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

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Beyond Belief
From The Cape Times (SA) (01-02-2002)
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Zimbabwe Mirror
Zimbabwe crisis affects SADC economy-ICG
Caiphas Chimhete
THE economies of the 14-member Southern African Development Community trading bloc have lost over US$36 billion in potential investment because of the political crisis in Zimbabwe.
Quoting a report by the American Chamber of Commerce, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) said the socio-political and economic upheavals in Zimbabwe had serious repercussions for the whole southern African region.
South Africa, the region’s biggest economy, was the most seriously affected, losing US$3 billion in potential investment. “South Africa risks serious structural damage to its economy if it does not take urgent action to prevent further collapse in Zimbabwe. “The impact of the deteriorating situation in its neighbour to the north has been particularly noticeable in the falling rand,” says ICG.
The ICG, a multi-national organisation committed to preventing conflict globally, said while other factors come into play, the situation in Zimbabwe principally contributed to the recent fall of the South African rand.
The rand sank by 25 percent during 2000, 30 percent after January 2001, and then a further 4,5 percent in the first week of December 2001. Contacted for comment on the perception that Zimbabwe’s problems were exacerbating those of the region, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development said it had no capacity to quantify the losses, if there were any, and referred all questions to the SADC secretariat in Botswana. “We have no capacity to monitor such things. Ask the SADC secretariat, since it represents all the countries in the region,” said an official who refused to identify himself.
The official said he was speaking on behalf of the finance secretary, Nicholas Ncube, who was said to be on leave.
Three weeks ago, another government spokesman denied that the economic slump in South Africa was a result of the political situation in Zimbabwe. He attributed the decline of the rand to a general global economic recession also affecting countries such as Japan and the United States.
SADC secretariat information officer, Petronella Ndebele, said she could not comment as she had not seen the ICG document that alleges potential investment loss due to Zimbabwe’s political problems.
Independent analysts say the “revelations” by the ICG are a ploy by western countries to put pressure on southern African countries to take a firmer stance against the Harare government.
But the ICG insists that the spongy stance by South Africa on Zimbabwe is the cause of its economic woes.
“For example, following the murder of two white farmers (in Zimbabwe), the bond market in South Africa suffered a record one-day outflow of R1,8 billion, and the rand lost value.
“When Deputy President Jacob Zuma appeared to endorse Mugabe’s land grab in October 2000, the rand fell again, as it did when opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was arrested in December 2001,” said the organisation. Recently, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of South Africa, Tito Mboweni, publicly condemned the situation in Zimbabwe, saying it had a negative effect on investor confidence in South Africa.
The condition of South Africa’s parastatals also has been affected. The ICG noted that Zimbabwe had, on several occasions, defaulted on debt payments to both that country’s state power utility, Eskom, and Sasol, the fuel corporation. It said both companies have had to absorb the losses as they allegedly had been instructed by the South African government to continue the exports.
However, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development this week insisted that Zimbabwe was now up-to-date with the payment of its debts to the South African parastatals.
Zimbabwe, southern Africa’s second most diversified economy, has seen its exports plunging and witnessed a general economic collapse in the past few years.
The country’s negative growth rate, estimated at 4,2 percent for 2000, the last year for which statistics are available, is said to have “greatly affected average gross domestic product (GDP) of the sub-region”. This decline is evident in Zimbabwe’s trade figures, which show an overall decline from 1999 to 2000 of 6,4 percent. The loss in the vital food sector was 4,5 percent from 1999 to 2000, and a dramatic 61 percent down on a decade earlier.
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Ananova :   
Zimbabwe passes sweeping media curb laws
Zimbabwe has passed new laws imposing sweeping curbs of the media ahead of presidential elections in March.
The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Bill was passed without a vote in the 150-seat Harare Parliament. The parliament has been adjourned to May 26.
The bill is part of a series of government measures intended to stifle dissent ahead of presidential elections scheduled for March 9-10.
President Robert Mugabe, 77, is fighting for political survival after holding power since independence in 1980.
He is being challenged by Morgan Tsvangirai, 49, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, whose party narrowly lost parliamentary elections last year.
The legislation gives the government and the information minister broad powers to license journalists, register media organisations under strict terms laid down by the state and impose severe penalties for infringements.
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Friday, 1 February, 2002, 03:08 GMT
Fury at Zimbabwe media curbs
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe
Mugabe appears undeterred by international pressure
Britain and the United States have strongly condemned a bill passed by Zimbabwe's parliament that is expected to restrict media coverage of presidential elections in March.

I wholly condemn the passage of these press laws

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he found it almost impossible to believe that free and fair elections could now be held in the country.

After talks with US Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington he said the European Union would have to take that into account when it decided whether or not to trigger sanctions that had already been agreed in principle.

The controversial media law, which limits the freedoms of independent and foreign journalists, was passed on Thursday after being altered slightly to take account of criticism from within President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party.

It is obvious the government is determined to run a closed shop

Morgan Tsvangirai
Mr Powell said the United States was co-ordinating with Britain and others about what to do next.

On Wednesday, Commonwealth foreign ministers called for an end to violence and intimidation in the country in the run-up to elections, but refused to back a UK call for Zimbabwe to be suspended from the body.

'Desperate regime'

Critics describe the bill as a key part of President Mugabe's drive to silence opposition to his bid for re-election on 9-10 March.

Newspaper billboards
Mr Mugabe already has tight control over much of the media
Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), told the BBC that the law was "the sign of a desperate regime trying to muzzle the press".

The European Union has threatened to impose sanctions if its observers are not allowed into the country by the weekend.

But Mr Tsvangirai doubted that the presence of observers would make any difference to the outcome anyway.

"It's now up to the people of Zimbabwe to see what it can salvage from this situation," he said.


Under the controversial proposals, foreign journalists would not be allowed to be based in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe parliament
The bill faced criticism from within Mr Mugabe's own party
Reports deemed to cause alarm and despondency would be forbidden.

But in a concession to opponents of the bill, media organisations which are already registered in Zimbabwe would not have to apply for new licences as stated in previous drafts.

The new version also differs in allowing foreigners to take non-controlling stakes in Zimbabwean media organisations.

The government had originally wanted to pass the bill last year and debate has been delayed on several occasions following criticism from journalists, the international community and southern African leaders.

Journalists had earlier warned that they would ask the Supreme Court to declare it unconstitutional as soon as it is passed.

Election fever

The bill was passed as the contest for presidential elections in Zimbabwe officially began - with President Robert Mugabe and his main challenger, Morgan Tsvangirai, filing their nomination papers.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai believes he will win if polling is fair
The poll in five week's time is expected to be the most fiercely fought since the country's independence in 1980.

Human rights groups are reporting a sharp increase in political violence in recent weeks.

The 77-year-old head of state is expected to hold his first two campaign rallies on Friday.

The Movement for Democratic Change leader said, when filing his papers at the court, that intimidation was still widespread across the country.

He said opposition officials were told they would be arrested if any slogans were chanted or party posters displayed at a rally scheduled on Sunday in Mutare in eastern Zimbabwe.

"This is not in the spirit of maintaining law and order and a spirit of free campaigning," he said.

