|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
By Stella Mapenzauswa
Harare - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who turned 80 on Saturday, missed a state funeral on Sunday because he has had chest pains since visiting a tobacco farm last week, state television said.
The news coincided with reports that opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who is on trial for allegedly plotting to kill Mugabe, was attacked on Saturday while travelling by car to his rural home.
The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corp (ZBC) said Mugabe would not attend the funeral of Julia Zvobgo, declared a national hero for her role in Zimbabwe's independence war more than 20 years ago.
"President Robert Mugabe will not be attending... he is suffering from chest pains after visiting a tobacco farm in Musanhu, Bindura," the ZBC said in a televised address.
Officials were not immediately available to comment on the condition of Mugabe, who is one of Africa's longest serving leaders, having ruled for 24 years since independence from Britain in 1980.
Addressing thousands of people at birthday celebrations at his rural home on Saturday, Mugabe spoke with a hoarse voice he said was the result of exposure to tobacco dust at the farm during his visit last week.
Mugabe has previously dismissed media speculation that his health is failing. A radio news bulletin merely said the Zimbabwean president was "indisposed".
Zimbabwe is grappling with its worst economic and political crisis since independence, with unemployment at about 70 percent, inflation of more than 600 percent, and acute shortages of food and fuel.
There were also few details on what had happened to Tsvangirai, head of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
"On his way to his rural home in Buhera, Mr Tsvangirai stopped in Chivhu and his convoy was attacked," MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi told Reuters. Buhera is about 220km southeast of the capital Harare, and Chivhu is a small town about halfway there.
"I don't have any specific details. If they proceeded to the rural home it could mean no one was injured, but it also means that we cannot get hold of them on the phone," Nyathi added.
He said another traveller in Tsvangirai's convoy had reported the attack by mobile phone but the connection was lost and Nyathi had been unable to contact the group again.
Tsvangirai is on trial for treason, charged with trying to assassinate Mugabe. He denies the charges.
In Lusaka late on Saturday, Zimbabwe's Information Minister Jonathan Moyo ruled out face-to-face talks between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, but said the ruling Zanu-PF party was ready to talk with the MDC on condition they stopped being "British puppets".
"We can only have dialogue with them if they begin to distance themselves from our former colonial masters... we can't engage in dialogue with the MDC to the point of allowing them to remove us from power," Moyo added.
On Friday, Mugabe hinted he might retire within five years - his current term ends in 2008 - but an MDC spokesperson said that another five years under the veteran leader's rule would be too long.
Published Sunday February 22, 2004
Zimbabwe stays on EU blacklist
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) - The European Union renewed sanctions against Zimbabwe's hard-line government last week, seeking to force changes in the country's political and human rights situations.
However, EU spokesman Diego Ojeda said the powerful trade bloc declined to toughen the sanctions because "we did not want to hurt the population further."
The African country is suffering its worst political and economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1980, with President Robert Mugabe cracking down hard on dissent.
The unanimous decision keeps the sanctions in place at least another year.
Contact the Omaha World-Herald newsroom
Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of Zimbabwe's main opposition party, has
reportedly been assaulted by supporters of Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean
president, outside the capital Harare.
A number of sources in Zimbabwe have confirmed the incident, but have not been able to supply more information. The incident is reported to have occurred yesterday afternoon as Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, was on his way to his farm outside Harare. It is not clear how seriously he was injured.
The attack occurred as Mugabe celebrated his 80th birthday at his Zvimba rural home, 100km west of Harare. Mugabe did not strike at his rivals during the celebrations yesterday, but he did reveal that there have been several assassination attempts on his life. However, he said, he never raises any alarms about it because as he gets older it gets worse with greater political and economic challenges ahead.
Tsvangirai is currently on trial for a treason charge for allegedly plotting to kill Mugabe and stage a coup before the 2002 national elections.
From The Mail & Guardian (SA), 20 February
Are Zim's youths being brainwashed?
Bulawayo - Deputy Commandant Ndlovu runs one of the camps for Zimbabwe’s national youth training programme -- which he swears is above political allegiances. Yet, quite unaware of the irony, he’s wearing a campaign T-shirt from the last election, which is decorated with face of a ruling-party legislator. On paper, the 90-day programme is meant to instil a "sense of responsible citizenship among the youth". Zimbabweans between the ages of 14 and 30 are prepared for "the world and for work in their country". But since its inception in 2000 and the deployment of the first trainees in December 2001, it has been dogged by a welter of criticism and demands for its disbandment. The main complaint is that it is simply a ruse by the ruling Zanu PF government to brainwash hapless youths, and turn them into a militia for terrorising the opposition. Southern African church groups working under the auspices of the Solidarity Peace Trust point out that the need for national service has never been formally debated in Parliament - and that there is no legislation controlling its implementation. The trust also notes that school leavers are denied access to tertiary training and civil service posts, including those in teaching and nursing, without proof of their having completed the national service.
Bongani (not his real name) was part of a group of 1 000 trainees that graduated in July last year at the Border Gezi Training Centre, named after the deceased Cabinet minister who suggested the programme. He says recruiters from various branches of the government - including the army, air force, police and national parks department - made regular visits to select trainees who could join their ranks. Representatives from nurse and teacher training colleges also selected trainees, some of whom were taken away before they finished the programme. Bongani himself has since joined the army. But he doesn’t have much praise for the youth service. "Most people go there just to build up their lives," he says. "You’ll be desperate for a job. You’ll be having no choice. It’s not that people join whole-heartedly." The 19-year-old describes the training as "half-military" with much emphasis being placed on drills -- although he was not trained to use a gun. Physical exercise and national history formed the biggest components of the programme.
However, Bongani says the teaching of history is selective and seems to exclude unpalatable episodes in Zimbabwe’s past - like the heavy-handed government response to an insurrection that arose in the south soon after independence in 1980. "The bad things they don’t mention," he says. "They don’t talk about the [opposition] MDC [Movement for Democratic Change], but mention that Britain is imposing sanctions and we have to defend our country. The way they talk to you, it’s like they want you to be on their side." From his small office in a secluded former army barracks at Guyu in southern Zimbabwe, Ndlovu maintains that recruits are merely given an understanding of nationhood, culture and gender tolerance - as well as some lessons in post-colonial history that they may not have received at school. This updated syllabus could include the assertion that neighbouring "Botswana is claiming our land up to the Khami Ruins" (just outside Zimbabwe’s second-largest city of Bulawayo), because Botswana says the landmark was named after Sir Seretse Khama: the country’s last colonial-era prime minister and first post-independence president. Mozambique - chips in Mafunga, Ndlovu’s fellow trainer - sees the land up to the Odzi River in Zimbabwe as its property.
