknowledging the role of traditional chiefs in society before speaking about the land question and the need for the government to resettle as many families as possible on acquired farms. He then attacked some war veterans for their arrogance, which he said made them believe they were more important than everyone else in society. He then turned to Tekere, who was sitting at the high table, and acknowledged the role the latter played during the liberation struggle. Msika said: "He is a revolutionary. Haana problem yaakaita, katukana chete chete nesu," meaning the only reason why Tekere left Zanu PF was a misunderstanding with his colleagues in the party. "It was only because of selfishness on the part of the Zanu PF leadership and yourself that you decided to quit the party," Msika said. "Let's bury our differences and work together. Look around you - the country you fought for is about to go back to the whites." Msika said Tekere had never denounced the revolution.
At the end of the party Nyaira says Moyo confronted her and enquired whether The Daily News was paying salaries on time. Moyo then enquired about the progress being made in efforts to replace the newspaper's printing press, destroyed in a bomb explosion on 29 January. "He then became aggressive," Nyaira said. "He said the newspaper would not survive as long as he was alive." Daily News driver Shadreck Mukwecheni, who accompanied Nyaira to Mt Darwin, said: "I was there when Moyo threatened to attack individual journalists within the paper. I heard him say ’You ain't seen nothing yet' as he walked to his car." Mukwecheni says Moyo had not arrived at the Kasukuwere homestead when the Vice-President made the speech. "The Vice-President started his address just after 11am," Mukwecheni said. "I saw Minister Moyo arriving in the company of Mr Phillip Chiyangwa and their wives after 2pm. Minister Moyo certainly did not hear the Vice-President speak."
Daily News Editor-in-Chief, Geoffrey Nyarota, yesterday said he was concerned by Moyo's new threats. "These threats are a cause of great concern to us at The Daily News," he said. "I thought we had seen everything there was to see when the bomb exploded in our factory in January. Now the minister says there is more to come. I think his remarks are most unfortunate. The last time Moyo threatened The Daily News our printing press was bombed within 48 hours." Nyarota said it was sad that in a country as enlightened as Zimbabwe a government minister should, with impunity, threaten citizens who are going about their lawful business. "Moyo claims The Daily News and its staff are all discredited," said Nyarota. "It must have been a cause of immense embarrassment, or at least a very humbling realisation, for him to discover that The Daily News political reporter was the only journalist invited to this party attended by Zanu PF heavyweights. It appears that Moyo's problem is essentially that he is out of touch with reality. He keeps on accusing The Daily News of sponsorship by the British government. Unless Professor Moyo can produce any shred of irrefutable evidence to back this allegation, he is no different from any other old-fashioned liar. To have in charge of dissemination of government information, a man who takes such a very dim view of the need to always tell the truth, is dangerous."From The Daily News, 18 April
Jonathan Moyo loses
High Court judge, Justice Moses Chinhengo, yesterday dismissed with costs an attempt by Jonathan Moyo, the Minister of State in the President's Office responsible for Information and Publicity, to bar The Zimbabwe Independent newspaper from reporting the details of the much-publicised allegations of fraud at the Ford Foundation in Kenya. In dismissing the case, Justice Chinhengo said: "Jonathan Moyo's application must be dismissed with costs because on the basis of the law he has failed to establish a clear right. I am satisfied that the interpretation of the summons by The Zimbabwe Independent is correct. I, therefore, refuse to grant Moyo the final interdict."
Moyo was seeking a court order to prevent the weekly newspaper from reporting details of the proceedings against him in the Kenyan High Court. Moyo's lawyer, Advocate Anele Matika, told the court that the summons to Moyo filed in the Kenyan High Court did not mention allegations of fraud against his client. Matika said the matter was sub judice because it is before a court of law. However, Justice Chinhengo ruled that allegations of fraud against Moyo were clearly stated in the summons. Chinhengo said: "In substance, the summons allege fraud and misappropriation of money against Moyo. I am quite satisfied on proper reading of the summons, The Zimbabwe Independent was correct that Moyo was implicated in the misappropriation of funds. But the allegations are subject to the proceedings in the Kenyan High Court."
