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Women arrested for marching against Mugabe feast

Zim Online

Wed 22 February 2006

      HARARE - Zimbabwe police on Tuesday arrested 73 women for protesting
against plans by President Robert Mugabe to hold a lavish party to celebrate
his 82nd birthday saying the President cannot feast and spoil himself with
food while the rest of Zimbabweans are suffering.

      The women, who were part of a larger group that was marching to
Mugabe's Munhumutapa offices in central Harare before being broken up by
armed police, were still detained at the notorious Harare central police
station by late last night.

      "The aim was to get to Munhumutapa and tell Mugabe to stop lavish
birthday parties when Zimbabweans are suffering. It is unfortunate that the
police arrested the marchers," chairman of the National Constitutional
Assembly (NCA) civic alliance Lovemore Madhuku told ZimOnline.

      All the detained are members of the NCA, a coalition of churches,
civic and women's rights groups, opposition parties, the student and labour
movement that campaigns for a new and democratic constitution for Zimbabwe.

      Madhuku said another 12 NCA activists were admitted to a private
clinic in Harare where they were receiving treatment after they were
severely beaten and injured by the police during the march.

      Harare police spokesman Loveless Rupere last night refused to take
questions on the matter. "I am not prepared to comment on that NCA
demonstration," he said when contacted by phone.

      Mugabe, who turned 82 on Tuesday, will hold his annual birthday feast
in the city of Mutare in eastern Zimbabwe on Saturday. Although the
President's birthday is not a formal state occasion, it has however attained
that status over the years. Thousands of youths selected from all the
country's districts are expected to attend the lavish party that is
organised by the 21st February Movement that is named after Mugabe's date of

      The NCA, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party and
Western governments blame Mugabe - who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence
from Britain 25 years ago - for ruining the country's once vibrant economy
through repression and wrong policies, in particular his seizure of
productive farms from whites for redistribution to landless blacks.

      The farm seizures have destabilised the mainstay agricultural sector,
slashing food production by about 60 percent to leave once food self
sufficient Zimbabwe dependent on food handouts from international relief
agencies. At least a quarter of the 12 million Zimbabweans require urgent
food aid between now and the next harvest around April or they will starve.

      In addition to food, other basic survival commodities such as
electricity, fuel and essential medical drugs are also in critical short
supply as Zimbabwe grapples a six-year economic recession described by the
World Bank as unseen in a country not at war.

      Mugabe however denies ruining Zimbabwe saying the country's problems
are because of economic sabotage by Western governments opposed to his
seizure of white owned land for redistribution to blacks. - ZimOnline

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Railway workers probed for smuggling Z$50 billion agricultural equipment to Zambia

Zim Online

Wed 22 February 2006

      BULAWAYO - Zimbabwe could have lost agricultural inputs and equipment
worth over Z$50 billion in a smuggling scam involving some Zambian traders
and workers of the state-run National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), ZimOnline
has learnt.

      Farm inputs and equipment are in critical short supply in Zimbabwe, a
factor President Robert Mugabe said during an interview on state television
this week would see the country having a poor harvest despite good rains
this season.

      Authoritative sources said NRZ workers, who as part of their benefits
are issued with vouchers entitling them to transport personal goods by rail
at 20 percent of normal cost, would take these vouchers and sell them at an
inflated price to Zambian traders wishing to move goods mostly fertilizers
and farm equipment from Zimbabwe.

      The government has banned the exportation of fertilizer and farm
equipment in a bid to ensure local farmers have enough supplies to produce
food for the country.

      The NRZ workers would help the Zambians smuggle the farm inputs out of
Zimbabwe mostly through the Victoria Falls border in rail wagons falsely
marked "on NRZ business" in order to escape detection by customs officers.

      Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) officers do not normally check the
contents of such marked wagons.

      "The scam was only discovered after suspicious ZIMRA officials decided
to open one of the wagons marked 'on NRZ business' only to find several
tonnes of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and over 100 ploughs that were being
illegally moved out of the country," said a source at NRZ.

