|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
Helping Rural Folks To Preserve Environment And Shed Poverty
By Rosyatimah Tukimin
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 19 (Bernama) -- "They have finally found light at the end of the tunnel" was how Gladman Chibememe described the youths of his village who did not have to leave their homes to seek employment elsewhere.
The 28-year-old head of a community programme in his village Chibememe in Zimbabwe's southeast lowveld said hordes of his young neighbours used to leave for neighbouring countries to find jobs to escape the grinding poverty.
Launched and funded by several world and United Nations bodies, the programme called Chibememe Earth Healing Association or CHIEHA allowed the young people to work on their land and earn a better livelihood.
"CHIEHA's activities have encouraged many to stay as the youths have now realised that our drought-prone village can provide sustainable livelihoods and a good life too," said Chibememe.
He said people in his village of 17 households with 102 people used to depend on subsistence agriculture but today, they had changed their traditional farming into income-generating work.
"From planting crops just enough for their families, the villagers have now cultivated drought-tolerant crops through inter-cropping method which not only guarantees the community's food security but yielding a steady income through the sales of the crops and homemade products," said the Zimbabwean, who is here as a participant at the on-going Seventh Meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP-7).
The CHIEHA project is among 26 finalists selected for an award Thursday (Feb 19) under the "Community Kampung" programme of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) aimed at grassroot development as a means to help the rural poor to break free from the shackles of poverty.
Called the "Equator Initiative", it was launched in 1992 by the Nature Conservancy in partnerships with several parties including the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and UN agencies.
Today, the initiative has become a worldwide movement to reduce poverty and sustain biodiversity in the equatorial belt by identifying and supporting innovative local initiatives led by community-based organisations to uplift the living standard of their compatriots.
In conjunction with COP-7, the 26 projects shortlisted would be judged for the award, though each and every one of them is a success story by itself.
The movement's manager, Sean Southey, said the programme seeks to dramatically ramp up the number of success stories through the Equator Prize, direct grants, community-to-community learning, public awareness, advocacy and policy work.
Nearly 400 nominations from 66 nations were received for this year's Equator Prize, he said, adding that only six winners would be awarded US$30,000 at a ceremony on Thursday.
Southey said the "Community Kampung" pavillion at Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) provided an avenue for community representatives from Asia, Africa and Latin America to network among themselves and share experiences with government delegates as well as representatives from NGOs and international organisations.
CHIEHA, for instance, formed in 1998 to promote environmental and cultural awareness and sustainable utilisation of resources, had turned the villagers into businessmen, thus enabling them to lead meaningful lives.
"Involvement of the youths has been very encouraging, particularly in the ethno and eco-tourism sectors," said Chibememe, whose family heads the village community.
He said the forests of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (GLTP) which joined three nations' national parks -- the Limpopo National Park of Mozambique, the Kruger National Park of South Africa and Gonarezhou National Park of Zimbabwe -- served as an inspiration for CHIEHA's wide-ranging efforts to promote sustainable livelihood and the conservation of the local biodiversity.
Chibememe's colleague, Lucia Sithole, said that the villagers also shared their knowledge and expertise with other communities living in the adjoining communal lands.
"Today, some 50,000 people are enjoying the benefits our projects," said Lucia, adding that CHIEHA had thus far received the support of the country's leadership, the UNDP/Global Environmental Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP), and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), to name a few.
SABAH'S COMMUNITY-BASED PROJECT
In Sabah, a similar community-based project introduced to Orang Sungai community in Batu Puteh Village in the lower Kinabatangan River had also brought changes in the traditional lifestyle of this indigenous community.
Many of the village youths no longer seek employment in towns or cities like before, while those previously involved in illegal logging are now earning income legally through other economic activities organised by the village's non-governmental group (NGO) called the Model Ecologically Sustainable Community Tourism Project or MESCOT.
"MESCOT focused specifically on training village youths in planning and related business skills and at the same providing a chance for the villagers to earn an income from sideline household activities," said Mohd Hasim Abd Hamid, MESCOT's coordinator.
He said MESCOT was created in his village as a solution to the loss of access to traditional resources resulting from the creation of Sabah's Supu Forest Reserve and Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary. Batu Puteh Village is about two hours by road from Sandakan and one hour from Lahad Datu.
Under the programme, they operated a series of successful eco-tourism ventures including a homestay programme, boat and guide service, and handicraft cottage industries. The group's efforts had also restored over 50 hectares of forest in important freshwater swamps with support of the private sector.
