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Zanu PF sinks Mbeki plan

Zim Independent

Dumisani Muleya
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe's convoluted succession struggle sabotaged South
African President Thabo Mbeki's constitutional initiative to resolve
Zimbabwe's simmering political crisis, it has emerged.

Official sources said Zanu PF's raging power struggle linked to Mugabe's
succession torpedoed Mbeki's strategy to provide a constitutional route to
break the six-year political impasse.

Fierce infighting between rival factions led by retired army commander
Solomon Mujuru and Emmerson Mnangagwa scuttled the plan, which Mbeki said
earlier this week would have paved the way for a negotiated political

Sources said the Mujuru faction was annoyed by what it felt was a
Machiavellian attempt by Mnangagwa's camp to use the draft to position
itself in the succession race. It is understood Mnangagwa always wanted
inter-party talks to succeed as part of his manoeuvres for power. He was in
2003 linked to a soft-landing exit plan for Mugabe that involved MDC leader
Morgan Tsvangirai before the 2004 Tsholotsho debacle.

Zimbabwe has been in a political logjam since the disputed 2000 general and
2002 presidential election results. The political impasse lies at the heart
of the prevailing economic crisis.

In an interview with South African state television at the weekend, Mbeki
for the first time said his widely criticised "quiet diplomacy" on Zimbabwe
nearly achieved a political breakthrough.

"I said (in 2004) that Zimbabweans were talking to each other and would find
a solution ... They were actually involved in negotiating a new constitution
for Zimbabwe, and they did and they completed it," he said.

"They had done the constitution, they gave me a copy initialled by
everybody, done. So, we thought the next step then must be to say where do
we take this process. But then, as I say, new problems arose among
themselves. So we watch the situation and to the extent that we can help in
future, we will."

The Zanu PF and MDC draft, compiled from the government-sponsored draft
which was rejected by voters in the 2000 referendum and aspects of the
National Constitutional Assembly version, proposes an executive structure
similar to the French one with elements of the American system.

The draft was completed in July 2004. Two copies of the draft initialled and
signed on every page by key party negotiators were produced. One of them was
sent to Mugabe, who in turn sent photocopy to Mbeki, and the other one to

But there was a sticking point on transitional mechanisms. The party
representatives could not agree on whether the draft should apply starting
with the 2005 general election or during the 2008 presidential poll or in
between. Zanu PF politics however sank the draft.

The process started in February 2003 after a stayaway by the labour movement
and the MDC. It picked momentum after the June 2003 "Final Push" by the MDC,
following prodding by South African and Zimbabwean intelligence agents.

After meeting American President George Bush in Pretoria at the time, Mbeki
said talks were going on in Zimbabwe. He repeated the same message on
several occasions, including to visiting former Germany chancellor Gerhard
Schroeder in January 2004.

The draft says there shall be an elected executive president with a running
mate and a prime minister appointed by the president with the approval of

The prime minister, with executive powers as well, will appoint a cabinet
with the consent of the president who shall, if he so wishes, attend cabinet

It also says there shall be a bi-cameral legislature, with the Lower House
having 200 legislators and a Senate with 60 members. It suggests that 150
MPs of the House of Assembly will be elected on first-past-the-post system
and 50, who shall be women, through proportional representation.

Forty of the senators - five per eight administrative provinces - shall be
elected by proportional representation, 10 provincial governors through a
district electoral college system and 10 chiefs.

Mbeki said party political problems, especially in the MDC, undermined his
initiative. "The MDC has got its own serious problems. We had tried
unsuccessfully to help reconcile the party's internal differences," he said.

"They asked us to assist, to mend relations among themselves. It didn't
work. We tried to intervene, but I think the rupture had gone too far."

Sources said Mbeki in June 2003 gave June 2004 as the deadline for the
resolution of the Zimbabwe crisis on the basis of the constitutional
negotiations. The plan fell through after the constitutional talks

The sources said the Mujuru faction, at a Zanu PF politburo meeting on
August 24, angrily rejected the draft constitution that was compiled by then
Zanu PF legal affairs secretary, Patrick Chinamasa and MDC secretary-general
Welshman Ncube. The following month Mugabe ruled out talks with the MDC even
though he had previously confirmed them.

The landmark politburo meeting - held on the same day with the MDC national
executive by mutual agreement to discuss the final draft - proved to be the
graveyard of the much-awaited document.

The MDC meeting approved the draft but unwittingly scuppered the plan by
announcing a boycott of future elections on the same day. Mugabe was riled
by the election boycott decision, hence his furious rejection of talks

After the stormy meeting - at which Chinamasa came under withering attack
from fuming lieutenants in the Mujuru camp - the draft was dead in the
water, the sources said.

"Mugabe was shocked by the politburo's reaction but at the same time
relieved because he did not want the draft," the sources said.

"Chinamasa came under attack from the Mujuru camp. Those guys did not take
prisoners. They hurled abuse at him and told him to stop the project
henceforth. I felt pity for Chinamsa because he was helpless as they rebuked
and hauled him over the coals."

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Pressure mounts to open Daily News

Zim Independent

Clemence Manyukwe
PRESSURE mounted this week on Media and Information Commission (MIC)
chairperson, Tafataona Mahoso, to recuse himself from presiding over the
hearing of the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ)'s registration
application after a High Court judgement that perceived him as biased.

Justice Rita Makarau on Wednesday set aside the MIC's July 2005 decision
denying an operating licence to the ANZ, publishers of the defunct Daily
News and the Daily News on Sunday, citing a Supreme Court judgement that
found perceived bias in Mahoso.

Justice Makarau based her decision on a Supreme Court ruling in 2004 that
noted that Mahoso had made "certain utterances and remarks about the
applicant likely to make any reasonable man conclude that ANZ was not going
to have a fair hearing".

She said there was merit in ANZ's submissions that the MIC as presently
constituted was disabled from validly considering the media organisation's
application as a result of Mahoso's involvement in its decisions.

"There is merit in the submission of the applicant in this regard and the
respondent (the MIC) is well advised to take this on board when next dealing
with the applicant's application," said Justice Makarau.

She said she did not have the power to order the appointment of a new
commission as that issue was not before her.

"Thus, the only conclusion I can come to in the circumstances of this matter
is that the decision of the respondent cannot stand as it was rendered void
by the participation of the chairperson in its making after he had been
found to be biased against the applicant for the purposes of the law," she

She also said in considering the matter she had ignored additional
affidavits by Mahoso for the MIC and Jonathan Maphenduka for the ANZ because
the parties had done so without first seeking leave of the court as required
by the rules of the High Court.

Information minister, Tichaona Jokonya, who is mandated to appoint members
of the MIC board, has already indicated in correspondence to hand that there
could be changes in the composition of the commission.

In a letter dated December 14 2005 confirming the reappointment of Jonathan
Maphenduka as commissioner for six months, Jokonya said the "extension takes
into account the fact that the MIC is in the courts on account of challenges
to decisions taken during the tenure of your board.

"The extension also takes into account the on-going consultations between
the ministry and stakeholders in the media regarding the future of the

In an earlier letter dated November 22 to the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists,
Jokonya said he had delayed "the reconstruction of the MIC board of
governors deliberately to ensure that the new board for this vital arm of
the industry can be more representative".

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Court nullifies Midzi's move on Bubye Minerals

Zim Independent

Clemence Manyukwe
THE High Court last week nullified Mines and Mining Development minister,
Amos Midzi's cancellation of Bubye Minerals' claim to River Ranch Mine that
was approved by the mining board in January last year.

Midzi cancelled the claim saying the approval was unprocedural because he
had not been consulted when the claim was taken from River Ranch Ltd.

The ownership dispute over the diamond mine was triggered by a January 2005
Mines ministry decision to cede the mine's special grant, previously held by
River Ranch Ltd, to Bubye Minerals.

River Ranch maintains that the action was unlawful as it was not consulted
to establish its position on the cession.

An attempt by the ministry to rectify its mistake by reversing the decision
also saw Bubye Minerals embarking on the latest court action, claiming that
it was also not consulted when the cancellation was done.

In a provisional ruling, Justice Bharat Patel said the minister's decision
could not be upheld as he had not given Bubye Minerals the right to be heard
prior to the cancellation.

The judge said one of the High Court rulings concerning the dispute over
control of the mine had recognised that the claim was vested in Bubye

Bubye Minerals are the applicants, while Midzi, the Minerals Marketing
Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ), the Masvingo mining commissioner and River
Ranch are the first, second and third respondents.

"I hold the view that the cancellation purported by the first respondent
without an opportunity affording the other party the right to be heard is
tainted by a fundamental irregularity and must be set aside," said Justice

The judge said the initial grant to Bubye remains intact and valid until a
court rules otherwise.

In his submission, River Ranch's lawyer, advocate Edith Mushore said when
her client lost mining rights to Bubye they had not been consulted.

She told the court that the appointed liquidator who approved the action
should not have been consulted, as River Ranch was no longer in liquidation
at the time.

A statement issued by River Ranch's director, George Kantsouris on January
27 dismissed claims made in court by Bubye Minerals lawyer, Terrence
Hussein, to the effect that state agents had occupied the mine.

Kantsouris said River Ranch's employees were the ones working on the farm.

"We would emphasise that the people working the mine are all employees of
River Ranch. River Ranch is the lawful owner of the special grant and has
been so since 1992," said Kantsouris prior to the latest court ruling.

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Blue Train service to resume

Zim Independent

THE passenger train service between Francistown and Bulawayo that was
suspended due to viability problems seven years ago, the Blue Train is set
to resume after railway officials from Zimbabwe and Botswana concluded
deliberations on the resumption of the once popular train service.

In the last two months officials from Botswana Railways (BR) and the
National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) have been meeting in Botswana to plan
the resumption of the cross-border Blue Train.

