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Last Zim political prisoners released

From The Cape Argus (SA), 19 April

The last three Zimbabwean political prisoners were released from detention
late on Friday. Shadreck Manyere, a freelance photojournalist, was held in
the notorious Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison for nearly four months,
accused of terrorism. Ghandi Mudzingwa, formerly Prime Minister Morgan
Tsvangirai's personal assistant, was released from hospital where he had
been admitted after numerous court actions. Chris Dlamini, director of
security in Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was also
released. He had to be referred to hospital to have his ear reattached after
long periods of assault and torture in detention. Mudzingwa, who has also
told various courts he was tortured in custody, became critically ill in
Chikurubi. Prison authorities had to transfer him to a private clinic, under
heavy guard, after human rights lawyers warned he could die in custody.

The three were all abducted and disappeared for several weeks before they
and other kidnapped MDC members and civil rights activists turned up in
various police stations just before Christmas. Seven MDC members who were
abducted in the same swoops by intelligence operatives are still missing.
The abductions were widely interpreted by analysts as measures designed by
President Robert Mugabe's security chiefs to pressure Tsvangirai to pull out
of the weeks-old political agreement which later led to the shaky inclusive
government. All but a handful of the more than 30 people abducted are facing
various security charges which the MDC says are "trumped up". Tens of
thousands of MDC supporters, officials and MPs have been arrested. So far
not one has been convicted. A handful of Zanu-PF members allegedly involved
in murdering, mutilating and beating thousands of MDC members have been
prosecuted and most were swiftly released after conviction.

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It's an everyday story of country folk. Alas

April 20, 2009

Zimbabwe Notebook: the perils of being a white farmer
Jan Raath
Ben Freeth's family homestead lies outside the dilapidated town of Chegutu,
about 60 miles from Harare. In Zimbabwean terms, it is like falling into a
bygone age. His two little blond boys, their homework unfinished, cavorted
with each other in the courtyard of the higgledy-piggledy red-brick farm
house while their younger sister looked on in queenly disdain. Three
Scotties adorned the couch on the veranda and two well fed cats demanded
scraps in the kitchen.

His wife, Laura, made a quick, tasty supper in the kitchen while Ben read to
the children at bedtime. I think it was Roald Dahl's The Enormous Crocodile.
We chatted afterwards in their ample lounge, the bookshelves filled with
everything for cultivated, curious minds. Watercolours on the walls. Edvard
Munch prints in the guest bedroom.

The night outside was utterly, serenely silent. A nearly full moon
whitewashed the trees and shrubs. The effect was altogether so calming I
felt no shock when one of the dogs scratched on my door before dawn in the
hope of sharing my bed. In the morning, I wandered round the garden with its
large tree house and lots of rope ladders. The property is protected by
nothing more than a rickety fence that a fat dog could jump over. From a
raised gazebo I could see the flat-as-a-table veld going on forever.

But not a mile to the north, down a rough farm track from where I stood,
concealed behind a coppice of big trees, lay madness and dread. Two days
before a hired mob of invaders with sticks and iron rods had burst into the
home of Ben's father-in-law, Mike Campbell, 76, and drove him out with his
wife, Angela. The mob blocked the roads to the house with felled trees and
set sentries with catapults around the perimeter. They broke into the
homestead and kicked the 150 workers out of their homes. When Ben tried to
take a closer look under cover of darkness, he was spotted and had to run
for his life. The mob forced its way into the packhouse and sold Mr
Campbell's export mangoes to street vendors from Chegutu's township.

Mr Campbell's farm is for now a free house for a patronage-bloated Mugabe
crony to squat in. And his stolen mango crop, the fruit of hard work, just
became a crate of beer and some meat for the looters. But a maize field
away, the Freeths' children play, the dogs yap and Ben and Laura wait.

Back home I opened an e-mail report on the Campbells' invasion and was
unexpectedly confronted with Ben's face, a picture taken after he and the
Campbells were tortured by Robert Mugabe's thugs in a nine-hour ordeal on
the farm ten months ago. Both eyes were blue-black, with stitches below the
left one, cuts and abrasions covered his swollen face and a bandage was
wound around his fractured skull. The determined defencelessness of the
gentle family I had stayed with seized me in a rush of terror.

In the dock

Martin Joubert, Mr Campbell's manager, was appearing in Chegutu magistrates'
court. By all accounts, the farm workers had resisted the invaders' first
onslaught: they had loaded them up into pick-ups and dumped them 12 miles
from the farm. Mr Joubert was upstairs in the main house, sorting out the
week's wages. No matter, he was arrested and charged with kidnapping.

In the small courtroom, filled with anxious wives of the workers, a young
magistrate sat nervously beneath a skew-hung portrait of President Mugabe,
with Mr Joubert and seven workers in the dock. The prosecutor read out
statements from the invaders accusing a white man called Peter of leading
the farm workers. Joubert, unshaven and grubby after two days in a crowded
cell, laughed in relief. How could he be charged? The defence lawyer
explained to the magistrate that Mr Joubert's name was not Peter.

No matter, the magistrate denied him bail and told him to await trial in
prison. More than a week later, he is still there. Like hundreds of other
white farmers since Mr Mugabe's land grab began in 2000, an example is to be
made of him.

Ordinary cruelty

The barbarism, violence and cruelty that swarms in Mr Mugabe's political
nest have infected ordinary people's lives. Just after dawn a young woman
with an infant strapped to her back with a towel and carrying two bags was
hitching a lift to Chegutu.

