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Zimbabwe annual inflation over 100,000 per cent

Sydney Morning Herald

February 21, 2008 - 6:04AM

Zimbabwe's annual inflation rate has soared to over 100,000 per cent,
according to official figures.

"The year-on-year inflation rate for the month of January 2008, as measured
by the all items Consumer Price Index (CPI) stood at 100,580.2 per cent,
gaining 34,367.9 percentage points on the December rate of 66,212.3 per
cent," the Central Statistical Office (CSO) said in a statement.

"This means that prices as measured by the all items CPI increased by an
average of 100,580.2 per cent between January 2007 and January 2008."

Inflation of food and non-alcoholic beverages reached 105,428.0 per cent
while non-food inflation was 97,885.7 per cent."

The southern African country's economy has been in a tailspin for the past
seven years, characterised by shortages of basic commodities like sugar,
cooking oil and petrol.

While the products are readily available on a burgeoning black market, many
Zimbabweans have resorted to buying their essentials from neighbouring
countries like Botswana, South Africa and Zambia.

At least 80 per cent of the population is living below the poverty line,
often skipping meals to stretch their income which frequently fails to cover
basic needs.

The government has introduced several measures to try and curb inflation,
including imposing a ceiling on the prices of some goods and services and
knocking three zeros off the country's currency.

The CSO last released monthly inflation statistics to the media in
September. The November figure was only released by the central bank chief
in a statement last month.


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Zimbabwe's Mugabe turns 84, battling to hold onto power


Wed 20 Feb 2008, 10:04 GMT

By Cris Chinaka

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe turns 84 on Thursday,
defiant as ever but facing an unprecedented challenge in an election due
next month.

Mugabe, Zimbabwe's sole ruler since independence in 1980, won a
controversial endorsement from his ruling ZANU-PF party to stand for
re-election, but could face stiff resistance from a former ally who blames
him for an economic meltdown.

Former Finance Minister Simba Makoni has vowed to grab the presidency from
Mugabe in the March 29 vote, promising to help Zimbabweans plagued by the
world's highest inflation rate and severe food and fuel shortages.

Mugabe says he is "raring to go" against his opponents, including Makoni,
who has been branded a sellout by state media.

Mugabe will celebrate his birthday at a huge rally in the southern border
town of Beitbridge on Saturday where he is expected to set the tone of his
re-election campaign.

On Thursday, Mugabe is likely to mark his birthday with a traditional
private family dinner and he is expected to meet with his staff.

But political analysts say the celebrations have been overshadowed by
Makoni's entry into the race in which Morgan Tsvangirai, head of the main
faction of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), is also

"Mugabe will try obviously to put up a brave face in public, but in private
I think his approach would be to treat both Makoni and Tsvangirai as serious
challengers," said Eldred Masunungure, a political science professor at the
University of Zimbabwe.


"Mugabe tends to get his way by never leaving anything to chance or taking
things for granted," he added.

The MDC accuses Mugabe of hanging on to power through vote-rigging and
repressive measures. It says Zimbabwe needs radical reform to ease a crisis
that has left the country with the world's highest inflation rate of over
66,000 percent.

Mugabe says the economy is being sabotaged by Western opponents led by
former colonial power Britain who want to oust him for seizing white-owned
farms for landless blacks, a move critics say has ruined the key agriculture

Analysts say Mugabe, whose government has effectively been under Western
economic sanctions since ZANU-PF's controversial election victory in 2000,
is likely to deploy his political shock troops -- independence war veterans
with a history of

intimidating rivals -- into the election fray to win the poll.

Millions of Zimbabweans are expected to vote in the presidential,
parliamentary and municipal polls. Mugabe and his opponents have described
the event as a landmark election in the country's post-independence period.

In a newspaper commentary last week on the March elections, Professor
Stephen Chan of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, and
author of the book "Robert Mugabe: A Life of Power and Violence", said
Makoni's chances would depend on influential figures rumoured to be backing
him in ZANU-PF.

"This is the lion cub taking on the lion king...and the people upon whom he
must now rely must not let him down at the first opportunistic moment," Chan

"Mugabe is a very powerful leader of the pride. There will be vengeance to
come. Makoni knows he has to win, and he knows the chances are high that he
will not."

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Zimbabweans face first prospect of run off poll in Mugabe presidential race

International Herald Tribune

The Associated PressPublished: February 20, 2008

HARARE, Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe's longtime ruler President Robert Mugabe faces a
first ever election run off if he fails to win 51 percent of valid votes
cast in a presidential poll in March.

Mugabe faces his greatest electoral challenge since he led the nation to
independence in 1980 in the March 29 vote being contested by former ruling
party loyalist Simba Makoni and the leader of an opposition faction, Morgan

The independent Zimbabwe Election Support Network said in a statement
Wednesday a little known clause in existing electoral law provided for a
presidential rerun if the winner receives less than 51 percent of ballots
cast in the race.

In all previous polls since independence, Mugabe, who turns 84 on Friday,
has swept to victory in elections marred by allegations of vote rigging and
political intimidation with more than 60 percent of presidential votes.

But he only fought single or minor opponents who never stopped him capturing
more than 51 percent. However, this March, said the support network, Makoni
and Tsvangirai are both serious contenders who could garner enough votes
together to require a run off, even if Mugabe topped the poll.

In the last disputed presidential vote in 2002, Tsvangirai officially won 41
percent of the ballots.
Under electoral law, the rerun between the top two contenders would be held
within 21 days of March 29, coinciding with the highly symbolic 28th
anniversary celebrations of independence from Britain on April 18 over which
Mugabe has traditionally presided as the nation's founding father.

Legal experts say Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party appears to have ignored the
rerun provisions when announcing the polling date before the third
presidential contender, Makoni, revealed his plans to run.

Makoni, 57, a businessman and former finance minister fired by Mugabe in
2002, is expected to attract disillusioned supporters of the deeply divided
ruling party and the fractured opposition. Zimbabwe faces a chronic economic
crisis with the world's highest official inflation of 66,000 percent and
acute shortages of food, hard currency, gasoline and most basic goods.

The state Electoral Commission said Wednesday it was still compiling full
details of 929 candidates nominated to contest 210 parliament seats and 60
seats in the upper house, or Senate, on March 29.

Makoni aides said at least 70 independents were standing under his banner in
eastern and southern Zimbabwe in the parliamentary elections and began
campaigning for him in the presidential race.

Nominations in the western Matabeleland province, where an opposition
faction led by Arthur Mutambara has pledged not to oppose Makoni, were still
to be confirmed.

Mugabe's party, shaken by internal divisions, on Tuesday said it will expel
party candidates running against its official nominees who refuse to
withdraw from the national polls.

Makoni was fired from the party last week for opposing Mugabe while clinging
to ruling party links as an independent.

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Impoverished Zimbabwe pays high price to say 'happy birthday Mr President'

Independent, UK

By Basildon Peta, Independent Foreign Service
Wednesday, 20 February 2008

The supermarket shelves are empty, inflation has topped 67,000 per cent and
power cuts are a daily event – but Zimbabwe is about to have a party.

Robert Mugabe turns 84 tomorrow and no amount of suffering is going to stop
him spending a small fortune in precious currency on a lavish celebration.

Marking the President's birth has become synonymous with extravagance in the
impoverished southern African country – and the ruling party's aggressive
"21st February Movement" makes sure everyone joins in.

The main event will be held in the border town of Beitbridge, while similar
festivities will be held across the country. The main event on the border
with South Africa is expected to attract thousands of ruling party
supporters and Mugabe cronies. While the party is going on, the nightly
exodus of Zimbabweans across the Limpopo River into South Africa will
undoubtedly continue.

Foreign companies doing business in Zimbabwe have been lining up to donate
money to fund the festivities, according to officials. They will also splash
out on newspaper, radio and television advertisements wishing Mr Mugabe many
happy returns.

The state-controlled Herald newspaper will carry a special supplement with
congratulatory advertisements tomorrow. However, with the Zimbabwean dollar
having become worthless over the years and contributions always trailing the
budget required, the beleaguered Zimbabwean taxpayer has in the past few
years been called upon to meet any shortfalls to Mr Mugabe's birthday

"It is not a cause that I believe in any more but something that one has to
do," said a businessman who has routinely contributed to Mr Mugabe's
birthday fund and who is contributing again this year.

For his 83rd birthday last year, civil servants were forced to make
donations because they "owed their jobs" to Mr Mugabe's leadership in the
1970s war of independence against white settlers. While reports of extortion
have not yet surfaced this year, many people find it awkward that the depths
of the economic crisis have not dissuaded him from conspicuous spending.

"I wish this was not his birth-day but his death-day," said a former
teacher. "The biggest contribution that this guy could have made to this
country is to have died a long time ago."

Absolom Sikhosana, the head of the violent youth wing of Mr Mugabe's ruling
Zanu-PF party and a leader of the 21st February Movement, said the birthday
was celebrated in the way it has been to provide an opportunity to learn
from his "exemplary character".

Party officials have set themselves a target of raising "millions of pounds"
to bankroll the event, although they could not give a specific figure. Any
shortfall is drawn from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ).

Last month, reports emerged that Mr Mugabe withdrew US$100,000 (£51,000)
from the RBZ at the artificially low official exchange rate to finance a
lavish three-week family holiday in Malaysia and Thailand. Most Zimbabweans
and businesses without close connections to the regime have to access
foreign currency on the black market at a very high premium.

Zimbabwe has been gripped by foreign currency shortages since Mr Mugabe
seized land from white farmers who used to grow cash crops for export.

At its peak, Zimbabwe was the second largest tobacco exporting country after
Brazil. The little foreign currency that still trickles into the country
from the mining sector is mostly used by the ruling party elite to finance
their luxury imports at the unrealistic official exchange rate of about £1
to Z$60,000. On the black market, the rate is £1 to Z$25m.

Mr Mugabe is expected to follow the party with an easy win in next month's
presidential elections. A victory could well fulfil his long-stated wish to
stay in power "until I am 100 years old".

Talks mediated by the South African President, Thabo Mbeki, to ensure free
elections have collapsed and diplomats admit in private that the elections
will be held in the same skewed environment that has produced controversial
results before.