The Solidarity Peace Trust believes that the national youth service programme merely pretends to be a training scheme that imparts useful skills and patriotic values to the youth. "The reality is a paramilitary training programme for Zimbabwe’s youth with the clear aim of inculcating blatantly anti-democratic, racist and xenophobic attitudes," it says. The group has catalogued atrocities allegedly perpetrated by the national service trainees in the run-up to presidential elections in March 2002, and concluded that trainees were used as instruments to maintain Zanu PF’s hold on power by whatever means necessary - including torture, rape, murder and arson. Before the 2002 poll, adds the trust, "militia had been deployed to 146 camps around the country, in close proximity to, or in some cases even sharing, venues for voting". The election was subsequently won by President Robert Mugabe. As a result of these reportedly violent tactics, the national service trainees have become known as "the Zanu PF militia", the "Border Gezis", the "Green Bombers" (because of their uniform) and the "Taliban".
David Munyoro, permanent secretary in the government ministry responsible for the programme, dismisses criticism of bias towards the ruling party, saying only whites could have reason to complain. (Authorities in Zimbabwe are frequently at loggerheads with the country’s minority whites, whom they accuse of funding the opposition and supporting international sanctions.) "For a black person, I’d be surprised," Munyoro says. "What’s wrong with a programme that tries to give you an identity of your country?" He also claims that enlistment is purely voluntary: "We need to design it in such a way that one feels he’s not a man until he’s gone through it." However, in a 70-page report, the Solidarity Peace Trust notes that "the youth militia is now referred to by government as compulsory". Bad publicity, reports of acute food shortages in the training camps, alleged sexual abuse and the ridicule to which trainees are subjected have combined to reduce the attractiveness of the training programme - and it is not clear whether the desired number of recruits is enlisting. Nonetheless, the Solidarity Peace Trust estimates that by the end of 2002, about 9 000 young men and women had passed through training in the five main camps, which are mostly former army barracks. Up to 20 000 youths may have trained in less formal surroundings, often primitive camps at district level. Following the implementation of controversial land reforms four years ago, Zimbabwe has suffered extreme hardships, including food shortages and triple-digit inflation. Earlier this month, it was reported that the European Union would extend the sanctions imposed on Mugabe and other notables in 2002 to protest against human rights abuses and alleged vote-rigging.
Police probe Mnangagwa
By Caiphas Chimhete
AS the net widens in the swoop to bring corrupt officials to book, the police have instituted investigations against the Speaker of Parliament, Emmerson Mnangagwa, over his alleged involvement in the looting of diamonds in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) a few years ago, The Standard has learnt.
Reliable sources confirmed the police investigations yesterday saying, as part of their probe, police were on Thursday combing through articles written by The Daily News concerning Mnangagwa's alleged involvement in the DRC natural resources scandal.According to Sam Sipepa Nkomo, chief executive officer of Associated Newspapers Limited, publishers of the The Daily News, the police had indicated special interest in a wide ranging interview the ex-Minister of Justice held in 2001 with Geoff Nyarota, the former editor of paper in which Mnangagwa tried to exonerate himself from any shady diamond deals. Nkomo told The Standard police had requested information on Mnangagwa and that they had told him they were investigating the former Justice Minister. Said Nkomo, "I can confirm that they came here looking for articles we did on Mnangagwa and the looting of diamonds in the DRC. They told me they were investigating Mnangagwa because I was not going to release the files to them if they had not told me the reason." Nkomo, whose two newspapers, The Daily News and The Daily News on Sunday have been shut down after a protracted legal wrangle with the government's Media and Information Commission over operating licences, said one Superintendent Chivasa of the law and order section at Harare Central Police Station led the investigating team that visited ANZ offices. "I gave them all they needed, ndikati ah huku iya yodya mazai ayo zvino, (The chickens are coming home to roost)" said Sam. In addition to the diamond looting allegations, sources told The Standard, the police were also investigating Mnangagwa's alleged links to the collapsed ENG Asset Management firm, whose two directors are languishing in custody. "They want to close on him from all angles, I do not know whether he will survive this onslaught," said the source. Efforts to get a comment from Chivasa were unsuccessful yesterday as all calls to the law and order section went unanswered. Contacted for a comment, police spokesperson Andrew Phiri, said: "I don't know anything, I am actually at home, phone Bvudzijena." Assistant police commissioner, Wayne Bvudzijena yesterday, could neither confirm nor deny that they were investigation the Speaker of Parliament. "Okay, phone me later," said Bvudzijena, before switching off his mobile phone after being told the nature of the investigations. Efforts to get Bvudzijena later in the day yesterday proved fruitless as his mobile went unanswered while Mnangagwa, who was in Zvimba for the President's birthday celebrations, could not be contacted. In a wide ranging interview with ZTV's Newsnet programme on Friday, Mugabe said the fight against corruption would not spare anyone regardless of political position. "Well, we do not look at how big people are or their own pretended status in society, we look at what they are from a moral point of view. "But once we discover they are rotten we will pursue them. This is the war now," said Mugabe although many people doubt his sincerity in fighting corruption. Many think it is his trump card ahead of the 2005 general elections. Speculation in some circles was that if Mnangagwa is clean, the investigation could have been instigated by some Zanu PF "heavies" who want him out of the presidential race to pave the way for themselves. "I talked to him (Mnangagwa) yesterday (Friday) he was not hiding but he suspects the investigations are being instigated by those who do not want him to enter the presidential race," said one source. Mnangagwa was implicated in a UN report together with senior DRC, Rwandan, Ugandan and army officials in the alleged plundering of natural resources in the war-torn DRC. The UN report also implicated former Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander, Vitalis Zvinavashe and other key military personnel in alleged natural resources stripping in the vast central African nation. Mnangagwa has since denied any wrongdoing. Police investigations into Mnangagwa's dealings come hot on the heels of sensational arrests of some senior Zanu PF members, notably the party's chairman of Mashonaland West, Philip Chiyangwa, central committee member James Makamba and Jane Mutasa, head of the Indigenous Business Women Organization (IBWO).
