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Zimbabwe's Mugabe calls rival Makoni a "prostitute"


Thu 21 Feb 2008, 22:54 GMT

By MacDonald Dzirutwe

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe on Thursday derided a
former ally now challenging him in general elections as a prostitute, and
said he would win next month's polls by a landslide and humble the

Former Finance Minister Simba Makoni was expelled from Mugabe's ruling
ZANU-PF last week after registering to run as an independent in March 29
presidential, parliamentary and council elections.

"What has happened now is absolutely disgraceful. I didn't think that
Makoni, after all this experience, would behave like this," Mugabe said in
an interview broadcast on state television late on Thursday to mark his 84th

"I compared him to a prostitute. A prostitute could have done better than
Makoni, because she has clients. Don't you think so?" said Mugabe.

In his hour-long interview, a relaxed-looking Mugabe also suggested some
party officials had lacked the courage to openly express their views within
the party.

The remarks were the veteran leader's first public comment on the break with
Makoni, a reform-minded technocrat who has long been touted as a possible
successor to Mugabe.

Makoni says he is backed by top officials in the ruling party and analysts
say he could pose a strong challenge to Mugabe.

On becoming finance minister in 2000, Makoni pledged tighter fiscal
discipline to restore relations with donors and he has suggested engaging
with Western powers to ease Zimbabwe's economic hardship.

Mugabe has ruled the southern African country since independence from
Britain in 1980 but critics say his economic mismanagement, and contested
policies such as seizures of white-owned farms, have ruined the economy.

Annual inflation has surged to over 100,000 percent, the official statistics
office said on Wednesday, but Mugabe says the economy has been sabotaged by
Western sanctions imposed to punish his land reforms.

The president, who denies opposition charges of rigging past elections, also
said he would continue with his anti-British message during the election
campaign until London ended what he said were plots for regime change in

Mugabe accused the West of funding the main opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) in an effort to topple him and predicted a
resounding defeat of the MDC.

He said there would be none of the post-election violence witnessed in Kenya
after disputed December general elections there, because there were no
ethnic tensions in Zimbabwe.

The government would continue to pursue its programme to transfer majority
ownership in mines to locals and focus on full economic recovery after the
polls, Mugabe added.

(Editing by Jon Boyle)

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Makoni courts Tsvangirai

Zim Independent

Dumisani Muleya

SURPRISE presidential election candidate Simba Makoni is making an
effort to win over main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to beef up his
bid to challenge President Robert Mugabe in next month's defining elections.

Informed sources said a meeting between Makoni and Tsvangirai is set
for Sunday to discuss ways of joining forces to confront Mugabe at the
polls. The meeting is expected to be uneasy after Tsvangirai last week
described Makoni as "nothing more than old wine in a new bottle" and accused
him of being partly to blame for Mugabe and Zanu PF's failures.

However, if Makoni pulls it off, this would give a dramatic boost to
his electoral prospects ahead of the polls.

On Wednesday Makoni's formation met in Harare to discuss election
strategy. The meeting was convened by its national coordinating committee
chaired by former Zanu PF provincial chairman Mike Madiro. Makoni, who
chairs the organisation's national management committee, attended the

The outfit's structures include the management committee, coordination
committee, finance and administration, media and communications, and
mobilisation. It also has youth and women's leagues.

Makoni is reportedly working with senior Zanu PF officials including
politburo members retired army commander General Solomon Mujuru and Dumiso
Dabengwa. The two have had several meetings with Makoni in recent weeks.
Mujuru and Dabengwa are leading the challenge to Mugabe within Zanu PF

Dabengwa - detained and systematically tortured by the government on
unfounded treason charges in the 1980s - has of late been open in tackling
Mugabe, especially during politburo meetings.

The sources said Dabengwa told a meeting in South Africa last weekend
that senior Zanu PF officials, including Mujuru and himself, supported
Makoni. It is understood he said Zanu PF needs a change of leadership.
Dabengwa led opposition to Mugabe's unprocedural endorsement as the Zanu PF
candidate at the party's extraordinary congress in December. Makoni has said
many party officials were disappointed when Mugabe was retained at the helm.

Makoni is said to be seeking to close ranks with opposition leaders to
stage a united challenge against Mugabe.

Political observers say Makoni's plan would have been more viable if
he went for a united front against Mugabe instead of an ill-defined outfit
which makes it difficult to secure buy-ins from strategic allies.

However, Makoni's camp is trying to deal with this issue via informal
alliances. Last Sunday Makoni met another Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) faction leader Arthur Mutambara to seal an informal electoral pact.
Makoni met Mutambara at Ibbo Mandaza's farm in Mazowe to iron out issues
after making inconsistent remarks last week about their partnership.

The meeting was attended by Mandaza, who is a parliamentary candidate
for Mazowe West, and other senior officials in the Makoni camp, as well as
Priscillah Misihairabwi-Mushonga, an MP, and Miriam Mushayi, a top official
in the Mutambara faction.

Makoni and Mutambara, who dropped out of the presidential race to back
his new ally, reinforced their working arrangement. Although Mutambara might
not have a power base, MPs aligned to him command sizeable grassroots
support. The Mutambara camp's MPs are likely to retain their seats in
Bulawayo which is their stronghold.

Parliamentary election candidates working with Makoni and Mutambara
are not challenging each other.

The sources said Mandaza has been engaged in talks with Tsvangirai's
lieutenants to prepare the ground for talks between their leaders.

"Talks have been going on between Mandaza and senior officials in
Tsvangirai's faction to find ways of striking a deal in which Tsvangirai
would drop out to support Makoni," a source said. "It will become clear what
will happen after Makoni's one-on-one meeting with Tsvangirai."

Tsvangirai has a relatively large following on the ground and his MPs
are expected to retain their seats in Harare, the faction's heartland. The
Tsvangirai camp might also pick up a few seats in different provinces.

The sources said the Makoni camp is anxious to secure agreements with
both MDC factions to avoid splitting the vote in favour of the ruling Zanu
PF and Mugabe. There are fears in opposition circles that the Makoni,
Tsvangirai and Mutambara groups could split the vote and help Mugabe and his
party to retain power by default.

Political observers say opposition groups might suffer the "Kenya
syndrome" in which the incumbent wins as a result of splitting the vote by
his rivals. The Makoni camp is trying to avoid this situation.

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Presidium backs Zanu PF 'rebels'

Zim Independent

Augustine Mukaro/Loughty Dube

THE turmoil which characterised last Friday's nomination court has
divided the Zanu PF presidium as members line-up their own candidates to
position themselves for succession.

Ruling party insiders said Zanu PF bigwigs who openly defied President
Robert Mugabe last Friday when they registered to stand as Zanu PF
candidates in parliamentary and senatorial polls, despite having lost in
primary elections, enjoyed backing from members of the presidium.

Mugabe last week presided over a politburo meeting that approved Zanu
PF candidates for the joint elections for the senate and parliament to run
concurrently with elections for president.

Insiders said some of the candidates who had lost hope following their
defeat in primaries got instructions from members of the presidium to file
their papers, clearly showing that even the presidium meeting earlier in the
week had failed to resolve differences over candidates.

One insider said in the case of Finance minister Samuel Mumbengegwi
who registered as a Zanu-PF candidate for the Chivi/Mwenezi Senate seat and
acting chief executive of the Zimbabwe Football Association, Henrietta
Rushwaya, they had to hurriedly put their papers together and rush to
Masvingo before the closure of the nomination court.

"Rushwaya left the capital well after midday on Friday," the insider
said. "She had received a call questioning why she was not in Masvingo to
submit her papers."

Most of the candidates who filed their papers without being declared
Zanu PF official candidates have been linked to the Mujuru faction. The
development has stirred speculation that while they stand as Zanu-PF
candidates they could be Simba Makoni's silent partners.

When Makoni, announced he would challenge Mugabe as an independent
candidate, supported by other Zanu PF bigwigs speculation ran high that he
enjoys the backing of retired army general, Solomon Mujuru.

There is also speculation that presidium members want to ensure as
many of their supporters are elected into parliament so that in the event of
Mugabe deciding to leave before the end of his term they could be
well-placed to succeed.

Disgruntlement in the ruling party is again manifest in the
unprecedented number of aspiring candidates and independents who have
registered to participate in the elections, forcing the nomination court to
stay open until late into the evening.

The largest number of independent candidates has been registered in
Manicaland and Masvingo.

Zanu PF this week tried to defuse the growing discontent in the party
when it announced that it would revert to primaries in constituencies where
more than one candidate filed papers representing the party.

The chairman of the party's national elections directorate Elliot
Manyika said the primaries would ensure that only one candidate contests on
a Zanu PF ticket.

Those who filed their papers for nomination include Finance Minister
Samuel Mumbengegwi, Senator Dzikamai Mavhaire and Eddison Zvobgo Jnr.

Mumbengegwi will clash with the Mugabe nominee, former Masvingo
governor Josiah Hungwe. Mavhaire - distinguished in being the first party
member, 11 years ago, to call on Mugabe to retire - will challenge another
Zanu PF official candidate, Maina Mandava.

Zvobgo will stand against businessman and party appointee Edmund
Mhere. Henrietta Rushwaya is mounting a challenge against the long-serving
and controversial politician Shuvai Mahofa for the Gutu South constituency.

In Manicaland's Makoni West, Nation Madongorere - a former Central
Intelligence Organisation operative - registered as a Zanu-PF candidate
although the party had endorsed Agricultural Engineering minister Joseph
Made as the official party candidate.

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Mbeki lied to Sadc: MDC

Zim Independent

THE two MDC factions yesterday accused South African President Thabo
Mbeki of misrepresenting facts to Sadc heads of state when he said that
their talks with Zanu PF had been concluded and that only procedural issues
were outstanding.

In a statement, the formations' secretary-generals Tendai Biti and
Welshman Ncube said the talks reached a deadlock after Zanu PF reneged on
the issues of the date of the elections, the timeframe for the
implementation of the agreed reforms, and the manner of making and enactment
of a new constitution.

The formations said contrary to Mbeki's suggestion that these were
peripheral matters of procedures outstanding in the dialogue, there were in
fact issues of "substance that went into the heart of the matter".

They said the unilateral proclamation of the election date on January
25 by President Robert Mugabe amounted to a Zanu PF repudiation of the Sadc
dialogue which "sadly and regrettably failed to achieve its intended

"As far as the date of the election was concerned, it was always the
firm view of the MDC that this date would be determined only at the time
that agreement on every substantive aspect of the agreement had been
reached," the MDC formations said.

The opposition formations say they will participate in the March 29
elections under protest.

"The MDC's participation is not different from its participation under
protest and 'with heavy heart' as in previous elections. In the
circumstances, we hold the firm view that the 2008 elections which are being
held under the same conditions as previous disputed elections cannot by any
stretch of the imagination yield a legitimate outcome," the MDC said.

The MDC formations said outstanding matters included transitional
issues, which would have gone into the draft constitution as the sixth
schedule covering voter registration, delimitation of constituencies, the
reconstitution of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the diaspora vote.

The issues also included the role of Sadc in monitoring and enforcing
the agreements, and the period and manner of implementation of the
legislative and political agreement.

On the question of a new constitution, the parties had agreed on June
18 last year that they would negotiate a holistic supreme law which was to
be debated in parliament before a final draft which would be adopted and
enacted before the next election.

The MDC formations said the failure of the dialogue is a catastrophe
for both the people of Zimbabwe and the Sadc region.

However, during debate on the amendments to Posa and Aippa in
parliament last year, the MDC and Zanu PF indicated they were close to
agreement on all major issues at the talks. Representing Zanu PF, Legal
Affairs minister Patrick Chinamasa told the House on December 18 that "97%
of the work" had been done while Biti put the figure at 30%.

Biti is quoted in the Hansard of December 18 as saying while
"Chinamasa said we have done 97% of the work . I would probably say we have
done at least a third of the work but that work we have done is very
important. We are very close to reaching a matrix; we can say we have
concluded these talks."

Biti added: "It is a question of degree but we are very close. In
other words there is a great opportunity for Zimbabwe to have a fresh
beginning in this dialogue." - Staff Writer.

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Zim could face second voting round for president

Zim Independent

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is likely to be forced into a second round of
voting after next month's elections due to the dynamic challenge he is
facing from former Finance Minister Simba Makoni.

This could result in an eventual defeat of Mugabe if he fails to win
51% of the vote in the first round - which is needed for him to be declared
outright winner - during the election on March 29.

In terms of the Electoral Act, where two or more candidates for
president are nominated and no outright winner emerges after the poll, a
second round follows within 21 days.

If the final two candidates are split evenly following the vote,
parliament has to sit as an electoral college to choose the winner.

It is generally held Mugabe is unlikely to win 51% of the vote, a
situation that would force him to enter into a risky run-off with either
Makoni or MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

If Mugabe were to be forced into a run-off, it would almost certainly
give his rival - either Makoni or Tsvangirai - unstoppable momentum.

The law was amended in 2005 in the hope Mugabe would retire at the end
of his current term in March and the new provision would thus not apply to

Previously, a candidate could become president without getting a clear
majority in the election.

In neighbouring Zambia, President Levy Mwanawasa was re-elected with
27% of the vote. The remainder was shared among other candidates.

In Kenya former President Daniel Arap Moi defeated the fragmented
opposition by getting more votes than they won individually, although
together they won a majority of the popular vote. - Staff Writer.

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Makoni expulsion 'unconstitutional'

Zim Independent

Constantine Chimakure

INDEPENDENT presidential candidate Simba Makoni was unconstitutionally
expelled from Zanu PF last week amid reports that the party's secretary for
legal affairs, Emmerson Mnangagwa, was manipulating the constitution to
guarantee President Robert Mugabe's continued stay in power.

