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Zim Independ.

Zesa caught in dodgy deals
Vincent Kahiya

ZIMBABWE'S power utility Zesa has been a victim of questionable deals that have cost government billions of dollars while the company's financial standing continues to deteriorate.

This week the Zimbabwe Independent can reveal that investigations instituted to probe the goings on at the parastatal have been ignored by the government. Letters to then Energy minister Edward Chindori-Chininga chronicle serious allegations against Zesa's executive chairman Dr Sidney Gata.

The letters were written by Engineer Charles Nhova who headed the Zesa Independent Audit Committee (IAC) appointed by government to probe allegations of irregularities at the parastatal.

The correspondence reveals that Gata in 2000 negotiated a US$95 million deal with the Trade and Investment Bank and Standard Chartered Bank of London to raise foreign currency for the parastatal to pay for electricity imports. TIB was to be paid a retainer fee of US$25 000 a month. The deal, Nhova's committee found, never yielded anything as TIB failed to raise the requisite forex.

In another epsiode, Nhova told Chindori-Chininga in August 2001 that an international company, WorldTel, "fraudulently" obtained a concession from government to build a fixed wireless telecommunications network in Zimbabwe under a Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) arrangement. WorldTel was represented in the deal by TIB then headed by former Reserve Bank governor Kombo Moyana and Gata as managing director and deputy managing director respectively.

WorldTel offered to give the local telecoms operator, then the Post and Telecommunications Corporation (PTC), a 15% shareholding in the project. It is alleged that the government paid WorldTel US$100 000 to join the WorldTel board of governors.

WorldTel was expected to complete the project in two years but did not.

Yesterday the Independent asked Gata what had happened to the WorldTel deal.

"It was abandoned in the same year because we did not have a licence," he said. "Initially the deal was between WorldTel and PTC who had a licence but did not have the money. We had the money but we did not have a licence. We only got our licence four months ago, so we could not have proceeded at the time," he said.

Gata strongly rejected allegations of impropriety.

But Nhova in his letter to the minister said after lying low for two years WorldTel then came back to sell the concession to PowerTel, a subsidiary of Zesa. By then Gata was executive chairman of Zesa after the CEO Simba Mangwengwende had been forced out.

The report said Gata then persuaded his board that Zesa should buy into the WorldTel concession. To push the deal through, the IAC report said, Gata added material to minutes of a board meeting after a supposed presentation by WorldTel to the Zesa board plus a resolution authorising him to sign a memorandum of understanding between Zesa and WorldTel.

Part of the contentious resolution said the board had resolved "that the executive chairman be and is hereby authorised to sign the proposed shareholders' agreement for the project incorporating the principles laid out above on behalf of Zesa/PowerTel".

The IAC urged Chindori-Chininga to investigate the transaction.

As part of the transaction Zesa was expected to invest US$35 million in the project.

"For their generosity in allowing Zesa to use the WorldTel concession," Nhova's committee said, "WorldTel will capitalise as their equity contribution into the proposed Zesa-PowerTel BOT joint venture company an invisible US$5 million expenditure claimed to have been spent before WorldTel brought the project to Zesa."

PTC remained involved however by virtue of its licence.

"The fictitious investment will give WorldTel 13% shareholding in the final WorldTel-PTC-PowerTel joint venture," Nhova reported.

Senior government sources said all this was happening before cabinet had approved the unbundling of Zesa into different entities. That approval only came in 2002 and was reinforced by the amendment of the Electricity Act last year.

The correspondence discloses that then deputy Transport and Communications minister Paul Mangwana raised concerns about the transaction.

The documents said the US$35 million which Zesa was now expected to invest in the project was enough to finance the entire cost, which meant it was no longer a BOT project.

The PTC concluded then that it was not worth going into the joint venture with WorldTel.

The investigating committee told the Mines and Energy ministry that Mangwana had said: "It would appear that on his part, Zesa board executive chairman Dr Sidney Gata unilaterally caused an addition to be made to minutes of the Zesa board meeting held on February 27 and 28 (2001), authorising him to sign a shareholders agreement with WorldTel which had not been tabled before the board."

The committee said from their reading of Mangwana's letter, Gata had "deliberately and peremptorily misled the Hon minister about his board's position on the deal, and is nonchalantly continuing to pursue the invalid agreement with WorldTel on a solo mission, and without waiting for the board's final decision on the transaction."

Nhova has since left the country and nothing appears to have materialised from his committee's investigations.

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Zimbabwe Independent

$15b for Heroes Acre
Shakeman Mugari/Blessing Zulu

THE North Korean-designed 57-hectare Heroes Acre has run out of graves with reports that only five graves on the original plan - reserved for undisclosed heroes - currently remain.

The Zimbabwe Independent has established that the government has awarded a $15 billion tender to construct terraces for 64 more graves in four phases. A local construction firm, Forit Contracting, was awarded the tender by government to extend the national shrine.

An official from the company confirmed that they had won the tender.

"Hongu (yes) but obviously it's not for the company to talk about. The best people would be the responsible ministry," said the official who refused to be named.

The managing director of the company also referred the Independent to Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo. Chombo could not be reached as he was said to be attending a number of meetings.

Sources in the Ministry of Local Government said Forit was due to start operations next month.

The official said that the site was handed over to the company two weeks ago. Forit is currently carrying out a land survey ahead of the extension.

The company won the tender late last year after the ministry declared the extension an urgent matter. So far all architects in the ministry have had to stop other projects to concentrate on the Heroes Acre project.

The shortage of graves has been caused by a recent dramatic increase in the numbers of those declared heroes by the ruling Zanu PF. This has resulted in the hurried construction of four more graves which are not part of the original plan.

Former Zanu PF secretary-general and veteran nationalist Edgar Tekere said he doubts the criteria used to bestow hero status.

"Some people who are there (at Heroes Acre) are not deserving," Tekere said yesterday. "The criterion used to select them was not truly national. It is a partisan criterion. I once asked if Jairos Jiri was not a hero then who was? We should have a national representative council to select heroes," said Tekere.

The Independent has also established there are four reserved graves next to Sally Mugabe's grave which are not part of the original plan. The remains of Norman Zikhali, the last hero to be interred at the shrine, are buried in this area. There are also three mini graves in the sector, belonging to Guy Clutton Brock who was cremated and two whose remains could not be found, Ethan Dube and Edison Sithole.

Sources in the ministry said the government was set to construct 64 more graves in four phases.

"The first phase will see the construction of 16 at a cost of more than $2 billion. The graves will be constructed on the two original wings, on the West, and East wing," a source said. The final cost is estimated at $15 billion.

The Ministries of Local Government and Home Affairs last year approached the State Procurement Board with an urgent tender for the construction of graves.

Meanwhile, the Zanu PF politiburo yesterday conferred national hero status on the late Julia Zvobgo, wife of Zanu PF Central Committee member and MP for Masvingo South Eddison Zvobgo. She is a former MP and was active during the liberation war. She died on Monday of cardiac failure.

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Zim Independent
Zanu PF/MDC brace for second duel
Itai Dzamara

THE fever that gripped the gathering at Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield on Sunday, March 3 2002 left many people with a feeling that change was indeed on the doorstep and that Zanu PF's ironfisted hegemony was almost over.

Raising red cards and blowing whistles, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters jubilantly sang the lyrics, "Vana venyu varamba kudzokera Egypt kuna Robert (Your children have refused to go back to Mugabe's rule in Egypt)" as the opposition party's president Morgan Tsvangirai ar-rived to a rapturous applause.

"Rwendo rwuno hazvikoni (this time we won't fail)," declared an invigorated Tsvangirai during his address to trigger wild whistling and chanting of MDC slogans from the 15 000-strong crowd.

Tsvangirai was only a week away from taking on Zanu PF leader President Robert Mugabe in a landmark presidential ballot.