NRZ public relations manager, Fanuel Masikati, this week confirmed that the
train service between the two countries was set to resume but could not give
the dates for the resumption of the train service.

"Deliberations are still on-going but the fundamental concepts have been
tackled. What we now await is the actual resumption of the train service,"
Masikati said.

The passenger train service will shuttle between Bulawayo and Francistown
and is expected to run four times a week.

The Blue Train was suspended in 1999 after both NRZ and BR alleged that the
service was not viable for both organisations.

BR chief executive officer, Andrew Lunga, speaking from Botswana, also said
everything pertaining to the train service was being finalised.

Botswana is making frantic efforts to link with other countries in its
northern border and plans have been mooted to create a railway line that
will link Botswana and Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The introduction of the rail service is however going to impact heavily on
road transporters who had monopolised freight movement between the two

Thousands of Zimbabweans, facing economic hardships, cross into Botswana
every week to buy goods for resale back home and the train would be a
favourable choice since it is affordable.

The resumption of the passenger train service is expected to reduce
significantly the congestion at the Plumtree and Ramakgwebana entry border.

According to the proposed plan, all immigration and customs formalities by
travellers would be done on the train without passengers disembarking, an
arrangement envisaged to ease congestion during peak periods at the border
post. - Staff Writer.

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Liquidity crunch, poor governance triggered Royal fall

Zim Independent

ROYAL Bank's assets were incorporated into the Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group
together with those of Trust and Barbican banks in a controversial move now
a subject of investigation by an independent panel. The Zimbabwe Independent
last week focused on the Trust saga. This week Dumisani Muleya looks into
the Royal Bank's collapse in greater detail.

ROYAL Bank was established in 2002 and commenced operations on May 8 2002
after being incorporated as a company on November 6 1997.

The bank's initial main shareholders included former MD Jeffrey Mzwimbi
(25%), Victor Chando (25%), Durajadi Simba (20%), Hardwork Pemhiwa (20%),
Intermarket Unit Trusts (2%), Michael Tapera (2%), CG Karase (2%) and Nomsa
Yehudah (2%).

A confidential central bank report says Royal failed due to poor corporate
governance issues, lack of adequate management, liquidity problems, and a
pending threat of liquidation. It was placed under the management of a
curator on August 4 2004. Its directors were specified and a criminal trial
is pending.

The report focuses on the role of Mzwimbi and Simba, identified as central
to the collapse of the bank. It says Mzwimbi worked for a number of banks,
including Barclays, Syfrets Merchant Bank, Zimbank and the PTA Bank.

It says he also worked for the late Roger Boka's collapsed United Merchant
Bank (UMB) in March 1995 where he was MD-designate although this detail was
absent from his curriculum vitae. It notes Mzwimbi met Simba at UMB where he
was engaged as a consultant and later executive director before his
departure to Unibank.

"It has been noted that Mzwimbi's CV submitted at the establishment of Royal
did not mention what he was doing during the period May 1995 to March 1996,"
the report says. "It can, therefore, be concluded that Mzwimbi was
deliberately concealing his association with the failed UMB. Such a
concealment of information indicates undoubtedly his lack of integrity."

UMB collapsed in April 1998 due to serious managerial shortcomings, poor
corporate governance and risk management practices, gross mismanagement and
lack of proper accounting procedures, problems also endemic at Royal.

The report says Simba, who also worked for Unibank and First Baking
Corporation, failed to disclose in his CV his association with UMB as a
consultant and acting MD.

"Simba was at the helm when the institution's problems surfaced and
intensified as reflected by poor risk management, fraudulent transactions
without any records being maintained, serious insider lending and inadequate
capitalisation," it shows.

"UMB was grossly mismanaged by directors and management, clearly for their
benefit. Simba, as managing director of the bank, headed a team that was
involved in fraudulent and gross misuse of depositors' funds."

The report says Simba was heavily involved in the collapse of Unibank. It
says onsite examinations by the Reserve Bank at Unibank in 1998 revealed
"serious insider trading, extremely poor pre-lending practices, and very
weak credit administration and risk management system", problems also
discovered at Royal.

"Notwithstanding Simba's managerial ineptitude in various banks, in 2000 he
teamed up with Mzwimbi as promoters and co-founders of Royal Bank," it
notes. The report says Simba's appointment as executive director was hotly
contested by the central bank because he lacked the prerequisite academic
and professional qualifications and his integrity was questionable.

It says there were also questions of how he raised funds for his equity.

The report observes Mzwimbi at Royal "spearheaded a cartel of bank
management within the institution to selectively award contracts for the
supply of various goods and services to companies in which they had

It says Royal granted directors' companies $21,6 billion loans in the form
of overdraft facilities used to purchase equipment that would be leased back
to the bank. Companies involved in the issue were Gemtree Investments owned
by Mzwimbi and Pemhiwa, and Covenant Investments and Panalla by Simba. The
firms were contracted to develop the bank's new branches in Mutare, Jaggers
Msasa and the Avenues in Harare.

Other companies were contracted to purchase ATM machines for the bank, offer
consultancy and carpeting services to the bank. "These transactions created
a potential conflict of interest," the report says.

Royal Bank also got entangled in the First Mutual Ltd (FML) saga after its
directors colluded with FML management to "siphon $17,1 billion out of First
Mutual Asset Management Company P/L in order to facilitate purchase of FML
shares by FML senior management".

This, the report states, was done through a special purpose vehicle,
wholly-owned by Royal Bank, called Regal Asset Management. Royal Bank used
the same structure to buy shares in their names. "Prior to the placement of
the bank under curatorship, FML took Royal Bank to court over the $60
billion issue and filed for liquidation on the bank," it says.

An examination of the bank in 2004 revealed the $6,5 billion loan to Capital
Alliance was not performing and was classified as an insider loan since it
was disbursed via Regal Asset Management whose directors were Royal
employees. A separate loan of $2,8 billion granted to buy the bank's own 59
million FML shares was speculative as the primary source of repayment was
share value appreciation.

The report notes that Mzwimbi used depositors' funds to pass entries in
Finsreal Asset Management account without corresponding mandate from client
and enabled himself to allocate transactions to Gemtree and Covenant and not
to the benefit of the client. As a result, Mzwimbi earned fictitious income.

Royal was exposed to Finsreal to about $11,4 billion although accounting
records put the figure at $20 billion. "Mzwimbi ran the bank negligently,
contrary to good corporate governance practices," it says. Royal bought
properties from Barclays Bank. However, the sale was cancelled and the
refund from Barclays was banked in the account of Gemtree Investments P/L,
owned by Mzwimbi and Pemhiwa, instead of the Royal account," the report

It also says there was a misuse of foreign currency at the bank on corporate
FCAs and the curator's report of November 2004 found that it had foreign
exchange liabilities of US$203 704 not backed by assets which could be
recovered or explained.

Directors advanced themselves loans amounting to $700 million (a lot of
money then) through their own companies, Gemtree, Elytra Investments,
Covenant and Panalla. The bank failed to pay statutory reserves of $28
billion due to severe liquidity problems as shown by central bank
accommodation facilities of $77,6 billion as at June 30 2004.

The report says Royal abused the Productive Sector Facility as most of the
money went to companies linked to directors. Directors used depositors'
funds to recapitalise the bank in violation of the Companies Act. In January
2003, Simba instructed "one of the bank employees to invest $500 million
with Finsreal Asset Management for a 60-day period" and the money was used
as capital injection.

"The bank ignored early signs of the impending liquidity crisis. It was
suspended from the clearing system on a number of occasions due to failure
to meet its obligations to other financial institutions," it says.

The report points out that although there were several central bank
examinations of Royal, a full scope check from April 21 to 28 2004
established that "the bank was insolvent with a capital deficit of $27,2
billion as at March 31 the same year.

"An additional capital injection of $40 billion was required to comply with
the minimum capital adequacy ratio," it says.

The report says negotiations with potential investors who included Kingdom
Bank, Nedbank, Investec Ltd and Loita Capital, all from South Africa, and
the Tetrad Group, collapsed after due diligence exercises.

All these issues, it concludes, forced the central bank to put Royal under

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MDC factions in dirty cyber-war

Zim Independent

Ray Matikinye
RIVAL Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) camps have started a cyber-war
and ratcheted up their campaigns to demonise each other ahead of parallel
congresses this month and in March.

The camp led by MDC vice-president Gibson Sibanda has distributed a draft
constitution reportedly crafted by Morgan Tsvangirai's group.

The draft constitution seeks to guarantee Tsvangirai unchallenged leadership
of the party until he wins the national presidential election whenever that
will be.

The document says the camp has drafted an amended constitution with
far-reaching provisions that bestow unbridled powers on Tsvangirai that it
hopes to railroad through a congress scheduled for March 4.

Tsvangirai's group has scheduled its congress for March 25.

The draft amends the original constitution approved by the inaugural
congress of the MDC held in Chitungwiza on January 29 2000.

An amendment of the draft relating to office bearers says: "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 original provision simply states that the president should serve for a
maximum of two terms.

Willard Zimuto of the Sibanda camp said the new document came from
Tsvangirai's group. "They sent it to some people and we ended up having a
copy," Zimuto said.

Pressed to identify the origin of the document, Zimuto said there were a
number of versions of the draft doing the rounds. "Ask Paul Themba Nyathi.
He is in a better position to explain," he said.

Tendai Biti yesterday said people purporting to be MDC had distributed the
document. Biti is in Tsvangirai's camp.

"They are a desperate lot who think they can gain political mileage out of
such a shoddy job," Biti said.

Biti, who chairs a committee tasked with constitutional reform in
Tsvangirai's camp, said they had sent letters to various organs of the party
disowning the document that "denomises Tsvangirai purporting he is seeking
unbridled powers".