Villagers turned away from Mugabe Birthday party
By Henry Makiwa
PRESIDENT Mugabe's 80th birthday celebrations held at his home village in Zvimba yesterday proved to be a frustrating disappointment for scores of villagers who turned out in their thousands hoping to partake of the feasting hosted by first lady Grace Mugabe, The Standard can reveal.
The visibly distraught villagers from around Kutama area went away on empty bellies after belligerent security personnel who surrounded the president's sprawling rural residence turned them away telling them they were not invited.Keen to avoid a confrontation with some of the uninvited guests who were growing restless, and whose numbers kept swelling, the security personnel told the villagers that a special banquet had been prepared for them at adjoining Kutama college, and not at Mugabe's homestead. Hundreds of invited dignitaries, most clad in suave fashion garments and with their Mercedes Benz cars parked everywhere, were gathered at the homestead. However. it turned out that there was nothing for the villagers at the college where they waited in vain for several hours hoping the promised food would arrive. By lunch time, chaos ensued as the impatient villagers scaled the fence that divides Kutama college and the primary school after rumours filtered around that some food had arrived at the school. Some of the villagers, realising that there was nothing for them, lamented their predicament: "Mugabe is now proving to be a bad neighbour," said one villager shaking his head bitterly "How can he be feasting with 'foreigners' when we are here outside with nothing to eat." An angry elderly woman chipped in: "I don't think the problem lies with Mugabe. Its his wife. When Grace first came for her wedding with the President there was so much food for everyone - we could not finish it. Now that she has established herself as the first lady, she thinks she can afford to ignore us," she said ominously. Meanwhile The Standard news crew was denied permission to cover the event. "We do not care about the press cards here. Your paper is not invited," said one guard at the main security check point. Efforts to enlist the assistance of George Charamba proved futile as the permanent secretary in the Information ministry disappeared into the party after promising to ensure that The Standard journalists would be allowed in.
Grovelling messages for Mugabe
By Caiphas Chimhete
AS if their appointments depended more on President Robert Mugabe's patronage and not merit, several ministers who were recently appointed to cabinet posts fell over each other last week in an undeclared contest of bootlicking congratulatory messages to the ageing leader.
Admittedly Mugabe, who turned 80 yesterday, has done some good things for the country mainly before the 90s but some of the messages were "nauseating" in their grovelling tone, said one observer.Written as if their lives depended entirely on the iron-fisted leader, some messages flighted in the Saturday edition of The Herald, described the 80-year-old autocratic ruler as a God-sent blessing to Zimbabwe. Didymus Mutasa, recently appointed Minister of Special Affairs responsible for Anti-Corruption and Anti-Monopolies Programme, was streets ahead of all the other "sycophants", noted some observers. Mutasa, emerging from obscurity after years in the political wilderness, described Mugabe's rule as the best that the African continent has ever had. "Our leader quite honestly is the best in the world. He must have been sent by the Almighty God to lead Zimbabwe through changes from colonialism to independence and to guide the country for 24 years," Mutasa was reported as saying. Another new cabinet appointee, Webster Shamu claimed Mugabe was an exemplary husband and father. "He is also a loving and caring husband and father," said Shamu, who has been out of government for more than a decade. Ironically, Mugabe had an extra-marital affair with Grace before the death of his first wife Sally. Other ministers who sent grovelling messages include the newly appointed Minister of Transport and Communications, Chris Mushowe and Samuel Membengegwi of Industry and International Trade. Gushed Mushowe; "The country has now been firmly placed on the regional and international map because of your clear vision and unwavering principled stand which has continued to guide our ministry to soldier on with conviction." Not to be outdone was the politically overzealous Masvingo Zanu PF provincial chairman, Daniel Shumba, who claimed Mugabe's good leadership has made him a hero beyond Zimbabwe. "We wish him many more good years and protection from God. May he continue to be a blessing to the nation," said Shumba, whose company TeleAccess is yet to provide telecommunication services, close to a year after being granted a licence. Many other messages were in similar vein.
Top MDC officials fight in meeting
By our own Staff
Two very senior members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party last week allegedly exchanged blows at the party's headquarters in Harare, The Standard has learnt.
Sources within the opposition party said MDC's adviser, Eliphas Mukonoweshuro and shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs, Moses Mzila-Ndlovu last week allegedly fought at Harvest House after the latter accused the former of interfering with his portfolio during the party's international relations committee meeting.The sources said Mukonoweshuro was "advising" on how to improve the MDC's foreign affairs desk, viewed in the party's circles as weakening, as the party prepares for next year's general elections. "This is when Mzila accused him of encroaching into his area of authority and an argument ensued which later degenerated into a fistfight," said the source. The source, who is a party insider, said the incident took place in the boardroom at a meeting chaired by Sekai Holland, the party's secretary for international relations. They were discussing ways of strengthening the foreign affairs department ahead of next year's general elections. The source said Mukonoweshuro has already written to the chairman of the party's disciplinary committee, Gibson Sibanda, who is also MDC vice-president, complaining about Mzila Ndlovu's conduct. Holland denied the incident took place: "Mukonoweshuro is not capable of doing that. In the meeting I chaired nothing of that sort happened," insisted Holland. But Mukonoweshuro confirmed having "a misunderstanding" with Mzila-Ndlovu at that meeting but denied any fighting took place." We were having a meeting and we had a mere misunderstanding. I don't know why you want to write such a story, I would expect that from The Herald reporters. Referring to this reporter, Mukonoweshuro said; "I don't think you subscribe to the philosophy of The Standard, you are just there for money," without elaborating. Mzila-Ndlovu could not be reached for comment. But Sibanda yesterday refused to comment referring all questions to the party's spokesperson, Paul Themba Nyathi, who denied that the incident took place. "I am not aware about such a thing happening. It did not happen. It is disgusting that a newspaper of high standards such as yours would pursue such silly stories ignoring more important national issues," said Themba-Nyathi. However, the source insisted the MDC leaders were trying to cover up the embarrassing incident because it would reflect badly on the opposition, which has over the past few weeks received bad publicity over alleged divisions within its ranks. Meanwhille, some party insiders also accuse Mukonoweshuro of a 'domineering attitude' over other party members exploiting his closeness to MDC president, Morgan Tsvangirai. "He wants to run the show in almost all departments and that's what some of us are resisting," said one senior party member.