But many Zimbabweans, who feel there will be no respite to their suffering
as long as Mr Mugabe clings to power, are hoping for a miracle to happen
that will see him ousted from power.

The Mugabe lifestyle

Robert Mugabe has always been clear that his mentor was the Catholic Church.
He was 10 when his father abandoned the family, leaving Robert, his mother
and his five siblings to the care of the Kutama mission.

The Irish Jesuit priest at the mission, Jerome O'Hea, remembered a
ferociously disciplined boy of 'unusual gravitas', whose only friends were
books. As the years go by without seeming to leave a mark on Mr Mugabe, many
Zimbabweans have simply accepted that the octogenarian is a permanent

Renowned as an early riser with a rigid fitness regime, the President of 28
years is said to eschew alcohol and eat in moderation. Every round of
rumours regarding his health is quashed with another confident public
appearance and marathon speech.

Always considered relatively frugal during his years in Ghana and after his
return to the then Rhodesia, it was only after the death of his first wife,
Sally, and his second marriage in 1996 to Grace Marufu that he took to
conspicuous consumption. The couple are still building an ever-expanding
mansion in the wealthy Borrowdale suburb of Harare.

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Zim polls: US issues travel warning


    February 20 2008 at 03:31PM

Harare - The United States embassy in Harare warned its citizens on
Wednesday against travelling to Zimbabwe, citing "safety and security
concerns" over upcoming general elections in the southern African country.

"The national election season in Zimbabwe may pose a security threat
to US citizens in Zimbabwe," the embassy said in a statement.

"Previous elections in 2000, 2002 and 2005 were contentious and
sparked food, water and fuel shortages as well as occasional outbreaks of

"Given the present significantly weaker Zimbabwean economy, chronic
hyperinflation and on-going shortages, the 2008 election season has the
potential to generate widespread instability and violence."

The travel warning expires on May 1.

The embassy advised its citizens living in Zimbabwe to maintain a high
level of vigilance ahead of the polls set for March 29.

"Be aware of your surroundings and avoid potentially threatening
events such as demonstrations, rallies or other gatherings," the statement

"Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational
and possibly escalate into violence."

Zimbabwe's last presidential elections in 2002 were marred by
widespread violence which left several people dead and thousands injured.

In January, police commissioner general Augustine Chihuri warned that
security forces would not tolerate violence during the March polls.

And police have issued a ban on people carrying certain weapons in
public in Harare and the southern city of Masvingo to prevent violence. -

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PTUZ leadership in hospital under police guard

20 February 2008

38 Days to go…

The seven Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) leadership who were
yesterday morning abducted by the ruling ZANU PF hooligans before their
subsequent torture at the party’s Provincial offices are under police guard
at a private hospital in Harare. They are joined by two more members who
were arrested the same day in the afternoon for distributing fliers in the
Central Business District (CBD).

The nine, who are currently undergoing medical treatment under heavy police
guard, will be taken to Harare Central police station for further
interrogations upon completion of medical treatment. Information reaching
Crisis Coalition from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) is that
the police have already started preparing statements of arrest in the

The catalyst team interviewed the organization’s President, Takavafira Zhou
who is nursing a fractured arm, deep cuts on the right leg and a swollen
back. He narrated his ordeal on how he ended up in the ZANU PF torture
chamber, which he said was covered with blood on both the floors and the

It all started when their members were caught by the ruling party militia in
the Central Business District whilst distributing fliers on their position
with regard to the education crisis in the country. They were taken to an
underground torture room at the ZANU PF Provincial offices along 4th street
where they were beaten up with sticks, metal polls and button sticks. They
were forced to recite ZANU PF slogans and proclaim President Robert Mugabe’s
rule till perpetuity.

One of the victims, Hilary Jamila, passed out during the torture in the
presence of an armed police officer who was later asked to arrest the nine.
The officer complied with the demands and subsequently arrested the nine.

Zhou stated that upon their arrival at Harare Central Police Station, he
woke up to the shock of his life when he saw what the police referred to as
exhibit. Police officers were in possession of Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) T/shirts and posters alleging that the PTUZ members were
distributing the materials. The police officers ignored the metal polls and
baton sticks which were used by the ZANU PF torture machinery.

The police were equally quick to accept ZANU PF as the complainant to the
case, ignoring the overwhelming evidence that the ruling party thugs had
tortured the nine. However, the police are alleging that the teachers were
distributing MDC materials in the ZANU PF property, provoking the party
youth militia to beat them up. The names of the victims are noted below:

Takavafira Zhou - President

Raymond Majongwe - Secretary General

Harrison Mudzuri - Information and Publicity Officer

Laditous Zunde - National Treasurer

Osward Madziva - National Coordinator

Bernard Shoko - Member

Linda Fumande - Member

Hilary Jamila - Member

Charles Mbwandarika - Member

The injuries sustained by the PTUZ members bear testimony to the grave
levels the ruling party can go to win the elections through hook or crook.
The culture of state sponsored violence has been revisited again by the
establishment. The people who are supposed to protect the populace, the
police, have become latent accomplices during such gruesome processes.
Allowing elections to be held under such an environment will definitely lead
to a compromised outcome; the results will be equally compromised.

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TUC condemns police beatings of teachers

ate: 20 February 2008

embargo: For immediate release

Beatings 'cast doubt on whether Zimbabwe elections will be free or fair'
The TUC has condemned the brutal Zimbabwean police attack on teacher trade
unionists yesterday (Tuesday) and called on governments in the region and in
Europe to protest to the Zimbabwean Government.

Nine members of teachers' union PTUZ including President Raymond Majongwe,
were arrested and beaten when they started distributing leaflets about the
country's education crisis. They were taken to a police station where
further savage beatings were administered, leaving four in hospital with
broken bones and other injuries.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'No peaceful protest or leaflet
distribution can justify the brutality of the Zimbabwean police. But a month
before Zimbabwe's next elections, this must cast doubt on how free and fair
those elections will be. President Mugabe must stop the savage attacks on
his own people if his country's elections are to have any legitimacy. And
other Southern African Governments will be tainted if they do not make
Mugabe stop his brutality.'

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Zimbabweans flee with hope and US$50

MUSINA, 20 February 2008 (IRIN) - "We know why you're in South Africa - Life
in Zimbabwe is murder these days", a billboard greets Zimbabwean immigrants
in South Africa's border town of Musina; it also asks them to return to vote
in next month's election, but so far the people traffic has remained solidly

January was a busy month for Musina's authorities. After spending Christmas
with their families, Zimbabwean migrants returned to South Africa to earn
the money that will sustain their relatives back home. On some days the
police were deporting up to 500 people who had crossed the border illegally.

By February that figure had dropped to 100 a day, but represented just a
proportion of Zimbabweans expelled from South Africa. The International
Office for Migration (IOM), which runs a reception centre for deportees at
the Zimbabwean border town of Beitbridge, helps around 10,000 people each
month. That does not include those who decline the assistance, preferring to
attempt another crossing immediately.

In recent weeks the summer rains have swollen the Limpopo River, which
demarcates the border, making it too dangerous to cross. Instead, some
people have resorted to hopping over the fencing of the footbridge that
spans the river, scooting down a concrete slope while ignoring the warning
shouts of the border guards, and then disappearing into the bush to lie low
until the regular patrols have passed. The final stage, when things are
quiet, is to get through three rows of barbed wire fencing.

Peter Ncube*, a Zimbabwean, works as a transporter, helping people across
the border. When the river is low he uses a makeshift boat, guided by two
people wading through the water. "The people are scared but there is no
[other] solution. Grandmothers, grandfathers, mothers, fathers and children,
they [want] to come to South Africa to look for a job ... so they can
support their families."

He has seen a steady increase in the number of migrants crossing as
Zimbabwe's economy has soured, which is good business for him. Ncube has
been living in Musina for 10 years and has family on both sides of the
border. The money he earns - up to US$50 per border-crosser - goes to his
children who are still in Zimbabwe. "I help someone, he pays me something -
at least I can manage to support my family as well."

Most migrants want to reach Johannesburg, South Africa's economic hub. From
the border they continue on foot, heading for designated pickup points where
minibus-taxis will take them on the next stage of the journey.

To avoid the border patrols, they often end up on private land. Jan Knoetze
owns a farm near the border and frequently encounters "hungry, upset and
rather destitute" Zimbabweans on his property. "I have seen them drink hot
water from a pipe - they wouldn't even let the water cool down, they drink
the hot water as it is," he told IRIN.

Welcome to SA

Unlike some farmers, Knoetze sees little point in alerting the police, as
those who are deported often come straight back across the border. Musina's
police chief, Superintendent Maggy Mathebula, sees it differently: "It is
true that they keep on coming back. If we deport a truck in the morning, in
the afternoon half of the people who were deported in the morning are
re-arrested again. But it's our duty, we have to do it, again and again."

Those picked up are held at Musina's detention centre, where they have a
chance to eat and wash before being repatriated. Women were clutching the
loaves of bread they had been given by the centre when IRIN visited.

"This here is nice, because now I'm taking some bread [home] to eat,"
commented Esther Sibanda, who said she was voluntarily returning to Zimbabwe
to vote in the 29 March elections. When the deportees reach the IOM's
reception centre across the border, they are offered further assistance in
the form of food packs, health checks and transport to their hometowns.

Miriam Gumbo, 22, waiting in line with other women to board the deportation
truck, all carrying their belongings in plastic holdalls, their babies tied
to their backs, vowed to be back. She had come across the river with her
husband and their 10-month-old twins, but was arrested after crossing the

No fear

It was not her first attempt: she came to South Africa in 2004 and was
deported in 2007, but Zimbabwe offered her no future. "There is no food to
eat and nowhere to sleep. It's so hard with these young children." She and
her husband had been trying to reach Johannesburg to find work and were not
deterred by the latest setback. "I will try to come again. I am not afraid,
because there is [no life] in Zimbabwe."

In January the International Monetary Fund estimated Zimbabwe's inflation
rate at 100,000 percent and still rising, and only two out of 10 people are
employed. Maternal mortality rates, and infant and under-five deaths are all
above threshold levels that should trigger international concern. Although
nutrition levels are not the lowest in the region, only in Zimbabwe are the
trends in "stunting" and "underweight" deteriorating.

