The ZIMBABWE Situation Our thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.

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Zimbabwe opposition leader briefly detained: MDC

      1 hour, 55 minutes ago    AFP

HARARE (AFP) - Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was briefly
detained at Harare International Airport on his return from a European tour,
an official with his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party said.

"They detained him at the airport for 20 minutes," the official told AFP.

"They photocopied pages of his passport and then they let him go."

Earlier the party's information department had put out a statement saying he
had been arrested and was being held at the airport.

Tsvangirai, who was recently acquitted of treason, has just completed a
whirlwind tour of Africa and some European countries following the return of
his passport after a two-year travel ban.

During his tour, he was heavily criticized by the Zimbabwean government.

Tsvangirai, a former trade unionist, was acquitted in October of plotting to
kill President Robert Mugabe ahead of watershed presidential elections in

He had undergone a year-long trial, during which the state's key witness,
Canada-based political consultant Ari Ben Menashe claimed that Tsvangirai
asked for his help in "eliminating" the long-time Zimbabwean leader.

The government this week filed official court papers seeking leave to appeal
Tsvangirai's acquittal.

Tsvangirai's brief detention came as Mugabe's ruling Zimbabwe African
National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) wrapped up a party congress in
the capital.

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"Imperialists" will not monitor Zimbabwe polls-Mugabe
HARARE, Dec 4 (Reuters) President Robert Mugabe said his government will not
invite ''imperialist'' nations to monitor Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections
scheduled for March, state media reported today.

Mugabe has been accused by the opposition and mostly Western countries of
rigging his re-election in 2002 and ZANU-PF's equally controversial victory
in parliamentary polls four years ago.

The veteran leader, in power since independence from Britain in 1980,
charged ''imperialist'' countries were plotting to indirectly recolonise
nations like Zimbabwe under the veil of observing elections.

''We will invite our neighbours. Former imperialist countries are liars,
completely dishonest. There is a Third World. So why should we be judged by
the First World,'' Mugabe was quoted in the state-owned Herald newspaper.

Mugabe has accused former colonial ruler Britain of meddling in the
country's internal affairs and working with the opposition to overthrow his
government because of his controversial seizure of white-owned farms for the
resettlement of landless blacks.

Mugabe was speaking to foreign delegates attending an ongoing ZANU-PF
congress in Harare.
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      Business as usual in Bulawayo

             By Jonathan Agnew
            BBC cricket correspondent

     A strong security presence for the third one-day match at Queen's
suggested that authorities saw Bulawayo as the most likely venue for any
anti-government demonstrations.

      In fact, another derisory crowd gave further support to the widely
held view that the white cricket fans - disenchanted with Zimbabwe Cricket -
have voted with their feet.

      Surely this is another reason for the authorities do everything they
possibly can to encourage Zimbabwe's leading cricketers to return to the

      Rumour has it that only very recently Heath Streak came extremely
close to signing a three-year contract, and that should give some cause for

      Without those 'rebels', there is a real risk that cricket in Zimbabwe
will wither on the vine, and undo all the good development work that has
undoubtedly been done in schools throughout the country.

      On the field, it was business as usual as England dealt ruthlessly
with their enthusiastic, but vastly inferior opponents.

      After their opening 15 overs, Zimbabwe had struggled to 45-0 and,
later, were 165-4.

      This made their 238-7 a decent effort, and illustrated how ineffective
England's bowling can be at the present time.

      The absence of Andrew Flintoff is glaringly obvious - Paul Collingwood
came on to bowl in only the 13th over - and James Anderson is now looking
dreadfully short of confidence as his outswinger continues to desert him.

      Simon Jones picked up his first ODI wicket in only his second over,
and he claimed Tatenda Taibu later on, but the pace bowler is probably still
too erratic to be considered a regular in this shortened form of the game.

      England's openers put Zimbabwe's total into perspective by rattling up
138 in only 20 overs before Ian Bell cut loosly at Stuart Matsikenyeri and
was caught behind for 53.

      Vikram Solanki was dropped twice off consecutive balls on 38, but
feasted on the constant stream of half-volleys and long-hops that came his

      Having reached his second international century from just 89 balls, he
drove Matsikenyeri to long-off and was caught for exactly 100.

      Michael Vaughan and Andrew Strauss made the most of a chance to have a
quiet net as they knocked off the remaining runs and condemn Zimbabwe to
another overwhelming defeat.

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Zim 'at war' with Blair
04/12/2004 16:52  - (SA)

Harare - Zimbabwe's foreign minister on Saturday ratcheted up hostility with
former colonial power Britain, charging that his country is at "war" with
British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Presenting a report for the committee on external affairs at a congress of
the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF), Stan
Mudenge said: "The core of points which came from this committee was to
recognise that Zimbabwe is in the middle of war... with Blair."

