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Zimbabwe floods declared national disaster

Monsters and Critics

Dec 18, 2007, 11:56 GMT

Johannesburg/Harare - Devastating floods in northern Zimbabwe that claimed
at least three lives and displaced around 1,000 people have been declared a
national disaster, state radio said Tuesday.

Forty-three villages were swept away in Muzarabani district in the Zambezi
Valley, which has seen heavy downpours since early December.

The floodwaters wrecked houses, schools and swept away livestock.

The authorities declared the floods a national disaster on Monday to allow
resources to be mobilized to help around 1,000 displaced villagers, said the

Zimbabwes' Civil Protection Unit (CPU) and the Red Cross are distributing
relief supplies such as tents, food, blankets and medicine to those
affected, the radio said.

The meteorological department Tuesday warned of further downpours.

'Very heavy falls of rain in excess of 80 millimetres in 24 hours are
expected across the country from Tuesday through to Thursday this week,
principal meteorologist Hector Chikoore was quoted as saying in the official
Herald newspaper.

© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur

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Zimbabwe's media commission orders journalists to get new licences

Monsters and Critics

Dec 18, 2007, 15:31 GMT

Johannesburg/Harare - Zimbabwe's state-controlled media commission on
Tuesday ordered journalists to apply for new licences, apparently ignoring
moves by President Robert Mugabe's government to tone down press laws.

The Media and Information Commission (MIC) said reporters, newspapers and
foreign news agencies would need to apply for new licences by December 31 if
they want to operate for another year.

A daily penalty will be imposed on all applications for renewal received
after the deadline, the MIC said in a statement, quoted on state radio.

Ruling party MPs on Monday voted to back amendments aimed at reforming
Zimbabwe's controversial press laws, as well as changes aimed at softening
security and broadcasting laws.

Changes to the press law include making it no longer compulsory for
journalists to carry press cards. Under the current law reporters can go to
jail for working without these.

The surprise concessions came in the wake of South African-mediated talks
between Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC).

Debate on the proposed amendments was due to begin in parliament Tuesday.

The MDC has said it will back the reforms, but also wants more concessions,
including a new democratic constitution to ensure presidential and
parliamentary elections scheduled for next year are free and fair.

© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur

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Confusion as RBZ orders banks to briefly stop operations

Tichaona Sibanda
18 December 2007

There was drama in Harare on Tuesday as thousands of people were left
stranded outside banks after the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe ordered financial
institutions not to dispense cash or accept deposits.

Our correspondent Simon Muchemwa said: ‘Rumour quickly spread throughout the
city that the RBZ was going to introduce new currency. People waited until
early afternoon when banks started releasing cash, only to find out that
there was no new currency but new notes of the old Z$200,000 bearer cheques.’

There has been anticipation since last week that the government was ready to
let the RBZ introduce a new currency to counter the serious shortages of
cash in the country.

Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono has blamed Robert Mugabe’s cronies for
fuelling the country’s runaway inflation through illicit dealings. Gono last
week Friday told delegates attending the Zanu-PF congress that some top
government and ruling party officials were among the ‘cash barons’ blamed
for the current cash shortages that have seen customers waiting long hours
for scarce money.

Gono said the country’s inflation was running at 8 000%, although analysts
believe it to be at least double this official figure. He also said the
central bank released Z$67 trillion dollars, of which Z$65 trillion could
not be accounted for.

Muchemwa told us that in 2003 the country experienced similar critical cash
shortages that saw customers sleeping outside banks to withdraw their
savings. But he said this year’s shortages were far worse than 4 years ago,
with many banks now only dispensing Z$5 million per customer a day.

‘What we saw today (Tuesday) was a classic example of how a government has
run short of ideas to revive the economy. The RBZ has opted to print more
money than to introduce a new currency and the inflation will keep sky
rocketing,’ Muchemwa said.

SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news

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Zanu PF congress disrupts examination marking

By Henry Makiwa
18 December 2007

Teachers marking ‘O’ Level examinations in Harare were last week forced to
pack and leave after Zanu PF demanded their living quarters for use by their
own delegates. According to sources the move has seriously disrupted the
marking process, which was meant to end on Wednesday.

Exam markers at the Harare Institute of Technology, Belvedere Teachers’
College and Harare Polytechnic were on Tuesday ordered to abandon the
marking and vacate the centres to make way for Zanu PF members arriving from
across the country to attend the party congress. The markers were then moved
to Chinhoyi University of Technology in Mashonaland West Province, about 120
kilometres west of Harare.