GETTING FOREIGN AID
"A lot of research and thorough planning were carried out before MESCOT's activities were implemented," he said.
Hasim said through the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)'s office in Malaysia, the group managed to secure funds in 1997 from the Norwegian Government, which sent a coordinator-cum-consultant to assist the villagers in monitoring work and training them in capacity building.
MESCOT invited unemployed youths to join in as volunteers as it began looking into a number of development and business plans.
"We wanted to venture into activities that require less capital but having good returns. As our village was surrounded by protected areas, we carried out two years of extensive research, concentrating on what was available in the surrounding areas.
"The volunteers were also trained to use computers, learn the English language, all aspects of the medicinal benefits from herbs found in our forest, the traditional culture and customs in depth and get first-hand experience in tourism work at tourist sites throughout Sabah," he said.
MISO WALAI HOMESTAY
He said the homestay programme called "Miso Walai", meaning "together as one house" in the Orang Sungai lingo, was started in June 2000 with the help of the Ministry of Tourism Development, Environment, Science and Technology.
Under the homestay programme, the visitors get to experience Sabah's rural lifestyle by joining in the daily activities, be it planting padi in the field, fishing or gathering edible plants from the forest. They can also opt to go on jungle treks, boat rides or be involved in community and conservation activities, said Hasim.
Response to the programme has been encouraging, he added, saying that a total of 1,000 beds were created in the first year of operation with tourists coming mainly from Europe and Australia. That maiden year, they made RM70,000 which were distributed among the villagers, while the youths who were volunteers were then paid for their jobs.
Last year, they earned RM115,000 and won an award from the Sabah state government under its rural development programme.
To ensure that MESCOT's venture remains sustainable, Hasim said they had set up a cooperative called Koperasi Pelancongan Mukim Batu Puteh Bhd (KOPEL), where villagers could use the funds for the rainy days.
OTHER AWARD NOMINEES
Each of the 26 nominees is itself a success story of how the rural poor had been "empowered" to break free from the vicious cycle of poverty while preserving their environment.
India's GREEN Foundation, for example, had harnessed traditional knowledge to create innovative seed and gene banks involving a network of women farmers, while Colombia's Quidbo had a network of 85 women producing organic medicine and culinary herbs to be sold even in larger supermarket chains.
Like Southey said, all this rural communities need is a little help and understanding for them to manage their own change and development.
February 19 2004 at 12:18PM
Harare - President Robert Mugabe will call parliamentary elections in March
next year, three months earlier than required under electoral law, state radio
reported on Thursday.
He did not specify a date for the five-yearly polls, which must be held before the end of June 2005.
Mugabe, who turns 80 on Saturday, was quoted as saying he has no plans to retire from political life. He said opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai "will never defeat him in parliamentary elections," radio reported.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change holds 54 of Parliament's 120 elected seats. Mugabe appoints 30 other lawmakers, giving him a sweeping majority he has used to pass repressive security and media legislation.
|'The empowerment of the majority of Zimbabweans'|
February 19 2004 at 04:06AM
|By Graeme Hosken|
The four people who burnt to death in the horrific accident on the N1 outside
Hammanskraal have been identified.
The dead, whom police have declined to name until their families have formally identified them, were travelling from Zimbabwe to Johannesburg when their Jeep Cherokee smashed into a bridge pillar, bursting into flames on impact.
It is thought that the 29-year-old driver, who might have been from Zambia as the vehicle had a Zambian registration number plate, fell asleep at the wheel.
Highway patrol members tried to rescue those inside the vehicle as they screamed for help but the heat of the flames made it too hot, rescuers said shortly after the fire was extinguished.
|Those inside the vehicle screamed for help|
POSB to commercialiseTHE commercialisation of the People’s Own Savings Bank starts at a ceremony in Harare next week.
The independent Daily News has again been closed
Zimbabwe's Supreme Court today postponed to next month a key case challenging
tough new media laws which have been used to close a pro-opposition private
daily newspaper. Lawyers for the newspaper, Daily News, and the
government's media commission said the case had been postponed to March 3 to
give both parties time to file papers required by the court.
The Daily News, a frequent critic of president Robert Mugabe, is challenging laws compelling media houses to register with the commission, a requirement condemned by Zimbabwean and international rights groups as an attack on press freedom. In turn, the commission is challenging a lower court ruling which required it grant the newspaper a licence. The two cases have been consolidated before the Supreme Court.
