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'I have to eat insects to stay alive'

The Telegraph

By Neil Connery in Mbare
(Filed: 04/12/2005)

They came in the quiet of the night to unleash a wave of terror. Armed
police burst through rows of shacks, beating and dragging people from their
beds and demolishing their homes.

Isaac Julius felt the full force of the latest phase of the Zimbabwean
government's eviction campaign, known as Operation Restore Order.
"We were sleeping inside our house in Mbare, when they arrived and told us
to go," he said. "They just started chucking everything out." He lifted his
trouser leg to show a bloody and bruised leg.

Moses Chombo, his neighbour, took up the story. "I tried to run away but
they caught me and I got injured while being thrown into the car. The city
council police beat us. They took my door frames and iron roofing. I saw a
woman with a four-week-old baby struggling to put up a fight, but it was no

The morning after the raid on November 14, Mbare was strewn with broken
roofing sheets, smashed rocks and pieces of wood. The dazed residents took
what belongings they could gather with them on the police lorries to the
Hopley Farm holding camp, outside Harare, the capital. At least 500 families
were uprooted.

Almost four weeks later, more than 3,000 people are struggling to survive in
appalling conditions at the camp. There is neither running water nor
sanitation. A few sheets of plastic provide the only shelter for each

A woman called Linguilwe said she had to eat insects to stay alive. She
opened her clenched hand to show half-a-dozen dead mandere, or chafer
beetles, in her palm.

"We were taken from Mbare at night. We didn't know where we were going," she
said. "There's nothing to eat."

Although the camp is watched over by government security guards, its
occupants are free to leave. But most have nowhere to go after their homes
were destroyed.

The United Nations estimates that more than 700,000 people throughout the
country have lost their homes or jobs as a result of the eviction programme
that began in May.

Campaigning at a rally for last weekend's senate elections, President Robert
Mugabe told ITV News that his international critics could learn from him.
"They should look at how we are practising our democracy, especially the

The turnout for the elections was estimated at 15 per cent. Morgan
Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change
Party, called for a boycott after Washington, Brussels and London condemned
March's parliamentary elections as a fraud.

Mr Mugabe, 81, insists that Operation Restore Order is simply a
slum-clearance programme. The MDC claims that the evictions have been mostly
in strongholds of their own supporters and are Mr Mugabe's way of taking
revenge on people who voted for the Opposition in March.

Samuel Mboro, an unemployed printer, lives with 20 members of his family in
a tiny, four-room house on the outskirts of Harare. "I can't describe how
difficult life is here," he said.

"No one in our family is working, so we are surviving on Red Cross handouts.
I am surprised that the government is saying that there is enough food.
That's not true. Those who don't get handouts are starving. People are dying
of hunger."

Nearby, there is a two-mile queue for petrol. The taxi drivers had been
lining up for a week. "How can you go and vote when you have nothing to eat
and there is no fuel?" said one. Zimbabwe's economy has collapsed and
inflation is running at 400 per cent.

Last week, after insisting for more than a year that Zimbabwe could feed
itself, the government agreed to allow the UN to supply food aid to 3
million people.

White pensioners are also suffering. Len Huxley, 84, who was born in Britain
and served as a Royal Marine during the Second World War, has spent the past
40 years in Zimbabwe. He survives in his small flat on handouts from

"I have a jar of coffee which I haven't dared use," he said. "I just sit and
look at it. I haven't had a piece of bacon for four years. If I'm feeling
generous I might buy some bananas and have them on toast."

John Sheppard, the co-ordinator for Meals on Wheels, said many cases were
heartbreaking: "One man we know, who's 80, is forced to work as an
electrician, climbing into roofs and up pylons. His wife is 87, almost
totally blind and crippled with arthritis.

"Because of inflation, their pension is worth just 20,000 Zimbabwe dollars a
month (10p). Their daughter, who lives with them, has Down's syndrome. If
they weren't helped, they'd die.

"We know of a gentleman who starved to death in a caravan. He probably lost
the urge to live.

"We know of a woman who lives in a cowshed wearing clothes made out of
plastic. It's staggering what hyper-inflation really does."

Neil Connery is ITV News Africa Correspondent. Some names have been changed.

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Z$150 billion Zimbabwe dairy fund milked dry

Zim Online

Mon 5 December 2005

      HARARE - A Z$150 billion fund created by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe
(RBZ) to resuscitate the country's dairy sector could have been misused with
less than $15 billion said to have reached farmers, ZimOnline has learnt.

