COSATU gears up for border blockade Fri 25 February
2005 PRETORIA - The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) will on
March 16 blockade Zimbabwe's lifeline Beitbridge border post with
South Africa to protest repression, worker and human rights violations by
President Robert Mugabe and his government.
general Zwelinzima Vavi told a South African civic society solidarity
meeting on Zimbabwe here that the union will also stage protest marches at
Beitbridge and hold an all-night vigil at the border post on March 30 - a
day before Zimbabwe's crucial general election - to highlight the lack of
democracy in that country.
"COSATU will implement a series of
protests including a march in Pretoria (on March 9) a picket at Beitbridge
(on 16 March), two marches at the border and a night vigil (on March 30),"
Vavi told the meeting.
He added: "Is there a blockade, well what is
the difference to a march? For the duration of the march, the road will
effectively be blockaded."
A blockade of Beitbridge even
for a few hours will have a devastating impact on Zimbabwe which heavily
relies on South Africa, its biggest trading partner, for essential supplies
including fuel and food.
Other countries north of Zimbabwe such as
Zambia and Malawi will also be hit hard as they route the bulk of their
imports through Beitbridge, which is Africa's busiest border
South African Foreign Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who two
weeks ago warned COSATU that Pretoria would not allow disruptions at
Beitbridge, could not be reached for comment last night.
Vavi appeared unperturbed by Dlamini-Zuma's warnings, instead calling on
South Africans to abandon their blind loyalty to and admiration of Mugabe
and his ruling ZANU PF party and stand up to repression in
He said: "Civic society in South Africa must
unashamedly act in solidarity with their counterparts in Zimbabwe. If we
close our eyes to the realities of repression, there is a danger we would
ignore other future abuses."
Mugabe has reversed the gains of
Zimbabwe's bitter 1970s liberation struggle with "massive human rights
abuses" now routine in that country, Vavi said.
current repressive environment, it would take "a miracle" for Zimbabwe's
March 31 election to be free and fair, the firebrand trade unionist
Vavi called on Southern Africa Development Community (SADC)
observers to be immediately deployed to Zimbabwe saying the regional
observers would not be able to play an effective role if sent only a few
days before the poll.
SADC is ready to send observers to
Zimbabwe but is unable to do so because Harare is yet to formally invite the
regional organisation to send its team.
The two-day civic
society solidarity meeting which ends today was organised by the Zimbabwe
Solidarity and Consultative Forum.
Zimbabwe's main opposition
Movement for Democratic Change party leader Morgan Tsvangirai is scheduled
to address the meeting today.
Meanwhile, COSATU president Willie
Madisha told a separate Solidarity trade union congress that there were
gross violations of workers' rights in Zimbabwe and claimed that there were
incidents where some workers there had even been castrated.
"Workers are beaten, maimed and killed. We know of instances where workers
have been castrated," Madisha told the congress.
president also lamented the plight of hundreds of thousands of former farm
workers left jobless and destitute when Mugabe seized farms from white
farmers. - ZimOnline
Political violence flares ahead of election Fri 25 February
2005 NORTON - Suspected ruling ZANU PF party militants yesterday waylaid
and severely beat up an opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
party campaign team in the small town of Norton, 40km west of Harare, as
political violence steadily increases across the country ahead of a key
election next month.
The 11 MDC activists were putting up
campaign posters at Reinham school in the town when the suspected ZANU PF
militants pounced on them. The militants also confiscated the posters and
party regalia the opposition supporters were wearing and burnt the
Norton falls under the Manyame constituency in which
President Robert Mugabe's nephew Patrick Zhuwawo is standing against the
MDC's Hilda Mafudze in the March 31 poll.
ZANU PF spokesman
Nathan Shamuyarira could not be reached for comment on the incident
yesterday. Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena was also unreachable on his
phone when ZimOnline tried to contact him.
But Mafudze yesterday
said she had reported the attack against her campaign team to police in
"This cannot be a free and fair election. How can the whole
process be fair when one's campaign team is beaten up and their regalia
burnt by these thugs who belong to a party which claims it supports a free
and fair poll?" Mafudze said.
Yesterday's incident follows a
similar attack last Sunday by members of the Zimbabwe National Army on MDC
members at Wengezi rural business centre in Manicaland
The MDC members, who included three of the party's
candidates in the March poll, were beaten up by the soldiers who were in
uniform, while returning home from the official launch of the party's
campaign in Masvingo.
