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Tuesday 17 August, 2004

Zimbabwe ruins

Times (UK)

Soon after he succeeded the former Chief Justice, forced out by threats of
violence, Chidyausiku made his first two appointments of High Court judges.
Both were relatives

The fate of a judiciary once renowned in the Commonwealth for its

By Jan Raath

In the Harare Magistrates' Court it has been decided to keep the public
toilets permanently locked rather than clean them. The floors of the
courthouse are thick with dust, the walls sticky with grime and the only
cheerful aspect to the building is the sparrows that flutter in and out of
the broken windows of the courtrooms. The High Court in Zimbabwe's capital
is no better. Recently Chris Andersen, an advocate, rose in D Court to stop
a draught coming through a door. The door fell off its hinges. Judges and
magistrates have to write evidence down verbatim, in longhand, because tape
recorders rarely work. The High Court photocopy machine - used to print
judgments for distribution in the legal profession - lay idle for several
months recently because the toner had run out. However, it is not because of
lazy caretakers that ten respected judges have left Zimbabwe's superior
courts in the past four years. In 2001, Zimbabwe's judiciary was one of the
most highly regarded in the Commonwealth, particularly for its compassionate
interpretation of constitutional rights. In that year, Robert Mugabe
appointed as Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, a key figure in his "war
cabinet", to silence the growing demand for political change and greater
liberty. Since then, the judges have undergone an onslaught of unrelenting
intimidation, harassment and blatant attempts at bribery. It has worked, and
driven out nearly all the judges who maintained their independence and
entrenched a largely corrupt or pliant bench.

"The public has lost faith in the judiciary," Jacob Mafume, a board member
of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, says. "It is becoming an irrelevant
factor. The judiciary is contributing to its own sidelining. There are
certain judges trying against all odds to ensure that justice is delivered,
but their work is overshadowed by the decay in the system." Last month,
Judge Michael Majuru, in a statement issued in South Africa to where he had
fled in January, gave the first detailed public account of how Chinamasa
deals with judges. Late last year, the minister got another judge to urge
Judge Majuru to deliver a judgment to keep closed the independent Daily
News, the country's most popular newspaper; a ruling party businessman
offered the judge a state-seized farm; then Chinamasa telephoned Judge
Majuru personally to threaten and abuse him. Finally, the judge was
subjected to an outrageous smear in the State press and recused himself. The
judge who took over the case received death threats. Chinamasa is known to
have telephoned and visited several other judges to demand rulings in the
State's favour. In all the known cases he has been rebuffed. He has also
presided over the only arrests of judges - Fergus Blackie in 2002 and Ben
Paradza last year - in the country's history. Judge Blackie was acquitted
and Judge Paradza's challenge is jammed in the Supreme Court. "Nearly every
one of the resignations of the judges are forced removals, " Mafume says.
"It has created an element of fear in the judiciary."

Judges believe their telephones are tapped. Several judges' clerks have also
been arrested. About six magistrates have been assaulted by, or had to flee
from, ruling party militias. In February a magistrate and state prosecutor
were arrested because they granted bail to a suspect in a corruption case.
For those judges who do not resist the Government, life is rather different.
Most of the 21 High and Supreme Court judges occupy white-owned farms
illegally issued to them by the State. The Government is distributing 4X4
vehicles among them for use on "their" farms. Godfrey Chidyausiku, the Chief
Justice, also has a large property in Harare that an official inquiry said
he had acquired "corruptly". Soon after he succeeded Anthony Gubbay, the
former Chief Justice, who was forced out by threats of violence in 2001,
Chidyausiku made his first two appointments of High Court judges. Both were
relatives. Under him, the Supreme Court has carried out Mugabe's strategy of
silencing criticism and stamping on human rights. It has blocked the release
of an official report on the massacre of about 20,000 civilians in western
Zimbabwe, opened the way for the banning of The Daily News, confirmed the
closure of another, The Tribune, legalised the seizure of white-owned land,
banned an independent radio station from broadcasting and last year gave
Judith Todd, the Zimbabwean-born daughter of the former liberal Rhodesian
Prime Minister, Garfield Todd, 48 hours to reclaim her cancelled citizenship
when she was out of the country and unable to return in time to do it.

Where they don't rule for the Government, they don't rule at all. In 2000,
shortly after the parliamentary vote won narrowly by Mugabe's Zanu PF, the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change filed petitions against results in
38 constituencies. About two thirds have been heard in the High Court. It
appears almost certain that by the time the next parliamentary elections are
held in March next year, the Supreme Court will not have heard a single
appeal in any of the petitions in nearly five years. Delays in both courts
are "endemic", the International Bar Association said in a statement last
week: "It is no longer unusual for litigants to wait for more than six
months for a judgment that does not involve complex issues." More complex or
politically sensitive cases can take a year from set down to judgment. Ben
Hlatshwayo, a High Court judge, whose occupation of one of the country's
biggest grain-producing farms has turned it into a peasant squat, has the
most extraordinary record. According to senior legal sources, reviews of
magistrates' court rulings have been gathering dust in his office for the
past year. "He has 700 piling up there," one source said. Before
presidential elections in 2002 he was given 300 affidavits of appeals by
voters, mostly whites, who had been deprived of their citizenship and
thereby, their vote. They were meant to be heard before the poll. "They are
all still on his file," the source said. It is all on the record for when
change comes, Mafume says. "The judiciary has to be accountable. We will
call into account the judiciary to see whether justice has been applied.
Remember in Kenya after Daniel arap Moi lost elections? Nineteen judges were
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Zimbabwe Government Bans Most Rallies by Opposition Party
Peta Thornycroft
17 Aug 2004, 18:07 UTC

As campaigning gets under way for parliamentary elections scheduled for next
March, Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change,
complains that its political activities are severely restricted because most
of its rallies have been banned.
Four out of five election rallies called by the MDC over the past three
weeks were banned, according to the MDC election directorate in Harare.

The MDC says information is coming in from remote rural areas, particularly
in southeast Zimbabwe near the Mozambique border, of violence against people
who attended its rallies last month.

MDC information officer Maxwell Zimuto said Tuesday that in one such
district, Makoni East, the party's 12-man executive has been forced to leave
the area, and is in hiding.

He said out of 17 scheduled rallies over the last three weekends, 14 were
banned. He said one was disrupted by thugs.

Only one opposition rally at the weekend went off without a hitch. It was in
central Zimbabwe and was addressed by party leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Under the Public Order and Security Act, which became law shortly before the
controversial presidential elections of 2002, organizers have to obtain
written police permission to hold public meetings. Under the law, anyone who
attends a meeting which has not been sanctioned can be arrested and sent to
prison for up to one year.

