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Hero 2004

Pride and prejudice

Peter Tatchell is as outrageous as he is courageous. A hardline vegan and human-rights activist who has taken on the likes of Robert Mugabe, Jamaica's gay-hating reggae artists and now... Lynn Barber.

Sunday December 19, 2004
The Observer

If you believe the right-wing press, Peter Tatchell has gone through an amazing transformation from villain to hero in the past decade. In 1995 he was 'Public Enemy No 1' according to the Sunday Times and 'Prize Pervert' in the Express. But by 2001 he was 'a national hero' to the Sunday Times, and 'an example to us all' in the Mail. So what happened? Has he really changed so much? Or has the public finally got used to him?

If you believe the right-wing press, Peter Tatchell has gone through an amazing transformation from villain to hero in the past decade. In 1995 he was 'Public Enemy No 1' according to the Sunday Times and 'Prize Pervert' in the Express. But by 2001 he was 'a national hero' to the Sunday Times, and 'an example to us all' in the Mail. So what happened? Has he really changed so much? Or has the public finally got used to him?

Tatchell is 52. He originally came to England (from Australia) in 1971 to avoid the Vietnam draft, took a degree in social sciences and stood unsuccessfully as a Labour MP in 1983. He founded OutRage! with a group of friends in 1990 to campaign for gay rights. Their first campaigns were rather frothy - they held kiss-ins at Piccadilly Circus, and Queer Christmas Shopping Extravaganzas with lots of men dressed as fairies. But they also ran a serious and successful campaign against police harassment, by putting up photographs everywhere of the 'pretty police' who were used as bait in public lavatories. Within three years, the number of gay men convicted of gross indecency fell by two-thirds. At this point, Tatchell was certainly a hero to the gay community, if not to the wider world.

But then, in the mid-Nineties, he turned his guns on the Church of England and things began to get ugly. He disrupted the enthronement of the Bishop of Durham and the Archbishop of Canterbury's Easter sermon. He also 'outed' 10 gay bishops, forcing one of them, the Bishop of London, into an unhappy admission that his sexuality was 'a grey area'. Tatchell followed this with a threat to out 20 gay MPs who had expressed anti-gay views. He didn't do so in the end because, he says, the threat of exposure was so effective that they quickly readjusted their ideas. But many people who had hitherto admired Tatchell's work were turned off by what they saw as blackmail and bullying tactics.

Then, in October 1999, he attempted to perform a citizen's arrest on President Mugabe during his state visit to London. Tatchell recalls: 'We ambushed his motorcade as he was leaving his hotel. I grabbed Mugabe, and told him he was under arrest on charges of torture. You should have seen the look on his face! Then the police arrived and, even though I had all the legal paperwork, we were all arrested and President Mugabe was given a police escort to go shopping at Harrods.' In 2001 Tatchell attempted a similar arrest in Brussels and was beaten so badly by Mugabe's thugs that he now suffers lasting brain damage. It was at this point that the right-wing press started hailing him as a hero - everyone admired his courage and even the Telegraph called him 'a national treasure'.

So which is he? Hero or villain? Selfless human rights campaigner, or hysterical self-publicising fanatic? When I phone to suggest a meeting, he says I can interview him on the train to the Green Conference in Weston-super-Mare, where he is giving a speech. There are several things wrong with this plan - first it entails going to Weston-super-Mare, second it entails attending the Green Conference, third it entails doing an interview on a train. But instead of screaming, 'No!' as all my instincts tell me to, I meekly say yes. Peter Tatchell has this way of quietly co-opting you into his world.

He is easy to recognise at the station - chiselled face, vegan shoes. But it is hard to find seats on the train because it is packed full of Greens. I thought we'd done well, bagging a table for four, but soon an elderly man comes and sits next to us, and opens his newspaper - The Church Times. I find this extremely inhibiting, but Tatchell is unfazed. He is not ashamed of his views, so why should he mind trumpeting them (he has a very loud voice) to anyone within earshot? The way he talks is strange. It is as if he has files of prepared speeches in his brain; and when you ask him a question he recites the speech at dictation speed. But sometimes he loses his thread and then he goes right back to the beginning. You can find all the speeches on his website - - so I won't bother to reproduce them here. They cover subjects from 'Arm the Kurds' to 'Why animal research is poor science' to 'Rename Aussie capitals', as well as all the more predictable gay topics.

He apologises for his occasional lapses of memory and blames them on the 'Mugabe factor'. 'The specialist told me that in cases of severe concussion, one of the side effects is quite often memory and concentration impairment. He hoped it would be temporary - and it isn't as bad as it was, but it's still far from perfect. It's also affected the vision in my right eye - it is now blurred, though before I had perfect vision.' The Mugabe beating was probably 'one of the worst' he's received, but he is used to being attacked. 'I have had bricks and bottles through my windows, three arson attempts, I've been physically assaulted in the street hundreds of times in the past 20 years - often just going shopping.' So why does he take all these risks? Does he want to be a martyr? 'No! I don't want to be a martyr because martyrs end up dead. I want and intend to live a long life. But it's a very small risk compared to what most human rights campaigners around the world endure. If I was campaigning in Iran, I'd probably be stoned to death.'

He is still pursuing Mugabe - earlier this year he applied unsuccessfully to Bow Street Magistrates Court for a warrant for his arrest and extradition. But he and his OutRage! colleagues have many other campaigns on the go. The one that has attracted most recent attention is against what he calls 'murder music' - Jamaican queer-bashing reggae lyrics. He and fellow campaigners have managed to get dozens of concerts and record contracts cancelled, and have persuaded companies such as Pepsi Cola and Cable & Wireless to withhold sponsorship. When I argue this constitutes artistic censorship, Tatchell starts reciting case histories of Jamaican 'batty boys' who've been beaten up and even killed in the street while the police stand by and watch. He says, 'When you hear horrific stories like that you feel a sense of imperative to do something.' 'Well you do,' I tell him, 'I don't.' 'But how can anyone not feel concerned about that? Aren't we all part of the same human family?'

I don't know why the expression 'human family' always fills me with such alarm, but it does. I subscribe to Auberon Waugh's dictum that if you want to increase the sum of human happiness in the world, then the best thing most of us can do is just be happy, rather than wringing our hands every time we open the Guardian. Tatchell, of course, disagrees: 'How can anyone be happy knowing that hundreds of millions of people on this planet are suffering terrible injustices? How can you just turn away and say, "I'm sorry, it's not my responsibility."?'

'Well, lots of people do, including me.'

'But that's the reason why suffering persists - because good, decent people don't take a stand.'