      Senior RBZ officials said the central bank's governor, Gideon Gono,
had ordered a probe into several financial institutions that were tasked to
disburse the money after small-scale dairy farmers, who were the intended
beneficiaries of the fund, complained that they had not received the money.

      "The funds could have been abused because we understand some of the
banks are still holding on to the money when we expect that it should have
already been disbursed to the farmers," said a senior RBZ official, who
spoke on condition he was not named.

      Gono could not be reached for comment on the matter yesterday.

      But the chairman of small-scale dairy producers, Tendai Makwavarara,
confirmed that the bulk of the farmers had not benefited from the fund and
that they had raised the matter with the RBZ.

      "We have asked the bank to investigate that and I understand the probe
has already begun. Of the $150 billion, less that $15 billion has been
disbursed and we wonder where the rest of the money is," Makwavarara said.

      This is not the first time that public funds meant to assist farmers
increase production and end hunger in Zimbabwe have been misused.

      Parliament's portfolio committee on agriculture said in a report two
weeks ago that about 60 percent of $118 billion provided by the government
for farmers never reached them because it was stolen by officials tasked to
distribute the money.

      The misuse of the dairy funds has put into jeopardy more than 30 dairy
projects that the RBZ had hoped to boost and help increase production of
milk, which is in short supply in the country.

      As with all sectors of Zimbabwe's once vibrant agriculture, the dairy
production is at its lowest after President Robert Mugabe's chaotic and
often violent seizure of productive farms from whites for redistribution to
landless blacks.

      Although the government had initially said it would not seize dairy
farms it went back on its promise, allowing violent mobs of its supporters
to invade dairy farms and in many cases slaughtering dairy cows for meat.
Zimbabwe has less than 40 000 dairy cows from the more than 100 000 it had
before the farm seizures.

      Mugabe's farm redistribution programme saw food production falling by
60 percent mainly because black peasant farmers put on former white
commercial farms did not have the skills or financial resources to maintain
production, while most of the little money that the government has attempted
to provide was stolen by powerful politicians and state officials.

      Zimbabwe, once a regional bread basket, has since Mugabe's chaotic
land reforms six years ago survived on food aid from international donors.
An estimated four million Zimbabweans or a quarter of the country's 12
million people require more than a million tonnes of food aid between now
and the next harvest around March/April 2006 or they will starve. -

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UN envoy meets experts ahead of country-wide tour

Zim Online

Mon 5 December 2005

      HARARE - United Nations Emergency Relief Co-ordinator Jan Egeland on
Sunday began meeting UN experts ahead of a country-wide tour to assess the
humanitarian crisis triggered by the demolition of houses in a controversial
government clean-up campaign last May.

      Egeland, who is on a four day visit to Zimbabwe, is scheduled to meet
President Robert Mugabe today and visit areas affected by the clean-up
exercise which saw thousands of houses and backyard shacks destroyed.

      "He (Egeland) is in Harare, holding some internal meetings with UN
experts in the country," said Hiro Ueki, the acting director for the UN
information centre in Harare.

      The UN envoy is also scheduled to meet religious and civil society
leaders during the visit. Church leaders and civic rights leaders were at
the forefront in criticising Mugabe's housing demolitions.

      At least 700 000 people were left homeless after Mugabe sanctioned the
housing demolitions in Zimbabwe's urban areas, according to a damning UN
report penned by special envoy Anna Tibaijuka. The UN envoy said another 2.4
million people were also directly affected by the programme.

      But Mugabe last July angrily rejected the report insisting the housing
demolitions were necessary to restore the beauty of cities and towns as well
as smash the burgeoning but illegal foreign currency parallel market.

      The Zimbabwean leader also rejected UN aid for the clean-up victims
insisting the country had enough resources to deal with the crisis. But last
September, Mugabe, whose country is grappling a five-year economic
recession, made an abrupt U-turn when he accepted UN aid. - ZimOnline

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Zimbabwe central bank closes in on cricket bosses

Zim Online

Mon 5 December 2005

      HARARE - Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor, Gideon Gono and his
officials have stepped up investigations into illegal foreign currency deals
involving Zimbabwe Cricket chairman Peter Chingoka and managing director
Ozias Bvute, highly placed sources told ZimOnline yesterday.

      The investigations have also touched on a former broadcaster and who
is now a businessman with close links to President Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF

      "RBZ officials, at the instigation of Gono last week intensified their
investigations and they are close to completing their probe. It will not be
a surprise if one or two people are picked up by the police this week.

      "Gono wants to get to the bottom of the scandal because he had also
been named in the scam. He is determined to make sure everything is above
board," said the highly placed RBZ source.