"You're up early," I said as she heaved herself in the front seat, sitting
sideways so as not to squash the child. "My husband has just kicked me out,"
she said. "He has a mistress and he comes home at 5 o'clock every morning,
so this morning I asked him where he was. He beat me up. He threatened me
with a kitchen knife. I had to get out with just some clothes. We have been
married a year. My child is nine months. I am 20. I am pregnant."

Her punishment for being fat and no longer attractive. Half an hour later I
caught my face in the rear-view mirror, my mouth still wide open in

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'No more lawlessness in Zim'


    April 19 2009 at 01:11PM

By Peta Thornycroft

For the first time a handful of white farmers saw one of President
Robert Mugabe's cabinet ministers and his land invaders humiliated over farm

Deputy prime minister Arthur Mutambara, on a mission assigned him by
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, went into the heart of the most troubled
farming area on a whirlwind visit, ignored deeply rooted district protocols,
took control of the multi-party fact-finding visit, and ordered invaders off
the land.

He accused the invaders of "reaping what they did not sow", of
breaking the law and destroying the economy. He told policemen to uphold the
law. He also called one of Mugabe's loyalists "immoral".

Mugabe's land minister, Herbert Murewha, his head cast down, had to
endure Mutambara's volley of anger when he saw tens of thousands of
kilograms of export fruit rotting because the farmer, Ben Freeth, has been
prevented from entering his packing shed in the past few weeks.

Freeth's farm, Mount Carmel, has been given to Mugabe's biographer,
former information minister Nathan Shamuyarira. "You are giving Mr
Shamuyarira a bad name," he told Landmine Chigombira, the top thug on
Freeth's farm who has ordered workers to be beaten and houses to be pillaged
in the past few days.

Mutambara then told the assembled crowd on the farm that Freeth and
his team must be left to live in their homes peacefully and to return to
work the same day.

An hour later, after Mutambara left, Freeth and his workers were
chased away.

However, Mutambara said after the trip - the first one by the
inclusive government sworn into power two months ago - that he would not
react to the defiance of his orders. "What matters is that the next time
Mugabe denies there have been fresh land invasions I can say that is not
true, I saw it for myself."

Freeth and his father-in-law, Mike Campbell, are still recovering from
injuries from last year's vicious attacks.

"It didn't make any difference today, but at least he (Mutambara) came
and he took control, he questioned workers and they told him how they had
suffered and he was obviously angry at what has been going on. Let's see how
this works out," said Freeth.

"There will be no holy cows. The axe will hit where it may and we will
not tolerate any government official who is prolonging lawlessness in the
country," Mutambara said on another farm he visited.

"Our country is trying to attract investment, attract foreign aid. We
can't afford to be damaging business confidence in this country."

Farmers in the area told officials that 17 farms had been affected
since January and that the president of Zimbabwe's senate, Edna Madzongwe
was behind one of the seizures.

"It's going to be interesting to see what comes out of this," said
Colin Cloete, former president of the Commercial Farmers' Union, whose farm
Mutambara visited first.

"Word got out early in the morning that he was coming and some of them
packed up and left. I was quite impressed," he said.

This article was originally published on page 6 of Tribune on April
19, 2009

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Profiting from Zimbabwe's 'blood diamonds'
Monday, 20 April 2009 05:14 UK

A BBC investigation in Zimbabwe has uncovered evidence that senior people around President Robert Mugabe are benefiting from the sale of illegal diamonds. World Affairs Editor John Simpson has just returned from a visit to Marange, in eastern Zimbabwe, which contains the largest known concentration of diamonds in the world.

Mass grave in Marange
Some 68 illegal diamond diggers were buried in a mass grave

Until six months ago the Marange diamond fields were occupied by hundreds of illegal local diggers.

The diamonds were easy to find. They either lay on the surface or just a few feet below.

The diggers sold them to dealers in nearby town of Mutare, who smuggled them out of the country.

Then on 31 October, we were told, the government moved in.

Helicopter gunships, soldiers and police were sent to attack the illegal diggers.

At least 150 of them were killed. According to survivors we spoke to, some of them were set on by police dogs and torn apart.

Army control

Senior sources in the capital, Harare, insisted that an operation on this scale could only have been authorised by President Robert Mugabe himself.

Diamond miner
Miners described how they were attacked by helicopter gunships

Now the diamond fields at Marange are under the control of the army, and the roads around it are guarded by police road-blocks.

It proved to be very hard for us to film the diamond fields for the BBC, though in the end we managed it.

Yet, as it turned out, the purpose of the operation was not to take over the diamond diggings in order to provide revenue for Zimbabwe's almost empty treasury.

Diamonds are still being dug out at Marange, but reliable sources in Zimbabwe insist that they are not appearing on the legal market.

Instead, we were told, they are still being smuggled out of the country and sold illegally.

'Blood diamonds'

So who are the beneficiaries?

In Harare we spoke to a former judge, who was once President Mugabe's top civil servant and played a key role in the Lancaster House negotiations in 1980 which brought about Zimbabwe's independence.

John Simpson
Robert Mugabe's closest supporters thrive as a result of illegal diamonds

Justice George Smith retired from the bench in 2003, and nowadays he is a consultant to Zimbabwe's diamond industry.

In the current climate in Zimbabwe, it is dangerous even for a man as distinguished as Justice Smith to name names.

But when I asked him if he was talking about people right at the top, he replied: "Very much so."