Many "undocumented migrants" who manage to avoid arrest head for a concrete
tunnel under the highway to Johannesburg, just south of Musina. It is known
as a good place to hide and await the first light of day, when minibus-taxis
pull over, offering onward transport.

The entrance to the tunnel is marked by a pair of old abandoned shoes and
food packaging strewn about. The walls are used as a giant message board:
"Almighty God, bless my journey to Joburg, in the name of Jesus. Amen",
dated 5 October 2007, or "Chikoko 'Big Fish' - leading a journey into the
unknown." The messages also impart information, including a sketch of a
Pioneer Transport bus, the preferred service for many migrants.

When asked whether the police were overwhelmed by the number of people
crossing the border, Mathebula replied, "They are keeping us busy. We're
afraid that if this ends we won't have work anymore."

In the meantime, Musina's authorities are building a huge new police
station, and a detention centre that will hold 1,500 people, almost double
the current number.

* Some names have been changed

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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Weapons ban in Zimbabwe

The Times, SA
Sapa Published:Feb 20, 2008

Some of the weapons prohibited include machetes, spears, daggers, axes, knobkerries, swords, knives and catapults

Police in Zimbabwe have banned the carrying or possession of dangerous weapons in public for the next two months as part of measures to ensure violence-free elections, the state-controlled Herald reported today.

The ban would apply to all police districts in Harare and Masvingo and would remain in force until at least three weeks after the March 29 elections.

The prohibition, effective from Thursday, is in accordance with Section 14 of the Public Order and Security Act Chapter 11:07, which empowers regulating authorities to ban certain weapons for security reasons, the newspaper reported.

Some of the weapons prohibited include machetes, spears, daggers, axes, knobkerries, swords, knives, catapults and any other traditional weapons.

"Police are empowered to search people and vehicles, confiscate and charge anyone found in possession of the specified dangerous weapons."

Officer Commanding Harare District Chief Superintendent Isaac Tayengwa announced the ban yesterday at a briefing attended by the five regulating authorities for Harare Suburban, Harare Central, Harare South, Mbare and Chitungwiza while Masvingo police announced their ban on Monday.

From past experience, he said, some unruly and misguided elements take advantage of election time to commit acts of violence, intimidation, harassment, vandalism and interfere with law-abiding citizens’ lives.

Although Chief Supt Tayengwa said walking sticks were excluded from the list of dangerous weapons, he warned the public to desist from using them in acts of violence.

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Dying Silently In Zimbabwe

Washington Post

By Michael Gerson
Wednesday, February 20, 2008; Page A17

One of the most reckless and cruel acts of government is the destruction of
a currency.

During the hyperinflation of Germany's Weimar Republic, the number of marks
in circulation went from 29 billion in 1918 to 497 quintillion in 1923.
Workers were paid twice a day and given breaks to spend their money, carted
in wheelbarrows, before it became worthless. Most Germans lost their life
savings, leaving many prepared to blame others for their impoverishment. The
Nazis blamed the Jews.

This kind of hyperinflation is rare in history, but we are seeing it once
again, in Zimbabwe. Government officials claim an inflation rate of 66,212
percent (most months they refuse to release inflation figures at all). The
International Monetary Fund believes the rate is closer to 150,000
percent -- about the level reached by Weimar Germany. By some estimates,
about 50 percent of Zimbabwe's government revenue comes from the printing of
money. At independence in 1980, the Zimbabwean dollar was worth more than
one U.S. dollar. Recently, the state-controlled newspaper raised its cover
price to 3 million Zimbabwean dollars. Two pounds of chicken were recently
reported to cost about 15 million Zimbabwean dollars.

A Zimbabwean friend who runs a business recently told me, "If you don't get
a bill collected in 48 hours, it isn't worth collecting, because it is
worthless. Whenever we get money, we must immediately spend it, just go and
buy what we can. Our pension was destroyed ages ago. None of us have any
savings left." Zimbabwean nationals who work on the U.S. Embassy staff in
Harare have seen all their retirement funds wiped out. American government
officials in the country carry boxes of money to pay at restaurants and must
begin counting out currency at the beginning of the meal to finish by its

The government of Robert Mugabe has responded with the normal economic
policy of tyrants: price controls. And these have naturally emptied the
shelves in grocery stores and caused shortages of most basic goods. My
friend's wife travels to Botswana to buy flour and sugar.

Mugabe manages to pay off his military leaders and political cronies with
hard currency that comes from mining gold and platinum. He also sells
farmland to Chinese and Libyan speculators -- land expropriated from white
farmers, supposedly in the cause of Zimbabwean nationalism. Mugabe is
literally putting his country on the block to maintain his power.

So why don't the impoverished people of Zimbabwe revolt? "The tragedy is
that nobody is in the streets," says my Zimbabwean friend. "People are dying

Zimbabwe's odd stability has several causes. More than 3 million
discontented people have fled the country -- often the talented and
educated -- leaving Mugabe with less internal opposition. Many of the
Zimbabweans who remain avoid starvation with the help of international aid
and remittances from relatives in prosperous neighboring countries. Mugabe's
political opponents have generally been weak and divided -- when not being
jailed and tortured by the government. And some residual support for Mugabe
remains, particularly in rural areas, because he is an anti-colonial hero;
it is hard for many to accept the idea that their founding father is also a
corrupt, brutal incompetent.

There are, however, signs of resistance. My friend reports that lower-level
members of the military and police seem increasingly alienated and
disillusioned. At a demonstration last year, he says, "they were
unenthusiastic and malnourished, with ragged uniforms. They pleaded with us
to go away, because they didn't want to hurt us. And then I was saluted for
the first time by the police."

And Mugabe's ZANU-PF party is beginning to fracture. The former finance
minister -- who opposed the policy of printing money and price controls -- 
is running as an independent against Mugabe in the March 29 election. Simba
Makoni is viewed by U.S. officials as a smart, honest technocrat. He clearly
possesses bravery, though not much grass-roots support.

The March 29 vote, as usual, will be a fraud. Mugabe -- despite pressure
from surrounding nations -- will conduct a police-state election, with tight
control of the media, corrupt voter rolls and massive intimidation,
including the use of food as a tool of political control. But the opposition
has little choice but to participate. It may gain some support in local
councils and the parliament. And if opponents abandon the electoral route,
says my friend, the only alternative would be "street action, which is
fraught with problems."

And so Mugabe remains on his bayonet throne as his country becomes the
Weimar Republic and totalitarian, all in one.

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Free Banking for Zimbabwe

Since March 2007, Zimbabwe has been in the midst of a hyperinflation (a rate of inflation per month that exceeds 50%). This phenomenon is rather rare. Indeed, prior to Zimbabwe, there had only been 29 hyperinflations.

Wednesday 20 February 2008

by Steve H. Hanke

Steve H. Hanke is a Professor of Applied Economics at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C.

Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation is destroying the economy, pushing more of its inhabitants into poverty and forcing millions of Zimbabweans to emigrate. Since 1997, inflation has surged by 1,030,217%, while living standards (as measured by real GDP per capita) have fallen by 35%. In addition, hyperinflation has robbed people of their savings and financial institutions of their capital via negative real interest rates. This form of theft occurs, in large part, because the laws and regulations governing financial institutions (pension funds, insurance companies, building societies, and banks) force them to either purchase government treasury bills that yield only a small fraction of the current inflation rate or to make deposits at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe that pay no interest.

Not surprisingly, the value of the Zimbabwe dollar has been wiped out. The accompanying figure tells the devastating story— one that is ominously following the same plot as that taken by the mark during the great German hyperinflation of the 1920s. If all that destruction hasn’t been painful enough, worse is yet to come. Private sector economists expect Zimbabwe’s GDP to fall by 12% in 2007, and the International Monetary Fund projects that year-on-year inflation could exceed 100,000% by year-end.

As I conclude in my recent book, Zimbabwe: Hyperinflation to Growth, the most rapid and reliable way to stop hyperinflation in Zimbabwe is to replace central banking with a new monetary regime. This would signal a clean break with the practices that have created hyperinflation and give Zimbabweans reliable assurance that inflation will henceforth remain relatively low. One monetary regime that would stop Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation is free banking. Under this system, private banks issue notes (paper money) and other liabilities with minimal regulation. A completely free banking system has no central bank, no lender of last resort, no reserve requirements, and no legal restrictions on bank portfolios, interest rates, or branch banking. Free banking systems have existed in nearly 60 countries during the 1800s and early 1900s.

Zimbabwe had free banking from the time the first bank was established in 1892 until the government replaced free banking with a currency board in 1940. Zimbabwe’s free banking was among the least restricted that ever existed. At the time, the country had only two commercial banks, the Standard Bank of South Africa and the Bank of Africa (later part of Barclays Bank). They issued notes denominated in pounds, and kept their privately issued pounds equal to the pound sterling—except during the First World War and for a few years afterwards, when the local pound floated along with the South African pound (the predecessor to the rand) against the pound sterling. Free banking ended in Zimbabwe not because it performed poorly, but because the government desired the profit from issuing notes.

"One monetary regime that would stop Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation is free banking."

Although free banking might be unfamiliar, the principles of competition that underlie it are not, because they are already at work in deposit banking. We do not usually think of deposits from different banks as being different types of currency, but in effect they are—at least, they are different brands of a common unit of account. By holding a deposit at one bank rather than others, a depositor is choosing that bank’s management, portfolio, and services over those of its competitors.

Free banking extends competition from deposits to notes. In practice, multiple brands of notes have generally not created problems for free banking systems any more than multiple brands of deposits create problems in central banking or other systems.

In a system of fully free banking, the field includes anyone (domestic or foreign) who meets the requirements common to other businesses (registering a place of business, stating who the officers are, listing the shareholders periodically, and publishing financial statements if the company is not a private partnership). Competition weeds out firms that are less astute at delivering what consumers want. Abundant experience indicates that depositors want assurance that they are placing their funds with a financially solid bank.

That is why the tendency almost everywhere is for a few large but highly competitive banks to dominate the market, though leaving niches for small banks to serve specialized clienteles. As with deposit banking, then, historical experience suggests that eventually or perhaps even immediately, note issuance will be dominated by a small number of large banks.