Anyway, it is hopeless trying to argue with Tatchell on the train - he just goes on reciting his speeches. In the Nineties, most of his campaigns were about gay discrimination in Britain, but now he has gone international and taken up causes all over the world. To me, there seems something promiscuous about his geographical range: it looks as though he is looking for battles to fight. Also, it annoyed me that, when he was talking about an old campaign to make Russell Square in London a police-free gay cruising ground, he said it was stymied by 'local busybodies'. It turned out what he meant by busybodies was people who actually lived round the square and objected to the goings-on at night. But if they are busybodies, what is he? He's never even been to Jamaica or Zimbabwe. As the train rumbles westwards, many Greens come and greet Tatchell and tell him to keep up the good work. Tatchell joined the Green Party earlier this year, having resigned from Labour in 2000, and says he likes it because, 'It's all sincere, no spin, it's all grass roots, spontaneous and absolutely genuine. The policies come out of people's needs and concerns without imposing a dogma or ideology on a situation. I like that, because, having been brought up in a very strictly religious family, I've always been very distrustful of any kind of dogmatic ideology.'

(Yeah - right. Except I run up against dogmatic ideology the minute I step off the train at Weston- super-Mare and light up a much-needed cig. Half a dozen Greens immediately turn round and tell me - caringly - 'I'd rather you didn't.' I want to scream at them, 'Well I'd rather you didn't grow hair in peculiar places and talk in whiny voices,' but I sullenly stamp out my cig, whereat they all stare at it lying on the pavement as if I have just vandalised the Mona Lisa.)

The Green Conference in the Winter Garden Hotel offers a day of discussion forums with no smoking, no alcohol and no edible food. Even the tea is some sort of ethically correct stuff grown in a country evidently unfamiliar with tea. Tatchell gives his speech about murder music and batty boys, all of which I have heard on the train. He is meant to be giving another speech later, but I can't face it. 'Just going for a short walk', I tell him, and leg it to the station and bat-out-of-hell to London.

By this point I was deeply fed up with Tatchell and his works. I was bored rigid with his speeches and their robotic delivery. I got no sense of what he was like as a person, beyond a vague suspicion that he had certain histrionic Saint Sebastian tendencies. So, although I wrote to apologise for my flight from Weston-super-Mare, and asked if we could meet again, I wasn't exactly looking forward to it. But by chance, I bumped into Marcelle d'Argy Smith, ex-editor of Cosmopolitan, who, rather improbably, is a good friend of Tatchell's. 'He was so boring!' I wailed. 'Oh, but he's so sweet!' she said. 'Take him some chocolate,' she advised. 'He loves chocolate.' So, armed with a stash of Green and Black's, I went to visit him at home.

He lives in a council flat on a fairly grim housing estate near Elephant & Castle, southeast London. All the flats have steel-lined doors and serious locks and peepholes, but his also has a notice saying it is under CCTV surveillance. The flat would be quite spacious if every inch were not covered with stacks of files and piles of papers. Finding somewhere for me to sit involves him re-organising the whole sofa filing system. There are also two bikes in the room and another in the bedroom, plus fax, photocopier and computer. The phone rings constantly because, Tatchell explains, his email is under 'more or less constant cyber-terrorist attack from Christian and Islamic fundamentalists and neo-Nazi groups.' (I must try saying that next time I complain to AOL.) Just to add to the chaos, there are two huge triffid houseplants, which try to throttle me every time I move. But the room, though cluttered, has many sweet home-making touches: a row of postcards on the mantelpiece, beads hanging from the curtain rails and fairy-lights on the triffids. And all round the walls there are lovely collages of postcards and badges he made in his younger days. They are colourful, witty, engaging - but now almost hidden behind the ramparts of files. Is this the story of his life?

The chocolate does its job brilliantly - not that he eats it, but he is genuinely grateful. He offers me some delicious apple cake he made himself, but says he won't have any now because he wants to 'prioritise breakfast'. Huh? It is 2pm, but he says he hasn't had time to eat breakfast because he's been so busy. 'Are you weird about food?' I ask. No, he explains, but he doesn't like to eat and talk because eating is painful for him - his teeth are all chipped from his many beatings-up. I wish he would eat - he is alarmingly thin.

He once wrote an article for the New Statesman in which he described what it is like living on 7,000 a year. (He earns that from journalism; he gets nothing for his campaigning work, and takes no state benefits.) He says he's better off than most people in the developing world because at least he has clean drinking water (actually, he's better off than most British pensioners) but, nevertheless, he has to live frugally. He cycles everywhere, buys his clothes in charity shops (and looks very smart in them), gets most of his food from markets and only occasionally buys a bottle of wine as a treat.

I say I find it odd that he campaigns for sexual freedom when, by nature, he seems to be rather ascetic. 'Not by choice! I see no virtue in asceticism. It's true I don't believe in materialism and consumerism. They dehumanise us and coarsen personal relations and society. But I've got no desire to be wandering round in sackcloth and ashes. I could quite easily enjoy lazing on a beach, doing nothing in particular.' For how long? 'A few hours.'

He works six, often seven days a week, and virtually round the clock, because his campaigns cross time zones around the world. When he goes to bed, he sticks the phone under a cushion and smothers the answering machine. 'I'm driven to work at this frantic pace not by desire but by necessity. If a millionaire gave me the money for an office, and the six full-time staff I need, and a decent salary, I'd accept it tomorrow. I would love to reclaim this small flat as the living space it was.'

I'm not sure I believe him. He is so driven and busy-busy, what would he do if he had more leisure? 'I could very happily spend a lot more time with my close friends, indulge my passion for nightclubbing, hiking and cycling. I'd see some films and plays, put more time into relationships.' He has not had a serious relationship for the past 15 years, though he has just started one with a young Algerian asylum seeker. 'But I would prioritise spending more time with friends. Friends are very important. A lot of gay men prioritise sex, but to me the most important thing is friendship - long, strong, enduring friendship.'

So how did he end up here? What made an Australian window dresser whose childhood pleasures were surfing, hiking and art, end up as a full-time human rights campaigner in Elephant & Castle? On the train, asking about his past was like pulling teeth, but at home he is more expansive. He grew up in Melbourne, in a working-class family. His father left when he was four, but was replaced by a taxi-driver stepfather who gave his mother three more children and 'ruled with an iron fist'. The family were Pentecostalists - 'very devout, strict, fairly fundamentalist Christians' - who said grace before meals, and had Bible readings in the evening. They disapproved of drinking and smoking, and were pretty suspicious of dancing. Homosexuality was, of course, an unspeakable sin.

He discovered he was homosexual at 17, when he slept with a man and knew immediately: 'This is what I am and it is wonderful.' But he thinks in retrospect he was homosexual all along. 'I remember that my mother took us for a picnic to St Kilda beach when I was eight or nine, and we were sitting on the sand and I can remember looking up and seeing this young man, about 18 or 19, walk by in a very tiny pair of aqua-blue swimming trunks, and I turned to my mother and said, "Could I have some of those?" And she said, "Fine." But what

I think I was really saying in my mind was, "Can I have some of him?" And the image of that man and his physique have stayed with me for years - is still with me now. He wasn't huge, but he was a big, typical blond, bronzed surfie type.'