Impeccable sources told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that Makoni
was fired by the party using rules and regulations governing primary
parliamentary polls, not a presidential election.

"The rules and regulations the politburo relied on to expel Makoni
were not crafted for the presidential election, but to govern primary
parliamentary polls," a senior Zanu PF member said.

"His expulsion is unconstitutional in that due process was not
followed and rules and regulations they cited do not refer to a presidential

The source said if Makoni had breached provisions of the party's
constitution, the chairperson of the national disciplinary committee, John
Nkomo, should have suspended the former Finance minister and instituted a

"Due process was not followed because Mnangagwa made a
misrepresentation to the politburo that Makoni had snubbed rules and
regulations governing elections and had, therefore, expelled himself from
the party," the source added.

Makoni was dismissed from Zanu PF after announcing his presidential
ambitions on February 5 and said he intended to contest the March 29
election representing the ruling party.

Mnangagwa immediately issued a statement that Makoni had expelled
himself from the party - a decision that was later rubberstamped at a
hastily convened politburo meeting on February 11.

This prompted Makoni to announce that he would stand for the
presidential poll as an independent candidate. Makoni will fight it out for
the country's highest office with Mugabe, the MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai and
independent candidate Langton Toungana.

According to a statement issued by Zanu PF secretary for information
and publicity Nathan Shamuyarira a day after the politburo meeting, Makoni
had breached the central committee's "rules, regulations and procedures to
govern the conduct of the party and its members".

Shamuyarira said in terms of such rules, any member of Zanu PF who,
after the due process of selecting candidates has been done, decides to
stand as an independent, expels himself in terms of Section 19.1 of the

The Section read: "Any member of the party who stands as an
independent candidate in any parliamentary election shall stand
automatically expelled from the party without recourse to any procedure, in
which event the elections directorate shall be required to: (1) enter the
name of such expelled member in its records including the circumstances
giving rise to the automatic expulsion."

Shamuyarira claimed that in the case of Makoni, Zanu PF held its
extraordinary congress after giving two months' notice to all provinces
about the event and the agenda thereto.

"Neither Simba Makoni nor Manicaland province forwarded his name for
consideration for party candidacy for state president," Shamuyarira said.

He said paragraph three of the resolution of the congress was clear
that Mugabe was to stand as the party's candidate in terms of Article

"Therefore, any party member, Simba Makoni included, who decides to
stand as a Zanu PF candidate after this due process, stands automatically
expelled from the party," Shamuyarira said.

However, the sources said the rules were meant for primary
parliamentary elections and would in no way affect Makoni.

The source said it was Mnangagwa who was manipulating the constitution
to the benefit of Mugabe.

"People must understand that Mnangagwa also manipulated the
constitution to have Mugabe endorsed and confirmed our party's presidential
candidate at the extraordinary congress," a politburo member said.

The politburo member said in terms of the ruling party constitution, a
congress of any nature is convened to elect, not endorse candidates and
Makoni was correct when he said he was denied the right to assume the reins
of power in Zanu PF.

"The clause of the constitution that was used to endorse Mugabe refers
to the party's annual all people's conference, which has the power to
confirm the party's president as state presidential candidate, not the
congress," another source said.

Mugabe was last December reportedly endorsed party presidential
candidate fraudulently after Mnangagwa manipulated provisions of the
constitution despite stiff resistance from fellow politburo members Dumiso
Dabengwa and retired army general Solomon Mujuru.

According to Article 6(30)(3) of the constitution cited by
Shamuyarira, it is the Zanu PF conference that has the power to "declare the
president of the party elected at congress as the state presidential
candidate of the party".

Makoni, who initially said he would only leave Zanu PF after due
process was followed, last week declined to comment on his expulsion.

"That (expulsion) now belongs to the past. I am now forward looking,
but let me say Mnangagwa and Shamuyarira know the truth," Makoni told a
media conference.

Mugabe last year roped in Mnangagwa, war veterans leader Jabulani
Sibanda, and the women and youth leagues to drum up support for his
continued Zanu PF leadership, amid serious divisions in the party over his

Mujuru reportedly wanted Mugabe to quit politics and be replaced by
his wife, Joice Mujuru, who is the country's second vice-president.

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Hefty loans for soldiers

Zim Independent

Lucia Makamure

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe's financially beleaguered government has
advanced loans, which run into trillions of dollars, to disgruntled
soldiers, police officers and civil servants to "pacify" them ahead of
elections on March 29.

Sources said the government secured the money to dole out to uniformed
forces and the civil service from the Reserve Bank, which by February 1 had
loaned the state over $137 trillion to meet its recurrent expenditure and
other obligations. The sources said the RBZ last month deposited the money
into the accounts of the Public Service Commission, the Defence Service
Commission, Prisons Service Commission and the Police Service Commission for
on-ward transmission to the beneficiaries.

Soldiers reportedly got between $1,2 billion and $3 billion depending
on their rank. Teachers, who have been on a go slow since schools opened
last month pressing for a $1,7 billion monthly salary, got $300 million,
while nurses and doctors were given over $700 million.

A private in the army, the lowest rank in the army, who earned $310
million in January, this month got $1,2 billion.

It could not, however, be ascertained at the time of going to press
why there were discrepancies in the loans disbursed to the uniformed forces
and civil servants.

The loans, the sources said, were doled out seven days before the
beneficiaries' salaries were due and there was no prior announcement on the
disbursement of the monies or when they were expected to repay the loans and
at what interest rate.

Zimbabwe Teachers Association chief executive officer Peter Mabhande
confirmed that civil servants had received money from the government as from
last week, but denied that it was a loan or a salary advance.

Mabhande, who also sits on the Apex Council, a body representing civil
servants' interest, claimed that the money was a balance of last month's

"Whatever civil servants received recently was not a salary advance or
a loan, but a balance of their January salaries," Mabhande told the Zimbabwe
Independent on Wednesday.

He said the Apex Council had been negotiating with the government for
a salary review since the beginning of the year and the negotiations were
only concluded on January 23. By then, Mabhande added, civil servants and
the uniformed forces' salaries were already processed.

"Salary negotiations were only concluded on January 23, which happened
to be the pay day for the civil service, so the money they got recently is
the balance of the agreed salary for January," Mabhande said.

However, sources in the public sector insisted that they got loans
from the government not salary balances.

"No pay slips were issued for the loans, but what we know is that the
armed forces were the highest beneficiaries of the scheme," one of the
sources said.

This is not the first time the government has advanced loans to its
employees. In January, nurses and doctors went on strike to press for better
remuneration and working conditions and government reacted by advancing
loans payables at a compound interest of 5%.

The country's civil service and the uniformed forces have of late been
losing key employees who opt to go into the private sector or abroad in
search of greener pastures. To arrest the human resources flight, the
government introduced a technical retention allowance under the Skills
Retention Fund to benefit professionals in the government.

Payments were made to employees in the Ministries of Economic
Development, Finance, Health and Child Welfare, Justice, Legal and
Parliamentary Affairs, and Local Government

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Mugabe may face prosecution

Zim Independent

Constantine Chimakure

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe may face prosecution if he loses the
forthcoming poll as the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC has said it will establish
a Truth and Justice Commission if it wins.

The commission to investigate human rights abuses in the country since
Independence would recommend the prosecution of the perpetrators of human
rights violations, the party said.

In its policy document to be launched alongside the party's manifesto
in Mutare tomorrow, the MDC said there have been four main periods of gross
human rights abuse in the country perpetrated by Mugabe's government. The
MDC said the commission would investigate the 1980-87 Gukurahundi campaign,
the 2000 land reform programme that resulted in the destruction of 10 000
farming properties, the 2005 clean-up operation, and the "violence and
destruction of property during the struggle to restore democracy in Zimbabwe
between 1998 and 2008.

"In each of these four periods of intense political suppression,
thousands of criminal acts were committed, hundreds of thousands experienced
human rights abuses, and even the death of loved ones, or suffered physical
injury of one kind or another," said the policy document.

The party said it was committed to dealing with the needs of the
victims of the four instances in a holistic and comprehensive way.

"By this means, it is hoped to give those affected by the abuse of
their rights the satisfaction of knowing that the truth about what happened
has been revealed and that the culprits have been brought to justice in some
way," the MDC said. "At the same time it is intended to provide a form of
compensation for fixed property losses during these episodes of abuse."

The MDC said the commission would be in place three months after
assuming office.

"In the event that those identified as being responsible for these
human rights abuses and the destruction of personal assets and property do
not themselves, on a voluntary basis, offer to come before the commission to
tell their side of the story, the commission may, at its discretion, direct
the police to investigate the case to determine the potential for a criminal
prosecution and, if appropriate, to submit a docket to the prosecuting
authority in the area where the incident occurred," the policy document

Once in the court, the party said, the judiciary would deal with the
cases in the normal way and under the laws of Zimbabwe.

The party said it would establish special compensation courts and the
commission may direct that a court attend to the establishment of the degree
and value of any financial prejudice that may have incurred in any specific

"Compensation will be restricted to the cost of any medical procedures
that might have been necessitated by the abuse at the time, any
consequential costs, and any future prejudice arising from the abuse," the
party said.

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NIPC wants to control fuel price

Zim Independent

Shakeman Mugari

THE National Incomes and Pricing Commission (NIPC) has put in a
proposal to government to be allowed to control the price of fuel and other
related products.

The NIPC wants to control the price of petrol, diesel, paraffin and
other oil products.

The NIPC chairman, Godwills Masimirembwa, told businessdigest this
week that the commission has been looking for ways to control the fuel
sector which until now has been allowed to operate without government
interference since partial deregulation of the industry in 2005.

"The NIPC is mandated to control the prices of everything including
fuel. It is unfortunate that we are not in control of those prices at the
moment," Masimirembwa said.

"We are in the process of negotiating with the parent ministry and
stakeholders to find a lasting solution to the fuel pricing issue.

"We want to achieve some stability in the industry because fuel is a
very important component of the cost build-up in every product."

Although Masimirembwa refused to give the specific modalities of the
plan, businessdigest understands that the NIPC submitted its plan to the
Ministry of Energy and Power Development. Sources said the ministry has
promised to make a decision within the next two weeks.

The sources said the ministry was not against the idea but is hesitant
about the effects that the decision will have on the supply side.

Every time government tries to fix the price of fuel, supplies
immediately dry up.

It however emerged last night that most private fuel companies have
not yet been consulted by the NIPC and the energy ministry over the plan.

"They have not come to us with that proposal," said a senior executive
with a local fuel company.

According to the plan the NIPC-approved fuel prices will hold for 30
days. Although the NIPC plans to use the parallel market rate players in the
industry have warned that any attempt to fix the price could lead to massive
shortages that could cripple industry.

The other problem is that the NIPC wants the fuel price to hold for a
month at a time when the exchange rate is changing everyday due to the
shortages in the market.

For example, since the start of the month the United States dollar
rate on the parallel market, the main source of foreign currency for the
fuel sector, has moved from US$1:$4,5 million to about US$1:$11 million.

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Staff exodus hits Zesa

Zim Independent

Kuda Chikwanda

ZESA Holdings has been hit by a major staff exodus in the past 18
months with the majority of top management and skilled labour force leaving
for regional power utilities. Senior executives have joined power companies
in the United Kingdom and Australia. Zesa is now understaffed in key areas
like distribution and transmission.

Experts said this is why the utility is taking so long to respond to
the national power outages. Zesa's two control centres in Harare and
Bulawayo are also understaffed.

The remaining artisans have to make do with dilapidated equipment and
a strained budget.

"The people at control centres are not adequate in terms of both
numbers and skills. They failed to control the load and this resulted in the
grid collapsing," said a senior official at Zesa.

It is understood that 25 of the 28 executive level managers to emerge
from Zesa's unbundling exercise have left the utility since June 2006.

Another 227 members of a senior management staff complement of 312
have taken up other positions outside the utility.

Businessdigest understands that some of the employees left during a
voluntary retrenchment exercise that was recommended to Zesa by the Energy
and Power Development minister Mike Nyambuya in June 2006.

The largest number is reported to have joined South African power
utility, Eskom, while a sizeable number joined Namibia's NamPower. Others
have joined the Botswana Power Company (BPC) and Mozambique's Hidroelectrica
Cahora Bassa (HCB).

The United Kingdom's power generation utility, National Power has
amongst its staff 22 ex-Zesa employees. The South of Scotland Distribution
Board has eight ex-Zesa staff. More than 50 skilled ex-Zesa staff left for
Australia where they have since taken up jobs in the electricity industry.

Zesa was unbundled into Zesa Holdings and five subsidiaries which are
the Zimbabwe Power Company, the Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission Company
(Zetco), the Zimbabwe Electricity Distribution Company (ZEDC), Powertel and
Zesa Enterprises.

Those that opted for voluntary retrenchment include group operations
director Engineer Cletus Nyachowe, group corporate affairs director Fortune
Sambo, and general manager for corporate communications, James Maridadi.

Zetco managing director, Engi-neer Edward Rugoyi, joined BPC while
transmission director Carston Muzangazi left for the UK together with
finance director, Amos Pasinawako. Zetco also lost its business development
director, Steve Dhiwa.

The ZEDC lost its commercial director Engineer Mike Gambe and
operations director, Peter Simoyi. The financial director, Fidelia Gandia,
also resigned.

Muzangazi, Pasinawako, Gambe, and Simoyi are now based in the UK at
National Power. Gandia has joined a non-governmental organisation with
Maridadi now working for a regional transport company.