Top Zanu-PF officials told the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council to find
alternative marking centres, as it’s delegates had to be accommodated in
government colleges close to the venue of the congress, the Harare City
Sports Centre. According to sources the markers were “summarily ejected” and
were forced to mill around outside while the ruling party members took up
residence in their living quarters.

Examiners who spoke to Newsreel said subjects such as ‘O’ Shona Paper 1,
Mathematics Paper 2 and History Paper 1 have been affected by the
disruption. The marking exercise, which started on December 4th at different
centres countrywide, was scheduled to be completed in two weeks but some
markers have said that it would be difficult for them to meet their deadline
after the two-day disruption.

“We did not mark the whole day on Tuesday and we only arrived in Chinhoyi on
Wednesday. We were treated like second-class citizens really as if the Zanu
PF congress is more important that everything else in this country,” said
one marker who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“Other markers have now returned home after their eviction from marking
centres in Harare, citing degrading treatment by the authorities. You can’t
blame them because we are not earning much doing this anyway,” he added.

Besides taking over markers’ accommodation the ruling party also
commandeered the National Railways of Zimbabwe and the government-owned
ZUPCO bus company to transport delegates.

Observers have criticised Robert Mugabe’s continued abuse of state resources
for his party’s benefit. On many occasions travellers have been left
stranded at international airports after Mugabe commandeered Air Zimbabwe
planes for his personal use. The latest incident is just a continuation of
this abuse of state resources, and a disregard for ordinary Zimbabweans.

SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news

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Urgent relief needed in flood-hit Zambezi Valley

By Henry Makiwa
18 December 2007

Aid agencies have called on the government to urgently address the welfare
of thousands of flood victims in the north of the country, after three
people were killed and many left homeless.

According to reports an estimated 1 000 people in the Muzarabani district
lost their homes, livestock and crops to the floods. It is understood that
on Friday an Air Force of Zimbabwe helicopter was sent to rescue flood
victims, but there has been no report back yet from the scene. A key bridge
in the district has been swept away leaving many stranded.

The Red Cross organisation which helps with relief, says it plans to
distribute water purification tablets, blankets and food to villagers in the
area, below the Zambezi escarpment, which has been badly hit by torrential

The flood crisis comes as weather experts warned on Tuesday that intensified
flooding is on the way. The Meteorological Services Department said more
heavy rain, up to 80mm in 24 hours, was expected from Tuesday to Thursday in
most parts of the country. The department also said low-lying areas in the
country are at risk of flash floods and advised people living close to
rivers and dams to closely monitor water levels and move to higher ground if

Aid agencies say the situation is critical and the government needs to act
swiftly. But given that there has been no money for basic health services in
general, and the government’s lack of willingness to address crucial
humanitarian issues, it is unlikely the authorities will take any action to
protect villagers from the flooding.

SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news

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Catholic bishops call for free and fair poll in 2008

By Lance Guma
18 December 2007

Zimbabwe’s Catholic Bishops have called on the government to ensure a free
and fair environment for the holding of elections in 2008. In a pastoral
letter issued by the Catholic Bishops Conference the group expressed concern
over the manner in which past elections have been conducted, citing violence
and intimidation in the process. The theme of the letter was titled, ‘only
when power stands under God’s blessing can it be trusted,’ and urges
Christian teachings and values to shape the conduct of ‘public lives.’ The
group says the government should ‘establish a credible electoral process,
whose outcome will be free and fair and with local and international

The Bishop’s Conference urged Christians in Zimbabwe to make a decision over
which party came closest to their Christian values. ‘Christians should
become more involved in political life, running for office, working within
political parties and communicating concerns to the elected officials.
Voting should be guided more by one’s moral convictions than by one’s
attachment to a political party or interest group,’ the letter added. They
also stressed the importance of an independent electoral body saying this
had to inspire confidence and protect the integrity of the process to
deliver a free and fair election.

The bishops also noted how the same concerns they cited in a pastoral letter
in 2004 still existed. Political parties have been urged to avoid
provocative campaigns, be given the freedom to campaign freely, government
to allow the media to do their job without hindrance and voters to be given
enough time to register on the roll. The Bishop’s went on to say that groups
that are involved in civic education should be allowed to engage in voter

Despite these and many other calls made by peace loving groups, signs on the
ground are ominous for a free and fair poll. Mugabe’s roping in of the war
veterans to secure his candidacy within Zanu PF has been seen in many
quarters as a warning shot that he will not hesitate to use violence if
events go against him. The opposition also reports widespread acts of
violence across the country in areas like Chipinge and Chimanimani.

SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news

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Britain says elections won't be free and fair

The Zimbabwean

Tuesday, 18 December 2007 15:01

BRITAIN has once again expressed grave concern over worsening human
rights abuses coupled with the snail pace of electoral and constitutional
reforms in Zimbabwe arguing that the elections would not be free and fair,
an official told CAJ News on Monday.

In an interview, the British High Commissioner to South Africa, Paul
Boateng, said though London would not use external intervention in Zimbabwe,
he said his country was not convinced that the so-called positive progress
was taking place in the soutern African nation.
He said whilst it was clear that the Zimbabwe problem would be
resolved by Zimbabweans, constitutional and electoral reforms needed to be
addressed as a matter of urgency before there could be free and fair
elections next year.
Boateng pointed out that Britain was fully behind South African
President, Thabo Mbeki's mediation effort, but cast a dark cloud of
uncertainty over the ruling party's commitment following  glaring evidence
of human rights abuses, police partisanship and the use of food as weapon in
order to win elections.
"Britain would like to see Zimbabwe's general election next year
being conducted freely and fairly. But our fears are that election rigging
might not be ruled out. Britain would like to see Zimbabwean's economy
improve," said Boateng.
He said there were fears that Harare might continue using food as
weapon to win next year's election in a development that would render the
whole election process not free and fair.
Boateng also took the opportunity to appeal to the heads of the
Southern African Development Community (SADC) region to support efforts
being made by president Mbeki to broker peace in the current stand-off
between MDC and the ruling Zanu (PF).
Turning to the sour relations between Britain and Zimbabwe, Boateng
said the problem started when Harare messed around its economic policies due
to political greediness. He said President Mugabe's thirst for power was the
root problem.
Political and economic instability is the root cause of the stand-off
between Zimbabwe and Britain. Well, there is no external intervention by
Britain, but it has to be clear that both political and economic instabilty
in Zimbabwe were the root causes of the current stand-off, and nothing
else," said Boateng.

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NCA Zimbabwe Press Statement on Polokwane Events

The Zimbabwean

 Tuesday, 18 December 2007 14:51

The National Constitutional Assembly of Zimbabwe is concerned over the
democratic processes taking place at the South Africa's ANC Conference in
Polokwane, Limpopo, and SA.

South Africa once revered since 1994 for respecting democratic processes has
now just turned to be like any other African country especially Zimbabwe (if
the events to and at Limpopo are anything to go by). The road to Limpopo has
been marred with high suspicion of vote rigging leading to its 52nd session
The African National Conference's over 4000 delegates who are supposed to
participate in this election expressed no confidence in the electronic
counting and monitoring of the electioneering process.
A bigger number strongly backing the party deputy president Jacob Zuma
showed high suspicion over the computerized systems in the voting process as
they suspect the literate Mbeki camp would manipulate the system. At the eve
of the Limpopo Conference ANC's youth league president Fikile Mbalula
pointed out clearly that issues of vote buying was being done by other
factions as a way of securing victory.
About 177 delegates who were supposed to participate in the voting process
were thrown out of which 96 are from Gauteng a section where Zuma seems to
be enjoying much support with President Mbeki losing 26 from his Eastern
Cape region. In the build up to this Conference there have been also issues
of blackmailing through the use of media. Zuma has been suffering blistering
attacks from SABC whilst Mbeki suffered most from the Sunday Times where
Zuma sympathizers have major stakes.
All these issues have at one point come up in African countries especially
Zimbabwe where we are seeing unacceptable levels of political chicanery. We
had hoped that South Africa will show better political maturity but it seems
Africa still has a long way to go.
Whatever the outcome of the Limpopo Conference the ANCs reputation on
democracy will have suffered a heavy blow and will not be easy to mend.
Failure of tolerance by the rival factions will conclude African history of
post colonial democratic survival as highly questionable.
The NCA is concerned that African countries are failing to show maturity
when it comes to issues of democracy. As it appears that in the process of
transition African politicians end up using the same instruments as those
used by our former colonial masters.
By Maddock Chivasa
National Constitutional Assembly Zimbabwe

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Zimbabwe - debates in House of Commons and House of Lords
18th Dec 2007 17:50 GMT

By a Correspondent

House of Lords

Monday, 17 December 2007

Zimbabwe: EU-Africa Summit

Lord Hamilton of Epsom asked Her Majesty�s Government:
What discussions their representative at the European Union-Africa summit had with regard to the situation in Zimbabwe.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown) : My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, raised Zimbabwe and the appalling human rights situation during her intervention at the EU-Africa Summit in Lisbon on behalf of the United Kingdom. She also spoke to numerous African leaders at the summit, including President Wade of Senegal, President Mbeki of South Africa and the Tanzanian Foreign Minister, to discuss the situation in Zimbabwe and underline UK concerns. I might add that a discussion on the human rights and governance situation in Zimbabwe in the summit proper was a precondition in allowing President Mugabe a visa for the summit.