The Daily News, Zimbabwe's largest private daily, has been closed for much of the past five months while its legal status is before the courts. Mugabe's government insists the 2002 laws are necessary to restore professionalism in journalism, and accuses the private media of leading a propaganda campaign by opponents over the seizure of white owned farms for landless blacks. - Reuters
BULAWAYO, 18 Feb 2004 (IRIN) - As Zimbabwe emerges from a three
week period of relative currency stability characterised by a drop in the prices
most goods, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has warned that official inflation will rise to 700 percent in March this year before falling steadily for the rest of the year.
Addressing a business seminar in the capital Harare late last week, RBZ governor Gideon Gono said projections by the central bank showed that inflation would rise from the current 622.8 per cent to peak at 700 per cent in March. Thereafter it would sink, until reaching a low of 200 percent in December.
According to figures released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) last week, inflation rose by 13.7 percent in January, reversing a 21 percent drop in December, the first decline in the country's rocketing cost of living in 18 months.
Eric Bloch, an economist who sits on the advisory board of the RBZ, said he believed inflation would continue its steady rise well over the 700 percent mark until July, before progressively falling as a result of the government's new monetary policy to settle at around 400 percent by the end of the year.
This week fuel prices rose and queues returned outside filing stations in major cities, although some analysts dismissed fears that the lines signalled the beginning of yet another round of fuel shortages.
Bloch said he believed this week's fuel shortage was a temporary situation caused "mainly by the greed of service station owners" who expected a rise in importation costs in line with a fall in the value of the Zimbabwe dollar in the latest foreign currency auction.
"But the government thwarted that by reducing import duties from 40 percent to 5 percent," said Bloch.
Foreign currency auction rates rose from Zim $3,750 to the US dollar by the end of last week to Zim $3,973. Most service stations increased their prices from an average of Zim $2,500 to Zim $2,600 per litre of petrol last week, to Zim $2,900 to Zim $3,000 on Monday.
Meanwhile, in a bid to bolster its foreign currency reserves, the RBZ has announced ambitious plans to tap the remittances of an estimated 3.4 million Zimbabweans living abroad in Europe, North America and Southern Africa.
A team set up by Gono is set to tour key countries to encourage Zimbabweans to repatriate money home through official channels at competitive rates. The RBZ reportedly plans to increase its exchange rates to closer to the black market price currently averaging between Zim $4,000 and Zim $5,000 to US $1.
THE government and opposition in Zimbabwe said today they would only react to
the renewal of European Union sanctions against the leadership of the southern
African country when the measures are officially announced.
Foreign ministry spokesman Pavelyn Musaka said a reaction today would "pre-empt" the formal announcement expected tomorrow.
Opposition spokesman Paul Temba Nyathi of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said: "We are aware of the rumour in the rumour mill but we will only react when the sanctions are officially announced tomorrow."
MDC vice president Gibson Sibanda last month travelled to Europe to lobby for the sanctions to be maintained. Led by Britain, the former colonial power in Zimbabwe, ambassadors from the 15 EU member states today agreed to adopt an extended list of 95 Zimbabwean officials - including President Robert Mugabe - who are banned from entering EU countries.
They have also agreed to renew an embargo on supplies of arms and military equipment to Harare, a diplomat from the EU's Irish presidency said.
Harare - Prominent Zimbabwean businesswoman and womens' activist Jane Mutasa
and her son Terence have been detained on suspicion of corruption, the latest
casualties in President Robert Mugabe's anti-graft blitz.
The state-owned Herald said on Thursday that Mutasa, a director in Telecel, Zimbabwe's third largest cellular company, together with her son, were charged with breaching the Exchange Control Act and externalising foreign currency worth more than three billion Zimbabwean dollars (about R2,5-million).
They appeared before a local magistrate's court on Wednesday and were detained under Mugabe's new anti-graft regulations which allow for detention of up to 30 days without trial.
Another businessman and a member of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF), James Makamba, is facing similar charges of externalising billions of dollars in both local and foreign currency.
|'The time has come for us to deal with the scourge and no stone will be left unturned'|
From The Mail & Guardian (SA), 18 February
Crucial Zimbabwe media hearing delayed
Harare - Court cases expected to determine the future of Zimbabwe's popular anti-government newspaper the Daily News were postponed on Wednesday to next month, lawyers said. "It has been postponed to March 3, by agreement ... when everything will be finalised," Daily News lawyer Mordecai Mahlangu said after the Supreme Court failed to sit as scheduled. Johannes Tomana, a lawyer representing the government, said the postponement was "purely administrative". The Daily News and the government have lodged several legal cases -- with the former seeking to resume operations and the latter wanting the paper permanently banned. The two-week delay means the status of the paper will remain uncertain following its closure last September and short-lived reopening last month. It was closed down by armed police in September last year but resumed publishing on January 22 following a High Court order that forced police to vacate its premises and stop interfering with its operations.