Attached to the letter and a draft of the proposed amendments are
explanatory notes and points of debate which party structures should
deliberate on and consider before accepting or amending the proposals.

Biti said the draft contained amendments that take into account events that
led to the split in the party.

"It was imperative to come up with a dispute settlement machinery that would
avoid a similar catastrophe," he said.

The constitutional draft is the latest in a bitter cyber-war that witnessed
scandalous material being relayed on the Internet demonising Welshman Ncube
late last year.

The document, also purporting to be from MDC offices, accuses Ncube of
working in cahoots with the government and being a beneficiary of its
"patronage system".

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Companies asked to fund Mugabe's birthday bash

Zim Independent

Itai Mushekwe
ZANU PF is seeking to raise $10 billion from private companies to fund
President Robert Mugabe's birthday bash.

The party has resorted to writing letters to private companies to bankroll
the 21st February Movement celebrations, which coincide with Mugabe's
birthday who turns 82 on February 25.

The fundraising committee, chaired by Chipinge South MP, Enoch Porusingazi,
has set a target of $10 billion with each of the country's 10 provinces
expected to raise $1 billion. Zanu PF's move to take its begging bowl to the
corporate sector exposes its desperation to get funds from companies reeling
under viability problems.

National Secretary for Youth Affairs, Absolom Sikhosana, wrote a letter
dated January 25 to private companies requesting for donations and
assistance to "make this year's event historic and a memorable one for our

The letter reads: "Once again as a nation we are celebrating the 20th
anniversary of the 21st February Movement which coincides with His
Excellency, Comrade RG Mugabe's birthday who is the patron of the movement.
The 21st February Movement seeks to instill our cherished national values
among our youth eg it seeks to develop individuals who can confidently
defend those values."

It adds: ".We are kindly appealing for cash or kind (sic) to make this
year's event a historic and memorable one for the children. Kindly make cash
donations payable to 21st February Movement. The account number is
4125-031273003 ZimBank."

Observers said monies raised for the president's birthday should be used to
help needy children, especially those seeking expensive life-saving

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Farmers appeal to IMF

Zim Independent

THE few remaining white commercial farmers in Zimbabwe have appealed to the
International Monetary Fund and government to declare a moratorium on land
seizures to enable them to resuscitate the agricultural sector and avert
food shortages in the country.

Justice for Agriculture (JAG) chairman, John Worswick, confirmed this week
that his organisation briefed the IMF on fresh farm invasions, equipment
seizures and the uncertainty in the sector.

"Developments at Gletwyn farm and the seizure of farm equipment in Masvingo
province featured in our briefing to the IMF team last week," Worswick said.

Peter Henning of Chiredzi Ranching Company, one of 21 farmers whose
equipment was seized by a committee led by Assistant Commissioner Loveness
Ndanga in Masvingo, said the IMF was given material on the prevailing

"Recorded footage was provided to the IMF on the situation since December,"
Henning said. "We sent information to our attorneys and that should have
found its way to the IMF."

Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) president Douglas Taylor-Freeme urged
government to resolve the land question in a way that would promote recovery
in this key sector of the economy.

"We urge the authorities to declare a moratorium on land and current
agriculture policies and, with the full protection of the law, bring
together all stakeholders and rebuild the entire industry to return as the
principal employer of labour and generator of food and foreign exchange,"
Taylor-Freeme said.

He said farmers under the CFU were still eager to invest in agriculture. "We
have the energy and capacity to help bring Zimbabwe back, once again, to
being the breadbasket of the sub-continent," Taylor-Freeme said. "Let's do
it! A return to productive agriculture, which will benefit our nation, will
attract, in every way, both at home and overseas, the support we need to
regenerate our economy and the status of Zimbabwe." - Staff Writer

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MZWT ignores audit ruling

Zim Independent

Loughty Dube
DESPITE a High Court order compelling the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Trust
(MZWT) board of directors to produce audited accounts for the organisation,
it has emerged that the statements have not been produced two years later.

In a ruling on an urgent application filed by Arnold Payne, a leading
campaigner for the piping of water from the Zambezi River to Bulawayo, High
Court Judge, Justice George Chiweshe, on July 10 2003 ordered the MZWT board
to produce within 30 days an investigative audit of the organisation's

The respondents in the matter were cited as Dumiso Dabengwa in his capacity
as the chairman of the MZWT, and Kotsho Dube, the chairman of the MZWT
general assembly.

"Respondents properly charged with the task to ensure the setting up of an
investigative audit 42 months ago, must proceed, forthwith, to do exactly
that and report this setting up to the MZWT general assembly by no later
than 30 days following the date affixed to this court order by the
honourable court," read Justice Chiweshe's order.

The MZWT has not produced the audited results, raising fears that there
could be mismanagement of funds in the organisation entrusted with the task
of implementing the huge capital project.

Payne this week said he would soon appeal for a contempt of court judgement
against the two MZWT officials.

"A long time has elapsed since the High Court passed the judgement and
everyone was hoping that the MZWT board was still working on the issue of
producing an investigative audit of funds," said Payne. "But now it's almost
two years and there is still nothing."

Efforts to contact Dabengwa to comment on the matter were fruitless as he
was said to be out of office and his mobile phone was out of reach.

Payne, a member of the MZWT general assembly, in his affidavit filed with
the High Court in Bulawayo two years ago, said the board should institute
the audit as agreed at a general assembly meeting held on December 4 1999.

However, after the general assembly resolution no action was taken until
Payne filed the court application to force the two respondents to produce
the audit.

The decision to institute an investigation followed media allegations of
abuse of MZWT funds by senior members of the board while on a business trip

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Rivals bay for Mutasa's blood

Zim Independent

Clemence Manyukwe
STATE Security minister, Didymus Mutasa, and Central Intelligence
Organisation (CIO) bosses are understood to be trying to influence the
Attorney-General's Office to have the ongoing political violence case linked
to the minister dropped.

This comes at a time when Zanu PF women's league chairperson Oppah
Muchinguri - who was key in plotting of Vice-President Joice Mujuru's
ascendancy - is said to be pushing together with her camp in Manicaland to
ensure Mutasa is nailed.

Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa is said to be on Mutasa's side.

The case has become trapped in the Zanu PF succession issue at provincial
level. Mutasa is battling for political supremacy against Muchinguri.
Manicaland, like several other provinces, has been a hotbed of factional

Mutasa, widely seen as now well-placed in the Zanu PF succession to rise to
a senior position, has been entangled in the case since 2004. Sources said
his rivals were trying to make political capital out of the case to dent his

Mutasa and senior CIO operatives were said to have tried to approach the
AG's office in a bid to have the case in which several Mutasa supporters in
Makoni district are charged with political violence against James Kaunye and
his followers dropped.

Violence erupted after Kaunye declared his intention to challenge Mutasa, at
the time Zanu PF secretary for administration, in the party's primaries
ahead of the March 2005 general election.

Mutasa could not comment yesterday, saying he was in a meeting. Efforts to
get comment from other officials were unsuccessful.

However, Mutasa's supporters yesterday claimed the minister was a victim of
political designs of his rivals taking advantage of the case.

"While it is common cause that there is a case in which the minister is
linked, going on in the courts, it is also true that his rivals are now
trying to extract political mileage out of it," a Mutasa supporter said.

"You must consider that Manicaland is faction-ridden and such cases are
bound to be exploited by his political detractors."

Sources said there were indications that Mutasa was anxious to have the case
dropped to avoid damaging his reputation and succession chances.

This comes after two Manicaland CIO officers recently tried to coerce 18
state witnesses to withdraw their testimonies against Zanu PF Makoni
district chairperson Albert Nyakuedzwa and 30 others at the start of the
trial at the Rusape magistrate's court last month.

Following CIO threats, the witnesses only agreed to take to the witness
stand after being assured of the state's protection by the AG's Office's
Director of Public Prosecutions, Loice Matanda-Moyo.

Matanda-Moyo attended proceedings during the first week of the trial to see
to it that the trial continued without any hindrances. Defence lawyer Tendai
Amon Toto said on Tuesday that from the evidence led in court so far, it now
seems Mutasa's involvement in the political violence case was exaggerated.

When the trial started last month, Toto applied for Mutasa's arrest, arguing
the state's failure to have the minister indicted despite being "mentioned
everywhere in the state outline" pointed to selective prosecution.

"From what has been said so far in court, it seems as if Mutasa's
involvement had been exaggerated," Toto said in an interview.

The case is expected to resume on February 20.

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Turmoil puts strategist under scrutiny

Zim Independent

Augustine Mukaro
POWER struggles rocking the Harare City Council have put the capital's
turnaround strategist, Chester Mhende's job under scrutiny as his
elevated-post has thrown the politically-volatile Town House into turmoil.

Observers said a fallout was inevitable following Mhende's meteoric rise
ahead of town clerk Nomutsa Chideya, throwing the local authority into
confusion as to who should be in charge of council administration. Chideya
this week assured council departmental heads that he was in control.

Highly-placed sources at Town House said relations reached boiling point
when Chideya last week ordered Mhende to furnish council's human resources
department with his curriculum vitae to formalise his engagement as a
full-ime council employee.

Mhende has yet to hand over his CV.

Sources said Mhende's engagement as an employee of council was illegal as it
was meant to consolidate Zanu PF's power. The position was not provided for
in the Urban Councils Act.

"The Urban Councils Act does not provide for a position of a turnaround
strategist or a deputy town clerk," a source said.

"The Act is clear that the chamber secretary automatically takes charge of
council in the absence of the town clerk."

The source said the reason for Mhende's appointment as a strategist was for
political expediency as the Harare Commission's chairperson Sekesai
Makwavarara is also alleged to support Mhende.

"Makwavarara is supporting the elevation of Mhende," the source said.