Increasing reports of attacks by state
security agents and suspected ZANU PF militants against MDC supporters put
into serious question promises by Mugabe and his government to ensure a
violence free and democratic election next month. - ZimOnline
State secret agents bankroll MDC rebels Fri 25 February
2005 HARARE - Zimbabwe's main opposition Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) party has accused the government's spy Central Intelligence
Organisation (CIO) of bribing some of its disgruntled members to destablise
and weaken the party ahead of next month's election.
secretary general Welshman Ncube yesterday told ZimOnline that the dreaded
CIO was bankrolling party members who lost an internal election to choose
candidates to stand as independents in a two-pronged attempt to weaken the
party from within as well as split its vote in the March 31 poll.
Ncube said: "The CIO has been fully operational in trying to infiltrate and
weaken the MDC by buying and sponsoring losing candidates to discredit the
party. For example, we know of people who could not afford to print a single
T-shirt and had to appeal for party resources when they were sitting MDC
"Now that they are standing as independents, they are awash
with money and are using it to weaken our structures before the
State security minister Nicholas Goche, who is in
charge of the CIO, denied the allegation. He said: "Those are lies. They are
running out of excuses to the electorate."
sources, who spoke anonymously, confirmed to ZimOnline that the secret
service agency was running a "national project" to infiltrate the MDC and
destablise it ahead of the March 31 election.
One senior CIO
operative said: "Infiltration of the MDC is not a new thing but with the
elections approaching, a slush fund has been set up to buy and sponsor
discontent within the MDC.
"This will split the vote and benefit
ZANU PF. This is a separate project meant for the elections"
Critics accuse President Robert Mugabe of using the feared spy agency to
destabilise opposition parties and crush dissenting voices. He denies the
charge. - ZimOnline
Research foundation takes on Jonathan Moyo Fri 25 February
2005 HARARE - The United States Ford Foundation has filed a court
application challenging a bid by dismissed information minister Jonathan
Moyo to have a civil suit against him for embezzling donor funds
The former information minister filed an appeal in
Kenya's Court of Appeal arguing that the High Court of Kenya did not have
the jurisdiction to hear the case.
But in its application, the
foundation has urged the Court of Appeal to throw out Moyo's appeal because
it does not comply with court rules.
"The Ford Foundation has filed
an application to dismiss Mr Moyo's appeal for lack of compliance under the
Court of Appeal rules," the foundation's lawyers told
The lawyers refused to divulge further details on the
matter, which is still to be set down for hearing, saying it would be
improper to do so when the matter was still before the courts.
The foundation accuses Moyo, who it employed as a programme officer between
1993 and 1997, of embezzling US$108 000 which he allegedly secretly
transferred into a South African-based trust called Talunoza, named after
his four children.
Moyo is alleged to have used part of the
funds to buy a mansion in Johannesburg which was later sold after he failed
to pay R1 million in rate arrears.
Moyo, a brilliant political
science professor who swopped the university chair for politics, was fired
from the government last week after he sought to stand as an independent
candidate in the March general election.
This is not the first
time Moyo has been dragged to the courts over the alleged abuse of donor
In 2000, South Africa's Witwatersrand University instituted
legal proceedings against Moyo over breach of contract after running off
with thousands of rands in research money. The university later dropped its
claim against Moyo. - ZimOnline
SADC inaction on Zimbabwe places aid at risk -
US Jonathan Katzenellenbogen
US AMBASSADOR to SA Jendayi Frazer last night said inaction of
Southern African Development Community (SADC) members over Zimbabwe -
compared with efforts by Togo's neighbours - was putting future aid
increases from the world's only superpower at risk.
In an address
at the South African Institute of International Affairs Frazer said that
because "Zimbabwe clearly stands out" it was difficult to those in the US
government who favoured more aid to Africa to argue the case in
US statements on Zimbabwe have become more strident
since US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice grouped the country among six
that she categorised as "outposts of tyranny".
Earlier this week
Frazer said the SADC should see to it that pressure was brought on Zimbabwe
to ensure that it adhered to the regions guidelines on democratic
Frazer last night said there was "a marked difference" in
how the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) had dealt with
the situation in Togo and how SADC members were responding to
Last week other members of the west African
regional grouping imposed sanctions on Togo, which included the country's
suspension from membership of Ecowas, the recall of ambassadors, a travel
ban on Togolese leaders and an arms embargo.