      It is believed that at least 1 million pounds (nearly US$2 million)
disappeared from ZC coffers early this year when the union acquired an
outside broadcasting van from Europe. RBZ officials are also investigating
allegations of externalisation of huge sums of money from ZC.

      Gono is said to have taken it upon himself to bring back normalcy to
cricket as the sport generates huge amounts of foreign currency through
television rights.

      The RBZ governor is said to be in the process of trying to persuade
players not to quit the game. But captain Tatenda Taibu, who quit the
national team in a huff, said he will only consider returning to the squad
if Chingoka and Bvute are gone. - ZimOnline

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The Death of Democracy in Zimbabwe

If nothing else, the Senate elections have clearly revealed the futility of
elections in Zimbabwe as a means of changing those who have the
responsibility of government. We knew it before, but it has never been as
clear to us as it is now.

The results were very revealing - if we adopt my hypothesis as spelled out
in the last weekly letter, that Zanu PF held back in Bulawayo to give the
MDC pro Senate faction some seats and that in those seats rigging was
minimal, then we get the following picture nationally. In the five Bulawayo
Senate seats the poll was 7,5 percent of the voters registered. Across the
whole country 631 000 voters turned out, 3 per cent spoiled their votes and
124 000 voted for the MDC candidates despite the boycott call by Morgan
Tsvangirai. This meant that 450 000 voters voted for Zanu PF. The total poll
being 19,48 percent of the voters registered in the contested seats.

Now if we assume that the Bulawayo vote (where the MDC pro Senate faction is
strongest and has the best case for participation) is a reflection of the
"true" vote, then this percentage poll estimated for the whole country means
that some 388 000 votes were fabricated to ensure a Zanu PF "landslide".
That is some 86 per cent of the Zanu vote and suggests that the true poll
for Zanu was only a miniscule 62 000 votes or less than two per cent of the
number of registered voters.

This may be an extreme calculation but it suggests the magnitude of the
nonsense that goes on in an election here run by this collection of clowns
masquerading as democrats. If we take just one seat - that for Chipinge and
Chimanimani - here in an area where Zanu PF has not won a seat in 25 years,
they polled 36 000 votes, some 22 per cent of the total number of registered
voters. In the last election that could be counted as reasonably run - June
2000, Zanu lost both seats by huge margins. This is clearly simply not
possible. In fact I said to a friend who comes from the area jokingly - "so
you guys have woken up and voted Zanu PF at last", to which she replied
"come walk with me down the street of Chipinge and say that in public and
you will be beaten to death!"

On the day that I went up to Harare last week, the headline in the Herald
was "Mutare Mayor to be thrown out". If we ignore the state of national
elections and look at what has happened in local government elections the
situation is equally shameful. In the last national local government
elections the MDC won comprehensively in 13 out of 15 urban councils. These
victories were especially marked in the larger centers.

Since then we have seen the Mayor and entire Council forced out of office in
Harare, the Mayor of Chitungwiza suspended, the Mayor of Mutare thrown out
of his office and now facing suspension and the Mayor of Chivu thrown into
jail on spurious grounds. All other MDC Mayors face constant threats against
their tenure and administration In the Rural District Council of Hwange -
one of the few controlled by the MDC, the elected Chairman was hounded out
of office and has now fled the area and is living in Harare.

Local government is already in a terrible state - lack of resources, the
State not paying its bills, shortages of foreign currency for essential
imports and urban populations growing rapidly without any consequential
investment in water and sewerage. Our cities are a health time bomb.  I
talked to the Mayor of Bulawayo the other day - a man who has done a very
commendable job for the City. We discussed a private sector initiative to
solve the cities water crisis - he concurred with the ideas but said that
his biggest problem was that the Minister of Local Government would not back
it because it would be seen as an MDC initiative. In the budget there was no
allocation for the new water supplies either for Harare or Bulawayo!

In the Presidential election in 2002, it was estimated by those with access
to the data that some 800 000 votes were fabricated - we know who did it and
where and how it was done. Without these fabricated votes Morgan Tsvangirai
would have won that election by 65 per cent to 35 per cent for Robert Mugabe
and we would have been living under a MDC government right now. Instead
Mugabe claimed a massive victory over his rival and when this victory was
taken to Court for an urgent hearing, it was simply sat on and today - 3 and
a half years later, has not been heard. In exasperation the legal team
representing Morgan has now appealed to the Supreme Court to do "something"
about the refusal of the High Court to hear the case.  It took the MDC three
years to force the Registrar General to bring the election documents to
Harare for examination - a process which is only now under way.