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Britain, U.S. condemn Zimbabwe media law  
WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 — Britain and the United States condemned the tough media bill passed by Zimbabwe's parliament on Thursday and Britain said it should count in a decision on whether the European Union imposes sanctions. 
 The revised bill is the last of a series of bills that critics say will suppress criticism of President Robert Mugabe in the run-up to presidential elections in March and give security forces broad powers to deal with Mugabe's opponents.
       British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, speaking after talks in Washington with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, said: ''I wholly condemn the passage of these press laws. I find it almost impossible to comprehend how free and fair elections can be held in Zimbabwe when such laws have been passed.''
       ''That will be a matter which will have to be weighed very carefully in the balance by the European Union to decide whether the sanctions which in principle were decided upon early this week ought to be triggered,'' he added.
       On Monday the European Union gave Mugabe one last chance to ensure free and fair elections, threatening to impose sanctions on the country's ruling elite if Zimbabwe prevents the deployment of EU election observers by Feb. 3.
       The EU would impose a travel ban on the top 20 individuals in Mugabe's inner circle and their families, freeze their assets and ban the export to Zimbabwe of arms and other equipment, which could be used for internal repression.
       Powell said he agreed with Straw.
       ''I've spoken out strongly in the past with respect to the actions President Mugabe is taking within Zimbabwe and I've also condemned the press laws. We are in close coordination with our British colleagues and with others as to what action might be appropriate as we go forward,'' he added.
       The United States has said it too could impose sanctions on Zimbabwean leaders if the elections are not free and fair. But U.S. officials say no decisions have been taken.

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Business Day
Expatriates establish new radio station, defy Harare
HARARE As Zimbabwe's government tries to block out independent media ahead of the March presidential election, a new short-wave radio station has managed to bypass the regime and take to the airwaves.
Barred by legislation from broadcasting in Zimbabwe, SW Radio Africa has set up in Britain, but is run by Zimbabwean expatriates and people who moved from Harare to work on the station.
Since mid-December the station has aired three hours a day of music, news and a phone-in programme where listeners dial a local number in Zimbabwe and get a call back to talk on the show.
Callers have flooded the line, talking about food shortages in Zimbabwe, the widespread political violence, and the trouble finding jobs during the nation's worst economic crisis to date.
One other station, Voice of the People, had already turned to the shortwave solution before the June 2000 parliamentary election. Its programmes are prerecorded in Zimbabwe, and then transmitted from outside the country.
There is no effective way to measure the number of listeners in Zimbabwe, but 300000 people have visited SW Radio Africa's website, which offers a simulcast and archives of the broadcasts, said station spokeswoman Gerry Jackson.
The last time Jackson helped start a radio station, in October 2000, Zimbabwe's government sent armed police to shut it down and seize its equipment in Harare after less than a week on the air.
Government's response to her latest venture has not been kind.
"They want to willy-nilly continue to beam their illegal broadcasts in the vain hope of rendering Zimbabwe ungovernable by promoting political violence, tribal division and ethnic hatred," said Information Minister Jonathan Moyo in the state-run Herald newspaper.
President Robert Mugabe has even convinced neighbouring states' leaders to criticise the broadcasts. Sapa-AFP.
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Mugabe's opponents sign up
Harare - Zimbabwe's presidential candidates have started filing their nomination papers at the adminstrative court in the capital ahead of the election in March.
First to file was President Robert Mugabe of the governing Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF), whose papers were handed in by Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa.
Next was Mugabe's fiercest rival, Morgan Tsvangirai of the leading opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
He was followed by Shakespeare Maya of the smaller opposition National Alliance for Good Governance (NAGG).
Before they filed their papers, the candidates met with visiting foreign ministers from the 14-member Southern African Development Community (SADC), who were in Zimbabwe to check on the nation's worsening crisis.
The ministers are discussing whether Mugabe has followed up on promises he made at a SADC summit two weeks ago to ensure the vote is free and fair.
Artifical boudaries laid down
Tsvangirai told the ministers the elections would not be free and fair because of political violence, inaccessibility to the public media by the opposition and impediments created by the newly legislated security act.
"Our rallies have been disrupted. There are areas which are not accessible to the opposition ...(because of) artificial boundaries laid to prevent us from campaigning," said the MDC leader.
Chinamasa, speaking on behalf of Mugabe, said his Zanu-PF party was committed to a free and fair poll and said the tough security law was meant to deal with the political violence for which he blamed the MDC.
"It was passed to deal with the violent situation," he said.
At least 13 people have died in political violence since late December.
"We in SADC ask you to stop the violence," said SADC foreign ministers spokesperson, Lilian Patel, foreign minister of Malawi.
At least five candidates are expected to run for president, but Mugabe and Tsvangirai are the two main contenders. - Sapa-AFP
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Five Candidates to Contest Presidential Poll in Zimbabwe
Xinhuanet 2002-02-01 06:03:22
   HARARE, January 31 (Xinhuanet) -- Five candidates registered with
the Nomination Court on Thursday presided by the Registrar General
Tobaiwa Mudede to stand for the presidential election set for
March 9 and 10.
   The candidates will be Robert Mugabe of the ruling Zimbabwe
African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), Morgen
Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Shakespear
Maya of the National Alliance for Good Governance, Wilson Kumbula
of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Ndonga and independent
candidate Paul Siwela.
   Kumbula and Siwela were barred by the High Court on Wednesday
to stand as the presidents of their parties.
   Kumbula will stand for ZANU in his personal capacity after the
High Court interdicted him from standing as president of the party
following a petition by some members to the High Court, arguing
that they had not mandated him to represent the party as its
president. This was the same case with Siwela of Zimbabwe African
People' Union.
   Mudede referred Kumbula to Justice Sandra Mungwira to have the
interdict clarified before he accepted his candidature.
   The interdict, said Kumbula, could either stand as an
independent or as an ordinary person of the party and not as the
    According to the constitution, one should be at least 40 years
old and must be a registered voter to qualify for the candidacy.
And the prospective candidates would bring at least 10 nominators
from all the 10 provinces in the country to qualify for candidacy.

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'Mugabe would heed Mbeki only'
Cape Town - President Thabo Mbeki had the power to influence events in Zimbabwe and was a man whom President Robert Mugabe could not deny, according to Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
But he had done too little and left it almost too late, MDC secretary for economic affairs Eddie Cross said in Cape Town on Thursday.
Cross was one of the guest speakers at an SA Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) meeting on the crisis facing Zimbabwe in the run-up to that country's March elections, and the likely impact this will have on the southern Africa region.
He shared the platform with party colleague Ian Makone, who is personal assistant to MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Cross described the coming elections in Zimbabwe as a "fight to the death". "Mugabe is prepared to do whatever it takes to win," he warned his audience, mainly SAIIA members, journalists and former Zimbabweans.
He said he was amazed the South African government was taking Mugabe and what he was doing in Zimbabwe so lightly.
He described the Zimbabwean president and his Zanu-PF ruling party as "massively corrupt".
'You control the economies of the region'
Cross said Zimbabwe was "totally broke".
But Mbeki could have halted the economic crisis - which had also affected South Africa, as witnessed by the falling rand - and what was happening in Zimbabwe. "You could have stopped it. Mbeki is the one man Mugabe could not say no to. But Mbeki has not used his power, and has cost his country hundreds of billions of rands."
He could have done this because South Africa was the regional superpower. "You control the economies of the region; you control the ports and the infrastructure."
Mbeki needed to "sit Mugabe down and tell him, `enough is enough. this has to stop, and this is what I want', and Mugabe could not say no", Cross said.
He could not "tell Mbeki to go to hell".
"If Mugabe wins this election it will be a catastrophe for southern Africa. It will almost certainly threaten your (economic) stability," he said.
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Los Angeles Times
Mexico Ends Practice of Giving Land to Poor
Latin America: Government scraps program that symbolized nation's revolution but became mired in corruption and disputes.