The imposition of
sanctions came after Ecowas said that the change in Togo's constitution to
appoint Faure Gnassingbe was akin to a coup d'etat.
said the US had committed to make available half its doubled aid programme
At the time the US made this commitment at the 2001 United
Nations Financing for Development Conference in Mexico, some African
governments had argued that they were unable to deal with the Zimbabwe issue
because the mechanisms, particularly the Nepad peer review mechanism, were
not in place.
Join in protest, Cosatu urges
whites Hopewell Radebe
THE Congress of South African Trade
Unions (Cosatu) called on white union members yesterday to join its campaign
against Zimbabwe's human and workers' rights violations, saying there was
evidence that members of Cosatu's Zimbabwean counterparts were being
"beaten, maimed and killed".
Cosatu has used the
Solidarity union's congress to forge links with the predominantly white
trade union in the move to solicit national support and participation in its
planned blockades at the Beit Bridge, between SA and
Cosatu president Willie Madisha said: "We
know of instances where workers have been castrated." Addressing the
congress yesterday, Madisha called for unity among workers, saying workers
were "an endangered species" no matter what their race or place in the
He said the only way to survive and protect
themselves was through unity and co-operation, which could not be "dependent
on political affiliation".
"Whether black of white,
or whether they belong to Cosatu or Solidarity, workers belong to the same
He said Zanu (PF) in Zimbabwe had lost its
status as a revolutionary party by resorting to killings and harassment as
tools of subjugation.
that Cosatu supported land redistribution in Zimbabwe but was opposed to the
way it was being carried out.
He stressed that
Cosatu did not support the Movement for Democratic Change, Zanu (PF) or any
"What we support are the working class and
the poor," Madishasaid.
He said workers needed to
make sure that Zanu (PF) leaders visiting SA were not comfortable in their
beds. "Otherwise history will not forgive us." With Sapa
SACC to support protests against Zimbabwean
February 25, 2005, 06:15
The South African Council of
Churches (SACC) is to support protests against next month's elections in
Initiated by Cosatu, the protests will run from the March 09
until March 30 and will be held in Pretoria and the border town of Musina,
as well as at the Beitbridge border post.
This announcement was made
by Rubin Phillip, the Anglican bishop of KwaZulu-Natal, at a Zimbabwe
solidarity and consultative forum in Pretoria. Also present at the forum
were representatives of Cosatu, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the
SACP, SA Students Congress, the SA Non-governmental Organisations Coalition
and the Crisis Zimbabwe Coalition. The forum is to apply for accreditation
to attend the election as observers on March 31.
Zimbabwe's government has confirmed that it is considering the
de-registration of some 30 non-governmental organisations. The organisations
are accused of allegedly misusing millions received from foreign donors.
Paul Mangwana, the Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister says
some R500 million is unaccounted for.
THE Zimbabwe Sugar
Refineries Corporation (ZSR) said this week that water problems at its
Harare refinery are affecting production.
ZSR group chief executive Mr
Patison Sithole told reporters that production levels had declined from 730
tonnes of refined sugar per day to about 600 tonnes due to water
"We currently have got a constraint of water supplies from the
Harare City Council.
"On a daily basis, the city council reduces the
volume of water that comes through to us and that affects our production. We
rarely have a normal day at our refinery because we either have the problem
of water, poor quality raw sugar and power cuts," Mr Sithole said.
Sithole indicated that production at the refinery was also severely affected
by power outages effected by Zesa Holdings last month and the company
incurred losses as a result of the power cuts, which also damaged some of
the refinery's equipment "We lost quite a bit of production and money, and
some of our equipment was also damaged as a result of power cuts. It's an
issue that we have taken up with Zesa," he said.
Mr Sithole declined to
divulge the financial losses incurred by the company, only conceding that
they had already replaced the damaged equipment.
He said production at
this time of the year was also affected by the low quality of raw sugar due
to the fact that the sugar cane used was from last year.
hoped to have exhausted the old crop by the start of the new season at the
beginning of April, he said.
Mr Sithole said there was not much potential
for sugar exports into the region for ZSR because most regional countries
were now producing surplus sugar.
