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Eric Bloch

Zim Independent

Misconceptions about foreign currency auctions

IT is difficult to blame the population in general, and the operators in Zimbabwe’s many economic sectors in particular, for their initial perceptions of the foreign currency auctions. Even before the first auction had commenced, scepticism reigned supreme, and as the first few auctions were completed and their results publicised, the scepticism continued. There were suggestions that the auctions were “rigged”, that they were “fiddled”, that their results were predetermined, and that only those politically influential had any prospect of successful bids.

That widespread attitude was not surprising, for Zimbabwe has a sad history of government manipulation and distortion of economic vehicles. Moreover, corruption has been the order of the day, as evidenced by the president’s belated appointment of a Minister of Anti-Corruption (although such an appointment would not have been necessary if, over the almost 24 years of Zimbabwean independence the law enforcement agencies, the Attorney-General, and government as a whole had taken positive action to contain corruption, instead of tacit or actual condonation — as demonstrated, for example, by the lack of prosecutions of those exposed by the Chidyausiku Commission as having fraudulently obtained war veteran benefits for alleged losses sustained).

With corruption having been so pronounced, it was inevitable that many would immediately assume that to be a characteristic of the foreign currency auctions, and would interpret the auction results accordingly. This was despite the emphasis that the recently appointed governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) placed on transparency, not only in his monetary policy statement on December 18, which was a veritable tour-de-force, but also in numerous subsequent public appearances. He spelt out in no uncertain terms that he would vigorously pursue the highest possible levels of good governance in RBZ, founded upon stringent ethical standards, integrity and disclosure.

From the outset, in an endeavour to give the private sector reassurance and confidence that the foreign currency auctions would be conducted equitably, within appropriate parameters as prescribed by economic fundamentals, available resources, and privatisation of national needs, the governor appointed a foreign currency auctions advisory board. That board is representative of diverse sectors of the economy, including industry, commerce, tourism, mining, the financial sector, the tobacco industry, the transport sector, indigenous business development, agriculture, indigenous business women, and others. In addition, he and his deputy governors, and many senior staff of the RBZ are in attendance at meetings of the advisory board.

Members of the board are not only fully appraised of the conduct and outcome of each auction, but are encouraged to attend auctions so as to observe the manner of their conduct and the controls in force. All banks are informed of the results of each auction, which results are published widely in the press. Notwithstanding all these efforts to demonstrate that the auctions are fairly conducted, many repeatedly suggest that bids are rejected on spurious grounds, that bid levels are “doctored”, and the like.

It is in the light of such unfounded contentions that analysis of the RBZ foreign exchange auction reports reveals much interesting data. That data includes that at each of the first four auctions the amount on offer was US$5 million. At the fifth auction US$7 million was offered, and at the next five auctions US$8 million was on offer at each auction. The number of bids has varied considerably, with relatively few being forthcoming at the earlier auctions. The first auction took place when much of the economy was still in annual recess, and only seven bids were forthcoming. The second auction attracted 50 bids, the third 131, and the fourth 171 bids. Numbers of bids then increased, with 333 at the fifth auction, a record 798 at the sixth auction, and thereafter declining to 655, 598 and 372 bids at the seventh, eighth and ninth auctions respectively, followed by an increase to 644 bids at the tenth auction.

Of those bids, none were rejected at the first two auctions, and only nine were rejected over the next three auctions. Thereafter, with the exception of the seventh auction (where only one bid was rejected) the numbers of rejected bids rose considerably, with 291 being rejected at the sixth auction, 227 at the eighth, 164 at the ninth, and 302 at the tenth auction. However, contrary to rumour, no bids were rejected on grounds that they were considered to be too high. A few bids were rejected where they were so low as not to accord with economic fundamentals. In the main, bids were rejected only where they were below the lowest bid rate at which the amount on offer was exhausted. However, bids were also disqualified for reasons such as erroneously completed bid forms, incorrect, invalid or expired exchange control authorisation numbers, failure of banks to stamp and/or sign the bid forms, bids resubmitted although previously awarded, and like defects.

Of particular interest is the diverse range of purposes to which allotted auction amounts pertained. US$18 190 742 was on account of raw materials, being 38,2% of total amounts allocated on the first nine auctions. Also over those nine auctions, US$4 897 352 (10,3%) was in respect of equipment and machinery, US$4 782 465 (10,1%) for fuel, US$4 602 383 (9,7%) for spares, US$4 410 893 (9,3%) for fees and subscriptions, US$1 947 832 (4,1%) for motor vehicles, US$1 601 101 (3,4%) for manufactured goods, US$1 368 633 (2,9%) in respect of reimbursements, US$1 305 592 (2,7%) for loan repayments, US$1 295 543 (2,7%) for education, US$984 990 (2,1%) for travel, US$588 021 (1,2%) on account of dividends, US$510 031 (1,1%) for chemicals, and US$1 096 629 (2,3%) for other purposes.

Up to, and including, the tenth auction, the total number of successful bids was 2 765, which collectively were allocated US$55 582 208, against a total for all bids received of US$70 172 794. Thus, bids awarded represented, in value terms, 79,2% of the bids received.

It is particularly relevant to note that prior to the commencement of each auction, RBZ is totally unaware of the bidders, the number of bids, or the amounts bid and the amounts of foreign currency sought. Although the RBZ is, of course, aware of the payment authorisations which it has given against applications for authorisation, it does not know when the recipients of such authorisations will bid in the auctions, although the authorisations generally only have a 10-day validity. The bids are administered by the bankers of those bidding for currency, the duly completed bid forms being placed by personnel of those bankers into a sealed and locked box in the foyer of the RBZ headquarters.

At nine o’clock on the day of an auction, the box with the bids placed in it is taken to the auction venue, where it is unlocked and opened in the presence of an RBZ auction committee, representatives of the advisory board and, on many occasions, other invitees from the private sector. Each bid is announced and subjected to computer processing which identifies any unauthorised or otherwise defective bids, and collates the bids for participation in the auction. Thereupon, the allotted foreign currency is allocated sequentially from the highest bid downward until the available foreign currency is exhausted. Thereupon, all bids below the final level of allocation become rejected bids, and that accounts for the high number of such bids in the more recent auctions.

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Zim Independent



Opposition should not be part of this charade

AS the two main parties, Zanu PF and the Movement for Democratic Change, limber up for the parliamentary election, now set for March next year, there seems to be a distinct absence of the sort of public debate that should be taking place around the contest. Like, should the opposition be participating in the first place?

Zanu PF has been oiling its formidable electoral machinery since last year while the MDC is playing catch-up. Morgan Tsvangirai has been speaking at public meetings as if he is on the campaign trail.