Zimbabwe has great mineral riches, yet it has been driven almost to economic collapse.

One hundred trillion Zimbabwe dollars are now worth $3 (£2).

Yet Robert Mugabe's closest supporters thrive as a result of illegal diamonds.

Not surprisingly, people in Zimbabwe call them "blood diamonds".

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Tsvangirai warns of 'disheartening challenges' for Zimbabwe's unity gov't

APA-Harare (Zimbabwe) Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Sunday
said the country's unity government has encountered moments of
"disheartening challenges" since its formation in February and spoke of
mounting impatience to see an improvement in people's welfare.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader said the main challenges for
the eight-week-old coalition government have been largely caused by delays
in implementation of issues agreed in the power-sharing agreement signed
last year by himself, President Robert Mugabe and Arthur Mutambara of a
breakaway MDC faction.

"We have made progress but, make no mistake, we have also experienced
disheartening challenges and obstacles to hope," the Prime Minister said.

The main challenges include a dispute over appointments of provincial
governors, permanent secretaries, ambassadors and the central bank governor.

Mugabe has refused to rescind appointments of the senior officials that he
made last year without consulting the other signatories to the power-sharing

A meeting between the three politicians failed to resolve the dispute last
Thursday, prompting an invitation to former South African president Thabo
Mbeki to mediate in the matter.

Mbeki, who mediated in the initial power-sharing agreement signed last
September, is expected in Zimbabwe this week for the crucial meeting to
break the deadlock that threatens to derail the country's fragile political

Tsvangirai warned of growing impatience among ordinary Zimbabweans who
wanted to see change.

"Our people are impatient. People have been through untold misery and they
are praying for their lives to change," he said.

  JN/daj/APA 2009-04-19

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SA offers Zimbabwe US$50m credit facility

by Nokuthula Sibanda Monday 20 April 2009

HARARE - South Africa has offered a US$50 million credit facility to
Zimbabwe, as regional governments move to assist a unity government between
President Robert Mugabe and long time rival Morgan Tsvangirai that has
failed to raise substantial aid from skeptical Western donor countries.

The loan facility that officials said should be officially announced in due
course is targeted to help strengthen key industries such as the motor
industry, manufacturers of fertilizers and other agricultural inputs.

A US$70 million credit facility advanced to Zimbabwe by Botswana last week
will also go into assisting key industries such as steel, leather, agro and
pharmaceutical industries that have either closed down or are operating way
below capacity due to an acute shortage of foreign currency to import raw
materials, machinery and spares.

"We have been offered a R500 million credit facility (US$50 million) by
South Africa as part of the SADC (Southern African Development Community)
economic rescue deal package," a top Harare government official told
ZimOnline at the weekend.

The Harare official said the loan facility should be formally made public by
the South African government "probably after their elections or before".
South Africa chooses a new government on April 22.

Contacted for comment, Zimbabwe Industry Minister Welshman Ncube confirmed
Harare and Pretoria were discussing the loan facility but would not divulge
exact details of how it would work or say whether the two governments had
already reached agreement on the matter.

Ncube said: "Officials from my ministry and the Ministry of Finance spent
the whole of last week trying to finalise how that loan would work. We are
working with our counterparts from South Africa.

"The loan would benefit areas listed in the STERP (Zimbabwe's economic
recovery programme) blue print such as sugar, fertilizer, beverages, tyres
and motor industries.

"It's not just the loan from South Africa, there is also the Botswana
facility, then the rest of SADC and other loan facilities from COMESA
framework which will eventually come."

Zimbabwe's unity government formed last February at the instigation of the
SADC has appealed for aid amounting to US$10 billion to help kick-start the
economy whose industries have been operating at less than 10 percent over
the past years.

The SADC has pledged to contribute towards Zimbabwe's reconstruction.
However, with most member states poor and in need of financial help
themselves, the SADC has also concentrated efforts at trying to convince
Western nations - who remain skeptical of the Harare government's commitment
to economic and political reform - to provide financial support to Zimbabwe.

Western nations have said they want Harare to implement comprehensive
political and economic reforms as well as respect for human rights and the
rule of law before they can provide support as well as lift targeted
sanctions against Mugabe and top officials of his ZANU PF party. - ZimOnline

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Toddler drops out of creche after stay in jail

by Hendricks Chizhanje Monday 20 April 2009

HARARE - Nigel Mutemagau, probably the world's youngest "terrorist" has
dropped out of kindergatten as he is having problems coping up with normal
life after his abduction by state security agents last October.

Nigel was abducted together with his parents Violet Mupfuranhewe and Collen
Mutemagau, from their Kuwadzana home in Banket, about 90km north west of
Harare for allegedly plotting to overthrow President Robert Mugabe's

Upon their release into police custody last December Nigel was detained for
almost a month together with his parents at the notorious Chikurubi Maximum
Security prison before he was released in January.

Chikurubi, where Nigel was detained together with his parents, is notorious
for its atrocious conditions even during Zimbabwe's better days. Now, the
prison is said to be simply inhabitable with government short of cash to buy
food, uniforms and other basic requirements for prisoners.

Nigel's parents told ZimOnline that their son, who turns three years next
month had quit attending pre-school in Banket as he is finding it difficult
to cope with life at creche following months of detention at various centres
around the country where his parents were subjected to rigorous torture.

"He is fearful and is refusing to go to creche. He doesn't like crowds and
if he hears voices of people singing he starts crying," said Nigel's mother,
Violet Mupfuranhewe.