Mudenge, who is also the party's deputy secretary for external affairs, told
thousands of cheering delegates in Harare that President Robert Mugabe "is
our icon".

Zimbabwe's relations with former colonial power Britain have been strained
since 2000, when the government embarked on a controversial programme of
seizing productive white-owned farms for redistribution to new black

Parliamentary elections held that year were condemned as being not free or
fair by most Western observers, and Mudenge said on Saturday that plans were
afoot by his country's perceived opponents to condemn next year's polls.

"The Western powers - the Americans, the British, the Europeans - all know
that the MDC (opposition Movement for Democratic Change) is going to lose
(those elections)," Mudenge told the congress.

"They are already working with plans to attack and condemn those elections
before they are held. We have to be vigilant," he said.
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The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe

Monday November 22nd - Sunday November 28th 2004

Weekly Media Update 2004-47










1. General comment


THE government media’s reluctance to expose the authorities’ pathological hatred of a free Press was clearly illustrated by their crude attempts to suffocate facts surrounding the delay in the arrival of the England Cricket team, which is currently in the country for four one-day international cricket matches against Zimbabwe.

Instead of categorically informing their audiences that the visiting team had deferred travelling to Zimbabwe because government had barred 13 foreign journalists from covering the tour, these media feigned ignorance of the reasons for the delay.

Typically, ZTV (24/11, 8pm) in a 20-second item carried at the end of the bulletin, reported: “Unverified reports say the England Cricket team that was supposed to arrive at 9 am hasn’t”, adding that the reasons for its non-appearance were “unknown”.


It was only the next morning that audiences of the government media got a glimpse of why the team had not arrived on schedule through an AFP ‘brief’ tucked away on the back page of The Herald.

The story reported that England had cancelled their flight to Harare “pending further discussions with the Zimbabwean authorities over a number of British journalists who were denied visas” to cover the tour. This represented totally inadequate coverage of a major hitch to a highly publicized international tour and warranted greater prominence, not to mention a full and factual explanation.


The private media displayed no such hypocrisy.

SW Radio Africa (24&27/11), Studio 7 (25 &26/11), The Daily Mirror (25/11) and the Zimbabwe Independent (26/11) all gave detailed and factual accounts of the story.

For example, The Daily Mirror reported that the English team had suspended their trip to Zimbabwe after government had barred the journalists on political grounds. The paper cited a BBC interview in which Information Secretary George Charamba was quoted saying government had only accredited “bona fide media organisations” and banned those that are “political” because this was “game of cricket, not politics”.

When it emerged that the authorities had backed down and revoked the ban on the journalists following threats of an England withdrawal from the tour, the government media downplayed this seemingly humiliating about-turn and muffled the truth.

Power FM (25/11, 1pm), for example, passively allowed Information Minister Jonathan Moyo to claim that delays in accrediting the 13 was “purely an administrative matter” which arose because the journalists had “supplied insufficient information” to government.


There was no attempt by the official media to reconcile Moyo’s claims with the initial reasons given by Charamba. Rather, The Herald (26/11) merely announced that government had accredited all journalists and unrepentantly maintained that some of them were “on a covert mission” using cricket as a cover.

An insight into why Moyo had climbed down on the matter appeared in the Independent. The paper revealed that ZANU PF information secretary Nathan Shamuyarira had overruled Moyo’s decision as he “thought nothing would be achieved by banning the journalists, except feeding negative publicity about government”.

The government media’s efforts to suffocate the facts surrounding the cricket saga demonstrates a total disdain for their obligation to accurately inform the public of such important developments and clearly affirms their status as slavish conduits of government propaganda.



2. International Relations


THE official media’s complicity in the systematic concealment of the government’s human rights excesses from the public replayed itself in the way they obfuscated fresh appeals by some European countries and the US asking the UN to intervene and address the abuses in Zimbabwe.

These media narrowly celebrated news that most developing countries in the UN General Assembly, led by South Africa, had outvoted their counterparts 92:72 against the adoption of a draft resolution condemning Zimbabwe’s poor human rights record without fully informing their audiences about the substance of the motion, its contents or relevance to the rights crisis in the country.


In fact, the official media merely used the latest development to reinforce the authorities’ specious claims that the reports alleging rights abuses in Zimbabwe were being contrived by its former colonial master, Britain, in its bid to oust government from power.

The Sunday Mail (28/11) even claimed that it was such ‘defeats’ like the blocked draft resolution on Zimbabwe that had resulted in Britain “increasingly seeking to engage Harare in dialogue to solve the bilateral problem”. 

But such unsubstantiated claims were by no means new.

Just before the UN blocked the draft resolution on Zimbabwe, the government media diverted the public’s attention from the contents of the resolution by cobbling up conspiracy theories on the matter.