This is good for morale. But is it sensible? Should the MDC be fighting an election when the playing field is tipped so heavily against them? The difference between 2005 and 2000 is that Zanu PF is now fully prepared to deal with any challenge. Their near defeat four years ago was the product of years of complacency as well as public disillusionment. That disillusionment has, if anything, got worse as the economy spirals down. But the means of coercion have improved immensely as last weekend’s announcement of draconian new powers of arrest and detention illustrate.

We should not for one minute buy the official explanation that those powers, deriving from the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Amendment of Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act) regulations, will be confined to implementing the so-called anti-corruption drive. They will be, as other new laws such as Aippa and Posa have been, applied to propping up the government’s increasingly threadbare authority. And they will in all probability be used at the same time to settle a few scores.

What the new regulations do is vitiate the fundamental precept of a democratic society that a person is regarded as innocent until proved guilty. And they withdraw the protection of the courts from detained persons who the police claim to have a prima facie case against. In so doing they subvert clearly stated constitutional rights, most notably those contained in Sections 13 and 18.

The government press has been suggesting such laws apply elsewhere such as in Botswana and the United States. They most certainly do not, nor do they apply in countries of the region where a Sadc protocol lays down the rights of citizens. They are very simply the sort of laws that held sway under the State of Emergency which Zanu PF found so handy in dealing with its political opponents after 1980.

Completely innocent citizens could find themselves locked up on the basis of a spurious tip-off to the police by a political or business rival. Just as seriously, critics of the regime could find themselves detained in circumstances where only perfunctory legal justification needs to be met.

The amendment to the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act relieves the police of their duty to meet the elementary test of professional policing — to amass evidence before making an arrest. It will be used together with Aippa and Posa to complete the apparatus of the police state Zanu PF is assembling prior to next year’s poll.

Ostensibly the latest measures are designed to assist with investigations into corruption and money laundering. But after 24 years when tackling corruption did not appear to be a government priority, their timing is suspicious. Nor are the public likely to be reassured by the introduction of a government department responsible for the anti-corruption drive. This is not the independent authority that is obviously needed to prevent a partisan and selective approach to exposing the problem.

Zanu PF have evidently decided that the war on corruption will be the central plank in their electoral platform. That will be a popular decision because so many of the country’s ills can be attributed to greed in the private sector while public institutions — at the heart of the national rot — are given less attention.

But in stripping Zimbabweans of their liberties the government is compounding the impression of a regime unwilling to make its case by constitutional means.

Is this the sort of environment in which a free and fair election can be held? This question is linked to others as an election looms. What are the prospects for opposition parties wanting to hold rallies and public meetings? Are voters being allowed access to a variety of views in the public media so they can make an informed choice at the ballot box? Do they have confidence in the office of the Registrar-General and the Electoral Supervisory Commission to ensure independent management of the election?

The MDC should be addressing these issues and explaining why it still feels confident in proceeding with its campaign. Has Zanu PF disbanded its militias or undertaken to renounce violence?

Exactly what has changed since 2000 except a refinement of the methods of co-option and coercion?

Inter-party talks were designed to resolve these issues. But Zanu PF is understandably dragging its heels. Unless and until it agrees to negotiations aimed at levelling the electoral playing field and creating an environment in which free elections can take place the opposition parties should not be lending themselves to such an obvious charade.

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Zim Independent
Zim owes US$1,8b
Godfrey Marawanyika

ZIMBABWE, which is battling to settle its dues to various international suppliers, owes the international community US$1,816 billion as at the end of last month.

The bills vary from bilateral creditors, suppliers of credit, commercial credit and multilateral creditors.

Although the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono last week indicated that the country had begun paying its overdue obligations, the debt remains enormous given that there has not been any significant foreign currency inflows into the country's official coffers.

According to the country's external payment obligations schedule the country owes bilateral creditors US$707 million, which constitutes 38,9% of the debt.

Multilateral creditors are owed US$784 million or43,2% of the nation'sover-due obligations.

The debt schedule shows that Zimba-bwe owes suppliers of credit US$248 million or 13,6% of the US$1,8 bill-ion debt, while commercial creditors are owed US$14 million which translates to 0,8% of the overdue obligations.

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Zim Independent
RBZ rejects 692 auction bids
Staff Writer

IT'S not a bed of roses at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ)'s foreign currency auction floor as more than 690 bids have already been thrown out since the system began on January 12, according to RBZ governor Gideon Gono.

Gono says cumulatively a total of 2 423 bids valued at US$47,6 million were allotted at the auction so far.

The success rate of the auction so far, as represented by the proportion of total value of bids awarded (US$47,6 million) to total amount of bids received (US$56,6 million), stands at 84,1%.

The governor said the bids were rejected for various reasons including the fact that they did not reflect "economic fundamentals".

"We realised that holiday and travel were taking away more than US$1 million from the foreign currency that we have at the central bank," Gono said last week. "We decided to stop requests for holiday travel purposes and instead allocate the money to other sectors needing it urgently such as health. We also stopped dishing out money for luxury vehicle importation."

Importers now have to pay customs duty for their vehicles using prevailing auction rates as opposed to the $824 that was being used previously.

"I make no apology for removing and rejecting so many bids," Gono said. "One cannot allow US$2 500 to be used for holidays every year even during mid-year. This can be done when the foreign currency situation gets back to normal levels."

The governor said the bias of allocation was towards the productive sector. He said bias was also given for educational purposes, freight, drugs, equipment and machinery, raw materials, spares, chemicals, fuel and fees and subscriptions.

The governor said bids below the lowest acceptable rates were "rejected in all cases".

For the period ending February 9 there were a total of 2 423 bids awarded amounting to US$47,6 million.

The value of bids rejected and received, on the other hand, amounted to

US$56,6 million giving a percentage of bids rejected to total amount of bids to stand at 100%.

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Zim Independent
Bid to tap forex not easy
Godfrey Marawanyika

PLANS to have Zimbabweans living abroad repatriate money through official channels might turn out to be ineffective in the short-term rather than the quick-fix strategy which the central bank is hoping for, unless issues pertaining to an attractive exchange rate are resolved.

Analysts said the programme, just like the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) which promises improved political and economic management in return for increased foreign aid and trade, might yield more talk than action if some of the concerns that led to Zimbabweans fleeing the country are not addressed and confidence in the country's political administration restored.

The new programme is the brainchild of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ).

The last such initiative mooted to lure Zimbabweans to invest back home was coordinated by Africa Investment Ltd led by prominent business tycoon Mutumwa Mawere who was targeting Zimbabweans living in South Africa. Although the drive received much publicity little is known as to its outcome and who benefited from the scheme.

This week the lead coordinator of the RBZ drive, chartered accountant and economic analyst Eric Bloch, said he was optimistic that they would get a positive response from Zimbabweans in the diaspora.