Violet and Collen, both members of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
were all released from Chikurubi in February on bail and are scheduled to
stand trial in June or July.

Collen said Nigel's brother Allan is also failing to cope with life after
the abduction of his parents. According to Collen, Allan who is turning
seven years next month is refusing to stay at his parents' home in
Kuwadzana, where they were forcibly seized by state security agents.

"He doesn't stay at home and if he sees big vehicles he runs away," Collen

Last week Nigel appeared in court together with his parents and seven other
MDC supporters and human rights activists facing terrorism charges whose
reporting conditions were relaxed to once a week and had their travel
restrictions relaxed from the 40km radius imposed by the High Court when
they were granted bail.

Last week High Court Judge Justice Charles Hungwe castigated the police for
violating children's rights by abducting and holding incommunicado the
two-year-old minor.

Justice Hungwe said people are at risk of torture or other forms of
ill-treatment if they are detained in communicado. - ZimOnline

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Mbeki visit to Harare officially denied

April 20, 2009

By Raymond Maingire

HARARE - A senior official has denied press reports last Friday that former
South African President Thabo Mbeki, the broker of the Zanu PF-MDC unity
deal, was due to arrive in Harare Monday on a mission to re-define President
Robert Mugabe's powers as described in the GPA.

It was reported in sections of the media that following an abortive meeting
last Thursday a decision had taken to invite Mbeki to a meeting on Monday so
that he would interpret the terms of Mugabe's powers in the context of the
Global Political Agreement (GPA).

Gorden Moyo, Minister of State in Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's office
denied on Sunday that any such invitation had been extended to Mbeki.

He said Mugabe was instead scheduled to meet Tsvangirai and his deputy
Arthur Mutambara, who is the leader of a smaller faction of the MDC on
Monday for yet another crisis meeting meant to trash out outstanding issues
on the GPA.

Pressure is mounting on the 85-year old leader to moderate his hard-line
stance and allow the consummation of the unity government, key to
desperately needed economic recovery.

Moyo said the meeting would focus on a wide range of issues affecting the
new unity government.

"They are going to meet tomorrow (Monday) to discuss the issues outstanding
in the Global Political Agreement," Moyo said.

"It is going to be a wide-ranging discussion which shall also look at
administrative issues affecting the inclusive government."

Mugabe's execution of unilateral decisions in open violation of the GPA and
his reluctance to resolve outstanding issues in the unity deal has caused
apprehension within the MDC camps.

The political parties are yet to resolve issues around the fairly allocated
appointment of provincial governors, the controversial appointment of the
governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, that of the Attorney General as
well as the appointment of ambassadors and permanent secretaries.

The recent stripping by President Mugabe of certain functions of the
portfolio of Information Communication Technology Minister Nelson Chamisa
(MDC) is among the contentious issues to be broached.

President Mugabe riled his partners two weeks ago when he defiantly moved
the key functions of Chamisa's ministry to Zanu-PF stalwart Nicholas Goche,
who is the Minister of Transport.

The recent wave of farm disruptions by influential Zanu-PF officials is
likely to be included on the agenda of the meeting.

Last week Mutambara led a cross-party ministerial delegation to probe the
renewed invasions in the commercial farming sector.

Tsvangirai's spokesperson, James Maridadi, told The Zimbabwe Times Sunday
that the Premier was due to receive the report from Mutambara on Monday

Mutambara told journalists in Chegutu on Friday that farm invasions were a
reality, despite strong denial by Zanu-PF.

He said the unity government should move to salvage its credibility amid
waning confidence at home and abroad in its ability to restore property
rights and deliver on its many promises.

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Do not lean on Government - Ncube

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Business Reporter

THERE is a need for industry to make its own initiatives to raise capital to
kick start production than wait for the Government to explore opportunities
if the country is to quickly revive its industrial sector.

The Minister of Industry and Commerce, Professor Welshman Ncube, said while
it was the duty of the Government to take a lead in economic revival,
everyone, including industry, must join hands in working towards this
The Government, he said, was also facing financial problems and had to start
from zero, hence the need to appreciate that each sector must make
individual efforts to revive itself.
"Everyone involved in any form of business had to start from zero in terms
of working capital needs. Government was also at zero in terms of revenue
and that's the difficulty we are facing as a country.
"Zimbabweans are a resourceful people. In spite of our international
isolation and all the other events that were taking place both regionally
and internationally we didn't fall," he said.
Prof Ncube said despite billions of United States dollars being invested in
various sectors of economies in the region, Zimbabwe has never benefited.
He however said Government was exploring various lines of credit in line
with the Short Term Emergency Recovery Programme (STERP).
"In order to achieve a capacity utilisation target of over 60 percent, the
inclusive Government will support the manufacturing sector through the
establishment of an external credit facility for importation of raw
materials, equipment for retooling, among other necessities.
"The external credit facility will be available to all manufacturing
entities in the country. However, strict criteria for accessing the facility
will be put in place to avoid instances of abuse and misuse," Prof Ncube
According to STERP the total requirement for the manufacturing sector should
be in excess of US$1 billion, for an initial 12-month period, with potential
to raise capacity utilisation from 10 percent to about 60 percent.
It states that efforts should be made to ensure that the facility is availed
as a grant or on extremely generous terms given the low capacity for debt

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ZIMBABWE: Proposed higher education act condemned

Clemence Manyukwe
19 April 2009
Issue: 0027

Zimbabwe is drafting a new higher education Act aimed at enhancing the
quality of education and training after years of neglect. But the proposed
legislation has been condemned by student representatives, who say its
provisions show that the country's new inclusive government is not serious
about tertiary reform.