Under free banking, banks would have the liberty to issue deposits and circulate notes in any currency—the US dollar, South African rand, gold, etc. In past free banking systems, they have converged on a single unit of account, typically gold or a foreign currency. In Zimbabwe it is quite possible they would converge on the South African rand. However, free banking leaves it for banks and customers to discover what works best for them; it does not presume that the government already knows the answers.

This article is syndicated by, and first appeared in Globe Asia magazine.

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No Sign of Promised Media Relaxation

Institute for War & Peace Reporting

Revised law allows media free rein to cover March elections, but it seem
policies will remain as restrictive as ever.

By Yamikani Mwando in Bulawayo (AR No. 157, 19-Feb-08)

Recent legislative changes easing the stringent restrictions on the media in
Zimbabwe have yet to make any real impact as the country heads for next
month’s crucial elections.

In mid-January, amendments to the controversial Access to Information and
Protection of Privacy Act, known as AIPPA, came into effect, in what was
seen as a major concession achieved in the ongoing talks with the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change, MDC.

Together with changes to other restrictive laws - the Public Order and
Security Act and the Broadcasting Services Act - and amendments to electoral
legislation, the bill was approved by President Robert Mugabe after having
been rushed through parliament in December with the assent of both the MDC
and the ruling ZANU-PF.

The legal changes came out of the negotiations between the two parties which
are being mediated by President Mugabe on behalf of the Southern African
Development Community.

AIPPA was introduced in 2001, as the Zimbabwean media were becoming sharply
polarised between state-controlled public outlets on the one hand, and the
small but vibrant privately-owned newspapers on the other. The authorities
accused the private media of demonising the regime and of working as an
extension of opposition political parties.

Under the amended AIPPA, foreign journalists will be allowed into the
country and will have the right to accreditation for up to 60 days. Local
journalists, meanwhile, will be able to work without first registering with
the official Media and Information Commission, MIC - soon to be
reconstituted as the Zimbabwe Media Commission as part of the changes to the

If the authorities stick to the spirit and letter of these legislative
changes, foreign media will be able to cover the March presidential,
parliamentary and local elections to an extent unprecedented in recent
years. This would be a significant change, coming at a time when concern has
been expressed that the crucial vote could take place far from international
scrutiny as President Mugabe seeks to extend his hold on power.

However, it is already looking doubtful that the authorities will abide by
their own rules.

Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu recently confounded the hopes of
Bulawayo journalists by telling them that those media organisations deemed
“hostile” would still not be allowed to cover the polls.

The BBC, in particular, has been singled out for exclusion from Zimbabwe on
the grounds that its longstanding mission is to “peddle falsehoods” about
the Mugabe regime.

Ndlovu’s remarks came after BBC journalist John Simpson entered the country
covertly last month to file reports on the Zimbabwean crisis, inviting
acerbic reactions from the Information and Publicity Ministry.

No information has been forthcoming on the number, identity or countries of
origin of foreign journalists who might be allowed in as part of the
legislative change, but for now it is looking highly unlikely that the
regime will permit western reporters to cover the March ballot.

Zimbabwean journalists have told IWPR that a media blackout will merely feed
accusations that the elections lack all credibility, and that the
authorities pre-empting the possibility of critical reporting in the event
of the kind of political violence and electoral irregularities that have
marred past ballots.

The restructuring of the regulatory authority MIC into the Zimbabwe Media
Commission has been hailed as part of a possible plan to grant licences to
banned media outlets, and perhaps to some new players as well.

Yet a number of newspapers remain outlawed as the poll nears.

The Daily News, once the country’s biggest selling daily, has been closed
since September 2003, following its allegations that ZANU-PF supporters
committed human rights abuses during the run-up to elections in 2000 and
2002. This naturally riled the regime, which accused the paper of being an
opposition mouthpiece.

At the height of the campaign against it, the paper’s printing press was
bombed. The newspaper bounced back, but was finally banned when it refused
to register with the MIC.

The Daily News and its Sunday sister-paper have now been asked to apply for
a licence, and their publisher, Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe, submitted
a formal application to the MIC on February 14.

MIC official Godfrey Chinondidyachii Mararike has said the outcome of the
application will only come in 30 days’ time – which would mean The Daily
News could at best acquire the right to publish just two weeks before the
March 29 vote.

At the same time, the Commission reportedly met on February 17 to hold
preliminary discussions on the application, suggesting that it might be
prepared to fast-track this as a special case.

Media industry insiders are deeply sceptical about whether the government is
sincere about granting the paper a licence in time for it to make any

Former Daily News editor Geoff Nyarota recently wrote on his news website
that “those who believe that Mugabe will allow the resurrection of The Daily
News in time to play a meaningful role ahead of the March elections simply
do not understand the dynamics of dictatorship.”

He concluded, “At this rate, by the time The Daily News is restored back to
its original status, Mugabe will be ready to retire voluntarily after
winning the forthcoming landmark elections by hook or by crook.”

A representative of the Media Monitoring Project, an independent watchdog
group in Zimbabwe, said the credibility of any election depended not only on
the existence of “a level playing field” for all political parties, but
also - and even more importantly - on voters and election observers being
allowed unfettered access to the media.

“It is crucial that we have enough media coverage in the run-up to the
 poll,” said the representative, who asked not to be named, “but it is still
very unlikely the authorities will accept any applications from local
private papers for registration and [allow in] foreign correspondents before
the election.”

Yamikani Mwando is an IWPR contributor in Bulawayo.

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Zimbabwe: House of Commons Debate
19th Feb 2008 22:36 GMT
By a Correspondent

UK Parliament

House of Commons

Tuesday 19 February 2008


Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): What recent assessment he has made of the political situation in Zimbabwe, with particular reference to the forthcoming elections.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband): Zimbabwe is suffering from an economic, humanitarian and political crisis for which President Mugabe is directly responsible. Although the election has been declared for 29 March, the conditions for it are far from free and fair.

We are pressing for effective international monitoring and for states in the region to require the election to meet international standards, including those adopted by the Southern African Development Community itself.

Sir Nicholas Winterton: The Foreign Secretary will be aware that the imminent elections in Zimbabwe are critical to the welfare and well-being not only of the country as a whole, but of its people. My support for Zimbabwe and for an African democratic solution to its problems is well known to the House. What steps is the Foreign Secretary taking to ensure that the elections are, in an African context, as free and fair as is acceptable to the civilised world?

David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman’s long record of standing up for democracy and the interests of the people of Zimbabwe is well known. I would point him in three directions. First, it has been important to emphasise that there is a humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe, which requires humanitarian action by the Department for International Development. Secondly, I would point at the support for the SADC movement, including in its election role. Thirdly, it is critical—not least given that there are 4 million refugees outside the country, which already calls into question the election processes and result—that we none the less support international demands from the European Union, the Commonwealth and elsewhere for proper observation missions that allow an on-the-ground assessment of how the election campaign and the election counting are conducted.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): Having served his sentence in Zimbabwe, my constituent, Mr. Simon Mann, has been illegally handed over by Zimbabwe to a dictator in Equatorial Guinea who has promised to sodomise him, skin him alive and drag him through the streets of the capital city. What steps can the Government take against Zimbabwe for the outrageous breach of my constituent’s human rights when he was handed over before his appeal procedures were completed, and what assurance can there be for—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I think that the Secretary of State will have got the point by now.

David Miliband: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that our first priority is Mr. Mann’s immediate welfare and the legal case against him. That is why we have put such emphasis on consular access, which has now been granted, and on making representations to the Government of Equatorial Guinea in the UK. I am pleased that we have received assurances from the Equatorial Guinean authorities that Mr. Mann will be treated well in detention.

Obviously, we are monitoring that through continued consular access. A number of welfare points were raised during the visit of 12 February. We are taking them up and, within the limits of what we are allowed to disclose by Mr. Mann’s family, I would be happy for the hon. Gentleman to see the explanations that we have received. He is right to raise both the humanitarian and the legal sides of the case.

They are our current focus, and we can in due course turn to the role of the Government of Zimbabwe once Mr. Mann’s future has been determined.

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From Harare: A tale of survival

Wednesday, 20 February 2008, 08:18 GMT
Harare skyline [Pic: Robyn Hunter]

Esther (not her real name), 28, a professional living and working in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, is writing a regular diary on the challenges of leading a normal life.

Zimbabwe is suffering from an acute economic crisis. The country has the world's highest rate of annual inflation - and just one in five has an official job.

Schoolchildren wait to board a bus to school in Harare
Queuing has become a fact of life in Harare

My sister, who is working abroad, called me after she read my second diary. She sounded like she wanted me to take the next flight out.

But life goes on here - it's just a question of adapting.

If you can't afford a bus ride to work, at least you can cycle. If you don't own a bicycle, then you have to walk.

I've heard of factory workers here who are doing just that, walking for three hours to get to work, and then walking the same distance back in the evening.

If you cannot fill up your car with petrol, there are numerous fuel traders who sell the commodity in five litre containers.

That keeps your car on the road, one day at a time.

And if you have power failures, you can stock up on firewood and candles. After all even South Africa has electricity blackouts.

People learn to improvise. That's the beauty of the human spirit - it hardly ever breaks in hard times.

Changing money on the streets of Harare
Changing money can be confusing with the new $750,000 note

And anyway, there's always fun to be had laughing at the bus conductors as they try to work out how much their 750,000 Zimbabwe dollar notes add up to, and how much change they owe the passengers.

The Z$750,000 note was introduced in December and it is an arithmetic nightmare.

Amazingly there are still lavish weddings held here, that can match any wedding reception anywhere in the world.

Those with a bit of foreign currency to sell on the parallel market need to raise billions to fund these occasions.

The fact that salaries do not meet your monthly expenses, let alone set aside any savings for a rainy day, can really get those creative juices flowing.

Whatever you cannot find on the official market, you will find in abundance on the parallel market.

People sell everything here - vegetables, cooking oil packed in 50ml (yes 50ml) plastic tubes, sugar by the tablespoon - anything really.

And that is the small stuff. Young people are getting into business in a big way - mostly in commodity broking.

So we are alive and well in Zimbabwe, getting ready for the change that HAS to come, for the sake of those who don't have foreign currency stowed away for a rainy day.

Esther has answered some readers' question sent in following the second instalment of her diary.