Something else happened to him when he was eight or nine, which I believe might be the key to his character. His mother started getting very bad asthma attacks, which meant she was often bedridden or in hospital, and he was left to look after his three younger half-siblings. 'So I grew up very quickly, learning how to cook, sew, iron, from age eight or nine. It was like, my mother was sick, my younger sister needed her nappy changed, so I just had to think, "How do I remember Mum doing it? And, of course, the first few times I did it completely wrong, and the nappy kept falling off, but then I got better at it.' Where was his stepfather all this time? 'Out working - he had to try and get the money to pay all the bills. There was no national health service in Australia at that time, so a huge amount of our family income went on medical bills and prescriptions.'

It sounds an incredibly frightening experience - being left, aged eight, in charge of two children and a baby. But that is not how he remembers it: 'It was a chore, but I sort of enjoyed it. I used to bring schoolmates around sometimes to come and help me. Some didn't like it, but some loved it. It was disruptive of my childhood, but it was also quite exciting, and made me feel I was doing something significant and helpful.' On the other hand, it left him with no desire ever to have children himself. 'I feel I've done the parenting bit.'

I wonder if that early experience of feeling 'significant and helpful' is what led to his becoming a human-rights campaigner. He says he didn't intend to become one. When he left school at l6 he wanted to make a career in shop design and had no plans to enter politics. However, he was soon stuffing envelopes and making placards for various campaigns: anti-Vietnam, anti-death penalty, pro-Aborigine land rights - and, 'The more experience I got, the more useful I became. And one success inspired me to try for another. But in those days [circa 1970] Australia was gripped by a McCarthyite witch-hunt. Anyone with liberal or humanitarian views was denounced as a communist. I was going to be sacked from my first job because my boss saw me on a march against the Vietnam war.' So he came to England in 1971 and has stayed ever since.

What drives him? I believe it is that need to feel 'significant' by helping other people. Derek Jarman once called him 'a hen with her chicks', and there is something quasi-maternal in the way he describes the victims of persecution who come to him for help. Of course he could help other people by stuffing envelopes for organisations like Amnesty, but he likes personal contact, likes being a loner and is not averse to media attention. And he is brave, no question. As he says, there are plenty of people willing to stuff envelopes - but rather fewer prepared to be beaten up by Mugabe's thugs

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Zimbabwe to retake land for redistribution to diplomats, soldiers: report

12-19-2004, 10h28

- (AFP/File)

- Some former white-owned farms corruptly acquired under Zimbabwe's controversial land reform programme will be handed over to diplomats and members of the army, a state-run paper reported.

The Sunday Mail said farms seized by the government during its four-year old land reform programme would be taken from those who received more than one property and given to "diplomats and security forces who failed to benefit from the land reform programme when they were on national duty outside the country."

"We are repossessing the land and redistributing it to the landless people," Lands Minister John Nkomo was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

Other beneficiaries would include widows and applicants who did not receive land during the initial stages of the programme, the paper added.

Senior members of President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) are reported to have received some of the country's most productive commercial farms and ranches.

Nkomo said some of the corruptly acquired farms had been handed back voluntarily.

"We wrote to the people who were holding on to the farms, and some of them are coming forward to voluntarily give back the land," he told the paper.

Around 4,000 white farmers have been evicted from their land since the launch of the land reform programme in 2000.

Mugabe has said that the government wants a policy of "one man, one farm" and has castigated members of his party who have taken several farms.

Although details are sketchy on who now owns what, Nkomo was reported as having told the Sunday Mail that the government had so far moved to reclaim close to 55,000 hectares (135,850 acres) of land.

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Zanu PF rejects 'Mafikizolos'
By Caiphas Chimhete

They got what they deserve, says Msika JONATHAN Moyo, the Minister of State for Information and Publicity and Patrick Chinamasa, Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs were fired from the Zanu PF's Politburo because they intended to destroy it from within and alienate it from the people, Vice-President Joseph Msika said yesterday.

An increasingly restive President Robert Mugabe dropped Moyo and Chinamasa, the organiser and guest of honour respectively, of the controversial Tsholotsho meeting, from the new 50-odd member Politburo on Friday.

Msika told The Standard yesterday Moyo and Chinamasa's failure to follow the principles, norms and Zanu PF's constitution and behaving like "loose cannons" was an indication that they could not lead the country after the departure of the "old guard".

"Havana kudzingwa vakazvidzingisa voga. (They were the architects of their own downfall) Their actions showed they wanted to destroy the party from within. We don't want to leave the future of Zimbabwe in the wrong hands, so they had to go," said Msika, who has openly called Moyo a mafikizolo.(Johnny come lately)

The Vice-President said a number of people from the "old guard", whose patriotism cannot be questioned, had been retained or incorporated into the Politburo to strengthen and enable the party to effectively serve the country.

Among Mugabe's trusted lieutenants, who made it into Zanu PF's supreme decision-making body are Kumbirai Kangai and former Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander, General Vitalis Zvinavashe.

Msika said: "We have great respect and trust for the people who fought and liberated this country but this is not to say we don't want new blood into the party. We don't mind young people coming into the party, bringing new ideas and becoming rank and file but when their behaviour becomes wayward, we have a problem."

The Vice-President castigated the so-called "Young Turks" who were using "dirty money" to buy votes from people, in apparent reference to Moyo, who dished out hundreds of millions of dollars and computers in Tsholotsho.

Moyo intended to run for parliament in Tsholotsho, his rural home area on a Zanu PF ticket, but his plans for the constituency came unstuckafter the party drew up new regulations that will only allow members who served in party structures for at least five years to contest primary elections.

"Let the people choose their leaders through clean conscience and not through splashing money. That's not the tradition of the party," Msika stressed.

Moyo who is now an ordinary member of the Zanu PF has to start all over again from the cell, the smallest unit in the ruling party, could not be reached for a comment yesterday. A man who answered his phone said he was in a meeting.

Moyo's colleague, Chinamasa, who has crafted a host of draconian legislation since he was appointed Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs in 2000, said he had no hard feelings about being axed from Zanu PF's supreme-decision making body.

He said: "I am sure you know that the decision to appoint members of the politburo is the discretion of the Presidium and I respect the decision. I have got no hard feelings at all but as you know I still remain a member of the Central Committee."

Chinamasa and Moyo were not the only two linked to the Tsholotsho meeting who were affected.

Speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was summoned to explain his role in the Tsholotsho meeting by Mugabe, was "reprimanded" by being reassigned to a junior post as secretary for legal affairs. Previously, Mnangagwa had held the very powerful position of secretary for administration.

Former secretary for women's affairs, Thenjiwe Lesabe, was demoted to an ordinary committee member while Shuvai Mahofa, who has been a regular member of both, the Central Committee and the Politburo, was also axed.

Mahofa yesterday said she had no qualms about being axed from the Politburo, adding this would give her more time to concentrate on some of her duties.

Didymus Mutasa, who moved back to the post of secretary for administration, said of the people who were dropped from the Politburo: "They were left out of the politburo because those responsible for appointing the members were not ready to appoint them."

Kumbirai Kangai, who has been in the political wilderness for years, refused to comment. He said: "Why did you choose me?" before switching off his mobile phone.