The judge said the proper remedy for Moyo was to sue for damages as he has already done. "Moyo cannot reasonably contend that he has no remedy because he has instituted defamation charges," he said. "The Zimbabwe Independent have shown that they can set up a defence in the defamation case." The judge said Moyo should show that irreparable harm has been done to him for the court to give him a final interdict and that a clear right is established in such a matter. "He seeks the court to interdict articles he has not seen, that are not written and not before this court," Chinhengo said. "Zimbabwe is a young democracy and nation and should guard the freedom of expression that was won through the struggle against colonialism."
Matika had told the court that the four articles written so far indicated the newspaper was bent on tarnishing the image of Moyo, a former employee of the Ford Foundation. Matika said as a government minister, a ruling party office-bearer and an academic of international repute, Moyo's reputation should be protected. Chinhengo said the right to personal dignity should be balanced with the right to freedom of expression. He said it was the duty of the court to determine the overriding right which depends on different circumstances that the court may face. Advocate Eric Morris, for the newspaper, said if there were no allegations of fraud against Moyo, why would the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation be asked to investigate him as reported by The Daily News last Wednesday. Moyo is among five other people being sued by the Foundation in Kenya in which the donor is seeking to recover about $6 million from a suspected fraud.
Mutahi Ngunyi, the executive director for a Nairobi-based non-governmental research organisation, the Series on Alternative Research in East Africa (Sareat), said an audit by PriceWaterhouseCoopers last year revealed that officials at Ford in Kenya would forge letters and budgets purportedly coming from Sareat. Ngunyi said on disbursement of the funds, instructions would be given to them to transfer the extra funds to Moyo and other officials. Herald court reporter, Innocent Goredema, who was covering the Moyo case said, as he emerged from the court: "Now how do we report this one?" The Herald has been used by Moyo to present to the public a picture of the case favourable to Moyo.
From IRIN (UN), 19 April
Peace in Congo May Prolong War
Nairobi - The start of the withdrawal of belligerent forces in the DRC and the deployment of UN troops has led to a glimmer of hope for peace in the war-ravaged country. But this peace could mean continued war for Burundi. Regional observers point out that peace in the DRC may be at the expense of peace in neighbouring Burundi. Implementation of the 1999 Lusaka peace accord for the DRC - which provides for the disarmament of Burundian and Rwandan rebel forces - could deepen the crisis in Burundi, making it difficult to implement that country's peace agreement, signed in Arusha, Tanzania, last August.
The Arusha accord - signed by 19 negotiating sides including the government and opposition parties - has been rejected by DRC-based Burundian armed rebel groups who have, instead, increased their violent activities throughout Burundi. In one of the strongest challenges to the government since the civil war broke out in 1993, one of the groups, the Forces nationales de liberation (FNL) attacked the mostly-Hutu inhabited Kinama suburb of Bujumbura in February, claiming it was "ready to capture the capital". Thousands of people fled their homes and there were numerous casualties in two weeks of fighting. Though the rebels were eventually repulsed by the armed forces, one army officer admitted that "rebels have been entering massively and we have been obliged to use heavy artillery to dislodge them".
Concern is now mounting in Burundi. In accordance with the Lusaka agreement, the warring sides (Rwanda, Uganda and their rebel allies on one side and Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia and the government on the other) are now pulling back from their frontlines in the DRC. Burundi rebels along with Rwandan Interahamwe militia and former Rwandan army soldiers (ex-FAR), who have been fighting alongside the Kinshasa government, believe they have no future in the DRC and could be captured by UN troops. According to the Lusaka agreement, the withdrawal of belligerent forces and the deployment of UN troops in the buffer zone should pave the way for identifying, locating, assembling, disarming and repatriating the so-called "negative forces", based in the DRC.
Consequently, Burundi rebel forces made up mainly of the Forces pour la defense de la democratie (FDD) and the FNL have been taking refuge in Burundi in large numbers, particularly in the northwest Kibira forest area. Burundian officials are afraid of an unfolding "nightmare scenario", amid reports that the FDD and FNL have teamed up to launch a massive offensive on Bujumbura. Informed sources in Bujumbura told IRIN the new strategy appears to have been adopted at a recent FDD congress in the DRC city of Lubumbashi, to which the FNL was invited. "The situation is very serious and very worrying," the sources said. "Kibira is becoming a huge powder-keg." They warned that rebel forces from both Burundi and Rwanda were regrouping in Tanzania and trying to join their counterparts in Kibira. Recent heavy fighting in the central province of Gitega was not aimed at occupying parts of Gitega, but at opening up a route to the west, according to the sources.