Question from Eric Hauptman, Colorado, US

It would be interesting if you could graph something like the bus fare over the last year or the pair of shoes. Also, how exactly are such large sums of money distributed? Is there a one million Zimbabwean dollar bill? I assume also there is a large black market in other currencies, such as the euro or US dollar.

Esther: Our highest denomination is a 10 million Zimbabwean dollar note, and getting change for it is no big deal. On Monday 11 February a loaf of bread cost me 5.4 million Zimbabwean dollars. We were buying it for 5m Zimbabwean dollars on Friday 8 February, after it had gone up from 3m on Tuesday 5 February. Before that a loaf was 2m. So the price of a loaf has nearly tripled in one week. The black market for foreign currency is alive and well, in fact unless you are extremely well connected (know someone in the government) it is the only source of foreign currency.

Question from Chernor Jalloh, West Africa

Why don't you just bail out? If your account is credible, then it is crazy to stay in Harare.

Esther: I do not want to leave my home, why should I? Why should any of us. All this chaos can be resolved. What we Zimbabweans want is restoration of the economy, we want to be able to buy homes, upgrade our vehicles, have savings that are not eroded in value by the day. We cannot all go to join the diaspora!

Question from Brian Tucker, Melbourne, Australia

Would you prefer to live the life you have now or the life you had while Ian Smith was president?

Esther: I was not alive then. But I do know no human being wants to be oppressed, and the black man was oppressed then. My issue is that we are once more oppressed, only now it's by a fellow black man.

Question from Ray Mwareya, Mutare, Zimbabwe

Esther, why don't you comment about Western-led sanctions on the Zimbabwean economy that are behind your sorry economic misery?

Esther: I do not want to get political, as I am not a politician. I am just a young woman who is old enough to remember life in the 90s and who cannot accept the way things keep going downhill. As for the sanctions, I know that there are so called 'smart sanctions' targeting certain individuals, who then hide behind them to justify their own shortcomings as leaders. The fact that someone can no longer travel to Europe has no bearing on the fuel supply situation or the availability of drugs in our hospitals.


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Zim youth group to march for diaspora vote at SA embassy and Beitbridge Post

By Tererai Karimakwenda
20 February, 2008

The Zimbabwean Revolutionary Youth Movement (ZRYM) in South Africa has
organised 2 demonstrations this week aimed at highlighting the need for
Zimbabweans in the diaspora to vote in the March 29th elections. The group
delivered a petition for the Zimbabwean High Commissioner, Simon Khaya Moyo,
at the Embassy in Pretoria earlier this month threatening to take action to
shut down the Embassy unless their demands were met.

ZRYM President Simon Mudekwa said they are returning to the Embassy on
Thursday because the Zimbabwe authorities had failed lto address the people’s
needs. He added that the Thursday demonstration is intended to keep the
issue of the diaspora vote in the spotlight, and to remind Khaya Moyo that
they are serious about closing down the Embassy.

Mudekwa said the group will also be conducting a demonstration at Beitbridge
Border Post on Saturday. They have organised at least 6 buses that will be
collecting ZRYM members and supporters from Johannesburg, Pretoria and
Musina. Mudekwa said there would be a police escort leading the buses.

The Border demo is also to demand that Zimbabweans outside the country be
allowed to vote. Mudekwa criticised the Mugabe regime for denying millions
of people their Constitutional right to take part in the polls on March

In addition to the diaspora vote, the group is calling for free and fair
elections next month. Mudekwa said a message should be passed to Harare that
ZRYM members will engage in certain unspecified activities if the demands
are not met.

Details about the schedule for the demonstrations can be found at their
website at

SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news

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Britain Calls for Effective Monitoring of Elections

SW Radio Africa (London)

20 February 2008
Posted to the web 20 February 2008

Tichaona Sibanda

British foreign secretary David Miliband has called for effective
international monitoring of next month's harmonised elections, amid serious
concerns they will not be free and fair.

Miliband told the British Parliament on Tuesday that Zimbabwe was suffering
from an economic, humanitarian and political crisis for which Robert Mugabe
was directly responsible.

'The conditions for elections are far from free and fair. We are pressing
for effective international monitoring and for states in the region to
require the election to meet international standards,' said the foreign

Zanu PF has said it will only invite friendly nations to observe and monitor
the crucial elections set for the 29th March. One such country is South
Africa,whose foreign minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said the chance of a
free and fair election was good if all the agreements reached as part of the
political facilitation process are implemented.

'If they implement the laws that parliament passed around security,
information and media then the prospects should be good,' Dlamini-Zuma said.
Zanu-PF and the opposition MDC have been engaged in talks mediated by
President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa since April last year.

The MDC chief representative in London Hebson Makuvise disagreed with
Dlamini-Zuma's assessment of the elections and labeled her statement as very

'The statement lacks clarity because she knows the elections will never be
free and fair. Zanu-PF has done nothing to implement laws agreed to during
the talks, but have instead through the police banned political rallies in
Masvingo. We all know Zanu-PF will defy this order, but the moment the MDC
tries it there would be mayhem from the police,' Makuvise said.

But Makuvise welcomed Miliband's statement on an international monitoring
force, saying it was encouraging, despite objections from the regime.

'We need genuine monitors and not people who are invited from the so-called
friendly nations to come and enjoy the country's scenic views and good food
and rubber stamp a discredited exercise,' Makuvise said.

Mugabe, facing his biggest challenge to his 28-year old hold on power, has
been accused of rigging the last three major elections and of using security
forces to quell dissent.

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2 charges dropped, 2 more upheld against Hoogstraten

New Zimbabwe

By Lebo Nkatazo
Last updated: 02/21/2008 00:43:33
A ZIMBABWEAN court on Tuesday cleared British businessman Nicholas van
Hoogstraten on charges of money laundering and possessing fake South African
rands, but put him on his defence on exchange control and pornography

Van Hoogstraten was arrested at his Harare home in January after one of his
tenants told the police that he had been demanding rentals in foreign

After his house was raided, police stumbled on pornographic material, a
small amount of fake South African rands, Z$20 billion, US$37 586, R92 880,
£190 and 180 pula.

The Harare Magistrates Court dismissed money-laundering charges and
concurred with the businessman’s defence team that the South African rands
were not legal tender in Zimbabwe, and as such no law was violated.

“It looks apparent to this court that the alleged fake South African rands,
which are the subject matter of count four, are not and have not at any time
been legal tender in Zimbabwe,” the court said.

“It is difficult to fathom or see how the prosecution intends to prove the
contravention of the RBZ Act when the legal tender involved is the South
African rand.

“The gigantic emphasis placed in the functions of the RBZ by the state
appears misdirected. This count will accordingly be quashed.”

Hoogstraten, 63, is a multi-millionaire who once arranged a hand grenade
attack on a business rival and has built himself a palace in the Sussex

A frequent visitor to Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, Hoogstraten has
invested in property, mining, farming and banking concerns and has spoken
openly of his support and financial dealings with President Robert Mugabe's
ruling Zanu PF party, which favoured him in more than two decades of
investment in the southern African nation.

In 2006, a British newspaper, The Sunday Times, quoted van Hoogstaten as
having said he had given President Robert Mugabe a £10 million pound loan.
But Mugabe's spokesperson George Charamba said the claim was "cheap
propaganda and a vain attempt to besmirch" the President.

Charamba said the president was "neither a borrower nor lender", adding:
"Robert Mugabe has no relationship with any tycoon, let alone of British

van Hoogstaten later called a press conference in Harare to deny having
given money to Mugabe.

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The Makoni Factor: A Zimbabwean in the Diaspora gives his views

20th Feb 2008 00:52 GMT

By Chuck Daru

I just want to contribute my own take on recent developments surrounding
Simba Makoni which are still unfolding.

What is emerging on the Zimbabwe’s political landscape is an unravelling of
the MDC split saga that began on 12th October 2005. Firstly, the Welshman
Ncube led splinter group claimed to have no confidence in Morgan Tsvangirai’s
leadership when he refused to sanction the participation of the MDC in the
elections for a newly established senate in Zimbabwe.

Oddly, while presenting themselves as the authentic MDC and claiming
ownership of its assets they did not have confidence that any one of the
dissenting group was capable to take over from Morgan Tsvangirai as MDC
leader. They then looked around for a leader and settled for Arthur
Mutambara who had not even been a member of the MDC before. The standing of
this new MDC Mutambara faction with the people of Zimbabwe was tested in a
by-election for the Budiriro constituency in which they polled 504 votes
against about 8,000 votes for the Tsvangirai faction.

A few months later, they were back pushing for reunification and demanding
the vice presidency of the MDC for their leader Arthur Mutambara and almost
half the MDC parliamentary seats to be reserved for the faction’s members in
the next parliamentary elections. The unity talks failed but as the 2008
general elections approached, in an effort to save face and avoid a
humiliating performance in those elections they pushed for a ‘united front’
which was to adopt a ‘one-candidate principle’ in which Tsvangirai was to be
the sole ‘coalition’ presidential candidate and Mutambara his running mate
for the Vice President’s job.

The rejection of the Mutambara faction’s demands by the Tsvangirai faction
brought to naught that group’s hopes for a place in Zimbabwe’s future
politics after the 2008 elections as their strategy appeared to rely on
being VIP passengers on Tsvangirai’s bus.  Thus, the grim prospect of a
humiliating performance in the March 2008 elections continued to stare them
in the face.

Not surprisingly, when Simba Makoni appeared on the political horizons to
challenge Mugabe for presidency, before even working out any modus operandi
with Makoni, the Mutambara faction grabbed the opportunity to avoid that
humiliation by stepping aside for Makoni despite the fact that Makoni had
made it clear that he was still a member of Zanu-PF who was only challenging
Mugabe for Presidency.

The Mutambara group was therefore now sponsoring an alternative Zanu-PF
candidate to become the next president of Zimbabwe.

A number of issues arise from this whole episode in Zimbabwe’s opposition

Firstly, there is the question of the political standing of the Mutambara
faction as an opposition political body from a viewpoint of ethos.  Are they
clear about what they stand for and how they differ from anyone else whether
MDC or Zanu-PF?  Or are they a leader-less group largely motivated by the
financial reward of being in government and therefore desperate to find a
leader who will provide the necessary political face to give them a bit of
credibility to present themselves for election into parliament?