      According to the source, the scam, unearthed about two weeks ago, is
believed to have been running for three years  and included about 400 NRZ
workers, among them senior and middle managers of the state company.

      An NRZ  spokesperson said investigations into the smuggling racket
were still in progress but added that more than 400 employees could be fired
for involvement in the scam.

      "There are about 200 people who are being investigated over this
matter in Bulawayo alone while 120 are being  investigated in Harare and in
Gweru 100 employees are being investigated. There are also a few other
people from  smaller centres who are being investigated," said the
spokesperson, who however refused to disclose further details  saying doing
so could be detrimental to the investigations.

      Like all the big state-owned companies, the NRZ is filthily corrupt
and inefficient. But its top executives are rarely criticised or punished
because they enjoy support and protection from powerful politicians in
Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party and government. - ZimOnline

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Poverty, disease familiar running mates in Harare suburb

Zim Online

Wed 22 February 2006

      EPWORTH - Twenty-year old Chiwoniso Gurajena dips her bucket into the
deep, dark stagnant pool of water in Epworth, a poor, derelict semi-rural
settlement situated about 20 kilometres east of Harare.

      With a deftness of hand, no doubt the result of many hours of
experience, she carefully sweeps the floating dirt with one hand while
lifting with the other the bucket-full of water out of the pond.

      Soon, the young woman carefully lifts the 20-litre bucket onto her
head and begins her two kilometre walk back to her family's house - a
dilapidated hovel.

      "We are thankful for the recent rains because we can now find water
almost everywhere. But of course one has to choose the cleanest pool," she
says, completely oblivious of the attendant dangers the water could pose to
her family.

      Epworth, like most areas of Harare, has experienced persistent water
cuts because the Harare city council does not have foreign currency to
import spares for broken down pumps or enough water treatment chemicals.

      The acute foreign currency crunch gripping Zimbabwe for the last six
years has also spawned shortages of food, electricity, essential medicines
and just about every basic commodity because there is no hard cash to pay
foreign suppliers.

      While Gurajena and other residents of Epworth, just like every
Zimbabwean these days, can rely on the illegal but thriving black-market for
essential commodities, they say with water they have no option but to resort
to the unprotected pools despite the obvious dangers.

      This, despite a vicious cholera outbreak in Harare that has claimed at
least six lives in Epworth alone!

      And for Gurajena and other residents here the solution to the cholera
fears lies in Jik - a washing detergent readily available on the streets of

      According to the manufacturers of Jik, the detergent has
anti-bacterial qualities. But there is no scientific evidence to prove that
it can kill the cholera bacteria.

      There are also fears that it can be poisonous if ingested in larger

      All that is however besides the point for Maria Gumba, a mother of
two, who opts to draw water from a different pool about 20 meters away
saying the one from where Gurajena fetched water was dirty.

      "That is why we buy Jik," she says, when asked if the water she was
collecting for her family was safe.

      Even though Gumba admits she has no proof to back her claims, she
still insists with much conviction:  "A cap-full of  Jik is enough to kill
off the germs making the water safe to drink . besides what are we supposed
to do if no one wants to help us with clean water?"

      Health Minister David Parirenyatwa admitted that there maybe some
families still relying on untreated water but he insisted the ministry was
doing all it can to distribute water purification tablets to residents as it
battles to curb the spread of cholera.

      "We have deployed teams to deal with the outbreak and are encouraging
residents to be more cautious and ensure they eat food prepared in hygienic
environments," said Parirenyatwa, himself a medical doctor.

      But a civic group that fights for the rights of residents in Harare,
the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA), said water purification
tablets alone would not rid the decaying capital city of cholera or other
communicable diseases.

      CHRA spokesman, Precious Shumba, said the recent outbreak of cholera
in Harare was symptomatic of the general collapse of the country's economy
and the clearest sign yet that the centre was failing to hold.

      "The cholera outbreak signifies a collapse of health services in the
capital and its surrounding areas," said Shumba.