Lord Hamilton of Epsom: My Lords, was it not a terrible disappointment that despite these protestations there was actually very little reaction from Zimbabwe? It does not seem to have made any impression whatever on President Mugabe.

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the noble Lord is correct although I am sure that, like me, he is hardly surprised. President Mugabe has repeatedly shown himself to be immune to the protests of any of us in Europe and blind to the dreadful human rights situation confronting his people.

Lord St John of Bletso: My Lords, will the Minister elaborate on the reported settlement which President Mbeki has facilitated with President Mugabe that outlines the conditions for free and, one hopes, fair elections in Zimbabwe in March next year?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the noble Lord will have to accept that it is a little premature to elaborate, because repeated deadlines for the announcement of this settlement have been missed. We are still not aware of its full details, but it is a facilitated negotiation between President Mugabe and the MDC opposition. However, there are still sticking points. The latest word that we have heard is that President Mugabe may not be willing either fully to implement the agreement or to postpone the elections to allow the MDC the opportunity to campaign effectively. We are still awaiting further details. Our hopes will remain unrealised until then.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, in the Strategic Plan 2008�12, the summit agreed to priority action 1 on,
�Common positions and specific initiatives on key aspects of the governance and human rights agendas�.
What specific initiatives did the summit agree to take against Mugabe in respect of his destruction of the rule of law, human rights and good governance? Is it not the reality that the platitudes of Lisbon held out no hope whatever to the people of Zimbabwe that they will not suffer probably another five years under the yoke of Mugabe?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the noble Lord should take some comfort from the fact that there is an EU envoy reporting to the Foreign Ministers, who, like the Heads of Government, realise that when the Mbeki plan is announced, Europe will have to have a position on it and on whether any elections that follow are honest and fair. Europe recognises that if the elections are not fair it will have to ratchet up its pressure on the regime.

The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, does the Minister think that the cutting up of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York�s clerical collar live on television as a protest was a helpful gesture?

Lord Malloch-Brown: I certainly do, my Lords; I just wish that I was bold enough to cut up my fine necktie too.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I think that we were all hoping for a rather fuller statement from the Government on this EU-Africa summit which appeared to go rather badly wrong, not only with the sinister presence of Mr Mugabe but with the complete misunderstanding about the economic partnership agreements which many people in Africa felt were going to make things worse and not better. We all know very well and greatly admire the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, of course, but what was her precise status at the meeting and what did she actually say? Did she remind Mr Mugabe that 80 per cent of people in his country are unemployed; that four in five of them are living below the poverty level; that famine is spreading; that he has reduced this once rich country to the most appalling misery; and that he is using torture and murder against the opposition? Did she tell him that face to face? If not, is there not more opportunity ahead to be a little more bold and forthright against this horrible man?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I share the noble Lord�s desire for an opportunity for a fuller discussion of the summit, as I have indicated to him before. However, on his specific question, my noble friend Lady Amos spoke at the summit plenary session on Sunday and used very similar statistics to those that he has just used to lay out unequivocally the country�s disastrous economic and human rights situation. There was no ambiguity. Equally, in the opening session, the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, and the leaders of Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands and Portugal as well as the President of the European Commission, Mr Barroso, and the High Representative, Mr Solana, all also spoke to the human rights situation in Zimbabwe.

Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, is my noble friend aware of the report in the Times this morning that the divisions within the Movement for Democratic Change are being overcome and that the movement is more united? As a result, if Robert Mugabe gerrymanders the elections proposed for next year, will our Government be prepared to respond positively to any demand or request made by Morgan Tsvangirai?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the Government will stand four-square behind honest and fair elections in Zimbabwe. It is not enough for President Mugabe to agree to a piece of paper as a result of this mediation; he must be seen to change the laws and respect them and to allow genuinely free and fair elections. If those do not occur, we will in no way lessen�rather, we will increase�our objections to the Government of President Mugabe.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, can the Minister explain how Zimbabwe can have free and fair elections if no vote is given to the 4 million Zimbabweans in the diaspora? Is there the slightest possibility that, even if that were agreed to, it could be organised by March?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, as the noble Baroness is no doubt aware, votes for those in the diaspora is one of the conditions on which Morgan Tsvangirai is still insisting. That is one reason�along with other amendments to laws in the constitution that the agreement would require�why he is insisting that the elections should be postponed until June, so that there is time to make the arrangements.

