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Farmers wary of Mugabe land offer

The Telegraph

By David Blair in Johannesburg
(Filed: 10/02/2006)

By the time Vernon Nicolle lost his farm in Zimbabwe to a High Court judge,
all his equipment had been looted and an irrigation system for 4,000 acres
lay in ruins.

His fertile fields were reduced to neglected wastelands. The disclosure that
president Robert Mugabe's regime will give some dispossessed white farmers
back their land fills him with suspicion and incredulity.

"I had a gem in Zimbabwe, a real gem, and it's all been vandalised," Mr
Nicolle said. "I find it very difficult to even consider going back."

All but a handful of Zimbabwe's 4,000 white farmers have been stripped of
property and a community that was once closely knit is now scattered across
the world.

Australia, South Africa, Britain and Portugal have provided havens for
families who once tilled huge tracts of Zimbabwe and formed the backbone of
the nation's economy.

Asked if they might return if an offer from Mr Mugabe was forthcoming, the
refugees point to the immense practical difficulties. Many of their farms
have been wrecked. Their workers also lost homes and jobs and have been
scattered across Zimbabwe.

How could the workforce, the tools and the expensive infrastructure, built
up over decades, ever be restored? And who would foot the bill?

Yet more than anything else, many farmers will never trust Mr Mugabe again.

As chairman of a farmers' association, Mr Nicolle, 62, met him after
Zimbabwe achieved independence in 1980.

The new leader promised him a secure future and went out of his way to
reassure the country's white farmers.

"I heard Mugabe tell farmers they had nothing to fear," said Mr Nicolle. "It
was on this promise that we encouraged farmers in our area to stay."

Mr Nicolle was eventually forced off Gwina farm near Banket in June 2003.
Most of his land was handed to Mr Justice Ben Hlatshwayo of the High Court,
who has not proved a successful farmer.

Mr Nicolle's brothers worked on neighbouring farms and, between them, the
family grew 25,000 acres of maize, wheat and soya.

In the late 1990s, the Nicolle family accounted for 24 per cent of the
country's winter wheat crop and 20 per cent of its soya.

All this has gone by the board, helping explain why Zimbabwe now depends on
the World Food Programme to feed its people.

Mr Nicolle emigrated to Australia, where he earns a living by making bricks
in Margaret River, south of Perth and inhabits what he calls a "shed" near
the Indian Ocean. "At least we can now sleep at night and we don't think
about having our throats cut," he said.

Bitter memories of the ordeals inflicted by Mr Mugabe's henchmen also deter
farmers from ever returning. In 2002, Peter Horsman, 71, lost the 2,200 acre
cattle farm which had been his home for 32 years. He now lives in Portugal.

"How demoralising it would be to have to deal with the same thugs who did
such unspeakable things," he said.

"How on earth do you get started again? It's just unimaginable."

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Motion brought by The Hon. David Coltart

Dear Friends,

Attached please find the motion I brought before Parliament yesterday, the 8th February 2006. Unfortunately Parliament is no longer producing Hansard so I cannot let you have a transcript of my speech. If I get it I will forward it to you.


David Coltart



NOTING the resolution of the resolution of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights on the situation of human rights in Zimbabwe passed in Banjul on the 5th December 2005 set out in full below;

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights meeting at its 38th Ordinary Session in Banjul, The Gambia from 21 November to 5 December 2005;

Considering that Zimbabwe is a Party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other international human rights instruments;

Recalling the recommendations to the government of Zimbabwe contained in the African Commission Report of the Fact-Finding Mission to Zimbabwe in June 2002;

Further recalling the recommendations to the government of Zimbabwe by the United Nations Special Envoy on Human Settlement Issues in Zimbabwe contained in her Report published on 22 July 2005;

Deeply concerned by the continued undermining of the independence of the judiciary through defiance of court orders, harassment and intimidation of independent judges and the executive ouster of the jurisdiction of the courts;

Further concerned by the continuing human rights violations and the deterioration of the human rights situation in Zimbabwe, the lack of respect for the rule of law and the growing culture of impunity;

Alarmed by the number of internally displaced persons and the violations of fundamental individual and collective rights resulting from the forced evictions being carried out by the government of Zimbabwe;

    1. Condemns the human rights violations currently being perpetrated in Zimbabwe;

    2. Urges the government of Zimbabwe to cease the practice of forced evictions throughout the country, and to adhere to its obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other international human rights instruments to which Zimbabwe is a party;

    3. Urges the government of Zimbabwe to implement without further delay the recommendations contained in the African Commission Report of the 2002 Fact-Finding Mission to Zimbabwe and the recommendations in the July 2005 Report of the UN Special Envoy on Human Settlement Issues, in particular to ensure full and unimpeded access for the provision of aid and protection to the victims of the forced evictions and demolitions by impartial national and international humanitarian agencies and human rights monitors, and to ensure that those responsible for the violations are brought to justice without delay;

    4. Calls on the government of Zimbabwe to respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of expression, association and assembly by repealing or amending repressive legislation, such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Broadcasting Services Act and the Public Order and Security Act;

    5. Calls on the government of Zimbabwe to uphold the principle of separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary and urges the government of Zimbabwe to repeal or amend Constitutional Amendment (No.17) and provide an environment conducive to constitutional reform based on fundamental rights;

    6. Calls on the government of Zimbabwe to cooperate with the African Commission Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Internally Displaced Persons in Africa and other African Commission Special Mechanisms, including allowing a Fact-Finding Mission to investigate the current situation of internally displaced persons in Zimbabwe;

    7. Urges the African Union to renew the mandate of the African Union Envoy to Zimbabwe to investigate the human rights implications and humanitarian consequences of the mass evictions and demolitions.

Done at Banjul, 5th December 2005


NOTING that the resolution and the calls made in it appear to have been ignored to date by the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe;

CONGRATULATES AND THANKS the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights for speaking out so boldly and frankly on behalf of the victims of human rights abuses in Zimbabwe;

MOVES that this honourable House call on the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe to implement without delay the specific calls made by the African Commission to ensure that the Republic of Zimbabwe complies with her obligations in terms of The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights adopted by the eighteenth Assembly of Heads and States and Government in June 1981 in Nairobi, Kenya.





The Honourable David Coltart MP





The Honourable MP


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Greens meet Zimbabwe opposition representative

Scoop, New Zealand

      Friday, 10 February 2006, 3:35 pm
      Press Release: Green Party
10 February 2006
Greens meet Zimbabwe opposition representative

A high profile member of the Zimbabwe Movement for Democratic Change (MDC),
Mrs Sekai Holland, met with Green Party Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Keith
Locke in Wellington today. Mrs Holland is a national executive member of the
MDC, which is the major opposition party to the rule of Zimbabwe President
Robert Mugabe.