      Zimbabwe's social services delivery system has virtually collapsed
after years of under-funding and mismanagement by President Robert Mugabe's

      The outbreak of cholera in Harare is the first time since independence
from Britain 25 years ago that the disease has been reported in the
capital - a fact not lost on critics of Mugabe who accuse him of ruining the
country through repression and wrong economic policies.

      But the President, who turned 82 this week, denies wrecking Zimbabwe
saying the country's problems are because of economic sabotage by Britain
and its Westren allies out to fix his government for seizing land from
whites and giving it over to landless blacks. - ZimOnline

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Parirenyatwa Hospitals Demand Cash Upfront

The Herald (Harare)

February 20, 2006
Posted to the web February 21, 2006


PARIRENYATWA Group of Hospitals is demanding cash upfront from Government
workers and patients on welfare following the failure by the department of
social welfare to pay over $100 billion owed to the hospital since 2003.

Among those having problems accessing treatment are the uniformed forces,
including the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and Zimbabwe Prison Services

Parirenyatwa Hospital chief executive officer Mr Thomas Zigora last week
confirmed that the institution was owed large sums of money by several
Government departments.

"We are owed several billions of dollars by some Government departments and
thousands of cash paying patients. The more than 100 billion we are
estimating is far too low to what we are actually owed.

"We are following up on our money and have been in touch with Government
departments that owe us. We are currently negotiating with them," Mr Zigora

He said the army, prison services and the police had a facility that allowed
their members to access treatment with the money being paid directly to the
hospital at a later stage.

"It does not make sense that those we offer services and later send bills
to, turn around and claim that they have no money. How do they expect us to
perform if they do not pay?" Mr Zigora asked.

He said the 36 percent increase in last year's budget was not enough to make
hospital operations viable while turning a blind eye to what it was owed.

"We will be tougher on payments this year and for those who do not pay we
will just have to agree on some sort of payment scheme before we render our

He said money paid to them by patients was injected directly into the
running of the hospital.

"We use the money for the core business of the hospital that includes
purchasing drugs, drips and a variety of other medical equipment that should
be found in a hospital. This money supplements the grant we get from
treasury," Mr Zigora said.

Sources at Parirenyatwa Hospital said the ZRP owed the hospital more than $5
billion and had last week promised to make a payment of $1 billion while ZPS
owed them $1,4 billion for the period 2003 to November 2005. ZPS is also
still to pay up the December 2005 bill of $136 million.

Mr Zigora said social welfare patients, even with their assisted medical
treatment orders, were not being admitted until the department of social
welfare had made up some payment. Most hospitals in the country are reeling
under critical shortages of staff and the unavailability of drugs and other
essential equipment.

Council clinics are the worst affected with reports that patients pay up to
$200 000 to just have their temperature and blood pressure checked before
they are asked to buy drugs from privately owned pharmacies.

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Clean-up a continuing disaster

Sydney Morning Herald

By Ian Nhuka in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
February 22, 2006

TAIMON MATHE clearly remembers the day when armed police, backed by
bulldozers, razed his house at a farm just outside Harare last June.

The 44-year-old was a member of a housing union that seized a formerly
white-owned White Cliff farm on the outskirts of the capital in 2000.

The 15-member co-operative soon built houses, with tacit approval from
President Robert Mugabe's government.

"We registered the union with the local authority," he said. "I thought I
had found a home. But I discovered that I was wrong."

After the Government flattened his four-roomed house in a scheme code-named
Operation Murambatsvina (vernacular for drive out filth) he was told another
one would be built for him.

He registered for a government- sponsored rebuilding scheme, but that was
the last he heard of it and he is now homeless and staying with a relative
in Mbare, a sprawling working class suburb in Harare.

Mr Mathe is one of about 700,000 people whose homes were destroyed by the
Government with promises that decent housing would be provided later. The
United Nations estimates that another 2.4 million others were indirectly

Mr Mugabe, who marked his 82nd birthday yesterday with a lavish celebration
costing up to $US1 million ($1.3 million), has defended the demolitions,
saying the buildings were illegal and the scheme was designed to create
order. The Housing Minister, Ignatius Chombo, told Parliament last week that
of a target of 5000 houses due to be built between June and December last
year, 3144 have been completed.