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Evicted new farmers now living in misery
By Emmanuel Mungoshi
SCORES of peasants, booted out of Little England farm by armed police who torched their houses two months ago, are living miserable lives at Blake farm in the same area.

The peasants have now found shelter in disused tobacco barns which are unfit for human habitation.

They are part of the new farmers who were violently evicted from the land they occupied during the 2000 farm invasions.

Heavily armed police evicted the peasants from Little England and left them stranded for several days in the open along the Harare-Chinhoyi highway.

Defending the evictions, government officials said they would find alternative land for the evicted families.

However a visit by The Standard to Blaek Farm, about 60 kms out of Harare revealed the sorrowful plight of the peasants who stay packed in the barns resembling shipping cargo-containers.

Up to four unrelated families are sharing one tobacco barn.

"The living conditions are pathetic," said one resident who only identified himself as Phiri.

"Girls as old as 16 are sleeping in the same room as their fathers," Phiri said.

One of the barns, the biggest at the farm, houses nearly 20 families. It is partitioned by plastic sheets and cardboard boxes into small rooms, giving false privacy for married couples.

Elderly women and young girls occupy the other half that is not partitioned.

Temperatures in the tobacco barns reach unbearable levels during the day.

Violet Mupuwi, a resident at the farm said the absence of windows and smoke from fires used for cooking made the barns a health hazard to occupants.

"The barns are not well-ventilated. Our sources for drinking water are not secure and there are no proper sanitary facilities.

As a result many have succumbed to diseases such as diarrhoea," said Mupuwi.

Another resident who spoke on condition of anonymity said food was hard to come by.

"I have three orphaned grandchildren whom I am struggling to feed. It could have been easier if I had land to cultivate."

The Red Cross is the only Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) that gave Little England evictees food soon after their re-settlement at Blake farm.

"We were given maize and cooking oil by the Red Cross. Since then, no one has given us any assistance," said a resident

She added that she could not seek casual employment at nearby farms for fear of losing out on promised land allocations.

Her sentiments were shared by many of the farm residents.

"No one knows when the land distributors are coming or if they are coming at all. All we can do is wait," Phiri said.

Meanwhile, a significant number of animals belonging to the peasants were last week returned to their owners after spending over two months under the care of Zimbabwe National Society For Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ZNSPCA).

The animal rights organisation gave the animals temporary sanctuary after their owners were violently kicked out of Little England farm by heavily armed police.

Meryl Harrison, a chief inspector with ZNSPCA, said wherever there is a human crisis there was always an animal crisis.

"When we got to them (evictees) two puppies had already been run over and several rabbits were packed in small boxes," said Harrison.

One of the farm residents identified only as Bandi, whose dog was kept for over two months and vaccinated at the expense of ZNSPCA, thanked the NGO for showing concern for the welfare of their animals.

"I am afraid the health of the dog is soon going to deteriorate because the food I am left with is not enough to feed my family until the next harvest," said Bandi.

Mupuwi, whose rabbit gave birth to six leverets while in the care of ZNSPCA said she was going to sell the offspring to buy food.

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CFX crisis leaves thousands stranded
By our own Staff

THOUSANDS of depositors with the beleaguered CFX Bank Limited could not withdraw their salaries yesterday after the institution was placed under curatorship, threatening a dull Christmas for many.

Hundreds of depositors waited hopelessly for hours at the main entrance of CFX headquarters at Century Towers starting early yesterday morning, with some vowing not to leave the place until they got their money.

A woman who had come with her children for shopping, sat at the stairs together with many others, almost in tears.

"We wanted to go to the rural areas for Christmas but I don't know if we will be able to make it now that money is locked-up inside Century Towers. I just pray they will be able to give us our salaries early," she said.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) placed CFX bank under curatorship citing serious liquidity problems and poor corporate governance practices, among other things.

Paul Sithole, another victim said he had already sent his wife and children to the bus terminus and had come to withdraw money for the bus fares to his rural home.

"This is very disappointing. Now I will have to go to Mbare and tell them that we are not able to travel. I was here yesterday but because of the long queues I could not get any money," Sithole said.

Yesterday he came very early in the morning, hoping to beat the long queues.

Munesu Kachere, one of the depositors who wanted to make a transaction at the bank's Leopold Takawira branch's Automated Teller Machine said he would rather be paid cash than open an account with any bank.

"Despite assurances by the Reserve Bank that no bank would collapse a number banks have been closed. We don't know what that means," he said as he tried to get explanation from the security staff at the bank.

Some people who were supposed to get their salaries on Friday said the money was not reflecting on their accounts because of the problems at the bank.

The CFX Bank's crisis yesterday led to a number of people at other banks scrambling for their money and long and winding queues could be seen as cash demand increases towards the Christmas holiday.

Before the bank was closed on Friday depositors were limited to withdrawing a maximum of $500 000 and there was near pandemonium at the Century Towers prompting management to summon the police.

The RBZ appointed Fungai Kuipa of Ernst and Young as the curator of CFX but he was not available for a comment yesterday.

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Security agents descend on border
By Savious Kwinika

BEITBRIDGE: There is a heavy presence of state security agents at the Beitbridge Border where authorities are intensifying efforts to secure the border in anticipation of a blockade by the powerful Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), The Standard has learnt.

Members of Cosatu have targeted the busy border post to demonstrate their disapproval of the deportation of its 13-member delegation that was bundled out of Zimbabwe, over two months ago.

Travellers to and from South Africa who contacted The Standard expressed concern at the level of the presence of the state security agents at the Beitbridge border post saying this was intimidating.

"When I crossed the Limpopo from the South African side, I thought the situation was different on the Zimbabwean side. I found heavily armed soldiers, police roaming everywhere," said Nkululeko Dlomu, who was returning home from Pretoria where he works.

Home Affairs Minister, Kembo Mohadi, confirmed to The Standard the presence of law enforcement agents but said this had nothing to do with threats from any quarter.

"Oh sure, there is heavy police presence here at Beitbridge border-post, but their main purpose is to protect tourists from being harassed by criminals.

"The ZNA is also complementing police efforts to maintain maximum security, peace and stability. We will continue providing tight security until the end of the festive season, otherwise travellers may be harassed or victimised by these unscrupulous people," Mohadi said.

The South African Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Jeremiah Ndou, also confirmed to The Standard that South African police were closely monitoring the situation on the Mussina side of the border. He said his government would ensure that peace prevailed at the border.

"As far as we are concerned, the border will not be closed. There is no need to panic at all. Whoever breaks the law must be ready to face the same wrath of the law," Ndou said.

The developments come as South Africa's ruling tripartite alliance finally agreed to discuss the political crisis in Zimbabwe.

Mazibuko Jara, a spokesperson for the South African Communist Party (SACP) told a Press conference that his party, the African National Congress (ANC) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) would now discuss, as an alliance, the crisis in Zimbabwe.

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Nyazema leads consortium after Masiyiwa's ANZ stake
By Rangarirai Mberi

FORMER Econet Wireless Chairman Norman Nyazema has emerged as the lead bidder for Strive Masiyiwa's controlling stake in the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), owners of the banned Daily News and Daily News on Sunday.