The MDC had in June 2000 - then only nine months old - put up a commendable challenge to Zanu PF supremacy in local politics, winning 57 seats against 63 in the parliamentary election. The opposition said it was denied outright victory by a combination of factors all beyond its control such as rigging, unfair electoral laws and the unparalleled violence visited upon its supporters in rural areas where it was denied access.

But with the crisis deepening the MDC grew in stature both at home and abroad. Tsvangirai looked set to dislodge Mugabe from his throne in 2002 despite a massive propaganda onslaught in the state media. The party was also enjoying huge support from the overtaxed urban electorate and there was unprecedented international goodwill. Victory looked certain.

But everyone seems to have underestimated Mugabe's survival instinct. The former guerilla leader retreated to his planning room and successfully schemed to retain the presidency against all odds. That victory is still the subject of a court challenge.

But daggers are drawn once again as the two parties get ready for a second duel in next year's parliamentary election. Zanu PF hopes to launch its battle plan by consolidating its rural control and moving into urban areas. On the other hand the MDC will be hoping to fan out into rural constituencies from its urban stronghold to add to its current haul of 54 seats.

"The democratic process we started in 2000 will be completed at the next parliamentary and presidential elections when we will increase our majority in parliament and assume total control," Tsvangirai told a public seminar in Harare on Monday.

He was responding to passionate concerns which have dominated the public domain of late about the MDC seeming to have slipped into a coma while Zanu PF molests the nation unchallenged.

An increase in state-sponsored violence, a plethora of amendments to legislation in addition to the promulgation of new laws have been Mugabe's main weapons to strike at voices of dissent. And the veteran politician seems to be winning the day so far. He is sharpening his spears for next year whilst the opposition and civil society appear to be mesmerised at best and totally confused at worst about what they should be doing to prepare for the contest.

The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) still believes the solution lies in having a new constitution first and foremost.

"A democratic constitution leads to free and fair elections," said NCA chairman, Lovemore Madhuku. "We can't go to elections under the current conditions which give Zanu PF an unfair advantage. The way forward is street demonstrations until Mugabe succumbs. Why can't we fill the streets and debate the issues later?"

The MDC faces a serious dilemma of whether or not to participate in elections under the current flawed electoral system. The MDC believes it should push for amendments to electoral laws to create minimum requirements for a free and fair election. Then a new government, of the MDC presumably, would debate a new constitution as a matter of urgency, analysts say.

"A people-driven con-stitution can only come about when there is freedom and no restrictions put up by Posa and Aippa," Tsvangirai said. "We are demanding minimal electoral amendments for free and fair elections and then work on a new constitution under a new democratic government."

Pinile Zamuchiya, president of the Zimbabwe Students Union (Zinasu), believes the solution lies in a united front.

"We should create a united front of all democratic forces and mobilise to challenge the regime through mass action. The regime will not give us power on a silver platter," Zamuchiya said.

Raymond Majongwe of the Progressive Teachers Union also believes in engaging Mugabe on the streets.

"Talks? Whattalks, to whom andabout what?" Majongwe wondered. "Whoever is go-ing to contest elections must convince us that they are going to win elections. If they are going to lose they better not take part because they legitimise an illegitimate process."

Shepherd Murombo of Harare blamed the MDC.

"You (MDC) seem to have surrendered. Where are you? We are like a flock of sheep without a shepherd," said Murombo.

But Tsvangirai defended his party's record.

"I don't believe that the MDC has been complacent or docile. We engaged in two mass actions last year. For the first time internationally, we succeeded in shutting down the country for five days," he said in response to such criticism.

But the chances of Zanu PF acceding to demands for electoral reform are remote and that puts the opposition in an invidious position - whether to contest the polls or not.

Four years since a seemingly sharp wind of change aroused the nation, the "children" have remained stuck in Egypt under Pharaoh's heavy yoke.

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Zim Independent
Pamire/Mandaza in court battle
Loughty Dube

HARARE businessman and publisher Ibbo Mandaza and former Zifa chairman Vincent Pamire and his wife are embroiled in a legal battle over the ownership of butchery and a block of flats in Bulawayo that both claim to have purchased from a dispossessed white commercial farmer.

The standoff over the ownership of the property in Makokoba township of Bulawayo dates back to 2002. The matter has now been taken to the Bulawayo High Court where Vincent Pamire and his wife Evelyn are seeking an eviction order against Mandaza who has been using the properties since 2001.

According to papers filed with the High Court in Bulawayo, Pamire, through his lawyers Sibusiso Ndlovu & Partners, wants Mandaza evicted from the premises for failure to pay rentals as from October 2002.

The Pamires say they purchased all of the shares of Mazilikazi Investments (Pvt) Ltd, a company that comprises the butchery and a block of residential flats, from Charles William Hammer-Nel in October 2002.

Mandaza, who has been renting the butchery from Hammer-Nel, also alleges that he bought the properties for $1,4 million from the white farmer in 2001 but says Hammer-Nel has been evasive and has refused to sign papers effecting the transfer of the property.

Mandaza is also involved in a legal battle with Hammer-Nel over the ownership of five farms in Matabeleland North that Mandaza wants for his ambitious Induba Development Trust.

"I however believe that there is more to this as this is not the only war I am fighting with Hammer-Nel. I am in the Harare High Court right now under Case Numbers HC 10487/02 and HC 1597/03 fighting the same person over the sale of his five farms on which he carried out his ranching," say papers filed by Mandaza in his defence.

"It is the sale of the ranches which founded the basis upon which the butchery was also sold to me. Hammer-Nel has tried to frustrate the transfer of the farms in exactly the same way he is trying to frustrate the transfer of the stand in question. I believe therefore that Pamire and the wife are just but another Hammer-Nel front," the defence outline says.

However, attached copies from Hammer Nel's lawyers indicate that the farmer has been struggling since 2001 to get rentals from Mandaza.

Supporting papers filed with the High Court indicate that Vincent and Evelyn Pamire, through one of their companies, SK Fencing (Pvt) Ltd, bought all shares in Crocker Funeral Services in 2002. Crocker then changed its name to Mazilikazi Investments (Pvt) Ltd the same year.

"The plaintiff (Pamire) seeks an order to evict Mandaza and all those who claim through him, from a butchery situated at Makokoba township Bulawayo. Plaintiff is now the registered owner of the building wherein situated the butchery which is occupied by the defendant," the court papers say.

The Pamires want Mandaza forcibly evicted from the premises as they say other means to have him moved have failed.

The controversial publisher is also involved in a war of words with Matabeleland North governor Obert Mpofu on the one hand over his stalled Induba Development Project while on the other hand he is embroiled in a legal battle with settlers camped on one of the five farms in dispute.

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Zim Independent
ZCTU stayaway on
Godfrey Marawanyika

THE Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has resolved to embark on a nation- wide stayaway on Wednesday to protest alleged mismanagement at the National Social Security Authority (NSSA).

Last month the labour union pulled out of NSSA alleging there was no transparency in the way the pension fund was run.

This resulted in the NSSA board needing to be reconstituted.

In a statement yesterday, the ZCTU said apart from the problems at NSSA, many trade unionists across the country have been victimised.

"More than 41 workers were suspended from Colcom and two workers were dismissed from David Whitehead Spinners in Chegutu for participating in October and November 2003 demonstrations against high levels of taxation…" it said.

The ZCTU was protesting against high costs of basic commodities, fuel prices and shortages of transport, which remain on the agenda of next week's intended stayaway.

In the statement the ZCTU called on the government to immediately stop the rot at NSSA and demanded the reinstatement of suspended workers at Colcom and David Whitehead, and of Lovemore Matombo at Zimpost.

Matombo's suspension resulted in government being criticised by both continental and international labour organisations, which argued the government's decision was heavyhanded and political.