The ZPC's operations director Misheck Siyakachana opted for voluntary
retrenchment together with finance director Godknows Hofisi who is now with

Efforts to get comment from Zesa Holdings chief executive officer Ben
Rafemoyo proved fruitless. Rafemoyo promised to respond to businessdigest
but did not do so with his office later revealing he had left for a regional
power conference together with Nyambuya.

Zesa's total staff complement stood at 5 831 as of June 2006.

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'NIPC prices too low'

Zim Independent

Jesilyn Dendere

THE recent price increases approved by the National Incomes and
Pricing Commission (NIPC) are way out of sync with the real prices that are
already prevailing on the market.

Most of the prices gazetted by the NIPC are not the ones currently
prevailing on the market.

The prices, which were approved on February 9, are valid for three

The reviews have also triggered a new wave of price increases as
businesses feel that the NIPC-approved figures are either not viable or have
been overtaken by events.

The increases in prices came as inflation hit a new high of 100 580,2%
in January increasing 34 367,9 percentage points from the December figure of
66 212,3%.

A survey conducted by businessdigest this week shows that by the time
the NIPC approved the price for cooking oil (2 litres) to $24,6 million the
actual price on the market was $35 million before increasing to $55 million
this week.

The NIPC announced that that the new price for a 2 kg packet of white
sugar should be $7,9 million when the actual price was already $9 million.

According to the NIPC list hospitals are supposed to charge $10
million consultation fees but most medical institutions are demanding
between $35 million and $100 million.

Service providers such as the national airline Air Zimbabwe have also
defied the pricing commission by pegging a return ticket for the
Harare-Bulawayo route at $381 850 000 instead of the gazetted price of $229
400 000.

The commission said a one-way ticket to London was $2 864 700 000 but
Air Zimbabwe is charging $4 479 750 000 plus US$100 departure tax.

A room at Meikles costs $273 000 000 instead of the $55 000 000
stipulated by the NIPC.

Other hotels like Rainbow Tourism Group have also ignored the NIPC's
recommended prices for rooms and meals.

Last week the National Bakers' Association said it wanted the price of
a loaf of bread to be increased to $5,3 million but the commission only
approved $200 000. NIPC chairman Godwills Masimirembwa, said the commission's
prices were not always behind the market. "We are not always behind. What is
ahead of us is the tendency by some businesses to profiteer," Masimirembwa

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Enough seed for winter crop: Seedco

Zim Independent

A LOCAL seed producing company says it has sufficient seed for the
forthcoming winter wheat season although the country continues to import
wheat from neighbouring countries.

Seed Co public relations and communications manager, Marjorie
Mutemererwa said: "We are now adequately stocked for the winter varieties
and farmers can now readily get seed this coming week. We urge them to start
growing wheat soon, if they are to maximise productivity," she said.

Mutemererwa attributed the flour shortages to lack of proper planning
and over seeding.

She said farmers should not exceed 100kg of seed per hectare in order
to ensure high yields.

"The size of output can be determined by the time of planting. For
every day lost, a farmer loses about 50kg per hectare," she added. - Staff

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Price controls no panacea to problems - Masimirembwa

Zim Independent

BUSINESSES are accusing The National Incomes and Pricing Commission
(NIPC) of delaying prices reviews. The consumer says the prices controls
have pushed commodities on to the black market where they are going for
higher prices. Some business leaders say the NIPC should not have been
created in the first place because it's destroying companies. Business
Editor, Shakeman Mugari spoke to NIPC chairman, Godwills Masimirembwa this
week. Below are excerpts from the interview.

Mugari: Would you say the National Incomes and Pricing Commission
(NIPC) has achieved anything since its establishment in October last year?

Masimirembwa: The answer is yes and no. I say yes because people saw
how empty the shelves were after the blitz. We have been able to work with
industry to ensure that a significant number of basic commodities are back
on the shelves. I must however say that the situation is still far from
being normal.

Mugari: That sounds incredible. Surely it is far from being true. The
latest that we hear is that capacity utilisation is between 10 and 20%.

Masimirembwa: I don't agree that capacity is at 10%. The majority of
the companies that have made representations to us have indicated that
capacity is above 40%.

Mugari: It's hard to believe you because I have just spoken to Calisto
Jokonya, the president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI),
who indicated that capacity has slumped by close to 90%.

Masimirembwa: We have got a problem with Jokonya because he likes to
exaggerate things. He has made it clear that he does not agree with us. That
is why we are now dealing with individual companies instead of the CZI as a
group. That 10% figure he gave you is false. For example the cement industry
is operating at 90% as I speak and Dunlop is at 65%.

Mugari: The NIPC was obviously not created to control prices only. The
act says the NIPC should investigate and analyse the causes of price
distortions in the market and come up with clear models to solve the
problem. The NIPC has not come up with a single model.

Masimirembwa: When a company submits an application for a price review
we look at the pricing structure of the whole sector. We look at the major
drivers and then come up with a clear pricing system.

Mugari: That doesn't mean that the NIPC has come up with a pricing

Masimirembwa: What I am saying is that the models are already there
because the companies have got them.

Mugari: How is it possible that the NIPC is able to come up with fair
prices when it does not control the prices of other key inputs like fuel?

Masimirembwa: The NIPC is mandated to control the prices of everything
including fuel. It is unfortunate that we are not in control of those prices
at the moment. We are in the process of negotiating with the parent ministry
and stakeholders to find a lasting solution to the fuel pricing issue.

Mugari: Will that work? Surely you will be the first to admit that
fixing the price of fuel has led to huge problems in the past.

Masimirembwa: Yes it will work.

Mugari: How will it work now when it has failed dismally in the past?

Masimirembwa: We are looking at the pricing structure of a litre of
fuel compared to the same quantity of another product like cooking oil. We
believe that we will reach a price that will be agreeable to everyone in
that sector. The critical issue is that we have to get some buy-in from the

Mugari: But are you aware that the price of fuel hinges on the
exchange rate which the NIPC does not control?

Masimirembwa: We will not be addressing the issue of the exchange rate
but rather we will be looking at what should be a reasonable price.

Mugari: It's amazing that you use such words like "reasonable" in such
an environment. A week ago the United States dollar was at $6,5 million. Now
it is around $10 million.

Masimirembwa: That is where we have a challenge. Stability is a
function of many other issues. What worries me is the attitude of other
businesses that want to profiteer in the name of the exchange rate. We have
seen some companies selling imported goods at five or six times more than
even the parallel rate. The mark up is just too big. In order to come up
with a fair price for a commodity we use an equivalent of a local good. The
issue is not the exchange rate but the context of the parallel market. We
approach the issue from a reasonable perspective.

Mugari: You still haven't said a word about how the NIPC deals with
the movement in the exchange rate on the parallel market.

Masimirembwa: The movement on the parallel market is speculative. It's
not driven by any fundamental issues but people taking advantage of the
shortages of foreign currency.

Mugari: Are you trying to say that the shortage is not a fundamental
issue in this case. Isn't the economy all about demand and supply?

Masimirembwa: Yes shortage is a fundamental issue but we have to
realise that productivity is the key to the stability of prices in the
market. We are saying imported goods should be a buffer but should not be
used to exploit people.

Mugari: Your commission has been accused of taking time to approve
prices. Companies say by the time they get new prices things would have
changed. Consumers say your approved prices are always far removed from the
reality on the ground.

Masimirembwa: We are not always behind. What is always ahead is the
tendency to profiteer. I must however say that we have worked well with big

Mugari: Does the commission have the capacity to monitor prices

Masimirembwa: Yes we have 37 monitors who are responsible for Harare
and all Mashonaland provinces. We have enough people on the ground.

Mugari: And resources?

Masimirembwa: We have four cars to cover that area.

Mugari: Are you aware that you are talking about covering half of
Zimbabwe with 37 people and four cars.

Masimirembwa: But that is not the issue. What we want is a culture of

Mugari: You are trying to inculcate a culture of responsibility in an
economy with 66 000% (now 100 000%) inflation. The International Monetary
Fund says even this figure is understated.

Masimirembwa: The NIPC does not sit in an abstract. We look at an
application and its merits. We want stability. The price must hold for 30

Mugari: It seems that even the 30-day time frame is not working?

Masimirembwa: we must realise that price reviews are not a panacea to
our problems. The solution lies in productivity. There are shortages in the
whole economy. We will still have problems achieving this stability if
inflation continues to rise. We need a total package to solve this problem.

Mugari: We last had a consistent update on inflation figures in May
last year. As we speak now the inflation figures are a month behind because
we only have the numbers for December. What has NIPC been using to come up
with a fair price?

Masimirembwa: I think I have answered that question before by saying
that the NIPC does not use inflation figures to determine the prices. We use
the pricing structures that we get from the companies. We look at the cost
build up.

Mugari: Is the NIPC capable of making independent decisions without
government interference?

Masimirembwa: The NIPC is a creature of statute which gets policy
directions from government.

Mugari: So the commission is not independent?

Masimirembwa: The NIPC has got a specific mandate to operate within
the system.

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Fallacy of the national pricing commission

Zim Independent

By Nhlanhla Nyathi

IT is quite certain that whoever called for an inclusive stakeholders
forum to remove pricing distortions through a social contract never expected
the country to subsequently degenerate into a one-sided approach dominated
by price controls.

The unfortunate breakdown of the well conceived Tripartite Negotiating
Forum (TNF) and the proposed three economic stabilisation protocols as part
=of the social contract initiative, brought about the existence of price
controls initially through a cabinet task force and later through the
current National Incomes and Pricing Commission (NIPC).

It is quite clear that the NIPC, just like similar initiatives in the
past, has been largely unsuccessful in crafting a sensitive all stakeholders
national pricing policy.

This is evident from the fact that since the advent of price controls,
the Zimbabwean economy has struggled to emerge from the shortages of locally
manufactured goods because of haggling on pricing issues between the NIPC
and the business community.

The NIPC has been accused of bureaucracy in approving new prices
rendering subsequent price adjustments ineffective because of the rapid
movement of a hyper-inflationary environment.

Consequently, the NIPC has been bogged down with unending requests for
price reviews and has tended to lag behind the pace of real inflation.

The end result has been shortages and supply of poorly manufactured
goods to the formal market while the punitive black market has become a
reliable source for a number of commodities.

The NIPC has not made much headway in finding a lasting solution to
the national pricing problem because it is part of a system that
deliberately denies that inflation and the parallel market rate are
significant input factors in a credible pricing model.

In addition, the NIPC though set up by government should have been
managed by independent thinkers or reform-minded people with an attitude
geared towards crafting workable solutions for all stakeholders concerned.

Ideally, the role of this institution should not be perceived to serve
government interests but to provide feasible pricing models in a highly
distorted environment.

It should not be swayed by government populist policies or by the
business community's insatiable desire for profits.

The institution should assess from its own intelligence structures,
the economic operating environment and thereafter proposes policy to
government and lobby for the implementation of such policy on the basis of
its fairness and on the good of the country.

If the exchange rate for instance as a pricing factor was the bone of
contention, the NIPC should have done its own assessment and proposed policy
variation to the Ministry of Finance to ensure viability of business rather
than to implement one-sided destructive policies to appease some

It is unfortunate that the NIPC has not adopted this stance and to a
certain extent is guilty of being inclined to government thinking.

As long as there is no major policy shift on the part of the NIPC in
this respect, bickering with the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries and
other business associations that frequently spill over to the media will
continue to characterise their relationship while no concrete steps made to
find a workable solution.

It is the people who will continue to suffer.

It is very important for the NIPC to realise that inflation data, the
parallel market rate and a workable national pricing model are elements that
cannot be divorced.

The institution should have been the first to cry foul when the
government conveniently swept inflation data under the carpet from October
last year.

How the institution functioned all that time without such key
information is worrying.

Statements by the NIPC to the effect that business entities should not
request for price reviews citing inflation and parallel market rate
movements are an indication of how the institution is not alive to the
situation prevailing in the economy.

They indicate a serious shortcoming on the part of the NIPC.

For the benefit of the hardliners, Zimbabwe is an import-driven
economy and the importance of imported raw materials for the production
process cannot be over-emphasized.

Over 50% of imported raw materials drive the production process.

Once there is mention of imported raw materials, the exchange rate
becomes an important component in the total pricing structure.

Unfortunately due to the economic recession, Zimbabwe has experienced
dwindling foreign currency inflows and the government, through the Ministry
of Finance subsequently implemented a fixed exchange rate that has continued
to exist well out of sync with reality forcing a more potent parallel market
to dominate foreign currency transactions at punitive rates.

Businesses have been subjected to the same punitive parallel market
rates that they have to effect into their final product pricing structures.

This fact cannot continue to be ignored any further because the
difference between the official exchange rate and the parallel market rate
has become insanely massive and in part contributes to falling production
levels and company closures.

If the NIPC would rather ignore the fact that the parallel market rate
is a significant pricing factor, then it would be better for the institution
to lobby government on behalf of business for adjustments of the official
exchange rate in line with inflation differentials between Zimbabwe and its
trading partners.

For the sake of progress and for the good of the country as a whole,
the NIPC needs to reform to remain relevant.

A trigger pricing mechanism linked to a viable exchange rate is
necessary to limit bureaucratic engagement with NIPC every time business
requires price adjustments.

It would be fool hardy to believe that all goods in the country can be
competently priced by one institution without having distortion consequences
especially with the parallel market, official market, subsidised loans,
cheap Noczim fuel and expensive black market fuel etc. If the NIPC cannot be
done away with then the other option is to limit the scope of the
institution's influence.

*Nhlanhla Nyathi is a director of a private equity firm. He can be
contacted at

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Electoral charade

Zim Independent

ZANU PF will do anything to stay in power; it will even hold
elections, carefully stage-managed, of course.