MDC economics secretary Tendai Biti, who is also a leading Harare lawyer,
said he obtained permission to hold a rally in a semi-industrial area in
Harare on Sunday.

But he said police withdrew permission as a crowd began gathering and armed
riot police moved onto the large field.

However, police superintendent Oliver Mandikapa said Tuesday he had no
information whatsoever about any MDC rallies which had been banned or

Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, who is presently drafting amendments to
electoral laws ahead of the March election, was unavailable for comment
Tuesday, as was ruling party spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira.
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17 August 2004


Although estimates vary, I believe there is between three and four million
Zimbabweans in exile today, half of our active, voting population. Most of
them are experts in various fields, are under 40 years of age and follow the
economic, social and political trends in our country religiously.

Zimbabwe is arguably one of the few countries with such a large percentage
of its active population in such a desperate situation because economic
insecurity at home.

This is a national emergency. The number of people in exile for wrong
reasons is too high for a developing country like Zimbabwe. It has a deep
social effect on the family. Without strong, well-knit communities -
underpinned by family stability - Zimbabwe cannot claim to be a nation in
unity. In colonial Rhodesia, the regime then forcibly separated families
between urban and rural areas. The consequences and the results were
disastrous: disease, prostitution, infidelity, marriage break-ups and social

I know how difficult it is to be denied by poverty and intolerance a chance
to live with your loved ones for a long time. Many of you miss your
childhood friends; many are unable to come back, even to bury your dear
departed; many feel the strain of leading separate lives from your husbands,
from your wives and from your children.

The MDC understands your plight. The MDC seeks to correct the current social
and community disintegration that has hit our beloved nation. The MDC wants
all of you to come back and be with your families in a free and prosperous

We know you are there. We know the pressures on you, your fears, your
anxieties, the emotions and your feelings about coming home. Many do more
than one job at a time - mostly menial, degrading work despite your
impressive academic credentials and professional qualifications. The regime'
s official position is that what you are doing is a sign of lack of
patriotism, and therefore unnecessary. The regime says come home and queue
for pieces of land!

The so-called Diaspora is a new, man-made phenomenon in Zimbabwe. In fact,
during the first 10 years of our independence it was uncharacteristic of
Zimbabweans to seek refuge, let alone economic refuge anywhere in the world.
People pooled their resources and trekked into Botswana and South Africa to
buy used cars and other essential trinkets to decorate their own homes, not
to settle in these countries.

The few who sought political sanctuary were forced to do so by the unsavoury
political goings-on in Matabeleland - a matter which continues to cry out
for a permanent resolution 24 years after independence. What has since
happened during the past five years represents a serious indictment on a
regime that claims to be a nationalistic force keen to extend basic
freedoms, including the right to meaningful and rewarding work, to its

With unemployment hovering over 80 percent, it is inevitable that such a
large portion of the nation's elite and the nation's prime intellectual
minds decide to risk life and limb, either across the Limpopo or by claiming
fear from deaths if they have to remain within our beleaguered borders.

The MDC is inundated with requests for help to live the country from our
young people. We are generally unable to assist because we do not have the
necessary wherewithal to do so or the desire to empty Zimbabwe of the
relevant person-power to assist in effecting fundamental changes to our
political landscape.

You, the so-called exiles, have kept this country running, in many ways. You
support the dwindling incomes of your families and have supplemented foreign
currency inflows in a place where traditional currency generators have been
deliberately allowed to collapse.

Gideon Gono, the excited Reserve Bank governor realized the contribution of
our expatriates when he assumed office in December. He then sought to
harness those earnings and manage them on behalf of the Zanu PF regime. He
created a facility which he named Homelink, for a bureaucratic handling of
these paltry earnings.

Gono sent a huge delegation of nine people, excluding himself, yes, nine
people, to canvass Zimbabweans all over the world to send foreign currency
home, as if anybody ever needed Gono's bidding to support their families
back in Zimbabwe.

The size of the delegation baffled all of you, especially those in the US,
in Britain and in South Africa.  What could have worried you most was the
expense to Zimbabwe of sending such a huge delegation merely to distribute
Homelink pamphlets for two weeks.

Gono realised that he was unable to go after investment funds from real
investors in these countries.  He opted instead to persuade yourselves, the
desperadoes, to release the pittances you earn from your multiple and highly
demanding chores. There seems to be an erroneous feeling, sadly within the
Reserve Bank, that you are swimming in cash.

The MDC believes Zimbabweans must never contemplate being part of what has
become known as the African Diaspora. We are a social liberation force,
representing a post colonial political formation whose main thrust is the
extension of freedom, economic emancipation and progress.

We came into existence because of the denial by our nationalists to pursue
the ideals of the liberation struggle: freedom, equal opportunities, a
non-racial society, one person one vote, an anti-corruption crusade and
genuine national development, not idleness, political patronage and
political sycophancy.

Why must our professionals and other nationals be subjected to debasing
experiences when our country is so rich in natural resources and has the
potential for limitless opportunities for personal advancement?

Why must we allow the graduates we train and invest in and other
professionals to hang their professional boots and become trainee cleaners,
care-givers, taxi drivers and gardeners in foreign lands? These people, alas
three to four million, have a responsibility to design a Zimbabwe of their
choice, to map their own destiny and to make anybody presiding over their
political life accountable for his or her actions.

The solution is political. Unless you allow your people access to unfettered
liberty, to other characteristics of democracy, to enjoy the freedom of the
individual - including freedom to criticise any sitting regime - and the
opportunity to change any regime without worrying about being jailed,
followed by men in dark glasses or being murdered, the country will continue
to experience political and economic stress.

Gono missed a superb opportunity, now that he has the dictator's ear. He
should have come back from his Western safari with a bold message that
Zimbabweans abroad are not interested in Homelink. You want Votelink. You
must be allowed to vote. You need basic political rights at home. You need
your freedom.

Gono could have informed the dictator that the number out there is so huge
that it is important to address their political questions early before they
declare that enough is enough. The millions in exile pose a serious security
threat. Their continued denial of the vote will, one day, force them to
organise for political alternatives to open up the democratic space at home.

We have planned and forecast a period of intense reconstruction immediately
after assuming power. Those who have been away from home may not be aware of
the extent of the destruction of our country. Almost all sectors are heavily
depressed. Rural businesses, services and the weak have collapsed from the
weight of Mugabe's war against our people.