Earlier this month the comptroller and auditor-general Eric Harid produced a damming report on how books at NSSA were being handled.

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Zim Independent
Zim out of world's top five tobacco exporters
Godfrey Marawanyika

ZIMBABWE has been dropped from the United States' list of the world's best five exporters of tobacco following its disruptive land reform programme.

Latest figures from the US Department of Agriculture indicate that the top five exporters of tobacco are now listed as Brazil, India, China, Indonesia and the United States.

The latest development comes against a backdrop of the government's mishandling of the land reform programme, which has resulted in tobacco losing its place as one of the key foreign currency earners in the country.

This year the country is expected to reap about 60 million kg, down from 80 million kg recorded last year.

In the past the bulk of the country's foreign currency earnings used to come from tobacco, but because of land seizures most affected farmers have left the country or simply been forced off their properties.

Some of the country's farmers have relocated to Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi.

The decline in the expected output has now led to Zimbabwe being overtaken by Malawi as the biggest producer of the golden leaf in Africa.

Malawi expects its 2003/4 crop to be 145,6 million kg, and its exports have since increased to 122 580 tonnes last year, up from 101 250 tonnes in 2000, figures from the US Agriculture department indicate.

This week Agriculture ministry secretary Ngoni Masoka said although this year's crop was lower than that produced last year, there were prospects that the country would regain its former position as one of the leading producers of tobacco.

Masoka could not however reveal how the country would regain its former position.

This year's tobacco marketing season is expected to start on March 16, while the auction system will open on March 30.

When the auction floors open 75% of tobacco would be paid at the ruling auction rate while the remainder of 25% will be at the official exchange rate of US$1:$824.

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Zim Independent
Tsvangirai slams 'dangerously patronising' diplomacy
Itai Dzamara

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai says there hasn't been any progress towards formal dialogue between his party and the ruling Zanu PF. He has also dismissed as "dangerous and patronising" claims by President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa that the two parties were engaged in talks.

Tsvangirai said on Monday that Mbeki's insistence that there was progress towards a negotiated settlement between the MDC and Zanu PF was "dangerously patronising".

President Mugabe, Tsvangirai said, had taken advantage of the false impression created by Mbeki on dialogue to buy time and further close the democratic space.

Tsvangirai was speaking at a public seminar organised by the National Constitutional Assembly in Harare.

"When our neighbours talk about talks we listen with an open mind but we wonder when these talks will take place. I wonder where these talks are as claimed by our neighbours."

He said the claims by Mbeki and other regional leaders had given Mugabe a weapon to frustrate the struggle for democracy in Zimbabwe.

"This patronising is dangerous. We noticed during the last six months of last year that by giving dialogue a chance, Mugabe exploited that window of opportunity to demobilise the voices of democratic struggle."

Mbeki has been insisting on progress towards dialogue to solve the Zimbabwean political impasse. Last year he succeeded in convincing American President George W Bush when he visited South Africa that he was in control and the Zimbabwean crisis would be solved "soon".

Mbeki last month told visiting German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder that the South African government "has been engaging both sides (MDC and Zanu PF) for a long time".

Mbeki's policy of quiet diplomacy over Zimbabwe has been dismissed as inaudable and ineffective, but he has remained persistent over his strategy which he says will usher in a solution to Zimbabwe's crisis.

The South African leader was in Zimbabwe in December and is understood to have extracted a commitment to dialogue from Mugabe, who however has maintained his iron-fisted handling of the opposition and civil society.

Despite informal meetings to deliberate on constitutional reforms between MDC and Zanu PF officials, impediments have hampered real progress towards the commencement of formal inter-party talks. An initiative led by local church leaders hit a snag at the stage of drafting the talks' agenda.

The ruling party has made clear its preconditions that would see the opposition withdrawing a 2002 presidential election petition and calling off international sanctions among other things.

The opposition on the other hand has been calling for talks to commence unconditionally and each side has put issues of concern on the agenda table.

Meanwhile, the troika of church leaders comprising Bishops Sebastian Bakare, Patrick Mutume and Trevor Manhanga is reported as having been rapped by other clergy for lack of progress as well as failure to report back.

However, Manhanga on Wednesday, speaking to the Zimbabwe Independent from South Africa, said he and his undisclosed colleagues were on their way to Italy on talks' business.

"We are on our way to Italy on talks' business. I wouldn't give more details until we come back and report on our mission. We have never stopped working on trying to find solutions to the Zimbabwean crisis," Manhanga said.

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Zim Independent
ZTA predicts higher tobacco output
Blessing Zulu

The Zimbabwe Tobacco Association (ZTA) says the monetary policy announced by the Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono in December last year will boost production next year, the Zimbabwe Independent has established.

ZTA president Duncan Miller said farmers who had scaled down production were likely to increase their hectarage following the new policy.

"The new changes mean tobacco farmers will this year use an exchange rate based on 75% of the auction exchange rate and 25% of the official exchange rate of US$1:$824," said Miller.

Last year production was affected by the exchange rate issue which was pegged at the official exchange rate of US$1:$824 while farmers demanded an exchange rate of US$1:$1 600.

The government has also effected changes in the marketing of the tobacco crop.

"There is going to be a dual marketing system this year. The government has allowed approved private players to come in and they will complement the already existing auction floors in buying the crop," Miller said.

The Ministry of Agriculture will select the private players. Some contractors will provide farmers with inputs.

While uncertainty abounds in the agricultural sector, Zambia's tobacco crop doubled last year, boosted by Zimbabwean farmers who left the country at the height of farm invasions.

Zambia has also seen the creation of 17 000 jobs in the tobacco sector alone. Zimbabwe's unemployment rate is about 75%.

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Zim Independent
Zanu PF castigated for insensitivity
Loughty Dube

ZANU PF has been criticised for insensitivity after it rushed to nominate a candidate to contest the Lupane seat just two weeks after the death of the MDC MP for the area, David Mpala.

This move comes after the government released postmortem results showing that Mpala had died of cryptococcal meningitis, a fungal infection of the brain.

The MDC had said Mpala succumbed to wounds sustained when he was abducted and allegedly tortured by Zanu PF supporters last year.

The move to nominate a candidate so soon comes as a surprise to many as Zanu PF usually takes its time to name candidates for election.

Zanu PF's Lupane district co-ordinating committee last week nominated Martin Khumalo as its candidate to contest the by-election whose dates have not yet been announced.

Khumalo's candidacy was approved by Zanu PF's provincial chairman for Matabeleland North, Jacob Mudenda, who was present during the nominations at Lupane business centre.

Zanu PF is seeking to wrest its first seat in Matabeleland North after a disastrous campaign in the 2000 parliamentary election that saw the party failing to win a single seat in the province.

MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi told the Zimbabwe Independent that Zanu PF's behaviour was in bad taste.

"Here we are still mourning Mpala but Zanu PF is already plotting how it can take his seat," said Nyathi. "Their behaviour translates into how they govern this country without sensitivity, and we are saying this is in bad taste," said Nyathi.

However, the Zanu PF deputy national commissar Sikhanyiso Ndlovu said he would not comment until the party's district committee formally submits the name.

"Really there is nothing to comment on and branches are allowed to come up with any name they feel like mentioning and in a democracy that is allowed but we shall wait for the name to be formally submitted before we can make a comment," Ndlovu said.

The MDC director of elections Remus Makuwaza said the Matabeleland province would forward the name of the candidate to stand in Lupane after all the procedures had been followed.

"The provincial leadership will deal with the matter of nominating a candidate once everything is in place because we are still mourning Mpala. Once that is done everything will be forwarded to the national directorate," Makuwaza said.

The MDC has so far lost three seats to Zanu PF in by-elections held since 2000.

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Zim Independent

Many want to share cake with Mugabe

Vincent Kahiya

TOMORROW President Mugabe turns 80. If tradition is anything to go by he will pretend to be surprised by his staff who will have provided an impressive cake which he will share with them and First Lady Grace.