For instance, The Herald (23/11) claimed that the resolution, which among other things obliged Zimbabwe to create conducive conditions for the holding of democratic elections and invite independent international observers for the March 2005 elections, was part of the “desperate” manoeuvres by the British-led West “to sneak their observers into the country” to discredit next year’s elections.

The paper claimed that government’s proposed controversial electoral reforms and the acquittal of MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai on treason charges were eloquent testimonies of the existence of democracy and the rule of law in the country, contrary to the claims contained in the West’s “sponsored” UN resolution. 

No attempt was made to honestly reconcile such one-sided claims with reality.


However, coverage of the issue by SW Radio Africa (25/11), Studio 7 (25/11) and The Daily Mirror (26/11) was more sober. For example, while SW Radio Africa reported Amnesty International (AI) arguing that the UN’s “no action motion” that allowed Zimbabwe to escape investigation by the world body “doesn’t help in improving the human rights situation” in the country, Studio 7 quoted a South African official defending the blocking of the resolution on the basis that it was “confrontational and would only exacerbate the situation (in Zimbabwe).”

Certainly, while the government media were exploiting this development to spruce up government’s human rights record, the authorities were ironically in the news for trying to bar more than a dozen foreign journalists from covering England’s current One Day International Cricket tour to Zimbabwe.


Typically, The Herald and Chronicle (25 & 26/11) tried to suffocate this latest display of government’s intolerance of media freedom, one of the concerns raised by the proposed UN draft resolution. The two papers carried brief reports on the matter and simply smothered the facts surrounding the issue. This contrasted sharply with the detailed and balanced reports carried by the private media, such as The Daily Mirror (25/11), The Financial Gazette (25/11) and Zimbabwe Independent (26/11).

Moreover, contrary to the government media’s selective coverage of the authorities’ escape from UN censure, the private media actually revealed that the South African labour union, COSATU, and that country’s Communist Party (CP) remained unsettled by Zimbabwe’s hostile political environment.  SW Radio Africa (25 & 27/11), The Daily Mirror (26/11) and The Standard (28/11) reported that the SA labour body had resolved to send another fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe following the ill-fated deportation of its first one last month. This would be in addition to COSATU staging a series of demonstrations outside all Zimbabwean embassies in the region to protest against the deportation and the human rights violations in Zimbabwe.


The government media blacked out this development, including Studio 7’s (23/11) revelations that the CP had called for “an end to political violence in Zimbabwe”, saying that the “existing political climate in Zimbabwe and the continued use of state repression to close down the media, judiciary and opposition” was not conducive to the holding of free and fair elections in 2005.

Similarly, The Standard reported that AI had called on government to withdraw the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Bill saying the proposed law was “flawed” and should be “appropriately reviewed”.


The government media continued to evade these matters.

Rather, Power FM and Radio Zimbabwe (24/11, 6am) passively quoted Foreign Affairs Minister Stan Mudenge blaming Zimbabwe’s problems on the West, particularly Britain, which it accused of already scheming “not to recognise next year’s elections”.

All media, however, failed to either inform their audiences on the EU-ACP meeting or investigate why ZANU PF MP Kumbirai Kangai, banned from travelling to Europe under the EU’s targeted sanctions regime, had failed to travel to the Netherlands for the meeting as revealed by The Daily Mirror (25/11). This was despite the fact that the Netherlands had reportedly issued him with a visa despite protests from the EU.



3. Budget


LACK of interpretative skills resulted in most of the media failing to go beyond economic jargon and simplify acting Finance Minister Hebert Murerwa’s $27,5 trillion budget proposal for 2005 for the benefit of their audiences.

For example, instead of giving a clear breakdown of allocations to each ministry and carrying out a comparative analysis of the current figures against those allocated last year, most media simply rehashed Murerwa’s budget statement, which buried such pertinent information in the text.

Although The Herald (26/11) published the proposed estimates of expenditure for each ministry, this was only through a pullout of the full text of the minister’s statement.

Otherwise the rest of the coverage was characterised by the government media’s preconceived portrayal of the budget as the perfect companion to the RBZ’s monetary policy and therefore an inevitable solution to Zimbabwe’s economic problems.


On the other hand, the private media were inquisitive, balancing this simplistic perception with other hard economic indicators on the ground.

Even before Murerwa presented his budget, the government media were already abuzz with glowing previews of his financial statement, saying it was expected to complement the success of the central bank’s monetary policy.

The Chronicle (25/11), for example, claimed that the budget, coming “against the successful implementation of a tight monetary policy” and the drop in annual inflation from 609 percent in January to 209 percent October, was expected to further steer economic growth. Selected members of the public were also quoted expressing the hope that Murerwa would come up with a “consumer-friendly budget”. 