Mrs Holland also visited the Hon Jim Sutton, Minister of State, and is
meeting representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and
development and human rights NGOs this afternoon.

"Mrs Holland was appreciative of the actions that the New Zealand Government
and Green Party have taken to isolate the Mugabe regime. She also asked that
New Zealand support calls for the International Criminal Court to prosecute
President Robert Mugabe and Zimbabwe Government officials for crimes against
humanity such as the bulldozing of thousands of homes," Mr Locke says.

"The ICC can initiate an investigation on two grounds - if the state
concerned has ratified the Rome Statute or if the United Nations Security
Council refers it. Zimbabwe has signed the statute but has not ratified it.
Therefore we need the UN Security Council to order an inquiry into Zimbabwe.
The New Zealand Government should be actively lobbying for this to happen,"
Mr Locke says.

Mrs Holland is available for media interviews in Wellington on Friday 10
February between 2.00pm and 3.30pm, and in Auckland on Saturday and Sunday.

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Zimbabwe Food Shortages Seem to be Worsening


By Carole Gombakomba
      09 February 2006

Officials, farmers and millers report unprecedented shortages of maize meal
and bread - Zimbabwe's staple foods - raising concerns that already
widespread hunger could become even more common throughout the Southern
African nation.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Sylvester told parliament this week that the
country has no foreign currency to pay for grain imports. The government is
also accusing farmers and millers of diverting grain for sale on the more
lucrative parallel or black market.

A spokesman for the Millers Association of Zimbabwe denied the charge,
saying that its members are operating at under 16 percent of capacity due to
grain shortages.

Reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe asked Movement for
Democratic Change shadow minister for agriculture Edward Mhkosi, a member of
the parliamentary agriculture committee, what he makes of these

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I Am Ready For Sixth Presidential Term If My Party Asks Me - Mugabe

Zim Daily

            Friday, February 10 2006 @ 12:05 AM GMT
            Contributed by: correspondent

            President Robert Mugabe said on Thursday that he might stand for
a sixth term in office if his ruling Zanu PF party asked him to. Nothing can
stop Mugabe from serving a sixth term as head of state as he amended the
constitution in 1989 to even serve as life president. His party now enjoys
two thirds majorities in both houses of parliament. Asked in an interview
outside the Zanu PF offices after a "strategic meeting" if he would consider
standing again if Zanu PF asked him, the former guerrilla leader responded:
"One cannot ignore the call by the people, because the people are the ones
who make the final decision".

            Parliament, under the tutelage of the late Eddison Zvobgo
altered Zimbabwe's constitution in 1989 when it abolished the post of Prime
Minister and introduced an executive presidency to allow Mugabe to rule as
many terms as he wish. Mugabe took power at independence in 1980 after a
landslide election victory, and was popular with the poor black majority
back then as well as many of Zimbabwe's privileged white community until his
decision to confiscate white owned land, a move that decimated commercial
agriculture, the mainstay of the economy. Diplomats and senior party
officials who spoke to Zimdaily however said Zanu PF members were divided
over whether Mugabe, who turns 82 on February 21, should be asked to stay,
or should stand down to pave the way for a younger candidate to stand in
presidential elections expected in 2008. Mugabe said whoever was elected
would face the challenge of "promoting economic development and safeguarding
the country's sovereignty."

            "Our sovereignty is a priority above all priorities," he said.
Asked whether he had changed his plans to retire after more than two decades
in power, Mugabe, who has always been ambivalent on his retirement plans,
replied: "I would like to do that, sure. As long as I am assured that those
we fought yesterday are thoroughly beaten and that the carpet they now stand
on, the economic carpet, has been removed from their feet and it has become
our carpet," he said. "The political struggle and the political victory
alone. No. We need economic victory as well and that is why we are taking
the land," Mugabe added.

            There is speculation that the ex-guerrilla fighter - who led the
former British colony of Rhodesia to independence in 1980 - may step down in
favour of Vice President Joice Mujuru. But Mujuru is failing to garner
enough support and now Mugabe is making plans to push the presidential
elections to 2010. Mugabe has embarked on a drive to seize at least five
million hectares of the 12 million hectares owned by 4,500 white farmers for
blacks. He has vowed not to pay compensation for the land on the grounds
that the land was "stolen" from blacks when Britain colonized the southern
African country in the 1890s.

            Mugabe said his government was not to blame for a severe
economic crisis that has fuelled opposition to his rule. He said the economy
was suffering from low commodity prices, a squeeze on foreign aid, and
sabotage by white industrialists. "They (critics) are saying that because we
are going for the heart of the economic strength of the whites - land. "Once
we have the land and are producing all that can be produced, we are home and
dry. We have received rains this year. We should be okay,'' he added.

            Mugabe, deviating from his recent conciliatory tone, criticized
the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank for cutting aid, and
vowed that he would not compromise on his political policies. Foreign
donors - worried about the government's land grab - have withheld badly
needed aid to Zimbabwe. "When you are fighting a just cause, you must be
prepared to suffer for it. Even to die for it," Mugabe said, waving his
fist. As Mugabe continues talking tough, many of Zimbabwe's 12,5 million
people are jobless, and inflation is fast approaching 600%.

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Joseph Chinotimba Appointed ZFTU President

Zim Daily

            Friday, February 10 2006 @ 12:05 AM GMT
            Contributed by: correspondent
            Joseph Chinotimba has been appointed the new president of the
Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU) following the expulsion of the
trade union's president Alfred Makwarimba on allegations of mismanagement
and embezzlement of funds. Chinotimba, who last week told Zimdaily he was
the "alpha and omega" of ZFTU emerged as the new president following a
meeting convened by the ZFTU general council on Wednesday that lifted his
suspension and immediately appointed him to act as president until the next
general meeting to be held within a fortnight.

            Makwarimba's expulsion followed a vote of no confidence that was
passed by 23 affiliate unions during a heated meeting at the union's office
at Makombe Building in Harare. Two other members of the organization,
organizing secretary, Tawanda Mupeti and information secretary Kenias
Shamuyarira were also expelled because they were unconstitutionally
appointed since they were both unemployed. The general council also lifted
the suspension of Bernard Dhanda, the union's secretary general.

            Contacted for comment, Makwarimba, Mupeti and Shamuyarira denied
the allegations leveled against them. The three said that their expulsion
from the ZFTU was unconstitutional. "The general council has no power to
dismiss us from the union. Besides it is unconstitutional and we will not
accept the dismissal over flimsy and unfounded allegations," Mupeti said.