Mr Chombo said he was happy with the work but said a lack of building
materials was hampering progress. About 300 of the houses have been
allocated, but none are occupied because they were built without electricity
or water and sewerage systems.

Manuel Mangoro, 34, used to run a street corner kiosk in Kambuzuma suburb in
Harare. Mr Mangoro said his livelihood was destroyed and attempts to salvage
it are proving impossible. ''I lost everything," said the unemployed father
of four.

"Even if I get a business stand, I have no money to re-start since my shop
and everything that was in it was destroyed."

Other victims of the clean-up campaign are still surviving in squalid
conditions. Maria Guebuza, a widowed mother of three, lived in a backyard
shelter in the high density Harare suburb of Highfield. Home for her and
about 5000 others is now a tent at the Hatcliffe holding camp, a muddy
shanty settlement.

"Conditions here are worse than in Highfield. There are no medical drugs and
food is usually short," she said.

The United Nations is helping the Government speed up the resettlement by
building permanent houses and providing temporary shelter for about 23,000

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Zimbabwe crisis overshadows Mugabe birthday bash


      Tue Feb 21, 2006 2:10 PM GMT

By Cris Chinaka

HARARE (Reuters) - President Robert Mugabe turned 82 on Tuesday, but
analysts said the country he sometimes refers to as "my Zimbabwe" had little
to cheer after plunging into deep economic crisis under his rule.

Mugabe, Zimbabwe's sole ruler since independence from Britain in 1980 and
one of Africa's longest-serving leaders, is struggling with an economic
meltdown that includes the highest inflation rate in the world.

Government officials said Mugabe was expected to celebrate his birthday
privately with his family on Tuesday night, but would work as usual during
the day.

He chaired a weekly cabinet meeting at his offices in central Harare,
walking into the cabinet room to the beat of music played by a traditional
Zimbabwean group, they said.

Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party, which hailed him on Tuesday as a "shining
beacon", is due to host a huge birthday party for him on Saturday in the
eastern border city of Mutare, where 30,000 people are expected.

The public bash, however, comes as Zimbabweans struggle with economic
problems many blame on Mugabe -- food, fuel, foreign currency, transport,
electricity and water shortages as well as crumbling health services.

"In reality these are very artificial celebrations. The majority of the
population is struggling ... and I think for many people they would rather
the money was spent on other things -- books, medicines or scholarships,"
said Professor Heneri Dzinotyiwei of Harare's University of Zimbabwe.


"In an environment of rising poverty and unemployment, it is natural that
people expect their governments to focus on the basics of life, and
birthdays do not fall into that category," Dzinotyiwei said.

ZANU-PF has turned Mugabe's birthday into a national event, naming it the
21st February Movement where youths, including schoolchildren, glorify the
president's "revolutionary virtues".

Critics say the ruling party routinely forces companies to donate money for
the celebrations, which are held in different towns each year.

ZANU-PF spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira has repeatedly denied these charges. He
was unavailable for comment on this year's celebrations.

On Tuesday, the party led a chorus of congratulations to Mugabe and was
joined by private and public organisations in placing about 20 pages of
colourful newspaper adverts to mark the event.

"We salute you for making Zimbabwe what it is today in the socio-economic
and political domain," ZANU-PF's Harare provincial leadership said.

"You are a shining beacon and ... we are always proud of you and your
leadership which has witnessed the region, Africa and the entire world
acknowledging that you are the true and leading proponent of Africa and its

The official Herald newspaper referred to Mugabe as "the greatest hero ever
to grace Zimbabwe and Africa".

Mugabe co-led Zimbabwe's national liberation war in the 1970s, but critics
say he has ruined a once-prosperous country. Unemployment stands at 70
percent, while inflation hovers above 600 percent.