The Herald (25/11) too exuded such expectation. However, both papers failed to provide an accurate summary of how successfully government had implemented last year’s budget.


Rather, ZTV (24/11, 8pm) simply noted, without providing evidence, that “despite high inflation, low official foreign currency inflows, reduced performance capacities by companies and erosion of disposable income, the 2004 budget managed to meet targets.” In addition, the station and Power FM (25/11, 6am) superficially argued that the absence of a supplementary budget demonstrated government’s “commitment to the turnaround of the country’s economy” through “fiscal discipline”. This was in spite of revelations by Minister Murerwa that government had actually overspent by more than $1.3 trillion.

But The Financial Gazette (25/11) was doubtful.  It pointed out that nothing much was expected from Murerwa’s budget because the country’s “major part of the economic policy (was) now driven by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe” which has given the market “regular direction on interest rates and the exchange rate” through its quarterly monetary policy reviews.


The government media however, still persisted in portraying the budget in glowing and simplistic terms as illustrated by ZTV (25/11, 8pm & 26/11, 8pm), The Herald and Chronicle (26/11). These media mainly cited Murerwa’s allocation of $1 trillion for the capitalisation of the Energy, Housing and Infrastructure Bank, $5 trillion for capital expenditure, $6.8 trillion for education and the raising of the monthly threshold for non-taxable income to $1m and the tax-free bonus from $1m to $5 million as indicative of the success of the budget.

Economic analysts such as Samuel Undenge and selected members of the public were quoted as welcoming these measures and describing the budget “as people- centred”, ZTV (25/11, 8pm).

However, none of these media questioned why, if the economy was on the mend, the budget had soared from more than $7 trillion in 2004 to $27, 5 trillion proposed for 2005 – and indeed, where that money would come from.


Such questions only found expression in the private media.

For example, these media carried comments from a cross section of Zimbabweans such as economists, political leaders, workers and ordinary members of the public as being largely sceptical that the budget would revive the economy or meaningfully improve the welfare of Zimbabwe’s hard-pressed workers and its unemployed.

Some commentators, like John Robertson, mused about government’s capacity to finance the budget in the absence of “no investment”, shortage of “new jobs” and in the face of “fewer people paying tax”, Studio 7 (25/11).

MDC Shadow Minister Tendai Biti shared these sentiments. He told the same station and the Independent that the consumptive nature of the budget was nothing but a “dishonest, mendacious, over ambitious” statement that would not do the economy any good.

The Independent also quoted him criticising Murerwa for devoting 80 percent of the budget to recurrent expenditure while allocating only $5 trillion for capital expenditure saying, “no nation develops without significant infrastructure developments that come from meaningful capital investment”. In fact, Biti later told SW Radio Africa (27/11) that both the 2005 budget and the RBZ’s monetary policy merely attempted to perpetuate a rosy picture of the economy while the “political factors” on the ground,  “which have made it unattractive for anyone to invest in Zimbabwe” remained unresolved.  Said Biti: “It does not mention the neo liberal policies that they have pursued particularly the micro-economic programme by …Gono, which have exacerbated the crisis particularly in the banking sector…the financial sector…the issue of the death of the export sector because of an unrealistic exchange rate…”


The Standard also cited several analysts dismissing the budget, saying it did not “contain any concrete measures to address unemployment and mass poverty”. 

Although The Daily Mirror (26/11) initially praised Murerwa as having brought “Xmas cheer” by widening tax bands, it later (27/11) castigated the minister for allocating about 42 percent of the budget to civil servants while giving important sectors such as health, which is on the brink of collapse, meagre amounts.

In fact, the Independent noted that the massive allocation to civil servants represented an increase of 324 percent over last year and was above the current inflation rate of 209 percent. This, argued the paper, was against “calls by the central bank to keep salary hikes within reasonable levels to curb inflation”.

However, Principal Director in the Ministry of Finance Andrew Bvumbe defended the civil servants’ allocation saying it was meant to avert high levels of brain drain and raise civic servants’ salaries above the poverty datum line.

Equally, the Chronicle (26/11) maintained its defence of the budget on the grounds that it was “probably” the “the most ‘people-friendly’ budget ever crafted in recent years,” because it “had all the ingredients of a government committed to the welfare of its people without prejudice to economic success”.  



The MEDIA UPDATE was produced and circulated by the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe, 15 Duthie Avenue, Alexandra Park, Harare, Tel/fax: 263 4 703702, E-mail:


Feel free to write to MMPZ. We may not able to respond to everything but we will look at each message.  For previous MMPZ reports, and more information about the Project, please visit our website at

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No prizes
Saturday 4th december 2004

Dear Family and Friends,
This week our schools limped to the last day and shuddered to a stop at the
end of what has been an impossibly difficult school year. It was my son's
last day at junior school and I sat with other parents at the final
assembly. Since nursery school I have never missed a gala, sports day, play
or concert and I knew that Richard's last day at junior school was going to
be emotional. It was also prize giving day and one by one children came up
grade by grade to receive awards for their excellence. There were the usual
English, Maths and Arts prizes but also awards for achievement, consistent
effort and Christian conduct.