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Attorney General Quizz Govt Over Takeover Of Mawere's Empire

Zim Daily

            Friday, February 10 2006 @ 12:04 AM GMT
            Contributed by: correspondent
            The Attorney General has written to the government-appointed
administrator of Mutumwa Mawere's extensive business interests, asking him
to explain how they became indebted to government. Government has taken over
Mawere's empire under a controversial law passed last year- the
Reconstruction of State-Indebted Insolvent Companies Act- claiming it was
owed up to $115 billion. Mawere, who is in the middle of a convoluted legal
battle with government, which has also spilled over into the United Kingdom,
denies the claims, saying he is the victim of a complex plot to expropriate
his assets.

            The attorney general is understood to have demanded an
explanation from Gwaradzimba, how government ended up being owed $115
billion by the firms. Parmanathan Mariemuthu a director of Mawere's African
Resources Limited, SMM Holdings and THZ, makes the revelation in an
affidavit lodged with the High Court in Harare in the case against Justice
Minister Patrick Chinamasa, who has led government efforts to dispossess
Mawere of his assets.

            The latest court action seeks to set aside an order handed down
by Justice Kamocha in Case No. HC 5633/05 confirming the reconstruction
order issued by the Respondent in relation to SMM Holdings (Pvt) Ltd in
terms of the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Reconstruction of
State-Indebted Insolvent Companies) Regulations 2004 (published in Statutory
Instrument 187 of 2004.

            "Even the Attorney General asked Mr. Gwaradzimba to explain how
the government got involved in all these transactions and to date no
response has been received. "In relation to this matter, the letter from the
Attorney General is instructive. I quote below the relevant sections: "You
have also availed to us a schedule of SMM's indebtedness to the Government
which you labelled as Appendix A and is annexed "G". The schedule serves to
demonstrate to the GOZ by way of listing the respective amounts owed to: (i)
ZESA; (ii) MMCZ; (iii) NSSA and (iv) RBZ.

            "However in order for that information to be useful, it needs to
be supported by evidence. It is a legal requirement that the creditor should
enforce his rights by way of calling for the debt before the intervention of
the guarantor. Hence it will be necessary to prove that the money was due
and had been called for the creditor. However, there is no supporting
evidence from these institutions." Mariemuthu says Gwaradzimba's failure to
furnish the AG with information requested in the December 19 2005 letter
'would tend to support Applicants' notion that there are ulterior motives
behind the issue of the Reconstruction Order.'

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Byo Court Remands Zapu Leader Further Over Gukurahundi Compensation Slur

Zim Daily

            Friday, February 10 2006 @ 12:03 AM GMT
            Contributed by: correspondent
             A Bulawayo court has declined an application for discharge by
Paul Siwela, the president of the fringe opposition political party ZAPU FP,
and political activist Jethro Mkhwananzi who are facing charges of violating
a section of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) for inciting Ndebele
people to rise up and fight with spears to eject President Robert Mugabe
from power. Siwela, who participated in the disputed 2002 presidential
election and fared dismally, and Mkwananzi, a fierce critic of President
Robert Mugabe, allegedly incited people in Matabeleland to rise against the
Zimbabwean leader whom they accused of sending the Fifth Brigade to murder
the Ndebele people.

            It is also alleged that Siwela called on the people of
Matabeleland to eject all Shona-speaking people from the region, accusing
them of occupying influential positions at workplaces.

            Lawyers representing the duo yesterday told Zimdaily that the
state had refused to discharge their clients on charges of inciting violence
when they addressed a political gathering in December 2002 convened by a
non-governmental organisation to discuss a document fanning tribalism that
had been circulating both locally and internationally. The lawyers had
applied to have their clients discharged on the grounds that the state had
no sufficient evidence to pin Siwela and Mkhwananzi, but a regional court in
Bulawayo this week threw out the application and directed that the duo be
put on their defence.

            "The court has refused the application for discharge at the
close of the state case and ordered that they be put on their defence on the
basis that the magistrate believes that the state has shown that they have a
case to answer," said Nicholas Mathonsi of Bulawayo-based law firm Coghlan
and Welsh. "As defence, we are disappointed because we thought we had put up
a good case for the application for discharge that we were seeking," said
Mathonsi, adding that his clients had been remanded to March 21 2006. "This
is the date we will continue the defence," said the lawyer.

            Siwela and Mkhwananzi were arrested on December 6, 2002 for
allegedly making subversive statements during a public meeting. The ZAPU
leaders allegedly told the public gathering that the Ndebele people were
marginalised and should stand up and fight using spears. According to the
court documents, Siwela allegedly accused President Mugabe of causing
unnecessary suffering to the Ndebele people and further urged the people of
Matabeleland to demand compensation for atrocities allegedly committed by
the Gukurahundi.

            It is also alleged that Siwela called on the people of
Matabeleland to eject all Shona-speaking people from the region, accusing
them of occupying influential positions at workplaces. Mkhwananzi, who also
addressed the same meeting, is alleged to have said that President Mugabe
scored a diplomatic coup against the late Vice President Joshua Nkomo by
"slaughtering" six tourists along the Bulawayo-Victoria Falls highway and
shifted the blame to dissidents largely believed to have been backed by PF
ZAPU. The tourists were from Europe. Mkhwananzi, according to court
documents, alleged the "slaughter" of the tourists was meant to deceive the
world into believing that the Gukurahundi in the early 1980s was a just war
against the Ndebele people.

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Economic reform impossible under Zanu PF

New Zimbabwe

By Crisford Chogugudza
Last updated: 02/10/2006 09:40:21
I AM one of the many Zimbabweans living, working and studying in the United
Kingdom and grotesquely concerned about the fast deteriorating
socio-economic and political situation in Zimbabwe.

When the current crisis started a few years ago, there was a general feeling
amongst the so called patriotic or brainwashed Zimbabweans that the crisis
was temporary and a passing phase. The majority of the skeptics were
resolute on the fact that the country was irretrievably moving in the wrong
direction or political Siberia. It was the beginning of the death of a
nation-state which no one in the world of order and sanity would dare deal
with in its current form.

Those of us who talk about a turnaround of the Zimbabwean economy under the
current corrupt, inefficient and lethargic administration are not only day
dreaming but fooling themselves. To start with, the current administration
does not uphold the basic qualities of an accountable and competent
management team. Zimbabwe being an agrarian economy one would have expected
the country's policies to be tailor made to equip and support those that
have the capability to develop agriculture.

What we have instead is a government that adopts a controversial land reform
policy, which is least oriented towards supporting agricultural production.
There is general consensus on the need for land reform, nobody disputes
that. This chaotic land reform policy created a situation of accelerated
poverty and disempowerment. The disposed commercial farmers have ostensibly
been turned into near destitute and their former labourers now live in
absolute poverty.