Commercial agriculture is history. Only four, out of our 12 public hospitals
remain marginally functional, dispensing at the most pain-killers, even to
serious accident victims and pregnant mothers. You may not be aware that our
normal ambulance fleet is down. Patients are brought to hospitals by
ox-drawn carts; an invention the regime says is major success.

With good governance, we are a nation with the capacity to absorb all its
nationals into meaningful productive units and even require expatriates from
all over the world. The basic infrastructure in this country is sufficient
to enable us to take off and expand our development agenda. Our economic
programme, RESTART, values the contribution of Zimbabweans first. Although
we shall need balance of payments support at the beginning, the challenge to
pick up the pieces rests with all of us.

We are already focussing our attention on life after Mugabe, with
comprehensive programmes for millions of young people, in order to avoid
social and political instability in future. My message to all outside
Zimbabwe today is that you must gain as much from your forays out there,
soak in whatever experiences come your way, in preparation for a much
demanding responsibility at home tomorrow.

We need your experience, your international exposure, your resourcefulness
and your broad political awareness. Your exposure to freedom, to situations
of choice, to tolerant societies and to advancement shall be put to national
use in a climate of dignity, respect for your person and ability to vote out
anyone trying to effect a repeat of our harrowing past.

Prepare yourselves for the immense challenges ahead, including a variety of
leadership roles. What we seek to do is give the leadership, the political
direction and an enabling climate for all to thrive. With RESTART, we shall
offer all a new beginning in a new direction.

RESTART is a holistic programme whose success shall depend on a
multi-faceted attack on the current political, economic and social ills
brought about by tyranny, greed and corruption. We are guided by the values
of the MDC: peace, freedom, justice and solidarity. We are flexible, taking
into account the sad realities on the ground.  We offer a diagnosis and
prescription for long term recovery and growth.

Our country has experienced continuous negative growth rates for six years.
Massive devaluation of commerce and industry and a subjective, chaotic land
policy have left millions of people jobless, homeless and hungry. Any
visitor coming into Zimbabwe today would be excused to assume that we are a
nation at war. The regime has turned its fight for survival onto the people,
creating a social crisis leading to the collapse of transport, education and
health delivery systems. The HIV/Aids pandemic rests at the top of this
massive humanitarian emergency.

On our part, we are continuing to execute the mandate you gave us: fighting
for change. We managed to get access into Bikita on Friday, met with party
structures and left all in a state of election preparedness. On Saturday, we
proceeded to Zvishavane for a similar assignment. Yesterday, I was at
Chiwundura and Maboleni in Gweru Rural Constituency.

Despite a few hiccups arising from police confusion in all these meetings,
the people on the ground remain steadfast in their resolve to end the
Zimbabwean crisis, through a legitimate election.

Together we shall win,

Morgan Tsvangirai
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One Man one Vote!

Do you remember that call? I think the first time I heard it was in 1949
when as a 9 year old boy, I stood at the fence of my school as hundreds of
trade union members marched past under the watchful eye of the Army and
Police. It was the start of a 30-year struggle for the right to vote, which
was to be the main focus of the nationalist's cause.

The struggle for human and social rights in southern Africa started and
finished with the call for a universal franchise that would allow black
citizens to choose the leadership they wanted and in whose hands they could
trust their future.

In 1980 an election was held on a universal franchise basis - all we had to
do to vote was to produce our ID and proof of residence. It was our first
election under a universal franchise and the result was that Zanu won a
clear victory.

Today, the same group that came to power through that historic vote in 1980
is still in power and is doing all that it can to prevent an election under
a universal franchise. This is one of the worst examples of a peoples
movement based on democratic principles being hijacked by a small oligarchy
which wants to hold onto power and to continue to enrich itself at all

What have they done to restrict democratic space in recent years? The Mugabe
regime has done the following to restrict the right of the Zimbabwe people
to choose their own leadership since 1980: -

1. They have subverted the right of citizenship for hundreds of thousands of
Zimbabweans under a variety of pretexts.
2. They have denied millions the right to vote because they no longer live
here and are economic and political refugees in other countries.
3. They have subverted the electoral roll, manipulating it to meet their own
needs and making the whole process of getting registered to vote a task that
daunts all but the most determined.
4. They have closed down access to the media in such a way that today 90 per
cent of the information that is reaching the Zimbabwe population is tightly
controlled and directed by the ruling clique.
5. They have completely subverted the right of Zimbabweans to meet and
gather to discuss the affairs of the country. All political activity is now
supervised and controlled by the State.
6. They have taken full operational control of the electoral process itself
and are using the States own machinery to ensure that the vote is
manipulated in such a way as to produce the desired electoral outcome. This
involves ballot stuffing, double voting and the use of some 2 million dead
peoples names on the voters roll to generate votes that otherwise would not
7. They are gerrymandering the electoral boundaries, the distribution of
ballot stations and counting centers so that it is almost impossible for
civil society or opposition parties to monitor and supervise the process.
8. They have severely curtailed the ability of all civil society and
opposition parties to raise money to run their operations effectively while
at the same time using State resources unashamedly for party political
9. They have used militia in various forms to suppress all opposition
activity and are using violence and intimidation on a massive scale.
10. They are using the courts to subvert the due process of the law and to
deny people their constitutional rights as well as an instrument of
intimidation and control.
11. They use patronage to restrict support for the opposition and to
encourage support for the ruling clique.
12. They use food as a political weapon - especially in rural areas with a
poor subsistence majority.

Under these conditions it is understandable that people in Zimbabwe now
seriously doubt the ability of the electoral system to bring change in the
way they are governed. There are many who argue that it is better to try and
work with the regime and to try and limit its excesses or those who simply
do so to maximize their own returns from the process.

For democracy to work it must have as its foundations the great freedoms
entrenched in the universal declaration of human rights - freedom of speech
and association, the rule of law and equality before the law, security of
ones person and assets and freedom from coercion and violence. In addition,
democracy must be as inclusive as possible - all those who are affected by
the decisions of the State should have the right to vote for those who
control the State. Democracy must respect, as sacrosanct, the right of a
people to register to vote and then to vote under conditions of secrecy and
in confidence that their votes will be counted and used to determine a
democratic outcome.

Any other process is not democracy - it is a subversion of democratic
principles and if not checked will eventually lead to violence and despair
as people choose other means to effect change. When African leaders question
the validity of democratic practices in Africa, they are in fact denying
their people the right to determine their own future. Such a denial devalues
the rights of every individual, discourages enterprise and participation and
fosters the entrenched positions of those who seek to exploit their
societies to their own gain and to the detriment of everyone else.