"This is shown by how she has snubbed all heads of department meetings
called by Chideya to explain the prevailing situation. She has opted to
attend Mhende's meetings at which he announced his takeover."

Contacted for comment, Chideya referred all questions to Makwavarara, saying
the issue was more of policy than administration.

Mhende could not be reached for comment as he was said to be in South

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IMF researcher warns Zim over overvalued currency

Zim Independent

AN International Monetary Fund (IMF) researcher has made a poignant warning
to Zimbabwe against an overvalued currency, saying this had eroded the
competitiveness of the country's exports and propelled the parallel foreign
currency market.

The warning, contained in a working paper titled Zimbabwe's Export
Performance: The Impact of the Parallel Market and Governance Factors by the
IMF Africa Department's Sònia Muñoz, said Zimbabwe's exports had been
affected by the overvalued exchange rate.

Zimbabwe, which late last year made significant moves to liberalise the
exchange rate by re-introducing the interbank market, moved to curtail
currency movement on the official market by ordering that any value losses
be volume-based.

This has hamstrung movement of the currency on the official market, whose
trade volumes have failed to surpass $1 million daily ever since an
announcement of the volume-based currency adjustments, in the process
pushing parallel market rates up.

"The evidence gathered in this paper suggests that the overvaluation of the
official exchange rate has had a cost for Zimbabwe in terms of
competitiveness," Muñoz said in the report. "Exports, in particular, have
been affected by the overvaluation of the exchange rate. The most
interesting result of this study is the negative relationship found between
the parallel market rate depreciation and the value of legal exports."

Muñoz said policies that gave rise to a widening of the parallel market
premium (such as maintaining an overvalued exchange rate and lax monetary
and fiscal policies) would, other things being equal, adversely affect the
performance of "official exports".

"Conversely, exchange rate unification and tight macroeconomic policies can
be expected to improve export performance," Muñoz said.

Muñoz said export performance was crucial to the Zimbabwean economy since
trade constituted a substantial share of GDP and exports were the main
source of foreign exchange for the economy.

In particular, agricultural exports, which had declined dramatically in
recent years, had been an important driver of growth in the Zimbabwean
economy, given the sector's extensive backward and forward linkages.

The forced expropriation of white-owned farms to landless blacks had
therefore affected agricultural production, in the process affecting

The growth rate of total exports was high in the second half of the 1990s,
but then turned negative since the early 2000s when Zimbabwe embarked on the
policy of forced land seizures. - Staff Writer.

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CCZ concerned over price hikes

Zim Independent

Paul Nyakazeya
ZIMBABWE'S consumer rights watchdog this week expressed concern at
unrealistic price hikes, saying this was putting basic food commodities
beyond the reach of the majority, an official said.

"Producers and retailers are just charging prices as they deem fit," a
Consumer Council of Zimbabwe official told businessdigest. "Proposals for
further increases are still before the Ministry of Industry and
International Trade. The only agreement to increase prices was made in
December when some price guidelines were agreed to," the official said.

The official said the consumer watchdog viewed the development with "great
concern", and would lobby that retailers justify their increases with the

"If you confront some of them (retailers) over the incessant increases they
argue that it is because their suppliers have increased prices," the
official said.

Retailers interviewed this week accused the Ministry of Industry of taking
more than three months to look into their proposals when manufacturers
continue to increase their prices nearly every two weeks citing viability

A survey by the consumer watchdog last year in September said producers were
not happy with the prices they were charging particularly for controlled
products, which partly explained the shortages at the time.

Controlled commodities are now readily available on the market, with
retailers charging prices above those gazetted by the government.

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Indigenisation in mining needs planning, govt told

Zim Independent

Itai Mushekwe
ECONOMIC commentators this week said government should avoid legislation
that compels mining firms to dole out large stakes to indigenous players to
help shore up confidence in the sector.

They said the mining sector could only blossom with a significant amount of
direct foreign investment (FDI) because of its heavy capital requirements,
which local entrepreneurs don't have.

The government is expected to unveil a new mining bill before parliament

Independent economic consultant, John Robertson, said government must focus
on the needs of investors and avoid forced indigenisation of mining shares.

"It is imperative to create an enabling environment which guarantees
investor confidence," Robertson said. "The appropriation of large portions
of mining shares to local entities will not bring about revival of the

Rather, it will block new foreign funding. Indigenisation of shares is the
wrong way to rebuild confidence."

Robertson said meaningful investment growth in the sector could only be
achieved if there was huge investment of capital in FDI terms running into
millions on US dollars.

The investments would be used for the purchase and maintenance of expensive
machinery such as shaft sinkers, earth movers and ventilation equipment.

Economic commentator, Eric Bloch, said government should clearly spell out
its intensions on indigenous empowerment in the mining sector.

He said it was fundamental for government to "free up the exchange rate
regime to restore viability".

Bloch said the current exchange rate must move in line with inflation, while
the state must also indicate how economic empowerment in the sector is going
to be funded because all these factors "affect the evaluation made by
potential investors keen to establish ventures in the country's mines".

President Robert Mugabe has in the past reiterated that government will not
allow absolute ownership of natural resources by foreigners, warning that
major reforms will be undertaken in the sector.

Government wants private mining firms to localise at least 30% of their

The mining sector experienced a drastic decline in the past five years due
to an economic crisis characterised by acute foreign currency shortages that
have hampered importation of critical capital equipment.

Acute fuel shortages and power outages have also combined to drag down
Zimbabwe's key export earning sector.

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Why Warriors Fund alone?

Zim Independent

Editor's Memo

Vincent Kahiya
THE announcement by the Warriors Fundraising Committee that it will next
week produce audited accounts to show how funds raised for the national
soccer team were used is a welcome development considering the country's
notorious history of failing to account for donated funds.

The committee says the accounts will demonstrate that the funds were
properly used and that no money ended up in the wrong suitcases. There is no
doubt that the move to publish the results stems mainly from pressure from
the media and soccer fans on what has happened to the billions that were
raised by the team headed by Vice-President Joseph Msika.

The same accountability is required of other government-led initiatives to
raise funds for charity, relief efforts and disaster mitigation.

It is intriguing to note however that as a nation we are quick to take the
cudgels on soccer-related issues while we have generally let pass
misfeasance in the state's handling of public funds.

I said it in this column on January 14 last year that Zimbabwe as a nation
has developed a measure of notoriety in mishandling donated funds. This
"unpatriotic" observation was prompted by the story of a Zimbabwean man
based in Canada who was arrested in Toronto for allegedly swindling the
public in the name of helping victims of the tsunami tragedy in southeast

I expressed anxiety at the time over the appointment of a Zimbabwe Tsunami
Disaster Fund committee to spearhead the collection of cash and goods to
help victims of the tsunami in Indonesia. My apprehension stemmed from our
government's lack of transparency when dealing with disaster funds.

The major case in point was the fate of the Nyanga Bus Disaster Fund of
1991, most of whose proceeds disappeared down the tubes while families of
the 91 children who perished in the disaster never got their fair share of
the funds.

There has not been a public audit or enquiry into that incident.

For stating this seemingly obvious point, I was pilloried and attacked on
national ZTV by mandarins who were wheeled onto the Media Watch programme to
tell the nation what a heartless and insensitive person I was. I was accused
of trying to derail government's noble efforts to help brothers in the east.

More than a year after the collection of water, clothes, medicines and cash,
we are still waiting to hear how much was eventually collected and where the
relief material was distributed.

The last we heard about the relief efforts was when the consignment was
facing problems getting to its intended destination - Indonesia. We were
told President Mugabe would officially hand over the consignment to the
Indonesian government at a later date. We are still waiting for the

The Warriors Fundraising Committee would like to raise the bar of
accountability by expeditiously releasing an audit report and this is good
news for Zifa.

The bungling national football body should feel safe under the wings of an
accountable committee. There is a problem here because Zifa is not
accountable at all.

The hypocritical scramble by government to raise money for the Warriors is
not an approval of Zifa's way of doing things, but simply a demonstration of
joy over Zimbabwe's appearance at the continental showcase.

Lack of accountability has been the hallmark of Zifa. Administrators have
always derailed national teams' aspirations the same way they have
consistently put off potential and existing sponsors.

They have not published audited accounts since 1999, without a word of
censure from central government which is also notorious for not keeping
up-to-date accounts.

Is it not worrying to the Zifa bosses that companies are prepared to pour in
almost $50 billion into the Africa Cup of Nations but have turned their
backs on long-term projects like the Zifa Cup? Transparency is urgently
required in the Zifa dark room where all negatives are developed.

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Fate of a nation when a govt thinks small

Zim Independent

By Chido Makunike
MORE than halfway into the best Zimbabwean rain season in many years, we
still hear farmers bemoaning the unavailability of inputs critical to
maximising their yields.

Despite the best efforts of those who would really like to make a serious go
at farming, they once again find that the overall economic environment is
working against them, rather than facilitating their work.

The reaction from the government that should go all out to create a
conducive environment is at best helpless hand-wringing, at worst outright
lies about what the true situation is in regarding fuel and fertiliser,
among others.

Still we hear and hope for a "bumper harvest". The state propaganda services
are already gearing up for a declaration of such a "bumper harvest", and one
almost gets the sense that we are going to get it regardless of what the
actual crop yields are!

A bumper harvest may not be a matter of tonnages, but of declaration in
order to score points in the propaganda war that the Mugabe regime has been
losing worldwide so pathetically in the last several years.

But let us think positively and hope that farmers in general will do well
this year despite all the odds against them. Yet even if we do so, the fact
of the matter is that for the overwhelming majority of farmers, whatever
they achieve this farming season will still be a fraction of what would be
possible in a supportive economic environment, or even in a merely ordinary
one, versus the extraordinarily negative one that prevails.