"We are optimistic that the proposals will be successful," Bloch said. "As a committee we have come up with a set of proposals but we do not have a specific rate on what the applicable rate should be. What we want is people to invest their money through the official channels not at the black market where they risk being duped of their money that would have been sent from abroad."

Last week Bloch said there were 3,4 million Zimbabweans living abroad which he hoped would repatriate their money through the official channels. Since 1999 Zimbabweans have been leaving the country in droves as they seek greener pastures and better working conditions.

Some individuals who have been leaving Zimbabwe did so because of political persecution.

A bank economist who spoke to businessdigest on condition of anonymity because of the company policy said the Bloch-led initiative appeared to be good on paper, but his main problem would be that of government's perception and why individuals ran away from the country. He said it was also important for citizens to have confidence in the banks, which would be handling their funds.

"So far everything appears to be good on paper that Bloch has to convince Zimbabweans outside the country to repatriate their money through official means. But the biggest question that has to be answered is: Is the government prepared on the other hand to address why these people left the country?" the economist asked.

"The government should come out in the open over this initiative and guarantee these people that their money will not be tampered with if it is not for immediate consumption just like what they do with individual foreign currency accounts."

He said some of the issues that government must be prepared to answer also pertained to the issue of the ability to vote from wherever they would be, but warned that this was not about being patriotic. Zimbabweans have not been allowed to vote through postal ballots as the process has only been limited to embassy personnel and military attachés something Bloch agrees needs changing.

"In my personal opinion I think these people should be accorded the right to vote. But this is a constitutional matter which our committee cannot deal with," he said.

Although Bloch refused to shed light on what rate the committee was prepared to give Zimbabweans abroad, this paper has it on good authority that it was somewhere between $5 000 and $6 000 against the greenback, but the rate would fluctuate depending on the applicable auction rates prevailing then.

Witness Chinyama, a Harare-based economist with Kingdom Financial Holdings Ltd, said for the scheme to be attractive everything hinged on the issue of the rate offered.

"If they can offer alternative rates which are higher than the auction rate the better," he said. "This is because not everyone is getting money from the auction so the question which has to be addressed is where are those that have been denied access to forex getting their money from? Those who are sending their money are mostly doing it to support their relatives so if they get a better rate they are bound to assist. But what should be clear is that not everybody is prepared to invest because people left for different reasons."

Under Bloch's committee they have since said that anyone investing in Zimbabwe will not be subjected to double taxation, and their legality of staying in those countries will not be asked.

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Zim Independent
Tanganda tea rakes in $22 billion in exports
Ngoni Chanakira

DESPITE the difficult inflationary environment, price controls and a shortage of labour on its estates, Tanganda Tea Company Ltd (Tanganda) exported tea worth $22 billion from a production level of 10 700 tonnes.

Company chairman John Moxon said for the period ending October 31 turnover amounted to $28,34 billion (2002 $4,95 billion).

Exports amounted to $22,02 billion while local sales $6,31 billion.

He said profit before tax for the period stood at $21,60 billion, an increase of 713% for the 2002 figure of $2,67 billion.

Moxon said this was very much a function of tight cost controls with the most operating costs increasing by less than the official rate of inflation.

"Production for the year totalled 10 700 tonnes, 3% below the previous year of 11 011 tonnes, and was primarily a result of the labour shortages and a cold spell at the end of the winter season," the chairman said. "Average prices on the international tea markets were little changed over the course of the year. The company continued to expand the area set out to tea. The outgrower extension scheme has also grown with the company now providing technical and material assistance to over 600 outgrowers."

Moxon said the second processing line at the Tingamira Export Processing Zone was now fully operational.

Turning to coffee, he said production for the year was 371 tonnes, a decrease from the 400 tonnes, produced in 2002.

"Prices continued to be depressed and more suitable crops are now to be planted in marginal coffee areas with an initial planting of 50 hectares to macadamias in January," he said. "In spite of the smaller crop, coffee did contribute positively to profits."

Earnings per share at the company increased by 663% to $156,81. In 2002 they stood at $20,53.

On the beverage division Moxon said trading conditions were made difficult with the imposition of price controls during the first half of the financial year.

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Zim Independent
Top post for Zimind journalist
Staff Writer

THE Third World Media Network Organisation (TWMN) has selected Zimbabwe Independent business reporter Godfrey Marawanyika as the organisation's treasurer.

The organisation focuses on trade and World Trade Organisation (WTO) issues.

One of its objectives is to monitor the present and future challenges facing the media.

It also supports media professionals within the Least Developed Countries and other parts of the world. It currently has a membership of 18 countries, which extend from Africa to the Caribbean and Asia.

The organisation's cooperating partners are the WTO, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, One World Network, Taking IT Global, Thomson Foundation and the World Food Programme.

The sitting president is from Bangladesh and currently it has two vice presidents - from Mali and Zambia.

The general secretary of the organisation is from Benin while the joint secretary is from Burkina Faso.

Marawanyika has won several local awards writing on trade issues, but his greatest achievement was in 2001 when he was voted among the top seven business reporters covering issues on regional integration.

In that year he won a trip to study the European Union integration. Last year, Marawanyika covered the regional preparatory meetings before the WTO's Ministerial Meeting in Cancun, Mexico.

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Zim Independent

Cabs blasts new RBZ regulations
Ngoni Chanakira

THE Central Africa Building Society (Cabs), the country's largest building society, says the introduction of statutory reserves that "earn O%" while lodged with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) will result in loss of revenue for the society.

Cabs says however mortgage loans are still available to interested customers.

Last year building societies pointed out that finance raised through investment activities continued to be utilised for mortgage lending at rates that were considerably lower than those on offer in other sectors of the financial market.

The building societies said the high density areas continued to be their priority for lending activities but they had experienced difficulties lending to this sector due to the ever increasing costs of serviced stands and construction.

Mortgage interest rates for the medium and lower density housing had been increased during the year but the inflation-driven growth in the value of properties had far outstripped the average income earner's ability to obtain loans of any meaningful amount to purchase a property.

Responding to written questions from businessdigest Cabs said the statutory reserve loss would influence an increase in mortgage loan interest rates as a recovery measure.

In its Monetary Policy Statement the RBZ introduced statutory reserves of 30% of 75% of funds that do not support mortgage loans.

"This loss will influence an increase in mortgage loan interest rates as a recovery measure," Cabs said.

"In turn this will have a negative effect on affordability of loans for potential borrowers across the board but moreso for the low income earners. On existing loans this will have the effect of increasing monthly repayments to levels that may be unaffordable for home-owners resulting in increase in the default rate."

The prominent building society said there was a high likelihood of premature repayment of loans in order to avoid the high interest rates resulting in a reduction in the society's mortgage loan portfolio.