Regional politicians have queried DRC President Joseph Kabila's intentions, claiming that while the international community is "courting him", he is "encouraging heavily-armed rebels" to enter Burundi. Kabila has denied the presence of Burundian rebels on Congolese territory, and instead has called on Burundian army troops to leave his country. Burundi maintains it has troops along the border to protect its security interests. Diplomats in the Rwandan capital Kigali say that the establishment of a strong Hutu movement in Burundi will lead to a parallel situation in Rwanda - Kabila's aim being to weaken the Rwandan leadership. According to the diplomats, the real battle has always been between Rwanda and Congo, with Kigali seeking to place its "own man" in Kinshasa. Rwanda was apparently taken by surprise when Joseph's father - the late Laurent-Desire Kabila - put up a strong resistance.
"[Joseph] Kabila is biding his time, trying to outsmart them [Rwanda and Burundi] diplomatically while strengthening his grip on power, building up a national army and improving the economy," one diplomat said. "In the meantime, the low-intensity fighting will continue." Rebels of the Rwanda-backed Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD-Goma) in eastern Congo have discounted Burundi's worries. "Burundi and Rwanda anti-government forces currently attacking Burundi are trying to make a last-ditch attempt because they are about to be disarmed," RCD security chief Bizima Karaha commented. Burundi's President Pierre Buyoya has refused to implement the Arusha agreement, which provides for transitional institutions, until a ceasefire is in place. Opposition members, both Tutsi and Hutu, believe this is a pretext to cling to power. Although a process is underway for direct talks between Buyoya and rebel FDD leader Jean-Bosco Ndayikengurukiye in Libreville, Gabon, the situation currently appears to be at an impasse, analysts point out. "Even if the Lusaka accord succeeds, this does not mean the end of war in the Great Lakes region," one diplomat noted.
|Mugabe threatens to take over firms|
4/19/01 8:32:16 AM (GMT +2)
PRESIDENT Mugabe yesterday threatened to nationalise mines and manufacturing companies closing down for what he said were unclear reasons.
“Any closures will have to have the assent of government. The welfare of the workers will in every case be the decisive or determining factor. Government will not tolerate any closures,” he said.
Mugabe claimed most businesses are shutting down in sympathy with white commercial farmers whose properties were overrun by his supporters and later seized by the government for compulsory resettlement.
He has accused commerce and industry of supporting the MDC .
But Welshman Ncube, the MDC’s shadow minister for home affairs and MP for Bulawayo North East, dismissed Mugabe's statement as “mere rhetoric” and baseless. He said the government lacked the financial capacity to bail out businesses.
He said instead of threatening investors with inflammatory statements, the government must create conducive conditions for foreign investment.
According to a survey conducted by the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), over 400 companies in the manufacturing sector folded last year because of the pathetic economic environment.
The sub-sectors hardest hit were the motor trade with 171 shut-downs, steel manufacturers with 92, and 45 in the textile industry.
The CZI said 10 000 workers were retrenched from about 750 companies last year with the clothing and textile industries accounting for the highest numbers of lay-offs.
Said Ncube: “Nobody will shut down when they are making profits. Many of these companies are closing down because they have no foreign currency and they can't keep pace with the hyper-inflation. You don't close down a flourishing business because you hate the government of the day.”
He said it would be unfair if the government subsidised the factory take-overs with taxes.
“The government must rein in the galloping inflation, solve the fuel crisis and the problems of unemployment and insecurity and the economy will thrive,” he said. “Everybody will be coming to invest in Zimbabwe.”
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) president, Lovemore Matombo, said his organisation would resist the proposed take-overs.
He said: “If Mugabe is going to take over the companies and give them to so-called indigenous business people at the expense of workers, then we will resist the move.
“The government should not sideline other members of the tripartite committee before making such radical moves. How do they take over when they are in serious financial problems themselves?” he asked.
The tripartite committee consists of the ZCTU, government and employers.
Nancy Saungweme, a businesswoman, said the government's proposed take-over of companies must benefit the workers and not the State.
|Melfort children’s home goes without water and electricity|
4/19/01 8:25:05 AM (GMT +2)
MBUYA Nehanda Children’s
Home in Melfort has gone without water and electricity for the past five months
after the home failed to pay a $300 000 electricity bill.
The shelter, which looks
after 103 street children, is facing serious financial problems following the
withdrawal of funding for the institution.