Despite the recent influx of new candidatures, new splits and
fragmentations, new small parties and endless rumours and speculation, the
Zimbabwe elections set for March 29 can only be viewed as illegitimate. They
need to be treated as such in advance of the actual poll.

The coming polls will be managed with military precision to make them
appear like a real election, when they will in fact be a charade, paying lip
service to the ideals of democratic elections.

The Zimbabwe regime is fond of acting through "operations", such as
the infamous Operation Murambatsvina - the urban informal sector and
informal housing demolition of 2005 which was significantly militarised.

In Operation Maguta, agricultural production was put under the command
of the military, while Operation Chikorokodza Chapera (stamping out illegal
exploitation of resources) was mainly directed at asserting state control
(by military means) of the Marange and Chiadzwa diamond fields in the
eastern province of Manicaland.

All these operations were conceived and carried out as a means to
protect the ruling elite's political power and, where possible, provide
access to opportunities for enrichment. The election "operation" is no

These operations and coordination efforts are carried out by the State
Security Council and the operational body, the Joint Operations Command,
which meets weekly, and whose decisions become the policies implemented.

The reforming and removal of the political aspect of the security
forces was an issue during talks between Zimbabwean political parties
facilitated by the Sadc-mandated South Africa, which was met with little

To determine the legitimacy of an election, one has to look at whether
the various players are interested in conducting real elections where voters
are able to cast their votes and are adequately informed and know the
process, procedures, the issues and the candidates.

In a fair election, the electorate must feel free to vote without
constraint or coercion, and be confident that their votes will be counted
accurately, and that the poll results will correctly reflect the vote count.
The Sadc principles and guidelines governing democratic elections clearly
set out what is needed in terms of electoral institutions, and their

In Zimbabwe, opposition parties and candidates, including the two MDC
formations and new entrant Simba Makoni, an "independent" from within Zanu
PF, would relish a real election with a campaign period which allows mass
media access for all, political campaign meetings without constraints and
practical access to, and participation of, all eligible voters.

However, the ruling elite in Zanu PF has a wholly different interest:
the control of the state must not be allowed to slip out of their hands. The
prospect of that happening is too ghastly for Zanu PF to contemplate -
entailing, as it would, the likely unravelling of its webs of corruption and
criminal mismanagement, its privilege and wealth, and the investigation of
the violence and repression it has visited upon the country.

Nevertheless, the ruling elite does have an interest in creating the
appearance of an election taking place, so as to claim legitimacy. But they
forget that legitimacy is not principally about how you come to power, but
rather the manner in which power is exercised. And so, in Zimbabwe, formal
institutions for elections have only been put in place to create the
appearance of correct practice.

The composition and independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission
(ZEC) is questionable, for starters. Senior staff include serving or former
military personnel whose subservience to Mugabe's government is clearly

The Registrar-General's Office, which is responsible for the voters'
roll, is packed with ruling party activists who make it very difficult for
individuals to confirm their status, for interested groups to check that
deceased voters have been removed, and for new voters to register.

There is little confidence by the electorate in any of the
institutions of state. And confidence can't simply be restored by the tepid
technical voter education being carried out by ZEC, which has declined
assistance from highly skilled and professional organisations within the
Zimbabwe Election Support Network.

Meanwhile, behind its attempt at a veil of legitimacy, Zanu PF has
worked to undermine any threat to its rule. For example, the critical issue
of allowing Zimbabweans living abroad (currently estimated at one-third of
the population) to vote has not been adequately addressed.

The Delimitation Commission has controversially amalgamated some urban
and rural constituencies, and increased the number of rural constituencies
in ruling party homelands without parliament's input.

The state has a broadcast monopoly and is jamming shortwave broadcasts
into Zimbabwe by independent radio stations, and there is no independent
daily newspaper.

The judicial system has a history of bias and extreme delays in
electoral matters.

The state's participation in the Sadc-sponsored, South Africa-mediated
talks with the opposition was characterised by bad faith: its provocative
announcement of an election date without the consultation of other
interested parties, and the refusal to further examine the question of a new
constitution before the polls, compromised the mediation effort.

This was done despite the possibility that the chaos and confusion in
the opposition may have presented the ruling elite with an opportunity to
win a legitimate election.

But the party can't risk it, and the conditions on the ground -
including the state of the economy with the massive decline of agricultural
and industrial production, the catastrophic crisis of employment, incomes
and inflation - have created widespread discontent, antagonism and a desire
for change.

The gradual, but now nearly total collapse of the education and health
systems, the recent increase in electricity blackouts, the breakdown of
urban water supply and sanitation, the crisis in the banking system, the
tenuousness and inconstancy of telephone communications and the food
shortages all militate against the successful holding of an election in
March, unless it's run as a military operation, hiding behind all the
electoral institutions.

This is why it must be clear to all that this election won't be
legitimate, but instead an "election operation" whose real objective is to
keep Zanu PF in power. It should be stated far and wide by Sadc and African
leaders that the holding of illegitimate elections is unacceptable and is
condemned in advance.

Zanu PF considers fair elections a threat to its hold on power, and
the party has moved to neutralise this threat by turning the polls into a

* The authors - Abel Chikomo, Jonah Gokova, Primrose Matambanadzo,
John Stewart and Pius Wakatama - are activists in civil society, media and
church organisations in Zimbabwe, but write here in their personal
capacities. -

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Is MDC fit to rule?

Zim Independent

By Maggie Makanza

I KNOW my vote is my secret, if Zanu PF does not steal it. I am one of
those Zimbabweans who were undecided whether to vote or not in the upcoming

I have been pondering on what the March elections mean to an ordinary
Zimbabwean suffering from cash shortages, lack of electricity, water,
transport, housing and food. An economy that has been taken five centuries
back with a collapsed health and education delivery system reducing every
Zimbabwean into destitution and sending many into exile.

The catalogue of tragedies suffered by Zimbabweans is endless. I had
therefore come to the conclusion that a contest between a split MDC and Zanu
PF was an exercise in futility and that the outcome of the elections was
predictable. The elections would come and go and the suffering of
Zimbabweans would continue unabated.

This time, votes stolen or not, after hearing that Simba Makoni has
thrown himself into the race, I have decided that I am going to vote. But
the decision of who I vote for like any other Zimbabwean has to be a very
well-considered position based on facts and devoid of the emotional
political rhetoric that characterises most discourse on Zimbabwe.

That Zimbabweans do not want Zanu PF, or specifically President Robert
Mugabe, is not a point of contention or discussion. However, there are mixed
emotions on the vote for the MDC which has largely been a vote against Zanu

The MDC, largely seen as the party that made the first serious
challenge to Mugabe's power, may have many sympathisers and has earned
respect for the many gallant fights that it has engaged with the Zanu PF
government. They have been bruised and battered and have wounds to show for
the struggle for democracy.

However, the elections this March will be a test for the MDC's fitness
for governance. We have proof that Zanu PF is not fit to govern and every
Zimbabwean can testify to that.

I am then going to soberly ask the question: is the MDC fit to govern?
This may be seen as a highly unfair and emotive question.

This reminds me of a boy-girl relationship. Head over heels in love,
the girl marries the boy against the better judgement of the elders. While
the elders saw it coming, she was too emotionally involved to see.

Such is the plight of many of us, being knee-deep in the political
saga, all bruised and battered and emotionally charged to think rationally.

But the question is: how could the elders have known before the
marriage was sanctified? What were the signs and symptoms that allowed the
"elders" to see the future and predict it with such accuracy?

It will not last, they had warned the girl. But of course such advice
had fallen on deaf ears.

If you were the political adviser on Zimbabwe, what would you be
advising ordinary Zimbabweans to do with regards to the upcoming elections?
Boycott elections or go and make their choices between Mugabe, Morgan
Tsvangirai and Makoni?

It has been well argued that Zanu PF may have been effective as a
liberation movement but did not have the capacity to govern and rule a
nation. I think the same may apply to the MDC today.

While the MDC may have been at the forefront and championed the fight
for democracy, the question must still be asked: is the party fit to govern?

The harsh reality is that while a grader may be allowed on the road to
clear the way, once the path is cleared and the road tarred, it is not
allowed to travel on the very same road that it charted. Such may be the
plight of the MDC in the upcoming elections.

The issue is not whether the MDC should participate in elections or
not. They are damned if they do and damned if they don't following a comedy
of tragic errors in the Thabo Mbeki-brokered negotiations with Zanu PF and
the self-centredness shown through the recent failure to unite the
splintered Tsvangirai/Mutambara factions over a mere 20 seats in parliament.

Perhaps they do not understand the very democracy that they are
fighting for. While Zimbabwe is burning, they haggle over 20 seats in
parliament and are interested in protecting their positions. So what is the
difference between them and Zanu PF?

I have warned already about the need to be brutal with facts and not
be guided by emotions. An analysis of the MDC's comedy of errors reveals a
party leadership that is naïve, politically immature and obsessed with
getting to State House as an end in itself.

Lack of clear leadership and capacity to take advantage of the many
opportunities presenting in Zimbabwe for change have left me doubting the
MDC's capacity not only to dislodge the Zanu PF regime from power but also
to govern. The MDC has earned itself the description of "a popular but
largely ineffective opposition in Zimbabwe".

The MDC and Zanu PF have failed to move the country beyond their
differences and judging by how conflicts have gone elsewhere in Africa, the
stalemate can last for decades while people on the ground are suffering.

Zimbabweans are caught between a rock and a hard place; a brutal
dictatorial regime and an ineffectual opposition. So the "makonifactor" as I
call it, unlike any other third-force factors in the form of small political
parties, will give Zimbabweans something to think about in the polling
booth. It is no longer either an MDC or Zanu PF situation in the
presidential choices.

If we had to make an unemotional decision, who would you vote for on
the basis of capacity and potential to bring about real change?

Most would vote with their hearts and not their minds in this instance
and choose to reward Tsvangirai for the long battle against Mugabe. Much as
we emotionally voted for [item ends here...]

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Majority win doubtful in presidential poll

Zim Independent

Constantine Chimakure

INDEPENDENT presidential hopeful Simba Makoni may benefit from the
waning support of President Robert Mugabe and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai
in next month's harmonised polls, which could result in the country's first
ever election run-off since Independence in 1980.

Mugabe faces Tsvangirai, Makoni and nonentity Langton Toungana in the
presidential election slated for March 29, which political analysts view as
a three-horse race between the first three candidates.

The political analysts said Mugabe and Tsvangirai have since 2002's
presidential election and 2005 parliamentary polls lost considerable support
among the country's over 5,6 million voters due to a number of factors.

Mugabe's popularity dip, the analysts said, was a result of his
government's lack of solutions and policies to extricate the country from
its current political, economic and social crisis that has seen over 80% of
Zimbabweans wallowing in poverty.

On the other hand, Tsvangirai lost votes due to continued internal
squabbles in the MDC that saw the party split into two in October 2005.

To make matters worse, the Tsvangirai faction nearly split once again
last year over the dissolution of the Women's Assembly chaired by Lucia
Matibenga and the imposition of Theresa Makone to head the assembly.

This saw Tsvangirai being labelled a dictator and further resulted in
his camp losing more supporters.

The political divisions in Zanu PF and its poor performance in
government; and the internal rift in the MDC, analysts said, would result in
Makoni winning votes that were in the "wilderness".

In the context of the four-candidate contest, the analysts argued,
Section 110 of the Electoral Act becomes relevant.

The law states that the successful candidate in a presidential poll
must receive "a majority of the total number of valid votes cast", that is
51%. If that does not occur, a second run-off election must be held within
21 days, in which only the two candidates who performed best in the first
round will participate.

If the second election ends in a tie, parliament must sit as an
electoral college to decide between the two candidates, by secret ballot and
without debate. Rindai Chipfunde-Vava, the national director of the Zimbabwe
Election Support Network (Zesn), said undecided voters were likely to split
votes and this would result in a presidential election re-run.

Chipfunde-Vava was doubtful of any candidate getting an absolute

"It's too early for Zesn to assess (the impact of votes in the
wilderness), but obviously it will split the vote and (there is) a
likelihood of a run-off among the top two candidates," she said. "I wonder
if any one candidate will get an absolute majority in the first round."

Another political analyst who requested anonymity said while Mugabe
and Zanu PF have been synonymous with rural areas and Tsvangirai with urban
constituencies, the two leaders may find themselves losing to Makoni.

"Makoni's appeal in the urban areas will see him winning a lot of
votes and erode greatly Tsvangirai's support," the University of Zimbabwe
political science lecturer said.

"The erosion of the MDC support in urban areas will not be of any
advantage to Mugabe."

The analysts said it was the protest vote that would see Makoni making
significant gains in both urban and rural areas.

"It is no longer a given that Mugabe and Zanu PF will win in rural
areas. The economic malaise is affecting everyone in the country and who
doesn't know that it is the result of the Mugabe regime," the analyst

Zimbabwean-born South African businessman Mutumwa Mawere said he was
not convinced that Makoni would be a beneficiary of protest votes.

"I believe that it is time to focus on the way forward and attempt to
locate Makoni's candidature in the broader struggle for change," Mawere

"Zimbabweans must be exhausted by now and the elections if not viewed
as a salvation will not produce the desired outcome. The outcome has to come
not just from protest votes, but from people who are prepared to say that
Mugabe and Tsvangirai have failed to lead."

He argued that if Makoni introduced a new dimension in the political
equation, no one should regard voting for him as a protest vote.

"Makoni certainly comes into the picture with something to offer and
when compared to his presidential competitors, I think it would be correct
to say that he has an advantage," Mawere said.

"People who care about Zimbabwe's future must think hard about the
choices and of the four on the menu, Makoni certainly cannot be considered
to be a wrong choice. If it was a beauty pageant, I am sure Makoni would be
top of the crop."

