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The Scotsman
Mugabe awaits poll as opposition 'may lift boycott threat'


ROBERT Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe, will launch his party’s election campaign this week, with the main opposition expected to lift a boycott threat hanging over the critical poll, party officials and analysts said yesterday.

The veteran president has yet to announce a date for an election expected to test how far his government has yielded to international pressure for a fair vote, as well as the popularity of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Mr Mugabe, who turns 81 on 21 February, just weeks short of marking 25 years in power, has attracted world attention in the last five years over his seizures of white-owned farms for blacks and charges he rigged Zimbabwe’s last two elections.

Government officials said yesterday Mr Mugabe would officially launch his ZANU-PF party’s election campaign this week.

"The official campaign will take place on Saturday, and the expectation is that the president will announce a date for the elections before he launches that campaign," one official said.

While Mr Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF prepares its campaign, the MDC is due to meet tomorrow and Thursday to decide whether to participate in the poll, which it had threatened to boycott.

"The announcement is just a formality: it was decided weeks ago that, although the conditions are not conducive for a free and fair election, we have no choice but to participate," said one senior MDC official.

Analysts say that even if the MDC contests the election, it is unlikely to end Zimbabwe’s long-running political crisis.

The MDC charges that ZANU-PF robbed it of victory in the last parliamentary contest in June 2000, and in the presidential poll in 2002 through rigging and a violent campaign that the MDC says killed more than 200 opposition supporters.

Mr Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s sole ruler since the southern African country’s independence from Britain in 1980, denies the charges, and accuses his domestic and Western foes of sabotaging the economy and wanting to oust him over his land seizures.

The MDC says recent electoral reforms - including the appointment of a nominally independent electoral commission to run the March polls - do not meet guidelines set by the 14-nation Southern African Development Community.

Mr Mugabe, who accuses the British government of sponsoring the MDC, says the March polls will be an anti-Tony Blair campaign and a chance for his ZANU-PF party to "bury" the MDC.

Western powers, led by Britain and the United States, have imposed some sanctions against Mr Mugabe’s government over the election disputes and controversial policies.

Analysts say Zimbabwe’s problems are likely to continue while ZANU-PF remains in power, although the view of the government held by sections of the international community might improve if elections are not marred by violence.

"I don’t think anyone is naive enough to think that the crisis is going to end with the elections ... because there are some fundamental differences between the government and the international community," said Lovemore Madhuku, of the National Constitutional Assembly, a political pressure group.

With the election campaign poised to begin, the founder of Zimbabwe’s ill-fated pro-opposition Daily News said he plans to launch a weekly newspaper for exiled compatriots in Britain and South Africa in time for the polls.

Wilf Mbanga, whose Daily News was briefly closed by Zimbabwean authorities in 2003, said he would launch the Zimbabwean on 11 February in Britain, with an initial print-run of 120,000, and a Southern African edition published in Johannesburg. "We believe the paper can play a role in drawing attention to so much that is offensive to basic human decency and hostile to peace in our beloved Zimbabwe," Mr Mbanga said.

"We believe those in positions of authority and power should be held accountable to those they are supposed to serve and that a free media is fundamental to ensuring such accountability."

He added that the tabloid publication "will obviously have a heavy emphasis on Zimbabwean politics" but would also cover arts, culture, business, sports, and other news.
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[ This article was printed from - home of the Sunday Times, South Africa. ]

Zanu(PF) politburo wants Moyo to go

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's former spin doctor, Jonathan Moyo, has come under renewed attack as party spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira called for his immediate expulsion.

Shamuyarira was yesterday quoted in state media as saying the politburo wanted Moyo dismissed because "having a chap like him will reflect badly on both the party and government".

The Zanu(PF) decision-making politburo is pushing Mugabe to fire the beleaguered Moyo from the cabinet before the general election next month.

Moyo has fallen out of favour with party officials close to Mugabe since he called a meeting to discuss Mugabe's successor without the knowledge of the president.