Workers at the home said the children were taking their baths in a nearby dam.
The children said the absence of running water had become a serious health hazard.
The power cut has affected their studies, they said.
“We are finding it very difficult to do our studies because of the darkness,” said Rutendo, 13. “We call upon the relevant authorities to help us.”
The home, started in 1996, now relies on water bowsers from neighbouringfarmers and surrounding dams.
The money received from the Andy Cole Foundation last year was spent on some basic requirements for the home.
|Masvingo needs $550 million for roads repairs|
4/19/01 8:24:33 AM (GMT +2)
Daily News Correspondent, Masvingo
THE Masvingo Town
Council needs $550 million to repair its badly damaged road network and for its
water augmentation programme.
Town engineer, Gunda
Rugara, said the road network, neglected for many years, had now reached “the
end of road”.
“Over the years, we have been telling the council we need money for the rehabilitation of the roads,” said Rugara.
“Now all the roads are in a very bad shape and the costs have doubled and the council has no option but to look for money.”
He said the council budgeted only $20 million for roads for this year.
Rugara said a serious water crisis was looming if the water works were not upgraded.
Rugara said the existing water works could not cope with demand.
“The problems of water and roads are a result of the council's serious financial problems. We have told them we need the money to avoid a serious water crisis but they seem to be doing nothing.
By the time we get the money, I think the whole town would have run dry.”
The programme would involve the laying of new pipes from Lake Mutirikwi to the reservoirs at Targets Kopje.
Last year, the council posted a $40 million budget deficit.
It has failed to repay $300 million in government.
|Moyo must produce proof of sponsorship|
4/19/01 8:12:09 AM (GMT +2)
THE period following the
bombing of The Daily News printing press at the end of January has witnessed an
escalation in the orchestration of verbal attacks on the newspaper.
While the identity of the
bombers is still unknown and will probably remain a mystery, judging by the
complete lack of progress in police investigations, renewed verbal attacks on
The Daily News have been launched mostly from the department of Information and
Publicity in the President’s office. They have been disseminated through The
Daily News’s main rival, The Herald, and through the Zimbabwe Broadcasting
The theme of the attacks has been to dismiss The Daily News as a worthless publication which is sponsored by the British government in that government’s allegedly ongoing campaign to discredit and eventually unseat the Zanu PF government of President Mugabe.
The strategy has been to discredit The Daily News as a reliable source of information by dismissing as false stories that appear in its news columns.
While the rebuttal of Daily News stories has become a full-time occupation for Jonathan Moyo, the Minister of Information, it seems to provide him with an opportunity to appear on television almost every night and thus assuage what seems to be an insatiable love for publicity. Moyo is the man who spearheaded the anti-Daily News campaign even before the bombing of its printing press. It is doubtful that government derives any benefit from the minister’s self-serving appearances on television as he lashes out at the paper.
There is something patently questionable about a decision to assign the man who is easily Zimbabwe’s most unpopular politician to promote the image and interests, not only of the government, but also of Zimbabwe, as a nation. The government routinely accuses Western governments, the opposition political parties and the privately-owned press for creating Zimbabwe’s current economic and other problems.
But, in our view, some of the country’s worst enemies are ensconced in government offices, including Moyo’s office, for instance, from where they do much to undermine and discredit Zimbabwe not only with impunity, but also, so it would seem, with official sanction.
The ultimate beneficiary of this campaign against the privately-owned press is Moyo himself - witness the way he now seeks to use defamation actions and court injunctions to silence The Daily News and The Zimbabwe Independent, the two newspapers which have been at the forefront of alerting Zimbabwe, Zanu PF and President Mugabe, in particular, to his seeming hypocrisy, duplicity and now alleged deviousness.
But unless Moyo has a way of either influencing or predetermining the outcome of the numerous cases of defamation which he has instituted against the two newspapers, then he needs to be informed that suing a newspaper for defamation and actually winning a defamation case are not synonymous.
Far from discrediting the image of The Daily News, as they seem hell-bent on doing, people such as Moyo, Chenjerai Hunzvi and Joseph Chinotimba need to be informed that there is something inherently good, in the eyes of the public, about the qualities of any newspaper which is constantly targeted for criticism by officials of a government or ruling party whose popularity is clearly on the wane.