The pattern doesn’t vary much from year to year. Soft drinks will be more in evidence than alcohol. Champagne is out.

A bigger birthday bash is planned for tomorrow at his rural home in Zvimba. Children are rounded up this time each year under the auspices of the 21st February Movement to sing praises to the nation’s omniscient leader.

The movement, with its red scarves, is rooted in the Stalinist creed of a dominant father figure at the head of a guiding party. It will studiously ignore the prevailing reality of hunger, deprivation and repression that have come to characterise Mugabe’s rule. In this respect it owes more to its North Korean inspiration than any African genesis.

Celebrated South African author Christopher Hope wrote about the lavish spending at Mugabe’s birthdays: “There has been no more mistimed consumption of cake in a hungry country since Marie Antoinette made the mistake of recommending it in 1789.”

Due to disastrous policies Zimbabwe has become a country of contradictions, led by well-fed leaders proclaiming equal opportunities for all to a majority populace surviving on the charity of international donors.

Responsibility has been cast directly on Mugabe’s misrule but he has often found other people to blame. Political analysts have said Mugabe, whose character revolves around the notion of infallibility, would like to leave the political scene as a revolutionary hero fulfilling an historic mission.

There have been stories of his failing health, which have been dismissed with contempt by his handlers. But one aspect which can no longer be disputed is that the octogenarian leader has lost the pre-millennium lustre, which only lives on in his dapper dressing. Critics and opponents believe Mugabe is shepherding the country down the wrong road as it cries out for alternative ideas to extricate it from the current abyss.

But with youthful resolve, Mugabe at 80 has finally decided to deal with corruption which has seen the appointment of a cabinet that is focused on fighting the scourge. The latest cabinet reshuffle saw the appointment of Didymus Mutasa as Anti-corruption minister and Webster Shamu as Minister of Policy Implementation. John Nkomo who is now Special Affairs minister responsible for Land Reform is expected to clean up the mess and corruption wrought about by the agrarian reform programme.

Gideon Gono who was appointed central bank governor in December last year has been given a free rein to put right the economy and deal with errant businesses, especially in the financial sector. The police have also been given teeth to deal with corruption in high places. Two high-profile Zanu PF politicians, Philip Chiyangwa and James Makamba, have been arrested and charged in the current blitz to root out “economic sabotage”.

This has become the clarion call for government spin-doctors determined to exonerate Mugabe and his allies from accusations of plunging the country into economic ruin — setting the platform for vote canvassing in the general election scheduled for early next year.

Political scientist and chairman of the Mass Public Opinion Institute Prof Gordon Chavunduka said Mugabe’s success in achieving his goal of ridding the country of corruption depended largely on the performance of his cabinet.

“He (Mugabe) says he can do it but we will have to wait and see,” said Chavunduka. “Whether he is effective or not depends on the other people — the ministers around him.”

Chavunduka said Mugabe could be using the anti-corruption drive to campaign for the 2005 election.

“Normally we would welcome and support any moves to fight corruption, a lot of countries are doing it. But in this country it is clearly for election purposes and we are not happy about that,” said Chavunduka.

Phil Matsheza of the Human Rights Research and Documentation Trust of Southern Africa said the institutional framework which the government has put in place to fight corruption was not consistent with best practices in the region. He said the common practice was to set up independent anti-corruption units and not a whole ministry.

“There is already the Ministry of Home Affairs,” said Matsheza. “Is the new ministry going to have arresting powers or will it be there to create policy? There is already a Justice ministry doing that. So what does that new ministry do?” he asked.

“We do not think that anything has changed much in terms of the institutions to fight corruption,” he said.

Apart from electioneering Mugabe should use the anti-graft drive to convince international financiers  — who have for the past five years turned their backs on Zimbabwe — that the instruments of government were in the process of rehabilitation.

Diplomats this week said international donors would want the ruling aristocracy to declare the sources of their immense wealth and account for budgetary allocations.

“There is not going to be immediate applause from Western countries,” said a diplomat.

“We want to see more evidence that Mugabe is serious about this. Do you not feel it is intriguing that he is starting to fight corruption now when everyone has been talking about it for more than a decade?” he said.

Other observers have also been quick to point out that Mugabe’s use of the anti-corruption drive as an election campaign gambit faces problems along the way. It is generally believed there are many among his government who are laden with ill-gotten wealth.

Political scientist Richard Cornwell in a statement on the South African Regional Poverty Network last year said the issue of Mugabe’s departure from the political scene and dealing with corruption were intertwined.

“Certainly within the ruling party there are those who wish to see President Mugabe stay on at virtually any cost, so much are their own political and personal fortunes contingent upon his survival,” said Cornwell.

“Yet there are others who have managed to acquire considerable capital at little cost in the economic maelstrom, and who now desire a return to some sort of normality in order to enjoy their riches. How long can the fractures in the edifice of the ruling party be papered over?”

To put plaster on the perceived cracks, Mugabe has surrounded himself with more cheerleaders to applaud his every step towards the inevitable end of his career. In the name of a cabinet reshuffle Mugabe has resuscitated some dead wood, finding places for them on the crowded chessboard.

In 1998 Mugabe charged at a central committee meeting that there was a lot of dead wood among senior members of the party and government. But those discarded as dead wood have been recycled and are back.

The cabinet reshuffle was long overdue, not only because of the poor performance of some of the players, but because it was seen as an opportunity for Mugabe to trim his bloated government which the fiscus cannot sustain.

While reshuffling his cabinet could have improved his sagging popularity, political analysts point out that this could have created new problems.

There are many in his party who would like to share some cake with him. But will they deliver after the festivities?

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Broadcast on SW RADIO AFRICA newsreel programme:


Friday 20 February 2004


Tomorrow is the 21st of February.  A day that all dedicated Zimbabweans will recognise as the anniversary of the day on which Robert Mugabe was born. In other words the Zimbabwean leader is having a birthday and he will be turning the ripe old age of 80. In his twenty four years as leader of the country Robert Mugabe has certainly made a big difference to the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans. Here is a list of just a few of his remarkable achievements:

In 1980 Zimbabwe was a net exporter of food to the entire Southern Africa region. This year the World Food Programme estimate that seven and a half million Zimbabweans (almost three quarters of the population) will require food aid in order to stay alive. For the first time in recorded history Zimbabwe will be importing food from Zambia.

In 1980 one and a half US dollars was worth one Zimbabwe dollar. Today a US dollar is worth approximately 4,000 Zimbabwe dollars.  To put it another way, in 1981 Z$10,000 would buy you a house in Harare. In 2004 the same amount would buy you 10 loaves of bread - if you are lucky enough to find them and have the patience to stand in a long queue.

In the mid 1980's Zimbabwean annual exports totalled US$2.5 billion.
In 2004 Zimbabwean exports have dropped to half of that, while the population has doubled in that time. 70% of the population is unemployed. 80% of Zimbabweans are living below the poverty line.
In 1980 inflation was around 9%. This year inflation is running at 622%.


In the 1980s there was a massive expansion of education in all sectors from primary to tertiary. Today teachers are persecuted, beaten and replaced by illiterate graduates of the youth militia camps. In the early 1980s Zimbabwe had a system of Justice that was respected across the Africa continent.


 In the last month three more judges have resigned and across the country the rule of law is virtually non-existent. Likewise, the health system was the envy of many developing countries and was second only to South Africa's on the continent. Today you can die in hospital for want of a saline drip.

Also in 1980, Robert Mugabe had one pair of glasses now he rivals singer Elton John with a wide range of frames and tinted lenses to match the occasion. Which pair of specs will be on display on Saturday is a subject for, well, speculation.