The once very vibrant farms are now derelict. To make matters worse the few
viable commercial farms lefts continue to be senselessly invaded by the Zanu
PF big wigs and top brass of the ruling elite. No body sensible and
responsible is doing anything about it. Dr Gideon Gono the so-called
technocrat with messaic attributes was brought in at a crucial time to
revive the economy but in reality all that he is doing is 'damage control'.
His efforts however determined and credible they have been it is unfortunate
that he has not succeeded a great deal. The reason why Gono has failed is
not because of the alleged shallowness of his fiscal and monetary policies
but because of lack of support and sabotage from within the ruling elite.

The poor Dr, honorary though, has struggled to keep government expenditure
and inflation down. He has presided over the worst shrinking economy in
recent times. His calls for fiscal discipline have fallen into deaf ears.
The inflation rate now hovering between 400-800% is unheard of in economies
outside war zones not even in the Germany of 1929. It is a shame that a
pound which was worth about Z$100 only a few years ago is now worth Z$250
000 on the parallel market. Zimbabwe will soon be the first country to
introduce new $1 million dollar denomination, honestly something is not
right and should be corrected now.

We Zimbabweans in the Diaspora once revered for our high literacy rate among
other accolades feel very embarrassed to even disclose our nationality. It
appears there are people somewhere somehow who are benefiting from the chaos
and socio-economic disintegration of the country. The reality on the ground
as well as conventional wisdom point to the fact that not even the revered
retired US financial guru Alan Greenspan, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Dr
Gordon Brown nor divine intervention can save the Zimbabwean economy under
the current administration. No book of economics based on either the US,
Chinese, Japanese or Malaysian economic prudence applies to the current
Zimbabwean economic malaise.

Any turn around of the Zimbabwean economy can only be brought about when the
following among other issues have been adequately addressed;

* There is need for a complete reconfiguration of the geo-political
situation in Zimbabwe by way of freeing more political space for the
opposition and civil society.

* Restoration of the rule of law.

* Allow more press freedom by scrapping the draconian media laws operating
in Zimbabwe today. Revered media personalities such as Trevor Ncube of the
Zimbabwe Independent and a few others who are consistent campaigners for
press freedom and civil liberties have been restricted by these ludicrous
and dangerous laws.

These laws have made independent media practitioners prisoners of conscience
in the country of their birth. Zimbabwe has become more dangerous to
practice journalism than Iraq. The media should be allowed to exercise their
democratic right of informing the majority of neglected Zimbabweans who have
become subjects of a carefully orchestrated campaign to silence them. Those
who use their pens and microphones to excesses can easily be dealt with by
libel laws fairly in an impartial court of law not the court of public
opinion largely dominated by partisan views influenced by state media.

The absence of press freedom has worsened the culture of silence in
Zimbabwe. When people are scared to talk they become vulnerable to
manipulation by the strong and dominant forces. Like what Dr Martin Luther
King Jnr once said 'Our lives begin to end the moment we keep quiet about
things that matter to us'.

This is exactly what is happening in Zimbabwe today.

* Cross party efforts to re-engaging the international community with a view
to co-operating with other progressive countries of the West with the
capacity to guaranteeing our credit worthiness and acceptability in the
progressive world. This may lead to the end of the painful economic
sanctions in Zimbabwe today.

* Re-establishing positive relations with the international monetary network
comprising the IMF, World Bank and other multilateral finance institutions
paving the way for significant direct foreign investment. This could result
in solving the foreign currency crisis in part.

* Adoption of progressive policies aimed at reviving and reinvigorating the

* Establishing a non-partisan anti-corruption department staffed and headed
by a neutral and respected senior judicial officer.

* Instilling a new culture of accountability, greater tolerance and
acceptance in government. This may be interpreted as a process of
re-socialization. This also involves the formal acceptance of people with
divergent political and religious views bringing an end to the bi-polar
political scenario existing in Zimbabwe today. Its unfortunate that the Zanu
PF state machinery whose political experiment is fast becoming moribund has
not realized the simple logic that by ostracizing and demonizing the
opposition, they make it more popular amongst the rank and file.

The presumption of incompetence or doubt on the abilities of the MDC party
president Tsvangirai has proved to be a tactical mistake as the majority of
voting Zimbabweans fall in the same category of Tsvangirai's educational
frame. This denigration of Tsvangirai's literacy level has had the effect of
increasing his approval ratings as many people become both scared and
skeptical of 'Nutty' professors and 'super graduates' whose political
performance has been shameful and catastrophic over the years and there is
overwhelming evidence to support this view. These people are better kept in
University corridors where there 'expertise' is most wanted. They should not
be allowed to practice politics because they confuse and complicate things
for the common electorate. The history of 'intellectual politicians' in
Zimbabwe has been pathetic.

* The adoption of a new home grown constitution reflective of among other
things the background and history of Zimbabweans. However, this constitution
will need to address issues such as who qualifies to rule the country, how
they are elected and for how long. Of paramouncy is the creation of an
impartial judicial system capable of making critical decisions for the
benefit of the country not a particular individual or group of individuals.
Equally important, the new constitution should be a product of all
Zimbabweans irrespective of political affiliation. There is no need to
convene a constitutional conference as all the evidence required to draft a
new constitution can be obtained from the Government Constitutional
Commission and the National Constitutional Assembly material gathered for
the failed referendum in 2000. This effort can be spearheaded by impartial,
competent and respected legal and political personalities whose only basic
interest is the building of a new Zimbabwe nothing else.

Lastly and most importantly, there should be clear programme of action with
regards to when the President is leaving office. Currently, there is
mistrust amongst Zimbabweans as to when exactly the President calls it a
day. The most worrying thing being that neither the government, Zanu PF
party nor the President himself has addressed Zimbabweans particularly
during this period of crisis as to when he is going and the plans for his
succession. Succession is a taboo subject in Zanu PF's Zimbabwe. All that
people hear is that the President has told a CNN reporter in an exclusive
interview not seen by many Zimbabweans or at a press conference in Malaysia
or Addis Ababa that he intends to step down in 2008. The honest truth is
that before the current crisis, the man did a lot for the country but cannot
do much more and naturally as he is getting too old, lethargic and senile
like most octogenarians. An announcement from the man to say the exact date
he is going will undoubtedly help in the recovery process.

Cris Chogugudza is a Zimbabwean social commentator based in London. He can
be contacted at

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Zimbabweans busted in Aussie cheque scam

New Zimbabwe

By Staff Reporter
Last updated: 02/10/2006 09:40:07
TWO Zimbabwean men and an Indonesian have appeared in a Queensland court
over a scam involving about $150,000 in stolen cheques.

Abisha Katerere, 22, and Garikayi Maya, also 22, both from Zimbabwe, who
were living in Surfers Paradise, and Indonesian national Curianto Ng, 27,
who was living in Brisbane, appeared in the Southport Magistrates Court on

They were charged with two counts of fraud which involved $70,000 and one
count of attempted fraud involving $80,000.