MEXICO CITY -- President Vicente Fox's administration has declared an end to the 85-year-old practice of making land grants to the poor, a program that embodied the spirit of the Mexican Revolution but was rife with corruption and property disputes.
The agrarian reform movement, which had faded in recent decades, transferred more than half of Mexico's arable land to the indigenous and poor, most of them organized into communal groups called ejidos. About 30,000 such communal groups exist today, and there is little unoccupied land left to redistribute.
The move comes at a time when Mexican agriculture is in crisis, hampered by urban migration, foreign competition resulting from free-trade agreements and low productivity caused by laws that restrict individual farm sizes to 256 acres, too small for the economies of scale enjoyed by international giants. Agrarian Reform Secretary Maria Teresa Herrera Tello said Monday that redistribution of land had failed to solve rural poverty and that the government must redirect efforts into making farming more productive.
While addressing rural Mexicans' yearning for land, the program's vague ownership rules left a morass of title disputes. More than 343,000 such conflicts are now before special agrarian tribunals. Some of them date to the 1940s, said Arturo Alvarado, a sociology professor at Colegio de Mexico here.
"It's a program that has pretended to deliver social justice but, unaccompanied by government support or technical assistance, has often just been a tool for political demagoguery," Alvarado said. Members of the ejidos were perennially subject to political pressure from local or federal bosses who threatened eviction, he said.
The general disorganization and uncertainty of Mexican real estate laws compounded the confusion. Ejido members fight among themselves as much as with neighbors over property rights.
Previous owners of land awarded to ejido members in the 1970s have successfully gone to court to recover their property. One successful appeal led to the eviction of hundreds of Baja California homeowners south of Ensenada, many of them U.S. retirees, who had bought houses on disputed land.
Fox said Monday that the government will try to make legal reforms that would settle ownership disputes. He said about 23,000 disputes were resolved in 2001, his first full year in office.
Fox is only the latest Mexican president to try to clarify property ownership. As part of his extensive land reforms in 1992, then-President Carlos Salinas de Gortari ordered a census of all ejidos and their members. The initiative did little to untie the legal knots that plague land ownership nationwide.
Mexico's 1917 constitution guaranteed land to all citizens who could prove they were poor, landless and bona fide members of certain communities. With varying degrees of commitment, Mexican presidents thereafter redistributed land, which frequently had been under the control of huge estates.
Land grants have slowly come to a stop since the early 1970s, when the last spurt of transfers was made under President Luis Echeverria.
Salinas' 1992 reforms included a clause that gave ejido members the right to sell off entire grants or individual shares for private development if they could establish ownership. The reforms also eliminated the government's obligation to make land grants to qualified groups, making it more discretionary.
"Salinas tried to restore authority in these matters to the communities themselves, for them to manage their land grants as they chose, including selling land into the local real estate market," said John Womack, a Harvard University history professor who has written extensively about Mexican land policy.
But less than 1% of all ejido land has been privatized during the past decade, according to a spokesman for the Agrarian Reform Ministry, partly because of the ownership disputes.
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It is your Right to Vote!  Take Action to secure that Right!

It has come to our attention that many people, including those who renounce their Zimbabwean Citizenship in preference of their foreign citizenship in compliance with the Electoral Amendment Act 2001, have been receiving NOTICE OF OBJECTION letters from District and Provincial Registries around the country. 

This is in direct violation of the High Court Order granted by Justice Rita Makarau on 25 January, in the case of Morgan Tsvangirai v. the Registrar General and 10 other respondents. 

In order to effectively use this court order, however, anyone receiving these notices must appeal the removal.  This email contains information on your rights as a voter, and suggests ways in which you can respond to a notice of objection, should you receive one. 

Please forward this message to any one else who might benefit from it, and please keep us informed if you receive these notices, or face any difficulty in being reinstated, as it will assist with any further legal challenge.

The letter reads as follows:

Electoral Act Chapter 2.01 (Sect 25)
Notice of Objection

You are notified that I have reason to believe

a) that you are not to be entitled to be registered as a voter in ….. (area)
b) that you are not qualified for registration as a voter in ….. (area)

on the grounds that you have in terms of schedule 3 section 3 (3) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe ceased to be a citizen of Zimbabwe and that, unless you give notice of appeal on the form annexed hereto before the expiration of seven days from the date of this notice, or unless on representation made by you, I withdraw the objection:

c) your claim to be registered as a voter will be rejected
d) your name will be struck off the roll.

If you give due notice of appeal, the matter will be set down for a hearing before a magistrate of the province in which you reside and the day and place appointed for such hearing will be notified in due course.

Signed by constituency registrar, (area)

Your rights
Permanent residence is an implicit part of citizenship. Prior to renunciation in the latter part of 2001 you would have been a de facto permanent resident.

Regardless of the fact that you may have chosen to retain your foreign citizenship over your Zimbabwean citizenship, you are nonetheless eligible to vote as evidenced by the following relevant details extracted from the High Court judgement handed down by Justice Rita Makarau on January 25, 2002:

1. In order to comply with section 28(2) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, for the Presidential elections scheduled for 9 and 10 March 2002, the Registrar General shall ensure that there is in place a common roll.
2. The common roll referred to in 1 above, shall contain the names and such other information as may be necessary, of all persons who have attained the age of 18 years, are citizens of Zimbabwe or, since 1985, have been regarded by a written law to be permanent residents in Zimbabwe and who meet the residential requirements of any particular constituency or have satisfied him that for reasons related to place of origin, political affiliation or otherwise, it is appropriate that they be registered in a constituency in which they do not reside;
3. The Registrar General shall restore to the voters roll of any constituency all voters who, on or before 18 January 2002, were on that roll or were eligible but were refused to be on that roll, who may have lost or renounced their citizenship of Zimbabwe, but who since 1985, have been regarded by a written law to be permanently resident in Zimbabwe;
4. The Registrar General shall make adequate and reasonable administrative arrangements for all voters registered on the common roll who will not be in their constituencies on the polling days, to exercise their vote.

Notes regarding the draft Notice of Appeal Against Objection to Registration
1. The draft is included at the end of this document.  It was prepared with assistance from the Legal Resources Fund, but should not be seen as the end of legal advice.
2. The grounds specified in this draft may not apply to everyone. 
· If, for instance, a person has been removed from being a citizen simply because they have a right to a foreign citizenship, then they should argue that they are still a citizen of Zimbabwe and they are entitled to be registered on that basis.
· Alternatively, they can also say that if they have been a permanent resident in Zimbabwe since 31 December 1985 they qualify on that ground as well, to be a voter.