In short Robert Mugabe has done for Zimbabwe very much the same as Genghis Khan did for the civilizations of Northern China and the Middle East during the 13th Century. Less of a leader more of an affliction, Robert Mugabe will be remembered long after he is gone. Rather like a plague, he has really touched the lives of Zimbabweans.

So from the crew of SW Radio Africa: happy birthday and may we suggest that 80 is a very good age to retire 

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Zim Independent
NECF fails to achieve goals
Shakeman Mugari

The National Economic Consultative Forum (NECF) has failed to achieve the bulk of the objectives it set for itself last year. More than 98% of the objectives set last year amid much publicity have failed to materialise due to lack of commitment among the stakeholders.

The forum is also struggling to retain the confidence of key business stakeholders who say it has been overtaken by the monetary policy statement announced on December 18 by Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono.

Last year participants at the forum bemoaned the lack of action and the slow progress on the initiatives agreed upon.

The Zimbabwe Independent heard this week that the government was now reluctant to participate in the NECF which it considers a "time wasting exercise that yields nothing".

The forum had set out to implement about 148 objectives, all of which were supposed to have been accomplished before the end of last year. Close to 97 of these goals are still pending, 49 are said to be on-going while only two have been achieved. The 49 objectives that are indicated as on-going are actually not pure initiatives of the forum but were established before it was formed.

The respective stakeholders who have promised to implement some of the measures are said to be dragging their feet. So far the forum has only managed to persuade the government to suspend duty on buses and imported parts.

Tendai Makwavarara, an economist at the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), said the NECF had failed dismally both in its operations and objectives.

"We still have low growth, high inflation and no investor confidence. Definitely they have failed," said Makwavarara.

She pointed out that NECF programmes were likely to crumble because they were not supported by a proper budgetary allocation. The 2004 budget did not make an allocation to the forum.

Zimsun chief executive Shingi Munyeza, who has been a major participant, agreed that the forum had degenerated into a talk show but emphasised the need to remain in dialogue.

"The UN is a talk show and so is parliament. The process in the NECF might take a little longer but there is still need to remain in dialogue. Let's keep talking," said Munyeza.

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Zim Independent
Armed robberies on the increase
Augustine Mukaro

ARMED robberies are assuming alarming proportions in Harare as criminals increasingly use firearms in attacks on suburban homes.

The most tragic victim is prominent local architect Andy van de Ruit who was killed at his Hogerty Hill home in Borrowdale on the night of Wednesday, February 4.

He was killed when armed intruders broke into his house by pulling the back door off its hinges.

Andy van de Ruit was shot in the chest while his wife, Felicity, was shot in the stomach and had to be hospitalised. Their 18-year-old son was present at the time.

There has been a spate of armed robberies recently. While no other fatalities have been reported, people have been shot at or assaulted.

The Anti-Hijack Trust this week told the Zimbabwe Independent that armed robberies were on the increase.

"Last year alone 76 incidents were reported to us," Anti-Hijack Trust director, Deddy Thomas said.

"In all the cases guns and violence were reportedly used with shots being fired in the process," she said.

Thomas said her organisation was receiving reports from all over the country including farms.

"Our reports came from as far away as Bulawayo, Nyanga, and Mutare as well as Harare.

She said in all the incidents victims lost forex, local currency, and jewelry as well as electronic gadgets, which include DVDs and television sets and cameras.

"The first thing the gang would ask for is a safe," Thomas said. "If they don't get what they want, they then turn violent, beating up the victims, threatening to rape women and looting the houses.

"We suspect there are about four to five gangs doing the rounds throughout the country," she said.

One of the victims in the Mutare area, which has been hard-hit by robberies, complained bitterly about the level of response to their SOS calls by their security company.

"When my alarm went off to indicate that there was a problem at the house, the security company's rapid response team called us and assured us that they would be at the house in five minutes," the victim, said. "They arrived shortly thereafter but parked down the road until they were sure the coast was clear," he said.

The company later claimed it had given instructions to its staff not to enter premises where firearms were being used.

In another case a prominent Harare doctor says when a gang of five armed robbers broke into his Borrowdale home they took hostage his daughter before demanding keys to the safe. They looted millions of dollars worth of accessories as well as cash.

"My 16-year-old daughter was in the lounge practising the piano when the robbers struck and took her hostage. She screamed for help to which I responded swiftly," the doctor said. "As I approached them, the gang leader fired a shot at me.

"I told them that I would comply with all their demands if they let the girl free which they did. They proceeded to bind my wife and me, threatening to rape my wife. They demanded to know where the safe was. I surrendered the keys. They looked pleased with the money they got before proceeding to ransack the house and escape into the darkness," he said.

He said the whole operation took about 30 minutes. A relative had to go and fetch the police from Borrowdale police station.

"My sister fetched a police sergeant from Borrowdale police station. The officer promised to bring a back-up team to look into the matter, which he never did but only referred us to the CID who took five days to respond," the doctor said.

A victim in Mutare said his family was the fourth to undergo such an ordeal in the city. He lost millions worth of household goods including a Mitsubishi Colt truck in which the gang loaded their loot. He was left locked up in a toilet after being shot at.

Other victims report beatings, the threat of rape, and being tied up. One family reported two hours of terror recently when their young children were separated from them as they were subject to beatings and abuse with constant threats of rape against the women.

"I am a killer," one of the intruders told the family's young son before searching the house for money.

Police yesterday said there had been 372 cases of armed robberies in Harare last year, 259 in Bulawayo, 106 in Mashonaland East, and 160 in Mashonaland West. Manicaland had 58 cases.

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Zim Independent
Donnelly to quit in July
Dumisani Muleya

BRITISH ambassador to Zimbabwe, Sir Brian Donnelly, frequently accused of political subversion by government, will be leaving in July, it has been confirmed.

Sir Brian is set to leave after completing his stormy three-year tour of duty in a country that has been locked in a major dispute with its former colonial master. London and Harare have been feuding over repression and human rights abuses, as well as the chaotic land reform in Zimbabwe.

British embassy spokesperson Sophie Honey said Sir Brian was expected to "move on" after his tenure expired.

"The ambassador is due to complete his three-year posting in July and will be expected to move on shortly afterwards," Honey said this week.

The crack British diplomat came to Zimbabwe in 2001 from Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia where he served at the height of the 1999 Kosovo war with a difficult assignment to improve prickly relations between London and Harare.

No sooner had he settled into his office than he found himself in confrontation with the belligerent regime of Robert Mugabe that had just won a bitterly fought parliamentary election against the newly-formed labour-backed Movement for Democratic Change.

Sir Brian, who took over from an equally combative Peter Longworth, became a subject of regular attack in the state media where he was branded an MI6 operative.

Last June, Mugabe threatened him with expulsion claiming he had collaborated with the opposition MDC to organise rolling mass action against government.

"We know that the British have been behind it. They are giving them money, we know that," Mugabe said. "This guy called Mr Donnelly (sic), if he continues doing it, we will kick him out of this country."

Despite endless official hissing, Sir Brian remained defiant. Last August he said Britain would continue to speak out against oppression and human rights abuses in Zimbabwe regardless of colonial and other forms of blackmail against London.

Donnelly said since he came to Zimbabwe the political and economic situation had dramatically deteriorated.

"Two years have now passed since I arrived in Zimbabwe. It has been a roller-coaster ride, with plenty of ups and downs and with seatbelts fastened most of the time," he said last August.

"Among the ups: prices - of almost everything, the number of people needing food assistance, political violence and polarisation, violations of human rights."

Sir Brian said the downs included "economic growth, maize, wheat and tobacco production, fuel supplies, foreign trade and investment, the value of the Zim dollar, standards of healthcare and education, and tolerance.

"In short, by almost any measure, Zimbabwe is much worse off now than when I arrived," he said.