As each child came up there were the usual claps, cheers and ululation's
from parents bursting with pride and I found tears in my eyes on more than
one occasion. I clapped and cried for myself as a parent, ex farmer and
outspoken writer. I was not actually sure how I had survived these 57 months
of turmoil, fear and penury and made it to this day. I clapped and cried for
Richard who had changed schools, worked through learning problems, lived
through horrors on an invaded farm and fought his fears and nightmares. I
was not sure how Richard had made it to this day either or how either of us
would cope with the phenomenal changes which lie ahead. I clapped and cried
for the school too and moreso after listening to the annual reports by the
Headmistress and the Chairman of the Board of Governors. Even though I had
been in and out of the school all year and had attended almost all of the
meetings, listening to the litany of horrors in one speech really bought
home to me what an enormous achievement it was that this little school had
managed to stay open at all. The year had begun with inflation of over 600%
and yet the government had pegged the school fees at a rate which did not
take economics into consideration. In May, first the headmistress and then
the Chairman of the Board had been detained in police cells. The Police
closed the school down and patrolled the premises preventing our children
and their teachers from entering.

As the year went on, the finances of the school became more and more
precarious. All parents had agreed to make donations to the school to keep
the standards up, but when it came to it, many did not do so. The feelings
at parents meetings got tenser and angrier as those parents who had made
large donations to the school knew that their money was supporting the
children of other parents who had promised to, but who had paid nothing
extra. Three weeks before the end of the term and in the heat of mid summer,
the school was forced to close the swimming pool down as they could no
longer afford to keep it operating. And now, on prize giving day, not a
single child actually received a prize because the school simply could not
afford to buy the usual book prizes. The children got certificates and
applause, huge applause, from parents and teachers who knew what an
achievement it was and what sacrifices had been made again and again for and
by the school to get to this day.

As I sit here on Saturday morning writing about our little prize-less prize
giving day at a small Marondera school, I found myself drawn to switch on
local TV just for a minute. There is live coverage of the Zanu PF annual
congress and its 9000 delegates in Harare. The speakers seem to be falling
over each other to pour praise on the party and its leaders. They are no
doubt as shocked as we are at the events of the last week which saw seven
top Zanu PF officials being suspended from the party for daring to differ in
the choice of vice presidency. Heads have rolled, more will undoubtedly
follow and no doubt there will be no prizes at that ceremony either.
Until next week, love cathy
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Zimbabwe gang forces hitch-hikers to dig up coffin

December 04, 2004, 17:30

A group of late night Zimbabwean hitch-hikers had a shock when they were
driven to a cemetery and forced to dig up a coffin at gunpoint.

The three men in a truck who offered the 20 hitch-hikers a lift to
Chitungwiza, a township outside Harare, instead sped to a graveyard, gave
them picks and shovels and forced them to open a grave, the Herald newspaper
reported today.

The reluctant grave robbers then had to tip the human remains back into the
pit and hand the empty coffin to the gangsters, who drove off into the
night, leaving them stranded. Stealing coffins from graves for resale is on
the increase in Zimbabwe because the Aids pandemic has increased demand and
the economic crisis means many people cannot afford to buy them legally. -
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Zim Online

Sat 4 December 2004
  JOHANNESBURG - Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai told
ZimOnline yesterday that his party was under immense pressure from regional
leaders and from its supporters to rescind its decision not to stand in a
crucial general election next year.

      "There is pressure on the Movement for Democratic Change party to
contest the election. Three in every four people feel that we should take
part in that election," Tsvangirai said. The opposition leader did not name
the leaders leaning on his party to contest the March 2005 ballot.

      Tsvangirai said he will meet with senior leaders of his Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) party in a "few days time" to review the decision
taken two months ago not to take part in the parliamentary ballot unless
President Robert Mugabe and his government fully implemented new electoral
guidelines agreed by Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) leaders
last August.

      But the opposition leader, who was in Johannesburg en route to Harare
from a tour of key African and European capitals to persuade them to
pressure Mugabe to uphold the SADC elections protocol, said his party was
not going to be railroaded into the election when its supporters continued
to be subjected to political violence.