The draft Zimbabwe Qualifications Authority Bill, which is expected to
be tabled in Parliament in the coming months, will repeal the Higher
Education Examinations Council and the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council

The new legislation will create a Zimbabwe Qualifications Authority
that will oversee the development and administration of a Zimbabwe
Qualifications Framework, whose objectives will among things be to improve
educational quality through competency-based learning. The authority's
functions will include establishing education standards and qualifications.

The new authority will be overseen by a board comprising of between 15
and 28 members. The draft law says the board will be appointed by the
education minister after consultation with the President and "in accordance
with any directions" the President may give.

Previously, lawyers have claimed that provisions allowing direction by
Zimbabwe's leader have been abused by President Robert Mugabe and used to
punish his opponents and silence dissenting voices.

With Mugabe still President, albeit in a power-sharing arrangement
with the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan
Tsvangirai as Prime Minister, students are jittery about laws allowing
presidential direction.

Clever Bere, president of the Zimbabwe National Students Union
(Zinasu), complained that students were not consulted during drafting of the
proposed law: "This shows that there is no reform in terms of how the
inclusive government is conducting its business. How can they come up with a
higher education policy or law without consulting students? That cannot be
tolerated," he said.

An indication of the new government's insensitivity to student
aspirations was the creating of a board for the Zimbabwe Qualifications
Authority with no student representation, he added.

Bere said students were also not happy about the way the new
government was handling the process of creating a new constitution.

The government recently announced a 25 member parliamentary select
committee, agreed between Mugabe's Zanu-PF party and Tsvangirai's MDC, that
would spearhead the crafting a new democratic constitution to replace the
current one that gives Mugabe wide executive powers and imposes no limit to
the number of years a person can rule the country.

"As students the current constitutional process falls short of our
expectations as it is parliament-driven and not people-driven. At the moment
we are watching from the sidelines but we will hold a general council in due
course to decide the way forward," said Bere.

The students' position on the constitution is similar to the one
adopted by the rights group, the National Constitutional Assembly, NCA. Its
chairman Dr Lovemore Madhuku, a law lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe,
said last week the NCA would campaign for a 'no' vote "because any document
that comes from a defective process is defective. We are going to start a
campaign opposing this process. We will obviously be holding

The government's latest snubbing of students in formulating policy
shows that students were wrong about the conclusions they reached at a
consultative forum held on 18 March under the title "Exploring the
Opportunities and Prospects of Higher and Tertiary Education Reforms in the
All Inclusive Government".

They concluded that the inclusive government would create
opportunities for students to be consulted in the creation of a curricula,
for education to become accessible and affordable for most students, and for
alternative education policies to be created.

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Help sought for conjoined Zimbabwe twins

FIGHTERS: The conjoined twins who have deeply touched health staff at Bulawayo's Mpilo Hospital
FIGHTERS: The conjoined twins who have deeply touched health staff at Bulawayo's Mpilo Hospital

By Lindie Whiz
Posted to the web: 20/04/2009 02:20:16
A ZIMBABWEAN mum who gave birth to Siamese twins at a crumbling hospital in rural Tsholotsho last Tuesday has made a tearful appeal for help to raise thousands of dollars for an operation and their upkeep.

A tearful Jester Mpofu, 39, said: “I would appreciate any financial assistance I can get from the public because on my own I won’t be able to raise it — we rely on subsistence farming.”

Doctors at Mpilo Hospital, where mother is under observation and the conjoined twins in the intensive care unit, have frustrated media attempts to establish how the twins are joined to each other – a detail that will decide the risks involved in separating them.

Rose Ncube, the hospital’s public relations officer, said the twins were “joined from the abdomen to the chest”.

Dr Mercy Nyathi, in charge of the twins and their mother, told reporters she did not want to be “bothered”.

The hospital’s medical director, Lindiwe Mlilo, said: “Please I would like to urge well wishers to assist this woman and her newly born children. This is a sad moment that has to be addressed by everyone.”

Fears are growing for the twins as Mpilo Hospital is facing major operational difficulties, symptomatic of Zimbabwe’s crumbling public infrastructure.

Only two weeks ago, the hospital sent out an SOS, saying it would not be able to handle any emergencies during the Easter holidays. Dr Mlilo told local media “we now only have cabbage for our patients.”

In February, a report by two local NGOs found that the hospital’s mortuary was over-spilling with some 250 bodies when it was designed for only 30 bodies. Mpilo needs up of US$15,000 per month for its operations, the report added.

A nurse at the hospital said: “These twins deserve a chance at life, and time is running out.”

HELP: Doctors fear the twins' life is in danger unless urgent financial help is found for a delicate operation to seperate them

New understands a British tabloid newspaper could be prepared to fly the family out of the country for specialist treatment in England.

The conjoined twins -- who are yet to be named as their father Steven Mkhalalwa Dube is said to be still in Tsholotsho -- are thought to be only the second conjoined twins in the country’s history.

In 2005, Canadian doctors successfully separated conjoined twin boys Tinashe and Tinotenda, who were joined at the abdomen and shared a liver in an operation lasting five hours.

Conjoined twins are a rare phenomenon, and mostly common in Southwest Asia and Africa.

Scientists have presented two theories for the phenomenon. The generally accepted theory is fission, in which the fertilised egg splits partially. Others have promoted a second theory called fusion, in which a fertilised egg completely separates, but stem cells, which search for similar cells, find like-stem cells on the other twin and fuse the twins together.