House of Commons

Monday, 17 December 2007

European Council (Brussels)

(Edited extracts referring to Zimbabwe)

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): With permission, I would like to make a statement about the European Council held in Brussels on 14 December. It focused on two major concerns: first, the reforms that Europe must make to meet and master the global challenges we face with competitiveness, employment, secure energy and climate change; and, secondly, issues of security, in particular in Kosovo, Iran and Burma, that we must confront together.

Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham) (LD): I also welcome the statement, particularly the Prime Minister�s comments on Kosovo, Iran and Burma, and his support for economic reform and free trade. I start by referring to the meetings that he did not attend, before getting on to the one that he did. He was absolutely right not to attend the EU-Africa summit. The European Union has a travel ban on Mugabe, and the Prime Minister was absolutely right to take a principled stand on that. The only doubt that I am left with is why, given his strong position on human rights, he did not take a comparably strong position on the King of Saudi Arabia. I suspect that Mr. Mugabe will be wondering whether the only way to get on the right side of the Prime Minister�s principled view of foreign policy is to have some oil.

The other meeting that the Prime Minister did not attend, of course, was the signing ceremony, and I am puzzled about the reasons for that. Either he could not organise his diary, which would be incompetent, or he could not make the effort, which would be discourteous. Alternatively, he was trying to send the conflicting signal that he did not like the treaty that he had agreed to. Whether it was duplicity, incompetence or discourtesy, it reflected badly not just on him but on the country as a whole.

The Prime Minister: I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman is making his appearance here as the acting leader of the Liberal party; it will elect a new leader tomorrow. I see that three former leaders of the Liberal party are with us today. He says that he has a new position on the referendum; but some members of his party want a referendum on the amending treaty, whereas others do not. So what has his party done? It has retreated to the position of 35 years ago whereby the party will have a referendum on whether we should be in the European Union at all. I suggest to him that that issue was resolved in 1975�it is in no need of being resolved again in this country.

I turn to the hon. Gentleman�s points about the specifics of the discussions. On Zimbabwe, it is right that we are agreed that it was wrong for Britain to be present at prime ministerial or Foreign Secretary level at the EU-Africa conference. However, if there is a change in Administration in Zimbabwe and in the respect for human rights, we stand ready to do what we can to help rebuild that country.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): Although I disagree with the Prime Minister�s decision not to give the people a referendum, I congratulate him on his principled stand of staying away from the summit with Africa. In his discussions with European leaders at the margins of the Council, did any of them profess, even secretly, that they felt that their judgment in allowing Mugabe to be there was wrong? Did he get any movement on his desire to have an EU envoy sent to Zimbabwe?

The Prime Minister: The important thing is that a message is sent to Mugabe and his supporters that the whole European Union is against the abuse of human rights in Zimbabwe and the damage that is being inflicted on that country, when there are 4 million refugees in South Africa, when 80 per cent. of the population is in poverty, when inflation is running into thousands of per cent., and when there is real suffering. I believe that there is a common view across Europe that we should support the people of Zimbabwe. If there is a move towards human and democratic rights in that country and a change of Government there, I believe that the whole European Union will join us in helping the reconstruction activities of the people of Zimbabwe.

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Rainwater harvesting eases shortage

BULAWAYO, 18 December 2007 (IRIN) - Residents of Zimbabwe's second city,
Bulawayo, are harvesting welcome rainwater from their roofs after
consistently low rainfall in the past few years forced the city council to
decommission all but one of its six reservoirs and impose rigorous water

"We had gone for almost 10 days without water because council supplies are
only available once a week now," said Hlengiwe Ncedani, who had arranged a
variety of receptacles under the roof of her three-roomed house in the
working-class suburb of Mabutweni to collect rainwater.

Ncedani told IRIN that she and her three children had missed the last water
ration, which took place at about midnight when most families were sleeping.
"We can collect as much as 200 litres of potable water on a good rainy day,
and this lessens the burden of scrounging for water," Ncedani said.