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Zim Independent
Women lobby for Mutasa's release
Staff Writer

THERE was intense lobbying yesterday from members of the Zanu PF Women's League and family members for the release of businesswoman and Telecel director Jane Mutasa who was arrested on Wednesday on charges of externalising foreign currency.

The Zimbabwe Independent yesterday heard that family members and friends were pursuing a parallel process of appealing to the courts and seeking political intervention to secure the release of Mutasa who was remanded in custody on Wednesday to March 3. She is facing one count of externalising US$2 000. Her son Terrence was also remanded in custody to the same date on charges of externalising US$102 000 and R1,2 million.

Family members were yesterday planning to meet Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi, Zanu PF secretary for administration Emmerson Mnangagwa, the party's information supremo Nathan Shamuyarira and Justice minister Patrick Chinamansa.

Mutasa and another Zanu PF stalwart, James Makamba who is also a director at Telecel, have been detained in terms of Section 32 of the newly promulgated Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Amendment of Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act) regulations.

The new regulations allow detention of up to 21 days for persons charged with money laundering, forex externalisation and other crimes related to trade in grain, gold and other precious stones.

Meanwhile, Telecel general manager Anthony Carter yesterday said he had not been charged in connection with the forex externalisation saga.

"I cannot make a comment because the police are still in investigating," said Carter. "As of today (yesterday) I have not been charged."

Asked about his involvement as a signatory to the Telecel offshore FCAs Carter said: "Obviously, I signed the cheques with the authorisation from the board. All I can say is that there were no irregularities with any of our FCA accounts," he said.

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Zim Independent
Zanu PF not committed to talks - SACP
Dumisani Muleya

THE South African Communist Party (SACP), which forms a tripartite alliance with the ruling African National Congress and Cosatu, says it doubts Zanu PF's commitment to talks with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

In a damning report, Can the Zimbabwean political impasse be broken?, the SACP, which recently sent a team to the country on a fact-finding mission, said Zanu PF was equivocating over talks to resolve the current crisis.

"We certainly agree that a negotiated transition offers the most probable and certainly the most desirable path to breaking the political impasse that is impacting with such devastating effect on the social and economic situation in Zimbabwe," it said.

"However, the SACP is uncertain about the degree of commitment to serious negotiations, particularly from the side of the Zanu PF government. We are concerned that there might be a lack of urgency."

Zanu PF and the MDC have been talking about talks for a long time now. The SACP said it was worried about repression and human rights abuses in the country.

"We are also deeply concerned at the continued repression of workers, opposition activists and of journalists," it said. "Such measures do not help to create a climate for serious negotiations, in which both sides assume full, patriotic responsibility for taking their country out of its crisis."

The SACP said South Africa should resist being sucked into the vortex of the Zimbabwe crisis.

"It is also important that we do not allow ourselves, as South Africans, to be manoeuvred into a position in which it seems that we need, or at least our government needs, the negotiations to succeed more than the Zimbabweans themselves," it said.

While land redistribution was "very central to consolidating the Zimbabwean independence struggle, a lawless, populist-inspired land grab by an elite in the inner circles of government is a cruel caricature of the kind of land reform that the rural poor of Zimbabwe (and South Africa) so desperately require", the SACP said.

"The 'fast-track' land reform in Zimbabwe has left hundreds of thousands of the poorest of farm workers displaced and without work," it said. The SACP said the ANC regarded the MDC as a creature of Zanu PF's "mistakes and stagnation".

"In late 1999 and through to the Zimbabwean parliamentary elections of 2000, the ANC government analysed the emergence of MDC as essentially a symptom of Zanu PF's mistakes and stagnation," it said.

"The principal strategic response (of the ANC) was to encourage (Zanu PF towards) more proficient governance and renewal of the party, fostering organisational democracy and a mass base."

But, the SACP said, "for several reasons, Zanu PF was unable to pursue this engagement consistently - which does not mean that we should quit trying".

"The parliamentary elections of 2000 also underlined that the MDC was not a passing phenomenon, it had established a significant electoral base," it said.            

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ZIMBABWE: Possible water cuts could result in health risks

BULAWAYO, 20 February (IRIN) - The directorate of disease control has warned
that threatened countrywide water cuts by the Zimbabwe National Water
Authority (ZINWA), could result in the spread of diseases like cholera.

ZINWA, a parastatal charged with managing and distributing water, has
threatened to disconnect supplies to councils in a bid to recover a soaring
collective debt estimated at around Zim $200,000,000 (US $50,000).

Dr Stanley Midzi, the director of disease prevention and control in the
Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, told IRIN that there could be a
nationwide outbreak of epidemic illnesses such as cholera and dysentery if
ZINWA went ahead with its plan.

"I would urge ZINWA to pursue all possible avenues of dialogue in resolving
the debt problem with the local authorities. The immediate result of such
action would be catastrophic, because the absence of water facilitates
[would lead to] the quick breeding and spread of hygiene- related diseases."

Although the department had enough medical supplies to deal with an outbreak
of these waterborne diseases, its financial and human resources were already

"We would not want ZINWA to test our systems to the point of exhaustion by
causing an artificial catastrophe - they should talk to the local
authorities and save lives. Others say prevention is better, but we would
like to add that it is cheaper than cure," said Midzi.

Fani Phiri, president of the Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe (UCAZ)
and also the mayor of Kadoma in the Midlands province, said the association
was looking forward to an emergency meeting with ZINWA to resolve
outstanding issues. The meeting is expected to take place next week.

Although Phiri did not have the figures, he confirmed that urban councils
were heavily indebted to ZINWA, but added that these councils had grounds
for refusing to pay.

"Most of the authorities say they will not pay until ZINWA considers their
plea for a reduction in water tariffs. Councils feel that ZINWA is
overcharging, and that is beyond the budgets of local authorities," Phiri

He said the combined effect of a high water tariff and the expense of
importing water treatment chemicals would eventually force the councils to
pass on the costs to consumers - the water authority had increased consumer
tariffs by between 80 percent and 100 percent in August last year.

The revised rates for 2004, proposed by most councils, were already being
resisted by residents, while the Central Statistical Office's Consumer Price
Index for last month indicated that rents and rates went up by 97 percent.

The councils would also ask ZINWA to reduce its new water pollution fines,
among other grievances to be tackled at the planned emergency meeting, said
Phiri. ZINWA increased its pollution fines by 2,900 percent in July last
year, resulting in an outcry from local authorities.

ZINWA's recent water shut-off threat is the second in six months. In
September last year it threatened to cut supplies to all urban and rural
authorities in Matabeleland South province over a collective debt which had
soared to over US $24,000. The cut was only averted by the intervention of
government and UCAZ, after strong protests from health officials who feared
major disease outbreaks.

Phiri said the shortage of water treatment chemicals that urban authorities
faced last year had eased, following an allocation of almost US $300,000 by
the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to fund the importation of chemicals from
neighbouring South Africa and Botswana.

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From The Mail &Guardian (SA), 20 February

Happy birthday Robert Mugabe

Angus Shaw

Harare - President Robert Mugabe, one of Africa's most combative and enduring rulers, shows no sign of mellowing with age as he turns 80 on Saturday. In the days before his birthday, Mugabe spoke mainly of war - war against the alleged efforts of Britain and the United States to topple his regime, and war against "economic saboteurs" at home. Mugabe's fighting talk was accompanied by deepening state repression. Last week, he signed a presidential decree authorising detention without bail for up to four weeks for political and economic offences. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change described the decree - the latest in a growing arsenal of repressive laws - as an undeclared state of emergency.