On that note, if Mugabe has serious intentions to win the forthcoming presidential election then he needs to hold a serious chat with his self-seeking, controversial and extremely unpopular spokesman. Mugabe needs to be reminded, in case he has forgotten, that this same man failed to influence the outcome of last year’s referendum on the Constitution in favour of government and that once he jumped on board, Zanu PF nearly lost an election for the first time.
In the meantime, if Moyo has any serious complaints about stories which are published in The Daily News then he should bring his complaints to The Daily News. He should refrain from directing such complaints to The Herald and ZBC where they are published or broadcast without any questions being asked.
Moyo knows that he is not telling the truth when he states that The Daily News is sponsored by the British government. But if he can produce one shred of irrefutable evidence to back his allegation then let him do so.
In any case, what does the British government have to do with the utterances of Vice-President Joseph Msika at the house-warming party of the MP for Mt Darwin South, Saviour Kasukuwere in his village in Chief Matope’s area?
State Splashes $100m On Ministers' Vehicles
April 16, 2001
Posted to the web April 16, 2001
Mercs Chengetai Zvauya
The cash-strapped government, which recently forked out $50 million towards the purchase of vehicles for MPs, is set to splash a further $100 million for the acquisition of luxury vehicles for newly appointed ministers and judges. The Standard established last week that six judges and 10 ministers are to receive brand new Mercedes Benz E-class vehicles. The cost of each vehicle is estimated at $7 million. The ministry of transport and communication will be responsible for administering the funds and will source the vehicles through the Central Mechanical Equipment Department.
Last week, government slashed a vehicle loan facility for MPs from $150 million to $50 million, with the balance going towards the acquisition of vehicles for the ministers and judges. Contacted by The Standard for comment on Thursday, the minister of transport and communications, Swithun Mombeshora, confirmed that the government was in the process of acquiring the vehicles for the ministers and judges. "I can confirm that the matter is under discussion, but we have not yet finalised the details. But I can tell you that we are working on it," said Mombeshora. Government provides ministers, deputy ministers and judges with chauffeur-driven Mercedes Benz vehicles. In the event that they leave office, they are offered the vehicle at give away prices as part of their packages.
Among the ministers who are set to benefit under the scheme are: Jonathan Moyo (state information and publicity); July Moyo (public service labour and social welfare); Francis Nhema (environment and tourism); Joseph Made (lands, agriculture and rural resettlement); Simba Mako-ni (finance and economic development); Border Gezi (youth development, gender and employment creation); Samuel Mumbengegwi (education, sports and culture); Flora Buka (minister in the vice president office) and Nkosana Moyo (industry and international trade). The new judges are Ben Hlatshwayo, Rita Makarau, Charles Hungwe, Anne Marie Gorowa, George Chiweshe and Antonia Guvava. However, the scheme has come under fire from several MPs who are bitterly complaining that they were sidelined and given loans of $600 000 per MP to purchase vehicles.
A source at Leno Trading, a registered company that has been operating more than 60 emergency taxis that ply Harare township routes, said the firm’s chief executive Imran Choudray had fled back to Pakistan following an attack on his home and the grounding of his business.
Choudray’s partner, another Pakistani businessman only known as Choukat, has also fled Zimbabwe but his where-abouts are unknown.
The two businessmen have invested more than $200 million in a commuter taxi transport business since their application was approved by the Zimbabwe Investment Centre in 1992. They had both since acquired Zimbabwean citizenship.
Leno Trading has been embroiled in a labour dispute with some workers who were sacked after going on an illegal strike last October.
Although the workers lost their case in court, they appealed to the Harare chapter of the war veterans’ association which immediately impounded the whole fleet and grounded it at the ZANU PF head office in Harare’s Rotten Row.
Mediation efforts which at some stage involved former ZANU PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa seemed to have solved the problems when Leno was forced and agreed to pay the sacked workers at total of $450 000.
A copy of the agreement drafted by ZANU PF and signed by the workers as well as Leno and the ruling party shown to this paper shows that the workers were divided into four categories.
It is not clear how ZANU PF devised the categories but those from the first to the third categories were paid varying sums of around $15 000 each, with the lowest getting $2 000, while those in the fourth category were told to report back to work.
According to the ZANU PF-brokered agreement, the sacked workers on getting paid would cease all claims against Leno.
Two weeks ago, the dispute resurfaced when the same group of workers approached the new war veterans’ executive led by Mike Madiro.