"On the positive side of the Monetary Policy Statement, if the RBZ allows the Society to access funds from statutory reserves for onlending to the construction industry which is classified as a segment of the productive sector, then this will enable resumption of activity on housing schemes and mortgage lending in all sectors of housing," Cabs said.

The building society last year issued a total of 9 190 loans valued at $37 754 336.

There were 6 065 high density loans for $1 427 427 and 3 125 low density loans valued at $36 326 909.

"Currently mortgage funds are available," Cabs said. "This current financial year from July 2003 up to January 30, the society has lent a total of $19,7 billion."

The building society said it currently did not have any new housing schemes.

"Of late we have noticed an apparent slow-down in the rate of increase of property prices indicating a possible stabilisation rather than a reduction in property values," Cabs said. "We have also noticed a shortage in the properties available for sale, presumably because some sellers are adopting a 'wait and see' attitude on the effects of the RBZ Monetary Policy Statement and its effects on exchange rates."

Last year for the period ended June 30 the combined assets of building societies measured in historical cost terms grew by 162%.

Cash and investments grew by 168% and mortgage advances by 95% from $17,1 billion to $33,4 billion.

Deposits grew by nearly 180% from $39,9 billion to $111,2 billion and the shareholders' equity, which consists mostly of permanent, paid up shares by $31,1 billion.

Outgoing president Nicholas Vingirai said the increase in cash and investments had been due by and large to inflation and the societies had "seen the effects of the cash crisis that was experienced in the few months". He said of concern however was the increase in mortgage advances, which did not appear to have kept in line with inflation.

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Zim Independent - Editor's Memo
A birthday wish

PRESIDENT Mugabe turns 80 tomorrow. That is a ripe old age which many of us can only hope and pray we reach although, given plunging life expectancy figures across the country, that hope will prove no more than a pipe dream for most.

One of the more endearing facets of Zimbabwean culture is respect and affection for the elderly. Age is associated with wisdom. And the old folk are kept within the bosom of the family, rather than exiled to old age homes as in the developed world. We respect and indulge our senior citizens in a way all societies should. But does that mean they should hold on to the reins of office long after they have run out of ideas on how their wider family should progress; long after they have lost touch with advances made in governance, technology and culture?

No society is static. Those that succeed are the ones that adapt. And in a democracy rulers are chosen according to their perceived competencies to manage that process of adaptation, rather than their historic claims to fame.

Winston Churchill was allowed to continue in office in Britain in the 1950s owing to public reverence for him as a result of his wartime role and the concealment of his infirmities, most notably a stroke. But those were manifestly not his best years. He did Britain no favours by keeping Anthony Eden and RA Butler waiting to succeed.

Kamuzu Banda clung to office into his 80s as the founder of Malawi. But policy was determined by a kitchen cabinet of dubious individuals around him.

President Mugabe remains agile and quick-witted. From my vantage point overlooking the Zanu PF headquarters where I can see - and hear! - his coming and going, I am amazed at his stamina in attending whole days of politburo meetings where debate must be at best unenlivening! But does his latest cabinet reshuffle show any new thinking? Does it offer solutions to the country's pressing problems? Few would say so. Individuals responsible for our national decline and destitution have been moved around to continue inflicting harm upon the country while leading citizens who could command confidence at home and abroad are conspicuous by their absence.

It is clear that in his eighth decade President Mugabe is unable -indeed unwilling - to rescue the country from the decay and isolation his policies have spawned. The elderly are inclined to cling to the comforting certainties of the past and to those who are products of that past. That is not an environment conducive to change or reform.

Then there is the issue of management. How many companies feel they can be effectively run by an octogenarian? Why is 60 stipulated as a retirement age by many public services around the world? Would you be happy to know that your plane's landing at Heathrow airport is being managed by an air traffic controller of 80? Clearly, management functions and responses are assessed differently from experience.

I feel sorry for people who are perfectly capable of holding down a job being forcibly retired at a statutory age when they still have a useful contribution to make. Retirement ages are being reviewed in Europe and the United States with this in mind. On the other hand we have a problem in our part of the world with individuals who refuse to recognise their limitations; who believe their job is for life.

So the debate should not be so much about age as about exposure. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected to four terms as US president. He was one of the most enlightened and far-sighted presidents the US ever had. But a consensus grew that no president should serve that long again. So term limits were introduced by way of a constitutional amendment. No president since then has been able to serve more than two terms.

That is the rule incorporated into many modern constitutions. Sam Nujoma amended his so he could serve a third term. But he has agreed to go no further. Bakili Muluzi tried to get a third term but was blocked in parliament as was Frederick Chiluba. Sir Ketumile Masire observed his laid-down terms while Joachim Chissano has agreed to observe his.

Others haven't been so happy to go. The biggest problem with incumbents is their sense of indispensability. Encouraged by a court of self-serving retainers whose preferment depends upon their leader's patronage, rulers quickly and naturally buy into the view that only they possess the wisdom and leadership qualities necessary to prevent their country falling into the hands of opportunists who do not have the nation's interests at heart.

We have seen the ruinous consequences of that delusionalism in Zimbabwe. Not only has Zanu PF invented the self-serving claim that the MDC is a party of puppets who will return Zimbabwe to colonial rule, they have used that claim to physically block the MDC from securing power through the ballot box and thus saving the country from the disastrous course it is now embarked upon.

While the two-term policy would not necessarily have spared Zimbabwe a continuation of Zanu PF rule in different hands, it would certainly have made democratic reform more likely and prevented some of the terrible excesses that have so blighted the ruling party's record over the past four years.

As Mugabe turns 80 tomorrow Zimbabweans have never been poorer, never been so oppressed and brutally treated, and never been so deprived of the basics of life. Emigration has assumed record levels, as has unemployment, inflation and destitution. This is what happens when leaders believe themselves to be indispensable! And the more people complain about their predicament the more they are repressed.

Zimbabwe is today a brutal dictatorship where once it was a democratic showcase. It is an African tragedy which even its friends and neighbours admit is a problem.

President Mugabe knows the nation has one birthday wish for him. If only he would heed it.

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Zim Independent
Mourning death of press freedom

WE, Christians Together for Justice and Peace, an informal ecumenical group of church leaders drawn from many different denominations, who met here in Bulawayo on February 18, take this opportunity to express our deepest concern at the recent majority decision of the Supreme Court in the matter concerning the freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

We regard the freedom of the press and freedom of expression as essential to the functioning of any true democracy and we look to the Constitution as the guarantor of these rights. To deny these rights is to license the abuse of power by the nation's rulers and to encourage them on the path of tyranny.

The freedom of the press is necessary for the exposure of wrongdoing in high places and to ensure that those guilty of abusing office are brought to justice. The freedom of expression is necessary to ensure that views and opinions other than those of the ruling party are heard and considered.