So rare are conjoined twins that their occurrence is estimated to range from 1 in 50,000 births to 1 in 200,000 births. The overall survival rate for conjoined twins is approximately one in four.

Conjoined twins are also known as 'Siamese' twins, named after the famous pair of conjoined twins Chang and Eng Bunker from Siam, now Thailand, hence the name.

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Know Your Ministers: Olivia Muchena

April 20, 2009

olivia-muchenaWith Conrad Nyamutata

Muchena, Olivia Nyembezi (Zanu-PF): Minister of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development

Her father would forgo bread for breakfast in order to buy a newspaper.

Today, as Dr Olivia Muchena, one of the most powerful women in post independence Zimbabwe, she realises her father did her a world of good by denying her bread for breakfast. The newspapers proved a vital source of information for a young woman who developed an interest in national and world affairs early in her life.

“I got my influence to get into politics through reading newspapers,” says Muchena, a doting mother of three boys, one adopted girl and grandmother of one.

“My father preferred to buy a newspaper as opposed to buying bread. That gave me the opportunity to read a lot about our liberation war heroes and other people’s biographies as they are one area from which I get my inspiration.

“My mother enhanced this spirit in me when she prayed a lot for the country and our African leaders during the war of liberation.”

Muchena, a United Methodist Church lay preacher, says her favourite book is the Holy Bible.

She entered active politics before independence through Bishop Abel Muzorewa’s United African National Conference (UANC) where she was one of the more prominent female leaders. Muzorewa was head of the United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe when he assumed leadership of UANC in 1971.

Muchena, the Zanu-PF legislator for Mutoko South, aligned herself with the party after independence following the demise of the UANC. She was first elected Member of Parliament on a Zanu-PF ticket in 1995 and was appointed deputy Minister of Agriculture.

“To me, it was a totally unexpected appointment to the post of deputy Minister of Agriculture in 1995. I actually shivered when I was called to State House for the swearing in,” says Muchena.

Since then she has been Minister of State in the Vice President’s office responsible for Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement; Minister of State in the President’s office for Science and Technology Development and Minister of Science and Technology.

Muchena (62) is now Minister of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development.

As Minister of Women’s Affairs Muchena says she has set her priority on fighting for the recognition of women in society and their recognition as capable players in bringing prosperity to Zimbabwe.

“Women’s issues are very close to my heart,” she says.

“We would like women to be empowered economically for genuine independence and respect. During my term of office, I will fight for gender parity in institutions such as Parliament, government and the private sector.

“I believe Zimbabwean women are hard-working and excellent administrators and would be handy if given a chance to transform Zimbabwe. They have shown devotion to their own families and communities.”

Muchena holds a BA degree and a PhD in Agricultural Extension from Iowa State University in the United States as well as an MSc in Agricultural Education and Rural Development (Cornell University, New York).

Muchena, who is a maize farmer in the Goromonzi District, grew up in rural Mutoko in Mashonaland East Province.

“I am inspired by President Robert Mugabe. I admire his courage to stand up to the world on matters relating to the defence of the country.”

She says she welcomes the new unity government between her party and the MDC.

“I have developed a good working relationship with my deputy, Evelyn Masaiti,” she says.

Masaiti is the legislator for Dzivarasekwa Constituency representing the MDC.

Tuesday:  Gibson Sibanda


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Zimbabwe Vigil Diary – 18th April 2009



There was considerable media interest in our Independence Day protest about the conditions in Zimbabwean prisons. TV and press photographers vied for the best shots. Public attention was grabbed by graphic pictures of starving prisoners and bodies piled high in Mugabe’s hell-holes. Many passers-by stopped to add their names to a special petition to SADC: “A petition to Zimbabwe’s neighbours: We call upon the Southern African Development Community – as guarantors of the Zimbabwe power-sharing agreement – to put pressure on the new Zimbabwean government of national unity to stop the blatant abuse of human rights of prisoners in Zimbabwe who are dying of starvation, disease and torture.” Our protest was given added urgency by a report that cholera has begun to spread in prison.


Patson Muzuwa of the Vigil management team explained the Vigil’s demand that the prison population be reduced to a level where those incarcerated could be properly fed and housed. Otherwise we were looking at a genocide. Patson, who has been imprisoned several times for his activism, described the abuses of a gulag system in which innocent people could be completely lost to the outside world.  Batson Chapata also talked of his horrific experiences in Zimbabwean prisons – going naked because clothes were not provided, having to eat food not fit for human consumption to stay alive and not being allowed to respond to calls of nature with the resultant filth in the cells. Batson was imprisoned for political activities in 1998 and prison conditions have deteriorated even further since then.


Ephraim Tapa, another member of the management team and Founder and President of Restoration of Human Rights in Zimbabwe (ROHR), put our protest in the context of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He pointed to the Jewish Holocaust and said that in a way it could be compared to what was happening in Zimbabwe.  Our poster “Holocaust conditions in Zimbabwe’s prisons” will continue to feature in future Vigils until something is done about this crime against humanity. Ephraim went on to say “they can’t feed them, clothe them . . . . they are treated worse than pigs or dogs. Whoever – Mugabe or Tsvangirai – is in power we must have our human rights.” The Vigil was calling for an amnesty because prisoners were in most cases suffering far more than their crimes deserved.