A slight, fidgety man, whose hands are never still, Mugabe is sub-Saharan Africa's fourth-longest ruling president after Togo's Gnassingbe Eyadema, Gabon's Omar Bongo and Angola's Eduardo dos Santos. Hailed in the 1980s as one of the continent's great statesmen for his attempts to reconcile blacks and whites after more than a decade of fighting, he has since been condemned as a tyrant for rekindling racial hatreds and sacrificing his country's economy in a bid to cling to power. Mugabe led black guerrillas in the campaign against the white-minority Rhodesian government, but sought to allay the fears of the country's tiny white minority when he became Zimbabwe's first black leader after independence from Britain in 1980. Many whites, who had been told by their leaders that Mugabe planned to rape their women and shoot their men, decided to stay after he promised that "there is a place for you in the sun". With the help of their commercial farms, Zimbabwe prospered and developed into a regional breadbasket. Mugabe worked to bolster the nation's health and education systems, making them among the best in Africa.

But the economy soured amid Zimbabwe's costly involvement in The Democratic Republic of Congo's five-year war and revelations of corruption. After voters rejected a constitutional referendum in 2000 that would have consolidated Mugabe's powers, ruling party officials accused white commercial farmers of bankrolling his opponents in the Movement for Democratic Change. Mugabe ordered the seizure of thousands of white-owned farms for redistribution to blacks, touching off more than three years of political violence that has claimed the lives of more than 200 people and hounded tens of thousands of mostly black opposition supporters from their homes. The land seizures, coupled with erratic rains, have crippled the country's agriculture-based economy. Zimbabwe faces record inflation and unemployment, along with acute shortages of food, hard currency, gasoline and other imports.

Mugabe has repeatedly dismissed rumors that his health is failing and calls from within his own party to retire. "The president is as fit as none of his detractors can ever hope to be in their lifetime," his spokesperson, George Charamba, said recently. Mugabe was narrowly re-elected in 2002 in an election that independent observers said was marred by intimidation and vote rigging. He has since stepped up a crackdown against dissent, arresting opposition leaders and waging lengthy legal battles to shut down the country's only independent newspaper. Political analysts say he is unlikely to leave office until he has secured another victory in next year's parliamentary vote and presidential elections in 2008, possibly for a successor of his choice. In a bid to clean up his Zanu-PF party before the elections, Mugabe has announced a new drive to fight top-level corruption. Two senior ruling party officials were arrested earlier this year.

Analysts, however, dismiss the move as political cunning. "It is all being stage-managed. He is not going to touch the really big guys, but punish only the ones he can afford to sacrifice," said John Makumbe, a political scientist at the University of Zimbabwe. The two arrested officials had flaunted lavish lifestyles, buying mansions and expensive cars, as more than 70% of the population languished below the poverty line. But Mugabe's closest and most powerful colleagues have been among the biggest beneficiaries of official graft, Makumbe said. The party's Chinhoyi provincial chairman, Philip Chiyangwa, boasted in the fashion pages of the state Herald newspaper that he owned 500 suits, 800 pairs of shoes and thousands of silk ties - all color-coordinated in a computerised wardrobe. The anti-corruption drive has scared some companies and corporate executives into renewing their allegiance to the ruling party - with several making large contributions to Zanu PF coffers.

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A letter to Joshua - source unknown

My dear Joshua,

You were born on the eve of the farm invasions and you are now four years old. As your Daddy I have important decisions to make for you-decisions that will affect the rest of your life. As a family we live in a country where 85 in every 100 white farmers have been removed from their homes since you were born. We live in a time where inflation is the highest of any country in the world and our economy is the fastest shrinking. We see our friends and our skilled people leaving all the time and they say "We are leaving for the sake of our children"'.

Maybe its stubbornness; maybe its the inherent fighting spirit passed on to me by your grandfather; but deep down I believe its Gods will for us and I say "We are staying for the sake of you children. "It may sound perverse given what I have said about the country that we live in, but I wish to explain.

At only 3 months you had your first run in with the darkness. They smashed up our car with axes and rocks and tried to kill Mummy and you and I but God got us through that. Your Daddy's been beaten with sticks and kicked in the dust by a C.I.O. man and a crowd and you were worried about that but God got us through that. Your Daddy then had another smash up in his car with war-veterans and by a miracle God got him through that. Your Daddy's been shot at and abused ; he's dealt with beaten farmers and beaten farmers wives and beaten farm-workers; and looted properties and butchered animals and even bloody butchered farmers murdered in the name of land-reform. He's had his job and his car taken away from him and he's been shunned by the farming hierarchy but God got us through that. He has been arrested and he has seen broken men coming out of prison and broken families spread out across the continents but I still say with your Mummy "We are staying for the sake of you children."

We have undoubtedly been more fortunate than most. We still have our home -for today. We still have our family around us - for today.We still have an income - for today. And for today, when I see you go off in the morning with the shepherd - your hair the same colour as winter grass, head bobbing up and down behind the sheep; a little wild figure at one with the veld I feel so privileged to know that you are growing-up in such an environment learning to know and appreciate the real things away from the invasive world of T.V. screens; computer games; city streets and shoe box flats.

When I say we are staying for your sake I say it because as you grow-up you will face challenges of a nature that you will not face in other places and you will know hardships which so long as we face them right will make you real.You have seen death and heart-felt grief already and you have felt dust and wet earth and sun and rain and you know already the joys of growing things and hunting things and of being part of real life - the raw life - that comes from being a son of the African soil.

For some this impassioned reality that we are such an integral part of is simply too much. After a time they grow tired. The harsh extremities become just too much. The constant fight for our very survival which is so all-consuming eventually wears them down. "Good-bye" they say "Good-bye to all that. We would rather not be a part of it ". And off they go to a land of security and progress and hardly ever come back because they know they have left their hearts behind and it would be too painful to become re-acquainted with them.

From the cosy world of material security it is an unthinkable madness that anybody should choose to stay here; but as one octogenarian couple said to me whilst in the process of being forcefully evicted out of their home of fifty years recently "We do not deserve to have our home or our country if we are not prepared to fight for them."

So our decision to stay has not been taken lightly. We have taken it knowing that things are going to get worse; that as white people the people in power will continue to persecute us because of the colour of our skins; that when this storm is passed it won't take long for the next one to brew-up; that our decision to confront evil and fight it will continue to have consequences. Our decision has been made knowing that when we become tired God will give us the strength to go on; and that somehow in the groping darkness that this storm has plunged us into, we have a responsibility before God to not be overcome by it but to rather be a beacon of light if ever we can. I write this with a prayer that you will some day understand.

With all my love, Daddy.

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Zim Independent

The law that Mugabe gave to Deuschle

 DEFENCE minister Sydney Sekeramayi has called on defence attachés accredited to Zimbabwe not to engage in local politics but to concentrate on giving military advice.

“May I remind you that the world over the defence forces as the most powerful instrument of the state apparatus must be apolitical for they are meant to guarantee the peace and security of every citizen in the nation irrespective of religious, political or social affiliation,” he said in a speech read on his behalf at a reception for the defence attachés.

This is as it should be. Political neutrality and professionalism go hand in hand. That is why it is unforgivable when senior military commanders intervene in election campaigns to inform the voting public who is or is not acceptable to the armed forces as a candidate. That is why the military must not play any role in electoral supervision. That is why it is unhealthy for ex-military officers to be given party-political posts after their retirement. That is why serving officers should not engage in private business.

Most of the defence attachés present at the reception last Friday knew that already. They probably wondered if their absent host did!

 The official media recently gave coverage to the presentation of a cheque for $30 million to President Mugabe by Hear the Word Ministries pastor Tom Deuschle. Readers of the Independent have expressed their indignation in our letters columns. They will be even more angered to hear what Deuschle had to say at the ceremony.

“Pastor Deuschle said the church supported the freedom of the people but that should be expressed within the confines of the law,” the Herald reported.

Does that include the law gazetted last weekend which says people can be detained for up to three weeks without a magistrate or judge being able to release them? Does that include the media law which empowers a government-appointed commission to impose severe penalties on journalists whose reports the state takes exception to? Does it include the law which prevents women from marching in the name of peace and justice?