What you should do if you receive one of these letters
1. Respond immediately.
2. Use the following draft Notice of Appeal Against Objection to Registration - it has been provided by a lawyer with plenty of experience.
3. Preferably hand deliver your response to the relevant registrar's office AND request a receipt for the document OR;
Post your response by registered post
4. Keep us informed of:
· which city/district you reside in and
· when you received your Notice of Objection
· how you submitted your response
· what happens to you next in this regard
This will assist with any further legal challenge.

Electoral Act (Chapter 2:01)

Notice of Appeal Against Objection to Registration

The grounds of my appeal are as follows:

I have been a permanent resident of this country since . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . that is before 31 December 1985.    I am therefore entitled to register as a voter on the common roll in terms of section 3 (1) (b) of Schedule 3 of the Constitution.  I would be grateful therefore if you will retain my name on the voters' roll.

I should mention that although your letter is dated . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  I note that the postmark on the envelope containing your letter is dated . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   In fact I only received your letter on . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  from which date I presume the seven day notice period commences.

Signed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Name . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Date . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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Zimbabwe moves to shut down independent press as elections loom 
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Jan. 30 — Media groups declared Zimbabwe's free press dead after parliament passed a bill essentially gagging independent journalists ahead of the country's contentious presidential election in March. 
The legislation passed Thursday makes it illegal for journalists to operate without government accreditation and allows foreign correspondents into the country only to cover specific events.
       Critical reporting of the government effectively would be banned under the proposed law. It still must be signed by President Robert Mugabe, who has dominated the country's political system since independence in 1980.
       ''The purpose of the bill is to silence the media and to make sure the only voice that is heard is President Mugabe's,'' said Iden Weatherell, editor of the Zimbabwean Independent.
       Secretary of State Colin Powell and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw also condemned the proposed law.
       ''I wholly condemn the passage of these press laws,'' Straw said Thursday after meeting with Powell in Washington. He raised the possibility of European Union sanctions against Zimbabwe.
       Powell said the Bush administration is working with Britain and other countries on possible joint steps against Zimbabwe.
       Presidential spokesman George Charamba did not return repeated calls from The Associated Press for comment.
       The bill creates a state-appointed commission with disciplinary powers to withdraw licenses, confiscate equipment and jail journalists for up to two years.
       It is considered symbolic of Mugabe's efforts to wipe out dissent ahead of the elections. The independent press has harshly criticized the former revolutionary.
       The bill shows ''the complete powerlessness of journalists in this really repressive machine Mugabe has managed to build,'' said Yves Sorokobi, the Africa coordinator for the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.
       The organization said it was helping journalists who believed they were in danger to get out of the country.
       Independent newspapers have been essential in exposing the country's economic collapse, the wave of political violence by ruling party militants against opposition activists and the violent occupation of white-owned farms by those militants.
       In March, Mugabe faces Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai, whose party won nearly half the seats in the 2000 parliamentary elections despite a campaign marred by violence blamed on the ruling party.
       Even before the bill, human rights activists doubted the presidential election could be free and fair amid the violence and chaos of the country.
       Now there is concern that voters cannot make an informed choice if the independent press does not cover the elections.
       ''We defy everything in this (bill). It prevents us from reporting the issues,'' said Basildon Peta, who heads Zimbabwe's union of journalists. ''It's a fascist piece of legislation ... with the main purpose of gagging the media.''
       The government-controlled media barely covers the opposition. During the 2000 election campaign, 92 percent of the stories were on Mugabe's ruling party, said the Media Monitoring Project tracking coverage in Zimbabwe.
       Andrew Moyse, who heads the organization, said the media bill symbolizes that Zimbabwe is ''becoming one of the most repressive societies on the continent.''
       The bill makes ''being a journalist impossible,'' he said.
       About 100 reporters and editors work at independent newspapers and agencies in Zimbabwe. There are no independent radio or television stations as efforts to create them have been squashed by Mugabe.
       Peta and other independent journalists have said they would risk jail by not registering for the required accreditation.
       The government has refused requests from many foreign reporters, including several representing the AP, to enter Zimbabwe. Officials have described previous attempts at regulating the media as efforts to ensure reporters act responsibly.
       Mugabe's information minister, Jonathan Moyo, pushed for the proposed law by attacking white journalists and international news organizations, including the AP, as racially biased.
       Even before the bill's passage, independent journalists only had restricted access to officials and operated under the threat of violence. State authorities refuse to talk to them and the police rarely divulge information. 
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From The Washington Post, 1 February

Zimbabwe puts curbs on media

Johannesburg - After public debate that revealed unprecedented dissent within President Robert Mugabe's ruling party, Zimbabwe's parliament today approved legislation to sharply restrict the country's independent news media. The bill, part of Mugabe's crackdown on dissidents and journalists as he heads into what is expected to be the closest election of his 22 years in office, requires that journalists apply for government licenses and limits the media's criticism of the president. Foreign governments and human rights groups have denounced the legislation for months, but additional opposition emerged this week from an unexpected source: A senior member of Mugabe's party, Zanu PF, publicly assailed the measure as unconstitutional, and the parliamentary committee he chairs urged lawmakers to reject it. "Ask yourselves whether it is rational for a government in a democratic and free society to require registration licenses and ministerial certificates for people to speak," the senior lawmaker, Eddison Zvogbo, said on Tuesday.

With Zimbabwe already under international pressure to ensure that the March elections are free and fair, Zvogbo's rebuke illustrates how the 77-year-old Mugabe must also grapple with discontent within his party, which historically has provided the autocratic leader with rubber-stamp approval of his agenda. "The president is fighting on all fronts," said Masipula Sithole, a political analyst at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare, the capital. "He is in a difficult position, fighting opposition from the international community, from outside his party, and now, for the first time in his authoritarian regime, from inside the party."

The European Union announced Monday that it would freeze foreign assets held by Mugabe and his top cabinet officials and ban overseas travel by government leaders if Zimbabwe blocked EU observers from monitoring the election. U.S. lawmakers already have authorized the Bush administration to do the same. On Wednesday, the 54-member Commonwealth, made up of Britain and its former colonies, expressed its deep concern over Zimbabwe's continued violence, political intimidation and actions against media freedom and independence. The Commonwealth rejected Britain's proposal to suspend Zimbabwe from the organization, but said it would reconsider in March.

None of the gestures so far has had any demonstrable effect on the government's intimidation of supporters of the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), or on journalists who have criticized Mugabe's handling of the disintegrating economy and political violence led by self-styled veterans from the country's war against white rule. Since voters two years ago rejected a proposal to constitutionally strengthen Mugabe's authority, nearly 100 people have been killed in violence in Zimbabwe, mostly MDC supporters, black farm workers and white farmers. Though opposition within the ruling party to the media bill failed to prevent its passage today, diplomats and political analysts say that the dissent in Zanu PF represents a significant obstacle to Mugabe's efforts to remain the only leader this country has known since its independence.