Right now the leaders of the SADC region are locked in debate behind closed
doors in Mauritius - they are debating the SADC norms for democratic
elections in the region. They are also discussing what to do about
continued violation of those norms and how to get Mugabe and his
colleagues to conform to the agreed standards. Mugabe knows that his
survival is at stake, he knows full well that if he concedes conditions for
a free and fair election, the likelihood is that his Party, Zanu PF would be
wiped out at the polls. This could be a watershed moment for all of us and
for democracy in Africa.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo 16th August 2004

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ZIMBABWE: Urban residents battle with rising prices

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

JOHANNESBURG, 17 Aug 2004 (IRIN) - Urban Zimbabweans battling with
escalating prices are finding that more and more food essentials are beyond
their reach.

"Malnutrition levels among the elderly and children are very high in the
urban centres. A loaf of bread costs about Zim $3,500 (US 60 cents), which
most ordinary Zimbabweans cannot afford to buy every day. The lowest paid
Zimbabwean earns Zim $150,000 (about US $27)," said Fambai Ngirande,
spokesperson for the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations.

Although food items were readily available in the urban markets, few
ordinary Zimbabweans could afford to buy them, he said.

The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe's latest monthly expenditure survey showed
that the price of maize meal in urban markets had increased by 44 percent
within a month.

In previous years, urban Zimbabweans faced with escalating prices would
source cereals and other food items from rural areas as a "coping mechanism,
but this time there is no food in the rural areas too," Ngirande said. To
enforce the monopoly of the Grain Marketing Board, roadblocks prevented
maize privately acquired in the countryside from being transported to towns.

The council reported that a monthly expenditure basket for a low-income
urban household of six stood at more than Zim $1 million (about US $178.00)
in June, up by 7 percent from their May survey, and about 436 percent more
than in June last year.

Between May and June this year, the price of maize meal went up by 44
percent, sugar by 21 percent, tea 14 percent and flour 12 percent. "A meal
of potatoes, which is cheaper than bread, will cost a family of four Zim
$3,000 (about US 50 cents)," Ngirande said.

The Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS-NET) said in its monthly food
security update on Zimbabwe that over the past 12 months "rentals for
shelter have increased by 400 percent and a significant number of poor
households have been priced out of the market - they have been pushed to
illegal settlements around the cities and towns."

The annual food inflation reported by Zimbabwe's Central Statistics Office
stood at 430.6 percent in June, dropping by 51.2 percent from the May rate
of 481.8 percent.

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ZIMBABWE: Porta Farm residents condemn eviction order

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

HARARE, 17 Aug 2004 (IRIN) - Some residents of Porta Farm, an informal
settlement on the outskirts of Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, have threatened
to defy a government order to move, saying they have nowhere else to stay.

The government had given the 10,000-strong community until 15 August to
move, to make way for the construction of a sewerage plant. When IRIN
visited this week, some people were still packing their belongings, heading
off to stay with relatives. Others, however, vowed to stay put in a
settlement which has been under threat throughout its existence.

"We were shocked by the government's move to evict us and build a sewage
system here ... We've been here for 14 years," community leader Prince
Nyathi told IRIN.

Minister of Local Government Ignatius Chombo had promised that the settlers
would be re-located to a government farm. But no transport has as yet
arrived, and most of the people IRIN spoke to were pessimistic that there
would be any facilities at the new location.

"How can the government take us to a land where there is no toilets and
water?" asked one resident, who said he intended to resist eviction.

Tendai Maroto feared that her two children might fail to take their final
exanimations in October if they were resettled. "My children registered to
write their examinations here, now where will they write the exams from?"
Moroto asked as she packed her belongings.

Porta Farm, a 30-minute drive from the Harare city centre, has been home to
some of Zimbabwe's poorest and most vulnerable citizens since 1991. It was
meant to have been a temporary settlement to accommodate the homeless
cleared out of the capital when Queen Elizabeth II visited to open the
Commonwealth Heads of State and Government Meeting.

Designated a "temporary holding camp", it has retained an air of
impermanence, with lack of official recognition compounding the poverty.
Narrow dirt lanes run between homes made from mud brick and plastic
sheeting. The population has just three NGO-run pre-schools, and a log-built
primary and secondary school, with no health facilities or electricity.

What money there is in the community comes mainly from illegal fishing in
the nearby reservoir and the sale of firewood. Some of the residents used to
find occasional work on the commercial farms in the area, but those
opportunities have dwindled with land redistribution, where a new class of
resettled farmers are themselves struggling to make a success of their

Peter James, aged 60, said the government's eviction order would worsen the
plight of Porta Farm's residents. "The majority of us have been employed in
businesses around Lake Chivero. The unemployed ones were surviving on
fishing, so moving us will be taking away our lifeline."

Secretary of the residents committee, Lister Makoni, said the authorities
were treating them as outlaws, after threatening that the army and police
would be used if the community failed to vacate the farm by last Sunday.

"Our argument is that we cannot move from here into the wilderness, until
and unless the government gives us a credible promise that we are going to
find the relevant infrastructure that we have been using here," said Makoni.
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Mail and Guardian

SADC leaders approve charter on free elections

      Port-Louis, Mauritius

      17 August 2004 13:59

 Thirteen Southern African leaders have approved a new regional charter on
free and fair elections that specifies how they should be conducted to
guarantee democracy, officials said on Tuesday.

At a summit on the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius, all the heads of
state and government from across the Southern African Development Community
(SADC) region, which includes Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo
(DRC), gave their blessing to the charter.

They also promoted Madagascar, the large island nation off Africa's
south-east coast, to full SADC member status, but the decision to upgrade
its membership will take effect only next year.

At the start of the summit on Monday, Mauritian Prime Minister Paul Berenger
became the new SADC chairperson and stressed the importance of the charter,
making a direct reference to Zimbabwe, whose President Robert Mugabe was

"With free and fair elections due in Zimbabwe at the beginning of next year,
we can already start preparing for the normalisation of relations between
[the] SADC, the European Union and the United States of America," he said.

The Mauritian leader had already explained the charter, saying that "really
free and fair elections mean not only an independent electoral commission
but also include freedom of assembly and absence of physical harassment by
the police or another entity, freedom of the press and access to national
radio and television, and external and credible observation of the whole
electoral process".

Officials said on Tuesday that the leaders gathered in the town of
Grande-Baie had dealt with almost all the issues on the agenda during the
first day of proceedings, leaving such matters as listening to and approving
a new SADC anthem for later.