Government agriculture officials admit that a lot of the maize crop at
tasselling stage is yellow because of nitrogen deficiency, which means a
less than optimum yield.

In the last several years we have witnessed many incidences of small-scale
farmers who worked hard to grow easily perishable crops like vegetables,
only to have them rot by the roadside because diesel for trucks to ferry
them to markets was either unavailable, or the cost of the transport was
beyond their means. All these and many more are continuing realities that
will as before, impact on the final harvest.

So, if by some miracle Zimbabwe were this year able to harvest enough maize
for its own consumption until the following harvest, that would be quite an
achievement, given the steady decline of the last years that has resulted in
one of Africa's main breadbaskets joining the ranks of dependent, beggar

In the sense of comparison to the last several years, even a mere maize
self-sufficiency could be considered a "bumper harvest".

Yet to use this, or even a slightly higher yardstick of "bumper harvest" is
to betray just how our horizons of expectation have lowered and narrowed as
a result of the Mugabe regime's efficient orchestration of Zimbabwe's
decline over the last few years.

With the world's pooled knowledge of farming methods, and all of Zimbabwe's
natural and human advantages, merely having enough to eat is a very low
standard by which to judge national achievement.

The Mugabe regime members have grown to love the word "drought" as an excuse
for the many failures in agriculture. Yet there are countries in the world
today which can, in comparison to us, be considered to be "permanent
drought" lands, but which through seriousness of purpose and ingenuity have
"bumper harvests" every year as we beg for food.

Our agricultural and general economic problems are due to far more than how
much or how little precipitation occurs in a given year. They are problems
of planning, lack of ability to set and stick to correct priorities, lack of
pride and concern about the country's fortunes by the ruling authority.

Unlike some other countries, Zimbabwe's food insecurity is something to be
ashamed of because it is man-induced, regardless of whatever symptoms we
like to obsess about to justify our failures.

The converse is that for a country like Zimbabwe, basic food
self-sufficiency in the year 2006 would not be anything to boast about. For
your population to have enough to eat and plenty left over for storage or
sale should be routine and ordinary for a nation with all of Zimbabwe's

While we think in terms of the "bumper harvest" of just having enough to
eat, many other nations and regions of the world have long passed this most
basic modern human milestone. They can take national food security for
granted, either in terms of growing enough for their own needs, or in having
dynamically productive economies that make importing whatever they cannot
produce an easy and no-fuss exercise.

Neither applies to Zimbabwe, where the mere rumour of the availability of
the staple mealie-meal at a store is enough to cause a stampede. This is how
far we have been reduced in dignity despite occupying a part of the planet
that by rights should be a cornucorpia of food, a virtually perpetual land
of plenty regardless of season.

Having enough to eat is after all, not an end in itself. It is merely a
means to other ends. It is only when your tummy is not gnawing with hunger
pangs that one can best think, plan and work.

But because as a nation we have been forced to spend so much of our time,
energy and thinking ability grappling with issues of food and other kinds of
hunger, we have neither the time nor the energy to dream beyond that.

A disproportionate amount of our energies is spent on worrying about basics
of life we should have nationally developed to a stage where we could take
them for granted. We would then be able to dream of, and plan for higher
accomplishments, individually and nationally.

If we, the ordinary citizens have been forced by the circumstances in which
we find ourselves, to mainly think of the small and the immediate, that is
no less true of the causers of our misery.

Listen to the things that the Mugabe regime members are concerned with, as
shown by their own utterances.

Making threats against the citizens is a major pastime. Looting national
resources is a major pre-occupation. Mistrust amongst themselves in their
guilt is rife. Denying responsibility for the mess around them suffuses
their whole consciousness. They constantly look over their shoulders in fear
of what could happen to them if the rage in the land breaks free and finds
expression, a consequence of the plague that they have wrought on the land.

They do not have enough confidence in their arguments and mental abilities
to want to honestly and robustly debate issues with those who disagree with
them. Instead, like the easily threatened bullies that they are, they seek
to clamp down on dissent by bludgeoning those opponents.

When the regime's cabinet meets, all those little minds divide each other's
pathetic mental outputs to produce more regression, rather than multiply and
compound each other's efforts to produce positive energy, solutions to
problems and growth.

Below the many obvious symptoms of Zimbabwe's national decline is the
not-so-obvious cause of small, narrow minds at the helm of government.

In a way, the Mugabe regime often does hit its targets - because the targets
it sets for itself and the nation are so low.

* Chido Makunike is a Zimbabwean writer based in Senegal.

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Zanu PF can't give us new constitution

Zim Independent

Joram Nyathi
I AM excited that debate on a new constitution for Zimbabwe is being
revived. But only so excited as one who has voted in all past parliamentary
and presidential elections since 1980 can be. As one who has witnessed
people's hopes raised and dashed by elections that, to use that fatalistic
expression, "produce predetermined outcomes". But I am excited nonetheless.

Deputy speaker of parliament, Kumbirai Kangai, reportedly told delegates to
a Centre for Peace Initiatives in Africa workshop in Mutare recently that
government was working to restart the process abandoned in 2000 after the
rejection of the draft constitution. He was responding to queries from
National Constitutional Assembly chairman Lovemore Madhuku who, with
characteristic belligerency, told him people were getting impatient for a
new constitution.

"We cannot continue talking about a way forward when we know the way forward
is to change the constitution," said Madhuku. He said it was vital to have a
new constitution before President Mugabe leaves office in either 2008 or

The material push-factors for a new constitution in 2000 have refused to go
away. The economic and political crisis has worsened. Unemployment then was
estimated at 50% while now it is close to 80%. Even back then, the Central
Statistical Office reported that 76% of the population was living in dire
poverty "even by regional standards".

The fuel situation has deteriorated against all promises by Mugabe to tackle
it. While petrol cost less than $1 000 when available, it now costs $140 000
per litre.

In short, the standard of living has become unbearable. Add to this the
ravages of Operation Murambatsvina, and you would think the opposition MDC
and civic organisations had their job cut and dry.

But no, the balance of political power has turned for the worse.

Mugabe went into the constitutional referendum just to keep the population
busy and for him to appear to be in charge. Pressure from the coalition of
civic groups spearheaded by the National Constitutional Assembly and the MDC
posed a great political challenge. He brandished free land as the last trump
card to buy himself a new shelf-life.

Now the threat posed by the NCA and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions is
all but gone. The MDC is imploding and Mugabe can only marvel at this good
turn of fortune.

The country's security laws provide an unassailable bulwark for the
opposition. In fact, in an inexplicable way, time has taken care of all
threats to Mugabe without him delivering on the pledges of Independence.

After losing the February 2000 referendum, Mugabe said he would respect the
will of the people. A prescient Zanu PF spokesperson remarked then: "He
shall rule this country for as long as he likes." Mugabe would not have more
readily believed that oracular pronouncement then as now.

One of the reasons the draft constitution was rejected was that it was
tampered with to give Mugabe more executive powers when people had said they
wanted a ceremonial president and a prime minister. Mugabe also wanted
personal immunity from prosecution for crimes committed while in office. All
that is almost assured now.

The biggest challenge remains what to do with an inexorably crumbling
economy. Nepotism and corruption have become national pandemics, forcing the
setting up of the Ministry for Anti-Corruption.

But the way forward is clear: Zimbabweans must demand, not beg for, a new
constitution. It is inconceivable that a government that is responsible for
this parlous state should set the agenda for a new constitution. It amounts
to usurping sovereignty from the people and setting itself above the law.

Moreover, to imagine Zanu PF proposing a democratic constitution is to dream
of Mugabe legislating himself out of power. It defies logic.

Our problems are compounded by a parliament that instead of operating as one
of the pillars of the state and leading the debate on a new constitution,
now functions as a subsidiary, or even an extension, of the executive. The
opposition has failed to capitalise on Zanu PF's policy bankruptcy. It has
failed to capitalise on the people's anger and hunger and appears only
ferocious when fighting itself.

"The great tragedy of Zimbabwe is the unpreparedness in the minds and
attitudes of many to accept the existence of political, social and religious
pluralism in our society," said Professor Walter Kamba at the Mutare

"This attitude generates resistance or opposition even in respect of issues
on which agreement would be easily arrived at," he said.

We can only hope that the people of Zimbabwe will take the constitutional
debate seriously and with maturity. Madhuku is right that we need a new
constitution before Mugabe leaves office. We cannot again entrust the future
of this nation to the benevolence of a political leader without the
necessary checks and balances that democracy needs to thrive.

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Put congresses on ice while you mend the rift

Zim Independent

By Msekiwa Makwanya
THE dispatch by MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, of a team to listen to the
feelings and anxieties of those in the diaspora is a positive development.

The meetings will give people the opportunity to speak out their minds and
we hope the delegation will consider the views gathered upon their return.

Those abroad have experiences to share with fellow Zimbabweans, who should
learn to appreciate the merit of arguments made by those with whom they

Reserve Bank governor, Dr Gideon Gono, 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 decisions have been based on self-interest,
racial overtones, regional and tribal considerations at the expense of the
national good."

Conflicts are part of life, while politics is a game of compromises, hence
the support by us in the diaspora of unity of purpose and an opportunity for
reflection within the MDC.

Constructive criticism is essential but people should take time to consider
what precisely is good, not just for the MDC, but the country as a whole.

To borrow from Gono's wisdom: "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."

To the two MDC factions, there is a view shared by many, both in the
diaspora and at home, that a strong opposition is vital for democracy, and
that both factions should postpone their congresses while they work at
mending the rift.

Both factions should make this tough decision as part of their leadership

It is never too late to listen to one another even though both sides are

It is better to hold a delayed and united congress than a hurried and
divisive one. Some people agree with Welshman Ncube on some points but
disagree with him on others, as they do with Tsvangirai.