      The SADC norms and standards for elections require independent
commissions to run elections to ensure transparency and fairness. The rule
of law and human rights must be upheld during elections under the regional

      The government says a new Zimbabwe Electoral Commission it is setting
up will have the power and autonomy to run elections in line with the SADC

      But Tsvangirai and the MDC say the commission will lack independence
because its chairman will be appointed by Mugabe while its other four
members will be nominated by a parliamentary committee dominated by the
ruling ZANU PF party. - ZimOnline
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Zim Online

Reserve Bank adjusts exchange rate for exporters
Sat 4 December 2004
  HARARE - The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has adjusted the exchange rate
for local exporters to $7 000 per US dollar up from $5 600 to $6 200 they
were earning per greenback.

      In a policy document dated November 23, a copy of which ZimOnline has,
the RBZ in a bid to raise critically needed hard cash for the country
stipulates that exporters would only benefit from the new exchange rate if
they liquidated their export proceeds within a month.

      "The exporter is entitled to a rebate which effectively increases the
US dollar value of his exporters at higher blended exchange rate of $7 130
per US$ if the proceeds are received within 30 days," the document reads in

      In a carrot and stick approach, the central bank will pay $6 511.76
per one US unit to exporters who cash in their proceeds between 31 and 90
days of receiving payments from their foreign clients.

      Companies that liquidate export proceeds between 91 and 100 days will
earn $6 202.64 per greenback while those that take 100 to 120 days to
surrender foreign currency earnings will be paid $5 893.52 per one US unit.

      And exporters who would hold on to their hard cash earnings for more
than 120 days will receive $5 584.40 per one US dollar.

      The more than three million Zimbabweans living and working abroad
sending hard cash home through the central bank's Homelink facility will
continue to receive $6 200 per one US unit.

      The central bank has battled hard to revive the export sector and
increase foreign currency in-flows into hard-cash starved Zimbabwe but
without much success as more and more export firms either scale down or
completely close shop because of the harsh operating environment.

      Fuel, electricity, essential drugs and other basic commodities are in
short supply in the country because there is no hard cash to pay foreign
suppliers. - ZimOnline
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Please send any material for publication in the Open Letter Forum to with "For Open Letter Forum" in the subject line.


Letter 1:

Please allow me to add a positive note to the seemingly impossible and
gloomy situation in which we find ourselves - whether this is the correct
column to air my views I know not, as I enquired at the CFU to get on their
mailing list, but as I am not a registered commercial farmer (paid-up), I
was informed that I could not be included. Having served agriculture for
some 18 years in a down line capacity, I now realize what they were on
about - they are very high and mighty and would prefer to distance
themselves from reality (my own opinion totally). Anyway, enough negativity
as I believe it induces more negativity!!

My head is not in the sand, in fact I am sometimes probably one of the most
negative people on the planet because of what has happened to us in the
last five years, but I saw a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel (not
the train coming to take us out either!!) when I had to have some urgent
repairs done to my vehicle. I approached Duly's in Mutare, explained that
my vehicle was virtually undriveable (it was critically wounded in
Mozambique a few months ago and I drove it from Chimoio to Marondera,
sounding like a T54 tank driving over a metal Bazley bridge) - the guys in
Marondera rendered first aid and when I could manage it, I limped to
Mutare. The workshop had some 7 other vehicles in the work bay, but when I
informed the workshop foreman of my predicament he said he would try his
level best; that is exactly what he did - the vehicle was worked on all
day, well after working hours, and what would normally have taken maybe 2
to 3 days was done in a day. Then I required tyres for my "new" motorcar. I
proceeded to NTS and they removed my old tyres, balanced the wheels and I
drove away 25 minutes later.

So you see, not all is gloom and doom, and there is hope. It is extremely
difficult to ignore what the government is doing to us, but if the people
just try and get on with their daily lives and fight off the fits of
depression, we'll make it. Remember, our infrastructure has taken a
thrashing, but we should endeavour to look after what we have left of it.
Leave the government to self-destruct, which it will do shortly. Go well.
Stu Taylor


Letter 2:

Dear Friend, Colleague and Free Market thinker,

Here is a piece about Zimbabwe's socialist policies - related to the food
shortages. If anyone wants to use the piece, in its current form - or in a
modified form - please let me know. I was hoping to get it published
somewhere, and maybe get paid a little bit for the work done.

Best regards,

Steven Tennett

The GMB fiasco: Socialism's broken chickens come home to roost

The state-run parastatal Grain Marketing Board (GMB) had incurred a ZW$ 302
billion dollar loss in the financial year ending 31st March 2004, caused by
government's socialist policies - manifesting themselves in the uneconomic
pricing on grain. Losses in the current financial year are anticipated as
much heavier still, as GMB continues to trade below cost - selling maize to
millers at $9,600 a tonne whilst buying it from farmers at $130,000 a
tonne. Because of this pricing policy there is only a trickle of maize
reaching the GMB silos this year. This is as a direct result of a
disastrous government-orchestrated land reform program that expelled most
of the country's best commercial farmers from their farms, replacing them
with poor, inefficient and unskilled black agrarian farmers - which means
in reality that there are no longer any farmers possessing the money and
skills to achieve large-scale food production and profits. Added to this,
government's previously enforced price controls on staple foods have served
to further undermine the economic viability of farming as a whole. Millers
who could not afford to buy grain and produce flour at a loss did not buy
grain. Similarly, bakers who could not afford to buy flour and produce
bread at a loss did not buy flour. Last year bakers were particularly hard
hit as they juggled to accomodate the public demand at the controlled sales
price, the viability of their businesses depending on reduction of
purchases, staff or product lines, with the result that for a while bread
disappeared from Zimbabwe's supermarket shelves whilst price controls
remained in effect.