Secondly, those who want to give Mutambara the benefit of the doubt may be
baffled by his rushed decision to step aside for a man who has stuck with
Mugabe until when he lost his bid to represent Zanu-PF in one of the Makoni
district parliamentary constituencies.  Furthermore, Simba Makoni is a man
who has been looking on silently while Zimbabwe was burning and, as Zanu-PF’s
deputy secretary for economic affairs in the party’s Politburo he must share
with Mugabe the responsibility for presiding over the country’s economic
meltdown.  People who have been in positions of power should be judged by
the past, not what they are saying today.

Their ‘substance’ is found in their past, not in their promises for the
future. In the USA Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are in the race because
they can demonstrate that they were opposed to, and can distance themselves
from the Iraq war and other government blunders responsible for America’s
present problems. Can Makoni tell the nation that at politburo meetings he
spoke against the destruction of agriculture in Zimbabwe? Can Makoni tell
the nation that at politburo meetings he spoke against Murambatsvina? Can
Makoni tell the nation that he spoke against the torture and murder of
opposition party activists, or the rigging of elections?

It is common knowledge that until Zanu-PF big wigs blocked his bid to stand
for election on a Zanu-PF ticket, Makoni was an ardent supporter of
everything that the Mugabe government did – except its refusal to devalue
the Zimbabwe currency which is nothing to put forward as evidence of his
leadership qualities. Apart from that inconsequential part of his CV, Makoni
has absolutely nothing to show for his 30 years of roaming the corridors of
power and would be a bad gamble for Zimbabweans.

That the Mutambara group took no time to decide that such a man was a better
candidate to put in state house than Mutambara himself, or Morgan Tsvangirai
who had been in the trenches with them only portrays that group as a fickle
lot who are undecided about what they are in politics for, and whose
political goal is not greater than their desire to launch themselves into
parliament or senate – or more bluntly, onto the gravy train.

Thus, the events of the past week have served to cast an ominous behavioural
trend of Mutambara and his group; after having been installed as leader of a
faction which he had previously had no association with, followed by failed
attempts to gain leadership legitimacy by deputising Morgan Tsvangirai, he
is now at the head of his faction to sponsor an alternative Zanu-PF
candidate of substantial standing in the party’s politburo to become the
next president of Zimbabwe – the expected reward being deputy presidency for
Arthur Mutambara.

In hindsight it therefore seems just as well that the Tsvangirai faction
found no compelling reason to grant Mutambara and his group the status they
were demanding in the unity talks between the two factions.

But after all that has been said, Zimbabweans must welcome the emergence of
the Mutambara/Makoni group for the simple reason that the country needs to
move away from the two-party race politics because it has a high risk of
perpetuating authoritarianism.  So while the 2005 MDC split may have been a
setback for the MDC as a party, it was also a positive development for
democracy in Zimbabwe.  The preoccupation by commentators with unity of all
opposition groups is an unnecessary hindrance of the process of
democratising Zimbabwe.

The obsession with unity around opposition to Mugabe between people with no
shared vision or values is totally counterproductive as it confuses
priorities and keeps the nation moving round a revolving door.

As Joram Nyathi put it recently, “The people of Zimbabwe are better off
without marriages of convenience which are short-lived and end up in
embarrassing acrimony and take the nation many steps backwards. We have
already seen what happened to Kenya’s Rainbow Coalition soon after Mwai
Kibaki got into power. There were no principles or ideology binding the
coalition together and the people of Kenya were taken for a rough ride by
people who were only driven by a craving for power. Today they are paying a
heavy price for their short-sightedness. Getting rid of evil Daniel Arap Moi
didn’t cost as much blood as is being shed to remove ‘democratic’ Kibaki.”

Zimbabwens may very well relate to the above as more or less the same thing
happened in 1987/88 when the iniquitous Zanu-PF and Zapu unity agreement
turned this country into a one-party state. We are still paying heavily for
that mistake.. Tsvangirai’s refusal to be media-forced into a hollow
political alliance with what appears to be a confused lot demonstrates far
sightedness rather than short-sightedness on his part as a leader.

With regards to calls for Tsvangirai to step aside for Makoni, I think
nothing can be more ridiculous than that. No disrespect to Makoni himself
but there is not a shred of evidence that he is a better leader than
Tsvangirai.  As already pointed out above, he has a lot of loot in his
backyard. True, he has higher academic credentials and is more eloquent in
his command of the English language, but if this is what leadership is about
then our presidential candidates should not be Tsvangirai, Mutambara and
Makoni but Robert Mugabe, Robert Mugabe and Robert Mugabe - because Mugabe
will beat all these men hands down on that score.

If Zimbabweans are desperate to replace Tsvangirai as pall-bearer in their
struggle for change, they are better off choosing someone from Tsvangirai’s
group which has a number of people who have successful leadership track
records in both the public and private sectors rather than settling for
another Zanu-PF old hand who has been, and continues to be deeply embedded
in its structures.

Tsvangirai does have some leadership issues to deal with (least of all the
very unfortunate Lucia Matibenga debacle), but what people are failing to
recognise is that people like Simba Makoni and Arthur Mutambara now have the
opportunity to throw their hats into the leadership ring because of what
Tsvangirai has done in 5 years of relentless efforts to challenge the
monster that Mugabe is. These aspirants to power have the right to start
their own crusades and stand up and be counted, not to jump into the front
of someone who has done all the donkey work under the most difficult
circumstances. If they have better plans and better offerings for
Zimbabweans, they must stand in their own stature and let the nation judge
them at the polls.

Also, if they claim to be standing on higher moral ground, it is them who
should have the modesty to support Tsvangirai to fill the areas where he has
weaknesses and seek a viable working relationship under him, not the other
way round. Tsvangirai has proved himself as a committed change agent; Simba
Makoni has not. So if Makoni really wants to do himself and the nation
proud, he should get cracking organising any followers he claims to have in
Zanu-PF to vote for Tsvangirai who already has a huge following in the
country. He can’t seriously just come from the dark side 52 days before the
election and say, ‘ . . . . move over’ to a man who has braved the streets
and suffered brutal treatment for so long while Makoni was propping up the
very system that has brought misery and suffering to millions of Zimbabweans
which he suddenly thinks has been horrendous.

Finally, Simba Makoni has not even had the civility to apologise to the
people of Zimbabwe for his part as one of the henchmen who helped validate
Mugabe’s wicked acts when he was destroying people’s lives and property. It
is therefore Simba Makoni, not Morgan Tsvangirai who needs to stoop below
his rival before he can lay claim to being a viable candidate for president
of this country.

Good luck to Zimbabwe.

Chuck2 writing from Sheffield, UK

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Zimbabwe: Anti-inflation measures in Zimbabwe since 2007


PARIS, Feb 20 (AFP)

A chronology of Zimbabwean hyper-inflation since June 2007:


- June 26: Zimbabwean authorities order traders, manufacturers and
wholesalers to halve prices on certain basic goods in a bid to fight
inflation. Zimbabwe had introduced a price control regime five years earlier
in a bid to curb black market sales of certain basic products.

- June 27: President Robert Mugabe threatens to nationalise foreign
companies, notably those in the mining sector.

- July 17: The United States criticises the price control measures as unwise
and counter productive in announcing the dispatch of food aid.

- July 21: The government says it has created a 30-billion Zimbabwe-dollar
(214,000-dollar) fund to revive companies that closed because of the price
control regime.

- Aug 13: Mugabe calls for price controls to be respected. More than 7,500
traders are arrested for contravening the measure. More and more companies
stop production, causing major shortages.

- Aug 15: Two people, including a 15-year-old boy, die in a stampede by
people wanting to buy sugar in Zimbabwe's second capital Bulawayo -- the
first casualties of the shortage of basic goods.

- Aug 22: Operation Dzikisa Mutengo (Reduce Prices) is effectively abandoned
after it resulted in widespread shortages in stores and boosted the black
market. Traders are allowed to increase the price of certain basic goods.

- Aug 31: Mugabe bans salary increases without state authorisation. The main
government daily, the Herald, reports that rent, school fees and the price
of public services are also frozen.

- Sept 6: The government devalues the currency by more than 100 times its
value against the American dollar.

- Oct 12: The government authorises new price increases to deal with
shortages. The national price commission announces an increase from 50 to
200 percent on the price of basic goods.

- Oct 23: The head of the central bank says the price-control measures have
led to anarchy.


- Jan 16: New banknotes worth up to ten million dollars will be put into
circulation in a bid to stem the cash shortage, the central bank says.

- Jan 30: Mining authorities say gold production fell by more than a third
in 2007.

- Feb 20: Zimbabwe's annual inflation rate soars to over 100,000 percent,
the central statistical office announces.

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MDC / Makoni factor - A breath of fresh air

Written by Abraham N. Mdlongwa - UK chairman   
Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Following Rochdale branch chair Njabulo Ngwenya’s wake-up call for which I sincerely thank him, many of our members have raised legitimate concerns about the wisdom of our party’s decision to back Simba Makoni in next month’s presidential, parliamentary and local government elections.

Some senior colleagues in the UK district have responded to many of these concerns with inspiring contributions which I recognise and applaud. These are the defenders of our party brand, the drivers of our strong faith and belief in democracy underpinned by open discourse. I am convinced more than ever before that there is no poverty of leadership in our UK structures. Well done to all of you!


This statement seeks to explain the rationale for the MDC/Makoni alliance. The views are my own. If you disagree with them, it is because politics is not a zero-sum game. It is healthy to disagree.