To press ahead with the congresses as things stand will give a hard time to
followers who pay allegiance to them both. These leaders should sit down and
reflect for the good of the party.

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Mugabe merely treading a familiar profligate path

Zim Independent

Ray Matikinye
THE founding Tanzanian president, Julius "Mwalimu" Nyerere, had some of
Africa's rulers in mind when he likened running an African government to
riding a famished tiger: "You have to hold fast and remain on its back
otherwise the moment you let loose and fall off, it will devour you."

That aptly explains why some leaders have clung onto power even when their
value to society runs contrary to national interest.

A perplexing genre of African leaders has displayed a tendency to build
themselves heavily fortified palaces of "obscene opulence" when they leave

Mwalimu, himself an icon of simplicity, retired to his rural home in Butiama
village on realising that his socialist experiment had dismally failed to
uplift the poor peasants from crushing poverty.

Contrast the statement with that of the late Hastings Kamuzu Banda who once
told his parliament: "We do not suppress the acquisitive and possessive
instinct here. Instead, we encourage it," and you begin to appreciate
Mwalimu's observation.

The Malawian president demonstrated how leaders endowed with acquisitive
instincts go about acquiring vast financial empires in the midst of
commonplace poverty.

Banda's business empire encompassed breweries, distilleries, food processing
industries, textiles and metal products manufacturing, tourism and hotels,
and wholesaling and retailing.

He built expensive houses for members of the women's league who excelled in
dancing and praising him. He even purchased planes to ferry dancing and
singing troupes of women to his meetings.

Banda built 11 sumptuous official residences across Malawi with government
funds such as the Sanjika Palace on the outskirts of Blantyre and
luxuriously furnished them and then rented the properties to the state.

One took 20 years to build and cost US$100 million. With its 300
air-conditioned rooms, it is set in 555 hectares of land outside the

Some of Nyerere's contemporaries have been so overwhelmed by a ludicrous
form of paranoia that they have lived in fear of their own people.

Their profiles appear cloned from a prototype.

In the twilight of their careers, they have imprisoned themselves in heavily
fortified mansions built at the expense of the poor whose interests they
purport to represent.

Zaire's late strongman Mobutu Sese Seko left a legacy of three palaces - the
largest of them a three-story marble-clad building where he held most public

At Kawele, about 10km outside Gbadolite town, Mobutu built two palaces
within a walled compound.

One is a village of Chinese pagodas, with tall roofs of jade and orange
glazed tile that surround ponds. It was built by the Chinese and used
primarily as a residence for Mobutu's family and guests.

The other palace - Mobutu's former private residence - is a gaudy modern
mansion built of real and faux marble veneer. Four concrete lions guard the
entrance, and a massive marble table remains in the dining room - too heavy
for looters.

Mobutu's favourite mansion had two swimming pools and a fountain in the
front of the house. His bedroom was 625 square feet. The bathroom had two
jacuzzis. He used to address crowds of visitors from a balcony overlooking a
large veranda.

The Zairean leader nationalised foreign firms and forced international
investors out.

He handed over the management of these firms to relatives and close
associates who stole the companies' assets. This precipitated such an
economic slump that Mobutu was forced to try to woo foreign investors back.

That has a familiar ring to the actions of other dictators.

His personal fortune was estimated at US$5 billion, most of it in Swiss
banks - almost equivalent to the country's foreign debt in 1984.

Mobutu's rule earned a reputation as one of the world's foremost examples of
kleptocracy, nepotism and massive personality cult devised by his minister
of information.

Government officials wore lapels bearing his portrait. Mobutu's portrait
appeared on every banknote.

Mobutu was overthrown in May 1997 and died in September of the same year in
exile in Rabat, Morocco from prostate cancer.

Another despot, Idi Amin was deserted by his father at an early age and
brought up in Buganda by his mother. He received little formal education.

When he joined the army, he was considered a skilled soldier, but he also
had a reputation for cruelty. Amin came to power through a coup in 1971,
toppling Milton Obote who was out of the country.

Amin was initially welcomed both within Uganda and by the international
community. He freed many political prisoners, and disbanded the secret
police - the General Service Unit.

In 1972, Amin gave Uganda's 70 000 Asians, mainly of Indian origin, 90 days
to leave the country, following an alleged dream in which, he claimed, God
told him to expel them.

Those who remained were deported from the cities to the countryside.

Amin fled to exile after an ignominious defeat by the Tanzanian army in
response to his expansionist debacle, first in Libya, before finding final
asylum in Saudi Arabia.

When Jean Bedel Bokassa became president, he crowned himself Emperor Bokassa
I in a lavish ceremony in December 1977, giving himself the title Emperor of
Central Africa by the will of the Central African people, united within the
national political party.

More than US$20 million was spent on the coronation.

Bokasa's excesses came to an abrupt end when schoolchildren were arrested
for protesting against wearing the expensive, government-required school
uniforms said to have been manufactured at one of his 17 wives' factory.

He had 50 children and died of a heart attack in November 1996.

At home, residents of an upmarket suburb are ruing why they ever chose to
live on a site near President Robert Mugabe's retirement home.

The palace is said to have cost at least US$10 million to build. The
sprawling residence - in an exclusive district about 25km north of Harare -
has 25 bedrooms with bathrooms and spas. It is three times the size of the
official presidential residence.

The residence offers more than three acres of accommodation, mostly on three
floors, including two-storey reception rooms, an office suite, and up to 25
bedrooms with adjoining bathrooms and spas.

The Chinese-style roof is clad with midnight blue glazed tiles from
Shanghai. Ceilings were decorated by Arab craftsmen on the mansion that is
more than three times the size of his present official residence and his
offices at State House.Its scale has raised opposition concerns that if
Mugabe steps down as leader of his ruling Zanu PF, real power will move from
his official government offices to his new residence.

Set on 44 acres of heavily-wooded land, the property is made up of three
separate title deeds. Zimbabwe's taxpayers pick up the tab for protecting
the property. At least four uniformed police officers patrol the perimeter
24 hours a day together with security agents from the CIO. The size of his
house indicates that he feels his presence needs to be symbolised by this
massive outlay of resources for his retirement.

Instead of the proverbial "love thy neighbour" policy, Mugabe has given
notice to homeowners around his mansion that their properties now fall under
a designated security area and will be confiscated by the state.

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Millionaires who can't afford basics

Zim Independent

Shakeman Mugari

AN advert in the classifieds section of the Rhodesia Herald of September 1,
1974 makes interesting but sad reading for those who want to appreciate the
precipitous collapse of the Zimbabwe dollar and the economy as a whole.

The advert reads: "Borrowdale: (Piers-Rd). $3 000 deposit.
Mediterranean-style villa with Spanish flavour in this prestigious area,
with many attractive and unusual features including curved walls and
secluded arched patio. Spacious lounge, separate dining room, study, 4
bedrooms (main with private patio and en suite bathroom) 2nd bathroom.
Garage. A charming and gracious home $32 000."

It is shocking that in 2006, the same amount that could buy a house in
Borrowdale then cannot buy a loaf of bread or a pint of beer. Under
President Robert Mugabe's government things have changed.

In this week's Monday edition of the Herald there is another advert on a
Borrowdale house: "Borrowdale ( Philadelphia) - $12,5 billion. Neat and
solid house offering 4 bedrooms, (main en suite), main bathroom and separate
toilet, lounge, dinning room and fitted kitchen, set on one acre stand with
views, staff quarters, wall and gate, hurry, this property is worth

There are other examples that show how things have changed. Also on the
front page of the 1974 paper is a departmental store advert showing imported
ladies shoes going for $10,75. Inside, another advert shows a 750ml bottle
of cooking oil going for 35c while a 5kg packet of maize meal sold for 33c.
Other products in the advert are a bar of Impala soap (27c), washing powder
(38c) and 750ml detergent (20c).

The same pair of ladies shoes at a departmental store now goes for $8
million while in other shops a bar of soap goes for $150 000 - an amount
that would have bought at least five houses in Borrowdale in 1974.

These examples are emblematic of the rate at which the Zimbabwe dollar has
depreciated over the three decades of government's populist yet ruinous

The loss of value has made Zimbabweans poor millionaires who can't afford
the basics.

It is sad that Zimbabwe is the only country in the world where millionaires
live in abject poverty because their millions are worth nothing in real
value terms. Whereas in other countries a million dollars is a shocking
amount, enough to buy properties in Zimbabwe, here the amount buys groceries
barely enough to fill a paper bag.

It is a vivid illustration of how the Zanu PF government has managed to
vandalise the economy it inherited at Independence from Britain in 1980.

While the amount of money Zimbabweans earn has increased drastically, their
purchasing power has been wiped out. For instance, a bus plying the
Harare-Bulawayo route carries in it about 75 millionaires because the fare
is now about $1,2 million for the 450 km journey. Twenty-six years ago in
1980, the same trip cost $20.

Analysts say it is this collapse of the dollar that shows how government has
dismally failed to maintain the robust economy it inherited from Ian Smith,
although admittedly, that economy served a tiny constituency. Still the
collapse shows that the current crisis is a product of years of economic
pillage that has been going on for the past quarter century under President
Mugabe's rule.

Due to policy blunders and inconsistencies, Zimbabweans have become poorer
than they were during the colonial era despite claims of black economic
empowerment. Other economic researchers say the standard of living in
Zimbabwe has gone down to 1953 levels.

The clearest example of economic collapse is that the $1 000 note - the
country's largest denomination in real currency - is now worth about
US1cent. It cannot buy a sweet.

It's only in Zimbabwe where different currency denominations phase
themselves out of circulation because consumers can't use them. Coins have
been converted into duds by hyperinflation of over 580% that has thrown
small time investors into penury.

Very few Zimbabweans will pick up a $1 000 note on the street.