Key Western donors, including the European Union and the United States, have
imposed travel sanctions on Mugabe and his associates, accusing his
government of rigging elections and causing chaos by seizing white-owned
land for redistribution to landless blacks.

Mugabe denies the charges and accuses the West of seeking to replace him
with a puppet government.

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At 82, Mugabe is still firmly entrenched


    Basildon Peta
          February 21 2006 at 10:02AM

      His critics call it "the mother of all ironies".

      Robert Mugabe celebrates his 82nd birthday today with Zimbabwe's
economy in tatters. Inflation stands at 613 percent. Unemployment is a
staggering 80 percent. Chronic food, fuel and power shortages have become
the order of the day.

      In any other normal society, Robert Mugabe would be history - either
via the ballot or by other means.

      Yet he is celebrating his birthday today firmly ensconced in power.
The stiff opposition he once faced from the Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) has all but evaporated.

      Regional leaders who have tried to rein in Mugabe have all been
wrestled to the ground. Which perhaps explains Mugabe's birthday wish: "82
more years in power".

      But how does anyone explain this puzzle: Do Zimbabweans vote for
misery? Do they really like a leader who has brought them untold suffering?
Do they vote for high inflation, high unemployment and other vices that
Mugabe's legendary misrule has brought them? Surely, that cannot be their

      As University of Zimbabwe political scientist Eldred Masunungure put
it: "Zimbabweans are rational enough to know how to butter their bread".

      So how do they assure Mugabe's lengthy term in power in the face of
ever-growing misery. Will there ever come a time when they will say enough
is enough?

      Or will they remain spectators while their country is being ruined
until - as Collin Powell put it - "there is nothing left to ruin".

      Masunungure attributes Mugabe's longevity in power to a culture of
deference to older people by Zimbabweans.

      "This great irony or puzzle has its roots in our political culture of
obedience to political authority even if you are unhappy with it," he says.

      "There is certainly a high threshold of anger in Zimbabwe against
Mugabe's mismanagement but he has survived because of the culture of
subservience to authority by the people here," says Masunungure.

      Another UZ political scientist John Makumbe begs to differ.

      "Mugabe has survived in power for too long because Zimbabweans sleep
for too long," says Makumbe. "But they are beginning to wake up.

      "In fact, Zimbabweans have no choice but to wake up."

      Makumbe is adamant that 2006 will be the year that Mugabe will realise
that Zimbabweans cannot take it anymore.

      The country is enjoying its best rainy season in memory, but is
expecting its worst crop output ever. The rains are nourishing grass on
large tracts of farms lying fallow after violent land seizures. Shortages of
basic inputs like seed, fertilisers and fuel have meant that even those
farmers not affected by seizures cannot farm.

      "Supermarket shelves are empty. Zimbabwe has become hell on earth,"
says Makumbe.

      "Everyone is unhappy, the army, the police, the general population.
It's a matter of time," warns Makumbe.

      He argues the people will not even need the benefit of an organised
opposition to make life miserable for Mugabe.

      But worse things have come and gone in Zimbabwe.

      When people could not access their cash in banks in 2003/04 because
the central bank had run out of foreign currency to import the special paper
needed to print money, many felt Mugabe's misrule had peaked. People would
not take it anymore. That came and passed.

      Lawyer Lovemore Madhuku attributes Mugabe's longevity to his
systematic destruction of all key institutions that could have played an
effective watchdog role.

      The judiciary has been "prostituted", the independent media
obliterated, the army and police heavily compromised. State security
agencies and ruling party militias have been abused to beat people into

      "Mugabe is a tyrant in all respects and uses force to remain in power.
It seems to have worked," said Madhuku.

      Masunungure agrees and says Zimbabweans are now so bewildered that
some would rather vote for Mugabe so that they can live in peace, especially
in view of his repeated threats to stage another bush war if he loses power.

      But if the academics are not convincing in their explanations, an
ordinary man like Bromley Masenda gives some insight.

      Masenda, who works as a general hand in a Harare factory, believes the
opportunity to challenge Mugabe is now lost.

      That Mugabe rigs elections is common cause. But it's the opposition's
response that worries Masenda.