Without it, the way is open to intolerance and bigotry.

Furthermore, we would remind those who hold power in Zimbabwe today that these basic human rights are God-given. It is not up to the state either to confer or withdraw such rights. Therefore, we would expect any wise and God-fearing rulers to recognise and respect these freedoms. To deny them is an act of incredible arrogance which encourages unrestrained tyranny and all the suffering that flows from it. It is also an act of defiance against God.

It is for precisely these reasons that we regard the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) as an unwise and essentially unChristian piece of legislation.

To limit the freedom of expression so severely as this Act does and to require competent and experienced journalists first to obtain a licence from one who represents the ruling party, is effectively to withdraw these freedoms and to license tyranny.

Faced with this threat to our God-given rights we looked to the Supreme Court to uphold and defend the Constitution which guarantees them. We looked to the Supreme Court to defend the rights of all Zimbabweans against the abuse of power by our rulers and the further infringement of our constitutional rights. Alas, if we had any such confidence in the judiciary it has now been shattered by the majority verdict of the highest court in this land.

We are dismayed to note that the Chief Justice has held that those sections of Aippa which lay down a system of state licensing of journalists are not ultra vires the constitution.

We view with the deepest concern a system which effectively gives the ruling party the power to decide who may practise as a journalist in this country and who may not.

As a result of this decision, we have already witnessed the closing down of the Daily News. Other independent papers are equally threatened.

Journalists who are refused a license face a mandatory term of two years imprisonment for practising their profession. Effectively this judgement has ensured the death of the freedom of the press and the freedom of expression. Worse still, it has fuelled criticism that Zimbabwe no longer has a judiciary which is prepared to defend the rights of our people against an arrogant tyranny.

Not one but two, feebly flickering lights have been extinguished and the darkness now covering our beloved country is almost complete.

As Christian leaders, we protest this loss of basic human rights in the strongest possible terms, and at the same time we sound a warning in the clearest terms that unless and until these freedoms are restored to the people, tyranny will only increase and the possibility of a non-violent solution to the problems besetting the nation diminish.

God save Zimbabwe.

Rev Graham Shaw,


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Zim Independent
Editor's Memo
Friday, 20 February 2004

Is Bloch serious about forex?

I MAKE reference to a story in the businessdigest of February 13 headlined "RBZ targets locals abroad for forex".

Erich Bloch is not serious? Or is he now part of the disastrous Zanu PF party? We left Zimbabwe under torture, intimidation and daily queues. And this person is asking us to support a regime that has made us leave our birth place?

It is very well to pontificate sitting in the protected environment of his office and home.

Has he or his wife ever stood in a queue for bread, cooking oil, or milk? Or does he get his supplies delivered to his house?

Charity begins at home.

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Zim Independent
Zimpost getting away with it

WHY is it that the top echelons of many businesses continue to milk the public for all there're worth and get away with it?

The latest culprit is Zimpost. Despite its highly priced services, strikes, go-slows, and consequent poor service, it has increased its charges for a small Causeway post box to $30 000!

What makes this action so despicable is that by using post boxes, users save Zimpost both money and the expenses of normal delivery, so why should I and others be penalised for helping it by collecting my mail from boxes (not cleaned since the building was completed), saving Zimpost both money and manpower?Some renters are now resorting to sharing their boxes with others. Perhaps this is the way forward.

M Leppard,


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Zim Independent
'Makamba' regulations violate rights
By Otto Saki

THE fight against corruption in Zimbabwe has taken a new turn with the gazetting of the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Amendment to the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act. The laws of the country have been found to be inadequate in fighting economic crimes.

Admittedly corruption is a cancer that needs to be curtailed through lawful means and needs the commitment of every citizen. But are we fighting corruption if we are creating repressive laws such as the recently gazetted Statutory Instrument 37 of 2004?

Corruption cannot be fought in isolation from the protection of the rights of individuals, especially fundamental rights such as the presumption of innocence, which is the supporting tenet of our criminal justice delivery system. Moreso in view of our adversarial legal system. The "Makamba" regulations seem to have been motivated by dictatorial tendencies which has been typical of laws that are a product of the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act.

The introduction of the executive presidency gave President Robert Mugabe sweeping powers to the extent of becoming a lawmaker unto himself. The principle of separation of powers broke down. The Act allows the president to pass legislation in the form of regulations (statutory instruments) if it takes time for the laws to go through the normal process of lawmaking. The president is empowered to pass regulations by publishing them in the Government Gazette.

These regulations are in principle supposed to last for six months if they are not repealed. We are talking of six months of remand holding cells being full to the brim, police cells being crowded, and more importantly, the rights of presumably innocent citizens being violated with the blessings of the courts which are presumed to be the custodians of our rights.

One cannot challenge these provisions in the lower courts as they do not have the jurisdiction to entertain constitutional matters. Only the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction in relation to violations of the Bill of Rights.

The Act empowers the president to pass regulations when it appears to him that a situation has arisen or is likely to arise, which needs to be dealt with urgently with regard to, among other things, the economic interests of Zimbabwe or the general public interest. The issue of corruption, money laundering, externalising of foreign currency is not a new phenomenon in Zimbabwe and to claim that it has become of concern overnight is difficult to believe.

The government is very much aware that foreign currency has been externalised since time immemorial with the express or implied sanction of the government and its obvious participation in the very same schemes. To attempt to address the situation with such heavyhandedness that violates the fundamental rights of the people is deplorable.

If the government is really serious about fighting corruption then everyone in its hierarchies should publicly declare all their investments and we will see if they will not be found wanting (unotsvaga n'anga neinobata mai). The Presidential Powers Act has been abused repeatedly, especially in matters relating to fundamental rights of citizens.

You don't have to be a lawyer to ascertain that the regulations are patently and overtly unconstitutional. Section 13(1)(e) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe provides that a person may be deprived of the right to liberty only upon reasonable suspicion of him having committed, or being about to commit, a criminal offence. There must be prima facie grounds for arresting that person. What this piece of obnoxious legislation has done is to legalise the heretical theory of "arrest and investigate later", which had already become characteristic of the police save that it lacked statutory and judicial sanction.

To arrest someone is to deprive him of the right to personal liberty without which many rights can be easily violated such as subjection to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Every individual should be afforded the right to protection before the law as provided for under Section 18 of the Bill of Rights of our Constitution.

The bad governance style is responsible for the corruption that we are facing today in Zimbabwe. It is only authoritarian and despotic regimes that have a record of high corruption rates in the world. The executive has all the power to make law, to declare war, and to commit soldiers to foreign wars such as that in the DRC. Only a few individuals who were involved in mineral deals enjoyed the profits of that war. Many soldiers were declared missing and their last known address was either the Commando Barracks or King George VI Barracks.