A hero in the country's liberation war, Mugabe has relied on appeals to black nationalism. He portrays the MDC and its presidential candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, as puppets of the British and whites from neighboring South Africa - as well as the "imperialist" United States, which for a time supported white-minority rule in South Africa. But while Tsvangirai, 49, is not an independence war hero, Zvogbo is. Zvogbo was one of the founders of Zanu PF and served on the party's main policymaking panel until two years ago, when Mugabe judged him to be a potential political rival and had him removed. Still, Zvogbo remains widely respected within the party and among voters. More important, he represents Zimbabwe's Masvingo province, a traditional Zanu PF stronghold that could be up for grabs in March. "Masvingo will be Zimbabwe's Florida," said Sithole, the political analyst, drawing a comparison to the 2000 U.S. presidential election. "And Zvogbo has the kind of credibility and clout that could sway many of his constituents against Mugabe."

While Mugabe confronts growing criticism from the West and within his own party, he has faced almost none from his southern African neighbors. With Nelson Mandela's retirement from public office three years ago, Mugabe remains sub-Saharan Africa's preeminent liberation-era icon, and political analysts say the region's younger leaders, such as South African President Thabo Mbeki, are reluctant to challenge him. The 14-nation Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) has refused to publicly censure or sanction Mugabe. Facing a flood of refugees from Zimbabwe's civil unrest and collapsing economy, as well as the impact on trade investment that Zimbabwe's deteriorating image has on the entire region, SADC has opted for a strategy of "quiet diplomacy" with Zimbabwe, criticizing Mugabe in closed-door meetings but expressing confidence as recently as two weeks ago in his pledges to conduct fair elections.

Southern African political analysts say that strong criticism from SADC could challenge Mugabe's assertions - in a way that Britain or the United States cannot - that opposition to him is racially inspired. But while South Africa, Mozambique and Botswana - home to durable democracies, fair elections and an independent press and judiciary – have individually chastised him, other SADC members are reluctant to do so. Angola's governing party, for instance, has not held elections in nearly a decade and is annually cited by watchdog organizations for human rights abuses. Zambia's ruling Movement for Multi-Party Democracy was widely accused of rigging last month's presidential election. "SADC plays a key role for Mugabe," said a Western diplomat in Zimbabwe. "Despite all his transgressions, he really wants to be recognized as a legitimate leader, and he's counting on SADC to endorse his victory in the elections. If SADC were to go against Mugabe, that would really isolate him politically, but it seems that no one wants to be portrayed as a lackey to the imperialist West."
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Zimbabwe Independent
Chefs defy foreign exams ban

Jacob Mutambara

 THE Zanu PF government, which last year outlawed international examinations in all schools, has surprisingly allowed some private schools to offer overseas certificates. Schools sitting for the external examinations have a sizeable enrolment of children of ministers and indigenisation advocates.

While officially all schools were given until the end of last year as the deadline for ending external exams, the Zimbabwe Independent discovered that some private schools have been allowed to continue offering overseas certificates.

The government scrapped all overseas-based certificates in favour of those set by the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (Zimsec).

Commentators have said the Zimsec exams were of an inferior quality compared to those from overseas. That could explain why top government and ruling-party officials were sending their children to schools still offering external exams.

The Independent this week visited Heritage School in Borrowdale, Harare, which is offering both the Zimsec and overseas certificates.

Two directors of the school, David Austin and Evelyn Pangeti, said they had the permission of the Ministry of Education to offer both certificates.

They said their syllabus had an international flavour and that they followed the British curriculum. The directors said the school only receives $4 000 in government grants.
Heritage enrols from infant grade to Form IV.

According to the school prospectus, the curriculum is a blend of "best local practice" and modern ideas taken mainly from the United Kingdom national curriculum.

"We offer the current Zimsec GCE 'O' Level examinations, as the Ministry of Education requires, but we also offer the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and external 'A' Level examinations," the prospectus says. "The ministry has approved our intention to offer these external examinations and we are a recognised centre for the Cambridge Board."

However, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture, Dr Thompson Tsodzo, said schools offering external examinations were doing so illegally.
He said he was aware that a number of schools were offering international examinations. He added that after last year"s deadline, no school was allowed to offer international certificates.

"They do not have our permission and we won't recognise their certificates. The students can only use the certificates outside Zimbabwe," he said.

Tsodzo said schools offering international certificates would be tracked down and closed and will only be opened after they become "Zimbabwean schools".

An official of the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (Zimta) said the whole situation was confusing as they were made to understand that schools should only take local exams.

He described the whole issue as potentially explosive.
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Zimbabwe Independent
Zvobgo cuts Moyo to size

Dumisani Muleya/Forward Maisokwadzo
 AS parliament last night prepared to pass the hotly contested Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Bill, Eddison Zvobgo emerged as the man who blocked what amounted to a constitutional coup by unelected members of President Mugabe's inner circle. And observers point out he would never have done so without significant support from within the ranks of Zanu PF. While the parliamentary legal committee, comprising two of Zimbabwe's sharpest attorneys, Zvobgo and Welshman Ncube, as well as Kumbirai Kangai, has now issued a non-adverse report following extensive changes to the Bill, it earlier this week foiled Information minister Jonathan Moyo's bid to give himself sweeping powers to subvert provisions of the constitution on basic rights.

The thwarting of Moyo's Napoleonic ambitions came as resistance within Zanu PF mounted to the blustering spin-doctor's plans to occupy new political ground. Party sources said Moyo's blandishments have annoyed the old guard who now want his wings clipped.

In its earlier adverse report on the Bill, the legal committee blocked Moyo's calculated self- empowerment agenda by rejecting numerous provisions designed to subvert the constitution and give the minister sweeping powers. While some of those provisions remain intact, many others have been shot down in the horse-trading that followed the report this week.

Committee chair Zvobgo said the repressive legislation would have created a "government" out of Moyo's department. It would have given him "frightening powers".

"Ask yourself whether it is rational for a government in a democratic and free society to require registration, licences, and ministerial certificates in order for people to speak. It is a sobering thought!" Zvobgo said.

Moyo wanted to arrogate to himself enormous powers including control of other ministers and the government bureaucracy as well as supervising the functions of the judiciary and parliament, Zvobgo said.

He would be able to initiate investigations and direct police operations, access state secrets and personal information, protect and target individuals, and manage news and public information, among other things, Zvobgo said.

Party luminaries said to be opposed to Moyo's ambitions include national chair John Nkomo, information secretary Nathan Shamuyarira, retired General Solomon Mujuru, politburo member Oppah Muchinguri, external affairs secretary Didymus Mutasa, and deputy commissar Sikhanyiso Ndlovu.

Zanu PF heavyweights interviewed yesterday confirmed growing resistance to Moyo's political plans.

"Moyo has damaged the reputation of the party through his futile propaganda," a senior politburo member said yesterday. "If we lose the presidential election he should shoulder a lot of the blame."

Law lecturer Lovemore Madhuku said the row "exposes the excesses of Moyo's honeymoon in power".