It is alleged the cheques were stolen from letter boxes, then washed,
altered and deposited into different accounts by recruited decoys.

The accused were bailed to reappear at a later date.

No plea was entered.

Police said investigations were continuing with further charges and arrests

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It's no longer about right or wrong, but survival

New Zimbabwe

By Msekiwa Makwanya
Last updated: 02/10/2006 09:40:18
IT IS a noble idea for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) delegation
led by Isaac Matongo, comprising of Hon. Nelson Chamisa, Hon Thokozani
Khupe, and Ian Makone to engage Zimbabweans in the Diaspora on matters of
national interest.

There is a significant Zimbabwean community out of the country which will
always welcome fellow Zimbabweans.

These meetings in the UK have been well advertised and they are not being
attended by people who are just there to sing praise, but rather raise those
difficult questions and giving people the opportunity to speak their mind.

It is also hoped that the MDC delegation will document and take into account
all the views from abroad to inform their approach when they go back home.

There is an important message for people in the Diaspora as well as the
touring MDC delegation to remember. When people attend these meetings, they
should do so with an open mind, realising that the politics of truth is a
political mine-field.

Tsvangirai has dispatched a team to listen to people's feelings and no doubt
anxieties. This is a positive development and indicative of his appreciation
of the fact that even his faction cannot go it alone. There is a battle 'for
truth', or at least 'around truth' and specific effects of power attached to
the truth.

The people of Zimbabwe are desperate for the change of governance, not just
the government, and this message resonates with Zimbabweans across the

Dr Gono has aptly summarised the feeling in the Diaspora during his monitory
policy review, "If ... we do not resolutely stamp-out growing corruption,
especially among us people in positions of authority and influence ... we
will soon discover, too late, that policy formulations, implementation and
have been based on self-interest, racial overtones, regional and tribal
considerations at the expense of national good."

Conflicts are part of life and certainly, politics is a game of compromise
and you will never say never in politics so it is hoped that the message
from the Diaspora will encourage unity of purpose and an opportunity for
reflection within the MDC. Let me borrow Dr Gono's recent wisdom and
observation to say that, "As Zimbabwe, we cannot go it alone, and it is
imperative that we seek to work with other international business partners,
particularly those that see the virtues and sincerity of our efforts and
wish us well."

Zanu PF cannot go it alone if Zimbabwe cannot go it alone, and it common
cause that Zimbabwe is more than the ruling party.

To the two MDC factions, there is a view in the Diaspora shared by many at
home that a strong opposition is vital for democracy and that both parties
postpone their congresses and come together once again.

Professor Ncube and Morgan Tsvangirai have to make this tough decision as
part of their leadership challenge. It is not too late listen to one
another, angry and disappointed as people on both sides are. It is no longer
a question of being right or wrong, or even the truth, it is a matter of

It is better to have a delayed and united congress than a hurried and
divisive congress. Some people agree with Professor Ncube on one point but
disagree with him on another, and the same goes for Tsvangirai.

Both Tsvangirai and Professor Ncube and their followers are not necessarily
wrong or correct on everything. To press ahead with the two separate
congresses will give a hard time to people who respect both leaders but who
will be forced to choose a side. It is like forcing children to choose
between their father and mother.

Tsvangirai and Professor Ncube have to think again; some people still
consider and respect both them as their leaders. It is hoped that people
will not continue to be put in this awkward position between their leaders.
The new parliamentary caucus set up is yet another scenario putting MDC MPs
in a very difficult and trying position of choosing between pragmatism and
moral positions when in fact they need both in politics.

It might well be that the leaders have reached a point that requires people
to lead them. In such a situation, the leaders will have to respect the
possibility that the ordinary members might want to have the final say.

The MDC is a party that prides itself for consulting it membership. The
question is: Has the leadership consulted the people before taking such a
serious decision of splitting a party which they were given as one six years
ago, and worse still when their mandate has already expired?

People are right to ask the leadership: If you cannot keep a party together
how will keep the country as one? So what will Tsvangirai and Professor
Welshman tell their congresses?

Let us warn them in advance, it will not be enough for Tsvangirai to blame
it on Zanu PF, that is the party he was asked to remove, and will not be
enough for Professor Ncube to blame it on the "kitchen cabinet". Some of us
are tempted to believe that the so called restructuring exercise that was
done after October 12th was more of strategic positioning of loyalists than
a proper renewal of the party. What is important is for both factions to
know that Zimbabwe is now like a patient in a critical condition, and
recovery is going to be a matter of expertise and sound judgement and
political competence.

The solution may lie in both Tsvangirai and Welshman moving to the
background and postponing the congress to a later date so that other
untainted members can come forward to unite their party. Our fears and
anxieties are that posts will be given to people simply because they are
available not because they are competent and that will not be good for the
MDC, democracy and Zimbabwe either.

Msekiwa Makwanya is a social commentator based in England. Contact can be
made through

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Tackling beneficial ownership and control

New Zimbabwe

In an article published by the Zimbabwe Independent on 17th June 2005, Dr
Alex Magaisa wrote aptly about the misuse of corporate vehicles in
disguising beneficial ownership and control. He argued that if the
government was serious about tackling corruption through the Anti-Corruption
Commission, it had to target this key area and develop mechanisms to
identify beneficial owners of corporate vehicles.
New editor Mduduzi Mathuthu's expose` on how certain figures in
Zanu PF have managed to bust the sanctions regime using corporate vehicles
goes some way to suggest that the use of corporate vehicles is quite
widespread and at high levels. Here New reproduces Magaisa's
article on this issue:

By Dr Alex Magaisa
Last updated: 02/10/2006 09:40:04
IN attempts to tackle the problem of corruption the government needs to
confront the key and highly sensitive issue of beneficial ownership and
In very simple terms, the problem of beneficial ownership and control arises
in situations whereby a person uses a corporate entity or individual as a
front to obscure his real identity in commercial transactions or holding

Although corporate vehicles have been used in this way for legitimate
reasons, there is concern that they are at risk of being used for
illegitimate reasons.

This is a key area in tackling corruption because most people involved in
high-level corruption have an interest in not disclosing their identity and
they increasingly employ highly sophisticated corporate structures to
achieve this end. While by no means giving an exhaustive account, this
article seeks to highlight key features in this area and argues that if the
efforts to fight corruption are serious policy-makers should consider giving
this issue priority.

The issue of beneficial ownership demonstrates recognition of the fact that
a person who may often be represented as the legal owner of a property or
party to a commercial transaction may not necessarily be the real
beneficiary of that property or transaction. The key is to understand and
appreciate that there is often a distinction between the appearance and
reality in the ownership and control of corporate vehicles. While the use of
corporate vehicles may be done for entirely legitimate reasons, authorities
need to be alert as they can be used to perpetrate corruption.