      When Mugabe stole the 2002 presidential elections, causing his
suspension from the Commonwealth, the people were fully psyched up to
challenge him in the streets, says Masenda. But they were let down by
opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai who urged them to avoid confrontation,
preferring to fight the matter in the courts.

      Since then Mugabe has consolidated his instruments of repression and
beaten the people into submission. They are now too enmeshed in their daily
survival battles to worry about challenging Mugabe, reasons Masenda. The
turmoil in the opposition means Mugabe is now firmly entrenched.

      In fact he is not only celebrating a birthday, but enjoying the
pleasure of deciding when he wants to quit.

      His party has signalled it would change the constitution to extend the
presidential term from 2008 to 2010 so that presidential elections and
parliamentary elections run concurrently in 2010. Mugabe has a choice to
stay in power and celebrate more birthdays when his term ends in 2008.

      "The tragedy is that with each day he stays in power, Zimbabwe sinks
deeper," says Madhuku. Zimbabweans seem powerless to stop him. In fact, they
have afforded him an opportunity to do things no other leader could possibly
have got away with.

      This article was originally published on page 11 of Pretoria News on
February 21, 2006

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Mugabe delivers broadside to neighbours

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

HARARE, 21 Feb 2006 (IRIN) - President Robert Mugabe has called on
neighbouring countries not to interfere in Zimbabwe's internal affairs,
while signalling that constitutional reform was on the cards, possibly to
smooth the way for a chosen successor.

Speaking in a televised interview to commemorate his 82nd birthday over the
weekend, Mugabe said: "We have tolerated some of them because they are our
friends. We hope in future they will keep away." He was responding to a
question on what he thought of diplomatic interventions by South Africa and
Nigeria in Zimbabwe's political crisis.

Mugabe sneered at his colleagues in the African Union, suggesting their
interest in resolving Zimbabwe's problems was more to do with pressure from
western governments deemed hostile to his ruling ZANU-PF.

Mugabe also said the country's constitution would be amended as many times
as was necessary. He is due to retire in 2008.

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Patrick Chinamasa
immediately hinted there were several possibilities for constitutional
reform. One option was the current parliamentary term, which expires in
2010, could be reduced to 2008 so that presidential and parliamentary
elections could be held that year.

Another possibility would be to have a president elected to serve a
seven-year term from 2008 to 2015, so that parliamentary and presidential
polls could be synchronised in 2015. A third, believed to be favoured by
Mugabe, is to have his successor elected by parliament in 2008 to serve for
two years before joint elections are held in 2010.

Political commentator and conflict resolution expert, Webster Zambara, said
that scenario would give Mugabe's chosen successor, most likely
Vice-President Joyce Mujuru, time to entrench herself in power.

"That option is ideal for Mugabe in that when parliament is whipped into
choosing his preferred candidate, that person would have two years to
establish himself or herself and to weed out potential opponents. That would
ensure that the succession issue is much smoother," he commented.

The weekend also added a new twist to the split in the main opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) with Arthur Mutambara returning to the
country to lead the pro-Senate faction ahead of their congress in Bulawayo
this weekend.

Mutambara, an academic who was a former militant leader of the University of
Zimbabwe Student Representative Council, has been living abroad. The
official Herald newspaper quoted a statement by Mutambara in which he said
he had witnessed with distress the split in the MDC over the past four

The rump of the party has remained loyal to MDC leader and former unionist
Morgan Tsvangirai, which is set to hold its own congress next month.
"Mutambara's advantage could be that he has an activism background, just
like Tsvangirai, but his slight advantage could be that he also has a very
strong academic background to eclipse that of Mugabe," said Zambara.

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Zim-SA ivory ring suspected


21/02/2006 19:14  - (SA)

Zinkie Sithole

Musina - A Zimbabwean ivory-smuggling syndicate may be getting help from
South Africans.

Police are investigating a possible cross-border operation after two
Zimbabweans and a South African were arrested and charged with the
possession of ivory at the Beit Bridge border post on February 18.