Moyo yesterday afternoon gave a lengthy justification for the Bill which included a biting attack on veteran journalists and the independent press.
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Zimbabwe Independent
Fresh produce shortages bite
Augustine Mukaro
 ZIMBABWE faces a serious shortage of fresh produce this year as continued farm seizures have forced traditional suppliers to drastically reduce their hectarage under crop, or stop production altogether. All major supermarkets have been hit. Products that are either in short supply or have deteriorated in quality include garlic, export cucumbers, long life tomatoes, cabbages, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, butternuts, baby marrow, pumpkins, onions, runner beans, granadillas, carrots, green pepper, radish, beetroot and rhubarb.
Supermarkets in and around the capital this week confirmed some of their regular suppliers of fresh produce were unable to meet targets, citing as reasons work stoppages when invaded or uncertainty of their future after Section 8 notification. A Section 8 notification is a government notice to a commercial farmer that his land has been designated.
Major producers who are also exporters affected by the land occupations include Hortico in the Acturus area, Mitchell and Mitchell in Marondera and Shona Products in the Macheke area.
The Farm Produce Producers Association (FPPA) confirmed that most of their major producers have been severely affected by the designation of farms which has also negatively impacted on the export market.
The quality of produce has deteriorated as farmers are not willing to put effort or money into a crop as they do not know if they will even be able to reap, FPPA said.
The association also attributed the deteriorating quality to soaring input costs that are no longer affordable in the absence of loans from financial institutions.
Fertilisers have to be bought on the black market so farmers are increasingly asking for early payments, and some farmers have even gone to the extent of planting inferior seeds because of cost prohibitions, FPPA said.
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Zimbabwe Independent
National service: Community work or electoral weapon?
By Vincent Kahiya
IN 1887 American author Edward Bellamy, in his novel Looking Backward, advocated the creation of an "industrial army" based on the conscription of young men and women, which he hoped would lead to a military-industrial dictatorship. American scholars described the book as "arguably the most evil book ever written by an American".
Yet Bellamy's work today continues to influence debate on the role of national service. The book not only first introduced the concept of civilian service by youths, but also presented a military analogy to describe the organisation of civilian service, a trademark of many subsequent national schemes.
Since the turn of the 20th century various forms of national service have sprung up on the pretext of bolstering national defence.
The controversial Zimbabwean model of national service presents a good example of how the scheme can be abused.
The end of militarisation and the disbanding of large unwieldy standing armies, especially in Europe, led to the need to refocus youth service to well-designed programmes that could make a positive contribution to young people's growth and development. Volunteerism was thus born.
Today the International Association of National Youth Services describes the program-me as "an organised activity in which young people serve others and the environment in ways that contribute positively to society".
Major areas of service are health, education, environmental conservation and care for the very old and very young. NYS also embraces service-learning, where students utilise their education to serve others and then reflect on their service experiences to inform their learning.
In the United States conscription ended in 1973 and in 1990 the National and Community Service Act was passed. Among the purposes of the Act are "to renew the ethic of civic responsibility in the United States" and "to call young people to serve in programmes that will benefit the nation and improve the life chances of the young through the acquisition of literacy and job skills".
The programme mainly consists of volunteer projects like the Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) which began in 1965 as part of the War on Poverty. It originally consisted primarily of recent college graduates who were dispatched for service on Indian reservations, at migrant work camps and in inner city ghettoes. Today it is composed mainly of middle-aged, inner-city residents who serve in their own neighbourhoods.
The perception of national youth service in developing countries differs from the Western model. The developing world sees national service as a vehicle to wipe clean from the youth's psyche any relics of colonialism and foster a sense of nationhood and sovereignty - and there is a very thin line between this and straitjacketing the youths to support the ruling order.
German dictator Ado-lf Hitler and his propaganda chief Josef Goebbles realised that indoctrination of the young was a necessary part of creating a totalitarian state. Stalin's Russia provided another notable example of brain- washing. China and North Korea followed.
Zimbabwe's embattled government announced plans on Monday to make youth service training compulsory. The government said all high school graduates would be required to undergo youth training in government centres to instil in them "patriotism" and what it described as an unbiased understanding of the country's history.
Youth Development, Gender and Employment Creation minister Elliot Manyika this week said the youth training programme was necessary because teachers and parents had not properly emphasised the importance of patriotism and the country's liberation struggle to Zimbabwe's young people.
Manyika said young people were leaving Zimbabwe because they had not been trained to fully appreciate their country and stand by it in times of crisis.
Advocates of mandatory national service believe that the practice can be used as a social and racial equaliser.
The Wall Street Journal carried an editorial in favour of mandatory service in 1981 that cited such service as "a means for acculturation, acquainting young people with their fellow Americans of all different races, creeds and economic backgrounds".
This cannot be said about graduates from the Border Gezi Training Centre near Mount Darwin. They cannot be described as agents of social and political integration. If anything, they are bands of brutes being trained as the willing instruments of Zanu PF in its terror campaign against the opposition.
The youths have terrorised both urban dwellers and villagers, beating anyone who cannot produce a Zanu PF party card. They have mounted illegal roadblocks on the major highways demanding Zanu PF cards and asking travellers to chant Zanu PF slogans. The mere sight of them now instils fear.
And some sections of society have ganged up to protect themselves - like American blacks did against the Ku Klux Klan - seeing the police as incapable of acting.
The timing of the launch of the program-me raises eyebrows since the government spoke of national service in the 1980s and early 1990s and then shelved the idea - only to revive it at an opportune time, before a crucial presidential election.
National service in Zimbabwe is governed by the National Service Act of 1979. The first National Service Act was enacted in 1976 to widen conscription - in direct response to the intensified liberation war. Thus, this legal instrument was created as a means of providing forced recruitment for the war effort.
With the advent of Independence and the continuing improvement in regional security, the military objective for which the service was established became anomalous. The government, however, believed that national service was essential, but with a shift in emphasis from the military to the economic sphere.
In the late 1980s government tried to come up with a broad-based plan for national service in which it sought to create a national cadreship of disciplined youths and to develop leadership qualities and skills amongst them.
Its objectives were outlined in a document prepared by Brigadier Agrippa Mutambara who was working in the then Ministry of Political Affairs in 1992:
  • To promote national unity and equality through shared experiences;
  • To develop among Zimbabweans a conscious cadreship that can comprehend and articulate government policies and planned programmes of action;
  • To give such orientation to the youths as will imbue them with the spirit of selflessness, patriotism, and community consciousness;
  • To enable the youths to appreciate the merits of individual and collective involvement in national development projects at little or no financial reward;
  • To instil in the youths an awareness of the importance of conserving our natural resources;
  • To impart a variety of basic skills to as many youths as possible; and,
  • To provide the youths with career guidance and to expose them to as many sectors of the economy as possible.