Currently, ZSR exports a total of
32 000 tonnes of sugar per annum to Namibia and Botswana.
Zimbabwe Sugar Sales said there were sufficient stocks of raw sugar in the
country to meet local and export demand.
ZSS general manager Mr Steve
Frampton said Zimbabwe was meeting its annual sugar export quota to the
European Union without any problems.
"We have sufficient sugar for the
local market and for our export requirements," he said. - New Ziana.
1: RE - VOTING FROM OUTSIDE ZIMBABWE, received 24.2.2005
Hi there. I am replying to the letter from s&s
regarding the voting from outside of Zimbabwe.
As a former Zimbabwean
now residing in australia I think I should inform you that the only
zimbabwean consulate here in australia is situated in Canberra where if ones
passport should expire, one has to visit the consulate in person to do this.
This also applies to Zimbabweans living in new zealand too.
took the time to phone the Zimbabwe consulate to see if there's even such a
voters role available and was told that there was none and we would have to
go back to Zimbabwe to vote.
Should anyone else wish to contact the
consulate for further details they can do so on: email@example.com
Canberra, australia ph: ( +61 ) 2 6286 2700
Best of luck
JAG Hotlines: +263 (011) 205 374 If you are in trouble or
need advice, please don't hesitate to
contact us - we're here to help! +263
(04) 799 410 Office Lines
the light of the benchmark nature and importance of this meeting - dealing in
effect with the democratisation of the JAG Trust :- if you as a farming
member are unable to attend in person, it is essential that you exercise your
voting rights by proxy.
This will entail you granting in writing your
proxy to a member who you know will be attending. In the particular case of
externalised and out of Harare members using email, please could you copy the
email to the JAG office (firstname.lastname@example.org; or
as part of the verification process.
The JAG office Facsimile (+263
(04) 799 410) is also available to receive faxed proxies. If you are in
Harare but unable to attend on the day, your written proxy can be dropped in
at the JAG office 17 Phillips
VACANCY: ZAMBIA FARM MANAGER, received 17.2.2005
Manager Required for
mixed farming enterprise in Mkushi, Zambia growing 550 ha grain crops and 150
ha tobacco in summer and 400 ha wheat in winter. Mechanical knowledge would
be an advantage as would experience in all of the above crops. Good basic
salary and bonus, dependent on experience. The incumbent would be required to
commence duties in April 2005.
VACANCY: UGANDA: GM LIVESTOCK RANCH, received 11.2.2005
excitingopportunity has arrisen in Uganda 100km West of Kampala.
POSITION; General Manager Livestock Ranch
THE RANCH ; 2000 hectares,600
head beef cattle,180 headgoats,100 head of dorper sheep.Ample water and
THE JOB ; The project is in its inception stage and will be
backed by Danida(Danish Organisation).Duties will involve bush clearing for
paddocks and pastures,fencing,water procurement from source,record keeping of
all stock,control of finance,introduction of A.I program to improve the
quality of existing stock,the day to day management of the ranch and
monthly progress reports and budgets to the MD..
Accomodation Fully expensed company
Lights/water 2 x domestic
The position offers the
opportunity of a shareholding should the recipient be interested. Persons
applying should have the relevant experience in livestock management and
sound administration skills.The company will pay expenses to view the
property on behalf of the successful candidate.
All application can be
sent via email with attached c.v to DR.B MBONYE on email@example.com
Receptionist for conquest tours
to take bookings for tiger bay & organise orders, etc. To have
bookkeeping experience would be a huge advantage. We are based in avondale,
nice offices & good parking free.
VACANCY: ALEX SPORTS CLUB MANAGER, received 24.2.2005
invited from suitably qualified candidates within or outside the Alexandrea
Key performance areas: - Food and beverage - grounds
and property maintenance - security - functions management -
preparation of reports to the Executive committee - Attend Executive
committee meetings - Personnel management - Membership relations
management - Custodian of Club by laws and Council Act - Monitoring Club
lease agreements - Accounting and Information Technology appreciation -
House club systems
Please submit your CV at Alex Sports club office under
confidential cover for the attention of the club Selection
Unions in joint fight against Zim February 25,
By Mziwakhe Hlangani
Johannesburg: Cosatu and the
Solidarity union are to form an alliance to intensify strike actions against
the Zimbabwean government.