Before the decision on Madagascar, the SADC comprised 13 countries
representing at least 212-million people -- Angola, Botswana, the DRC,
Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland,
Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

It was initially set up in 1979 by countries determined to form a joint
economic and political front against South Africa's apartheid regime of the
time, but the advent of democracy in South Africa led to its membership,
after that of newly independent Namibia and before the vast DRC. -- Sapa-AFP
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Mail and Guardian

SADC has 'failed democracy'

      Cape Town, South Africa

      17 August 2004 12:26

 South Africa and the rest of the Southern African Development Community
(SADC) has once again failed to stand up for democracy and human rights in
Zimbabwe by siding with President Robert Mugabe's government, South African
official opposition leader Tony Leon said in a statement on Tuesday.

Responding to statements by regional heads of state attending an SADC
leaders' summit in Mauritius, Leon said the SADC has acted "against the
Zimbabwean people".

Leon, leader of the Democratic Alliance, said the SADC meeting "presented
the perfect opportunity for SADC leaders to discuss the report of the
African Commission on Human and People's Rights on Zimbabwe, which was
presented at the third ordinary session of the African Union in Addis Ababa
last month and which the Zimbabwean government has now had ample time to

"Instead, SADC leaders outdid each other in heaping praises on Mugabe's
government," Leon said.

Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa launched a stinging attack on Western
nations when he stated that "we are tired of being lectured on democracy by
the very countries which, under colonialism, either directly denied us the
rights of free citizens, or were indifferent in our suffering and yearnings
to break free and be democratic".

While South African President Thabo Mbeki's views on Zimbabwe were not
reported, Leon said: "The silence of the South African government is
particularly disappointing, given that South Africa is the current chair of
the SADC's Organ on Politics, Defence and Security."

One of the objectives of the organ is to "promote and enhance the
development of democratic institutions and practices within member states,
and to encourage the observance of universal human rights as provided for in
the charters and conventions of the Organisation of African Unity and the
United Nations".

Leon said that by failing to deal with the Zimbabwean government's
destruction of democracy and its human rights abuses, South Africa is
failing to carry out its responsibilities.

SADC leaders such as Mkapa are mistaken if they believe the crisis in
Zimbabwe is fundamentally about land and not about Mugabe's determination to
retain power.

"They are also mistaken if they believe that criticism of the Zimbabwean
government is being directed by former colonial powers and not by the
Zimbabwean people themselves.

"The willingness of SADC leaders to give credence to conspiracy theories,
and to ignore the obvious causes for Zimbabwe's economic and humanitarian
crisis, is a severe blow to the credibility of [the] SADC and reflects
poorly on the leadership of its member states," Leon said. -- I-Net Bridge

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SADC shows approval for Mugabe

          August 17 2004 at 07:10AM

      By Cris Chinaka

      Grande Baie, Mauritius - Southern African leaders have rounded on
Western powers, backing Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and saying
Africans are tired of being preached to by countries that denied them
democratic rights under colonial rule.

      Mugabe's seizure of white-owned farms and his contested re-election in
2002 are a major focus of a Southern African Development Community (SADC)
summit that opened on Monday.

      Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa launched a stinging attack on
Western countries pressing the SADC to ensure there was democratic rule.

      "We are tired of being lectured on democracy by the very countries
which, under colonialism, directly denied us the rights of free citizens or
were indifferent to our suffering and yearnings to break free and be
democratic," Mkapa said at the summit's opening ceremony.

      He said the region should develop electoral laws in line with its
political, social and cultural background.

      The summit aims to adopt common electoral rules across the SADC
region. The proposals were not directed at any one country, Mkapa said,
referring to media reports that they were intended to bring Mugabe into

      "In democracy, as in all other things, no one size fits all," he said.
"Multiparty democracy and... elections must never be a cover for the
destabilisation of our countries."

      Mkapa was speaking after Lesotho Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili,
chairperson of the SADC's key politics, defence and security body, painted a
glowing picture of progress towards democracy: "I am happy to report that
democracy is not just well, but is thriving."

            Analysts say SADC leaders are unlikely to break ranks
      Mauritian Prime Minister and new SADC chairperson Paul Berenger
praised Mugabe and said Zimbabwe's polls next year would be free and fair.

      Mkapa said the SADC had agreed earlier this year to establish a
technical committee to advise on land reform, which was crucial to

      "Let the SADC speak with one voice and let the outside world
understand, that to us Africans land is much more than a factor of
production - we are spiritually anchored in the lands of our ancestors," he

      "Time has passed. We forgive those who did this to our ancestors, but
now we are in power, we cannot run away from our historical duty to set
right these historical wrongs."

      Reform must be fair "to help new landowners become productive in the
quickest way possible, on lands (to) which they have secure ... rights".

      Analysts say SADC leaders are unlikely to break ranks and will
maintain their traditional public approval of Mugabe.

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Illegal cross border gun smuggling rife in Limpopo

August 17, 2004, 17:18

Illegal guns are entering South Africa as Zimbabwe slides into turmoil and
refugees from that country stream across our northern border, more and more.

This follows an SABC investigation into illegal gun running in the Limpopo
province during which the team tried to determine how easy it is to buy an
illegal fire-arm. Tens of thousand of illegal immigrants are entering South
Africa. Most of them desperate. Others are believed to be bringing guns into
the country to sell for food.

Stan Joubert of the police serious and violent crime unit, says many of the
culprits are former soldiers and now unemployed and in order to support
their families the sell guns.

Three weeks ago, the SABC team was offered about 15 guns for sale from gun
runners and syndicates from both Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Prices ranged from
R 500 to R 1 500. Police says the arms are trickling in, because people are
moving in and South Africa appears to be a place of hope.

Several chiefs in the area have reportedly come across Zimbabwean refugees
with AK-47 assault rifles that they are trying to sell in South Africa. The
SABC team also travelled to Mozambique where an AK-47 assault rifle with a
full magazine costs a mere R500. It's been more than 12 years since the
civil war ended and guns are still freely available and transported by gun
smugglers to South Africa.

Watch Special Assignment tonight on SABC3 at 21:30 for the full story on gun
running in the Limpopo Province.
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New Zimbabwe

Gauging Zimbabwe's mood
Last updated: 08/17/2004 18:47:11
IT MAY be presumptuous of me to venture to "read" the mood of a country, but
that is precisely what I am going to attempt to do!

Several times over the last several years a great many Zimbabweans who
desire significant political and other change have had something to look
forward to on the horizon. There was a hopeful "things will get better after
the constitutional referendum/presidential or general election/cabinet
reshuffle," etc. All these events came and went but of course none of them
brought about the kind of positive change many Zimbabweans would like to see
in the way their country is being run.