He proposed that the first phase of national service training should involve a programme of rudimentary military training, whose main purpose would be to develop discipline and leadership qualities. During this phase, trainers would identify the participants' qualifications and preferences.
"In the second phase, the cadres will undergo training in their preferred disciplines," Mutambara said.
"Interspersed with this training will be community service programmes, in which youths would be involved in national development projects such as construction of dams, building of schools, land reclamation and conservation.
"In the process they will acquire skills in areas such as plumbing, carpentry and building. This combination of work and experience will facilitate their entry into public and private-sector jobs," he said.
He proposed that those to benefit from government assistance in tertiary education should undergo national service.
Today, the youths are expected to generate self-help schemes and undergo survival training. Civic and opposition spokesmen say there is currently no real difference between Zanu PF youth brigades and the green military fatigues-clad National Youth Service trainees. Their use as a violent electoral weapon could prove counter-productive when people cast their vote, they point out.
"That will be the day people get even," a civic sector worker said this week.
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Zimbabwe Independent

Muckraker - Working incognito behind Moyo's Sadza Curtain
SO what happened to George Charamba's net? Did he catch anything or did the big ones get away?
Last Thursday he was threatening a group of foreign correspondents with immediate capture. The Herald, no doubt tipped off by its CIO friends - who readers can be forgiven for confusing with its reporters - announced that correspondents from "the Guardian and Telegraph of Britain, the Sunday Times of South Africa, a Johannesburg-based reporter for the Economist and a few other foreign scribes entered Zimbabwe under the guise of being tourists and are illegally working as journalists".
This must have formed the basis for the Herald's tourism boom story that it carried the same day! The posse of correspondents, allegedly headed by the Guardian's Chris McGreal, were said to be staying in Harare hotels and MDC safe houses. In so-doing they had evaded the Department of Information's accreditation requirements.
"Our net is closing in on them," boasted the over-heated Charamba. "We should be able to account for all of them before the close of the day."
Some of them had "intelligence cover" from a "hostile state", he suggested darkly.
Intelligence cover was something Charamba evidently lacked. Several of the correspondents in question appeared not to be here at all. The Economist's Adam Roberts in Johannesburg wondered who Charamba could be thinking of. And there was no evidence of anybody from the Sunday Times. The "Telegraph" reporter turned out to be Philip Sherwell of the Sunday Telegraph, and Chris McGreal filed a great story on the MDC's safe houses.
By Friday morning McGreal was on his way to Zambia with no sign of Charamba's moth-eaten net. But curiously for somebody branded an illegal tourist operating under intelligence cover, the Herald was happy to use his story on SW Radio Africa being funded by the Americans. It slapped it on its front page - without mentioning his name. But the Herald didn't publish his story about the MDC safe houses because it would have exposed its silly lies about Amani Trust harbouring "killers".
So in addition to selective justice we now have selective reporting lifted from foreign correspondents who are alleged to be in league with hostile foreign powers. How confusing! Perhaps Charamba could explain what the policy is on using hostile British press reports.
Everybody in our newsroom had a good chuckle on Monday over a report filed by the Herald's political reporter, Lovemore Mataire, claiming journalists working for the Independent and Standard were "threatening to go on strike". Problems at the "troubled" papers, Mataire suggested, began to surface late last year when reporters at the Independent received a larger increment than those at the Standard.
The Independent last Friday referred to Jonathan Moyo's "troubled" information Bill. Mataire had evidently been ordered to retaliate. He quoted a disaffected reporter at the Standard as saying chief executive Trevor Ncube was a "worser" (sic) dictator than President Mugabe. Morale at the papers had "taken a serious downturn" with a staff exodus looming, he claimed.
The only example given to support the "exodus" theory was the departure of Brian Hungwe who, Mataire said, "left the paper in a huff" after securing employment with the SABC.
In fact Brian, who popped in to say hello on Monday morning, enjoyed the story as much as we did. Mataire didn't say how he reconciled his "troubled" claim with the assertion that "the two papers performed very well last year". Nor did he disclose an interest in employment matters at the Independent and Standard.
He was an applicant for a job at the Independent but was turned down because he was only semi-literate. He then found this a useful qualification at the Sunday Mail but appears to have forgotten its name already. He thinks it is called "the Zimbabwe Mail", according to his report in the Herald.
Workers at the Herald and Sunday Mail, he pointed out, received bonuses last year boosting their "moral". But evidently not their literacy! And somebody needs to explain to him the difference between state-owned companies that do not need to be profitable because they can always mug the taxpayer and those in the private sector that have to balance costs with revenue.
Isn't this the same reporter whose fictional stories were repudiated by his lecturers at the Polytech? And who Lovemore Madhuku disowned by pointing out he would never have said what he was reported to have said by Mataire because it was in such bad English?
Concluding his piece on the Independent and Standard, the Herald's political reporter claimed: "No comment could be obtained from Mr Trevor Ncube."
That's hardly surprising. Mataire didn't call him.
Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi has at last confirmed the deployment of the army in Matabeleland. Readers will recall a press conference held by Jonathan Moyo in December at which he lambasted the foreign media for reporting the presence of the army in parts of Matabeleland. The foreign press corps based their reports on remarks made by John Nkomo to the party faithful.
But Moyo said it was wholly unacceptable for them to have reported the matter as it did not come from the minister responsible. Now it has. Sekeramayi said people should be aware of the presence of a brigade in Bulawayo and members of the brigade were deployed in various parts of Matabeleland, just as they were in other provinces. There was nothing sinister about this, he insisted.
The people of Matabeleland may have a different view. They have memories of how the army behaved in the mid-1980s. Also culpable were the CIO and other security services - in fact the very same people who attended a press conference on January 9 to announce they would not recognise an elected president who did not share their "values".
It was not immediately clear whether these values related to the 20 000 killed in Zanu PF's ethnic cleansing of the 1980s or the diamond deals and other shady businesses currently under investigation in the Congo. The army has also blocked a court-ordered police investigation into the abduction and torture of two journalists in 1999.
Sekeramayi appeared to have no problem with any of this. The defence chiefs were not armchair revolutionaries, he said.
"They are well aware that the main grievance of the liberation struggle was the issue of land...I support the service chiefs 100%".
We don't doubt that Sekeramayi is as 100% obtuse as they are. Did the liberation struggle have no other goals? Were issues of democratic rights and elections altogether absent from the struggle they fought? And what did the voters of Zimbabwe have to say about Zanu PF's land policy when they were consulted in February 2000?
But the most effective response to the delinquent defence and security chiefs came from the other- wise acquiescent regional heads of state meeting in Blantyre recently. They urged the Zimbabwe government to ensure that "in accordance with the multi-party political dispensation prevalent in Sadc political statements are not made by the military but by political leaders".
President Thabo Mbeki's spokesman, Bheki Khumalo, said Zvinavashe's remarks were "totally unacceptable".
"The role of the Zimbabwean army is to defend the country's laws and democracy," Khumalo said.
And President Joaquim Chissano said "the Zimbabwean army must not interfere in the democratic and electoral rights of ordinary citizens. People must support which- ever party or political leaders they want."
It seems the Defence minister is trying to defend the indefensible. But isn't that the story of all Zanu PF spokesmen nowadays? Meanwhile, perhaps one of Moyo's recording studios could dust off Marilyn Monroe's great hit and have Radio "Sport" FM play it for us with a new spin: "Diamonds are a general's best friend".
There has been saturation cover age in the state media of Morgan Tsvangirai's alleged advocacy of sanctions while in South Africa recently.
Zanu PF, ZBC and Zimpapers all went to town claiming this would place the country in a parlous situation - as if it wasn't already!
But predictably, they were reluctant to tell us exactly what the MDC leader said. We are therefore grateful to the Zimbabwe Media Monitoring Project for the following account:
"ZBC (January 14, Nhau/Indaba and 8pm television, and all radio 6am, 1pm and 8pm bulletins) broke the Tsvangirai sanctions story, and television's 8pm news carried the BBC news interview quoting Tsvangirai condemning the apparent lack of 'cohesion' in Sadc's response to Zimbabwe's deepening political and economic crisis and speculating on what South Africa could do unilaterally to stop the Zimbabwe government from further subverting the democratic process.
"The MDC leader was seen to say: 'Well there are measures. I mean, for instance, the threat to undermine the elections by the military, by Mugabe himself, should actually send shock waves to South Africa and say, 'OK, under those circumstances we are going to cut fuel, we are going to cut transport links'. Those kinds of measures, even if they are implemented at a lowly level, send the right signals.'
"But news presenter Obriel Mpofu made no reference to the Sadc context of the interview, or to the speculative nature of the question and the answer when he introduced the story. He simply stated that: 'MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai has called on South Africa to cut official supplies, switch off electricity and sever all communication links with Zimbabwe in order to speed up what he called 'change' in the country'.
"Nowhere in the interview did Tsvangirai 'call' on South Africa to impose sanctions, nor did he mention anything about 'change', a word that forms part of an MDC slogan and used in the report to give the impression that sanctions was part of the MDC's normal programme for change.
"The inaccuracies and distortion contained in this statement were reinforced by reporter Reuben Barwe's comment introducing the BBC clip: 'Zimbabweans need to know that the desire to take the reins of power by certain people might see them suffer more soon', thus giving the impression that Tsvangirai is so desperate for power he is prepared to inflict suffering on the nation.
"The next day (January 15) the government Press followed the same line by interpreting Tsvangirai's statement as a call for sanctions and condemning it as 'a sign of a desperate man who was clearly afraid of elections', according to unnamed observers.
"This formed the basis of the papers' coverage throughout the week."
There you have it. Not exactly the professional standards we are entitled to expect of a publicly-owned media.
The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority's public relations manager Leslie Gwindi has for some time been inhabiting a different planet from the rest of us.
Commenting on figures that purportedly show a growth in tourism last year - from the dismal performance of 2000 - he declared that "Zimbabwe has been confirmed a safe destination".
He didn't say exactly who had "confirmed" this.
"We have not had a single case of cold-blooded murder of tourists so how safer can we be?" the Herald reported him as having "quipped".
Well, the removal of roadblocks north of Harare where Zanu PF youths are beating and robbing motorists might be a start. Some people have been detained and assaulted at these illegal roadblocks for up to five hours. The police show no sign of removing them.
Does Gwindi really think tourists from Britain, Ireland, the EU, North America and Australia will be spared on the grounds they are visitors to Zimbabwe? Are Zanu PF youths, high on booze and drugs, known for their ability to make subtle distinctions?
If there has been no "cold-blooded murder" of tourists yet, we should be very grateful indeed. But it has nothing to do with the prevalence of law and order and more to do with the absence of tourists.
Have tourists returned to the Lowveld conservancies - or what is left of them? Can they go to Chipinge safely via Buhera? Can they use secondary roads in Mashonaland Central and West?
Gwindi had better hope his rosy appraisal of the situation on the ground remains valid. Because we will know who to look to for an explanation if anything goes wrong. It will be interesting to see what "quip" he has for us then.
Elliot Manyika says chiefs will be empowered to authenticate documents in the same way com- missioners of oaths do. This will enable more Zanu PF supporters to register as voters.
What he didn't say was that commissioners of oaths can usually read the documents they are signing.
Finally, following George Charamba's witch-hunt for foreign correspondents working without accreditation behind Zimbabwe's Sadza Curtain, may we ask who has accredited Jonathan Moyo's praise-singer Admore Tshuma to write Form Two-standard essays from London "demonising" the British?
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Zimbabwe Independent - Comment
New laws will not prevent electoral verdict