In Iminyela, another Bulawayo suburb, Euginia Mbondera also welcomed the
rain, saying, "We can breathe a sigh of relief and hope the rains continue."
is caring for a brother-in-law infected with HIV/AIDS and said the family
had been hard pressed to maintain the hygienic conditions crucial to his

Poor access to water has far-reaching implications for general health and
hygiene, but is even more crucial in HIV/AIDS prevention and care. "It might
take some time before council restores normal supplies as dams take time to
fill up, given how dry it has been over the past months," Mbondera said.

Harnessing roofs

Lareto Nare, a researcher at Rainwater Harvesting Association of Zimbabwe,
told IRIN there was great potential for rainwater harvesting from roofs in
Bulawayo and it was a practice that council institutions should view

"Council schools and clinics that already have substantial roof surfaces
could benefit a large community," Nare said. The council runs more than 30
clinics and an infectious diseases hospital, and there are at least 140
primary and secondary schools in and around the city.

Water experts surmise that a 100 sq m roof in an area with an annual
rainfall of 600mm could collect as much as 36,000 litres of water, assuming
the rain was collected on an impermeable surface without evaporation. This
is about twice the annual requirement of a five-member family with an
average daily drinking-water requirement of 10 litres per person.

When it rains it pours

While Bulawayo thirsts for more rain, Meteorological Services Department
director Hector Chikoore said, "Most areas have recorded more rainfall than
what they normally receive during the same period of the year. For instance,
in Harare [the capital] we expect a seasonal rainfall of 800mm, but Harare
has already recorded almost a quarter of the total in only seven days."

The state-run Herald newspaper reported that three people had died and one
was missing after floods destroyed homes in northeastern Zimbabwe. According
to the Civil Protection Unit, which coordinates emergency responses, about
1,000 people were displaced.

Meteorologists have warned of torrential rains and further flooding in other
parts of the country during Zimbabwe's rainy season between November and

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

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Mbeki to tackle Zimbabwean impasse


   December 18 2007 at 08:56AM

By Peta Thornycroft

President Thabo Mbeki is to begin trying to unblock the deadlocked
talks between Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu-PF and the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change on Saturday when he returns from Polokwane.

Negotiators for the ruling Zanu-PF and opposition MDC were in Pretoria
last Saturday reporting that talks begun eight months ago had stalled and
South African intervention was needed to resolve the dispute.

African diplomats now in Polokwane say they understood that Mbeki
reassured the Zimbabweans he would return to unblock negotiations on the
Zimbabwean crisis at the first opportunity, which they say will be on

The talks deadlocked after the Zanu-PF congress last week when it
became clear President Robert Mugabe was sticking to March as the election
date and that a new constitution would not be in place before the poll.

The new constitution has been negotiated and is ready for the
government printers.

The state media, which reflect Zanu-PF thinking, have insinuated that
the MDC and Zanu-PF are about to sign a political agreement.

This is not the case, although a raft of repressive legislation is to
be amended today, including the most infamous - the Access to Information
and Protection of Privacy Act, which makes journalists guilty of a crime if
they are caught working without accreditation.

The state has not only refused some Zimbabwean journalists
accreditation for the past five years, it has also failed to accredit them.
If caught working, they faced up to two years in prison.

Most Western foreign journalists in Zimbabwe previously faced arrest
if caught because they could not get accreditation. They may now apply for
accreditation for up to 60 days.

Conditions for political parties holding executive meetings and
rallies have also largely been restored to what they were in 2000.

Large amendments to electoral laws are also to go before MPs on

These significant and wide-ranging concessions wrenched from Zanu PF
by MDC negotiators include new broadcasting laws that could see new
electronic media emerging.

At present there are only four state-controlled radio stations and one
state-run television station.

The amendments to the media, security, broadcasting and electoral laws
are to be fast-tracked through parliament on Tuesday. Mugabe gave his
consent for them to be tabled without the cabinet first seeing them.

The MDC is to support the amendments.

Negotiators have said they are to be available to Mbeki throughout the
holiday period.

Mbeki is expected to try to persuade Mugabe that in the absence of a
new constitution, the amendments are only a part of the solution - which he
says would be undisputed elections.

He will also be expected to try to persuade Mugabe that the new
political climate created by amendments to political laws will need time to
take hold in the population before the next elections.

If Mbeki fails, in terms of the mediation process he will report back
to the Southern African Development Community to see if a collective of
regional presidents can pressure Mugabe. If that fails, then a special and
emergency summit on Zimbabwe can be expected.

Zanu-PF negotiators' cellphones were switched off yesterday.