Senior politburo members expressed outrage at Moyo during a meeting last Wednesday, saying he was destabilising the party by attacking the leadership in the run-up to a crucial poll.

Mugabe promised to deal with Moyo.

Since he was dropped from the central committee and politburo last month for allegedly plotting a palace coup against the leadership, Moyo has been on a fierce vitriolic crusade against top party officials, especially chairman John Nkomo.

Moyo has locked horns with several senior party officials, particularly Nkomo, Zanu (PF) politburo member Dumiso Dabengwa, party spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira and vice-president Joseph Msika.

Business Day
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Zimbabwe banking group faces legal challenge


01 February 2005 10:20

A brand-new umbrella grouping of collapsed Zimbabwean banks got off to a rocky start after one of its partners went to court to try to break free from the new banking group, a daily newspaper said on Tuesday.

The Royal Bank -- one of the three collapsed banks to be merged into the Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group (ZABG) -- filed a suit in the Harare High Court on Monday against a central bank decision to place it under curatorship and subsequently merge it into the ZABG, the state-owned Herald said.

The ZABG, which started operations on Monday in 22 branches across the country, comprises the Royal, Barbican and Trust banks which were closed down last year.

In its suit, the Royal Bank is seeking to bar the central bank from "using its premises, vehicles and other assets in the new project".

It is also seeking to bar all advertisements in which Royal Bank is identified as part of the ZABG and is against "the placing of ZABG employees in the offices of Royal Bank or retrenching the employees of Royal Bank".

The case was filed by Royal Bank chief executive Jeffrey Mzwimbi and executive director Simba Durajadi, who themselves are accused of defrauding the bank of millions of dollars.

In their suit they argue that the merger of the Royal Bank in the ZABG "has been carried out without any consultation with the directors, shareholders, creditors and depositors".

They also claimed that the central bank had grossly misrepresented and undervalued the Royal Bank's assets.

The central bank, which came up with the ZABG to invigorate and clean up the country's crisis-ridden financial sector, plans to take in more collapsed banks in the umbrella body provided they meet certain criteria.

Central bank governor Gideon Gono, the chief architect of the ZABG, did not react to the suit, but simply told The Herald: "We will meet them in court." - Sapa-AFP
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Rocky start to revival of Zimbabwean banks
February 1, 2005

Harare - A brand-new umbrella grouping of collapsed Zimbabwean banks got off to a rocky start after one of its partners went to court to try to break free from the new banking group, a daily said Tuesday.

The Royal Bank - one of the three collapsed banks to be merged into the Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group (ZABG) - filed a suit in the Harare High Court on Monday against a central bank decision to place it under curatorship and subsequently merge it in the ZABG, the state-owned Herald said.

The ZABG, which started operations on Monday in 22 branches across the country, comprises the Royal, Barbican and Trust banks which were closed down last year.

In its suit, the Royal Bank is seeking to bar the central bank from "using its premises, vehicles and other assets in the new project."

It is also seeking to bar all advertisements in which Royal Bank is identified as part of the ZABG and against "the placing of ZABG employees in the offices of Royal Bank or retrenching the employees of Royal Bank." 

The case was filed by Royal Bank chief executive Jeffrey Mzwimbi and executive director Simba Durajadi who themselves are accused of defrauding the bank of millions of dollars.

Their suit argued that the merger of the Royal Bank in the ZABG "has been carried out without any consultation with the directors, shareholders, creditors and depositors."

They also claimed that the central bank had grossly misrepresented and undervalued the Royal Bank's assets.

The central bank, which came up with the ZABG to invigorate and clean up the country's crisis-ridden financial sector, plans to take in more collapsed banks in the umbrella body provided they meet certain criteria.

Central bank governor Gideon Gono, the chief architect of the ZABG, did not react to the suit, but simply told the Herald: "We will meet them in court." - AFP

Business Report
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Sunday Times
Expatriate Zimbabweans to fight voting ban

Tuesday February 01, 2005 11:51 - (SA) 

HARARE - Zimbabweans living abroad are asking the Supreme Court to overturn a decision by President Robert Mugabe's government to bar them from voting in parliamentary elections in March, newspapers said.