GMB stuck with local wheat as millers opt for imported flour
By Kumbirai Mafunda
THE Grain Marketing Board (GMB) and millers are reportedly stuck with stocks of wheat and flour as it emerged that bakers are turning to imported flour.
Sources in the milling and baking industry told StandardBusiness that the state run grain procurement body is struggling to dispose of its few stocks of wheat that came through from last year's winter crop. Last years' winter wheat crop amounted to a meagre 80 000 tonnes out of a normal requirement of 350 000 tonnes.Sources said GMB has been stung by its recent deregulation of the marketing of wheat. Following its utter failure to meet the country's grain requirements in the past four years, GMB licensed a number of millers and bakeries late last year to procure wheat and flour. "They can be stuck with small quantities of wheat as long as these people are getting import permits," said a source. Bakers said the monopolistic grain procurer has to review its price downwards if it was to get its products sold out. Some millers who had taken positions before the strengthening of the local currency are also reportedly stuck with wheat and flour stocks, which they are failing to sell as bakers, opt for cheap imported flour. Baking sources said some millers who were feeling the pinch had started reviewing their prices downward to $2,4 million per tonne. Owing to the recent firming of the Zimbabwe dollar against the United States dollar which currently is fetching $3 973,43 on the foreign currency auction market, it is now economical and lucrative for bakers to source flour from neighbouring countries such as Botswana, South Africa and Mozambique. Prior to the introduction of the managed auction system bakers were sourcing foreign currency on the parallel and black market where the American greenback was selling at $6 500 nearly twice the current rate. Bakers said they were now accessing flour at US$400 a tonne (about $2 million inclusive of duty payments) compared to about $3,5 million that is being offered by local millers. An official with one bread making company said they have increased its workforce from two thousand to four thousand and increased its production by 27%.
Furore as production house seizes Studio 263 tapes
By Henry Makiwa
ZIMBABWE'S prime soapie, Studio 263, and the television talk show, This Is Life, last week salvaged their screen life at the courts after the shows' independent editors, Shamiso Entertainment, threatened to derail production after confiscating tapes of the popular programmes.
The move, according to the shows' director Godwin Mawuru, posed a serious threat to the continuation of the programmes as it would defeat efforts to flight "flash-back" clips and execute the exchange deal between the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) and producers of the Zambian drama, Kabanana."What Gilbert Muvavarirwa (Shamiso's executive director) did was an unorthodox business practice similar to street extortion. We had no choice but to seek legal relief," Mawuru told StandardPlus. "His seizure of our properties would have had adverse and ripple effects not only on our programmes but the national broadcaster as well. ZBC has a deal with the Zambian production (Kabanana) whereby they exchange episodes of Studio 263 for Kabanana which is being screened in the country. On our side, we wouldn't be able to flight flash-back effects that we show to reflect past scenes of our shows, especially in Studio 263." However the two shows' sponsors, Population Services International (PSI) last week won back ownership of the seized material at the High Court after Judge Chinhengo ruled that Muvavarirwa should release the over 100 "beta SP tapes" in his possession. Muvavarirwa, an entertainment mogul popular for his 2 000 work on the Urban Grooves compilation music album, The Future, could not be reached for comment as he was said to be out of the country while his lawyers, Muzenda and Maganga legal practitioners disowned him. A lawyer from the law firm, who refused to be named, said: "We have not received any cooperation from Shamiso and their boss is said to be out of the country so we have no choice but to 'renounce agent'. I am sorry I can not comment on that issue, it is no longer ours." Promise Matewa, a Shamiso official, dismissed the court ruling as a "default judgement " because it was delivered in the absence of their lawyers. He said: "The ruling is just a provisional order and we are going to challenge it. The whole issue is about PSI paying us the outstanding sum and the ruling does state that they should pay up what they owe us. "It is also unfair that the judgement was delivered after we had parted ways with our lawyers and we are going to challenge that." According to information gathered by StandardPlus, a dispute over contractual differences emerged between Shamiso and PSI - proponents of Zimbabwe's first soap opera Studio 263 and This Is Life - following disagreements over the payment of services for editing the two shows. The sharp divisions reportedly surfaced last November when Shamiso Entertainment hiked the charges of their services at least triple-fold "to match the rates of inflation", a move which led to PSI writing to Shamiso in a letter dated November 14, advising the company that they intended to terminate their contract at the end of that month. However, Muvavarirwa, apparently bitter with the developments, immediately cut ties with PSI's Studio 263 upon receipt of the memo and on the same day seized the soap's archive tapes. He also effected new charges for hire of his camera and other production accessories he was loaning to Studio 263. "We cannot release anything until PSI bills have been settled...release our camera and its accessories immediately, as these will be charged according to Shamiso rates," Muvavarirwa wrote to PSI technical director, Soumitro Gosh. Muvavarirwa last July struck a six-month deal with PSI in which his company, Shamiso, was contracted to edit Studio 263 and This Is Life's raw productions until December 2003.
At 80, what more can we expect?
OUR belated happy birthday to the President of Zimbabwe Robert Gabriel Mugabe. In line with our age-old African tradition and the dignity of his office we join his family, friends and fellow Zimbabweans in celebrating his 80th birthday. This is as it should be.