In a situation of normalcy, laws are never applied retrospectively but with the "Makamba" regulations, anything is possible. Every individual who is arrested on allegations of having committed an offence is supposed to be brought for trial within a reasonable period and seven days or 30 days will never fall in the "reasonable period".

Reasonable period does not only apply in respect of the commencement of trial but also a reasonable time for its conduct and completion. With this regulation this will only remain an academic argument, which has no practical application.

Previously, the right to appeal to any court of higher jurisdiction is available to any individual who is aggrieved by the decision of the lower court. Bail applications and appeals are only refused in circumstances where the court feels that to grant a person bail will jeopardise investigations or that he is likely to abscond. This decision will be reached after considering the interests of all parties and the law is interpreted in favour of liberty. To deny one bail on unfounded charges that might not even be clear to the court is unlawful and a total manifestation of a confused legal system.

Police have effectively been given wide powers to arrest without reasonable suspicion and to detain suspects in custody until they have completed their investigations. Police will effectively be the arresting detail, the prosecution will be rendered useless, and the magistrate or the judge will not have a say in the bail application.

These regulations speak volumes about the attitude of the government. It is unfair to expect something better from these old men. Our rights and the rights of accused persons should never be traded for empty political agendas. We urge the government of Zimbabwe to fight corruption whilst respecting the rights of its citizens regardless of the extent of the "evidence" they have or do not have against the accused.

-Otto Saki is a projects lawyer with Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.

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Zim Independent
Opinion & Analysis
Friday, 20 February 2004

At 80 Gushungo is no spring chicken
By Bill Saidi

IN a country where life expectancy has been reduced to just over 40 years - from the 60-something-years of the halcyon days of prosperity - turning 80 can be a real cause for celebration. Tomorrow, President Robert Mugabe celebrates his 80th birthday. Some critics might suggest that his government could be held culpable for the drop in longevity - the HIV/Aids pandemic and the near-collapse of the health delivery system - perhaps he ought to go for a low-key bash. Many would appreciate that.

Others might say this is a quibble: let the old man feast to his heart's content: you are 80 only once in a lifetime. The main festivity will be in his Zvimba rural home in Mashonaland West. The 21st February Movement is organising the shindig, which is named after his birthday. It was inaugurated in 1986, when Webster Shamu, then better known as Charles Ndlovu, was the prime mover.

Last week, he was named to a cabinet post.

It ought to be a happy occasion, with no blood-and-thunder speeches on Tony Blair, George W Bush or Morgan Tsvangirai. If some react with "fat chance" to that prospect, then we can at least hope that when they sing "For he's a jolly good fellow!" Mugabe won't protest with "I am the greatest!" How does the old man view his 80th birthday? How do Zimbabweans feel about being ruled by an octogenarian?

The temptation is to doubt that he can still locate all his marbles.

Certainly, there will be a reason to suspect the creeping pangs of senility. But the official line is that he is still as fit as a fiddle. Most of his public appearances have more or less confirmed this: he is as sharp as ever, although his critics might respond with "Fiddlesticks!" He is 80 years old and like all men of 80, he can hardly be as sharp as he was at 56, at Independence. People say age is a matter of numbers, but politically Mugabe cannot be the spring chicken that he was in 1980 - and it shows.

His recent cabinet reshuffle may have been hailed by Zanu PF as a stroke of genius. But many citizens, battered into a near-comatose state by the economic mess created by his government, will ask: Is he still in touch with reality? He has been likened to Kenya's Daniel arap Moi, Uganda's Idi Amin and the DRC's Mobutu Sese Seko, for clinging to power. In another, albeit unlikely scenario, he has been compared with Hendrik Verwoerd, the architect of white South Africa's apartheid policies.

Mugabe is not the longest-serving president in Africa: Kenneth Kaunda ruled Zambia for 27 years, although he started when he was only 40, a real spring chicken whose feathers were plucked clean in 1991. Kaunda will be 80 in a few months but he has been out of power since 1991, when he was 67, the political Goliath felled by the little trade unionist David, Frederick Chiluba.

Chiluba today is in disgrace and Kaunda must be saying "I told you so" to anyone who cares to listen. The spectre of having "a Chiluba" done on him by another former trade unionist, Morgan Tsvangirai, must have haunted Mugabe since the 2000 general election, when the Movement for Democratic Change, then only nine months old, grabbed 57 parliamentary seats previously won routinely by Zanu PF since 1980.

In their only one-on-one duel for the presidency in 2002, Mugabe was the winner, but the price was high: "smart sanctions" and suspension from the Commonwealth. Even the ancestral spirits seemed unhappy, unleashing a number of droughts on the country. What those same spirits might do to punish Mugabe for his intolerance of a truly free, vibrant and independent media might be something else entirely. At the time of writing, there had been no news of Tsvangirai sending a birthday card to Mugabe, the man he stands accused of trying to assassinate before their 2002 duel.

Mugabe's term is officially expected to end in 2008, by which time he will be 84 years old. He may not, by then, have completely lost his marbles, but he will be less sharp, intellectually, than he is now. Members of his inner circle must hope his departure will not be as ignominious as that of Tunisia's Habib Bourguiba, who led his country from 1957, after the end of the monarchy, until 1987 when he was forced out. The people in his inner circle said he had to go because he had definitely lost his marbles.

Mugabe turns 80 when the economy is in its worst shape since Independence. The country has lost most of its former political and economic allies and quit the Commonwealth in a huff after that multiracial international organisation decided not to lift its nearly two-year-old suspension over the flawed presidential election.

Mugabe still retains support among some African countries, but particularly South Africa, whose change of heart in the opposite direction could, by a single stroke, disastrously alter the political and economic equation. Mugabe has successfully - so far - used the racist card to whip up support among African countries, portraying himself as the swash- buckling African nationalist hero slaying the imperialist dragon.

The ouster of Saddam Hussein last year must have boosted his image. For some Zimbabweans, though, he should have been next in line for a regime change. Only Botswana, among the Southern African Development Community countries, has refused to swallow the bait: President Festus Mogae seems to believe Mugabe made his own bed of nails and must lie on it. It now seems an eternity ago, but the speculation recently was that Mugabe would soon step down from the Zanu PF leadership, ceding power to a trusted lieutenant, who would then cobble together a deal with the MDC - with the tacit approval of the international community. The denouement would be an election guaranteed of freedom and fairness by international supervision.

All that came to nothing and Zimbabwe sailed on to a fate not dissimilar to a political and economic shipwreck, the doomsayers predicted. But Mugabe is still around, the perennial survivor. Then Gideon Gono strode on to the scene with his own swashbuckling act: he tightened the screws on money launderers, asset management fraudsters and banks with dubious balance sheets.