  • The MDC national council, the supreme decision making body of the party in-between congresses, met two times in the last two weeks and mandated the party’s management committee to engage the Makoni camp in a possible strategic alliance based on the “one opposition candidate” philosophy.  The national council comprises members of the national executive committee, management committee, provincial chairpersons, secretaries and treasurers all of whom are elected officials of the party representing their respective constituencies within Zimbabwe.
  • At its last meeting held in Manchester on 26 January 2008, our UK District Assembly unanimously embraced the concept of a united front of all democratic forces provided such coalition was based on the founding values of our party. The devil is always in the detail which in this instance, was left to our elected officials in the management committee. Precise details as to who, how, when, whom and why we enter into an alliance cannot therefore be prescribed at policy-making national councils or at a district assembly. They are rightly left to the party’s management committee comprising seven men and women leaders elected by congress in 2006.
  • Our MDC formation did everything possible to reach a coalition agreement with our competitors in the Tsangirai formation. Instead of engaging us as equals, they chose to treat us like step children. We rightly rejected their patronising attitude. Significantly, Tsangirai is reported describing Makoni as old wine in old glasses. Suffice to say; those living in glass houses must not throw stones. History will judge harshly those among us who in the pursuit of self-aggrandisement, disregard the enormous suffering of the people of Zimbabwe by refusing to join ranks with others of like mind in order to achieve qualitative change that will benefit ordinary people of Zimbabwe and permanently consign Robert Mugabe and his cabal of gangsters to the dustbin.
  • Many of those in leadership roles within the opposition movement today, are former members of Zanu. Periodic leadership renewal is desirable in all democratic movements including opposition political parties
  • As early as April 2006 when president Arthur Mutambara, secretary general Welshman Ncube and deputy SG Priscilla Misihairambwi Mushonga visited England, our party president made it clear he would not be contesting the presidential election in 2008. He stated then as he does now, that his time would come in 2012. He stated he was 39 years old then (41 now) and had plenty of runway ahead of him compared to MT and Mugabe.

Those that attended the Manchester meeting in April 2006 will recall some of these pronouncements made during an outstanding delivery by the man himself. The man has therefore remained consistent, a hallmark of credible leadership.


·    History records well the faltering performances of opposition parties in several African countries Kenya, Zambia, Malawi to mention but a few. In the case of Kenya, Zambia and Malawi, it took an inside rebellion within the ruling mandarins for power to change hands. In fact, in each of these cases, a former senior cabinet minister or vice president in the case of Kenya’s Kibaki, broke ranks and formed a rival opposition party which went on to win a landslide. Who says this prescription is not a value proposition for Zimbabwe?


For what it is worth, let me mention that I have personally met Makoni in the past. We met at a happy occasion where he had been invited to speak at a strategic planning conference of a blue chip clothing retailer in Zimbabwe held in Victoria Falls in 2005. Over two days, my management colleagues and I had the opportunity to engage the man intensely on his personal values, why given those seemingly democratic values which he said included servant leadership, he had remained in Zanu instead of joining the MDC and whether he harboured presidential ambitions. He disarmed our misgivings with a royal command performance. This allied with his performance as executive secretary of SADC and his courage of conviction which cost him his job when he was minister of finance in Zimbabwe, leaves me reasonably confident that Simba Makoni is a leader. He may be a damaged brand but one potentially easier to rebrand than some of our competitors. At 57, Makoni is 16 years older than Mutambara.  Ordinarily the latter would be the best presidential candidate because he has no known skeletons in his closet. He has however rightly calculated that he is more likely to remain relevant in future by giving deference to his older rivals. In our operating environment, Makoni is fit for purpose.  


Yes, in going into this alliance, our party has taken an enormous risk. The cost of not doing so can never be higher than the price paid by the people of Zimbabwe who wallow in abject poverty, suffering and despair only comparable to countries at war. Our party’s action represents the triumph of humility. Shrewd tactical superiority in the face of competitive elements does make a difference between winners and losers!! Independent news agencies reported brisk voter registration queues in Zimbabwe soon after Makoni announced his intention to run for president. Not exactly the Obama factor, but remember, voter apathy in Zimbabwe has been growing at a rate faster than Mugabe’s ability to rig elections. With the unprecedented internal revolt now unfolding within Zanu which will become even more apparent as we approach the elections, the prospects of a Makoni victory look well within reach.  Our MDC formation has therefore rightly positioned itself with a potential winner and has done so without eroding its values, party symbols and identity. It is useless to enter a presidential race you know you cannot win although it will take a life-time for this to sink among some of our competitors. We have taken a risk. It is a risk worth taking. Somehow I feel good about all this. Change is in the air. The wishes of the people can only be delayed but not denied!

I rest my case. Thank you.

Abraham Mdlongwa.


"It must be understood within the opposition that there is absolutely no alternative to working together. Self-serving bickering and infighting among the democratic forces must be shunned. All political leaders must put national interest before self interest. The two MDC formations have neither monopoly of political wisdom, nor the immutable right to represent the people of Zimbabwe... Even if reunification of the two MDC formations is achieved, it is not enough, to dislodge Zanu PF. We have to grow the democratic forces beyond the traditional MDC support base. This should be done by attracting reform minded people from within Zanu PF, other political parties, and those who are not currently in active party politics. Furthermore there should be enhanced cooperation with Zimbabwe civic society organizations, thus unlocking synergies amongst all democratic forces. Organizations such as NCA, Crisis Coalition, ZCTU, ZINASU, WOZA, MOZA, Women Coalition, and the Churches have shown spectacular courage under vicious attacks." Arthur Mutambara, January 2007

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MDC-UK and Ireland congress set for Saturday

By Tichaona Sibanda
20 February 2008

Popular MDC activist Elliot Pfebve has emerged as the leading candidate to
win the chairmanship of the MDC-UK and Ireland executive during Saturday’s
extraordinary congress in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire.

Pfebve, the MDC parliamentary candidate for Bindura central in 2000, was
left for dead after he was severely tortured for contesting against the
Zanu-PF candidate, the late Border Gezi.

Pfebve faces a strong challenge from another candidate, Jonathan Chawora, a
former Assistant Commissioner with the Zimbabwe Republic Police. Both are
formidable candidates who enjoy immense support from MDC activists in the

Kester Mutambanengwe, the MDC spokesperson for the interim organising
committee led by John Nyamande, said the main purpose of Saturday’s
extraordinary congress was to elect new office bearers’ for the UK
provincial executive.

The last elected executive led by former trade unionist Ephraim Tapa was
dissolved in October last year, after 33 of 37 UK branches passed a vote of
no confidence in them. The MDC national chairman Lovemore Moyo oversaw that
process. Moyo will be back Saturday leading a team comprising the new
national women’s assembly leader Theresa Makone, who is the Harare North MDC
parliamentary candidate. Also in the delegation to oversee the election here
is national youth chairman Thamsanqa Mahlangu who is challenging Gibson
Sibanda for the Bulawayo parliamentary seat in Nkulumane.

Mutambanengwe said 26 branches will each send 10 delegates to the congress
to elect new members by secret ballot. This is the first time that voting
has been carried out by secret ballot at any of the UK congresses since

‘This is a mammoth task, but we have put everything in place to ensure a
smooth electoral process. We have many aspiring contestants vying for
various posts. The posts include that of a secretary, organising secretary,
treasurer, information and publicity secretary and a women’s wing
chairperson,’ Mutambanengwe said.

SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news

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Voting for Mugabe is cruelty to our elders

20th Feb 2008 00:10 GMT

By Innocent Madawo

PRIOR to last Friday, the day when all aspirants of various elected
political offices in Zimbabwe filed their papers, I did everything possible;
pray, wish, will and hope that President Robert Mugabe will give himself (to
our immense benefit) an early 84th birthday present.

I told myself that there is no way an old man could still want to play this
dirty game called politics with men young enough to be his children. Surely,
he would want to leave it all and go to Zvimba to tend to his pigs and
chickens while he can still totter after them.

But then, he registered to be elected and since Friday I have been asking
myself why uKhulu is putting himself in this situation. Surely, it can’t be
power he still covets? There has to be something that causes a man in the
twilight of his life to quicken his journey yonder by continuously carrying
the burden of a hungry, poor, jobless and cowed nation.

Then it dawned on me. You see, the problem is not old Bob. Gushungo is only
responding to those of us who keep pushing him to stand for election and
then go on to elect him (genuinely or otherwise).

The shame is on the men and women who fill up an arena and endorse him as
their candidate when there are younger people who can carry the yoke.  A
bigger shame on the men and women who coo in his aged ears that “you are the
only one to do this job, Chef,” when in effect they mean “you are the only
one who can ensure our butts are covered beyond March 29.”

But what would be immoral, heartless or even diabolic would be to go into a
polling booth and putting an “X” on the name of an 84-year-old man.

That would be total disrespect for our elders, a total lack of compassion
for a man who, for a whole 28 years, has been shouldering all our problems
as a nation. He needs to be relieved of this heavy burden.

I know, of course, that like most elderly people, Mugabe can and will be
stubborn. He will campaign vigorously, lifting and shaking that once potent
but now withered fist in the air and admonishing anyone who dares challenge
him or threatening to floor anyone who votes him out.

But old and senile people do that sometimes, right. They angrily insist that
they, and only they, can protect us from the evil men of the West who want
to colonize our land and enslave us again. They let their senility cloud
their judgement and believe they can conquer everything and everyone even if
the weight of their own fist can send them sprawling onto the ground as they
try to strike imagined enemies.

“Ndinombonzi aniko ini? Vaudze  kuti ndairova mikono ini (What is my name?
Tell them I used to beat up stronger men),” they will sputter rhetorically.

The point is, there is simply nothing new 84-year-old Mugabe can offer
Zimbabweans, no matter how his oratory and eloquent self may try to argue.

Voters should not allow themselves to be hoodwinked by the same old tricks:
whites will come back to take over and war veterans will go back to the bush
if you vote me out, etc.

In fact, for him to raise these issues would be to assume that Zimbabweans
cannot prevent any “re-colonization” or whatever he calls it, without him as

As for the war veterans, it would be amusing to see people in their late 40s
to 80s going back to take arms just because old Bob has not been voted back
into power.

In fact, how about putting a cap on the age at which one can stand for the
presidency. Something like 60 years should be reasonable.

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Lies, damned lies and statistics!

New Zimbabwe

By Trudy Stevenson
Last updated: 02/20/2008 20:56:15
IT IS amazing how the mention of a number or percentage will cause belief in
the most ridiculous statements. This is probably because a lot of us are not
very good with numbers, so are in awe of those who sprinkle their
conversation with them.

The numbers convince us that this person is educated and has all the facts
at his/her fingertips. Since this is so, we suspend our own powers of
reason, believe what we are told, and even proceed to pass the information
on to others.