One of the most unique facets of Zimbabwean culture is its enduring tradition of tolerance and magnanimity, more so during moments of celebration or bereavement when all must put aside squabbles and misunderstandings to partake of the ceremony. It is, indeed, a sad reality that the President celebrates his 80th birthday when Zimbabwe, as a nation, is plagued by a serious lack of democracy, human rights, rule of law and governance.Yet multitudes of Zimbabweans from all walks of life, among them children from all the ten provinces of the country invited under the auspices of the 21st February movement, converged at the home of the President in Zvimba yesterday to join him in celebrating his birthday. This is eloquent proof that this was not just a Mugabe family celebration but a national event. But as the President who, at 80 is certainly striding into the sunset of his life, it is important to ask ourselves how much more we can expect from his leadership at that age. No one can deny that over the past 24 years that President Mugabe has been at the helm of government, Zimbabwe has undergone many positive changes. But nature being what it is, as years rolled by, even the sharpest of minds, begins to succumb. In Shona, they say "chinokura chinokotama" which literally means age always inevitably overtakes everyone. It does not matter that on the surface our President has not lost his sharpness and grasp of issues, but can he claim in all honesty to be still in full control of all his faculties? Certainly, President Mugabe gives the impression of not having lost his startling grasp of civic and political knowledge, still exudes the academic brilliance, eloquence and witticism he came to be known for as teacher, politician and leader of a country. But these are flashes displayed from time to time - what about his behaviour, attitude and thought processes twenty-four hours a day? Everything about him might appear to be intact - especially his amazing command of the Shona and English languages but we continue to ask whether the grand old man of Zimbabwean politics is still in charge. Granted, President Mugabe is known for his exercise fanaticism and alcohol and tobacco-free lifestyle as well as eating typical African dishes - but is this enough against the debilitating effects of old age? The ugly rough and tumble of everyday politics needs young blood and 80-year-olds should be there to counsel and show the right way while still in full control of their faculties. President Mugabe, as a leader and driver of the nation, has clearly outlived his usefulness. The fact that for more than four years now the country has been gripped by unprecedented chaos and enormous suffering and he seems blissfully unaware of it, is proof that something is terribly amiss in his understanding of what is taking place around him. There are many who believe the President should have left the political scene eight or so years ago. Granted, President Mugabe may think that he has not yet achieved all he set out to do. But the truth is, in reality, no one ever does. Zimbabwe has eternity before it and people of flesh expire with time. Nothing endures forever. Everyone has, at some stage, to narrow their horizons and bow to the passage of time. There is nothing permanent in this world. There is a crying need for national renewal in this country. Not the tinkering at the edges that is taking place at the moment but a thorough going overhaul of the political system. The county is, in a manner of speaking, drifting at the moment despite the avowed efforts to fight corruption and the ephemeral monetary policy. It is now increasingly clear that we can never solve the problems that are before us as long as President Mugabe and his party believe they were ordained to rule the country forever. Zimbabwe is much bigger than any individual and politicians must learn and come to grips with the reality of being in and out of power. Then and only then can democracy, rule of law and freedoms take root in a manner that is beneficial to all. The shining example is of Nelson Mandela which goes down in the annals of history as a famous case in point. What the former South African President did heartened all people of Africa - black and white - in fusing a fresh vision of leadership. By showing that power, however, sweet can be given up, Mandela demonstrated exceptional qualities of world statesmanship. Winston Churchill once said: "Nobody has the right to make all the mistakes. Give other people a chance to make mistakes as well." He could not have had a more appropriate man in mind than the person of President Robert Mugabe. And this is the message we have for the President as we belatedly celebrate his 80th birthday. And it is proper that these celebrations are taking place in Zvimba - his ancestral land, where he is destined to go back in spirit or otherwise when that moment comes. All we can say at this your 80th birthday Mr President is that before your next birthday, please help the people of Zimbabwe with a very important gift - retirement. You will be pleasantly surprised how relaxed, happy and freer you will be - with no responsibilities, no one to hustle you - a far cry from your very stressful and lonely days at State House.
Subversive flower girls, guns and roses
overthetop By Brian Latham
ARMED police in the troubled central African police state reacted promptly to the now annual threat of small groups of women distributing roses and love letters on Valentine's Day.
Sensing a new threat to democracy and peace, cops armed with tear gas and batons swooped on the lawless flower girls, ending their subversive and counter-revolutionary demonstration.The move confirmed that only progressive, under-age war veterans armed with sticks and metal bars may lawfully demonstrate in the troubled central African banana republic. During the last three years, so-called authorities in the troubled central African regime have given free rein to their supporters, claiming that anyone who does not support them is an "enemy of the state." Assault, rape and murder have been legalised for members of the Zany Party, while the distribution of flowers and love poems has been made illegal for the More Drink Coming Party. "We cannot allow these women to taunt us with flowers and love letters," said a spokesman from the misinformation ministry. "It is an established fact that roses are the national flower of colonial Britain and as such, these women should be treated as enemies of the state and agent provocateurs." The police, as the vanguard of socialism and guardians of revolutionary thought will in future "come down hard" on flower girls, said the spokesman. He said the Zany Party had established that the Valentine's Day well-wishers were counter-revolutionary capitalists because they had not bought their flowers from a Zany politician now occupying a "liberated" farm. "We cannot permit the yellow running dogs of exploitative capitalism to give away red roses unless they buy them from us," said Comrade Jo Mo, taking time off from his day job as a children's birthday party clown. The brutal clampdown on Valentine's Day demonstrators came as small groups of troubled central African women tried to gather in city centres around the country, hoping to show troubled central African men how to hold a proper demo in the face of police brutality. Sadly the point was lost when police reacted as they would to any troubled central African protest - with guns and raised batons. Still, the move caused outrage among members of the opposition More Drink Coming Party. A party spokesman said it was now against the law for his party to do or say anything, but the hideous over-reaction by the police just proved they were in the pocket of venal members of the Zany Party. "What can you do?" Asked the party spokesman. "Every time we do anything, they make it illegal. Now they've even banned Valentine's Day." Meanwhile a member of the European Union's curious parliament said it was "rather unfortunate", particularly because he had become accustomed to buying roses from the troubled central African basket case. Political analysts in the troubled central African regime said it was a sign of the times. "It's a sign of the times that Zany cops haul out AK 47s, tear gas and batons to deal with a bunch of girls holding roses and love letters," said the political analyst. The remark drew a certain amount of heat from energised feminists who objected to being called a "bunch of girls." They pointed out that police were less discriminating these days and that there were dozens of examples of women who had been beaten by the vanguard forces of socialism. The women also vowed to continue their now traditional protest next Valentine's Day, but a Zany police spokesman just smiled and said they "would be ready for them."