He said Mugabe could benefit from voter apathy, Tsvangirai from the
anti-establishment vote, while Makoni would capture the pro-change vote.

Former cabinet minister and renowned political scientist Jonathan Moyo
this week said there was a likelihood of disgruntled Zanu PF and MDC members
voting for Makoni.

Moyo, the MP for Tsholotsho, however said a run-off of the
presidential election was the most likely scenario on March 29.

"Given what the law provides, the likelihood of any of the candidates
getting 51% is between slim and none because for the first time we have
three candidates who are likely to draw solid support from their
strongholds, and their respective strongholds are different," Moyo told an
online publication.

"There is quite a sizeable chance of disgruntled registered voters
from both Zanu PF and the MDC who out of desperation believe Makoni is a
solution - even though he says he is working alone - actually voting for

Moyo, who is seeking re-election In Tsholotsho in the harmonised
polls, said when there are three candidates in an environment of
desperation, it was unlikely that anyone of the contestants would command a
majority of votes cast.

"One may get more votes than the other two, but not enough to get 51%
as required by law," Moyo explained.

"The mathematics of it if you look around where Tsvangirai is popular
and likely to get support, where Makoni is popular and likely to get
support, where Mugabe is popular and likely to pick more votes, none of them
is guaranteed 51%, and that's what will cause a run-off."

It seems Makoni had the disgruntled electorate in mind when he
announced his presidential ambition on February 5.

The expelled Zanu PF politburo member said he decided to offer himself
for the presidency after wider consultations in the ruling party and

"Following very extensive and intensive consultations with party
members and activists countrywide, and also with others outside the party
(Zanu PF), I have accepted the call, and hereby advise the people of
Zimbabwe that I offer myself as a candidate for the office of president of
Zimbabwe in forthcoming elections," Makoni said.

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Plight of the rural Zimbabwean voter

Zim Independent

By Alex Magaisa

THE rural population is, perhaps, the most abused political
constituency in Zimbabwe - remembered only during the time of elections. All
too often, it is taken for granted that the rural communities are President
Robert Mugabe's natural constituency.

Years ago, in the early 80s, Zimbabwe suffered an excruciating
drought. Crops failed, domestic animals became matungundu (rinder
pest-afflicted) and perished in great numbers.

At the time, people were assembled at traditional gathering points
across the country. There, truckloads of grain arrived and each household
received a share of what became known as Chibage chaMugabe (Mugabe's grain).

When the kids returned to the local schools, they were offered
supplementary milk and mahewu. That, too, was called mukaka waMugabe (Mugabe's
milk) or mahewu aMugabe (Mugabe's mahewu).

And when the first rains of the new season arrived, truckloads came
again, with "Mugabe fertiliser" and "Mugabe seed maize". Even the plots on
which the seed was planted are, to this day, referred as "munda wechibage
chaMugabe" (the plot on which Mugabe maize was planted).

And with that the seed of allegiance to Mugabe was also planted. Never
mind that the donated supplements may have come from donors unrelated to

That the welfare came from Mugabe's charity became lodged in the
subconscious and embedded in the everyday language of the rural communities
across the country. It is hardly surprising that the control over the
provision or withdrawal of welfare is a very important source of power to
the Mugabe regime.

This language illustrates the impact of the power wrought on these
communities by the Mugabe regime. It went beyond the mental universe,
pervading even the local vocabulary, that Mugabe was the benevolent

This Zanu PF "welfare narrative" also obfuscates the fact that the
welfare came from the tax contributions of the rural people's sons and

Yet not everyone was that lucky. There were a few zvimbwasungata - a
harsh description of those that did not agree with the party, who found
themselves marginalised from the welfare system.

The same tactics used against opponents in the 1980s are still used
against perceived opponents. This ability to provide or refuse access to
welfare in times of need has been a key source of power and control over
rural voters.

Yet it remains one of the great ironies that the poorest and most
marginalised are at the same time deemed to be the kingmakers in Zimbabwean

The more recent controls over food aid have to be seen within this
context: it is to ensure that Zanu PF remains the only source of welfare and
to prevent any other party from drawing power from this key source.

Allowing alternative sources to provide food aid would be tantamount
to permitting the neutralisation of the long-sown idea that only Mugabe and
Zanu PF are the caring benefactors. Zanu PF cannot possibly permit an
alternative welfare narrative.

The second and related source of power in the rural communities is the
fear of ostracisation and violence. Not only does it mean that a mutengesi
(sellout) is denied welfare, it also means that security can be withdrawn
from his family.

The phenomenon of violence in rural areas has a long history, dating
back to the liberation war period. While the most favoured liberation war
narrative tends to paint a brighter picture of heroism, there is also
another, less popular but sinister side that left a bitter taste in the
rural communities on whose turf the war was mainly fought.

Much of this sordid violence took place in rural hinterlands. Stories
are told of alleged vatengesi who were either maimed or killed mostly after
being found guilty by kangaroo courts.

Punishments were often carried out in full view of the public. Many
who witnessed the reality of violence still constitute a large portion of
the rural voters.

These historical circumstances cannot be dismissed out of hand,
especially when the liberation party in power still uses the language of
"pasi nevatengesi" (literally translating to "death to the sellouts").

It is not surprising therefore, that in the language of Zanu PF, Simba
Makoni has now joined the ranks of Morgan Tsvangirai and MDC members as a
"mutengesi". This is a language that is designed to bring back bitter
memories and instil fear in the rural communities.

Zanu PF hopes to cash in on the seed of fear sown many years ago. It
is likely to increase the tempo, characterising Makoni and Tsvangirai as
sellouts and tools of the imperialists.

In order to cement this reputation and the monopoly of this narrative,
Zanu PF creates practical barriers to opponents in rural areas. They know
that rural voters are not gullible and that if they have information from
other sources, they would make more informed choices.

The deprivation of space for campaigns and information dissemination
is part of an elaborate scheme, which includes the monopolisation of the
media, so that rural communities are only ever exposed to the
government-controlled radio and the party's foot-soldiers.

But, surely, the failed promises and the bitter poverty they have
endured for years despite voting for Zanu PF should have taught the rural
voters important lessons. The breakdown of the economy has led to greater
poverty and insecurity in these communities.

With not even functional shops at local townships, or unaffordable
items where available, rural voters have been reduced to a primitive,
hunter-gatherer lifestyle. In place of soap some now resort to ruredzo - an
indigenous plant that produces slimy foam when immersed in water.

Where once there were buses and cars, they now use wheelbarrows and
ox-drawn carts to ferry the sick and wounded. They travel long distances on
foot to the nearest service centre.

They are, literally, on their way back to a bygone era, yet they are
told repeatedly that the country will never be a colony again. Yet, in
truth, they have become victims of a past they had seemingly escaped.

Nevertheless, it is a constituency that is periodically manipulated
and coerced into submission during election periods. The rural hinterlands
also provide opportunities for cheating, there being limited vigilance.

The true test of whether or not elections are conducted properly is
the access to which the opposition is given to rural communities. It is
whether they can hold rallies in those areas and freely engage in their
campaign activities. That's where the main support is and so it follows that
that should be the focus of campaigns.

It's well and fine to observe elections in urban areas but the real
trickery is likely to take place in the hinterlands.

It is not simply about opposition politicians leading the campaign in
those communities. It is also about the citizens participating in the
process of conscientising and reassuring their rural counterparts.

The lack of media space can be filled in by information dissemination
through individual citizens. Most rural dwellers have relatives who reside
in the urban areas and in the absence of government support they remain
their principal sources of welfare.

The urban dwellers often have access to more information and this has
to be transmitted more effectively to their rural counterparts. They are not
gullible; they just want assurance and confirmation.

They need to be aware that there are no hidden cameras in voting
booths; that it is in their interests to do as their hearts and stomachs
tell them; that their greatest fear is not re-colonisation but the return to
a primitive existence.

But this challenge can only be overcome if those that are better
informed can play a role to disabuse their fellow citizens of the fictional
notions sown in the communities years ago. The African family unit is wide
and closely connected.

Even where rallies are banned, there are many forums through which
information can be transmitted - those family gatherings, those funeral
gatherings, the biras etc. It goes without saying that transmitting
information to rural communities and ensuring the voters exercise their free
choice will be the key factor in the outcome of this election.

And for those lucky enough to be invited to observe elections, they
had better focus on those poor rural constituencies, where all the unsavoury
games take place, often without notice.

* Dr Magaisa is based at the University of Kent Law School and can be
contacted at or

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We are doomed if Mugabe wins

Zim Independent

By Rejoice Ngwenya

ELLEN G White, the prolific 19th Century writer as iconic in
conservative Seventh Day Adventism as Ayn Rand is in modern-day liberal
philosophy, refers to prophets as God's messengers who bear a critical
responsibility of exposing positive and negative facts on spiritual status
of mankind, where necessary foretelling the evil that will befall a whole
nation or community that defies the Creator's laws.

White explains that, at any one time, God's people will always know
what the future holds as long as they care to listen to the recitals of
prophets who tend to be part of the local social fabric.

Therefore, I want to assume a role of what the Zanu PF propaganda
machinery would label "prophet of doom", neither being possessed by some
crude revelatory spirit nor driven by cynical forces of pessimism, but by
empirical evidence.

This puts me in an unenviable position of desecrating White's scenario
of turbulence that precedes the coming of the Son of Man by placing it in a
context of one Robert Mugabe's post-election resurgence, also known as the
"son of the soil".

That scenario, minus earthquakes, is one of untold human misery of
biblical proportions - the gnashing of teeth, war and rumours of war,
brother against brother, hunger, disease, unprecedented poverty, corruption,
crime and persecution of martyrs of the truth.

The fact is that on March 31, Zimbabwe and the world may wake up to
the reality that Mugabe has once again prevailed over the forces of
democracy to assume another five-year term.

Of course, knowing Zimbabweans - always the optimists - it is in bad
taste to consider any such outcome that is incompatible with our fantasies.
From 1995, we have always reassured ourselves that things will be all right
and would never get any worse - the rock bottom mentality (RBM).

Every fifth year, we have approached the ballot box with religious
zeal and conviction of a priest in the vicinity of an altar who is convinced
that every ritualistic act brings atonement as a just reward for confession.
Citizens of the country have, for decades, walked out of polling stations
with a sense of satisfaction and egotistical self-esteem bordering on
complacency that for once the "X" they have placed in the "right" column is
a seal of future prosperity.

The protagonists of RBM in Zimbabwe argue that there is an imaginary
line below which economic decline, subjugation of rights, subversion of
justice, poverty and human despair cannot go. Certain components of Zimbabwe's
humanity, they insist, are indestructible - capable of assuming and
retaining a residual state from which re-activation and re-construction
remain possible.

In this category of the "indestructible" are pride, hard work,
resilience, integrity, optimism, constructive debate, self-belief and noble
intent. Placed in the paradigm of a post-election Mugabe resurgence, such
attributes remain a figment of philosophical self-delusion because while
they are important elements of Zimbabwe's fundamental value system, they
count for nothing when pitted against the theory of objectivism.

Students of geography and tectonic science will know that the RBM
theory is totally discredited by the mere fact that below the mantle there
is pressurised hot ash and lava always ready to explode onto the surface.
Other than natural volcanic eruption, a violent distortion and fracture of
fault lines deep in the belly of our planet could result in volcanic
eruption - at sea, this would trigger a tsunami.

Therefore for Zimbabweans to keep reassuring themselves that were
Mugabe to retain his throne, our country would never sink to the deplorable
levels of ethnic conflict experienced in the Democratic Republic of the
Congo, Rwanda, Kenya, Darfur, Chad, Iraq and Afghanistan is self-delusion
bordering on criminal neglect.

For the first time since 1980, Zimbabwean voters are awake to the fact
that their vote will usher the country's destiny into a proverbial pillar of
stone. We either vote for the future and go forward, or we wallow in
lethargic self-pity and sink.

I want to place my argument in a prophetic context that requires
careful, analytical interpretation. Assuming that the trend of catastrophic
events remains in the post-2000 negative mode, it is a correct prognosis
that all elements responsible for volcanic action will trigger a six-digit
reading on March 31's Richter scale.

The rationale is simple: as long Mugabe retains power, national,
regional and international confidence in the ability of Zimbabwe to
re-invent itself will remain low, or altogether evaporate, unless he
undergoes a complete transformation.

Mind you, the six-digit reading is not just mere speculation:
inflation is already beyond 100 000% - thus living us with the critical
figures of employment, migration, brain-drain, child mortality, school and
college dropout, industrial, agricultural and mining output.

As a voter, one has to enquire what it is about voting for Mugabe that
will reverse the trend of negative social, economic, political and
infrastructure decline Zimbabwe has been experiencing in the past twenty

If, as Mugabe wants the world and us to believe, Zimbabwe's woes are
traced to him being a victim of British and American vilification, how is he
going to regain their confidence when George Bush, Gordon Brown and the
"free world" have already condemned the processes preceding the March 29
election as pointing towards "unfree and unfair"?

As long as the Robert Mugabe brand name is dominant on Zimbabwe's
post-March 29 political market, no known computer or prophetic model can
extrapolate the magnitude of and resultant human catastrophe. I will support
this statement by exposing the facts.

Zanu PF leaders and their supporters term anyone who does not support
Mugabe an enemy of the revolution, so you cannot rule out post-election

All major and minor roads in towns and cities now are now virtually
impassable, thus require a multiple-billion-dollar resurfacing budget that
is beyond even Mugabe's wildest imagination.

Public schools and hospitals require astronomical capital injection -
in foreign currency - to be able to offer basic service, since teachers and
doctors have abandoned conventional practice.