The Madiro executive is alleged to have told the workers that the money they were given by Leno as compensation was too little and immediately assembled some youths who ground to a halt all operations of the company.
It was not possible this week to get comment from Madiro or his deputy, Chris Pasipamire, who is said to be heading new pay talks between the war veterans and Leno.
Some of the sacked workers then invaded Choudray’s home in Harare’s Avondale, where they beat up his domestic workers and vandalised property.
The businessman and his family, fearing for their lives, immediately took a plane out of Zimbabwe to an unknown destination but are now suspected to have returned to Pakistan. Efforts to contact Choudray for comment failed this week.
Meanwhile 34 of the minibuses that were grounded at the ZANU PF head office have now been dumped at Harare Central Police Station after it was discovered that they had all been vandalised and were several parts missing.
All the minibuses at the police station have their tyres slashed.
Sources within Leno say the company is about to fold because its owners believe that the situation in Zimbabwe has become untenable and might be exploring the possibility of transferring the remainder of their resources to some neighbouring countries.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) says it has asked its regions to compile a report on the effect on business of the harassment of its members by a faction of war veterans led by Chenjerai Hunzvi.
ZNCC president Danny Dube said although no particular case had been brought to his attention, the business organisation had decided to ask its regional offices to compile a report on the extent of the harassment and is still waiting for a response.
In the past few months, several Zimbabwean companies have been invaded and managers assaulted by the veterans, who are increasingly taking over the role of trade unions in the run-up to crucial presidential elections due next year.
The invasions, which follow those of private farms across the country last year by the veterans, have coincided with disclosures by Hunzvi that ZANU PF is setting up "mobilisation bases" in all urban constituencies to back President Robert Mugabe’s presidential campaign.
Hunzvi said the bases would staffed by the veterans, who last year led a reign of terror against Zimbabweans living and working in rural areas, including farmers and their workers, ahead of the landmark June general election narrowly won by ZANU PF.
They said his decision stemmed from
a combination of hunger for power, insecurity and a long-held belief that his
fractious party would disintegrate if it had to find a new leader.
At 77, Mugabe has been in power for more than 20 years, and he said on Tuesday he would contest next year’s presidential election because he was his party’s best hope.
But many critics say his increasingly eccentric rule has driven a country that was a beacon of hope at independence in 1980 into its worst political and economic crisis — and that Mugabe is the problem, not the solution.
The economy is in its third year of recession and a foreign currency crisis has led to a chronic fuel shortage, placing an unbearable strain on commerce and industry.
Economists say Mugabe has shown little capacity to resolve the problems, which he blames on the white minority and alleged sabotage by former colonial power Britain.
"I think you can safely say the man has condemned his party to defeat. For many Zimbabweans, Mugabe is the problem, and if he says he wants to hang on then there is no hope," said John Makumbe, a political analyst and one of Mugabe’s critics.
"I don’t see anything that ZANU PF can do, with him, to avoid defeat. There was a small chance the party could improve its fortunes by sponsoring another candidate."
Emmanuel Magade, a political analyst and law lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, added: "Mugabe has put ZANU PF in a much more difficult position. It’s going to be very difficult for the party to win the election because Mugabe, as a person and leader, now has a serious image problem."
‘Fear of the old man’
But despite the intense domestic and international criticism for a controversial land-grab programme and the crumbling economy, Mugabe himself insists that he remains popular.
"All this noise about Mugabe and so on is fear of the old man. So the old man must see the party win, and we will take our decision thereafter," he told Zimbabwe television on Tuesday.
He had long been silent on his future, raising speculation he might choose a successor to lead ZANU PF into the election.
Many believed he would pass the baton to 56-year-old Emmerson Mnangagwa, his long-serving political confidante whom he has placed in the key positions of speaker of parliament and ZANU PF administrator in the past eight months.
But privately, ZANU PF officials said there was no consensus in the party over the former justice and security minister, who lost his seat in last June’s parliamentary election.
"The problem in ZANU PF is that those Mugabe may want to succeed him are seen as a liability as well, and you get people in the party who say: ‘What is the difference, we may as well continue with Mugabe’. That is the loophole Mugabe is exploiting," said Brian Raftopoulos, an analyst and researcher at the Zimbabwe Institute of Development Studies.
"It’s generally agreed that Mugabe has always kept his options open, and part of that strategy has included sidelining serious potential rivals."