A current frightening example of this is the "fact" doing the rounds that
the more candidates that stand against Zanu PF, the better, because Mugabe
needs 51% to win the election. The reasoning is that one opponent might only
get 40% of the vote, but if you have 3 or 4 opposition candidates in every
constituency, their aggregate is likely to be more than 51%.

The problem is that this is indeed true of the presidential election, where
Mugabe does need to win 51% of the vote, and three credible opposition
candidates might deprive him of that. BUT this is only part of the truth.

For parliament and council elections, it is the candidate who wins most
votes, whether 51% or lower, who will win that seat. So if you have three
opposition candidates against one Zanu PF candidate, it is indisputable that
the three opposition candidates will split the opposition vote between them,
while Zanu PF will almost certainly laugh all the way back into power.

This is precisely why we in the MDC Mutambara group have been trying so
desperately to get ALL the opposition parties and groups together so that we
have one opposition candidate against one Zanu PF candidate in every
constituency and ward.

Ordinary people understand this clearly. That is why they were pleading for
two years with the two MDC formations to come together to avoid splitting
the vote, and that is why they are now so angry with MDC, especially with
the Tsvangirai group who rejected the second attempt at reuniting recently.
It should be recognised that the Mutambara group adopted the agreement, the
second time it has done so, but been rejected by the other side. Surely this
shows commitment to the one-candidate philosophy?

On the issue of splitting the vote, again there is a strange "fact" going
around that Simba Makoni has been put by Zanu PF to split the opposition
vote. The real fact is that it is Morgan Tsvangirai who is splitting the
opposition vote, because his group has refused to make an electoral pact
with either Mutambara or Makoni. He claims his group can oust Mugabe on
their own, whereas all they will succeed in doing is to ensure that Mugabe
wins this election because of a divided opposition.

Another "fact" is that Simba Makoni was Zanu PF during Gukurahundi, so he is
responsible, because he did nothing to stop it. It is also an indisputable
fact that Morgan Tsvangirai was a member of Zanu PF during Gukurahundi, and
we have no record of any attempt on his part to stop it.

So was Roy Bennett -- who remained a member of Zanu PF until May 2000, when
he attended a fund-raising function for MDC as an aspiring Zanu PF candidate
for Chimanimani.

I suggest that anyone who is spreading these false "facts" as gospel truth
should be looked at afresh, in view of this exposure. Such a person can only
have some hidden agenda, to mislead the general population with spun
misinformation to this extent. The big question is - what is this hidden

This will be the greatest disservice to the people of this country that I
can possibly imagine. No one (apart from the small political elite
benefiting from the regime) can bear the thought of another five years under
Robert Mugabe's misrule. So I urge every loyal Zimbabwean of whatever
political persuasion who wants positive change for this country to do their
own bit to persuade the Tsvangirai group of the necessity of having only ONE
opposition candidate against ONE Zanu PF candidate in every constituency and
ward in the forthcoming election.

It is still not too late. Candidates can still be persuaded to step down.
The entire framework for such a solution was worked out in detail and nearly
agreed upon two weeks ago. It could still work.

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South African mega-drug haul was mandrax, not heroin


JOHANNESBURG, Feb 20, 2008 (AFP) — Forty-seven bags of drugs seized in South
Africa on Tuesday turned out to be mandrax and not the more rare and
expensive narcotic heroin, police said Wednesday.

"Preliminary tests suggested that the bags contained heroin, but additional
forensic tests showed it was actually mandrax," police spokesman Devon
Naicker told AFP, correcting earlier claims of one of the world's largest
heroin busts.

The drugs, which originated in Zambia, had a street value of about 1.5
million rands (190,000 dollars, 132,000 euros), he said.

Mandrax is a synthetic drug, very popular in Africa because of its relative

On Tuesday, police said they had seized a massive consignment of heroin
worth some 100 million dollars, after discovering 1,363 kilogrammes of drugs
on the Beit Bridge border post between South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The driver and passenger of the lorry in which the drugs were found, both
South Africans, were arrested.

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NETONE Recharge System Down

The Herald (Harare) Published by the government of Zimbabwe

20 February 2008
Posted to the web 20 February 2008


NETONE subscribers using pre-paid services have since last week gone without
airtime credits, as the recharge system is down.

Telecel has also failed to supply the market with prepaid airtime cards
leaving hundreds of subscribers stranded. These failures come hardly a week
after all the mobile phone operators raised tariffs by as much as 260
percent. In a statement last week, NetOne announced that: "We would like to
advise our valued Easycall customers that our recharging system is currently
down due to a technical fault.

"Please be advised that this is purely a technical fault and that there is
no need to return recharge cards to dealers as they will be functional as
soon as the fault is rectified." No comment could immediately be established
from Telecel at Press time yesterday. NetOne customers who were interviewed
by this paper have expressed deep concern over the prevailing situation
saying their phones had been reduced to mere receivers. "The events taking
place are now hard to bear as one can no longer make a call unless someone
else calls you.

"My business has been largely affected as it is now difficult to get
connected with my clients. "As an indigenous business person with no offices
to meet my clients, my phone virtually becomes my office," said one of the
subscribers who refused to be named. The recharge failure has also seen the
companies losing substantial amounts in potential earnings.

NetOne operations had been severely affected by acts of vandalism on some of
its base stations, which has seen the company incurring losses running into
billions of dollars.

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Zimbabwe government looks to buy more of pipeline

Feb. 20, 2008, 9:57AM

Bloomberg News

The Zimbabwe government may acquire a bigger stake in the Beira-Feruka oil
pipeline in an effort to reduce rent paid to Mozambique, Justin Mupamhanga,
Zimbabwe's energy and power secretary, said.

The Zimbabwe government last year bought 13 miles of the pipeline for an
undisclosed amount. The pipeline runs from the Mozambican port city of Beira
to Feruka, a defunct oil refinery outside Zimbabwe's eastern city of Mutare.

Zimbabwe has been short of motor fuels since 2001, the year after Mugabe
began seizing white-owned farms for distribution to blacks deprived of land
during white-minority rule.

"We are considering buying a further section of the pipeline or buying
shares in Companhiado Pipeline Mozambique Zimbabwe, Mupamhanga said in a
telephone interview from the capital, Harare, today. CPMZ is owned by the
Mozambican government.

Iran's ambassador to Zimbabwe, Rasoul Momeni, said Oct. 9 that his
government would assess the feasibility of renovating Zimbabwe's Feruka Oil

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Man's cruelty to Mann

The Guardian

The former SAS officer Simon Mann is finally to stand trial in Equatorial
Guinea for allegedly plotting to overthrow the regime

February 20, 2008 6:30 PM

Adam Roberts

I wouldn't trade places with Simon Mann for all the oil revenues in
Equatorial Guinea. The hired gun has finally been dragged to the west
African country where he is accused of plotting a remarkable coup attempt in
March 2004. The Wonga coup - a failed effort by nearly 100 foreign
mercenaries to topple the dictatorship and to grab a share of the country's
oil wealth - came unstuck in dramatic fashion.
Mann and over 60 accomplices were snatched in Zimbabwe, at Harare airport,
alongside a specially-converted American Boeing 727. He and the others were
and jailed after trying to buy automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades,
mortars, pistols, smoke bombs, flares and a host of other military gear,
while on their way to Equatorial Guinea. An advance party of other plotters,
in west Africa, en route to Equatorial Guinea in a private plane, turned
tail and fled to the Canary Isles. A third group, mostly South Africans, on
the ground in the target country, were rounded up, subjected to a show trial
and jailed for as long as 34 years.

Mann himself has spent the past four years in Chikurubi maximum security
prison, in Zimbabwe, first doing time for breaking a firearms law, then
awaiting extradition to Equatorial Guinea. However grim conditions were in
Zimbabwe - at least for ordinary prisoners, life can be terrifying, brutal
and short inside Chikurubi; for Mann they were reportedly more comfortable -
Mann feared ending up in Equatorial Guinea's notorious Black Beach prison.
Apparently a special new wing has been built for him. Given international
attention he is unlikely to suffer the sort of torture and ill-treatment
that local political prisoners have endured. A German alleged plotter died
in Black Beach prison shortly after his arrest-of a sudden attack of malaria
said the authorities; beaten until a heart attack killed him, said his
colleagues. Unless Mann can offer enough juicy details about the funding of
the plot - presumably incriminating others - Mann can expect to spend a
decade or more behind bars for his part in the Wonga coup. (The plot got its
name after Mann boasted in 2004, wrongly, that a "large splodge of wonga"
would soon spring him from behind bars.)

Some sympathy for Mann's plight may be justified. His lawyers say that he
was kidnapped from Zimbabwe and dragged to Equatorial Guinea against his
will and without regard for the law. He may have been kept in hiding in
Gabon on the way. He can expect a show trial and heavy pressure to name who
financed and backed his plot (look, not least, to Spain's government and to
Anglo-American complicity).

But don't overdo the pity. Mercenaries are one of many blights in Africa.
Responsible for colourful daring and adventure they may be, but plotters and
schemers, hired guns, outsiders and African mercenaries alike, have
generally spread misery and instability on the continent. Remember "Mad"
Mike Hoare and his armies in Congo and his farcical effort to overthrow the
government of the Seychelles? Or Bob Denard, the French soldier of fortune
who regularly toppled the government of the Comores? Foreign fighters
flocked to brutal wars in Biafra (Nigeria), Angola, Sierra Leone, Ivory
Coast, Congo and elsewhere, fighting and killing for money, exploiting
others' misery for their own private gain. Some dared to claim they helped
to bring order to wretched bits of Africa. In fact hired guns-especially
those who plot coups-have been a curse on the continent and beyond.

Some of them claimed to be bringing order to the continent. One firm of
hired guns - Executive Outcomes - used to claim that mercenaries could be a
force for stability. When Angola's government hired foreign fighters to help
push back rebel forces, in the 1990s, mercenaries could claim to be
supporting the state. Similarly in Sierra Leone by the end of that decade,
with Sandline and other mercenaries supporting the government against brutal
rebels, some sort of argument could be made that foreign hired guns filled a
gap where feeble governments and unwilling peacekeepers were unable to act.
But the lesson of the Wonga Coup - and elsewhere when mercenaries have
plotted regime change - is that hired guns are interested in money and
adventure, not improving the lives of Africans or bringing order where there
had been chaos.

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