However, despite Masiyiwa's confirmation that he wants to sell, none of the parties involved can yet place value on either Masiyiwa's shareholding in the company or the value of ANZ itself.

ANZ Chief Excutive Officer Samuel Siphepha-Nkomo confirms there is yet to be agreement on how much ANZ is worth, saying valuations are the subject of current discussions between all parties involved. This means Masiyiwa could solely determine the value of his shareholding.

"What is going to happen is that Masiyiwa will decide how much he intends to sell his shares for," Siphepha-Nkomo told StandardBusiness.

The Daily News' printing press, a Solna Distributor D300, and other assets are currently being valuated.

Masiyiwa is selling his interests in the Independent Media Group, the investment company he used to buy control of ANZ, to a consortium sponsord by Nyazema, journalist Jethro Goko and former ANZ CEO Muchadeyi Masunda.

Siphepha-Nkomo also confirmed that Nyazema, the founding chairman for Econet, could be part of a group of businssmen eager to take ownership from Masiyiwa.

"He could be part of the groups that might want to buy IMG shares (from Masiyiwa)", Siphepha-Nkomo said.

Although Masiyiwa has confirmed that he is cashing out from the ANZ, Nyazema could not be reached for comment last week. Nyazema gave up his Econet chair to return to teaching medicine last year.

It has also emerged that Nigel Chanakira, Masiyiwa's shareholding partner in IMG, has also indicated his intentions to sell his minority stake in the investment group.

Masiyiwa has in the past been quoted as saying he had no plans to sell, saying he was ready to support salaries for staff for years. However, the continued fighting between staff and management seems to have persuaded the telecoms baron to change his mind.

ANZ was forced to retrench after the closure, but is facing a legal battle against its 167 workers, who were awarded hefty severance packages by the Retrenchment Board. Nkomo's management says the closure its closure has meant it has been unable to generate its own resources, and is therefore unable to meet the retrenchment bil. ANZ has appealed against the Board's ruling.

The Daily News, and its sister paper The Daily News on Sunday, were shut down in September last year after ANZ refused to register under the discredited Access to Information and Protction of Privacy Act (AIIPA).

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Chiyangwa missing
By our own staff

THE whereabouts of flamboyant Zanu PF Mashonaland West chairman, Philip Chiyangwa, remained unclear yesterday, fuelling more speculation.

While his family maintains Chiyangwa is very much around, efforts to talk to him have drawn blanks and promises that he would return calls from The Standard.

Reports, however, suggest that police picked up the flamboyant businessperson, but Superintendent Oliver Mandipaka told The Standard the legislator was not in their custody.

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Police disrupt MDC meeting
By our own Staff

THE Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)'s crucial national consultative meeting yesterday deferred to today a decision on whether or not to take part in the March 2005 parliamentary elections.

Paul Themba-Nyathi, the MDC spokesperson, told The Standard last night: "We have not yet concluded our discussion. It will continue tomorrow."

Yesterday's meeting comes against the background of complaints by the opposition party that police were deliberately disrupting their meetings.

Police in Masvingo disrupted a strategic meeting by the leadership in the Province, according to the opposition party.

Themba-Nyathi said the opposition's president, Morgan Tsvangirai, was billed to address the meeting that was authorised by the police at the Civic Centre on Friday.

"The consultative meeting in which the president (Tsvangirai) sought to meet provincial, district, ward and branch structures was scheduled to start at 9 am but the police came to the venue of the meeting and demanded to be part of the meeting," Themba-Nyathi said.

According to the SADC Principles and Guidelines on democratic elections that were agreed in Mauritius this year, police should be impartial to all political parties.

"The disruption of the Masvingo meeting follows the refusal to authorise two other meetings in Harare and Chitungwiza this week. All the meetings are part of the consultative process that will culminate in a decision by the National Council of the party as to whether the party will take part in the 2005 parliamentary elections," he said.

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Harry 'won't be allowed to marry Chelsy'

By BARBARA JONES, Mail on Sunday 09:05am 19th December 2004
Chelsy Davy

Zimbabwean: Is Chelsy Davy's nationality a problem?

Prince Harry will not be allowed to marry his girlfriend Chelsy Davy because of her Zimbabwean nationality, her family believe.

Paul Davy, Chelsy's uncle, contacted The Mail on Sunday last night to confirm that the young couple were 'in love' but added that he feared for the long-term future of their relationship because of the attitude of the British Establishment.

"What chances do you think that they have got of getting married? What do you think of her chances of getting into that Royal Family ... she's Zimbabwean," he said.

He added that Chelsy might want to get married but after a romance of just eight months it was still early days. Paul said that he even doubted whether Prince Harry would be allowed to visit Chelsy at her home in Zimbabwe - which would make it difficult for him to ask her father's permission to wed in traditional fashion.

"What chances do you think of Harry coming to this country? What chance has he got? Do you honestly believe that the British Government will let Harry come to this country?" said Paul Davy.

"They won't. Why should they? I mean Mugabe and Blair are at loggerheads, I mean the chances of Harry coming here are very slim."

Last week Paul was quoted by a Zimbabwean journalist as saying the young couple wanted to wed.

Last night he told The Mail on Sunday that he was close to his niece and that he had known about the relationship with Harry "from day one". But he added that while the pair were clearly in love, it was hard to predict their future together.

"If anybody is going to divulge any information, then let it be Charles and Bev [Chelsy's parents]," he said.

"You know how it is. She's 19, he's 20 and they get together and they fall in love. Maybe they will fall out of love, who knows? As for marriage, well, maybe if she was 26 or 27 and he was a bit older, well maybe with a bit of luck."

Paul also defended the relationship between his brother's safari company HHK and the Mugabe regime, saying that while the firm had had dealings with the government, "it hasn't been bad dealings".

And he added that establishing relations with Mugabe's government was how 90 per cent of people in the country got by.

Chelsy's Coca-Cola mom and bush baron dad

December 19 2004 at 11:12AM

By Peta Thornycroft and Peter Fabricius

Harare: Chelsy Davy, British Prince Harry's local flame, inherited from her mother, Beverley, the looks which attracted royal attention. In the late 1970s Beverley acquired local fame in Zimbabwe as Miss Coca-Cola Rhodesia.

Her face, just as pretty as her daughter's, used to grace Coca-Cola delivery trucks and billboards all over the country that was then Rhodesia.

Chelsy's 53-year-old father Charlie is reputed to have one of the largest land portfolios of any white man in Zimbabwe and possibly the whole of Africa.

He made his first fortune from land and cattle
The Davy home on the farm Alco Twalame near Bubi River, 240km from Beit Bridge on the Bulawayo Road, is a landmark, with a grand piano in the huge reception area overlooking Lundi River.

But Davy also owns the farms Ripple Creek, Driehoek, Dyers Ranch and Mlelesi Ranch. Of these only Driehoek has been overturned by the invaders who have taken over most white farms in Zimbabwe.

Davy also owns properties in Bulawayo, including the family home Burnside, a large thatched house where Chelsy was mostly brought up.