Mugabe has in the past said there is potential for a bloody succession battle in ZANU PF.
Critics say he wants to retain power for life to guard against prosecution for alleged human rights crimes during his rule, but officials say he has always put party interests first.
Grip on party
"Mugabe is a nationalist at heart and no one can take that from him. There is no question of lust for power or any fear. The West is trying to demonise him," said ZANU PF chief spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira.
The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says Mugabe will not win a free and fair election.
"Mugabe’s decision does not change anything. There is a collective decision in the country to throw out ZANU PF as a government because it has led us to ruin, and people are just waiting for the elections," said spokesman Learnmore Jongwe.
Mugabe has tightened his grip on ZANU PF in the past two months by dissolving its provincial executive committees and installing handpicked loyalists in positions of power.
Those who have dared to criticise his stewardship as Zimbabwe falls deeper into recession and political chaos have been replaced by loyal war veterans and former state security officers appointed to lead ZANU PF’s presidential campaign.
Mugabe, who led a seven-year bush war for independence against Ian Smith’s Rhodesia in the 1970s, on Tuesday accused the MDC of being a front for whites bent on retaining economic might and vowed he would never allow them into power.
The MDC won nearly half of 120 contested seats in the June poll and says it would have beaten ZANU PF but for a violent campaign that left at least 31 mainly opposition supporters dead. Political analysts fear guns and clubs will again be the instruments of persuasion in the presidential campaign.
Rautenbach made the comments in an affidavit presented last Friday to the Johannesburg High Court, where he is facing charges of defrauding Pretoria in unpaid taxes.
It also emerged this week that the Zimbabwean transport mogul is being accused by the United Nations of helping Zimbabwe plunder the resources of the Congo through illicit mining deals with that country’s government.
The UN report, released this week, accused Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi of looting the mineral wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and also said Zimbabwe was enriching itself from the war.
The report alleges that Zimbabwean soldiers were paid bonuses by the DRC’s mining parastatal Gecamines and that Rautenbach, while in charge of the DRC parastatal in 1998, had used his company Ridgepoint to enter into an illicit deal with the Congo government.
Quoting two "very reliable sources", the UN report said while Rautenbach was paying Zimbabwean soldiers, he gave no wages to Gecamines workers, resulting in them striking in April 1999.
The report said Rautenbach had forged links with exiled Zimbabwean billionaire businessman John Bredenkamp and Parliamentary Speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa, both of whom it said "were in on the Gecamines deal".
The Zimbabwean military had also enriched itself with lucrative joint ventures and concessions from the DRC, the UN report said. The late DRC leader Laurent Kabila gave mining concessions directly to the Zimbabwean army in exchange for military support.
The UN report also alleged that "President Robert Mugabe once told interlocutors that the late President Kabila had given him a mine concession".
Although the UN report chided Zimbabwe, it focused on the activities of Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi which it said had profiteered from the DRC war.
Rautenbach could not be traced for comment this week. Although he had earlier promised to give this newspaper an interview, this did not materialise.
In his affidavits in the Johannesburg High Court, Rautenbach alleged a plot by the South African government to destroy him and disable him from helping fund the DRC war.
Rautenbach is facing charges of defrauding South African tax authorities of R100 million by under-invoicing the value of Hyundai vehicles he imported into South Africa for sale.
By so doing, the state prosecutors allege, he reduced the value of the customs duty on the vehicles payable to South African authorities.
South Africa has already launched proceedings to have Rautenbach extradited from Zimbabwe to stand trial in Johannesburg.
South Africa’s directorate of Serious Economic Offences is seeking a final order in the Johannesburg court to allow it to keep properties it seized from Rautenbach last year.
The properties include a helicopter, a house, a wine farm, flats, a Falcon executive jet and several houses.
Judge Jonathan Heher of the Johannesburg High Court deferred judgment to May 29.
In opposing the state’s case, Rautenbach said he had become an innocent victim of Pretoria’s diplomatic machinations on the continent because of his DRC business links.
He denied the charges that he had under-invoiced the cars and said the value of the vehicles was lower because it did not include warranties and because the vehicles had been dismantled before importation.
He said Pretoria’s real motive was to destroy him because it perceived him as an "obstacle to the attempted removal of the Kabila regime", adding that it was obvious that South Africa wanted the Congo government removed from power.