Power outages require that Zesa - the national power utility - invest
not less than US$100 billion to cope with industrial demand.

No less than 1 000 professionals escape from Zimbabwe every day,
including teachers, doctors and engineers, because of a pay packet not
sufficient even for monthly bus fare.

Universities, colleges and high schools are operating with less that
30% of required staff due to mass resignations.

The national banking system has completely collapsed, with simple
money transfers taking more than 10 days to effect, leaving millions of
account holders stranded every month.

Citizens cannot travel to and from rural homes because diesel and
petrol are bought in US dollars, causing bus fares to double every week.

Home development has altogether stopped because cement and brick
prices have increased five-hundredfold in the past 12 months.

There is one state-controlled television and radio station and one
daily newspaper in Zimbabwe.

No public meeting can be conducted without police authority.

Commercial farms have no title deeds.

Although duty for cars and petrol is paid for in foreign currency, it
is still considered "illegal" to possess foreign currency in Zimbabwe!

Question: if Mugabe wins the March 29 elections, how and with whose
support is he going to reverse the endemic trend of national emaciation? Not
a hope in hell.

* Rejoice Ngwenya is a Harare-based writer.

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Opposition needs to be heard too

Zim Independent


THE frenzy of excitement that has been created by the emergence of a
three-horse race in the presidential poll should not blind the nation to the
fact that the electoral process itself - currently being manipulated by
President Mugabe's government - remains a key factor in the outcome of the

We have watched since last year - when Zanu PF and the opposition
agreed on electoral processes as part of the South African-brokered talks -
the deliberate violation of basic tenets of fairness by the ruling party.
What makes this so egregious is the fact that Zanu PF is thumbing its nose
at principles and processes that it committed itself to respect during the
inter-party talks. It is our view that not much has changed in Zanu PF's
mindset since the disputed elections of 2002 and 2005.

There appears to be a concerted effort by the Zanu PF government to
place as many impediments in the path as possible to thwart opponents and
their voters. Oppressive regimes the world over have been accused of
employing crude methods of rigging polls like stuffing ballot boxes and
destroying ballots cast in favour of rivals. While the Zanu PF government
does not necessarily employ these tactics, it has mastered the art of
manipulating the process to its advantage - from the voter registration
exercise right up to the process of voting.

This is despite the fact that the government has committed itself to
conducting elections according to the norms and standards of Sadc and also
with due respect to the laws of Zimbabwe.

When President Thabo Mbeki started his mediation effort between Zanu
PF and the MDC last year, he said his ultimate goal was to ensure that the
dialogue would lead to an election whose outcome was acceptable to all
political players. This in our view was tacit admission that for a long time
the electoral playing field has been uneven and skewed in favour of Zanu PF.
It is still very much so.

The dialogue has failed to render dysfunctional the traditional Zanu
PF election-rigging machinery. It is business as usual as is evidenced by
events on the ground. There have been reports of police preventing the
opposition from campaigning by banning rallies and public meetings. The
amendment to the Public Order and Security Act allowing parties to canvass
support without impediments do not appear to matter here as police continue
to take instruction from politicians. We still have a police force that has
been schooled to associate opposition politics with criminality and to treat
the ruling party with reverence.

There are also glaring disparities in the allocation of airtime to
political parties with Zanu PF getting unlimited coverage in the public
media, both electronic and print. We see little hope in efforts by the
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to right the situation. At the moment Zanu PF
campaign stories - all with a refrain imploring television viewers to vote
for Zanu PF - are receiving at least 80% of airtime on the main news
bulletin. The commission has said it is putting together a team to monitor
the media and correct the situation. This is a futile exercise which will
only result in cosmetic changes a few days before the polls when opposition
parties will be featured on television and radio. State broadcaster ZBC
would rather take instruction from government spin doctors than engage in
the ethical practice of providing equitable media access to all political

The irony of all this is that shadowy political parties which popped
up this year have been receiving extensive coverage on television and radio
compared to the MDC.

On the issue of the media, there are still areas in the country where
intelligence officers and Zanu PF hoodlums prevent independent newspapers
from being distributed, therefore blocking voters' access to information
about alternative political voices.

We also noticed a myriad of impediments placed in the path of urban
voters during the voter registration exercise where in places young voters
staying with parents were asked to bring in bills with their names on them
as proof of residence. It has been reported that known opposition supporters
and officials trying to check their names at inspection centres at police
stations were subjected to serious abuse by suborned officers.

While other countries in the region have ceded the responsibility to
invite observers and monitors of polls to independent electoral bodies, our
commission still does not have such powers. The task of inviting monitors
and observers has continued to rest with the government which invites only
cheer leaders for Zanu PF.

There is all the evidence that our government has ceased to care about
the legitimacy of its actions especially now when there is a real threat to
its rule. It is all about political survival and not how a stolen election
would sink this country further.

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Mugabe's desperate young comrades

Zim Independent

Candid Comment

By Joram Nyathi

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe turned 84 this week. It is a ripe old age by
any standard. There were a lot of congratulatory messages, up to 10 full
colour ads in the Zanu PF party paper, The Voice.

In our African culture, the attainment of such age should have been
cause for celebration, particularly for someone now regarded as the founding
president of independent Zimbabwe. But that was not to be. Mugabe has simply
confirmed his place in the league of Africa's "Big Man" rather than the
venerable honour of world statesman.

Two remarkable things stood out in the ads in The Voice: one is that
they came mainly from parastatals such as Zimpost, GMB, Agribank, Zinwa and
Zesa, all of which are a huge drain on the fiscus. This can only mean that
these ads have been wrung out of them against a promise of future largesse.

The implication to me is that most private companies don't feel the
same debt of gratitude to President Mugabe which parastatals are forced to
express on the president's birthday. Many operate at less than 30% of

The few private companies still able to make a profit feel done in by
Mugabe's costly policies; many have shut down or relocated to neighbouring
countries. For them the 21st February Movement, the day commemorating the
president's birthday, has become synonymous with toil, economic decline and
social decay and dislocation; it is a Zanu PF thing to be rebuffed by all
right-minded Zimbabweans.

These images of revulsion erupt as though instinctually. They reflect
how much President Mugabe has transformed from a revered revolutionary at
Independence in 1980 to a feared and resented taskmaster whose legacy evokes
the worst tyrannies Africa has experienced in its checkered history through
slavery into independence.

The revulsion is a result of overstaying one's welcome, and the future
doesn't look good as we enter what could prove his Waterloo in next month's

The outcome of that election will be an embarrassment Mugabe could
easily have avoided by stepping aside for someone younger. The very sight of
him racing against men of 50-60 years portends ill for democratic succession
in our body politic. It elicits derision rather than admiration.

It has been argued in the past that Mugabe could not leave office
because he was haunted by his "moment of madness" ghost called Gukurahundi.
Others alleged a number of skeletons he treaded on the road to his first
"landslide victory" in 1980 and thereafter.

If that were entirely true, one would expect him in his golden years
to become a more gracious, lovable person. Instead he has continued to beat
up political opponents, launch Murambatsvina and land reform while
engineering starvation on an unimaginable scale across Zimbabwe.

To win the elections, Mugabe needs a lot of charm. He has none. He can't
use violence or his repressive laws if he wants a veneer of legitimacy. It
is allegations of the same which have plunged the nation into this
unprecedented economic and political crisis.

Mugabe cannot claim to be fighting for Zimbabwe's sovereignty when he
should know his victory in the March elections can't guarantee it. That
spectre can only make Zimbabweans angrier, more desperate.

It is the perception that Mugabe has overstayed and now wants power
for its own sake and not to safeguard the interest of the nation that has
caused the rebellion and defiance in Zanu PF symbolised by Simba Makoni's
decision to challenge him for president.

The other remarkable thing about Mugabe's birthday is his age
vis-à-vis those of the youths who will be celebrating with him in Beitbridge
on Saturday. For most of them in their 20s and below, 84 years must sound
like the Second Coming. They require a huge leap of faith to contemplate
that age even without the Aids scourge which has ravaged the population.

Under Mugabe's stewardship, the life expectancy of Zimbabweans has
collapsed precipitously from around 60 years at Independence to below 40
years for both men and women. The excellent health and education facilities
which he inherited from Ian Smith and expanded so well soon after to cater
for the previously margined blacks, he has single-handedly wrecked.

With inflation above 100 580% and unemployment around 80%, the youth
who will be celebrating with Mugabe have no golden past to be nostalgic
about nor a future to give them hope. It is in fact a supreme irony that for
the majority of them any hope in the future is premised on his vacating the
political stage as soon as his birthday celebrations are over, that is on
March 19, because he now constitutes a major threat to their dreams of a
better future.

This on its own should be a sobering thought for any leader who wants
the youths to wish for his longevity and his virtues. But they have little
to admire in those who should be role models for so-called "future leaders".

By virtue of his age, and the fact that he still wants to contest an
election, President Mugabe now inspires dread rather than reverence that
should go with old age, for when they look at him engaged in a fight with
Morgan Tsvangirai or Simba Makoni, they can't fathom the latter also staying
in power for 30 more years before they (youths) can try their luck at the
ultimate political post. Zimbabwe is indeed crying out for change.

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Here is a chance to beat Mugabe

Zim Independent

Editor's Memo

By Vincent Kahiya

ON Sunday Cypriots go to the polls for the second time inside a month
to choose a president in second round elections after President Tassos
Papadopoulos was eliminated on Sunday in the first round of Cyprus's
presidential election.

Associated Press reported that the cliffhanger election saw three
candidates neck-and-neck until the very last minute, the first time in
Cyprus that a poll has been so closely contested by three candidates.

Communist party leader Demetris Christofias and former Foreign
Minister Ioannis Kasoulides of the right-wing DISY party will now vie for
the five-year presidency in the runoff.

Final results showed Kasoulides with a very slight lead, on 33,51%
compared with 33,29 % for Christofias. Papadopoulos was close behind with
31,79 %.

Both are seen as more moderate and have said they want speedy
negotiations with the Turkish Cypriots who have been split from the Greek
Cypriot south since 1974, when a failed bid to unite the island with Greece
triggered a Turkish invasion.

The island's division has proven a major stumbling block to Turkey's
efforts to join the European Union.

Despite coming from opposite ends of the ideological spectrum,
Kasoulides and Christofias have both stressed the need for a "diplomatic
offensive" to stave off the threat of permanent partition.

Talks to reunite the island have been deadlocked for years.

There are parallels between the politics in Cyprus and our own. There
are now very realistic prospects of a first ever presidential election
run-off in Zimbabwe.

President Mugabe's chances of winning an absolute majority of 51% of
the vote have dimmed since the entry of Simba Makoni into the political

There are salutary lessons from Cyprus for Mugabe.

Like Papadopoulos, his two opponents Morgan Tsvangirai and Simba
Makoni may be coming from opposing ends of the political spectrum but they
share one school of thought which is also a cross-cutting factor among their
respective supporters.

They believe that Mugabe is the problem just as supporters of
Christofias and Kasoulides saw Papadopoulos as a major bulwark against any
attempts at unification and ultimately admittance into the European Union.
He has been removed from the race and in the second round of polling,
Cypriots now have to decide between a communist leader and a right winger to
fulfill national aspirations.

Next month, Mugabe goes into the race as the fall guy here because
supporters of Tsvangirai and Makoni regard Mugabe as the greatest impediment
to social development because of his government's paper trail of disaster
spanning over two decades.

Mugabe's adversaries in the poll have adopted campaign themes that put
pressure on the octogenarian leader.

Tsvangirai is promising voters "a new beginning" and Makoni has
adopted "dawn" as his war cry.

President Mugabe's Zanu PF is yet to come up with its manifesto and
campaign theme.

But pronouncements by the party's candidates in rallies lately present
clues of what this election is about for Zanu PF. It is about consolidation.
It is about continuity. It is about history. More accurately, it is about

The people are yearning for freshness and innovation. This will not
work for Zanu PF especially when there is nothing new about the supposed gem
in the window.

Mugabe today cannot be associated with any novelty. The best
propaganda handlers in Zanu PF can do is to continue to package the aged
leader as a sabre-rattling gladiator fighting the evil ghost of colonialism
and imperialism.

This is an environment dominated by general shortages, poverty,
hyperinflation, low productivity in industry and an embarrassing collapse of
social services and infrastructure.

But Mugabe will still get votes albeit a much reduced tally when
compared to his achievements in 2002.

There is scope in concluding that Mugabe has lost ground since then;
so has Tsvangirai due to his failure to capitalise on the doom and gloom
engulfing the nation.

The lost ground by both Mugabe and Tsvangirai presents a good
opportunity for the protest vote which could see the presidential poll
returning figures not very different from the recent Cypriot elections.

Depending on how Makoni and Tsvangirai put together their campaigns,
they have a real good chance of relegating Mugabe to third place in the poll
and effectively condemning the Zanu PF system of governance to the scrapyard
of history.

What stands between success and failure for oppositional forces is
their shortcomings in mobilising against Mugabe's cunning.

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Getting the message,missing the point

Zim Independent


NEW Zealand Foreign minister Winston Peters, recently visiting South
Africa, had some pertinent remarks on Zimbabwe's electoral process. Peters,
whose government has imposed a series of sanctions against Robert Mugabe
after he allegedly rigged his 2002 re-election, said New Zealand would only
have "positive thoughts for Zimbabwe" if the elections were fully

"Unless an election is free and fair it is not an election," he said.
"It is a jack up. It is a construction... It is organised deceit," he told

His remarks came as the state media in Zimbabwe farcically announced
Zanu PF had taken "an early lead" in the polls because it didn't face a
challenge in two parliamentary constituencies.