Deuschle said there were powers that were trying to destroy Zimbabwe. His church would not judge the president by what the press, the West or the East said about him.

“We know that God has blessed you and it’s God’s gift to the nation because God establishes leaders,” Deuschle gushed. The recently reshuffled cabinet should give the country “clear guidance”.

Which is evidently something “Pastor” Deuschle is unable to do!

At least we had some straight talking from the president at the ceremony. He admitted to failures on the political side and in the agricultural sector. He spoke of the corruption and robberies that were prevalent as well as drunkenness and drug addiction.

“We have been tarnished but not everyone has been tarnished,” he said. “There have been those who resist evil.”

The president was last week photographed with Archbishop Pius Ncube who is demonised weekly by the official media for his principled stand against the brutality and evil stalking this land. Other church leaders were quoted last week as gullibly offering their support to the president’s anti-corruption drive. They didn’t ask what happened to those who fraudulently milked the War Victims Compensation Fund of millions of dollars a few years ago.

God is obviously offering Zimbabweans a choice as to who his real spokesmen are. Tom Deuschle has shown us who he serves!

 Just as many of our readers were appalled by Deuschle’s fawning gesture, so others were by Island Hospice’s decision to invite Health minister David Parirenyatwa to open their new headquarters.

Bulawayo South MP David Coltart evidently shares the same view. He wrote recently to Island Hospice as follows:

“Dear Members of Island Hospice,“I am a great admirer of the wonderful work your organisation does and just recently received yet another glowing report from a dear friend whose wife was ministered to by your superb staff in her last days.It is accordingly with deep regret that I have to write to you to express my disappointment that you invited Zanu PF’s Minister of Health to the recent opening of your new headquarters.

“As you probably know I recently participated in the budget debate in parliament and was appalled by the stance taken by this man, and indeed all those who voted for the Ministry of Health’s budget. The Ministry of Health has onlybeen allocated $700 billion which is woefully inadequate. By way of comparison I should mention that the CIO was granted $62 billion, the Youth Brigades some $40 billion, the Army and Airforce $815 billion,the Police $339 billion and the “unallocated reserve” in the Ministry of Finance (which is not subject to the same scrutiny as other votes by parliament itself and is routinely used to supplement defence spending)$1,3 trillion.

“In other words we know that at the very least this regime will be spending $1,256 trillion defending itself (plus whatever else it takes from the unallocated reserve during the year) while poor Zimbabweans are being sent home to die from our hospitals because of inadequate medicines and lack of medical personnel.

“In these circumstances I find it distasteful that any medical organisation could associate itself with, never mind invite as guest of honour, a man who is complicit with and largely responsible for this appalling state of affairs. I hope that your wonderful organisation will never associate itself with such people again.”

If Island Hospice wants to maintain public support it should take note of Coltart’s letter. A response from them would be welcome.

 With all the new appointments to cabinet, Muckraker has been wondering how the government will find office space for them all. Many are now attached to the Office of the President. But Munhumutapa Building is already overflowing with ministers of state. We imagine it may be necessary to put in rows of school desks to accommodate the new pupils. The headmaster’s office is just around the corner if any disciplinary measures are necessary. And prefects John and George will be patrolling the corridors to keep order.

 Let’s hope President Mugabe’s office boys weren’t hoping for a reprieve by recent changes in South Africa’s editorial landscape. A preemptive strike in the Herald last Saturday suggests they have no illusions about what is on the way. And sure enough, the Sunday Times opened up with a 21-gun salute from its new editor last weekend.

Zimbabwe had become “a textbook model of economic disintegration, social decay and autocracy”, he wrote. What was “quiet” about South African diplomacy, he asked, when South African ministers have been loud in “justifying the actions of an erstwhile liberation movement that has opted to turn on the people it liberated”?

Documenting human rights abuses and repression, the editor declared that the South African government must realise that “in as much as it is not expected to resolve Zimbabwe’s problems, it should not be denying the evil being perpetrated by the Harare government”.

“Mbeki and his government should start by openly acknowledging the human rights abuses being visited on ordinary — overwhelmingly black — Zimbabweans by the Mugabe government.”

A powerful opinion piece by Raymond Louw, veteran journalist and editor of the Southern African Report, headed “(Nkosazana) Dlamini-Zuma is clearly ignorant or blind” accompanied the editor’s broadside. This followed the foreign minister’s defence of Aippa.

Meanwhile, the Mail & Guardian provided a list of her maladroit opinions on Zimbabwe, each one more daft than the last!

 Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena has accused Woza women of seeking to take advantage of St Valentine’s Day to be heard by the international community.

“They are only raising issues so that they would be heard by the international community,” Bvudzijena said. “These are the very same people who need publicity.”

Do the police not ever seek publicity? And is it not logical that when any group seeks publicity it should be on the most favourable terms to maximise effect?

That is why journalists meet on the UN’s World Press Freedom Day. That is why protestors against the war in Iraq gathered in London when President Bush visited Tony Blair there recently.

What sort of group is it that doesn’t pick the most favourable grounds to make its point?

Now whenever an international meeting looms and people gather in Zimbabwe to protest or issue a statement they are accused of seeking to attract the attention of the international community.

This may be true, or the timing may be coincidental. But it is certainly not an offence and hardly remarkable.

As it was, the threats made by the state against the Woza marchers won for them a degree of international attention they would not have otherwise secured by a simple march. Perhaps Bvudzijena might ponder that. And we presume he didn’t object to the nice big colour pic the Herald published of him which helped draw attention to his statement!

 Meanwhile, we are pleased to hear that the police are concerned with things that really matter.

AFP reports they arrested nine cricketers at the weekend for dancing nude in the rain in the middle of the cricket grounds in the north-western town of Hwange.

Inspector Andrew Phiri said the nine were arrested for crimen injuria for indecently exposing themselves during traditional annual anniversary celebrations of the formation of the Wankie Cricket Club. The cricketers allegedly took off their clothes after a stoppage due to rain then rushed to the ground and danced in full view of all cricket fans.

“Nine cricketers were arrested. They are being charged with crimen injuria. I think they will appear in court tomorrow (Tuesday),” Phiri said. “They were playing cricket, following the normal cricket rules and when it started raining all the officials and players left the ground. All of a sudden these nine undressed, rushed back to the centre of the ground and started dancing around naked ... nude, nude. They showed their private parts to all the people in the ground... and to some it was offensive,” said Phiri, adding that it was not yet clear why the men had danced naked. He said some spectators took photographs, police were informed and followed up with arrests.

 Reporters Without Borders(Reporters sans frontières)has condemned the Sri Lankan information and communication minister’s decision, announced this week, to cancel the TV broadcast channel licence  that was granted to the Asian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in 1995. The decision, which ABC executives called “politically motivated”, came just as the company was about to launch the channel. Reporters Without Borders said it feared that the decision could be a prelude to further tough measures against the privately-owned  media by President   Chandrika Kumaratunga’s administration during the parliamentary election campaign that starts in a few days. The president has already started to use the state media to her party’s advantage.

So who is the villain of this piece? Who is the Information minister who is manipulating the Sri Lankan media to the advantage of the incumbent?

His name is Lakshman Kadirgamar. Now doesn’t that name ring a bell? Wasn’t he the candidate for the Commonwealth secretary-general’s job in Abuja in December? Wasn’t he the candidate Thabo Mbeki put up against Don McKinnon — the one Jean Chretien said he had never heard of; the one even his own government did little to support; the one who won only a handful of votes and then retired into what we hoped was obscurity leaving egg all over Mbeki’s face?

Muckraker will be following the minister’s career closely so we know exactly the kind of person South Africa’s leaders were attempting to foist on the Commonwealth when they stage-managed their little revolt against McKinnon because he refused to let Mugabe back into the club.

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