The people no longer have any faith in elections - and what a tragedy that
is for the country and for Africa at large. I can remember like yesterday
the enormous excitement in 1980 as millions went to vote to bring about the
selection of leadership to take the country forward after years of war and
isolation. I was on duty at a polling station and can recall the queues of
ordinary people - the old, the young, the educated and the illiterate,
workers and millionaires all standing in line with a common cause. The
emotion of those for whom this was the first time to vote was plain for all
to see and was deeply moving.

Now those same people say what is the point of voting - we vote and they
steal the result, we vote and they beat us, we vote and they starve us and
deny us access to jobs and schools. Who can forget those vivid pictures from
the June 2000 election of hundreds of thousands of people lined up at
midnight demanding "we want to vote", the riot police using dogs and tear
gas to drive them away from the polling stations when it became clear that
they could not all vote - Zanu PF wanted to close the vote down while they
were ahead.

Who will not forget the stunned expressions on the faces of all when in
2002, the State radio announced the "result". Ordinary people everywhere
said, "We did not vote like that!" For me personally it took about six
months to pick myself off the floor of that election. What was just as bad
was to then watch the Zanu PF administration punish those districts that had
dared to vote against the monolith.

But if we cannot change our government or our Councils by voting, then what
can we do to get change when we feel that those in power are not acting in
our interests? Do we really have to start killing each other again to get
change? Today as I write, the UN has a senior staff member here to
investigate our situation. I guess it is too much to ask that all he does is
insist that next time we vote - if we ever get there, we will have the UN
supervise the whole process so that we can vote for real change with the
confidence that we will not be cheated yet again.

We were told for many decades that the struggle in places like Zimbabwe was
for "one man one vote". Post independence history suggests otherwise.
However, this should not in any way detract from the fact that our people
want to vote for the leaders of their own choice. To deny them that make
mockery of everything the earlier generations of leaders in Africa stood for
during the long road to democracy in Africa. No one knows that better than

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 4th December 2005

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Youths beat up MP at Zim rally


04/12/2005 18:06  - (SA)

Harare - A Zimbabwean opposition MP was beaten up at a rally at which leader
Morgan Tsvangirai said on Sunday his Movement for Democratic Change would
press on despite a damaging split.

Timothy Mubhawu, a MDC member of parliament, was bruised on the face when
party youths kicked and punched him at a football pitch in the Harare
township of Highfield before Tsvangirai arrived to address the rally.

The mob accused Mubhawu of backing a faction which defied Tsvangirai's call
to boycott senate polls held on November 26.

An AFP correspondent saw the mob chasing Mubhawu before he drove off in a

Addressing several hundred supporters, Tsvangirai deplored the attack on the
MP, but admitted the rift in the party about participation in the polls
would not be mended.

Tsvangirai said, referring to his deputy, Gibson Sibanda, and
secretary-general Welshman Ncube: "To Sibanda and Welshman we are saying

Differences 'too deep'

Tsvangirai said Sibanda and Ncube led a faction that supported 26 party
members who contested the senate polls despite his call for a boycott.

"I called them after the senate polls and thought we would resolve our
differences, but I realised our differences were deeper," Tsvangirai told
MDC supporters.

"These people decided to jump off the ship and they are going to sink while
the ship continues to sail."

Tsvangirai scoffed at his suspension from the party leadership last week by
a disciplinary committee chaired by Sibanda.

"I will never be suspended by such a simpleton," he said.

"I have a contract with the people of Zimbabwe and our agenda is to fight
the dictatorship of Robert Mugabe.

"We will not waste our energy on these people who have fallen by the

The crowd at the rally chanted slogans and sang, denouncing the faction that
supported the senate polls.

As Tsvangirai spoke, a group of supporters jogged past him burning T-shirts
bearing the picture of Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, the member of
parliament for Glen Norah township.

The supporters said Misihairabwi-Mushonga was in the faction that ignored
Tsvangirai's poll boycott calls.

The MDC leader maintained that the elections were a waste of money at a time
when the country was facing a severe food shortage.

Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) won 43 of
the 50 contested seats, while the MDC picked up seven seats in the elections
that were marred by poor turnout.

But the split in the MDC has dealt a severe blow to the opposition party,
which had been widely regarded as the most-credible challenge to Mugabe's 25
years of uninterrupted rule.