In recent years there has been much concern at the international level over
the use of corporate vehicles for illegal activities, which include money
laundering, corruption, bribery etc. Research carried out by the
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2000
demonstrated that corporate vehicles may also be used to manipulate markets,
engage in insider dealing or simply to circumvent state regulations.

There are two lines of interest: firstly, how corporate vehicles can be
misused for purposes of perpetrating corrupt acts and, secondly, what needs
to be done to tackle this problem. This is an area that will test the
seriousness of authorities in confronting the problem of corruption.

The first point is best illustrated by way of example. Let's assume that the
government decides to construct a sports stadium. The rules state that all
cabinet ministers are prohibited from having any financial interest in the

However, a group of five ministers decides to disregard the rule against
participation. The only way they can do so is to disguise their identities.
They engage a corporate service provider who sells them a shelf company. The
shareholders of the company are nominees and two other people with no
obvious connection to any of the ministers.

The small company gets into a partnership with a foreign company and they
call this a "consortium". In fact, they receive massive bribes from the
foreign company, which is paid to the local company as "consultancy fees".

The consortium bids for the contract to build the stadium. Two of the
ministers are key decision-makers in the awarding of the contract and the
others pay bribes to members of the Tender Board to award the contract to
the consortium.

The beneficial ownership and control of the ministers in the consortium is
obscured by the fact that a corporate vehicle has been used to hide their
true identity. They will claim that it is the company, not them, which is a
party to the contract. The proceeds, which are essentially products of
corruption, ultimately reach the ministers although the apparent legal
arrangement does not show them to have any stake in the consortium.

A simpler and perhaps more common illustration in the context of Zimbabwe is
where two farms have been allocated to a trust and the wife of a cabinet
minister. The trust beneficiaries are the minister's children. He can claim
that legally he has no farm at all, that the two farms are owned by his wife
and the trust whose beneficiaries are the children. On the face of it at law
the minister has not farm yet in reality he is the beneficial controller of
both farms. He has simply used the corporate vehicle (the trust) and another
person closely connected to him (his wife) as fronts to disguise his
beneficial control. Technically there is no violation of the law, but in
reality the minister has by corrupt means sought to make himself the
ultimate beneficiary of all properties.

Clearly, the misuse of corporate vehicles is quite common and lies at the
very heart of the corruption problem. As noted in the examples individuals
can also be used as fronts to disguise the identity of the real beneficiary.
An individual can be the one who receives the bribe on behalf of a
high-ranking government official.

The question is how many people have distributed their assets to or conduct
their business through trusts or companies that are in the names of their
toddlers or spouses and claim to have no legal title to them yet in truth
they are the beneficial owners and controllers?

As I have indicated, there are many people who form corporate vehicles for
entirely legitimate reasons but there may also be a large number that simply
do so to hide proceeds of corruption. This is likely to be the case in
respect f political figures who choose to hide behind sham companies in
order to distance themselves from their corrupt tendencies.

Are the authorities prepared to tackle this issue and see what lies beneath
the surface of these corporate vehicles?

Of course, the more cunning ones often stash the proceeds of corruption in
foreign countries in the names of corporate vehicles, which disguise the
true identity of the beneficiaries. In some jurisdictions that have strict
bank secrecy laws, it is very hard to trace the beneficial owners of bank
accounts some of whom might be stationed in countries that are badly
affected by corruption.

It is for this reason that Western governments also have an obligation to
developing countries to prevent the use of their financial institutions to
hide assets through obscure corporate vehicles.

Nonetheless, if Zimbabwe is serious about tackling corruption, it must begin
by undertaking a massive overhaul of its systems of collecting, verifying
and maintaining information on beneficial ownership of the thousands of
corporate vehicles that are in use in the country. Greater cooperation with
other jurisdictions across the world will yield yet more information on the
use of corporate vehicles for illicit purposes.

It is important to bear in mind that it's not only to identify legal
ownership but also control no matter the artificial legal barriers that
might be in place. To do this, however, it is necessary to set up the proper
legal framework that balances the need to protect human rights while
fighting corruption effectively. Once the fight against corruption
unreasonably invades individual liberties, it loses credibility and it will
be hard to get international co-operation.

The OECD recommended in 2001 that the key approach to tackling the problem
of disguising beneficial ownership and control is to develop mechanisms that
are aimed at the prevention of misuse of corporate vehicles. The key element
of this strategy is to enable regulators and law enforcement authorities to
collect, verify and share this kind of information.

Therefore, it is necessary to establish mechanisms for the collection of
information about the persons behind the ownership or control especially of
corporate vehicles. Three broad ways have been identified:

* placing an obligation for up-front disclosure of beneficial owners at the
time of incorporating the company and continuing obligation to inform of

* using corporate service providers to obtain and retain information which
can be accessed by authorities whenever necessary; and

* relying primarily on investigative systems.

All three options may be used in combination. (There is limited scope to
discuss these mechanisms in this article.)

Since we have seen that the misuse of corporate vehicles is also an
international problem it is necessary that there be mechanisms for sharing
information with foreign regulators and authorities. The success of
international cooperation and sharing information and assistance in
extradition of accused persons is dependent on the existence of the rule of
law in the individual jurisdictions.

At a minimum there must be confidence in the judicial system and in the
existence of laws that are fair and just. The problem that Zimbabwe has
faced in recent years is the lack of confidence in the justice system as a
result of the perceived lack of judicial independence and laws that are seen
as going beyond the generally accepted standards. Since sharing information
requires international cooperation, Zimbabwe will have to surmount the
difficulties pertaining to its justice system if its fight against
corruption is to be successful.

In conclusion, an exploration of beneficial ownership and control is a key
part of the policies that ought to inform the architectural design to fight
corruption. This policy must define mechanisms by which information on
beneficial ownership and control should be collected, verified and
maintained for future use whenever needed. This is a key area that requires
investment in ideas and resources.

The crucial question is whether those in authority have the political will
to open this can, which is potentially laden with vast amounts of worms. The
government would go some way to demonstrate its seriousness and persuade the
public to believe in this exercise by taking on this issue and exploring
ways of exposing beneficial ownership. However, if the people that ought to
be leading the fight against corruption are actually involved in the use of
corporate vehicles to disguise beneficial ownership, then chances of success
are limited. In such a scenario, political will is very limited.

The problem, of course, is that if those in authority are the beneficial
owners and controllers of these corporate vehicles or individuals, such a
policy may never be pursued.

For the new Anti-Corruption Commission, it might be an issue worth

Dr Magaisa is a lawyer and can be contacted at

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'Mugabe bishop' has jail term reduced

New Zimbabwe

By Staff Reporter
Last updated: 02/10/2006 12:20:09
A ZIMBABWE court on Wednesday slashed by 12 years a 32-year jail sentence on
appeal for one of President Robert's Mugabe's most vocal ecclesiastical
backers -- self proclaimed prophet Madzibaba Godfrey Nzira.