The decision by the two federations to
join forces in the fight against the abuse of workers' rights in Zimbabwe
was announced at Solidarity's special congress yesterday.
Speaking at the congress in Muldersdrift, west of Johannesburg, Cosatu
President Willy Madisha painted a bleak picture of Zimbabwe and that
country's elections scheduled for next month.
Madisha urged the
Afrikaner-dominated union to support Cosatu in order to save workers and the
poor communities who were "beaten and maimed in Zimbabwe".
organisations would then co-operate and fight against, among other things,
the privatisation of state-owned enterprises in South Africa, Madisha
Flip Buys, General-Secretary of Solidarity, expressed support
for the role played by Cosatu in Swaziland and Zimbabwe in "its promotion of
democracy and human rights".
He further emphasised the need
for both organisations to work together, saying globalisation of companies
negatively affected job creation.
Madisha said the planned
protest demonstrations would target the office of the Zimbabwean High
Commission in Pretoria and that Zimbabwe's Beit Bridge border post would be
"Even Zimbabwean government officials on visits to South
Africa would be targeted at airports and hotels in the country. Workers were
mobilised to refuse to touch their luggage and not to provide them with
food," he said.
The Southern African Trade Union Co-ordination
Council would mobilise workers to refuse to serve Zanu-PF and government
leaders in the neighbouring states, he said.
Congress of Trade Unions' General-Secretary Mlamleli Sibanda said trade
unions were under attack and it was difficult to carry out their activities
Zimbabwe's election needs 'a miracle', says
Plan Pickets February 25, 2005
Pretoria: It would take a miracle to save the
credibility of the general election to be held in Zimbabwe next month,
Cosatu secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi said yesterday.
honestly don't see how you can hold free and fair elections under these
conditions in Zimbabwe," he told delegates attending the third Zimbabwe
Solidarity Conference here.
Vavi said to level the playing field
between the ruling Zanu-PF and the opposition, draconian legislation such as
the Public Order and Security Act and the Access to Information and
Protection of Privacy Act needed to be amended or scrapped.
was of concern that there was no talk five weeks before the election about
this, he said, questioning how free and fair elections could be held when
these laws, which gave the police and military such extensive powers, still
What was needed, he said, was the appointment of a proper
Electoral Commission that abided by the Southern African Development
Community's protocols, and not the "cosmetic steps" taken by the Zimbabwe
government to "pull the wool over SADC's eyes".
the chaotic voter's roll needed to be sorted out and all interested parties
should be given free access to it.
Cosatu, he pointed out, had
earlier said SADC observers should visit Zimbabwe at least three months
before the ballot to ensure the conditions on the ground were conducive to
free and fair elections. With only five weeks to go before Zimbabweans go to
the polls, no SADC observers had visited Zimbabwe and were still waiting for
an invitation to do so.
Vavi also questioned how the populace
could be expected to vote when 37 constituencies were still under dispute
following the 2000 general election.
Because of the present
situation under the existing legislation Vavi said he knew "exactly who" was
going to win the vote.
There had to be an acceptance and
recognition that the crisis would still exist after the
Beyond March 31 Zimbabweans would either leave the
country in droves or resort to violence.
"We all have a
responsibility to realise that possibility. We must get more voices to say
Zimbabwe must be saved before the elections and after March
The Zimbabwe government, he said, needed to abide by the rule
of law, take responsibility for its action, resume dialogue and end all
actions and prohibitions against trade unionists.
be picketing outside the Zimbabwe High Commission in Pretoria on March 9.
This picket would be preceded by a march to present a memorandum of demands.
On March 16 Cosatu would march to Beit Bridge border post, and hold a
candlelight vigil on the night of March 30 and 31, he said.
Mbeki's miscalculation at Abuja was a wake-up call on
global bargaining February 25, 2005
One of the main aims of any ambassador is to broaden what
is usually a stereotypical idea of his country among the people of his host
Even above-average people suffer from this complaint. It
seems that President Thabo Mbeki did so just over a year ago, before the
last Commonwealth summit in Abuja.