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Zimbabwe Vigil Diary - 3rd December 2005

Giant blue hands greeted passers-by at the Vigil.  The blue foam gloves read
"Hands Up 4 Freedom" and on the other side "Join the MDC Today".  A large
box of them was donated by well-wishers in South Africa via the writer Geoff
Hill, Africa Correspondent of the Washington Times and a Zimbabwean himself.
Geoff is a great supporter of the Vigil and addressed the London Zimbabwe
Forum on Monday.  He is very keen to see the Vigil spread its activities to
Brussels, headquarters of the European Union.  Anyone there reading this,
please contact us.

Our hands were blue even without the gloves.  A downpour coincided with the
opening of the Vigil and we balanced unmusically on our slippery drums to
tie a string between our lampposts to support the tarpaulin.  We were
grateful for the help of, Mkhululi, from Rotherham making his first visit to
the Vigil.  The rain didn't dampen his spirits at all - nor the rest of us,
especially when we got a supporter all the way from New Zealand.

Crowds along the Strand are building up with the approach of Christmas.
Though our newsboards giving the latest information from Zimbabwe draw lots
of attention, it sometimes seems as if we get as many enquiries about the
way to Covent Garden as we do about Zimbabwe.   A group of young girls had a
go at the drumming and for them Covent Garden will always be associated with
Zimbabwe.  Next week we plan to mark the UN's International Human Rights Day
by focusing on the human rights abuses in Zimbabwe such as Murambatsvina and
the denial of basic freedoms.

FOR THE RECORD: about 30 supporters came today.

FOR YOUR DIARY: Monday, 5th December, 7.30 pm, Zimbabwe Forum, Upstairs at
the Theodore Bullfrog pub, 28 John Adam Street, London WC2 (cross the Strand
from the Zimbabwe Embassy, go down a passageway to John Adam Street, turn
right and you will see the pub - nearest stations: Charing Cross and
Embankment).  We will be discussing plans for the UN Human Rights Day Vigil
and proposals to run a petition calling on the UK Government to allow asylum
seekers to work to support themselves while in the UK.

Vigil co-ordinator

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

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Raw sewage pours into Manyame Dam

Daily Mirror, Zimbabwe

The Daily Mirror Reporter
issue date :2005-Dec-05

HARARE's source of drinking water, Manyame Dam, is being polluted by raw
sewerage from Chitungwiza as a result of the breakdown of the municipality's
This has raised fears that residents' health might be in danger.
A visit to the dormitory town on Friday revealed that three out of
Chitungwiza's five pumps at its biological nutrients plant are down,
resulting in raw sewerage being released into Nyatsime River which flows
into Manyame.
All pumps at the town's St Mary's substation are down and municipal workers
there have dug trenches to direct the raw sewerage into the river.
Residents who live hardly 50 metres from the trench complained that they
were being exposed to a serious health hazard.
In Zengeza, another manhole also releases raw sewerage which runs into a
nearby trench which also feeds into Nyatsime River.
Contacted for comment, Chitungwiza mayor, Misheck Shoko acknowledged that
Manyame Dam is being polluted by the raw sewerage, but added that his
council could not do anything because the municipality was financially
The mayor added that, recently, he approached the Japanese Embassy to help
in the rehabilitation of the Biological Nutrients Plant (BNF), as they had
helped in its building in the late 1990's.
"The problem we have is that currently we do not have the funds to buy the
necessary equipment. Government promised us 850 000 rands, but up to now it
has not yet been released.
"The government also owes us nearly $28 billion, which, if made available,
would go a long way in addressing some of Chitungwiza's problems," said
He added that, when a government delegation comprising the Minister of Local
Government, Public Works and Urban Development, Ignatius Chombo and the
Minister of Health and Child Welfare, David Parirenyatwa,  visited
Chitungwiza recently, they had toured some of the affected areas and
promised to help.
"I understand that the Minister of Health also approached the Japanese
embassy on our behalf," the mayor added.
Their efforts have not borne any fruits yet.
Contacted yesterday, Parirenyatwa said he was unaware that the raw sewerage
was going into the dam, but instead said it was going into Manyame River.
The reservoir, though, gets its water from the river.
"I do not know that it is going into Manyame Dam. What I know is that it is
going into Manyame River, and it's not a new story," he said. The minister
could not comment on claims that he had also approached the Japanese embassy
for assistance saying it was not his brief and referred all questions to
Chombo yesterday said: "We are waiting for the tender process to mature so
that we can help with the supply of pumps and motors."
His mobile went off and further efforts to reach him were in vain.
The dormitory town of Chitungwiza faces a myriad of problems, such as water
shortages and non-collection of refuse which the government blames on the
However, the mayor insists that the problems caused by foreign currency
shortages and the unavailability of fuel are national issues beyond the
control of the council.