He made his first fortune from land and cattle, though he has recently attracted publicity with his company HHK Safaris, the country's largest hunting and safari concession which has one of Robert Mugabe's most trusted lieutenants - Webster Shamu - as a director.

Shamu is an MP of the ruling Zanu-PF and a minister in the presidency. Earlier this year he helped sell lucrative hunting concessions for HHK at the world's largest hunting convention in Reno, Nevada.

These sort of connections appear to have saved Davy from the fate of most white farmers who have lost most of their land.

Ministers use his safari camps and private planes, like the one that collected Harry and Chelsy from South Africa and flew them to Bazaruto Island last week.

Davy has bought the area's fishing and diving licences and has so much influence that he ordered boat operators not to take visitors to the island while his daughter and her boyfriend were there.

Charlie Davy was born in Masvingo, 200km south of Harare and educated at the local high school with his three brothers. His father Tony had made some money from two hotels in Fort Victoria and locals say Charlie lost that money in his first ventures into business.

But now, having made his own fortune, he supports his father who lives in South Africa. His mother, Yvonne, was killed in a car crash eight years ago.

Chelsy's mother Beverley, now 46, was born in Harare when it was still Salisbury and went to the Mabelreign Girls' High School in Harare. She worked as a model and receptionist at Gallo Records but contributed to the family fortune when she inherited money from her grandmother who owned large chunks of Sandton.

Her parents Fay and George Donald live in Harare. - Independent Foreign Service

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Four gold miners killed in shaft flood in Zimbabwe

Associated Press
December 19, 2004

HARARE, Zimbabwe - Four gold miners were killed when a stream burst its banks and flooded the underground shaft where they were working, state media reported Sunday.

The miners were digging for alluvial gold in a riverbank shaft near the provincial town of Chegutu, 110 kilometers (65 miles) west of Harare, during heavy seasonal rain, the Sunday Mail newspaper reported.

Continued flooding was preventing police rescue teams from retrieving the men's bodies more than a week after the shaft was swamped.

Zimbabwe's worst economic crisis since independence in 1980 has spurred panning for gold in river beds across the country.

Relatives of one of the dead miners said he turned to gold panning to boost his meager earnings from selling vegetables in Harare, the Sunday Mail reported.

Accidents in makeshift shafts are common.

Zimbabweans face soaring prices and record unemployment of about 70 percent. Acute shortages of food, gasoline and other imports are routine.

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Lawyers condemn prison conditions
By Rutendo Mawere

THERE is insufficient food in the country's prisons and the living conditions are inhumane, says the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ).

Last week a delegation from the society visited a number of prisons across the country in order to evaluate the living conditions of inmates as part of activities to mark the International Human Rights Day.

The tour saw the lawyers examining prison life at Khami, Bulawayo, Mutare and Chikurubi prisons, now increasingly seen as death traps for inmates.

Joseph James, the president of the LSZ said the conditions in prisons were pathetic and urgently needed to be improved.

"The diet is poor and there are no utensils. Uniforms are inadequate and there are increased cases of homosexuality within the cells."

He added that prisoners at most prisons complained about the strip-searching saying this was degrading and humiliating.

James said the prisoners felt these searches were excessive and unnecessary.

"Also, uniforms within the prisons are not adequate and prisoners exchange uniforms when going to court, which is very unhealthy," said James.

Though the prison officials told the lawyers that uniforms were washed before use by prisoners, inmates told the LSZ delegation that they were not washed leading them to contract contagious diseases like measles.

The prisoners also attributed their deteriorating health and high rate of disease infections to overcrowding in the cells.

"Cells intended for individuals are now occupied by three people and big cells are occupied by up to 50 people, yet are designed for half that number which causes the rapid spread of infectious diseases," said James.

He said male prisoners at Khami prison in Bulawayo complained to a delegation of lawyers that visited the prison that the toilet facilities were very poor.

"The prisoners are locked up at 4:00PM only to be released at 7AM The prisoners therefore use pails/buckets when responding to the call of nature and this is very unacceptable," he said.

Male Prisoners complained about absence of recreational facilities. "Soccer is all they can play but resources are limited. The conditions are much better for female prisoners who are taught how to use computers, typing and sewing through donated resources," added James.

The LSZ also revealed that lack of transport to the courts, due to fuel shortages and vehicle breakdowns undermined the rights of the prisoners to be heard in the courts. This also led to delays in finalizing cases and caused prisoners to be detained for years without being sentenced, which infringed on their right to a fair trial.

There are allegations of homosexuality and imprisonment of minors, which the law society said, should be investigated.

James said they would compile a report on all the prisons visited which the Law Society would hand over to the relevant authorities.

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Mujuru for VP: A watershed for the nation

SOMETHING fundametal has happened not only in the ruling Zanu PF party but in the entire nation of Zimbabwe. We are referring, of course, to the historic choice of Joyce Mujuru as the Vice President of both the ruling party and Zimbabwe.

Judging by the messages of congratulations that have poured in from across the country, there is a feeling in the air that Zimbabwean women have reached some kind of watershed in their own history and that of Zimbabwe as a nation.

This amounts to a revolution in their expectations, and we would also want, as a newspaper to help and support the Zimbabwean women as they face the years ahead and apply their special qualities and sensibilities to those State matters in which men are inclined to be brash and irrational

There is no doubt in our own minds that Joyce Mujuru has heralded a new era for women not only in politics but in other fields of human endeavour. What is now important is for Zimbabwe's second Vice President to live up to people's great expectations.

It is important to point out that a certain solidarity is emerging around the world about the women's movement; women blazing trails and women leading the way and of course the special gifts of womanhood. The special gifts of womanhood include their patience, softness of heart and their constructive nature that manifests itself in motherly love and devotion.

It is not for nothing that people everywhere talk of their country in terms of the 'motherland' and never fatherland.

Zimbabwe is a fractured society at the moment. It hungers for leaders who are compassionate and sensitive in order to make Zimbabwean people feel that they have been lifted above the drabness of their own lives; a leader who can show them that they are capable of better emotions and better deeds than they have been subjected to in the past five or so years.

Joyce Mujuru has to convince her foes and friends alike that she is not treading on past glory but must give Zimbabwe a heady draft of optimism while helping to reverse a lot of the injustices and suicidal policies that the government has been pursuing.

Zimbabwe acknowledges the great work that President Robert Mugabe and fellow members of his generation did in freeing the country from the bondage of colonialism but Zimbabweans are much poorer now than they were at independence.

Incomes have more than halved since 1980. Millions of Zimbabweans are now languishing in foreign lands having fled the poverty that is now stalking our country. Ordinary people have been pushed to the limit.

It is not enough for women to say 'Hear us roar! In refusing to play second fiddle, those women in the ascendancy must show that they are making a difference in people's lives. Emerging women leaders in this country must be realistic and vigorous enough to attempt drastic reforms in politics and the economy if they are to be taken seriously by the population at large.