He was then locked in an
intense fight with then Commonwealth chairman, Australian Prime Minister
John Howard, and the secretary-general, the New Zealander Don McKinnon, over
Zimbabwe had been suspended from the Commonwealth since
March 2002. The two Australasians were determined to keep Zimbabwe out at
Abuja, while Mbeki was equally determined to re-admit it.
determined, that South Africa secretly put up a Sri Lankan candidate to
Mbeki calculated that the Zimbabwe issue would
divide the Commonwealth on racial lines and that with only five "white"
nations out of 54 total members, the large "black" majority would easily
carry the day.
Instead, he was badly defeated; Zimbabwe was kept in
the cold and McKinnon easily won re-election.
MkKinnon got 44
votes, which meant that not even all of the 19 African members backed Mbeki.
But it was also painfully evident that the two other big blocs - the Pacific
and the Caribbean - had not either.
One senses that Abuja was
something of a wake-up call for Mbeki and South Africa. One could perhaps
date South Africa's charm offensive into the Caribbean - including the
exceptional support for Haitian ex-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, now
living in Pretoria - back to Abuja.
Mbeki also seems to have
misread the Pacific, because he was looking at it through black-and-white
tinted spectacles. He seems to have seen two "white" nations - Australia and
New Zealand - sticking out like sore thumbs among nine hostile "black"
That may once have been true. But the relationship of the
two Australasians with the Pacific - and with the wider Asian region - has
changed considerably, as both integrate themselves more and more into their
part of the world, economically, politically and even
Australia, in particular, is deeply involved in
trying to stabilise the many wobbly South Pacific states around it,
especially Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
2003 an Australian-led force of over 2 000 people, drawn from the Pacific
Island Forum states, landed in the Solomon Islands to sort out what was
rapidly becoming a lawless, failed state. The force - called the Regional
Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (Ramsi) - quickly restored law and
But, having done that, the Aussies, typically, have stuck
around to complete the job, by rehabilitating and reconstructing the
corrupt, incompetent and basically thoroughly rotten Solomon Islands
government administration from top to toe.
They did this,
knowing that the problem with most interventions is that once the
peacekeepers have gone in, restored order and left, the underlying causes of
the instability reassert themselves and violence returns.
recent meeting of the Africa-Asia Society in Johannesburg, Australia's high
commissioner to South Africa, Philip Green, was asked the inevitable
question: It's all very well to take over the government and stay until you
have done the job of training the locals to fly solo, but have you not been
inevitably been accused of neo-colonialism - of recolonising what was until
1975 a colony, of Britain?
Green insisted that that charge had not
been levelled at Australia and New Zealand because they had only intervened
at the express invitation of the Pacific Island Forum - the political
organisation representing all the states in the region.
doubt the corrupt powers that have been displaced are squealing
"neo-colonialism!" But most of the half a million or so Solomon Islanders
are delighted to be able to live normal lives again.
Mbeki did not fully grasp this relationship when he hatched his plot against
Howard and McKinnon at the Commonwealth summit and so was surprised that the
South Pacific did not rise up against the Australasians as he seemed to have
expected it to.
Staff Reporter Last updated: 02/25/2005 08:07:38 HALF of Zimbabwe's eight
million potential voters are outside the country and will not be voting in
next month's parliamentary elections, a Zimbabwean political group claimed
in Pretoria on Thursday.
Daniel Molokele of the Crisis Zimbabwe Coalition
told a news conference: "More than 2 million, up to 3 million, are in South
Molokele's Johannesburg-based organisation includes
members of the Zimbabwean diaspora.
He said these people were away
from home "out of the sheer force and brutality that is the legacy of the
displacement of refugees".
"The South African government, I am sad to
say, is living in denial (about this).
"The sad part of it is that
these elections in Zimbabwe are not to shape our destiny, but an opportunity
for rape, killings... to create more graves.
"Whichever government is
elected on March 31 it will be a minority regime," Molokele
Molokele spoke as Zimbabwe's Supreme Court reserved judgement in a
case brought by exiled Zimbabweans seeking to vote in the March 31
S. Jothiratnam is helping lions in a programme in
Zimbabwe to become wild again. This includes teaching them to stalk and
hide, says this academician, who's been involved in animal conservation
since he was 19. SHANNON TEOH writes.