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Paltry budget may delay health service changes

Daily Mirror, Zimbabwe

Paidamoyo Chipunza
issue date :2005-Dec-05

IN a development that is likely to see a delay in revision of conditions of
service for government health personnel, the Health Services Board (HSB) was
allocated a paltry $2,8 trillion during the 2006 budget allocations, two
percent of what they had requested for.
The board had asked for $30 trillion - the bulk of which was earmarked for
remuneration of the employees.
Presenting the 2006 budget, the Minister of Finance, Hebert Murerwa said:
"Whilst recognising the need to improve the conditions of services for
health personnel, Government can only afford to provide $2,8 trillion, which
is in line with the proposed $30 trillion employment cost envelope."
Chairman of the health board, Lovemore Mbengeranwa, said since the board was
established with a view to lure and retain qualified staff, it was solely
based on financial resources for it to be successful.
"What we were given is far, far below what we had budgeted for. We obviously
have to go back to the drawing board because our turnaround strategy was
financially based," said Mbengeranwa in an interview.
He added that the board had not yet met to discuss the possible way forward
on the issue. "We are yet to meet with other board members to discuss what
to do next. Hopefully by the end of the week we would have come up with
something," he said.
While announcing the budget, Murerwa said: "Treasury is, therefore, working
with the Health Services Board with a view to coming up with cost recovery
and revenue generating measures that will augment the limited resources
being provided through the
The health services board was established in March this year as a full-time
board by the Minister of Health and Child Welfare, David Parirenyatwa.
The idea was mooted following massive exodus of qualified health
practitioners to other countries and to the private sector in search of
better remuneration and living conditions.
This has left government health institutions manned mostly by unskilled and
unqualified staff.
The development saw all health staff transferred from the Public Service
Commission to the new board.

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Putting the Spin Into Land Reform

Sunday Times (Johannesburg)

December 4, 2005
Posted to the web December 3, 2005

Andrew Donaldson

THEY lay on a good spread at South Africa House, the colonial pile on
Trafalgar Square that is home to the SA High Commission in London. And don't
visitors know it.

One such dignitary is Professor Kader Asmal, former Cabinet minister and
member of the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress.

He was in fine form at SA House this week. When British lawyer Julia
Hausermann, founder and president of Rights and Humanity, rose to open a
day-long seminar and reception there to celebrate the 50th anniversary of
the adoption of the Freedom Charter, with an officious call to the business
at hand, it was Asmal who interjected: "Lunch! Lunch!"

And lunch, as it turned out (again), was good: a fine selection of curries
and grilled chicken with attendant veg that took the edge off a bitterly
cold day.

Before then, however, speaker after speaker rose to sing the praises not
only of the charter adopted by the Congress of the People in Kliptown,
Soweto, on June 26 1955, but also of the democracy that followed almost 40
years later. They included, among others, retired Judge Arthur Chaskalson,
George Bizos SC, and High Commissioner to the UK, Lindiwe Mabuza.

If there was an edge of aggrandizement to proceedings, it came courtesy of
Asmal. He suggested that the charter was "ahead of its time" as a programme
for political, social and economic emancipation.

In the minutes before lunch, it was left to the historian Shula Marks to
inject an element of sobriety into which she termed a "triumphalist day".

Thanks to the legacy of its history, she said, South Africa remained "a
grossly unequal society", and an extraordinarily violent one at that.

Marks drew on the Bible for a fitting parable: after their freedom from
Pharaonic bondage, the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years. It
was to be hoped that the South African democracy would not have to spend so
long a time in the "wilderness" before it reached its "promised land".

However, 10 years - that is, the decade since 1995 - remained a relatively
short time in the desert, she cautioned. The challenges ahead were

No one disputed that. Certainly not George Bizos, who drew attention to the
provision in the Charter that can best be described as the surly rhinoceros
in the front parlour, that brooding beast whose presence remains unmentioned
for fear of spoiling the party: "The Land Shall Be Shared Among Those Who
Work It!"

There were, he bluntly stated, "pessimists among us" who believed it was
"inevitable that we are going to have a Zimbabwe in South Africa".

"That is not going to happen," he said - although land reform was going to
be a painful process. "The reason for that is not one that is difficult to
understand. It is inevitable for people who have been deprived of land for
years to have a sense of grievance. Conflict is inevitable. What we have
learned is not to deny that there will be conflict, but what practical steps
we can take in regard to the land."

There are many who believe that when the government steps up its land reform
programme next year there will be, to use his phrase, "a Zimbabwe in SA".

The British media, in particular, routinely view developments south of the
Limpopo from a perspective heavily influenced by the Zimbabwean experience.