The $50 000 bearer cheque introduced last week can only buy a loaf of bread.
Analysts say the fall of the Zimbabwe dollar is unprecedented even in
countries at war.

The dollar is now being frowned upon by other countries which until four
years ago were a laughing stock of the region like Zambia.

Economists say the official explanation that the dollar is crumbling because
of sanctions does not hold up to scrutiny.

CFX Financial Services economist Blessing Sakupwanya said the crisis was an
accumulation of 25 years of bad policies and not sanctions.

"Even though the value of the Zimbabwe dollar has nosedived over the past
five years, the reality is that it started struggling as early as the early
1980s," Sakupwanya said.

For its part the government has attempted to exonerate itself, blaming
saboteurs and sanctions for the economic spiral.

Research however shows that the plunge of the dollar started soon after
independence when Zimbabwe was then the darling of the West.

Zanu PF inherited a stable economy that the regime had managed to hold
together even though the country was battered by the liberation war and
United Natio ns sanctions. Although the Rhodesian dollar was not tradable on
the international market it was at least stable.

It might not have been recognised internationally but people used it

How this same value went on a rollercoaster soon after Zanu PF took over is
shocking. Unlike the Rhodesian dollar, the Zimbabwe dollar does not have
local value and can't be traded anywhere else.

At Independence one Zimbabwean dollar was worth more than the US dollar ($
0,68 = USD$1).

By January 1983 the local currency had started weakening to 0,96 while by
January 1997 it was trading at $10,50 against the greenback. Following years
of unbridled spending and printing of paper, the Zimbabwe dollar today
trades at over $120 000 to the greenback on the black market and there are
no signs of an economic turnaround.

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Inflation, PDL and workers' wages

Zim Independent

By Eric Bloch

WHEN the governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Dr Gideon Gono, presented
his monetary policy review statement on January 24, he rightly placed some
very considerable concern upon the upward surge in inflation that has
characterised the last eight months, and he foreshadowed that inflation will
peak next month.

Expectations are that annual inflation in March will be substantially in
excess of 700%, with many anticipating a rate of 800%, or more. Not only did
he express his very great concern at this disastrous about-turn from inroads
into inflation that had been achieved in 2004 and the first few months of
2005, but he also placed very considerable emphasis upon the causes of the
soaring inflation, and upon the measures necessary to reverse the trend.

The governor stated that major factors driving inflation included:

* High money supply growth;

* Decline in foreign exchange earnings;

* Entrenched "parallel market" activities for basic commodities, fuel and
foreign currency;

* Continued adjustment of "administered prices", including housing, water,
electricity, gas and other fuels (which contribute 16,23% to the Consumer
Price Index (CPI) basket);

* The surge in international oil prices, with consequential increases in
local fuel prices (with fuel constituting about 15% of total production

* Wage and salary adjustments ranging from 30 to 150% in 2005, having a
"cost push effect" upon prices;

* The upward revision of Value Added Tax (Vat), in September 2005, from 15
to 17,5%, together with other taxation measures.

Gono said that "in order to burst the inflation bubble . there is need for a
comprehensive, holistic framework that significantly reduces money supply,
align fiscal expenditures to budgeted levels" and enhancement of
"productivity across all sectors of the economy, including our parastatals
and local authorities".

He foreshadowed that during 2006 the Reserve Bank will tighten monetary
conditions, in order to contain money supply growth, but that winning the
anti-inflation battle will also require focus on the other key issues,

* Countering the prominence of food inflation in the CPI basket through
enhanced agriculture productivity, necessitating cessation of farm
invasions, restoration of law and order, finalising land tenure, full
utilisation of "every inch of land", adequate preparations in terms of
tillage and inputs provision, and viable marketing arrangements;

* Strict adherence to budgeted expenditure levels by all line ministries in

* A lasting social contract in prices and incomes policies;

* Avoidance of "unscrupulous and ad hoc price increases that have no
resemblance of production costs"; and

* Urgently unclogging the operational rigidities at the country's key
parastatals and local authorities, so as to enhance their operational

In a recent press interview, the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) had
regard to only one of the key issues.

It scathingly attacked the business world, claiming widespread,
irresponsible price escalations and exploitation of consumer demand in an
environment of product scarcities.

The CCZ does very great and excellent work in its pursuit of consumer
protection, and is deserving of commendation for much of that which it does
and achieves. But its unqualified castigation of commerce and industry is
becoming increasingly and unjustifiably extreme, and going unfairly

Admittedly, there were numerous and massive price increases in January.

But what are manufacturers and retailers to do, when wages and salaries
increase by between 50 and 150%, Tel*One and the independent mobile
telephone networks double their charges, municipal rates and service charges
increase to thrice previous levels, Zimpost hikes its charges by 50 to 100%,
exchange rates in the interbank market rise by more than 10%, and within the
"parallel market" by more than a third, and fuel prices rise by over 50%, to
cite just a few of the very many increases in costs that confront the
victims of the CCZ attacks?

Those enterprises have two choices: being either to increase their prices
(and, unfortunately, such increases must necessarily at present be
substantial and frequent), or to hold their prices and, as a result, become
bankrupt, whereafter their workers become unemployed. The consumer cannot
purchase his needs, at any price, other than at very inflated black market
prices, and the economy as a whole suffers grievously, forcing inflation up
still further.

The CCZ needs to appreciate that, at present, price increases are generally
inevitable, rather than consumer exploitation, and that its unending release
of ire at the business sector is only worsening the very low levels of
business morale, to the prejudice of the economy as a whole, and consumers
in particular.

A like realisation is overdue on the part of Zimbabwe's labour movements.
The magnitude of the stresses facing labour is undoubted and irrefutable.
Not only are incomes far below the basic needs of the workers and their
families, including accommodation, food, utilities, education, transport and
health, before ever bringing to account clothing, furniture, leisure and
entertainment, and much else, but in addition most income-earners now
support not only their immediate families, but also many more.

Zimbabwe 's "extended family" culture is very admirable, but with widespread
unemployment, exacerbated by the inroads of HIV/Aids, malnutrition and
ill-health, the numbers needing support under the extended family system are
becoming ever greater. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), its
politically-driven competitive body, the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions
(ZFTU), and their diverse member unions are understandably very concerned at
the immense hardships which confront their members.

But their endless demands that minimum wages be aligned to the Poverty Datum
Line (PDL) for a family of six are not only unrealistic in the extreme, but
of great prejudice to the members that they are supposed to represent,
protect and assist.

First and foremost, very few employers can afford to pay wages at such
levels. Not only do they not have the necessary working capital to fund such
outlays, for almost all have had their working capital levels decimated by
the hyperinflation of the last five years, but in addition, such wages would
unavoidably drive up their selling prices to unsustainable levels, even more
beyond the means of the consumer than is presently the case.

As a result, sales volumes will unavoidably decline sharply, forcing most of
the businesses into closure, with consequential loss of employment for tens
of thousands, or more, whose suffering and hardships will increase
exponentially. Surely this not what ZCTU and ZFTU want?

Moreover, those bodies, in formulating their PDL-related demands, disregard
the fact that in almost every family of six or more persons, there are
usually at least two income-earners, and not one only, albeit that the
second income-earner will often be within the informal sector, and will earn
less than does the principal income-earner.

If, therefore, wage demands were linked to between 50 and 65% of PDL, there
would be greater credibility to the demands, even though such wage levels
could well be beyond the means of many employers.

At the end of the day, resolution of worker and consumer tribulations lies,
first and foremost with the inflation - containment measures identified by
Gono, and not with endless, usually unfounded, allegations and abuses
against commerce and industry, coupled with unrealistic demands on prices
and wages.

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Nothing like a free lunch

Zim Independent


DR Tafataona Mahoso was this week in celebratory mood about what he
described as a major fallout between the private media and the MDC. In an
article in The Voice, Mahoso claimed the private media always painted a rosy
picture of the opposition party but had since discovered it had been led
down a garden path.

Throughout the six years of the MDC's existence, complained Mahoso, the
independent press was described as "bold, factual, robust, transparent,
thorough and totally impartial" while the state media were labeled "Zanu PF's
band of blind followers". Well put Doctor. That's how different they are.
But it is also important to point out that there was never a pact between
the private media and the opposition MDC not to criticise them.

We refused to buy into facile claims that they planned anthrax attacks on
Zimbabwe or that at some point they plotted to bomb all tall buildings in
urban areas as claimed by the state media. By and large we shared values in
so far as the party was fighting for democracy and the rights of all
Zimbabweans which informed the liberation struggle of this country.

More risible was Mahoso's appeal to readers to "always value and invest" in
the state papers which he alleged "maintained the sanity of the nation when
the MDC and the private press went on a drunken honeymoon for six years".

Assuming that was true of the private press, how long is the state media's
honeymoon with Zanu PF going to last we wonder? A lifetime union perhaps
while allegations of fetid corruption in high circles fly fast and thick
from Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono. What sort of national service is
that? The tag of "band of blind followers" still fits very well.

We were not surprised to read in the Sunday Mail Metro that the Harare
commission plans to impose its $32,5 trillion budget on ratepayers despite
objections. The spokesperson for the council said the finance committee had
decided to "reaffirm" the budget.

Interestingly, the reporter didn't ask if the council knew about Harare
residents' objections or whether they had opted to deliberately ignore these
in violation of the Urban Councils Act. The reporter apparently didn't ask
any questions regarding service delivery. Why not challenge Ignatious Chombo
to prove that his commission is doing better than fired executive mayor
Elias Mudzuri's council?

The reason we were not surprised by the commission's decision to overrule
ratepayers' objections is that it is there for its own sake and at Chombo's
pleasure. It is not accountable to anyone.

What is surprising rather is that we never hear of those Chombo-instigated
"spontaneous" demonstrations by Zanu PF supporters against poor service.
They have since become so patriotic they are prepared to live with raw
sewage, or without water for weeks on end. Potholes have become a permanent
feature of our streets and no one raises a finger.