Recently the portfolio committee on Lands, Rural Resources, Water
Development and Resettlement produced an unsettling report showing the GMB
only held 351,810 tonnes of maize as of October 18 2004 (about two months
supply), well below the "bumper harvest" of 2.4 million tonnes projected by
Mugabe. (Isn't this a case of déjà vu after the fantasy projections made in
recent years by the then Minister of Agriculture Joseph Made - who deceived
the public into believing there was ample grain in the country, before the
undeniable realities of wide-spread starvation forced him to import massive
quantities of food?)

In fact sources from within GMB have confirmed that the 141,521 tonnes of
maize imported in September have already been consumed, making it a
priority to import a further 222,554 tonnes of grain to replenish the
country's depleted grain silos. This, however, is at a cost of US$27
million, with the bankrupt Zimbabwean government, and ultimately the
impoverished tax payer, footing the bill.

The government's socialist policies led it to believe it was right and
proper for government to manage food supplies on behalf of its people -
acting in the capacity of both economist and businessman. But no government
is either. Neither can it be, and more importantly, neither should it be.
Logistically, millions of informed decisions are needed in a managed
economy, as past architects of the failed Soviet Union have testified, but
the Russian people bore the brunt of the economic experiment, paying for it
with their poverty and suffering. But even if a government managed to
achieve all the "economically correct" decisions in a planned economy, it
would not make that government's actions right. Government's interference
in an economy is primarily wrong and indefensible on a principled i.e. a
moral level. The result of the Zimbabwe government's socialist policies is
that it got its economic facts wrong with its yearly forecast figure of 2.4
million tonnes. Because the government is not an economist, it fallaciously
applied the national average yield of 1.5 tonnes per hectare across the
board, regardless of the climatic conditions prevailing in each of the
country's 5 ecological regions. But any economist or farmer would say that
yields differ considerably in provinces like Mashonaland, Matebeleland and
Masvingo because of the different types of land and the different
availability of water. Because the government is not a businessman, it
failed to take into account the financial viabilities, skills and
efficiencies of the relevant farming communities that it had brought into
existence. It had backed and brought into existence the "new farmers", who
are none other than poor, largely uneducated, rural peasant farmers. Mainly
as a result of mismanagement and lack of funding, these "new farmers" have
run most of the previously established farms into the ground, and the
bitter truth is that they simply are not as good at farming as the farmers
that government-backed forces drove off those farms - nowhere near!

Secondly, government's production forecast figures couldn't be related to
inflows to GMB. The "new farmers" produce about 30% of the grain previously
produced by commercial farmers, so inflows are seriously reduced in volume.
And what would be the incentive for farmers to send grain to GMB when it is
likely to be used by government as a political weapon to starve opposition
party members?

Although the foregoing arguments are true in themselves, they do not
address a more basic truth, which is that no government anywhere should be
involved in agricultural control and planning of its economy in the first
place. As with every socialist venture of this sort such as the
"experiments" performed in Cuba, USSR or Cambodia, Zimbabwe's land reform
program - characterised by it's chaotic "fast track resettlement" scheme -
has led to the inevitable results of starvation, misery and poverty. It is
only the degree of destruction that differs. GMB is a government monopoly,
no other company being authorized to distribute grain to millers in
Zimbabwe. Yet the bankrupt Zimbabwean government props up this GMB monopoly
in full knowledge that it is a lost cause, with debts exceeding ZW$ 302
billion dollars, whereas in truth it should be allowed to die a natural
death and collapse. But government cannot afford to give up GMB because it
is a tool for the legalized plunder of food resources - a useful political
weapon in its "food" for "votes" campaign.

It is a case of protecting incompetence for political reasons. After all,
what private company could afford to run like GMB without going bankrupt?

A system that has at its root a number of privately owned companies that
produce, market and distribute grain, would allow farmers to choose the
best prices for their produce on a competitive free market - forcing
marketers to adopt ever higher levels of service and efficiency to win
their share of the market, and enabling farmers to turn their new found
profits back into capital investment for improved farming and grain


Letter 3:

Two of us escorted a friend who had broken her arm down to Zimbabwe from
Kenya.  It was a painful journey for our friend and we were glad to leave
the airport and head for her home.