One thing that is different about today's Zimbabwean "mood" from that of say
four years ago, is that there no longer is any illusion that there is some
event around the corner that is suddenly going to change the fortunes of
Zimbabwe for the better. The next general elections are just months away but
there is not the same excited expectation about their prospect to usher in
significant reform as there was about those of 2000.

The ruling ZANU-PF government is alert to public disaffection with it and
the threat of the MDC like never before. In response, they are pulling out
all the stops to make sure the opposition party does not embarrass it the
way it did the last time, when it won almost half the seats in parliament.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai's trial on thin treason charges should have
been wound up with a verdict recently, but it was deferred indefinitely.
This kind of legal limbo, just enough to keep an opponent off their balance,
has become a stock in trade of Mugabe's government.

All the signs are that a combination of bribery and strong arm tactics will
be used to keep any of the rural electorate that might gravitate towards the
opposition in line. Chiefs have been promised big increases in their pay
packages and cars. They will not need to be explicitly told who to
"persuade" their subjects to vote for! Particularly in arid areas like
Matabeleland, food handouts will be used cleverly to influence the vote. The
government has made a big deal in public about electoral reforms, but in
practice whether this will translate to a more free and fair campaigning and
voting environment remains very doubtful given the lessons of previous

From the president on down, coded language to incite ruling party followers
to use strong arm tactics against opposition supporters without any fear of
prosecution for all but the most blatant and public violations of citizens'
rights will continue. And naturally, whatever nature of the "reforms" that
are being talked about, they will not extend to changing the torrent of
hate-filled, one-sided propaganda against ZANU-PF/Mugabe opponents that
spews from the state media. If it sounds like I am cynical about most
initiatives of the Mugabe government, I plead guilty, I am!

Given the foregoing that is understood by the generality of Zimbabweans,
there is none of the previous general elections' sense of excitement. All
the above, coupled with the MDC's own often uninspiring performance at
winning hearts and minds even given the repressive environment, have led to
a "so what?" mood about the election. There is far more excitement offered
by the prospect of a lot of dirty contests between top officials within
ZANU-PF for the chance to stand for particular constituencies than there is
about a real fair fight between the two political parties.

      "Despite the repression against the MDC, there remains a huge
reservoir of good will and support for it"
This is not to say that the MDC is a spent force. Far from it. Despite the
repression against it, there remains a huge reservoir of good will and
support for it, including in many rural areas that are claimed to be ZANU-PF
strongholds but that have never been allowed a fair enough campaigning and
voting environment to test the true relative measure of support for the two
main parties. At the same time, many of the party's officials have been
revealed by time to be nothing more than political chancers of no firm
conviction about anything. Many of these who hoped to get onto the public
gravy train on the coat-tails of the wide public disaffection with the
ruling party at the last election. A lot of these fly by night politicians
in the opposition's ranks will be deposed by an unimpressed public, though
in some cases by new players within their ranks, not necesarily by ruling
party politicans.

Inflation has definitely fallen. Not just in terms of the official figures,
whose accuracy is controversial, but also in ways clearly apparent to the
average person. Prices are certainly not going through the roof like was the
case last year, but they are "stabilising" at high levels still way beyond
the means of most working stiffs to comfortably keep up with. While there
may not be any positive improvement to talk about, the pace of
deterioration, at least as regards prices, has slowed.

This has not been the boon to the government that it may have hoped, despite
inevitable attempts to harness this into political capital. The average
person is still so battered by economic difficulties from all angles that
their very slight easing cannot be expected to result in outpourings of
gratitude to the same politicians who are blamed by many for causing their
hardships in the first place.

Elsewhere on the economic front, there is no general mood of optimism about
the near future. One hears of one or another scheme to try to stimulate
various sectors of the economy, but they are neither delivered nor received
with much conviction or hope. The small proportion of serious farmers
amongst the "third chimurenga" recipients of previously white-held farmland
continue to battle against all sorts of odds. Inexperience, lack of working
and other capital, uneconomic bank interest rates, the continuing
uncertainties surrounding the whole method of land redistribution are just
some of them.

One hears of a few new farmers with the access to capital and the
seriousness of purpose beginning to raise their heads above the crowd of
most of their peers, but they are still too small in number and size of
operations for this to yet be economically significant. Farming ain't no
picnic, but shhh, don't tell that to the many armchair revolutionaries and
uncritical admirers of Mugabe! To many of them whether re-possessed land is
used economically productively or not is really a side issue. If we now have
vaster streches of weeds and top Mugabe cronies have grabbed the choicest
properties for themselves, there is always the "satisfaction" of kicking the
unpopular white farmers to point to . "Please don't try to sabotage our sexy
revolution by bringing up issues of methodologies," methodologies which
almost guarantee that the overall public good will suffer more than benefit.

Mugabe's much heralded "anti-corruption" drive of earlier in the year seems
to have expired rather early under the sheer weight of the crooks in his
government. The effort was beginning to point in many rather high places so
apparently had to be quickly abandoned. I told you so!

Foreign currency is unsurprisingly still in short supply despite Reserve
Bank governor Gideon Gono's various valiant efforts to have more of it be
traded through official channels than through the black market, which took a
Gono-induced knock but definitely did not disappear. Despite the great media
hype about "Homelink," the amount of forex raised through expatriate
Zimbabweans sending money home through official channels is embarrassingly
small in relation to that hype. Since the recent suspension of local payouts
in forex, that amount will likely go down even more and some are already
predicting the demise of the whole scheme. The lesson: there is no
substitute for exports! And there are aren't too many of those, in
agriculture, manufacturing or any other sector. Nor are there any signs that
Zimbabwe is about to regain access to the international credit and grants
that it has been shut off from for several years, and that several
neighbouring countries continue to benefit from.

In other words, "comrade" Mugabe continues to "lead" us in the direction he
knows best-downwards -

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Zim Online

Doubts over Mugabe's readiness to comply
Wed 18  August 2004

      GRAND BAIE: MAURITIUS -  Southern African leaders have adopted a
regional charter on free and fair elections hinting that countries which
persistently violate the new rules could be expelled from the Southern
Africa Development Community (SADC).

      The adoption of the election charter comes ahead of Zimbabwe's
parliamentary elections next year. Political observers say one of the
objectives is to put pressure on President Robert Mugabe to reform the
country's much criticised electoral system.

      Mugabe endorsed the charter alongside 12 other SADC leaders.  The
charter is predicated on 10 guidelines. These include full participation of
citizens in the political process, freedom of association, political
tolerance, regular intervals for elections, equal opportunity for all
political parties to access the state media, equal opportunity to exercise
the right to vote and be voted for, independence of the judiciary and
impartiality of the electoral institutions.