On another matter, our petition about aid to Zimbabwe has been amended to take in some suggestions and now reads “A petition to the UK government: We welcome the UK’s humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe but call on the UK government to withhold development aid until it is confident that the money will benefit the people rather than the corrupt Mugabe regime.”


The Vigil management team met after the Vigil and agreed to hold a monthly forum on the last Saturday of every month starting on 31st May (subject to venue availability).  The team wants the opportunity to get to know supporters better and find out what skills and resources people have to offer.  Another decision was to form a stewardship group to make new supporters welcome.


For latest Vigil pictures check:


FOR THE RECORD: 362 signed the register.



·   Central London Zimbabwe Forum. Monday 20th April at 7.30 pm. Political analyst, blogger and writer Musekiwa Makwanya will speak about the future of the GNU.  Venue: Bell and Compass, 9-11 Villiers Street, London, WC2N 6NA, next to Charing Cross Station at the corner of Villiers Street and John Adam Street.

·   Fundraising for the Vigil at the London Marathon. Sunday 26th April.  Steve Garvey, teacher at the Dolphin School, Battersea, is running in the London Marathon to raise money on behalf of the Vigil.

·   ROHR Leeds general meeting. Saturday, 2nd May from 1.30 – 5 pm. Venue: Dock Green Inn, Leeds LS9 7AB. Contact: Wonder M Mubaiwa 07958758568, Donna Mugoni 07533259373 or B Sikosana 07940181761

·   ‘Strangers into Citizens’ Rally. Bank Holiday Monday 4th May at 12 noon in Trafalgar Square.  Meet in Tothill Street SW1 at 11.30 for walk to Trafalgar Square. The event is preceded by services in  several churches including Westminster Cathedral, St Margaret’s, Parliament Square and Central Hall, Westminster. For more information:

·   First Zimbabwe Vigil Forum. Proposed date: Saturday, 31st May. Date to be confirmed once venue secured.

·   Service of solidarity with the torture survivors of Zimbabwe.  Friday 26th June from 7 – 8 pm. Venue: Southwark Cathedral. This is the 8th year the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum has marked UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

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


Vigil co-ordinator

The Vigil, outside the Zimbabwe Embassy, 429 Strand, London, takes place every Saturday from 14.00 to 18.00 to protest against gross violations of human rights by the current regime in Zimbabwe. The Vigil which started in October 2002 will continue until internationally-monitored, free and fair elections are held in Zimbabwe.

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Blood on our hands: How Britain cynically covered up the truth about megalomaniac Mugabe

By Donald Trelford
Last updated at 1:54 AM on 20th April 2009

Robert Mugabe

Corrupt: Robert Mugabe

The baby was already dead, but the crowd weren't to know that. They gasped in horror as the soldier held it aloft and declared: 'This is what will happen to your babies if you hide dissidents.'

Then he dropped the tiny corpse in the dust. That brutal soldier was Brigadier Phiri, known as Black Jesus, notorious head of the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade of the Zimbabwe Army, whose mission was to 'cleanse' Matabeleland of dissidents.

There were no dangerous dissidents left, as his soldiers well knew, since the civil war had ended some years before.

The myth provided them with an excuse to beat and torture villagers for refusing to reveal the whereabouts of the so-called insurgents, but in reality it was designed to intimidate and subdue the Ndebele tribe for supporting Joshua Nkomo, who had been Robert Mugabe's opponent at the general election before independence in 1980, four years earlier.

In 1987, after up to 400,000 of his people had been murdered in the pogrom that became known as the Gukurahundi ('the wind that blows away the chaff after harvest'), Nkomo gave in and merged his party with Mugabe's Zanu-PF.

It is exactly 25 years ago that I stumbled on the first direct evidence that Mugabe was a monster who would destroy his own people to preserve his hold on power.

It seems extraordinary that it took nearly a quarter of a century for the world to catch on.

I had gone to Zimbabwe to interview him on the fourth anniversary of independence.

The interview itself was disastrously dull. He was implacable and uncommunicative.

When I asked him if he would seek a political solution in Matabeleland, where a curfew had been in force for several months, he repeated a well-rehearsed mantra: 'The political solution was the general election. They should have accepted defeat. The solution now is military.'

When I returned, disappointed, to my hotel in Harare, I found some Africans waiting for me near the reception desk  -  they knew I was in the country because I had appeared on ZTV.

They were nervous, looking over their shoulders.

'Terrible things are happening in Matabeleland,' one of them whispered. 'You must go to Bulawayo, to the Hilton Hotel. We will contact you.'

Then they slipped away.

I flew to Bulawayo, hired a car and drove around the apparently peaceful countryside.

Matabeleland is cattle country: cows stood on the dry river bed; old men scratched the earth with hoes; goats, donkeys, marmosets, even a kudu bull dashed across the road. 


Hand of friendship: Margaret Thatcher with Robert Mugabe in 1982

Then I came to a series of roadblocks. I flannelled my way past a couple of them, then reached a no-go area, where my path was blocked by a truck-load of troops with rocket-propelled grenades on their AK-47 rifles.

No journalists had been inside the curfew area since the emergency had been imposed ten weeks before, though reports had trickled out that Mugabe's Shona troops were taking tribal revenge on the Ndebele.

Back at the hotel, I waited in my room until I heard a light tap on the door and a piece of paper was pushed under it.

At midnight, I was to go down to the hotel car park, where a van would flash its lights. I climbed into the van and off we went on a nightmarish nocturnal journey I shall never forget.