Nzira, 32, will now serve 20 years after being convicted of rape.

Nzira who in 2002 said Mugabe was a "divinely appointed king of Zimbabwe and
no man should dare challenge his office" had sought the quashing of both his
conviction and sentence imposed by a court in 2003.

Justice Lawrence Kamocha conceded that the sentence was excessive, but
dismissed the appeal against conviction.

Several churchmen have lined behind Mugabe in support. Anglican bishop
Norbert Kunonga shocked the world when he said Mugabe was "actually more
merciful than God Himself."

Two other prominent backers of the President, Obadiah Msindo and Lawrence
Katsiru of the apostolic sect, have also had run-ins with the law.

Msindo, head of the Destiny of Africa Network, faces arrest for allegedly
raping his maid five times before dismissing him from work.

Katsiru was last month slapped with a seven year sentence for raping a 13
year old girl from his sect.

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Tsvangirai seeks unlimited term as MDC leader

New Zimbabwe

By Staff Reporter
Last updated: 02/10/2006 12:16:00
ZIMBABWE'S main opposition leader was last night accused of "vitiating the
concept of constitutionalism" after his advisers published a draft party
constitution giving him an unlimited term of office.

Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai was elected
into office in 2000 under the current party constitution which says the term
of the party president is limited to two five-year terms.

According to the current MDC constitution, Tsvangirai's term expires in 2010
after which he would have to pave way for a new leader.

However, Tsvangirai's advisers, fearing that the ruling Zanu PF government
may postpone the next elections to 2010 -- the time when Tsvangirai's term
expires, have pushed through a constitutional amendment which they hope to
pass at a planned congress later in March.

The amended draft, made available to New Thursday, only imposes
a limit on the president's term "after assuming governing power of the
Republic of Zimbabwe".

Article 6.1.2 of the amended draft reads: "After assuming governing power of
the Republic of Zimbabwe, the President subject to being re-elected by
Congress, shall serve for a maximum of two terms as party president but
eligible for election in other party positions thereafter."

The MDC split irreconcilably between two factions last November after
Tsvangirai's colleagues, led by his deputy Gibson Sibanda, accused him of
"dictatorship" following his rejection of a vote of the party's national
council to participate in senate elections.

The two factions plan to hold two separate congresses where they will both
elect their new leaders. However, observers say short of an "amicable
divorce" negotiated between the two groups -- the matter over who can
rightly claim control of the party can only be settled by a court of law.

On Thursday, Sibanda's group declared that they now controlled the
parliamentary party after 23 (initially 22) MPs out of the MDC's 41 in
parliament swung behind them. They immediately elected a new chief whip and
rolled out a new shadow cabinet.

Last night, a Zimbabwean political journalist watching the developments in
the MDC told New "This looks like a project for feudal
dictators. Tsvangirai is behaving like 17th century monarchs who rigidly
opposed the march of constitutionalism.

"This makes nonsense of Tsvangirai's pretences that he is fighting for a
democratic dispensation. This is an entrenchment of authoritarianism and an
absolute vitiation of the concept of constitutionalism."

The draft constitution also gives the president power to appoint or dismiss
members of the party's national council.

The journalist added: "All these measures are designed to give Tsvangirai
untrammeled power as party leader. What this demonstrates is that Tsvangirai
has irredeemably lost the plot. Political blunders can be made and forgiven.
But a deliberate tampering with a party constitution cannot pass for a

MDC sources said the draft constitution was the work of Tsvangirai's
unelected advisers, dubbed the "kitchen cabinet" by his critics.

Tendai Biti, a lawyer who supported Tsvangirai's stance on the senate, is
said to have been critical of the document and put together another version
which restricts Tsvangirai's term to two years. Tsvangirai, however, is said
to favour the draft drawn up by his advisers.

Professor Welshman Ncube, the MDC's secretary general, now critical of
Tsvangirai, told New Thursday: "Our problem with Tsvangirai and
his kitchen cabinet has always been that they don't want to play by the
rules. The draft constitution which they have drawn up is a shocking
document which concentrates power on one person. You always thought that was
a Zanu PF way of doing things."

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Darkness, thirst as weapons of mass destruction