Which was why they were invited to a briefing at SA House last week on the
pace and progress of land reform - and another fine lunch.

Land and Agricultural Affairs Minister Thoko Didiza and high-ranking
officials in her department were there to inform them that they should
forget about Harare's "land reform programme", and bear in mind that
absolutely nothing of the sort was going to happen in South Africa when the
government comes for the land, as the government must.

But the journalists would not let the matter lie, and pressed Didiza on

Yes, the minister said, the South African government "understands" the
widespread criticism that it is reluctant to put pressure on Zimbabwe over
President Robert Mugabe's controversial land policies but, no, it does not
regard such criticism as "justifiable".

Didiza and her delegation - which included Land Affairs Director-General
Glen Thomas, Agriculture Director-General Masiphula Mbongwa and Chief Land
Claims Commissioner Tozi Gwanya - were at pains to stress that whatever the
form of land restitution, it would be "fair and equitable" and would take
place with due regard to the rule of law. In other words, no Zimbabwe in
South Africa.

Pretoria has increased its power to expropriate property for land reform. In
addition, it will introduce new land taxes to discourage consolidated
holdings and scrap apartheid-era ordinances that restrict the subdivision of
agricultural land.

As the land summit in July revealed, progress has been slow - in 11 years, a
mere 2.9% of white-owned farm land has been transferred to blacks through
government programmes, raising doubts as to whether the "non-negotiable"
target of 30% in black hands by 2014 - regarded by some as unrealistic -
would be met.

Recent comments by Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka that the
government was abandoning the "willing seller, willing buyer" principle has
unsettled some.

This, according to commercial farmers, was a vital tenet of the land market,
but, as Didiza said, the "willing seller, willing buyer" principle had also
underpinned land reform in Zimbabwe - and look at where it got them.

Add to this a peasant clamour for wholesale expropriation, and for a
rewriting of the Constitution to protect the right of the landless to invade
vacant land, and it seemed, to the pessimists at least, that the rapid
decline into Zimbabwe-style chaos was all but upon us.

Not on her watch, Didiza stressed once more. "One of the advantages that we
have had as a country is that we have never dodged our own issues. Neither
have we dodged other issues that have happened on the continent and in the

"Whether that has been a feelgood for others or a little irritating,
unfortunately, that is how we are seen, and I think that having faced those
issues squarely, particularly for our own country, has helped us to move

"Obviously, the approach that South Africa took with regard to Zimbabwe was
that we were going to engage with Zimbabweans, firstly to understand from
themselves as to why they undertook to move the route that they moved."

Didiza accepted that her government had failed to support and train
agricultural land reform recipients.

A recent parliamentary portfolio committee report revealed that too many
projects have failed.

An audit of 177 land reform projects in North West found that 27% of farms
were not producing anything, 24% had never produced anything, and 44% were
either not producing or in major decline. However, 42% were producing
surpluses above subsistence needs for the markets - although this did not
necessarily mean these were profitable operations.

"I would agree with you," Didiza said. "The issue of agricultural training
for land reform recipients is one of the areas that we have been trying to
focus on, but we can still do more."

Whether this was an effective PR exercise or brief or spin session, who
could say... Certainly, when it ended, talk among the journalists drifted
back to the fare before them, a table groaning with the fruits of the land,
as it were. Bottles of fine wine were opened, but remained largely

A pity. F ortification may be needed to weather the coming storm.

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France vows to help cut African poverty


Immigration reforms needed, Chirac says

Saturday, December 3, 2005 Posted: 2201 GMT (0601 HKT)

 BAMAKO, Mali (AP) -- France's president on Saturday said his country would
help bring Africa out of poverty and called for the dismantling of illegal
immigration networks that allow desperate Africans to flee to Europe.
"The road we must travel down is long and uncertain," Jacques Chirac said at
the opening of the 23rd French-Africa summit, attended by dozens of African

"But I'll tell you this: in the new century, Africa will impress the world
with its achievements and its success. France expects to contribute to this
renaissance," he said.

Mali's President Amadou Toumani Toure called for a European and African
conference to deal with the immigration issue. Chirac said Africans and
Europeans "have to dismantle the clandestine immigration networks."

Year after year, tens of thousands risk their lives to get a chance at a
better life in Europe, but some face deportation once they arrive -- or die
before they get there.

"Thousands of young Africans leave their homes in pursuit of opportunities
they hope to find elsewhere. They travel by way of the Sahara, the straits,
and sometimes even the landing gear of planes," Toure said.