This article was originally published on page 5 of Cape Times on
December 18, 2007

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Zimbabwe spends trillions on new Parliament

Mail and Guardian

Johannesburg, South Africa

18 December 2007 10:49

      The Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs has
been allocated Z$10-trillion in the 2008 national budget for the
construction of the new Parliament building, the state-controlled Herald
newspaper reported on Tuesday.

       The contractor -- Chinese company Nantong International -- is
already on site, the report said.

      The ministry had requested Z$15-trillion for the Parliament to
be built in the Kopje area.

      Giving evidence before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on
Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on the post-budget analysis, acting
chief accountant in the ministry Gibson Mangwiro was optimistic that the new
Parliament building would take shape next year, the government mouthpiece

      "We were allocated $10-trillion. We had requested $15-trillion.
Generally the allocation was fair and if inflation does not increase the
ministry will achieve its objectives," Mangwiro said.

      He told the committee, chaired by Zanu-PF Makoni East legislator
Shadreck Chipanga, that designs for the new Parliament had already been
completed and paid for.

      "The contractor is already on site. The $10-trillion is for
civil works and for construction to take off," added Mangwiro.

      Mangwiro said the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary
Affairs was responsible for the construction while the Ministry of Local
Government, Public Works and Urban Development would provide the required

      The new Parliament will accommodate 210 House of Assembly
members and 84 senators. - Sapa

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African leaders should confront Mugabe

18th Dec 2007 17:35 GMT

By Grace Chiradza

THE quiet diplomacy taken by African leaders towards the Zimbabwean dictator
Robert Mugabe is doing more harm than good to both the people of Zimbabwe
and the economy at large.

It is very worrying to see African leaders going for symposium and keep a
blind eye on the Zimbabwean issue. One would wonder whether the spirit of
quiet diplomacy is meant to serve the people of Zimbabwe or Robert Mugabe as
the leader of Zimbabwe.

Today there are millions of Zimbabweans living squalid conditions in the
neighbouring countries, S Africa, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Botswana and

The President of South Africa said the West do not understand the Zimbabwean
situation, but when you see how he treats Zimbabweans in his country then
you wonder whether he himself also understand the situation in Zimbabwe. The
leaders of the neighbouring countries are complaining about the influx of
Zimbabweans in their countries, but not prepared to confront Mugabe on the

As a result they have resorted to inhuman treatment of Zimbabweans in order
to get rid of them from their countries. This has seen the deportation of
many Zimbabweans including those who would face torture when they are
returned back, thereby ignoring the 1951 Geneva convection on human rights.

It seems as though many African leaders admire Mugabe for launching a tirade
against the western countries at the expense of the Zimbabwe. Not even one
leader has stood up against the political repression being perpetuated by
President Mugabe in Zimbabwe. Instead African leaders have gone on record to
support Mugabe on what he is doing to the people of Zimbabwe.

The point to learn here is that the African leaders are more concerned about
protecting leaders rather than the people they lead.

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Why Mugabe is a precious asset for African leaders

Comment from The Monitor (Uganda), 18 December

Nicholas Sengoba

It showed courage and solidarity. African leaders drew the line for their
European counterparts prior to the European Union-African summit in Lisbon,
Portugal recently. The Africans insisted that despite his 'blemishes;'
including a poor governance record, human rights abuses, well documented
election thefts and a run-down economy etc, Zimbabwe's autocrat Robert
Mugabe (83) would be part of their contingent or else they would stay away.
It came to pass. So why is it that African leaders audaciously insist on the
company of a 'political leper' when ingenuity suggests that they wear their
'Sunday best' and carry along 'perfect' relatives, to avoid critical
whispers from the hosts? With Mugabe present, self respecting critics won't
task the likes of President Museveni to explain why his government in the
run up to the election in 2006 locked up his main rival Dr Kizza Besigye.
They will 'concentrate' on Mugabe whose opponent Morgan Tsvangirai, was not
only incarcerated but also badly beaten and left with a few, broken bones,
swollen face and released in a blood stained shirt- completely
unrecognizable in his bandages. Probably African leaders borrow this one
from the bride who is not very confident of her looks. To enhance her
appearance, on the wedding day, she picks a matron who is 'uglier' than
herself, making her come on top in the gaze of the guests. Mugabe's
appearance at any forum makes other African tyrants look more 'appealing'.