Speaking with Peters at a Pretoria press conference, South African
Foreign minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said Zimbabwe's elections next month
would be free and fair only so long as new laws on security and the media
are fully implemented.

Dlamini-Zuma said it was vital that legislation which was agreed on
between the Zimbabwean opposition and the ruling party in talks mediated by
South African President Thabo Mbeki is put into practice.

"If the Zimbabweans implement everything that they have agreed upon
during their negotiations on matters that had kept them apart - if they
implement the laws passed by parliament around security, information, media
and all those laws - the prospects for free and fair elections should be
good," she said. "The important thing is all those things should be
implemented now in the run-up to elections and during the elections."

But did Zanu PF get the message? It is becoming increasingly clear
that this is once again a flawed election and that agreements reached in the
inter-party talks are meaningless.

The police continue to deny the opposition the right to demonstrate
and even lecture the opposition on the futility of marches while letting
those organised by the ruling party proceed.

Worse still, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission which claims to be an
independent body, has written to the Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network
telling them that they should not proceed with their voter education
campaign without the commission's approval.

Nothing could be more calculated to thwart democratic rights and
prevent voters from making an informed choice at the polls. Warning: This is
about to become another pointless election.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights have written to the Zimbabwe
Independent to correct remarks made in this column last week. We lamented
the failure of civic organisations such as Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights
to stand up for the rights of unpopular state targets such as Simon Mann and
Sobusa Gula-Ndebele.

"Nobody in Zimbabwe's self-satisfied civil society said anything," we
commented on Mann's extradition. "Very simply they didn't want to be
identified with a mercenary leader and thought it prudent to keep quiet.
This reflects the immaturity of our civic and paralegal watchdogs. Outfits
like Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights need to speak out for all victims of
the regime, not just the politically correct."

ZLHR responded: "ZLHR released press statements, which were widely
circulated, relating to both the extradition of Simon Mann (dated 5 February
2008) and the current events around the suspended Attorney-General (dated 21
December 2007).

"In addition, ZLHR lawyers from our Human Rights Defenders Unit and
our Public Interest Litigation Unit attended the tribunal hearing for the
suspended Attorney-General when it first commenced and was postponed on 28
January 2008.

"We released an information alert on the same day in relation thereto.
Our lawyers attempted to observe the hearing, but were barred after being
advised that the proceedings were being held in camera.

Due to the fact the proceedings are ongoing, we will not comment
further until the matter is finalised and we have verifiable facts, or else
we subject ourselves to contempt of court proceedings. Do not take this to
mean that we are not monitoring the developments and compiling evidence of
violations in the interim.

"ZLHR, since 2003, has continuously issued press releases condemning
the harassment of judicial officers, including magistrates and judges, as
well as law officers within the AG's office, and I refer you in this regard
to a 2004 publication of attacks on the judiciary and legal profession in
which all the attacks are documented and commented upon, as well as the 2007
publication of ZLHR and the Law Society of Zimbabwe entitled Self-Regulation
at a Crossroads: Attacks on lawyers and the independence of the legal
profession, both of which have again been widely circulated."

ZLHR also responded to accusations that it did not stand up for the
rights of commercial farmers.

"In relation to what I presume is the Campbell matter, I wish to
inform you that ZLHR filed a communication with the African Commission on
Human and Peoples' Rights challenging the ouster of the jurisdiction of the
court in matters relating to land acquisition brought about by CA 17 and the
matter is pending before the Commission.

"We were the first organisation to take action in this manner
following the passage of CA 17. We cannot comment on the outcome of the
constitutional challenge, or any related cases, as this will form the basis
of our further submissions to the commission on the exhaustion of domestic
remedies, and public comment again could be seen as contempt of the
commission's procedures.

"Whilst we appreciate that Muckraker is usually a necessary satirical
commentary on the state of affairs in Zimbabwe and further afield, it would
be appreciated if the commentary is not false or misleading and does not
denigrate the efforts of human rights organisations in Zimbabwe working in
an extremely oppressive operating environment.

"ZLHR is a non-partisan organisation and we subscribe to the fostering
of a culture of human rights throughout the country, where the fundamental
rights and freedoms of all people are protected and promoted.

"For an idea of the impact of our work, I would urge you to visit the
website of the Zimbabwe Ministry of Home Affairs and read the publication
entitled: Opposition Forces in Zimbabwe: The Naked Truth to see what our
efforts have led to."

Russia under President Putin is becoming increasingly assertive as it
reclaims its place on the world stage. Viewers of CNN and the BBC will have
been struck in recent documentaries by the purchasing power of the country's
new middle class which has built luxury mansions in Moscow's suburbs and
doesn't hesitate to flaunt its new-found wealth.

But in one area Russia is still very backward. Much of its media
continues to serve a public relations function rather than hold up a mirror
to the regime.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the regular press conferences
Putin holds which have become set-piece affairs where journalists ask him
questions that would make ZTV interviewers sound aggressive.

They compete among themselves to see who can ask the most
unchallenging and in some cases grovelling questions which serve only to
make the Russian ruler appear omnipotent. And these are the cream of Russia's
media profession.

"How can I give you a St Valentine's Day present?" one female reporter
asked last week.

"Come here," was the presidential response!

"How would you spend your first day out of office," a senior official
helpfully enquired ahead of Putin's retirement.

"By spending an extra hour in bed," Putin replied.

These and other such gems provided us with much insight as to how the
press in some societies fails to perform its role as a public watchdog and
allows leaders to evade accountability. The press conference lasted several

ZTV interviewers may care to review the tape to pick up helpful hints.

Here are some thoughts from Muckraker ahead of the birthday interview:
"Mr President, you have dug a very impressive hole for the nation. How much
further do you propose to go on digging?"

"Mr President, you have had 28 years to rescue the country's economy
and provide a better life for our people. How long do you think you need to
go on doing what you have failed to do over the past quarter century?"

"Mr President, you are surrounded by Class A Bootlickers like Emmerson
Mnangagwa, Didymus Mutasa, Obert Mpofu, and Nolbert Kunonga. What quality of
advice have these admirers offered to you and what tangible examples can you
provide of where that advice has benefited the nation?"

Mpofu was in fine form recently urging the people of Umguza to support
him. While there were no whites actually standing against him, he said, "it
was imperative for the people to know that the whites had already sent their
stooges". They were making lists of farms they wanted to restore to their
former white owners, Mpofu charged.

The only way to prevent reversing the gains of land reform was to vote
for President Mugabe, he said.

"I assure you that as long as you give me your mandate nobody will
come between us. Anyone who pokes his nose into Umguza should know that he
would have entered my bedroom and should be wary of the consequences."

Mpofu took a swipe at local rival Mark Mbayiwa who he said was not a
registered party member. It was said he had been sent by the elders to stand
against Mpofu. In which case, Mpofu said, the elders should come themselves
to oppose him.

In a revealing remark, Mpofu claimed some members of the ruling party
were using party resources to support independent candidates such as those
who nominated Mbayiwa.

What is so revealing about this campaign is that the ruling party is
hanging out its dirty laundry for the edification of voters. And it's not a
pretty sight!

We can imagine the gnashing of teeth and fist-waving going on at State
House last weekend. There was President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania,
portrayed as one of Zimbabwe's closest allies in the region, receiving
President Bush amidst pomp and ceremony.

What was striking about the Bush visit was the warmth of the
reception. This was a great deal more than protocol required. And the US
first couple obviously felt at home.

President Mugabe has repeatedly told us that Zimbabwe's allies have
stood up for us in the councils of the world. They have provided no purchase
to the Bush-Brown stance on Zimbabwe, we are told.

But last weekend Bush rebuked Mugabe as "a discredited dictator"
saying he looked forward to the hour when "the nightmare is over and the
people of Zimbabwe regain their freedom".

Speaking ahead of his five-nation African tour, Bush said Zimbabweans
deserved a better leader.

"In Zimbabwe a discredited dictator presides over food shortages,
staggering inflation, and harsh repression," the US president said. "The
decent and talented people of that country deserve much better."

A couple of days later he was being embraced by Tanzania's leader.
What a fitting rebuke to Zimbabwe's state propagandists who have told us how
hated Bush is in Africa.

There was no mention by his hosts on his five-nation tour of
solidarity with Zimbabwe. Nobody said sanctions against the Zanu PF regime
should be lifted.

So who do we listen to: the regime's public relations officers who
tell us how popular Mugabe is elsewhere in Africa; or the tens of thousands
who turned out to greet Bush on his sweep through Africa?

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Good intentions paving the way to hell

Zim Independent

By Eric Bloch

IN the course of a radio interview last week, Godwills Masimirembwa,
chairman of the National Incomes and Pricing Commission (NIPC) stated that
the commission would vigorously combat and destroy the parallel market.

Very correctly, he said that that market was a major stimulus of the
pronounced hyperinflation which is devastating the Zimbabwean economy, and
subjecting almost all Zimbabweans to intense poverty, horrendous hardships,
and gross deprivations.

He said the NIPC cannot allow such conditions to endure and, therefore, it
would ensure the demise of the parallel market.

The motivation and intent evidenced by this declaration is very, very
commendable, but demonstrates at total lack of awareness that, however good
that intent, it is beyond the ability of NIPC to bring parallel market
operations to an end, and that NIPC's proposed endeavours to do so can, in
reality, only worsen the already grievously distressed economy, and
exponentially increase the adversities which confront Zimbabwe's peoples

There are two hard, incontrovertible facts that negate the NIPC intentions
to terminate all parallel market operations.

The first is that until such time as Zimbabwe has a sufficiency of foreign
currency, readily available in official money markets, to meet all needs of
the economy, there will always be currency trafficking in unofficial,
generally unlawful, markets, be they known as parallel markets or as the
black market. Regrettably, it is not within the capacity of NIPC to assure
that necessary foreign currency sufficiency.

The prerequisites of adequacy of foreign currency availability are, first
and foremost:

lZimbabwe's government must desist from its determination not to move
exchange rates, other than only very occasionally, and then always to a
ludicrously minimal extent. Undoubtedly its resistance to devaluation is
driven by three misguided beliefs. The first is that devaluation is
counterproductive, for it causes the landed cost of imports to rise, thereby
fuelling inflation.

Normally that is so, but when almost all imports are already effected at
parallel market rates, as distinct from official rates, that inflation has
already been sustained.

Secondly, government clearly believes devaluation to be an admission of
failure and, as it is convinced of its absolute omnipotence, admission of
failure is inconceivable.

Thirdly, government (and its underlying parastatals) are the greatest users
of foreign currency and, therefore, devaluation would increase the state's
deficit astronomically.

Ideally, the exchange rate should not be regulated, but should be
market-determined, but until there is a stable balance of payments, that
ideal is unlikely to materialise.

In the interim, the exchange rate must be very substantially moved (at the
very least to US$1: $2 000 000), in recognition of the very major,
indisputable erosion of value of the Zimbabwean dollar), and must thereafter
be moved regularly in alignment with actual inflation.

Unless, and until that occurs, mines cannot operate profitably, and
therefore increased mining production will not occur, and no significant
investment into exploitation of Zimbabwe's vast mineral wealth will be

In like manner, manufacturing sector exports cannot be viable when the
exchange rate is not inflation-aligned, and the tourism sector's operations
are similarly impaired.

lAttraction of foreign investment, which can be a substantive source of
desperately needed foreign exchange.

But such investment is naught but a misplaced hope and mirage, unless
Zimbabwe has an investment-conducive environment, which must include a
stable economy, non-excessive and destructive indigenisation policies,
cessation of asset expropriation (generally without compensation and in
disregard for bilateral agreements and fundamental principles of
international justice) and meaningful investment incentives.

lReconciliation with the international community in general, and with
Bretton Woods' Institutions (IMF and World Bank) in particular, enabling
Zimbabwean access to balance of payments support, and developmental aid.

None of these essential economic policies and actions are within the
competence of NIPC, and therefore NIPC's intended eradication of the
parallel market cannot occur. Instead, the second hard, incontrovertible
fact must arise.

The only courses of action available to the NIPC would be a combination of
rejecting, in all pricing models, all impartation costs not funded through
official channels, and draconian policing of all sectors of commerce,
industry, mining, tourism, NGOs, and the informal sectors.

The former will occasion the failure and closure of innumerable enterprises,
with concomitant mass unemployment and intensified scarcities of almost all
commodities and products required by the populace.

The then near total destruction of the business sector will result in even
more intensified black market operations then heretofore, and even greater
deprivation and hardships for almost all.

The latter course of NIPC actions will also collapse most informal
businesses, will remove from much of the population the only available
sources of some livelihood, resulting in either even more extensive
emigration (lawful and unlawful) to seek survival in other countries,
decimation of the already severely weakened Zimbabwean skills' resource, or
in vociferous national unrest.

Neither of these courses of actions can, therefore, yield anything other
than gravely negative results.

Contrary to the praiseworthy intents voiced by the NIPC's chairman, any
direct attempt by the NIPC to bring about the death of the parallel market
can only occasion Zimbabwe's hyperinflation to soar upwards at an even more
horrific pace than at present, malnutrition, starvation, ill-health and
death for many, many Zimbabweans, and total economic emaciation.

Instead, the NIPC should seek to use such influence as it may have, if any,
to convince government to abandon its destructive economic and allied
policies, and to take the much overdue steps actually necessary to bring
about the economic metamorphosis so badly needed.

That economic transformation has long been needed, and even longer has it
been possible, if government only possessed the will to effect the required

If NIPC can imbue it with that will, the underlying motive behind its
Chairman's statement will be the result.

If not, NIPC's good intentions can only pave the way to a hell of even more
gargantuan Zimbabwean suffering.