It wasn't the all-conquering act that Zanu PF gloated it would be. Gono himself admitted it was nothing of the sort - just the beginning, he said. Zanu PF tried to blame Gono's targets for all the economic tribulations the country has suffered recently. Few swallowed that fiction. Gono's net caught flamboyant politicians such as Zanu PF's Mashonaland West supremo Philip Chiyangwa and Mashonaland Central's James Makamba.

Makamba is also a member of the Zanu PF central committee.

Mugabe's supporters looked at these high-profile arrests as proof that his government was waging a relentless war against corruption in high places. Perhaps it was: the Chiyangwa bust was particularly bold because this is a man who not only hails from the same province as Mugabe, but is also something of a living model of how being a Zanu PF supporter can result in great material things.

But critics thought this could be a smokescreen. The MDC's Paul Themba Nyathi thought the whole thing would fizzle out into a non-event before anybody was sent to serve a long stretch at Chikurubi maximum security prison. Others suspected that the really big fish, those probably nearest and dearest to Mugabe himself, remained unscathed. There was speculation the tables would be turned on the Zanu PF aristocracy once Chiyangwa and Makamba - who, some people say, know where the bodies are buried - started to sing like canaries.

There is corruption in high places in Zanu PF, but it goes deeper than Chiyangwa and Makamba. The worst-scenario prediction was that if this alleged "falling out of thieves" reached its logical peak, the whole Zanu PF edifice would come tumbling down like a deck of cards.

But for the moment, it must be party time for The Leader and his followers. Even people looking in from the outside could join in to wish Gushungo a happy birthday. After all, who can begrudge him a real good innings as a human being? He is 80 and that is worth celebrating in any political language.

-Bill Saidi is editor of the Daily News On Sunday.

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Zim Independent
A portrait of Mugabe's tyranny
By John Bercow

"ENVELOPING crisis", "appalling tragedy", and "standing disgrace" must rank amongst the most hackneyed hyperbole in journalism or politics. Yet no form of words or set of statistics would overstate the plight of Zimbabwe which I saw at first hand during an undercover visit recently.

Of course, I knew that this country, rich in natural resources which once fed its own 12 million citizens and others in southern Africa, was saved from starvation only by handouts from the hated West. I knew that 70% of the population was jobless, inflation had topped 600% and 80% of the people lived below the poverty line. I knew that a quarter of the adult population was HIV positive. Yet it is easy for a politician to become fatigued, almost desensitised by the figures. The effect of seeing some of the people represented by those figures was cathartic.

I saw whole families existing in the hell holes that are euphemistically described as squatter camps. One young mother, typical of many, was selling bones gathered from the municipal rubbish tip to make detergent in order to raise a few Zimbabwean dollars. I saw the pharmacy of a big hospital where the shelves were empty of vital medicines. The head of the unit was (as usual, I gather) on the phone, pleading with the Ministry of Health to pay for the last batch of drugs so that the next could be supplied.

I was moved to tears when I visited bare and ramshackle homes in the townships, and saw malnourished mothers living with Aids, who receive not a dollar from the public purse. One such person, chronically sick, had nothing to eat and feared anyway that if she cooked on the stove, the mucus that constantly drips from her, would infect her young children, who are destined to be orphans in months, if not weeks or days.

President Mugabe and his obsequious ministerial lickspittles fatuously claim that the country's woes are attributable either to a neo-colonialist conspiracy, or to inclement weather, or both. In truth, the crisis in Zimbabwe is not a crisis of enemies or environment. It is a crisis of governance. That crisis has many dimensions. The government has single-handedly wrecked the agricultural productiveness of the country, with economic and human consequences unimaginable even five years ago.

Additionally, Mugabe and his party, who justly fought to be free of racist oppression by a white minority, are now determined to dish out the same in reverse. Yet two wrongs do not make a right, and the philosophy of an eye for an eye is a far cry from the rhetoric of reconciliation that Mugabe signed up to in the Harare Declaration.

In economic terms, the ruling clique are totally detached from the people they govern. Mugabe allies are modern-day feudal barons who grab by political force what they cannot achieve by economic worth. Zimbabwe is now run by a compulsive kleptocracy that matches the worst excesses of imperialist rule.

Moreover, the government systematically violates human rights every day in a variety of ways. The Minister for Local Government, Ignatius Chombo, suspended the Mayor of Harare, Elias Mudzuri, who was elected with 80% of the vote. The ostensible reason for the suspension was disapproval of his policies. The actual reason, I suggest, is that Mudzuri represents the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

He is the kind of charismatic, intelligent and articulate person who threatens the corrupt cabal which has brought Zimbabwe to its knees. Suspension of elected politicians is bad enough. Silencing independent journalism is no better. Mugabe has gone to extraordinary lengths to crush dissent by banning the Daily News, the only independent daily newspaper in the country. This was an extreme case of intolerance. More commonplace is harassment of journalists, such as the reporter summoned to explain himself when a recycled version of his story upset Jonathan Moyo, the unelected and preposterous Minister for Information.

Mugabe's thugs do not stop at bans and bullying. They beat - and how! Beatrice Mtetwa, the internationally acclaimed human rights lawyer, recounted to me how she was savagely attacked by police assailants telling her "We don't need people like you, supporting enemies of the president".

Then there is the youth militia, a Nazi-style training organisation whose members are exhorted to threaten, beat and rape opponents of the ruling Zanu PF. Even their own parents and siblings are not exempt from such attacks.

By any yardstick, the Mugabe regime is loathsome. An invisible but acrid cloud of fear hangs over every area of life in Zimbabwe. No wonder that everyone I met in civil society from teachers to manual workers, lawyers to nurses said that it had betrayed the principles of the liberation struggle that they had supported. How can it be removed or reformed? Violent revolution seems unlikely to happen and there is no guarantee of a sustainable democracy thereafter if it did. I visited Morgan Tsvangirai, the courageous president of the Movement for Democratic Change, who has survived several assassination attempts, and is now on trial for treason. He continues to argue for peaceful change.

There must be change on several fronts. First, next time Mugabe seeks help from the World Food Programme, such help must be tied to transparency and fairness in the country's own food policy. Past evidence shows that disbursing food to hungry voters in the run up to elections is a favourite tactic of the ruling Zanu PF party. Mugabe's government should no longer be able to expect the international community to be complicit in its master plan for rigging elections.

Secondly, the woefully inadequate sanctions regime must be toughened. The list of 79 Zimbabwe leaders banned from travelling in the EU is a sick joke amongst democratic opponents of the regime. Every day of my visit people I met suggested, independently of each other, new names of businessmen and other collaborators that should be added. The assets of the oppressors should be frozen and their immediate family should be prevented from working or studying in the EU.

Thirdly, and crucially, the international community should strain every muscle and sinew to persuade South African President Thabo Mbeki to remonstrate with Mugabe, either to comply with the reasonable demands of democrats or to fall on his sword.