      By Bill Saidi

      WATER and electricity, without which modern Humankind cannot survive,
have been used as torture instruments for years.
      Water, without which the human body cannot survive, forms 80 percent
of this unique creation. The Earth itself consists mostly of water.
      God didn't create electricity in the six days that he created the
Earth. Thunder and lightning did exist then, but it took Humankind to create
electricity as we know it today. It also took humankind to use electricity
as an instrument of torture.
      It's quite likely that had God even suspected to what devilish use
humankind would put electricity, He might have prevented the idea from
germinating in the fertile mind of His most unique creation.
      The fact is that water and electricity were used - according to
reliable information - in the alleged torture of two Zimbabwean journalists,
Mark Chavhunduka and Ray Choto.
      The two journalists of the independent weekly, The Standard, were
subjected to this torture by soldiers of the Zimbabwe army, over a story
they published concerning an attempted military coup against the government
of President Robert Mugabe.
      The two men narrated how "things" were done to them during the hours
they spent in the captivity of the soldiers. Some of this involved water and
electricity, specifically being applied to their genitals.
      The purpose was to force them to disclose their sources. Chavhuduka
and Choto stood firm. The price was high. For months, they had to undergo
therapy. The mental and physical trauma was enormous and although they may
eventually have recovered, there is no doubt some of it remained in their
      Chavhunduka died later, as untimely a death as you are likely to come
across anywhere. Choto left the country and is now working in the United
      In Zimbabwe today, many urban citizens are convinced the government is
once again using water and electricity as psychological  weapons  of mass
destruction. The idea is to destroy their resistance to the political
blandishments of the ruling party.
      Since the parliamentary elections in 2000, the urban voter has
repeatedly rejected Zanu PF. By the time of the 2002 local authority
elections, this rejection had spread to the city and town councils. Harare,
Bulawayo, Mutare and  Gweru were among cities which voted in local
councillors belonging to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
      In the aftermath, Zanu PF sent its thugs into Chitungwiza, for
instance, to inflict retribution on the voters. Some reports spoke of
soldiers whipping revellers in bars if they did not answer certain questions
correctly. The idea was to show them that not voting for Zanu PF carried its
own deadly risks.
      Some of the stories of retribution sounded as if they had been
garnished for special effect. But in general the stories were so graphic and
detailed, most reporters with no political axe to grind found them eminently
      There were reports of people being hounded out of their neighbourhood,
out of their jobs and, in one or two bizarre cases, they were even hounded
out of their marriages.
      Zanu PF was determined to remind the urban dweller that, in future
elections they would know what fate awaited them if they did not vote for
the "right" party.
      To this day, there are voters who have sworn never to vote for Zanu
PF, even if it means laying down their lives or giving up their job, wife or
      Their reasons are not difficult to detail. The country has gone down
the drain, politically and economically and there is no prize for guessing
who is to blame - Zanu PF and Mugabe.
      The current campaign of the psychological torture of the urban dweller
probably started inadvertently. But many are convinced that Zanu PF saw an
opportunity to profit politically from this accident of inconvenience.
      The government has no money to repair anything any more - aircraft,
trains, bridges, roads, sewer and water systems, electrical power stations
or the transformers that service them.
      So, there are constant power and water cuts in almost every urban
centre. Predictably, this led to disease: there have been outbreaks of
cholera, dysentery and diarrhoea in a number of centres, with deaths
reportedly affecting mostly children.
      The Zimbabwe National Water Authority, created by the government last
year to take complete control of all water systems in the country, is new to
the job and has committed a number of blunders. It has cut off water to the
big urban centres, allegedly for non-payment of dues, but its officials have
been red-faced with guilt when reports have emerged that each such centre
haw faced an epidemic resulting from ZINWA's rash action.
      The power cuts have resulted from the power utility parastatal,
(Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority) Zesa's inability to pay for power
imports from South Africa. Zesa has also pleaded for foreign currency to buy
essential spares for its power stations.
      But most people ascribe Zesa's inefficiency to either endemic
corruption or to an attitude common to all of Zmbabwe's parastatals:  the
government will bail them whatever over-expenditure they incur.
      So, people go for weeks or months without water or electricity.
      "The idea is to blame everything on the MDC councils," said one
resident. "In any case, the government has fired most of them, except in
Bulawayo. In Harare, a government-appointed commission is in charge, but
they have made a real mess of the city."
      Yet the story persists that the government is determined to remind
urban dwellers that not voting for Zanu Pf at the next elections would be
very unwise.
      This psychological combat may not, in the end, alter the urban voters'
perception of Zanu PF. Stories of corruption in high places have recently
heightened people's awareness of how recklessly Zanu PF abuses its
      Stories of Zanu PF leaders hijacking essential drugs intended for
people suffering from HIV/Aids have infuriated many. It is known that a good
number of the people around Mugabe have succumbed to HIV/Aids. The president
himself a few years ago disclosed publicly that some of his colleagues had
died of the disease.
      The Standard newspaper last year carried a story in which it asked a
number of leaders about the state of their health. Most were quite candid,
admitting that they had gone overseas for a course of treatment and were now
better. There was no mention of HIV/Aids, but most readers must have guessed
what ailed the leaders.
      Some of the leaders appear on public television, looking so
underweight only their loved ones can fail to conclude that the disease had
taken its toll on them.
      Rather morbidly, one wag predicted that what the MDC or any other
opposition party could not do in the last 25 years, HIV/Aids might
accomplish in one fell swoop.

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Elephants and Humans on a Collision Course


Nhamoinesu Mseyamwa

BULAWAYO, Feb 9 (IPS) - Sachikonye Lunga's face twists at the mere mention
of the word "elephant", which doubtless evokes memories of his eldest son
being trampled to death last year by one of the animals.

"We were not threatened by elephants before, but now they are everywhere,"
says the 70-year-old traditional healer from Siyabuya village in the Zambezi
valley, north-west of Zimbabwe's capital, Harare.

According to the 2005 annual report by the Community Areas Management
Programme or Campfire, an initiative to ensure sustainable wildlife
management, elephants were responsible for 12 deaths last year, an increase
from the 10 recorded in 2004.

Edward Mbewe, spokesman for the Department of National Parks and Wildlife
Management, says most of those killed had ventured into elephant habitats in
search of food, as Zimbabwe endured its third year of drought.

But, Lunga believes it is the elephants which are encroaching: ôWe no longer
bang empty tins to scare elephants away lest we anger them, but just watch
as they descend on our fields and graze on our crops."

With drought persisting, the number of deaths may increase still more as
elephants and humans compete for resources. Current conditions have also
taken a severe toll on the animals: over a 100 elephants died last year -
something blamed on serious shortages of water and grazing.

Mbewe says Zimbabwe's national parks are now home to over 100,000
elephants - even though they can only sustain 45,000. The population has
more than doubled since 1999, he adds. According to the parks department,
4,200 elephants are born in Zimbabwe every year.

While Mbewe attributes this increase to the country's "ability to protect
and conserve" wildlife, a 2005 report from the World Conservation Union
warns it could be the result of elephants crowding together in protected
zones for their safety after fleeing to escape human pressure.

"Most elephant surveys are restricted to protected areas, and it is
precisely to protected areas that elephants flock when their range is
compressed by expanding human populations," says one of the report's
authors, Julian Blanc.

"A high concentration of elephants in protected areas can give a misleading
impression of increasing numbers."

Nonetheless, Environment and Wildlife Minister Francis Nhema believes the
current situation is not sustainable, and that culling is necessary.

Zimbabwe has tried without success to offer some of its elephants for free
to western countries. In October last year, government also attempted to
relocate a number of the animals to Namibia; however, this initiative hit a
snag when the Namibian Department of National Parks and Wildlife said it was
facing similar problems to Zimbabwe.

Namibia has 16,000 elephants of its own, some of which have been involved in
human-elephant conflict in the north-eastern Caprivi Strip, again due to

Elsewhere in the region, Botswana is also encountering difficulties with

Last year, President Festus Mogae said a growing elephant population was
responsible for the destruction of perimeter fences around the Chobe
National Park that had made human-elephant conflict an almost permanent
feature in the north of the country.

South Africa's recent call for culling to control elephant populations in
the north-eastern Kruger National Park -- home to about 12,500 of the
animals -- has been dismissed as cruel by certain conservation groups.

A statement from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said the
country's reputation would suffer if it killed off elephants. "Culling is a
cruel, unethical and scientifically unsound practice," the IFAW brief read.

For Johnny Rodriguez, chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Taskforce
(ZCTF), the best method of dealing with high elephant populations lies in
the creation of better-managed habitats such as trans-frontier parks, and
migration corridors to allow greater movement of animals between countries.

The ZCTF was formed by a group of Zimbabwean nationals in 2001 in response
to concerns about poaching.

"The country cannot afford more losses because it has already lost too much
valuable wildlife to commercial and subsistence poachers since farm
invasions began in February 2000 as part of the controversial fast-track
land reform programme," says Rodriguez.

He has also suggested the use of contraception to control population growth;
however, the National Parks and Wildlife Management Department claims this
would be too expensive.

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