Similarly, Mugabe's propensity to tread where only devils dare carries its
own advantages. His controversial land redistribution policy that attempts
to address an issue left unresolved by Britain, the former colonial master,
is a case study for other countries with a similar problem. South Africa and
Namibia are watching Mugabe with bated breath as he does the 'dirty work.'
Zimbabwe could determine how the matter is solved elsewhere. No wonder
during the EU-African summit, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa who all
along has been tasked to "rein in Mugabe," instead called for the removal of
sanctions against Zimbabwe. Mugabe puts those who criticise African leaders
in a dilemma and serves the purpose of robbing them of their credibility and
moral authority. Because all African leaders have governance shortfalls of
varying degrees, the temptation to fish out Mugabe for being 'the worst'
exposes the critics to accusations of 'hypocrisy' and 'double standards.'
The outgoing Commonwealth Secretary General Don MacKinnon knows this better.
The Banyankore say that, Ku oteera abaana, obateera boona - meaning that if
a self respecting disciplinarian opts to punish errant children then he had
better punish all of them in equal measure -lest he is misconstrued. When
the Ugandan born Archbishop of York, John Tucker Sentamu lambasted Mugabe
and theatrically cut up his dog collar in protest on television, instead of
receiving applause for "fighting for the rights of the downtrodden in
Zimbabwe" he was ridiculed for being 'parochial.' His critics reminded him
about charity beginning at home - read Uganda. Using a popular Biblical
allusion, they went on to remind him to remove the log from 'his eye' before
embarking on Mugabe's 'speck!'

Because Mugabe has almost become irredeemable, and has lost the sense of
shame he 'just' speaks his mind like the drunkard at a funeral in the
African village setting. When a rich but 'selfish' member of society dies,
to drive a callous point to the bereaved, the services of the drunkard are
enlisted by 'self respecting' neighbours who buy him alcohol and at times
'coach' him. As the priest implores the attentive mourners to emulate the
deceased who was a "generous and invaluable member of society" the drunkard
disagrees with him at the top of his voice. "If he was that good, why did he
fence off the village well" or "why do his neighbours go hungry yet bananas
rot in his garden?" At this point the drunkard will be shoved away as he
ridiculously yells about how the dead man was in the bad habit of 'poaching'
on poor men's wives etc. Some mourners will then whisper to each other about
how the drunkard "has misbehaved but spoken the truth!" When Mugabe at
international summits blasts Gordon Brown of Britain, or Angel Merkel of
Germany for interfering in African affairs because of "colonially
influenced" racial condensations and "arrogance" he effectively plays the
role of messenger for his timid colleagues who accept humiliation in order
to qualify for aid and avoid sanctions. His militant and maverick behaviour
dictates that when provoked his responses are usually undiplomatic and quite
embarrassing. To avoid being called epithets, it is smarter for the host of
a group of African leaders to 'keep clear' of speaking about issues that may
annoy Mugabe. His presence influences at best the watering down of human
rights and governance issues or at worst keeping them off the agenda. His
African peers may not worry any more about scrutiny and embarrassment at
international meetings.

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Human Rights Prize Awarded


13 December 2007

This year’s winner of the Freedom Defenders Award is Zimbabwe Lawyers for
Human Rights. Arnold Tsunga accepted the award from the U.S. Department of
State on behalf of the non-governmental organization. As executive director
of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Mr. Tsunga has suffered police raids
on his home, arrest, and death threats for his work in defending human
rights in Zimbabwe.

For the last ten years, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights has provided legal
representation for pro-democracy activists who often are illegally arrested,
detained, beaten, and tortured under the brutal government of President
Robert Mugabe. Many of Mr. Tsunga's staff along with their family members
have received death threats and have been arrested and assaulted. Zimbabwe
Lawyers for Human Rights has been helpful in maintaining international and
regional pressure on the Mugabe government by filing challenges to
government policies and actions in international and regional bodies as well
as in local courts.

At the awards ceremony, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, "In
Zimbabwe civil society remains under siege amid political and economic
crises caused by irresponsible policies of the regime":

"Over the past several months, authorities have engaged in an intensified
campaign of repression, characterized by harassment and intimidation,
arrests, and violent assaults against peaceful opposition activists,
professionals, independent labor leaders, and other members of civil
society. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights has worked tirelessly and
fearlessly to advance democratic principles."

The United States has responded by imposing additional sanctions against the
worst perpetrators of the Mugabe government's brutality. Financial and
travel sanctions will be imposed against specific individuals and companies
who have been involved in human rights abuses.

The U.S. applauds the courageous work of human rights organizations like
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. The U.S. will continue to support those
who struggle to bring democracy and justice to Zimbabwe.

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