SO preoccupied have we become - and understandably so - with the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Bill that we have lost sight of the two sinister pieces of legislation already passed by parliament and of dubious constitutionality, the General Laws Amendment Act, likely to be gazetted today, and the Public Order and Security Act.

Both the Council of the European Union and the Common- wealth Ministerial Action Group this week focused their fire on these measures describing them as contrary to democratic norms.

The first seeks to limit civic participation in the electoral process by preventing NGOs from playing the key role they played in 2000 in monitoring polling and by restricting voter education to organisations registered for that purpose with the Electoral Supervisory Commission. The Public Order and Security Act is a warmed-up version of the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act which the government had difficulty letting go of until it had put a similar mechanism in place.

Minister John Nkomo has disingenuously suggested the Act is Zimbabwe's response to the worldwide scourge of terrorism. It is no such thing. It was first proposed in 1998 and passed by parliament but President Mugabe declined to sign it because it lacked sufficient teeth, particularly in regard to the media.

Nkomo's cynical invocation of world terrorism - including references to anthrax - looks both dishonest and blatantly self-serving when we consider the Act's sordid pedigree and the failure by Ministry of Health experts to establish any link whatsoever between the substance found in a letter sent to Information minister Jonathan Moyo and potentially lethal anthrax spores.

There is a strong public suspicion that the whole "anthrax" scare at Causeway Post Office was part of a wider electoral strategy to link the opposition to all forms of terrorism including bio-terrorism. It should be seen in the same dubious light as reports of training facilities in Uganda, the Johannesburg airport heist, the Passport Office "scam", and Amani Trust "killer houses". In none of these cases have the allegations been supported by evidence. Most bear the hallmarks of Zanu PF's clumsy propaganda and dirty tricks department.

Perhaps the best indication of what lies behind the sweeping security legislation have been police comments saying how much they welcome the Act. They will now be able to demand ID cards from the public, prevent demonstrations and detain people suspected of political offences. In other words it is a useful weapon in the hands of those serving a repressive and totalitarian state.

Significantly, several of the provisions of POSA and the General Laws Amendment Act reverse Supreme Court rulings in the 1990s that extended the horizons of democracy.

The General Council of the European Union pointed out in its statement of January 28 that the two laws violated the norms and standards for free and fair elections as agreed by Sadc parliamentarians in March last year. CMAG condemned the two Acts and the media Bill as "contrary to the Commonwealth's fundamental political values as enshrined in the Harare Declaration".

We have also seen in recent weeks the abuse of presidential powers to postpone mayoral and council elections for Harare until March 9/10. This disregards a court ruling that they should be held on February 11 and averts a possibly embarrassing psychological setback for the ruling party.

Section 158 of the Electoral Act permits the president to amend the Act without reference to parliament. But it does not permit him to set aside court judgements. The move is a transparent attempt to thwart the democratic will.
President Mugabe has given Sadc assurances that the forthcoming election will be free and fair and that there will be an end to violence. Minister Stan Mudenge has given the same assurance to the EU.

Why should anyone believe them? Opposition supporters continue to be abducted, beaten and killed. Despite Mugabe's television appeals, his party's members have shown no inclination to stop terrorising their opponents. They continue to act with the full support of state organs. Violence and looting on farms persist with no protection afforded to those under threat. But the president and his ministers insist the government is upholding the law.

Enough of this deception. Zimbabweans are aware of just how vicious the current bout of intimidation really is. And they are determined to settle scores at the ballot box. Parliament should remember that before it tramples on any more of our rights at the behest of unelected ministers.

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