We were visitors to Zimbabwe and looking forward to our visit in Harare. We
had nothing to declare and were cleared through Customs at the Airport.

It came as a surprise to be stopped at a Police roadblock shortly after we
left the airport where were told to pull over to the side of the road.
There we were approached by several people purporting to be Customs
Officers who had us remove all our luggage from the vehicle and lay the
suitcases down on the road beside the car.  Once this was done one of the
"officers" chose one of the cases to open and search there on the road.

I am absolutely amazed to have been put through this experience and it
certainly is an extraordinary way to treat visitors on arrival in Zimbabwe
and this incident created a very poor first impression.

Were these in fact Customs Officers?  What does this say about the Customs
procedures at the airport itself?  Are those officers at the airport not to
be trusted to do their job properly so it becomes necessary to have
secondary officers pulling vehicles over and searching luggage again on the

As it happens the rest of our stay was filled with very good experiences
and we were impressed by the friendliness and helpfulness of the Zimbabwe
people, however, I will always remember this unorthodox roadside customs
search and the uncomfortable first impression it gave of life in Zimbabwe.

Rowena Buxton

All letters published on the open Letter Forum are the views and opinions
of the submitters, and do not represent the official viewpoint of Justice
for Agriculture.
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3 December 2004
We Are Getting Hungrier, Yet the Government Continues To Play With Our Lives

 Zimbabwe will require substantial amounts of food aid from international donors in order to prevent an unprecedented humanitarian crisis occurring in 2005. 

The government claims that the 2003/4 agricultural season yielded a record harvest of 2.4 million tonnes. There is no evidence to back this up.

A recent investigation by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Agriculture found that instead of the predicted 1.2million tonnes of maize being delivered to the government controlled Grain Marketing Board, only 351,810 tonnes had been delivered by October. The GMB has also put in place plans to import 224,554 tonnes, which, if successful, will result in a total maize stock of 574,000.

Zimbabwe consumes an average of 158,000 tonnes of maize per month. Even with a possible reserve of 574,000 tonnes to last the country until the next harvest in April, Zimbabwe is likely to face acute food shortages early in the New Year. 

November is the planting season in Zimbabwe and yet many of the fields lie fallow due to the chronic lack of seed and the failure of the government to provide financial and technical assistance to the newly resettled farmers.  

Despite the compelling evidence on the ground, the government continues to tell the people of Zimbabwe, and the outside world, that we have enough food and do not need outside assistance.

The government is playing with our lives; we are fast running out of food.

Even food that is available is increasingly out of reach for the majority of Zimbabweans due to rising prices; a factor which illustrates just how erroneous government claims are vis-à-vis economic recovery. 

The government’s mendacity on the food situation is being driven by two cynical objectives ahead of the parliamentary elections. 

Firstly, a desperate need to sustain the myth that its land reform programme is the panacea of food security when in reality this programme, while noble in principle, has been poorly managed in its implementation stages resulting in an alarming drop in food production that risks plunging Zimbabwe into a protracted humanitarian crisis.

Secondly, a desire to have a complete monopoly over food aid distribution during the run-up to the parliamentary elections. Inflating crop yields not only provides a useful pretext for terminating food relief efforts by international NGOs it also creates a convenient smokescreen behind which the government can covertly import food to coerce a hungry electorate in the run-up to the elections.  Despite official denials, we have it on good authority that the government has been secretly importing maize; maize which is being deliberately held back from distribution due to the integral role it is likely to play in Zanu PF’s election campaign.

Zimbabweans though have seen through the government’s web of deceit on the food situation; the people are no longer duped by the red herrings that are released through the sluice gate of government propaganda on a daily basis.

The increasing hunger that we are all experiencing explodes the myth about record crop yields. The more the government tries to hoodwink us with fanciful stories of silos over spilling with produce the more our collective resolve is strengthened for a new beginning and a new Zimbabwe in which food will be available to all at affordable prices.

We all know that the new beginning can only be ushered in through the mechanism of a free and fair election, and we are making incremental progress in this direction due to the political victories being secured by pressure from the people.

The MDC wants to fight a free and fair election on the issues of the day: food and jobs. Through our RESTART programme we have formulated a plan that will increase food availability and secure immediate relief for those suffering from hunger. We have already engaged the international donor community on this issue and have been assured of a positive and proactive response.

We will also ensure that communal and re-settled farmers receive adequate inputs and financial support so that they can spearhead the revival of food production to a level that guarantees food security.

No field will be left idle under an MDC government and no Zimbabwean will go hungry. 

Renson Gasela
MDC Shadow Minister for Lands and Agriculture  
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