Joyce Mujuru must show Zimbabweans that there is a more humane style of politics typified by a politician with whom the general population can identify. The people of this country are looking for a leader - whether Zanu PF or MDC it does not matter - who can steer the country through a process aimed at improving the quality of their lives.

Female empowerment yes. More female education yes. Having a female at the top enables resources to be mobilised for more of these things to be done but equally important is what Joyce Mujuru herself said when she accepted her new office. She said she is not Vice-President for women alone but for the entire Zimbabwean society. We endorse her stance wholeheartedly.

The fact that Joyce Mujuru walks humbly with her God will enable her to see Zimbabweans as Zimbabweans regardless of racial, tribal or political affiliation. Zimbabwe needs to harness all her skills and talents if Gideon Gono's laudable efforts in turning around the fortunes of this country are to continue to bear fruits.

This country has virtually collapsed precisely because of the them-and-us attitude that pervades the top echelons of power. If you are not for me then you must be against me. This is total rubbish.

This is the kind of rubbish that has been propagated by the likes of mafikizolos and political chameleons like Jonathan Moyo. We need to move away from this type of warped thinking.

If we think differently as a newspaper it does not mean that we have become enemies locked in some kind of mortal combat with the Government or Zanu PF as a party. No. We are merely thinking differently in the interest of our country Zimbabwe - a country inhabited by both MDC and Zanu PF supporters and of course non-believers in anything.

As a willing servant of her God, we are confident that Joyce Mujuru and the newly appointed members of the politburo are not of this ilk. A progressive and humanistic culture is what is needed and we feel that the ascendancy of this relatively young and energetic woman heralds a sense of the door opening to a new attack on exclusivity in politics, greed and the them-and-us attitude.

Life is worthwhile when a leader with humility and foresight begins to influence his or her compatriots in a positive way.

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Barricading The Borders
overthetop By Brian Latham

THE minister of misinformation in the Zany government has warned that the troubled central African regime may soon be invaded by as many as 10,000 troubled and troublesome central Africans.

The troublesome central Africans are allegedly to be deported from a small, cold patch of mud off the coast of France where they sought refuge from Zany supporters with large sticks. Apparently the government of that place, also known as Unit K, are dissatisfied with the number of troubled central Africans who have taken jobs, paid taxes, bought houses and cars over there, so they're going to send some back.

But, says the misinformation minister, all is not as it seems. Apparently he has information that some of these troubled central Africans haven't spent their days working out how to stay warm and fiddle the dole office. Some of them have been trained as mercenaries and saboteurs, he claims.

Most troubled central Africans found the misinformation minister's rant an amusing diversion and Over The Top's investigation has shown that very little training has taken place. Over 90 percent of troubled central Africans living in the mud have learnt very little other than the worthwhile skills of making gas and electricity meters run backwards, the rewards of claiming child benefit for one's distant relatives and how to get on a train without paying. Such skills are commendable as a means for getting one's own back for the indignities of colonialism and all that nonsense, but they're hardly likely to destabilise next year's election.

Meanwhile critics point out that the misinformation minister is clearly misguided. If any destabilisation is going to take place before, during and after the polls, the critics say, precedent suggests the Zany Party will carry it out.

OTT visited various rural areas during the last parliamentary poll in 2000 and saw Zany youths busying themselves with the democratic process of electioneering and campaigning. Many houses were burnt to the ground in the process and not a few More Drink Coming supporters ended up in hospital, or worse, but that's democracy for you.

Analysts also told OTT that it was disturbing that the Zany Party was promising more of the same democratic values in the forthcoming election. Signs at the Zany Party's curious congress promised "More Fire", which is something most troubled central Africans said they could do without. There'd been more than enough fire last time, what with entire villages being razed by democratic matches.

Meanwhile there has been more than a small amount of anxiety among troubled central Africans in the Diaspora. Many, fearing deportation back to the troubled central African police state, were unsure of what sort of reception would they would receive, especially from members of the Zany Party's Central Intimidation Organisation.

Coming home for Christmas was all very well, they said, but not if it meant spending an un-festive season of bad will in a stinking police cell.

(On a slightly different matter, OTT hears that a good citizen recently offered to de-louse the Zany Party's police cells and the offer was turned down. We wonder why that would be?)

Still, there need be no cause for panic. Troubled Central Africans won't have been trained to blow anything up in Unit K, where most of the citizens would have trouble blowing up balloons. It seems things will be largely safe, aside from democratic campaigning by Zany Party supporters with big sticks.

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Power cuts irk Harare residents
By our own staff

HARARE residents, who continue to pay huge bills despite spending several hours without electricity, say they are outraged by the power cuts. Among areas most affected by the power cuts are Chitungwiza, Zengeza, Westlea, Mabvuku, Marlborough Mabelreign and Bluff hill.

Residents who spoke to The Standard expressed anger and disgust at ZESA Holdings, the country's sole provider of electricity, describing it as a "powerless" utility.

"Not once has the bungling, inefficient Zesa told us through newspapers or radio or television what the hell was going on. Before this, we would have power blackouts at least once a week, now it's every night. Sometimes, when the electricity does come back, there is not enough power to switch on even the radio," said an angry Zengeza resident yesterday.

Felistus Ndume from Chitungwiza said: "What is shocking is that although we rarely use the electricity we still get huge electricity bills and one can't tell what they are billing us for, as half the day we don't have electricity. We are paying between $50-80 000 per month despite hours in darkness."

Johannes Muchadenyika, a Mabvuku resident said it was disheartening to note that the power utility was flighting adverts with messages such as "Zesa yauya zvine power " when most people in Harare were still experiencing electricity blackouts on a daily basis.

"Vaiti vauya zvine power pakudii ipapa isu tichigara murima (what power does it have when we are condemned to darkness)?" fumed a furious Muchadenyika.

John Zhou from Mukuvisi Gardens in Westlea said thieves were taking advantage of the power cuts to conduct their activities with impunity.

"It is risky to walk in this area in the evening as people are continually being mugged in the dark with their goods and hard earned cash stolen," said Zhou as he rushed to get a commuter bus to get home before dark.

Efforts to obtain comment from ZESA were fruitless as former journalist Prisca Utete, the stakeholder relations officer

did not respond to questions from The Standard.

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Soldiers attack MDC supporters
By our own Staff

HEADLANDS - Soldiers allegedly beat up at least 10 opposition MDC supporters, seriously injuring one at Sharenza Shopping Centre near Mayo, Makoni North last week.

Police in Headlands confirmed the incident and said they were investigating the matter. They however declined to give more details about the incident.

According to Elton Mangoma, who is aspiring to become the MDC MP for the area and who reported the matter at Mayo police post, the soldiers accused the supporters of attending an "illegal" rally.

"We have reported the case to the police and were given the RRB No. 0560209. There has not been any arrests yet," Mangoma said.

Mangoma said an MDC activist Elias Sithole was seriously injured after being assaulted by the soldiers.

"The soldiers descended on the people from their army truck and beat up people at random. They caught up with Sithole and forced him to take them to his home." Mangoma said while at the homestead, they searched his house and found MDC party membership cards and T-shirts.