Lawyers for the paper, launched about five years ago, have been shuttling between the country's various courts since then. The September closure was sparked by a Supreme Court ruling that declared the paper was operating illegally because it was not registered with the state-appointed media commission. The media laws have been contested by the independent and foreign media in Zimbabwe, but on February 5 the Supreme Court upheld parts of it as constitutional. The court ruled that it was a criminal offence for any journalist to operate without accreditation from the government-appointed body. Fearing arrest, Daily News journalists refused to continue working for the paper without accreditation and on February 6, the paper vanished from the streets. Since then the journalists have been idling around at their offices, with some staying at home. Some have reportedly quit the paper and sought employment abroad.
The journalists' hopes were dashed on Tuesday when a High Court judge refused to consider an application seeking clarification on what rights they have to continue operating pending the outcome of their application for accreditation. They had wanted the court to urgently declare that they can continue operating based on the law that allows a journalist who has submitted an accreditation application to work awaiting the processing of the application. But Judge Alphas Chitakunye told the paper to follow normal court channels, arguing there was nothing urgent about it. The judge said the paper had thought it was special by refusing to register when the law came into effect in 2002. "Surely that was a gamble they took ...that gamble was not in their interest," the judge said.
From Business Day (SA), 19 February
Zimbabwe's fuel shortages resurface
Harare - Fuel shortages have resurfaced in Zimbabwe just days after the government introduced a new duty system based on a higher foreign exchange rate, officials said. The majority of petrol outlets suddenly ran dry early this week, catching motorists unaware. The government said duty on imported products, including petroleum-based fuels, would be increased in line with the new foreign exchange rates. "There was a mix-up at the weekend when government decided to use the (new exchange) rate to calculate duty. "This would have meant duty would go up by 450% or 500%," Petroleum Marketers Association of Zimbabwe, Masimba Kambarami, told AFP. But on Tuesday government announced a massive reduction of import duty on all fuels to between zero and five percent from 40% in a bid to maintain fuel prices at prevailing levels. Kambarami, however said the crisis would be temporary arising from the weekend "hiccup". "It will take a bit of time to turn things around," he said. The increase in import duty was not announced in advance, so many fuel importers were not prepared when they arrived at the border at the weekend. Zimbabwe imports its petroleum-based oils mainly from South Africa. "Fuel importers only realised this at the border at the weekend and they did not have lines of credit to pay the new duty," said Kambarami. Zimbabwe has experienced serious fuel shortages since 1999 initially largely blamed on corruption and incompetence at the state-owned oil company and later attributed to a scarcity of foreign exchange. From around Christmas time last year the fuel supplies had improved after government de-regulated the fuel industry and allowed private importers to take part in the trade.
From IRIN (UN), 18 February
Inflation set to rise to 700 percent
Bulawayo - As Zimbabwe emerges from a three week period of relative currency stability characterised by a drop in the prices of most goods, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has warned that official inflation will rise to 700 percent in March this year before falling steadily for the rest of the year. Addressing a business seminar in the capital Harare late last week, RBZ governor Gideon Gono said projections by the central bank showed that inflation would rise from the current 622.8 per cent to peak at 700 per cent in March. Thereafter it would sink, until reaching a low of 200 percent in December. According to figures released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) last week, inflation rose by 13.7 percent in January, reversing a 21 percent drop in December, the first decline in the country's rocketing cost of living in 18 months. Eric Bloch, an economist who sits on the advisory board of the RBZ, said he believed inflation would continue its steady rise well over the 700 percent mark until July, before progressively falling as a result of the government's new monetary policy to settle at around 400 percent by the end of the year.