S. JOTHIRATNAM loves animals.
No, seriously, he loves them. Like how Tarzan loves Jane. No, more like how
Tarzan loved Cheeta (his chimp). OK, perhaps nothing as unholy as that, but
he loves them enough to play "momma" to several lions and train them. To
hunt.Now that you've picked yourself up from the floor, let's give you some
background then, shall we? Andrew and Wendy Connolly bought Antelope Park
back in 1987 and are developing a lion breeding-cum-reintroduction programme
in the 3,000-hectare park in Zimbabwe's Midlands.
OK, but why do
these noble beasts need us to teach them to hunt?
"Lions in the wild,
typically, have a litter every two years. They conceive, gestate, give
birth, raise them. While all this is going on, a lioness does not have
"If we take the cubs away after a month, the lioness will
then have another litter and so on and so forth. That way, we increase the
rate of reproduction by up to six times," explains the affable Jothi, a
Coupled with the fact that only 30 per cent
of cubs survive in the wild, this seems to be a necessary move to help the
The lion population in Africa has dwindled 30 years
ago from 250,000 to one-tenth that number today. With diseases such as
feline distemper and immunodeficiency syndrome plus the passing on of bovine
tuberculosis through their diet, only about 12,000 healthy lions are left in
But back to the "training" programme. So people like Jothi -
who volunteered there for about 10 months last year - will take young cubs
for walks and, after a camaraderie is built, for runs-cum-hunts.
running with lions. Must be unnerving to have such powerful carnivores
bounding along so close to you.
"The cubs don't really have a concept
that you're not a lion. You're a spastic sort of adult lion perhaps. They're
the only social cats and are quite playful, although once they're over two
years old, they're big enough to accidentally kill you in play.
you take them out for hunts where you stalk game and hide in the grass. Then
when the time is right, you mount a charge. Of course, at the end of the
day, you're just doing a token run and it's the cubs who're really doing all
the chasing and hunting."
So when are they ready to be released into the
wild? The truth is, they never will be. By now, the lions are so
human-imprinted that they will never survive among the aboriginal tribes of
"They're so friendly that if they see touring or hunting
vehicles, they'll just bound up to make friends and in the process probably
So it is that the programme has developed a third stage. These
hand-raised lions are then allowed to form or join prides of their own
within the Antelope Park enclosure and raise their own young au naturale.
These, the third generation in the whole process will then be released into
the wild, where their uncertainty of humans will help them
However, there has been no "graduating" batch yet.
far, it's been experimental but like any other experiment, steps are being
taken to achieve the best results.
To ensure that the lions in this
pioneering programme are well-equipped with the mechanics of natural
selection, mating throughout the programme takes place naturally but the
combination of couples is carefully chosen so as to avoid
Lions from different bloodlines are borrowed from other
But how did Jothi get involved in all this? Like I said, the
man loves animals.
"Ever since I was young I just loved animals. In
fact, I prefer them to people. When I was 19, I went to Africa to work as a
research assistant and basically collected elephant dung every day. A few
years later, I was in the Antarctic doing work on
Surprisingly, this intrepid animal lover worked as a professor
at Universiti Malaya in the 1990s. Even more surprisingly, none of his nine
degrees - ranging from philosophy to physics and psychology - is
animal-related. And he continues to work with animals; in recent years, he
has been working with rhinos and elephants in other parts of
"I'd be lying if I said I do all this because I'm a
conservationist. I mean, of course I see the value of conservation but this
is all really because I love them," says Jothi, who is now based in France
and comes back to Malaysia annually to see his parents and
One wishes though that there were more Jothis out in the field.
As he himself relates, conservation work may seem like a united front to
help endangered species but there is an extreme culture of lobbying and
"You know, people talk about 'my cheetahs' or
'my rhinos' in such a possessive way as if conservation didn't involve other
species. There's a lot of bad blood between different parties and so the
objective of conservation is sometimes lost."
But the programme gives
hope. Who knows? We may be able to revive the nearly extinct tiger right
here in Malaysia.
The topic of campaign finance is rarely
far from the minds of politicians or pundits in the run-up to elections --
and Zimbabwe is no exception to this rule. With the country in the midst of
a political and economic crisis, it may even be a hotter topic of discussion
here than elsewhere.
Parliamentary elections are
scheduled to take place in Zimbabwe in six weeks' time.