The Britain-based Diaspora Vote Action Group filed a suit in the court seeking to overturn the "illegal" decision taken late last year, the state-run Herald newspaper said.

The group is seeking an order stating that all Zimbabwean citizens, regardless of their place of residence, should be declared "eligible voters in all parliamentary and presidential elections" while arguing that the government decision was unconstitutional.

"The current exclusion of Zimbabweans in the diaspora in the participation of the country's political sphere is... not only discriminatory but has no basis in law," it said.

There are an estimated 3.5 million Zimbabweans living abroad, many of whom left their country in the wake of the political turmoil from controversial elections in 2000 and 2002 that has left the economy in tatters.

The suit, filed by six Zimbabweans living in Britain, also pointed to elections held last year in nearby countries where citizens living overseas had been allowed to vote.

"Botswana, which held its general election in the latter part of 2004 was able to organise for its citizens living in Zimbabwe to cast their vote at the embassy in Harare," it said.

"Mozambicans in the recent general elections were able to fully participate despite being resident out of the country."

Late last year, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said that Zimbabwean expatriates could not vote as the "constitution does not allow people not residing in any constituency to vote," The Herald reported.

Chinamasa also said that allowing overseas-based Zimbabweans to cast their ballot could lead to "ghost voting" and further argued that even if they were allowed to vote, Zimbabwean officials could not register them.

"This was because both the political and public service leadership have been banned from travelling to such countries as Britain and the United States," The Herald said.

There is a travel ban on Zimbabwean leaders following flawed elections in 2000 and 2002 which the opposition and rights groups say were marred by violence, fraud and intimidation, a charge angrily denied by the government.

President Robert Mugabe's ruling party, in power since the southern African country's independence from Britain in 1980, hopes to improve its showing in the upcoming polls.

The date of the election is expected to be announced this week and the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) will also decide whether or not to contest the polls.

The elections will be a litmus test of Zimbabwe's pledge to a southern African regional grouping to stage free and fair elections.

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Banks reopen but clients still can't get cash

    February 01 2005 at 11:52AM

Three collapsed banks reopened in Zimbabwe on Monday under the aegis of a new umbrella banking group that President Robert Mugabe's government hopes will revive the ailing financial sector.

Clients whose money was locked up in the Royal, Barbican and Trust banks - shut down last year - queued from morning to withdraw their funds at 22 branches of the new Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group (ZABG).

But angry customers complained they still couldn't access their money.

A ZABG official, who declined to give his name, said account holders in the three collapsed banks would only be able to withdraw a one-off sum of five million Zimbabwean dollars from the ZABG while the rest of their savings would be turned into shares.

 "Clients will have shares in ZABG and they can decide whether to sell their shares or not when the bank registers on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange. Opening an account is not a means by which to access your money," she said.

The ZABG initially comprises the three banks but other distressed banks are expected to join.

Zimbabwe's financial sector was wracked by a crisis last year that left seven banks under curatorship and three financial institutions liquidated.

"We need money at the moment not shares in ZABG and this is confusing because we thought the purpose was for us to access our funds," said account holder Gilbert Kayaya, walking out of a ZABG branch with a sheaf of forms.

The central bank plans to inject two trillion dollars into the ZABG. - Sapa-AFP

This article was originally published on page 6 of Pretoria News on February 01, 2005
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Cosatu will be kicked out of Zimbabwe

February 01, 2005, 11:45

The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) group is to be kicked out of Zimbabwe if it went ahead with a planned visit to that country, the Zimbabwean labour minister said today. "We will kick them out, yes, certainly. We will not allow them to come into the country unless they follow the correct procedures," Paul Mangwana, the labour minister, said.

The 20-strong Cosatu delegation, headed by Zwelinzima Vavi, its secretary-general, was to leave for Harare from the Johannesburg Airport at 10.50 tomorrow morning, the trade union said earlier today.