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Zim Independent Letters

Trust not Makoni

ONE of the hardest qualities to possess in life is learning who to
trust. It's a sign of maturity when individuals and nations acquire the
judgement to know who to trust and who to be wary of.

Slowly, with experience we discover the people who will not let us
down; we know they will be there when we need them and do what is right for
us, the people who trust them. Elections are occasions when we get the
chance to exercise that judgement on a national level.

At Independence in 1980 we trusted Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF to do
what was right for us as a nation. We, the people, gave Mugabe the power
that he has enjoyed for 28 years.

One of the hardest truths for Zimbabweans to accept is that our trust
was misplaced. We look around and see a nation tearing itself apart. We no
longer know who to trust; Mugabe has succeeded in turning what was once a
trusting - some would say naïve - and united people into a fractured
collection of individuals who are no longer sure who to trust. We have lost
faith in each other and in our leaders (traditional, political and even
religious). Mugabe and Zanu PF have almost destroyed the moral fibre of our

We have repeatedly been told by Mugabe and his followers that the only
thing that counts is loyalty to the ruling party, anything less is betrayal.
MDC supporters and anyone else who dares to think differently are branded
traitors. According to the ruling party, liberation credentials are still
the only criteria of the true patriot. That is the Zanu PF mantra, the very
basis of their belief that only they are entitled to rule Zimbabwe through
whatever crooked means they choose.

Enter one Simba Makoni. Where was Makoni during Murambatsvina? Where
was he when MDC leaders were being beaten to a pulp? Where was Makoni when
the brave women of Woza were arrested and beaten for handing out roses on
Valentine's Day or when the police repeatedly misused their powers against
the NCA to prohibit any form of demonstration? Where was he when our economy
was diving into free fall, when education and healthcare were being
destroyed? Where was Makoni when the press was being muzzled and all dissent
was being crushed?

The answer to all these questions is that Makoni was nowhere to be
seen. Not once did he raise his voice in protest. Instead he was there at
the heart of the ruling party, part of the machinery of a government that
sanctioned all the repressive legislation designed to keep Zanu PF in power.
All his political life, Makoni has been an integral part of the ruling party
and now he tells us that he will bring about change through "national
re-engagement" - whatever that means!

Zimbabweans are amazingly prepared to put their trust in a man like
Makoni, who states quite categorically that he is not against Zanu PF, not
against Robert Mugabe. Have they forgotten why they are in the mess they are
in? Zimbabweans have short memories it seems.




      Where was he all these years?

      MAY I warn the Zimbabwean electorate about the true colours of
Simba Makoni who has just joined the presidential race.

      Makoni remains as evil as Zanu PF and Robert Mugabe despite
claiming to have finally seen the light about the Zimbabwean crisis. He is
still with Zanu PF and is part of those false opposition parties and leaders
that Mugabe and Zanu PF create during every election to exaggerate the level
of democracy in Zimbabwe and to legtimise the elections that are always
rigged in this country.

      I appeal to my fellow countrymen and women not to be fooled by
him. He tells us that he was forced to challenge for the position of
president after what happened at the Zanu PF extraordinary congress last
December and the decline of the economy in the last eight years.

      The truth is that there was definitely nothing new about the
conduct of political business by Zanu PF and Mugabe at that congress.
Political business in Zanu PF is about seeing no evil about Mugabe's conduct
and misrule; lies and propaganda, political violence and intolerance;
corruption and rigging of elections; and abusing state machinery like the
police and the army. This is the history of Mugabe and Zanu PF since the
struggle for Independence up to this day.

      Makoni worked with Mugabe and Zanu PF whilst fully aware of the
mentioned evils. Anybody who represents reason would have resigned when Zanu
PF and Mugabe were committing cruelty against the people of Zimbabwe long
back rather than today.

      Makoni cannot tell us that what happened during the last
congress is worse than the evils of Murambatsvina and the land invasions. We
would have done very well with his voice against these evils when they were
happening. He chose to remain silent. He even talks of the bank queues when
they have disappeared. I do not think Makoni stood in these queues like he
tries to make people believe. He falls into the same category as Jonathan
Moyo and Gideon Gono who are always trying to potray themselves as
sympathetic guys when they are actually as cruel as Mugabe and Zanu PF.
These people have let down the country and they traded their souls for
political appointments.

      Tafumaneyi Stanley Tapera,



      Makoni can be assured of my vote

      WHEN I get into the polling booth on March 29, I will put an "X"
against Simba Makoni's name.

      This is not induced by any empty promises that we have always
had for ages at election time. I don't need to hear him campagning but I
really feel he deserves to be there and he will assist us recover our lustre

       The same goes for a lot of people who feel the same. Makoni is
just a brand, it does not matter how many times their propaganda machine
will run against him, victory is certain.

      Voting for Makoni is voting Zimbabwe out of trouble. It is
acceptance of our past failures, it is cognisance of the fact that the
future is not for the old but for the young. Voting for Makoni will entrust
the economy to the most noble hands.

       The panic brought about by Makoni's announcement in Zanu PF
abounds for everyone to see. Makoni is not the first one to leave the party
so why did it have to become the biggest story on ZTV?

      If the party had people at heart, it would have welcomed this
position and convened a meeting to consider having a primary election for
the presidential candidate position, the same way they are dealing with the
disputed parliamentary seats. If I read well their propaganda paper, the
Herald, Henrietta Rushwaya was beaten in one constituency and went on to
throw her bid in Shuvai Mahofa's constituency which was initially unopposed.
What is the difference with Makoni's case, seeing Mugabe was not challenged
at first but now there is someone who is willing to challenge him?


      By e-mail.


      Makoni does not need Zanu PF backers

      IT is very interesting that people want to measure presidential
aspirant Simba Makoni by how many corrupt and spineless officals from Zanu
PF he has mobilised.

      As true Zimbabweans we do not need those people, neither does
Makoni because they have failed us and they will only be a liability to the
new revolution. They will not risk it because they are going to lose
everything they looted. Let us not shift our focus on the main goal which is
to have Makoni as our president by dwelling on trivialities which will not
change or reverse an inflation rate of 66 000%.

      Makoni do not be afraid, we the masses are behind you and that
is all you need.



      Illegal or just immoral

      GIDEON Gono has on several occasions said that if he has done
anything illegal then he should be taken to court. Technically he may be
correct but how about the morality of things where the ruling body makes
rules for themselves?

      How can the government set a fixed official bank exchange rate
of US$1: $30 000 in an environment where inflation is the highest in the
world, when the only people who can access US dollars at this rate are the
ruling elite and I am sure the governor of the Reserve Bank - as a perk of
the job. The absurdity of this rate of exchange is reflected in the fact
that there are different rates applicable to different things including
customs duty.

      Why have different rates? Perhaps because certain privileged
persons can purchase US$100 for the price that the ordinary man in the
street pays for a loaf of bread.

      So although Gono may be right as to the law and legality of his
actions, the sale of US dollars by the Reserve Bank to anyone in government
or anyone who can influence the official rate of exchange is highly immoral.

      In the same way it is highly immoral for any government to make
rules which benefit themselves as individuals. One only has to look at
subsidies. Who benefits from cheap fuel and farming inputs created by
government? Could it be that many of the recipients of the fuel and
agricultural inputs are connected to that same government? Immoral!

      William Peters



      Muckraker is biased

      I hAVE been reading your newspaper for a while now and I must
say your ability to assess the poltical situation in our beloved country is
next to none.

      However, I would like to point out that it seems when it comes
to the opposition, it is clear that your paper has a bias towards Arthur
Mutambara. I refer to Muckraker's comment in the last issue (Zimbabwe
Independent, February 15). It is obvious to me that you are biased and that
does not display the type of critical journalism you want to uphold.

      It really puts off the reader and if you are really for change
in the country you would play your part to unite the opposition instead of
assisting one side to win the masses.

      You are their only voice so let the people decide without you
manipulating them through your newspaper. But keep up the excellent

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A Lead on the Ark of the Covenant

Time Magazine
Ark of the Covenant
The Ark of the Covenant is carried into the Temple

When last we saw the lost Ark of the Covenant in action, it had been dug up by Indiana Jones in Egypt and ark-napped by Nazis, whom the Ark proceeded to incinerate amidst a tempest of terrifying apparitions. But according to Tudor Parfitt, a real life scholar-adventurer, Raiders of the Lost Ark had it wrong, and the Ark is actually nowhere near Egypt. In fact, Parfitt claims he has traced it (or a replacement container for the original Ark), to a dusty bottom shelf in a museum in Harare, Zimbabwe.

As Indiana Jones's creators understood, the Ark is one of the Bible's holiest objects, and also one of its most maddening McGuffins. A wooden box, roughly 4 ft. x 2 ft. x 2.5 ft., perhaps gold-plated and carried on poles inserted into rings, it appears in the Good Book variously as the container for the Ten Commandments (Exodus 25:16: "and thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee"); the very locus of God's earthly presence; and as a divine flamethrower that burns obstacles and also crisps some careless Israelites. It is too holy to be placed on the ground or touched by any but the elect. It circles Jericho behind the trumpets to bring the walls tumbling down. The Bible last places the Ark in Solomon's temple, which Babylonians destroyed in 586 BC. Scholars debate its current locale (if any): under the Sphinx? Beneath Jerusalem's Temple Mount (or, to Muslims, the Noble Sanctuary)? In France? Near London's Temple tube station?

Parfitt, 63, is a professor at the University of London's prestigious School of Oriental and African Studies. His new book, The Lost Ark of the Covenant: Solving the 2,500 Year Mystery of the Fabled Biblical Ark (HarperOne) along with a History Channel special scheduled for March 2 would appear to risk a fine academic reputation on what might be called a shaggy Ark story. But the professor has been right before, and his Ark fixation stems from his greatest coup. In the 1980s Parfitt lived with a Southern African clan called the Lemba, who claimed to be a lost tribe of Israel. Colleagues laughed at him for backing the claim; in 1999, a genetic marker specific to descendents of Judaism's Temple priests (cohens) was found to appear as frequently among the Lemba's priestly cast as in Jews named Cohen. The Lemba — and Parfitt — made global news.

Parfitt started wondering about another aspect of the Lemba's now-credible oral history: a drumlike object called the ngoma lungundu. The ngoma, according to the Lemba, was near-divine, used to store ritual objects, and borne on poles inserted into rings. It was too holy to touch the ground or to be touched by non-priests, and it emitted a "Fire of God" that killed enemies and, occasionally, Lemba. A Lemba elder told Parfitt, "[It] came from the temple in Jerusalem. We carried it down here through Africa."

That story, by Parfitt's estimation, is partly true, partly not. He is not at all sure, and has no way of really knowing, whether the Lemba's ancestors left Jerusalem simultaneously with the Ark (assuming, of course, that it left at all). However, he has a theory as to where they might eventually have converged. Lemba myth venerates a city called Senna. In modern-day Yemen, in an area with people genetically linked to the Lemba, Parfitt found a ghost town by that name. It's possible that the Lemba could have migrated there from Jerusalem by a spice route — and from Senna, via a nearby port, they could have launched the long sail down the African coast. As for the Ark? Before Islam, Arabia contained many Jewish-controlled oases, and in the 500s AD, the period's only Jewish kingdom. It abutted Senna. In any case, the area might have beckoned to exiled Jews bearing a special burden. Parfitt also found eighth-century accounts of the Ark in Arabia, by Jews-turned-Muslims. He posits that at some undefined point the Lemba became the caretakers of the Ark, or the ngoma.

Parfitt's final hunt for the ngoma, which dropped from sight in the 1940s, landed him in sometimes-hostile territory ("Bullets shattered the rear screen," of his car, he writes). Ark leads had guided him to Egypt, Ethiopia and even New Guinea, until one day last fall his clues led him to a storeroom of the Harare Museum of Human Science in Zimbabwe. There, amidst nesting mice, was an old drum with an uncharacteristic burnt-black bottom hole ("As if it had been used like a cannon," Parfitt notes), the remains of carrying rings on its corners; and a raised relief of crossed reeds that Parfitt thinks reflects an Old Testament detail. "I felt a shiver go down my spine," he writes.

Parfitt thinks that whatever the supernatural character of Ark, it was, like the ngoma, a combination of reliquary, drum and primitive weapon, fueled with a somewhat unpredictable proto-gunpowder. That would explain the unintentional conflagrations. The drum element is the biggest stretch, since scripture never straightforwardly describes the Ark that way. He bases his supposition on the Ark's frequent association with trumpets, and on aspects of a Bible passage where King David dances in its presence. Parfitt admits that such a multipurpose object would be "very bizarre" in either culture, but insists, "that's an argument for a connection between them."

So, had he found the Ark? Yes and no, he concluded. A splinter has carbon-dated the drum to 1350 AD — ancient for an African wood artifact, but 2,500 years after Moses. Undaunted, Parfitt asserts that "this is the Ark referred to in Lemba tradition" — Lemba legend has it that the original ngoma destroyed itself some 400 years ago and had to be rebuilt on its own "ruins" — "constructed by priests to replace the previous Ark. There can be little doubt that what I found is the last thing on earth in direct descent from the Ark of Moses."

Well, perhaps a little doubt. "It seems highly unlikely to me," says Shimon Gibson, a noted biblical archaeologist to whom Parfitt has described his project. "You have to make tremendous leaps." Those who hope to find the original biblical item, moreover, will likely reject Parfitt's claim that the best we can do is an understudy. Animating all searches for the Ark is the hope — and fear — that it will retain the unbridled divine power the Old Testament describes. What would such a wonder look like in our postmodern world? What might it do? Parfitt's passionately crafted new theory, like his first, could eventually be proven right. But if so, unlike the fiction in the movies, it would deny us an explosive resolution.

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