The previous two polls, parliamentary and presidential elections held in
2000 and 2002 respectively, were marred by violence that was mostly directed
against the opposition. Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu-PF party was also accused of
monopolising the state media and rigging the voters' roll to ensure victory
over its main competitor -- the Movement for Democratic Change
After initially declaring that it would boycott the
upcoming vote, the MDC reversed its position earlier this
Concerns about a repeat of electoral violence aside,
the party now faces the challenge of mounting a campaign at a time when the
world's highest inflation rate and widespread unemployment are said to have
dealt a blow to MDC finances -- and even as the financial situation in
Zanu-PF is probably somewhat different.
Paul Themba Nyathi says local donations have dwindled under the weight of
these economic difficulties.
But, "The position has always
been that those in the state have access to resources they can abuse which
the opposition, no matter how much you can raise from your friends, cannot
match," adds political analyst Lovemore Madhuku.
winning almost half of the contested seats in the last parliamentary
election, the MDC does qualify for state funding. However, party officials
say this money does not go very far.
According to secretary
general Welshman Ncube, about R319 000 were allocated to the MDC last year
-- while the party's monthly salary bill alone came to about R104
In a move that surprised many, the government announced
that it would also disburse just more than R3,2-million to the MDC this year
(and almost R3,4-million to Zanu-PF) as part of the annual party
Eddie Cross, the MDC's economic adviser, welcomes this
development. But, he adds: "To deploy and help our election agents to all
the thousands of polling stations will cost us more than the total grant
from the state -- in one day."
Airtime on state radio and
television, the only broadcasters permitted in Zimbabwe, will cost parties
R4 060 a minute for prime-time slots. There has also been a twentyfold
increase in the deposit payable by candidates in each of the 120
parliamentary constituencies -- and a 1 000% rise in the cost of the voters'
register. It now costs an astonishing R7 540 for a copy of the
For its part, the government accuses the MDC of
getting money from British Prime Minister Tony Blair and United States
President George Bush. These two leaders became the principal targets of
Harare's ire after they condemned Zimbabwe's controversial land-reform
programme, allegedly instituted to correct racial imbalances in land
ownership, and human rights abuse in the country.
that the opposition group is benefiting from foreign funding may grow louder
with the launch of an appeal this month by self-described "concerned
individuals" who say they are seeking to raise funds, in- and outside
Zimbabwe, for what they term "support of the democratic
Distributed via a selective mailing list, the
appeal gives an account number in neighbouring South Africa where people
outside Zimbabwe can deposit donations. For those in Zimbabwe, the
correspondence gives a mailing address where cheques and money orders are to
be sent in the name of Zimfund.
Aside from money, the
organisers of this appeal are also asking for 2 400 vehicles and drivers to
be made available for election day, to transport monitors to polling
stations, among other duties.
"$30 [R174] will fill the tank
of a vehicle; a gift of R50 000 will fund the campaign in a single
constituency," the appeal notes.
Fiery opposition politician
Margaret Dongo, founder of the Zimbabwe Union of Democrats, alleges that
both Zanu-PF and the MDC are tapping into foreign funds.
In another electoral development, four journalists who work for foreign news
organisations have fled Zimbabwe in recent days, this after the secret
police reportedly accused them of spying and producing reports that
slandered the state.
This incident appears to fly in the
face of electoral guidelines adopted by the Southern African Development
Community during a summit held in Mauritius in August 2004: under these
rules, member states are obliged to ensure press freedom in order to provide
an environment conducive for a fair campaign. -- IPS
Harare - Zimbabwe is considering the deregistration of about 30
non-governmental organisations which it said allegedly misused millions of
dollars received from foreign donors last year, a cabinet minister said on
"We have written to them several times to give us the
information on how the money was spent... without success and we are in the
process of drafting a final letter before we take action," Paul Mangwana
told the New Ziana news agency.
He said about $87m were unaccounted
"We may take drastic steps against them and this includes suspending
their registration if they fail to account for the money they received," the
Mangwana said the money was part of $210m the
government requested from foreign aid agencies for community projects and
But the unnamed foreign donors chose to disburse the aid money
through non-governmental organisations.
"We were surprised to be told
by donors when we asked them about their response to our request, that $87
was made available through NGOs," Mangwana said.
parliament last year passed a controversial bill now awaiting President
Robert Mugabe's assent, which compels NGOs to register and subject
themselves to scrutiny by the government.
The bill also prohibits
Zimbabwean NGOs from receiving donations from abroad