This week fuel prices rose and queues returned outside filing stations in major cities, although some analysts dismissed fears that the lines signalled the beginning of yet another round of fuel shortages. Bloch said he believed this week's fuel shortage was a temporary situation caused "mainly by the greed of service station owners" who expected a rise in importation costs in line with a fall in the value of the Zimbabwe dollar in the latest foreign currency auction. "But the government thwarted that by reducing import duties from 40 percent to 5 percent," said Bloch. Foreign currency auction rates rose from Z$3,750 to the US dollar by the end of last week to Z$3,973. Most service stations increased their prices from an average of Z$2,500 to Z$2,600 per litre of petrol last week, to Z$2,900 to Z$3,000 on Monday. Meanwhile, in a bid to bolster its foreign currency reserves, the RBZ has announced ambitious plans to tap the remittances of an estimated 3.4 million Zimbabweans living abroad in Europe, North America and Southern Africa. A team set up by Gono is set to tour key countries to encourage Zimbabweans to repatriate money home through official channels at competitive rates. The RBZ reportedly plans to increase its exchange rates to closer to the black market price currently averaging between Z$4,000 and Z$5,000 to US$.
From AFP, 18 February
No reaction to Zimbabwe sanctions
From correspondents in Harare
The government and opposition in Zimbabwe said today they would only react to the renewal of European Union sanctions against the leadership of the southern African country when the measures are officially announced. Foreign ministry spokesman Pavelyn Musaka said a reaction today would "pre-empt" the formal announcement expected tomorrow. Opposition spokesman Paul Temba Nyathi of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said: "We are aware of the rumour in the rumour mill but we will only react when the sanctions are officially announced tomorrow." MDC vice president Gibson Sibanda last month travelled to Europe to lobby for the sanctions to be maintained. Led by Britain, the former colonial power in Zimbabwe, ambassadors from the 15 EU member states today agreed to adopt an extended list of 95 Zimbabwean officials - including President Robert Mugabe - who are banned from entering EU countries. They have also agreed to renew an embargo on supplies of arms and military equipment to Harare, a diplomat from the EU's Irish presidency said. The decision is expected to be formally adopted without debate by EU interior and justice ministers tomorrow.
From The Financial Gazette, 19 February
Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act an insult to justice: experts
Legal experts and commentators have piled condemnation on the amendment to the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, saying it violated fundamental individual freedoms in what amounted to an insult to justice. They bemoaned that the measures were taking the country backward in terms of law development and reversing fundamental laws of justice such as the right to innocence until proven guilty. Under the new regulations, the onus has been reversed dramatically, with any individual accused of offences specified in the new measures now being held to be guilty until proven innocent. In other words, critics of the new measures said, the state no longer holds the burden to prove that an accused person is guilty because mere suspicion that an individual had committed an offence now amounted to a conviction. John Makumbe, a political science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe and chairman of Transparency International Zimbabwe, said the new regulations "totally negate the whole fight against corruption". The new regulations, he said, were likely to erode public confidence in a cause that was noble had it been conducted in a manner that upheld human rights. "It's a bad law," said Makumbe. "It's seeking to do the right thing - fighting corruption; but it's violating human rights."
The amendments, brought into being as a sweeping measure by the government to fight graft, widely blamed for the increasing economic woes afflicting the country, were effected through a statutory instrument under section 32 of the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Amendment of Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act) Regulations 2004. Under the new measures, individuals charged with corruption, money laundering and externalisation of foreign currency may be detained for an effective one month without applying for bail, rather than the 48-hour period stipulated by law. Unauthorised dealers of grain, gold and other precious minerals have also been affected by the new measures. A judge or magistrate cannot decline a police request for further detention of a person charged with the specified offences.
David Coltart, a legal practitioner and opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) secretary for legal and parliamentary affairs, said the amendment was a brazen attempt by President Mugabe's government to circumvent fundamental rights enshrined in the country's constitution. "The amendment of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act Regulations of 2004 contravenes section 13 and 18 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe in that it removes a person's rights to have a question of his liberty determined by an independent court in a fair hearing within a reasonable time," said Coltart. Coltart likened the new measures to draconian pieces of legislation used by the Ian Smith regime to deny people of their liberties. "The MDC has argued in Parliament that much stronger legislation to tackle corruption is necessary. In particular, we believe the country needs legislation similar to the Hong Kong Bribery Ordinance which forces people in public office to explain why their standards of living may exceed their income. In Zimbabwe, we have become accustomed to Members of Parliament, Cabinet ministers and soldiers who have become multi-millionaires and now have assets which are far more than the incomes they have received over the years," said Coltart.