A rose by any other name Happy Birthday, Mr President
Shavings From the Woodpecker
SO here we are. This is 2004 and Uncle Bob has been in power for a staggering 24 years. He has over the years stridden the landscape of this small southern African country like a colossus.
It is true to say, that all that is substantial that has happened in Zimbabwe during the last 24 years - good or bad - has been blessed, cursed or created by the Zanu PF leader.There are a lot of good things that Uncle Bob has done, or caused to happen, during the almost two-decades and half of his rule. Besides his much admired policy of reconciliation that was praised all over the world and is credited for having brought peace among the varied warring factions at independence in 1980, Uncle Bob's great wisdom was evident when he relentlessly pushed for education for all. Within years, Zimbabwe had one of the highest numbers of primary and secondary schools in Africa. Almost every child, because of the policy of virtually free education, was assured of at least a Grade Seven education. The other milestone in Uncle Bob's tenure in office during his early years was the advancement of public health. From a life expectancy rate of well below 40 during the warring years of the 1970s, the average age of which a Zimbabwean was expected to live a meaningful life before they expired, jumped to 55 years plus, by the late 1980s. Then there was the Unity Accord of 1987 with the then Zapu of the late Vice President Joshua Nkomo. Although his critics say Uncle Bob browbeat Nkomo to the negotiating table and then gleefully watched as his long-time adversary was humiliated and then swallowed into the all-powerful Zanu (now with an appendage PF), his supporters say sometimes it is necessary to make war to make peace. Be that as it may, history - if it is kind to Uncle Bob - will include the 1987 Unity Accord as one of his greatest achievements. His supporters might even crow and say the current land reform is the greatest achievement that Uncle Bob has made during his long tenure in office. Critics however say the programme was clouded by the unnecessary deluge of blood that was shed. They say, despite his obvious intelligence and sophistication brought about by the high standard of education that he attained, Uncle Bob still remains a crude guerrilla fighter at heart. When there could be a chance to talk, he would rather pummel his opponent into submission. But today we are not here to analyse Uncle Bob's achievements and failures: we just want to mark the remarkable life of the herd boy from Kutama who has become one of the most talked about politicians in the world - for good or for bad. We therefore want to say, happy belated birthday, Mr President. Thngs fall apart THE grapevine says "all the king's men and all the king's horses" were summoned to Sheraton Harare on Wednesday for a tongue-lashing, as one has never seen before. Nathaniel Manheru-Moyo, the supreme ruler of Zimbabwe's airwaves (and the editor of every comma and full stop that comes out in the State newspapers) summoned all editors in the government stable for a lecture. Lo and behold, they came from everywhere - in ZBC and Zimpapers. From Pockets Hill they came, but given the huge staff turnover at that haunted place, it is inconsequential to mention who attended because as things tend to go that side, that person might soon be history. In the meeting, Nathaniel ranted and raved. He answered questions with threats and insults and threatened to deal with "enemies" in the private media. (Oh, aren't we quaking in our boots!) He reportedly said he was ready to deal with what was called the "Gubbay factor" in the judiciary. By that we understand the State, if Nathaniel has his way, might now be contemplating weeding out independent judges from the bench. The funny thing, though, is that the former Chief Justice Gubbay was in some quarters considered not even too independent as such. The one judge whom many felt spoke "with an independent mind" was the late Chief Justice Dumbutshena, who was succeeded by Justice Gubbay. But of course, the likes of Nathaniel would never have dared to insult or question the wisdom of a man of the stature of Dumbutshena whom even Uncle Bob regarded as his equal. According to sources, all the sheepish State media editors listened in grave silence - only to nod in affirmation like puppets on a string - as the junior minister performed his macabre one-man act. There was much crowing that the government had "successfully" dealt with its international enemies, and it was now time to tackle internal saboteurs in the media and the judiciary. But as always, 'the professor' doth spin one long yarn. By international enemies, we presume the government means the likes of British Prime Minister Tony Blair - who led an international campaign against Uncle Bob's policies - and the other leaders in key Western capitals. As we speak, those same countries are contemplating further sanctions against Uncle Bob's government and senior advisers: so where is the victory being talked about here? Perhaps victory against Western countries to our dear Nathaniel is to bar all Western music from local radio stations. Victory to him is for us to go cap in hand and beg for food from other beggar nations like Zambia and Malawi. If victory over the West is to allow all sorts of nonsense, such as the vulgar Sendekera jingle on TV and the nauseating so-called hip hop on radio, then we say, good for you, 'professor'. But we know your children are watching DSTV. Hook, line and Š IN soccer, they call it being sold a dummy. That is after the player you are facing tricks you to believe that they would turn that way, only for them to turn the other way. Some people say Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono sold Uncle Bob a dummy. He managed to sell the dreaded word "devaluation" to the Zanu PF leader but couched it so nicely and called it "forex auction" and our dear leader was impressed. Within a few days after the "forex auctions" were launched, the official value of the Zimbabwean dollar had devalued from $824 per US greenback to more than $3 500 for the US unit, the standard measure of international currencies. But even the wily RBZ chief could not fool everyone. Some of those who were not "fooled" included the national revenue authority. The government's chief money collector immediately announced that they would now also charge duty at "auction rates" and the Zimbabwean economy was again in a tailspin. Fuel importers said they would increase prices because the duty at auction rates would kill them. Second hand car dealers were quickly rubbing off old prices for new ones to take into account the new "auction rates". Some one was quick to say let's do away with excise duty of fuel altogether before the economy collapses and the situation was saved. Only temporarily. Was it William Shakespeare who said arose by any other name smells just as sweet? Were he alive today, he might have been tempted to say devaluation is Š devaluation, no matter what you call it.
Tsvangirai acts on indscipline in MDC
By Valentine Maponga
MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai says he had to intervene in the tension-filled Zengeza constituency last week after discovering that some corrupt party members were spending millions of dollars in an effort to enhance their chances of being elected.