Looking back, it amazes me that I wasn't more apprehensive: my companions were all strangers and nobody else knew where I had gone.

The plan was to drive me down back routes into the curfew area to avoid the road-blocks.

This seemed to be going well until we were halted by a policeman.

It turned out that he just wanted a lift home, so he sat in the front while I hid in the back.

Eventually we reached a crossroads, where we waited for ages until a car arrived and I got in.

I was taken to a Catholic mission, where victims of Mugabe's purge had found refuge.

I was shown raw wounds from bayonets and electric torture, and women told me (interpreted by one of the priests) how they had been beaten and their husbands tortured and in some cases murdered; their bodies had been thrown down mineshafts.

I was taken to the site of a mass grave, said to contain 16 bodies. 

Morgan Tsvangirai

Brutalised: Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai

A man called Jason told me how he had hidden while the soldiers collected men from the fields or their huts and then marched them through villages until they were stopped and forced to dig a large hole, where they were shot dead as they stood in it.

I went on to another mission, where many more victims described their experiences in graphic and sickening detail, including a woman whose two small children had been shot while running away.

Worse, much worse, was to happen in terms of rape, torture and intimidation over the next two decades, but the bulk of the killings were to happen in the next two years.

I flew back to Harare, where I told two people what I had seen. One was a military attache at the British High Commission, who said they had feared as much but had been warned by the Foreign Office to stay out of it.

The other was an old Afrikaner, who said: 'Donald, you have discovered an eternal truth about Africa. You stuff them and then they stuff you. For decades the whites stuffed the blacks and now it's their turn. The Ndebele stuffed the Shona, now the Shona stuff them.'

I published the story in The Observer, of which I was then the editor, and it attracted wide publicity  -  but not for the right reasons. I had hoped to alert the world to Mugabe's atrocities.

In the event, my scoop was sidetracked by a battle I then had with the newspaper's chairman, Tiny Rowland, whose company, Lonrho, had extensive business interests in Zimbabwe and who had an uneasy personal relationship with Mugabe because he had supported Nkomo.

I can see now that Rowland had to distance himself from the story for commercial reasons, though his methods seemed a bit extreme.

I awoke on the Sunday morning to hear the main headline on the BBC news: a statement from Mugabe saying he had received an apology from Rowland, who had decided to sack me for being 'an incompetent reporter'. 


Heartbreak: The country is now in the grip of an avoidable cholera epidemic

Then all hell broke loose, with newspapers and television cameras camped outside my door, and the battle raged on for weeks in a Fleet Street soap opera  -  'the most entertaining hullabaloo', as one paper put it, since Rupert Murdoch fell out with Harry Evans, whom he sacked as editor of The Times.

I survived, thanks to the support of The Observer's independent directors and journalists (though the latter's loyalty wobbled a bit when Rowland threatened to sell it to Robert Maxwell).

After Lonrho started cutting off our money supply, I offered my resignation to save further damage to the paper.

This was the signal Rowland needed to climb down and we patched things up awkwardly over lunch in the incongruous setting of a Park Lane casino he owned, served by long-legged beauties in fishnet tights.

We concocted a ludicrous press release in which we said we shared an affection for three things: we loved Africa, we loved The Observer and we loved each other.

Looking back, I regret that my personal battle with Rowland should have overshadowed such an important story.

I had been the first external witness of the Gukurahundi, but Mugabe escaped the opprobrium he deserved.

It took another 18 years before Zimbabwe was expelled from the Commonwealth.

Even now, Mugabe seems immune to outside pressure. At the time, the Foreign Office played down my story as 'exaggerated'.

The British High Commissioner admitted later that he had been ordered 'to steer clear of it' and at all costs to avoid offending Mugabe.

We should not be surprised, for British indifference to the plight of the Africans in Southern Rhodesia and later Zimbabwe goes back more than a century.

Cecil Rhodes's company stole land and cattle from them without compensation  -  actions later sanctioned by the British government.

In the Fifties, Britain set up the Central African Federation  -  including Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Nyasaland (Malawi)  -  and allowed it to rule on a racist agenda ('the partnership of rider and horse,' to quote its Prime Minister, Sir Roy Welensky).

We did nothing to prevent Ian Smith declaring unilateral independence in 1965, when we had the power to do so  -  I was there at the time and wrote a report, which I later heard had gone to a Cabinet committee chaired by the Foreign Secretary, showing how we could end the rebellion.

My plan was rejected as too risky  -  the real reason, I suspect, was that Harold Wilson feared he couldn't send troops to Rhodesia without also helping the Americans in Vietnam.

Britain's paralysis ushered in 15 years of civil war that wrecked the country and brought Mugabe to power.

By 1980, Britain was glad to be shot of the problem and looked the other way while he nationalised the Press, murdered his opponents and subverted the constitution.

We cannot dissociate ourselves from the resulting disaster: a country with the world's biggest inflation rate and fastest sinking economy, riddled with Aids and cholera, where a quarter of the population have fled the country, including 90 per cent of its graduates and most of its doctors and nurses, where only one-in-ten has a job and 75 per cent go hungry in what was once the second richest country in Africa.

Rebuilding Zimbabwe after Mugabe will be a monumental task: restoring the rule of law, the economy, democratic institutions, a free media, an independent judiciary and protection for human rights.

Britain has such a huge historic responsibility for the country's plight that we ought to make it our duty to lead this reconstruction. On second thoughts, however, we have made such a shameful mess of its past that it might be better if we kept away.

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