They were nabbed when South African Revenue Services (SARS) officials were
tipped off. The men appeared in Musina magistrate's court on Monday.

The Zimbabweans - Dumisani Sibandaand Sibusiso Sibanda, both 20 - were
denied bail because they were considered a flight risk.

The South African, Frans Tshimbulani, 33, was released on R10 000 bail.

The Zimbabweans are accused of crossing the Limpopo River illegally with
eight bags of ivory worth R163 000.

The bags were handed to a South African and loaded in the boot of his

The three men are due to appear in court again on October 3.

Inspector Jacques du Buisson of Musina police station in Limpopo said on
Tuesday that ivory smuggling was usually rare at the border post. He said
cigarette trafficking was more common.

One suspected cigarette smuggler, Jumba Basonia, 20, of Zimbabwe, pleaded
guilty in Musina magistrate's court on Monday to charges of trying to
smuggle cigarettes worth R69 000 through the Beit Bridge border into

He was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment or a R10 000 fine. His two
Zimbabwean co-accused were released because of lack of evidence.

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Papers fete 'living legend' Mugabe

Mail and Guardian

      Harare, Zimbabwe

      21 February 2006 05:13

            President Robert Mugabe turned 82 on Tuesday and was showered
with praise and birthday wishes despite Zimbabwe's mounting economic woes.

            The state daily Herald published a 16-page supplement of
pictures of the long-serving leader and congratulatory messages from
government departments and private companies while the private Daily Mirror
dedicated eight pages to his birthday.

            "We wish you many more years and hope you will continue to steer
the country with your wise leadership," said a message from Absolom
Sikhosana, who heads the youth league of Mugabe's ruling Zimbabwe National
African Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) that was published in two dailies on

            Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, winning
re-election in 2002 in a vote that western observers and the opposition said
was flawed. He has said that he would be ready to step down when his term
ends in 2008.

            "Comrade Robert Gabriel Mugabe, a true statesman and an icon who
has carved a niche in the history books of our nation Zimbabwe, Africa and
the world over," the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority said in its birthday
greeting in the Herald.

            Zimbabwe's Parliament praised him as "a living legend" while the
Farmers Union expressed the wish that Mugabe's "visionary selflessness,
dedication and shrewd acumen continue to inspire us".

            A lavish birthday party is planned for Mugabe in the eastern
city of Mutare on Saturday with thousands of Zanu-PF supporters expected to

            Mugabe has come under criticism in recent years for presiding
over a failed economy characterised by triple-digit inflation, 70%
unemployment and chronic shortages of goods like fuel and the staple

            State radio on Tuesday played songs praising Mugabe including
one, popular in the late 1980s with lyrics that went: "Let's praise
President Mugabe. One day he will liberate the whole of Africa."

            In an interview broadcast ahead of his birthday, Mugabe scoffed
at Western powers and the media that have labelled him a despot.

            "Those who say I am wrong, I am a dictator if you look at them,
are our erstwhile enemies, the colonial power Britain, supported by
America," Mugabe said in an interview aired on Sunday on state television.

            "They never supported us from day one of our independence. The
image of Mugabe in the British media was as ugly as it is today. I don't
look nice to them but I look nice and handsome to my people.

            "My people say I am right in the things I do and that's what I
listen to."

            More than two-thirds of Zimbabweans consider food shortages as
one of the most important problems they are facing, according to findings of
a private survey released on Tuesday.

            A total of 46% of Zimbabweans surveyed said they had gone
without food often in the past year, according to the poll from the
Afrobarometer public opinion institute.

            "Food insecurity is by far the most troublesome problem for
Zimbabweans and has in between mid-2004 and late 2005 ... dethroned economic
management as the number one problem," according to the findings.

            The survey was conducted from October 9 to 26, covering both
urban and rural areas with a sampling of 1 112 respondents carried out by
the Mass Public Opinion Institute, a Zimbabwean non-governmental research

            United Nations aid agencies estimate that four million
Zimbabweans out of a population of 11-million are in need of food aid
following years of poor agricultural yields.