In an interview with The Standard, the MDC leader admitted there was "tension" in Zengeza over the selection of a candidate but refuted allegations of serious divisions widely reported in the media last week.He said the party's executive had the mandate to intervene where it felt indiscipline was creeping into the party. "I realised that there were people who were throwing millions all over the constituency thereby causing a lot of unnecessary tension in Zengeza. We didn't even know where this money was coming from. I had to stop it," said Tsvangirai who called a public meeting in the constituency where James Makore emerged the people's choice. "All the tension has been diffused now and we have a candidate for that constituency," said Tsvangirai, adding that he had nothing to do with the selection of candidates. Tsvangirai said the MDC was in danger of people who wanted to buy votes and there was need for measures that ensured that only genuine party cadres were selected into party posts. "The question of primaries comes in after the party has failed to select one possible candidate and as a party we resolved through consensus to have James Makore as our representative." he said. Turning to the future participation of MDC in elections, Tsvangirai said they were gearing up for the 2005 general elections but they reserved the right not to take part if the playing field was not levelled. "We are not going to participate in those elections if prevailing conditions do not permit the holding of free and democratic elections in accordance with internationally recognised standards. "We need to have a situation where we have access to, among many things, the media, access to all areas of Zimbabwe and this can only be achieved by freeing the whole electoral process," said Tsvangirai. If the Mugabe-led government continued to pass repressive laws such as the POSA and Aippa and if these laws remain in place until the general elections the MDC could reconsider its position regarding its participation, he said. Under POSA no one is permitted to hold a rally without police consent. In many instances, the MDC has been battling to hold its rallies in some areas, with the police denying them permission on flimsy grounds. Despite that, he said, MDC has intensified its campaign drive holding rallies every weekend in all areas across the country to market its policies. "We made a number of resolutions at our annual conference last year to put the party on election preparedness and one of the major ones was that we were going to popularise and market the party's policies both locally and internationally. "I would like to think we are moving in the right direction as you have seen, we successfully launched our economic recovery programme (RESTART) in Gweru," he said. After realising that there was no progress in talks between his party and Zanu PF, the MDC decided to intensify "our African agenda" through regular meetings with other African leaders, Tsvangirai said. In addition, Tsvangirai said the party would stage more peaceful demonstrations this year to register its displeasure with the state of affairs in the country. Last year, an MDC's demonstration code-named "final push" which was expected to be decisive was brutally put down by heavily armed police. "Mass actions are part of the democratic struggle and saying because the past mass actions failed so we are not going to have any is totally out," said Tsvangirai.
Strike blacks out CNG newspapers
By Richard Musazulwa
THE government has failed to publish its eight weekly community newspapers due to a crippling strike by its printers as it emerges that the ruling party, Zanu PF, is preparing to re-launch its flagship The People's Voice.
The papers which fall under the Community Newspaper Publishing (CNP), a subsidiary of New Ziana, a brainchild of junior information minister Jonathan Moyo, are strategic for Zanu PF since they circulate in rural areas.They however now have a very limited circulation, some of them printing less than a 1000 copies a week, after experiencing a massive fall in advertising revenue. Marketing executives at the company attributed this to negative sentiment that arose after the once vibrant papers started carrying crude Zanu PF propaganda three years ago, prompting seasoned journalists to leave the papers. By yesterday afternoon, none of the eight weeklies, Masvingo Star, The Times, Chaminuka, Pungwe, Telegraph, Indosakusa, Ilanga, Nehanda and the Guardian were on the the streets following the crippling strike that paralysed Super Print, also owned by CNP. Insiders said the printers were unhappy with their salaries which are around $300 000 per month and were demanding $1 300 000. "We will not go to work as we are now tired of empty promises. Since November last year, they have not reacted positively to our demands," said a worker who refused to be identified fearing victimisation. Trouble was also reported to be brewing in the papers' newsrooms amid reports that CNP journalists who are among the lowest paid in the country were planning to down tools. Some of the reporters earn less than $300 000 a month. The Standard is informed that on Friday there was a high level management meeting with workers that sought to address the grievances raised by the journalists. Munacho Mutezo, the board chairman of New Ziana, could not be reached for comment yesterday .
Wife's death devastating for ailing Zvobgo
By our own Staff
THE death of Julia Zvobgo, the wife of veteran politician, Eddison Mudadirwa Zvobgo, is devastating coming as it did, at a time the Member of Parliament for Masvingo South is himself battling a debilitating illness, a family spokesman has said.
Julia, who had been nursing her sick husband, died last week after suffering a heart attack at her Kambanji home in Harare. A veteran of liberation politics in her own right, Julia (67) who will be buried at the heroes acre today, initially suffered a stroke while attending to her sick husband in South Africa.Zvobgo had been rushed there after falling seriously ill. Julia's death came at a time when a visibly sick Zvobgo, who appeared on national television last week, was yet to fully recover after a series of operations. "The loss is just too great for him as it is to all of us. He was the ailing one for the better part of last year and she was actually looking after him while he received treatment in South Africa. This is the worst time that her death could have come for him," said Eddison Junior, Zvobgo's eldest son. He was however quick to say: "He is feeling much better and his condition is stable given that he had a lot of operations and is still receiving treatment." The Standard understands that some family members have asked Zvobgo to retire from politics and concentrate on his business interests but the veteran politician and a founding member of Zanu PF has insisted he still has a role to play in the country's politics. Asked whether this was not the right time for the veteran politician to retire, Eddison Jnr said it all depended on how his father felt was the right thing for him to do. "He has done a lot of things and I believe he still has the power and strength to continue with business as usual. He is showing great signs of improvement," he said. "Whether he wants to retire or not is not our problem but we feel he needs to rest and recover. We also feel we should help him," he said. Zvobgo was rushed to a South African hospital in October last year where he underwent a number of operations after suffering from an undisclosed ailment.
Standard readership grows
By our own Staff
THE Standard has seen its readership grow by 58% in the last quarter of last year ahead of all other weeklies, according to the Zimbabwe All Media Products survey conducted by Research International.