"They forced Sithole to wear all the T-shirts and force-marched him to the shops where they made him swim in a small pond with dirty water while chanting Zanu PF slogans. They kicked him until he could not defend himself and left him for dead," said Mangoma who added Sithole was taken to Macheke where he was transferred to a hospital in Harare.

Violence is escalating in Manicaland where four people believed to be MDC activists were assaulted by war veterans in Marange, Mutare West, while two families were forced out of their homes in Gaza, Chipinge North recently.

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Bulawayo CIO chief transferred
By our own Staff

CENTRAL Intelligence Organisation (CIO) Provincial Intelligence Officer for Bulawayo, Innocent Chibaya, has been transferred to Manicaland province.

Chibaya's recent transfer comes amid allegations that he stood by while his subordinates kidnapped and tortured four Zanu PF youths in the city.

The Standard learned that the Officer Commanding Bulawayo Province, senior assistant commissioner Charles Mufandaedza was transferred to the Midlands province for allegedly not taking action against the CIO operatives who tortured the four Zanu PF youths about two months ago.

The alleged torture also sucked in the office of Vice President Joseph Msika, who ordered a probe into circumstances leading to the kidnapping and torture of the Zanu PF activists.

Police spokesman, senior assistant commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena said the transfer of Mufandaedza had no link to the kidnapping and torture.

"Transfers are part of the life of a police officer. There have been some promotions and that is bound to cause some movements across the country as officers are being moved around. The transfer of Mufandaedza has nothing to do with the issue that you are talking about," Bvudzijena said.

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Chipawo training for rural youths
By our own Staff

FIFTEEN unemployed youths from 10 rural communities recently went through a 20-day vocational skills training programme organised by CHIPAWO in partnership with Swedish International Development Authority (SIDA).

The vocational skills course is a poverty reduction project aimed at alleviating the unemployment rate by equipping youths with skills to help them start income-generating projects in their communities, according to Bridget Chimboza, CHIPAWO's public relations officer.

She said 10 of the youths were being taught how to produce musical instruments such as marimba, hosho, mbira, and drums.

The remaining five were being trained in video production.

Meanwhile, in the Disadvantaged Rural Children Project, which started in 2003, CHIPAWO has established 20 centres, which are set to help the disadvantaged in remote rural areas.

"Teachers are also trained in psychological support, particularly with reference to HIV/AIDS and the centres are assisted in setting up a mbira and dance performance group, which is capable of generating income to pay for fees and contribute to school development," Chimboza said.

The fifteen youths were drawn from Mudzi, Chiredzi, Rusape, Chivi, Zvishavane, Gokwe, and Nyanga.

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Villagers selling donated fertiliser
By Caiphas Chimhete

VILLAGERS in some dry parts of Chimanimani district in Manicaland are selling the fertiliser provided by a donor organisation at give away prices because it is not usable in the semi-arid areas, The Standard has established.

The villagers say that they do not need fertilisers, especially urea, which is currently being distributed by Health Germany, a humanitarian organisation, because the areas are very dry and it affects their crops.

Since the beginning of this season, Health Germany has been distributing urea to areas such as Hot Springs, Gudyanga, Nemaramba and Tonhorai in Chimanimani. But most of the villagers sell the fertiliser because they cannot apply it in their fields. Only those with land in irrigation schemes use it.

"This area is dry so if we use the fertiliser all the crops will wilt. It was going to be better if they gave us grains that are resistant to drought," said Mrs Etina Mlambo of Gudyanga village in Chimanimani.

When The Standard visited the area recently, villagers at Hot Springs were receiving the fertiliser while some businesspeople from Mutare, Chipinge and Birchenough Bridge waited with their trucks nearby ready to buy the commodity.

The businesspeople resell the fertiliser, currently in short supply, at inflated prices to new farmers across the country.

A 50kg bag of urea cost about $120 000 in retail shops but the villagers sell it for prices ranging between $60 000 and $70 000 a bag.

An agricultural rural extension services (Arex) officer at Nyanyadzi Business Centre, confirmed that people in surrounding villages were selling the fertiliser donated by Health Germany for two reasons.

"First, it is not usable in dry areas like ours while others want to buy food because this area is dry and they do not have enough food," said the officer.

The officer said urea fertiliser leads to wilting of crops if applied in areas with low rainfall patterns, especially in Regions IV and V.

Davison Mugabe, the president of the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers' Union (ZCFU) also confirmed that urea should not be applied in low quantities especially in low rainfall areas. He said some people do not want to use urea as it involved a lot of labour because a farmer has to cover it unlike ammonia nitrate.

"Urea is stronger that ammonia nitrate because it has 43 percent nitrogen while ammonia nitrate has 34.5 percent so very small quantities should be applied. If a farmer applies too much crops wilt," Mugabe said.

He said Arex officers in those areas should give the farmers advice on the quantities that should be applied depending on the amount of rainfall expected.

An official with Health Germany in Harare, who refused to identify himself, confirmed the organisation was distributing urea fertilizer in the area.

"I believe if you apply fertiliser to any crop it will improve yields. You think we are giving them the wrong fertilisers? Write what you think will help the people in those areas," said the official, before putting the receiver down.

Research has shown that urea has some drawbacks when used as a fertilizer. The China-America Technology Corporation (CACT) says when urea is used particles dissolves; the area around it becomes a zone of pH and ammonia concentration.

"This area is quite toxic for several hours and any seeds or plantlets in this vicinity can be killed by the free ammonia formed from this reaction," said the organisation.

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Nkomo pleads for food aid
By Savious Kwinika

BULAWAYO - Zanu PF National chairman and Minister of Special Affairs in the President's Office Responsible for Land, Land Reform and Resettlement, John Nkomo, last week pleaded with Bulawayo Rotary club and other Bulawayo-based non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to re-introduce food relief to starving peasants in Matabeleland to avert an unfolding disaster.

In a speech read on his behalf by Bulawayo Metropolitan Governor, Cain Mathema, at the annual Rotary Club meeting held at the Bulawayo Golf Club, Nkomo acknowledged chronic food shortages being experienced in the expansive Matabeleland region.

However, Nkomo's pleas did not go down well with some Bulawayo residents, who quizzed Mathema on why the government was now willing to let NGOs distribute food aid in the countryside when it had barred international donor agencies from doing so.

"How safe is it for the NGOs to go to rural areas alone and start distributing food to needy villagers considering the attitude of Zanu PF and war veterans?" asked one man, who would not be identified.

Mathema, who appeared perplexed by the unexpected questions, said security would be guaranteed for NGOs that specifically go to rural areas with a view to feed hungry people without involving themselves in local politics.

"I feel there is a need for both NGOs and government to work together in order to provide food aid to the needy," Mathema said.

Bulawayo Rotary Club has more than 30 000 tonnes of food stocks for distribution that is stuck in warehouses because it cannot go into the countryside to feed the needy under the new NGO's Act. The NGO fears it would court the wrath of the government, which has been disputing statistics of a food deficit by donor agencies saying it has enough food stocks.

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