The leaders of the free world should not cease to emphasise that Mugabe

has departed from every principle for which Nelson Mandela fought, and that if he does not back down, he will be dragged kicking and screaming to the International Criminal Court.

Finally, I appeal to our Prime Minister to join this fight. The fact that Mugabe

has showered vulgar abuse on Tony Blair since 1997 is no reason for our Prime Minister to look the other way now. For all his weaknesses, Tony Blair has often demonstrated real statesmanship in international affairs and his powers of persuasion are considerable. If only he would turn his mind to the threat of genocide which overhangs the people of Zimbabwe, and to a remorseless campaign for the triumph of freedom and justice, this is a battle that can be won.

-John Bercow MP is Shadow Secretary of State for International Development.

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zim Independent
Mugabe conveniently distorting facts

IT is really amazing the way that President Robert Mugabe rambles on and on about Britain being the "colonial power" and his perceived notion that the British wish to "recolonise" the land and that this is in solidarity with their kith and kin.

As with nearly all of his rhetoric, it is a complete reversal of the facts. The truth is that the Rhodesian government declared Independence from Britain precisely because the British were trying to decolonise the country. And in 1980 it was the British who handed power to Mugabe after ignoring the violence and intimidation that had led to his very questionable election victory. The supposed kith and kin were left to fend for themselves, with absolutely no help from the UK.

Records show that Britain had been desperately trying to rid itself of the country for decades and that Britain alone handed power to Mugabe. Only Mugabe could so completely reverse the facts and reality, and only in Zimbabwe would the people be so gullible as to actually believe him.

The bitter truth is that no one wants Zimbabwe, as a colony or in any other form.



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Mobilisation or boycott? MDC faces tough choice

USING land and a toxic mixture of electoral fraud, terror tactics, a partisan police force and a selective application of the law the regime that rules this country has succeeded, over the course of four terrible years, in temporarily paralysing internal opposition and democratic forces.

For a minority, the land invasions have opened a path to instant fortunes. For the majority, the shoddy exercise has left them looking like wet, cold, used tea bags, with all the good tea in someone else's belly. Land served its purpose well but it would be a hard sell for Zanu PF as the front-runner in elections next year.

It comes as no surprise that we are now told that the war with England and the USA is over ("We won"... I thought you knew). The new war will be against corruption. The beast has turned to feed on its own excrement. This "new" agenda combined with the familiar: threats, fists, clubs, guns, rigging, lies and propaganda should do the job, just as surely if not even better than it did four years ago. Voter fear (if not terror) and voter apathy (if not depression) would result in low turnouts and make rigging that much easier too, in 2005.

The situation is clear. Unless our various leaders can unite and galvanise the people of this nation to seize back the initiative in 2004 (Plan A - Zanu PF's nightmare), there is presently no other leverage that will force Zanu PF to do all the things that are in the nation's best interests. There will be no substantive talks about the last or next elections, except as part of a stalling tactic to distract or confuse the "enemy" until we can get to 2005.

To expect otherwise is to return to the naivety of 2000/2, when many otherwise sensible people believed Zanu PF would allow itself to be voted out of power. It will not this year allow itself to be "talked" out of power either. It can only be levered out of power, even if the final curtain is a free election.

The only other variation I can see on Plan A is a mass boycott of the 2005 elections, by all the combined opposition parties and a significant proportion of the electorate (Plan B - the soft option).

Zanu PF would declare a landslide victory of course and many MDC members would be distressed at losing their pay cheques and cozy sleeping posts in parliament, but this bold move would open up the horizon to new (even if they be risky) possibilities.

If there are other plausible alternatives, let them be heard.

Rwendo Rurefu,


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Zim Independent
Come see horror live Selassie

ALLOW me to respond to Marcus Selassie's drivel ("Shame on you sellouts", Independent, January 6). The letter is a splendid example of the adage that a little knowledge is very dangerous.

Instead of writing from the "white supremacist" comfort of "Amerikkka", our blind friend should come to Zimbabwe and experience a Damascene rude awakening.

I invite Selassie to first come to Zimbabwe and experience what it means to live in fear every second of one's life.

I for one would not mind staying in "Amerikkka" if that means preserving my life or limb. I deduce from Selassie's tone that he wouldn't mind swapping places with me so that he can suffer first-hand torture, rape, and other horrors.

My invitation to Selassie is not made in jest.

Gabriel Shumba (Human rights lawyer and tutor),

Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria,

South Africa.

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Zim Independent
Paper blind to reverse racism

IN agreeing with you that the publication of Letters to the Editor is your prerogative and yours alone, I humbly submit therefore that your harping on racism in certain quarters is not only selective but downright hypocritical.

About two months ago I wanted to highlight a very ugly black-on-coloured reverse racism at the Old Mutual Gweru branch.

Knowing that you are not only fair but impartial I had no hesitation writing to you. But alas and very sadly indeed you did not publish it.

Because I had the guts to challenge Old Mutual on their continued racial tendencies, I'm now being victimised. They are now refusing to pay what is due to me by coming up with feeble excuses.

Therefore my only hope of retrieving this money is by you publishing this or my previous letter.

To show you that I am not really interested in the money I will hand it over to you to donate to your favourite charity. All I am interested in is justice and fair play.

Leslie Vollenhoven.


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Zim Independent
Whingeing Zimbabweans should look elsewhere

THE hordes of Zimbabweans departing their country for the UK, at great financial cost in order to make some "real money", are in no way compelled to do so.

They are leaving of their own free will. Many are falsely claiming that their lives are in danger if they continue living here in order to get visas whereas most are in no danger at all. They merely want to spend a few years in the UK making and saving "real money" with which to buy themselves beautiful houses in expensive suburbs whilst taking advantage of the many facilities available to them as UK residents.

On arrival, many are instructed by their more experienced compatriots how to "beat the system" so that they can immediately "tap in" to social security to live quite a long time at the UK taxpayers' expense.

Zimbabwean students who say they are going there to complete their studies expect to do so at the expense of the UK taxpayer and feel extremely ill done by when told they have to pay for their tertiary education along with all the other legitimate UK citizens.

They simply cannot relinquish the "begging bowl mentality" and the opinion that the world owes them a living.

There is also the constant complaint that Zimbabweans in the UK are only able to get jobs that UK citizens do not wish to do. True, but most of them know this before they even apply for their visas to leave Zimbabwe.

Anyway, why shouldn't the UK government decide on the jobs aliens are permitted to do?

Britain is far too generous and lax in its granting of visas to aliens the majority of whom have no intention of departing when their visas expire.

Why don't the Zimbabweans dissatisfied with the British system - and the weather (another grouse!) - choose some other country to milk?

Norma Keatley,


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