            Asked to list their top three worst problems, about 45% of
respondents listed management of the economy at the top while 39% chose
transportation and 35% unemployment.

            Health, HIV/Aids and education came in at the lower end of the
list of the 10 top problems, with eight percent of respondents choosing
those areas as their worst headache.

            About 79% of respondents said they knew someone who had died of

            The survey also revealed widespread pessimism about the economy,
with 82% of Zimbabweans saying that they expect living conditions to be
"much worse" in the year ahead. - AFP

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Police arrest 15 students during Masvingo demonstrations

      By Lance Guma
      21 February 2006

      The ongoing countrywide demonstrations by students spread to Masvingo
Polytechnic on Tuesday, as police briefly arrested 15 students before
releasing them later in the day. The Zimbabwe National Students Union
(ZINASU) is leading the protests and has warned of more demonstrations to
come if the government does not reverse a tenfold hike in tuition and
boarding fees. Mfundo Mlilo the spokesman of the Committee coordinating the
strikes told Newsreel they spent the day addressing students in different
lecture rooms at the Polytechnic.

      At midday all students converged on the main dining hall before they
started marching around campus chanting protest songs. Masvingo police
responded by sending truckloads of riot squads to crush the demonstration.
According to Mlilo 15 students were arrested in the skirmishes. These
include ZINASU president Washington Katema, Secretary General Promise
Mkwananzi, Academic and legal affairs secretary Wellington Mahohoma and
Mlilo himself. They were only released because the police could not facially
recognise the ZINASU leadership.

      On Tuesday last week the National University of Science and Technology
(NUST) closed down after violent demonstrations that saw the destruction of
windows and cars on the campus. The Bulawayo Polytechnic has also been shut
down following similar protests. Students from the Medical School at the
University of Zimbabwe also took to the streets around Parirenyatwa hospital
and have refused to attend to patients in the wards.

      Last week government announced a shocking fee hike for colleges and
universities. Average fees rocketed from Z$3,5 million to around Z$35
million a year and this is in spite support grants being around Z$11,5
million per year, far below student requirements. ZINASU meanwhile say they
are moving to Masvingo, Morgenster and Bondolfi Teachers Colleges to
instigate more demonstrations. They say dialogue with government has already
broken down and the only language Mugabe's government understands is

      SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news

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Zimbabwe hikes interest rates by 100%

Angola Press

      Harare, Zimbabwe, 02/21 - The Central Bank of Zimbabwe Monday raised
interest rates by over 100 percent to 650 percent, in a renewed attempt to
subdue rising inflation.

      The Bank said secured borrowing would attract 650 percent interest,
while unsecured borrowing would be at 655 percent with immediate effect.

      The announcement comes a week after the national statistics agency
said year-on-year inflation in January jumped 27 percentage points to 613

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Tobacco production slumps in Zimbabwe

Angola Press

Harare, Zimbabwe, 02/21 - A top agriculture official in Zimbabwe said on
Monday that the output of the country`s main export, tobacco, will drop by
30 percent this year to 50 million kg owing to production difficulties
farmers have faced during the growing season.

Zimbabwe Tobacco Association (ZTA) president James Delafargue said farmers
lacked funding, inputs and faced exchange rate-related viability problems in
the 2005/2006 season.

He said continuing seizures of white-owned farms, under the government`s
controversial land reforms, had also negatively impacted on tobacco
production in the season.

Last year Zimbabwe produced 73 million kg of tobacco, the country`s main
export, and had projected an increase in production to 160 million kg this

"Farmers did not have inputs and had problems raising the required funding
for the crop which has reduced the crop size. They have also faced viability
problems from last season`s crop," Delafargue said.

Tobacco production in Zimbabwe, dominated by white farmers, has dropped from
a peak of over 250 million kg five years ago after the government drove off
whites from the farms to pave way for the resettlement of landless black

As a result, the country has suffered chronic shortages of foreign currency,
the bulk of which was earned from tobacco sales.

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