      Other principles are voter education, acceptance and respect of
election results by political parties proclaimed to be free and fair by the
National Electoral Authority, and the right to challenge election results.

      The charter requires SADC member states holding elections to ensure
"the scrupulous implementation of the principles, take precautions to
prevent fraud or rigging, provide security for all parties and ensure
transparency and integrity of the entire election process."

      All countries holding elections are expected to "safeguard the human
and civil liberties of all citizens including the freedom of movement,
assembly, association, expression and campaigning as well as access to the

      The charter obliges SADC members invited to observe elections to
arrive no later than two weeks before the election date, ensure conditions
are conducive for free, fair and peaceful elections, make sure there is an
updated and accessible voters roll and a timeous announcement of the
election date, ensure that  polling stations are in neutral places and that
the votes are counted at the polling stations.

      "Where applicable, funding of political parties must be transparent
and based on (an) agreed threshold in accordance with the laws of the land,"
the charter reads.

      The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)  and civic groups  welcomed
the new guidelines but said it would require a lot of political will from
SADC leaders to force Mugabe to comply.

      "We have no doubt at all Mugabe will not comply without enormous
political pressure from the region," said MDC secretary general  Welshman

      "We would be happy if SADC can put a clear mechanism in place to
monitor compliance and to punish those who violate the rules".

      Ncube said Mugabe was already doing the opposite of what the
guidelines required. He cited the planned introduction of a new law to cut
foreign funding for Zimbabwean human rights groups and to ban them from
engaging in human rights issues.

      National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) chairman Lovemore Madhuku said
Zimbabwe would have to overhaul its constitution and electoral system if "we
are to go anywhere near complying with these norms".

      He said the electoral reforms proposed by Mugabe fell hopelessly short
of what was expected under the new SADC norms.

      Mugabe has proposed setting up an independent electoral commission to
run Zimbabwe's elections. However, this has been dismissed as a "cosmetic"
change as Mugabe would still effectively appoint the new commission via the
Parliament in which he enjoys an appointed majority. Mugabe also proposed
reducing voting to one day and counting of ballots at polling stations.

      However, the opposition notes that it is completely shut off from the
state media, and security laws  do not allow it the requisite space to
campaign in elections.

      The SADC leaders said in their final statement they had been informed
that Zimbabwe was drafting new electoral rules which would comply with the

      South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki said the SADC treaty allowed for
"people to be excluded from the organisation if they are found to be
constantly in violation of the treaty".

      National Constitutional Assembly chairman Madhuku said this meant
those violating the electoral charter could be excluded from SADC but added
it was wishful thinking to imagine that SADC leaders would expell Mugabe
even if he ignored the new rules.

      "One would have hoped the SADC leaders to explicitly demand that
Mugabe revisits all the draconian pillars he has already put in place to
stifle free elections. How can we honestly believe that they can now take
action against a fellow comrade?" asked Madhuku. ZimOnline
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Zim Online

Botswana: We are not plotting against Mugabe
Wed 18 August 2004

      GABORONE  -  Botswana has rejected charges by Zimbabwe government
media that it is being used by the United States and Britain in an alleged
plan to topple President Robert Mugabe¹s government.

      Botswana's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation
said the claims by the media were aimed to cause friction between Harare and

      In a statement, Botswana asserted its right to establish relationships
with any country of its choice. "As a sovereign country, Botswana is free to
cooperate with any country or entity in the world in a manner that she
chooses, including the areas of defence, law enforcement and intelligence."

      The ministry said it had opened its Thebephatswa Airbase to defence
and government officials from foreign countries in a bid to disprove claims
that Britain and America planned to use the airbase to launch attacks on

      A report by Zimbabwe's Chronicle newspaper alleged that Botswana was
under pressure from Washington and London to incite Zimbabweans to overthrow
Mugabe and his ruling ZANU PF party. ZimOnline

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Zim Online

Civic society groups lobby for regional support against new NGO Bill
Wed 18 August 2004

      JOHANNESBURG ­ Zimbabwean civic society groups are trying to enlist
the support of their counterparts in Southern Africa in their struggle
against planned legislation that they say would banish most of them.

      They have approached the Southern African Development Community
Council of Non Governmental Organisations for help. The executive director
of Zimbabwe's National Association of NGOs (NANGO), Jonathan Mudehwe, told
ZimOnline in an interview that they had asked the regional NGO council to
take up the issue of Zimbabwe with new SADC chairman, Mauritian Prime
Minister Paul Berenger.

      "We have met with the interim secretary-general of the council, Abie
Dithlake and we presented him with our concerns over the bill. The council
will hold an executive meeting in the next two weeks and our case will be
high on the agenda," said Mudehwe.

      "We were promised by Mr. Dithlake that the council would take the
matter to the highest authorities in SADC."

      Mudehwe and his NANGO were in Mauritius to lobby SADC leaders during
their annual summit.

      The bill bars NGOs and other civic groups from engaging in governance
and political work without registration by a state commission. NGOs, almost
all of them entirely funded by outside donors,  will also be stopped from
receiving external funding or face deregistration. Civic society and legal
experts point out that as a result nearly all NGOs working in Zimbabwe may
      be forced to cease operations.

      Mudehwe said, "We have made it clear to the SADC council on NGOs that
the intended legislation in Zimbabwe is against the memorandum of
understanding signed between SADC and the SADC council of NGOs. Zimbabwe is
a full SADC member and should be pressured to abide by SADC principles."

      The memorandum obliges member states to respect the role of civil
society in national governance and development.

      The SADC council of NGOs is an arm of the regional body and is tasked
with, among other things, ensuring that member countries create an enabling
environment for NGOs to operate. ZimOnline
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Zim Online

Lobby group: Give five million Zimbabweans their citizenship ­ without a fee
Wed 18 August 2004

      HARARE -  A group claiming to represent more than five million
Zimbabweans stripped of their citizenship because their parents were
foreigners says it will petition the United Nations to pressure Harare to
give them back their birth right.

      The Citizenship of Zimbabwe Amendment Act, passed in July 2001,
annulled the citizenship of Zimbabweans born and living in the country, but
whose parents did not originally come from Zimbabwe.

      Such individuals, potentially citizens of their parents' countries of
origin, now have to first renounce that potential citizenship and pay a Z$30
000 fee before they can regain their status as citizens of Zimbabwe.