A prominent Zanu PF member, James Makamba, has already been caught up in the puzzling legal plot unravelled by the latest measures. Makamba, a prominent businessman charged with externalising foreign currency, among other offences, was denied bail by the High Court on Monday after Judge Antonia Guvava dismissed his urgent chamber application on the basis of the new measures, which came into effect on Friday. "The provisions of the regulations clearly state that no court shall admit a person to bail who has been placed in detention in terms of the provisions of the Act," Guvava said. But she made a veiled condemnation of the measures, saying they were unique in that the President had claimed powers of law making, ordinarily vested in the legislature. There have been suggestions that the government avoided taking the amendment through parliament because it risked being condemned by legislators both within the ruling party and in the opposition party. After one of its members Philip Chayangwa - had already had a brush with the law in the government's current drive against corruption, there was no way Zanu PF legislators were going to approve the Bill to amend the law in that manner. As a result, President Robert Mugabe, who has vowed to punish any individuals engaged in corrupt activities, invoked his power especially reserved for emergency situations to promulgate the amendments.
From The Exeter Express & Echo (UK), 18 February
Jail threat fear
A former Exeter solicitor fears he could face a renewed threat of being jailed in Zimbabwe. City friends of Graham Shaw had been overjoyed when the summons for him and the rest of the 'Bulawayo 10' to appear in court was dropped after they faced prosecution for demonstrating against the regime in Zimbabwe. Mr Shaw faced being jailed for up to 10 years by President Robert Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe - on charges of praying in public. But now one of the protesters has been called back to court with a fresh summons and Mr Shaw said the others were being threatened with the possibility of new charges. In recent years, Zimbabwe has attracted international attention because of its economic crisis and allegations of human rights abuses by the ruling regime. There is also renewed controversy about whether England's cricket team should visit the country on tour. Mr Shaw, who is in his 50s, is a former member of the Mint Methodist Church in Exeter and is now a Methodist minister in Zimbabwe. He and other church leaders were arrested in 2002 while praying outside Bulawayo police station, where a priest was being detained for taking part in a religious event. The state prosecutor has been deciding whether to proceed with a trial against Mr Shaw and his friends, who have become known as the Bulawayo 10. They were being prosecuted under the Public Order and Security Act, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years' imprisonment. Mr Shaw said: "The case against the Bulawayo 10 is still pending. The previous summons was thrown out by the magistrates' court as defective, but prosecution service has just recently issued a fresh summons against one of our number. The case is due to be heard on April 29. "The prosecution talks vaguely about changing the charges against the others involved, but who knows what they will really do?" Mr Shaw added that he was delighted the England cricket team was considering whether to boycott their winter tour to Zimbabwe. The England and Wales Cricket Board is currently deciding whether to cancel the tour on moral grounds.
From The Financial Gazette, 19 February
MDC's Sibanda walks out of court a free man
Bulawayo - Gibson Sibanda, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) vice-president, this week walked out of the regional magistrates' courts a free man after the state withdrew charges against the former trade unionist and his colleagues who were facing charges of attempting to overthrow the government. The charges against Sibanda, Milton Gwetu, the MDC legislator for Mpopoma and other top executives of the main opposition party in Matabeleland were withdrawn before plea on Tuesday. Other top MDC members discharged with Sibanda and Gwetu over the case included Getrude Mthombeni, a national executive member, and Abraham Mdlongwa, the MDC provincial chairperson for Bulawayo. Sibanda and his colleagues were being charged with violating section 5 of the draconian Public Order and Security Act (POSA) by calling and organising last year's mass action. The state had alleged that Sibanda and the MDC executives had on March 1 2003, held a meeting in the party's provincial offices in Bulawayo for the purposes of forming "mass action teams" to allegedly mobilise people to force President Robert Mugabe out of power through crippling demonstrations. Sibanda, the state alleged, further instructed leaders of the "action teams" at the meeting to barricade city roads and force "innocent" members of the public to demonstrate. Judiciary sources said the Attorney-General's Office directed that the charges be withdrawn due to lack of evidence to prosecute. Sibanda, represented by Josphat Tshuma, a lawyer with Webb, Low and Barry, confirmed the withdrawal of the charges. His lawyers also confirmed that the state had withdrawn the charges before plea. Sibanda's lawyers were adamant the state had no case. "The state had no case, there was nothing. It was a sheer waste of time and money. My arrest and that of our other members in the case goes to show the high-handedness of our police. The prosecution could not pin anything on us," said an elated Sibanda. He said it had taken the state almost a year to recognise the folly of trying to pin trumped-up charges against MDC leaders