The Sunday Mail reported this week that the South African power utility
Eskom had disconnected Zesa Holdings under "unclear circumstances". Although
the article was attributed to Dr Mavis Chidzonga, the Zimbabwe Electricity
Regulatory Authority's commissioner-general, it provoked a spirited denial
from Zesa Holdings general manager (corporate communications) James Maridadi
and the managing director of Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission Company,
Edward Rugoyi.

The two officials took out a full page in the Herald on Tuesday "to assure
customers and the general public" that there was no disconnection by Eskom
as maliciously reported by the Sunday Mail.

Zesa Holdings assured everybody who cared to read the full page statement
that their account with Eskom was currently "paid up". "However, due to
recent temporary plant difficulties at one of Eskom's power stations and on
the prevailing demand configuration in South Africa, energy cannot be
dispatched to Zimbabwe," said Zesa Holdings.

A number of questions emerge from this mess. Was Zesa Holdings disconnected
or not? Why would Chidzonga not know the true position? One possibility is
that Chidzonga has been exposed for an ignorant leader while the panicky
reaction from the PR department suggests a clumsy attempt to cover up

Was that explanation worth the cost of over $160 million? On the other hand,
if the Sunday Mail story is a lie, what is the Media and Information
Commission doing about it? Will we ever get to know the true position,
although that won't be much comfort to those who have been "disconnected"
such as the woman pictured on Page 3 of the same edition of the Herald
cooking on firewood?

Vice-president Joice Mujuru had words of advice for the newly-elected
senator for Bindura -Shamva, Betty Chikava. Mujuru warned her to listen to
the people because they are the source of power.

"You are now the house girl for Bindura and Shamva," Mujuru told the
senator. "When one becomes a house girl, she must not forget that she is not
the house owner, but only a servant."

The imagery captures well enough the level at which we are operating. We
wonder what decisions the house girl is able to take while she is acting

There was a depressing story in the media last week in which a New Zealand
philanthropist thought she could save Kenyan children from starvation by
feeding them dog food. It is the most degrading form of philanthropy we have
heard in many years and one that Africa could do without. The Kenyan
authorities rightly rejected it as demeaning.

The insult in Ms Christine Drummond's proposal is not made any less hurtful
by her claim that she adds the dog food to her own meals. That is entirely
her choice.

Having said that, the blame for the children's plight should lie where it
falls: with the responsible authorities in that country. It is the failure
of the government of Kenya that has exposed the children to these racial
insults, just like everywhere else on the continent. Our leaders are very
good at bragging about what they can't do as was equally evident in the
reaction of the Kenyan authorities to Drummond's gift.

One Kenyan MP reportedly retorted when told about the offending offer of dog
food: "Dogs in our area don't feed on powder, they eat fish."

Really? And this is a country that can't feed its children!

Another ignorant Kenyan praised Mugabe for telling off western governments
about the food situation in Zimbabwe. "Kenyan children are human too and I
think Mugabe was right in telling off western countries not to choke
Zimbabweans with food they didn't need," he said.

That's as far as the fable of food plenty goes.

The Wednesday edition of the Chronicle newspaper in Bulawayo reported that
patients at Mpilo central hospital have gone for five days without lunch or
supper because of critical mealie-meal shortage in the city.

A patient who recently gave birth at the hospital said they had been told to
request their relatives to bring them food because the hospital had run out
of mealie-meal.

"We were surprised to be told by nurses at the hospital that there was no
food going to be served. They said there was a serious shortage of
mealie-meal and instructed relatives to bring food for patients admitted in
the wards," said Sinikiwe Bhebhe of Pumula suburb.

Mbongeni Ncube said the failure by the hospital to provide food to patients
was affecting relatives who were being forced to buy more expensive
substitutes such as rice and potatoes.

The "substitutes" are a snide reference to Mugabe who recently told
reporters in New York that there were plenty of potatoes and rice in
Zimbabwe. The trouble, he said, was that Zimbabweans were not used to these
alternatives due to colonial influence which made maize the staple food.

A nurse at Mpilo confirmed to reporters that the hospital had not received
any mealie-meal for three weeks.

For the benefit of the Kenyans who have romantic images of Mugabe as the
latter day Robin Hood, the Chronicle is a government-owned publication, not
a British or American tabloid. And Mugabe has promised the world that no
Zimbabwean will starve. May God bless his word.

We enjoyed reading the rags to riches story of soccer star Benjani
Mwaruwari. Apparently he has embarked on a vehicle buying spree. Now his
parents in Bulawayo have 10 of them.

The Sunday Mail showed Benjani's parents sitting in one of the latest
acquisitions, a Peugeot 206. The father was pictured sitting behind the
wheel, only for us to be surprised at the end of the story when told that he
can't drive. What was the point?

But we think that Zimbabwe could contribute something to the English lexicon
after the goal that Benjani missed at Afcon 2006. The shot that went over
the bar could be called a Benjani. We realised it was a common mistake when
Samuel Eto'o missed a penalty. Then a player who makes a lot of those errors
in a season can be called a Benjanaire. Ardent followers of our own son of
the soil in the diaspora and at home will call themselves the Benjanites.

Still on soccer, there was a different Good Samaritan on the loose in the
team that went to Egypt for Afcon - the issue of businessman Patrick
Mutesva. Why was he treated as a member of the Zifa technical team if he
wasn't? Now it is alleged that he is a mere supporter like every Benjanite.

Most astonishing were the allowances these good-for-nothing fellows were
giving each other. An official on the month-long tour, all expenses paid,
was entitled to US$200 in daily allowances (totaling $600 million), US$9 000
in appearance fees plus "$280 million from the winning bonuses given to the
team for beating Ghana", reported the Herald on Wednesday.

We could not think of a better way to describe this obscenity than President
Mugabe's complaint a few years back about our embassy staff overseas "living
in the sphere of angels".

And Mutesva has the effrontery to tell us that he has in the past helped
Zifa and the national team for free. Now we know the cost of his "free

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A lesson for Mbeki's 'quiet diplomacy'

Zim Independent


SOUTH African President Thabo Mbeki all but washed his hands of Zimbabwe at
the weekend when he said he was now simply watching the political and
economic crisis
unfold after his mediation efforts failed.

Mbeki was quoted in the media as saying he thought he was close to a
breakthrough in Zimbabwe after prodding the ruling Zanu PF and the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change to draw up a draft constitution as
part of a negotiated political settlement.

Mbeki's remarks come at a time when Zimbabwe's long-running crisis is
worsening. The International Monetary Fund, fresh from a visit to Harare to
assess the economic situation, said Zimbabwe now risks plunging into a
meltdown unless it adopts a "comprehensive policy package comprising several
mutually reinforcing actions".

Central bank governor Gideon Gono said as much two weeks ago when he
projected inflation to escalate to a record 800% next month. IMF economist
Sonia Munoz said Zimbabwe was going through a period of "suppressed"
inflation either due to a structural break, an aberration
in the market or an error of measurement in the consumer price index.

It's interesting to note that Zimbabwe is not only politically repressive
but also uses the state apparatus to suppress inconvenient economic data.

Official inflation is around 586%. The exchange rate is at US$1: $160 000,
interest rates are 540% in negative territory and other economic indicators
are equally bad.

The economy shrank by 3,5% last year after contracting by 4% in 2004 and
10,5% in 2003. The budget deficit is 8,6% while public domestic debt is $15
trillion. The external debt is about US$5 billion.

Against this background, it is clear Mbeki would not have been a decisive
factor in Zimbabwe. The collapsing economy and the Zanu PF succession
struggle - which are also likely to be President Robert Mugabe's Waterloo -
will decide the future.

Mbeki said his government believed a new constitution agreed by Mugabe and
the MDC should have paved the way for a resolution of the crisis. The
Zimbabwe Independent was the first to report on the secret talks between
Zanu PF and the MDC in 2003 amid a chorus of denials.

Mbeki has said before that the problem was Mugabe would not listen. He said
he would agree to do something and then go on to default or do the exact

But by suggesting he had pinned his hopes on a draft constitution and the
attendant political process, it's either Mbeki was being Machiavellian or
simply naïve. Did he seriously believe Mugabe was ready to be legislated out
of power? Those involved in the constitutional initiative say it had about
80% content from the government-sponsored draft rejected by voters in 2000
and 20% from the National Constitutional Assembly draft.

Zanu PF insiders say Mugabe only agreed to Mbeki's initiative to buy time
and not to secure a resolution of Zimbabwe's crisis. Mugabe's principal
negotiators have said their mandate was to ensure the talks failed.

The Zimbabwean question was widely seen as a litmus test for Mbeki and other
African leaders. It was also seen by many as a test case for Nepad and Mbeki's
African Renaissance project. The collapse of Mbeki's "quiet diplomacy" on
Zimbabwe has left Nepad and the African Renaissance dream in tatters.

Although the renaissance of the continent cannot depend on events in
Zimbabwe alone, Africa's failure to deal with the crisis has shown its
leaders are either unable or unwilling to tackle problems in their own
backyard which have a huge bearing on Nepad and other programmes for
political and socio-economic renewal. The collapse of "quiet diplomacy" will
also be part of Mbeki's legacy in regional politics.

On a balance sheet therefore, his policy was a failure insofar as it did not
change the situation in Zimbabwe.

Whether or not Zimbabwe would be worse off without his intervention, as some
would like to claim, is neither here nor there because the point is it did
not resolve the situation but left it far worse than it was in 2000 when he
started dabbling in the Zimbabwean issue.

But in the end Mbeki's failure stemmed largely from his inability to realise
that in international politics, diplomacy without the backing of credible
and deliverable capabilities does not work.

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