      Worst affected by the Act are people of Malawian, Mozambican and
Zambian origin. Most of them worked as labourers on Zimbabwe's former
white-owned commercial farms. The majority are second or third generation
Zimbabweans who no longer have any links or relations in their parents'
countries of origin. In 1985, the government had awarded them Zimbabwean
citizenship, but with the 2001 act this changed.

      Zimbabwe Anti-Ethnic Discrimination Organisation (ZADO) chairman Mike
Mwale said the group was preparing a petition to United Nations Resident
Coordinator in Zimbabwe, Victor Angelo. He said his organisation represented
five million people.

      "Right now we are stateless and one has to pay $30 000 if one wants to
be a Zimbabwean.  So far about a million people have paid and we are saying
they must get their money back. This is extortion."

      Registrar General Tobaiwa Mudede, who administers the citizenship
laws, could not be reached for comment.

      Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights director Arnold Tsunga said the
Citizenship Act discriminated against this population group on the basis of
race and ethnic background:  "Anyone of foreign descent has the potential to
be rendered stateless if they have not renounced their official entitlement
to a potential citizenship."

      Tsunga added that Mwale and his organisation face an uphill task as
Harare has not ratified the UN's Protocol on Civil and Political Rights
which deals with issues of citizenship. ZimOnline

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Zim Online

Exiled Zimbabweans celebrate national holidays
Wed 18 August 2004

      JOHANNESBURG - Zimbabweans living in South Africa have started an
initiative to hold parallel celebrations of Zimbabwean national holidays in
exile,  saying the ruling ZANU PF party is politicising and abusing national
events for its own partisan agenda.

      Under the banner of the Peace and Democrary Project (PDP), about 3 000
exiled Zimbabweans gathered in Johannesburg on Sunday to begin a series of
activities to be staged this week to celebrate the National Heroes day,
albeit one week late.

      Journalist Andrew Meldrum and Zimbabwe Crisis Coalition representative
in South Africa Elinor Sisulu addressed the gathering.

      A soccer tournament of Zimbabwean youths based in South Africa was
staged to commemorate the Heroes Holiday. Zimbabwean soccer star Adam Ndlovu
was guest of honour at the tournament.

      PDP chairman Lusinga Matula said the initiative was "part of an
exercise to reclaim our national holidays for the good of the country."

      The PDP would also mobilise exiled Zimbabweans to celebrate other
national holidays like Independence Day and use the occasions to highlight
the suffering of Zimbabwean people.

      "The mistake we make as Zimbabweans is to regard important events like
Independence Day and Heroes Day as Mugabe's holidays. That is not the case.
These are our national holidays as Zimbabweans and we should celebrate
them," said Lusinga.

      Celebrating national holidays in exile would also unite Zimbabweans in
the diaspora and keep them focused on the need to change the situation back
home, he said.

      The PDP was initially started earlier this year as an interaction
forum for exiled Zimbabwean youths. ZimOnline

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Zimbabwe: Tackling the Impact of Customs On Aids

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks

August 17, 2004
Posted to the web August 17, 2004


Traditional practices of polygamy, virginity testing and 'kugara nhaka'
(wife inheritance), inhibit women's control over their bodies and increase
vulnerability to HIV infection, but activists are split on the best way to
tackle the customs.

The Girl Child Network (GCN) believes in empowering girls to resist
virginity testing. Other advocacy groups favour tighter legislation against
high-risk behaviour performed "in the name of culture". Still others believe
in empowering women to make informed decisions within the context of
traditional culture, given the hostility of many community leaders to
attempts to tamper with custom.

"Where the cultural practice is not seen as a violation and is believed in,
it's difficult to police," said Emedie Gunduza, advocacy officer of the
Women and AIDS Support Network (WASN). She told IRIN that the more
economically disadvantaged the woman, the more prone she was to wife

GCN director Betty Makoni said virginity testing took place not only at
ceremonies sanctioned by rural chiefs, but also in churches and the home,
where it was performed by "the girl's mother, an aunt, a neighbour or even
the prospective husband".

Contrary to the cultural belief that testing reduced promiscuity and the
rate of HIV infection, Makoni noted it could actually fuel rape, as girls
became targets of HIV-infected men who believed sex with a virgin could cure
them. In some Pentecostal churches, once a girl's virginity was confirmed,
"a male member of the congregation might rape the girl, confess in front of
the whole congregation, and then agree to marry her. The power to resist
must therefore rest in the girl's own hands," she said.

Some groups believed the practice would be much more acceptable if boys were
tested too, but Makoni disagreed. "We say the insertion of a finger or
anything in a child's vagina is sexual abuse. It violates the most critical
part of a child's body and girls must report it."

GCN has 156 girls' clubs in 11 mostly rural areas, where girls are taught
about their rights and given survival skills. Several chiefs now frowned on
the practice of virginity testing, but in areas where there was resistance,
GCN's "underground work" had resulted in many girls refusing to attend
ceremonies, Makoni said.

One such ceremony organised earlier this year in the Rusape area, close to
the capital, Harare, reportedly collapsed through non-attendance by the
girls. "The greater the girls take up the challenge of refusing, the greater
the chances of virginity testing being phased out," Makoni told IRIN.

Bold interventions against 'nhaka' and polygamy are more difficult, as the
work of the Zimbabwe Open University's (ZOU) Committee on HIV and AIDS has

After an evaluation exercise with its students last year, the university
reported that 73.7 percent rated 'nhaka' as top of the list of practices
fuelling HIV because of the possibility of infection if a widow was passed
to her deceased husband's brother. But attempts to lobby traditional leaders
were unsuccessful, with the leaders rejecting notions that 'nhaka' and
polygamy necessarily fuelled the pandemic.

"They said there was no proven research that women in these relationships
had a problem," David Chakuchichi, chairman of ZOU's HIV and AIDS Committee
told IRIN. Traditional leaders demanded the right to correct from within
whatever was proved to be fuelling the pandemic, while leaving the practices
intact, he said.

WASN, however, said it had recorded success when it worked through
traditional structures and targeted HIV/AIDS issues in a more holistic way.
In a three-year evaluation exercise in Chikwakwa, 50 km outside Harare,
where infection was believed to be high and ignorance of the disease
prevalent, they found that once women were equipped with information and
negotiating skills, they were able to make informed decisions on matters
concerning high-risk behaviour.

Consequently, STIs and teenage pregnancies had dropped significantly, and
there was greater openness to discussing HIV issues. For example, "the women
indicated that the female condom put them in control and the men preferred
it to the male condom," said advocacy officer Gunduza.

She put that success down to an "enabling environment" created by health
workers and community leaders, which might not have been possible had a more
aggressive approach been taken.
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