"How many among them were drowned or were lost forever in the desert, or
abandoned to their fates in makeshift boats? We will never know," he said,
adding that African leaders must also fight illegal migrant networks.

Two months ago, hundreds of African immigrants made world headlines as they
repeatedly tried to scale razor-wire fences to cross from Morocco into the
Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta in late September and early October.

Last week, rescuers gave up all hope of finding 22 would-be illegal
immigrants from northern Africa who had drowned in rough weather off
southern Spain.

Before the gathering, the Dakar, Senegal-based U.N. Office for West Africa
issued a report saying nearly 75 percent of Africans under 30 are

The high jobless rate is a "cause for profound social instability,"
according to a U.N. report issued Thursday.

"As long as youths in the region regard their prospects for securing work in
West Africa as unattainable, they will continue to try to escape from what
seem lands of non-opportunity," said Ahmedou Ould Abdallah, the U.N. special
representative for West Africa.

West African youth in particular, he said, faced two options: "violence or
migration, which in turn represents a security risk for established, mature

Toure said African leaders must find solutions together to aid the
continent's youth and its wars. He said he was "convinced that if the youth
refused to fight, many conflicts in Africa would not last."

Conflicts in Sudan's violence-wracked Darfur region and war-divided Ivory
Coast were also likely to be discussed during the two-day summit.

Since the first summit, in November 1973 in Paris, the number of
participants has continually risen, and now includes non-Francophone

This year, all of Africa's 53 presidents were invited. In attendance were
Liberia's president-elect Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe,
South Africa's Thabo Mbeki, and Gabon's Omar Bongo, in power for 38 years
and Africa's longest-serving leader. Chirac praised the re-election of
Bongo, though the opposition there denounced the vote as fraudulent.

Notably absent was Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, who has been
estranged from Chirac since French troops wiped out the Ivorian air force
last year in retaliation for an unexplained Ivorian air strike that killed
nine French troops deployed there.

The Africa-France summit is held every two years, alternately in France and
Africa. It ends Sunday.

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UN envoy arrives in Zimbabwe on humanitarian aid

Xinhua 2005-12-04 14:50:05

          HARARE, Dec. 4 (Xinhuanet) -- The envoy of the United Nations
Secretary General Kofi Annan arrived here on Saturday night to assess
Zimbabwe's clean-up exercise and to discuss with Zimbabwean authorities
prospects of humanitarian assistance to the affected people.

          UN Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland's
visitfollows an arrangement between President Robert Mugabe and the UN chief
in September.

          Speaking shortly after his arrival, Egeland said the UN had
appealed to international donors for the release of 270 million US dollars
to help Zimbabwe overcome the challenges it was facing, including drought
and deteriorating health services, among others.

          He said he would during his visit, hold talks with President
Mugabe, top government officials and several civic groups on the critical
challenges that were affecting the country, adding that the appeal for the
funds was part of on-going efforts to address Zimbabwe's needs.

          The visit by Egeland, who had initially been scheduled for
mid-November, comes after President Mugabe invited Annan to get a correct
picture of the situation in Zimbabwe in light of the "misleading and
unbalanced report" on the clean-up operation that UN special envoy Anna
Tibaijuka had produced.

          The UN head, however, aborted the trip after Britain and the
United States sought to politicize the planned visit before assigning
Egeland to carry out the assessment instead.

          According to reports, Annan had told Mugabe at a meeting on
thesidelines of the 60th Session of the General Assembly that he had
deferred his visit because he wanted "to make sure the parameters were

          Reports also suggest that the UN secretary general admitted that
his intended visit to Zimbabwe had been "highly politicized."

          In May this year, the Zimbabwean government embarked on a clean-up
exercise in its towns and cities to rid the areas of illegal settlements and

          Although the exercise attracted international interest, its main
objectives were fulfilled especially in central business districts where
illegal structures and activities had taken root. Soon after this massive
operation, the government moved in with efforts to accommodate the affected
people under the operation.

          The program, which is in full swing in different parts of the
country, seeks to establish business set-ups for informal traders and
shelter to home-seekers.

          Following the keen interest the clean-up initiative had
sparkedinternationally, Annan sent Tibaijuka to assess the program and its

          The damning report she later produced provoked mixed feelings with
the government, on one hand, arguing that its contents were biased while
some Western proponents hailed it.

          In the report, the UN special envoy said the operation had
beencarried out with "little or no warning" resulting in 700,000 people
being directly affected while a further 2.4 million others were indirectly

          The government, however, said the report was biased, adding that
the document had not taken into account the moves that were being taken to
resettle displaced people. Enditem

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