According to the current survey, which only focused on adult Zimbabweans aged 15 years and above, about 476 906 adults now read The Standard every week. This is an increase of about 176 818 new readers in the months between October and December last year.In spite of huge increases of cover prices of most publications, overall readership of all the weeklies experienced an increase in terms of readership compared to the dailies, which suffered a decline, according to the survey. The Sunday Mail increased its readership to 869 064 readers from 792 439, an increase of about 76 625 new readers during the same period.
Shumba pours millions to buy Masvingo votes
By Savious Kwinika
TELEACCESS Boss Daniel Shumba has started what is widely seen as a vote buying campaign in Masvingo central constituency ahead of the 2005 general elections, pouring in millions of dollars in the impoverished town, The Standard has established.
Residents of Masvingo, accustomed to the perennial squabbling between the so called "Zvobgo" and the "Hungwe" factions which did not, in any way, enrich them may suddenly be realising that their financial problems could be over - at least until 2005 when the elections are due.Eddison Zvobgo is the ailing former Masvingo South MP who led one faction while provincial governor, Josiah Hungwe was at the helm of another group owing allegiance to the late Vice-President, Simon Muzenda. At a high profile meeting held at Mucheke Hall last week, Zanu PF Masvingo provincial chairman, Shumba, who is aspiring to be MP publicly announced that he would be their benefactor until they vote him into power. As if to prove that his was not only empty talk, Shumba immediately donated $20 million cash to vegetable vendors in Masvingo's 10 wards so that they strengthen their fledgling businesses before pledging to pay school fees for both secondary and primary school children in all schools around Masvingo central constituency until 2005. There are over 20 secondary schools in Masvingo central constituency feeding from over 50 primary schools. The businessman, said to belong to the Hungwe faction, also sanctioned the free distribution of mealie-meal to every resident of Masvingo registered in their wards as a member of Zanu PF with over 50 000 others expected from the rural areas. Masvingo has over 90 000 residents. To remove all doubt, Shumba produced a copy of the $20 million cheque he said had been paid for some of the mealie meal. "We are doing practical things and not empty promises," said Shumba, amid cheers from the packed hall. He also pledged to provide free mealie-meal to over 90 000 families in Masvingo, free school fees for over 20 000 children living under difficult circumstances as well as free cash for the informal traders in a move being viewed with great suspicion by local residents. However, MDC has urged all Masvingo central constituency residents to pretend to be Zanu PF followers until election day so that they can benefit from the windfall. "It pains me most to note that Zanu PF was deserted by many people in urban areas. Many of these were unemployed youths, college and university graduates because we could not offer them jobs. "If we manage to give these people seed capital so that they start their own projects, definitely they will return to Zanu PF. As you can see, I have a budget of $50 million for the unemployed, children under difficult circumstances and free mealie-meal for you the people of Masvingo," said Shumba. Figures from the department of social welfare and NGOs, show that Masvingo central constituency has a population of over 20 000 children who desperately need school fees and food aid. Simple mathematical calculations indicate that a total of 20 000 school children would require about $300 million per year while $20 million will be needed every month for food aid. Masvingo governor Josiah Hungwe has openly thrown his weight behind Shumba and is keen to wrest the Masvingo Central constituency seat which for years has remained in the hands of the Zvobgo faction up until 2000 when the MDC won it. "Shumba is the man we are going to support in Masvingo central constituency because of his history in the liberation struggle," said Hungwe. Another stalwart of the Hungwe faction, Chief Fortune Charumbira, deputy minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing also supported Shumba's candidature." Shumba is the sole candidate for Zanu PF Masvingo central constituency. I understand that there is one Kudzai Mbudzi to stand for the ruling party. He is totally out, we don't support him," declared Charumbira. MDC councillor for Ward Five and businessman, Femias Chakabuda, said he was not worried about Zanu PF's spending spree which he predicted, would come to an end on election day. Earlier, leaders of the Hungwe faction, which has been embroiled in a long and bitter turf battle with that loyal to former Masvingo strongman Zvobgo, reportedly tried desperately to convince academic Kudzai Mbudzi to drop his bid to fight Shumba for the Masvingo Central seat. Shumba surprised everyone - including President Robert Mugabe - when in December he declared that he would stand against the opposition MDC's candidate in Masvingo Central during next year's general election. Zanu PF candidates are normally chosen through a rigorous primary election and many in Masvingo expected Shumba to undergo the same process. The Hungwe faction two weeks ago summoned Mbudzi to a hastily-arranged meeting at the Governor's offices, at which, according to sources, those present, including Hungwe, Chief Charumbira, Minister of Foreign Affairs Stan Mudenge and war veterans' leader Edmore Hwarare - ordered Mbudzi to withdraw from the race for Masvingo Central. "Mbudzi however stood his ground saying he felt strongly about the need to uphold the Zanu PF tradition of allowing people to choose their leaders in primary elections," the official said.
Zanu PF freezes $80m Aids account
By Richard Musazulwa
GWERU - Over $80m dollars meant for HIV/Aids patients is lying idle in Kwekwe after the town's District Aids Action Committee (DAAC) account was frozen by some Zanu PF officials after the newly elected Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) council took over, it has emerged.
Ruling party officials are reported to have frozenthe account, which holds HIV/Aids funds allocated by the National Aids Council (NAC) in defiance of the country's National Aids Policy launched in 1999, after the ruling party had lost grip of the city. This development, which has prejudiced many Aids patients, only surfaced after Midlands Provincial Administrator Martin Rushwaya complained that local authorities in the Midlands were not utilising funds. Chairing a Midlands Stakeholders/Leaders from Various Communities workshop on Wednesday at Senga Training Centre in Gweru Rushwaya said: "I am very disappointed by local authorities in Midlands regarding the funds allocated by the National Aids Council. They have failed to utilise the funds for the benefit of Aids sufferers and child headed families," said Rushwaya. A senior Zanu PF member and an official from Redcliff council at the workshop then stunned delegates by disclosing that the former council had not yet handed over the funds to the MDC council. "It has been frozen," said the official. This revelation did not go down well with the participants, including provincial governor Cephas Msipa who immediately asked the authority to explain why it failed to utilise such important allocated funds. Msipa also questioned why Members of Parliament in these respective areas failed to ensure that these funds were fully utilised. Hundreds of people in the town suffering from HIV/Aids are going without medicine and food.