Mangwane said Cosatu should have approached him via Membathisi Mdladlana, his South African counterpart, about the visit, but had failed to do so. Cosatu believed there was no legal reason for it to be thrown out of Zimbabwe, Paul Notyawa, a Cosatu spokesperson, said yesterday. "We have valid passports and visas, we don't know what other protocols we are supposed to have followed."

In October last year, a Cosatu delegation to Zimbabwe was sent packing after spending only a few hours in that country. They were hustled onto a bus in the middle of the night and deposited at Beit Bridge, the border post between the two countries. - Sapa

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Mdladlana says he was quoted out of context

February 01, 2005, 06:15

Membathisi Mdladlana, the labour minister, has told Cosatu that he has been qouted out of context to say that the union needs permission to go to Zimbabwe. This comes after Mdladlana met with Paul Mangwana, his Zimbabwean counterpart, to discuss labour issues. Mdladlana says he is not convinced that there is a need for Cosatu to visit Zimbabwe, as issues raised by the federation can be handled through the social dialogue provision enshrined in a memorandum of understanding between the two countries.

Paul Notyawa, a Cosatu spokesperson, said Mdladlana explained himself and said that he has been misconstrued in that statement. Mdladlana further went on to explain that all that he meant was that Cosatu must comply with laws of Zimbabwe, in fact he expressed that he was referring to passports, visas and other relevant paperwork.

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Interest rates to fall further

By Brian Benza
INTEREST rates are expected to tumble down even further after today’s cut in the overnight accommodation rate by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, fast eroding the need for the dual interest rate policy.

In the fourth quarter monetary policy review statement last week, the RBZ announced that it was going to reduce the overnight accommodation rate to 95 percent from 110 percent for secured lending and from 120 percent to 105 percent for unsecured borrowing with effect from today.

Overnight accommodation rate is the interest rate at which a depository institution lends immediately available funds (balances within the central bank) to another depository institution overnight.

Commercial banks will consequently be expected to pull down their lending rates against the background of cheaper funds from the RBZ which should be passed onto the borrowing public.

Presently, most commercial banks are charging in the 128 to 150 percent range.

Deposit rates, on the other hand, will be pulled down by the fall in the overnight rate leaving investors on the money market further exposed to negative returns.

In line with the declining annual inflation rate, the fall in the interest rates was expected as the convergence between the market rate and concessional rate edges closer, threatening the existence of the dual interest rate policy.

The Productive Sector Facility will be phased out in June and by then, according to the RBZ forecast, the overnight rate would have dropped to around 70 percent.

The PSF was set up to stimulate positive supply response from the productive sector at the beginning of 2004 when lending rates on the market were over 400 percent.

Fourteen months after the introduction of the PSF, some analysts, are still sceptical about its usefulness, citing distortions in market trends.

"Although this is a noble idea, it has been difficult to de-link the Treasury Bill (TB) rate, which determines all other rates in the economy, with other interest rates.

"This basically means if the Government wants to increase output and employment, it reduces interest rates (lending rates) and this increases investment, as the cost of capital will have fallen. The opposite is also true if the Government wants to slow down economic activity to prevent the economy from overheating," observed a Harare financial markets analyst.

Although there has been an outcry from some sectors over the "untimely demise" of the concessional funds, RBZ expects the goal of interest rates parity to be complete during the course of 2005.

The central bank has, however, not lost sight of some of the obstacles it will have to overcome before it reaches "the promised land".

"In setting the interest rate policy, the Reserve Bank will continue to also take into account developments in the foreign exchange market and the need to manage pressures on the exchange rate.

"A balanced approach will therefore continue to be adopted over the outlook period," said the RBZ in the monetary policy review.

Last week’s indication that interest rates will tumble further induced an investor exodus from the money market to the equities market which gained by a positive 9 percent the day after the policy review statement.

Although it was possible to keep lending rates on the productive and export finance facilities low, the same cannot be said for the deposit rates side, which the central bank is trying frantically to cut down amid stiff resistance from market forces.

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Sent: Tuesday, February 01, 2005 6:18 PM
Subject: ZIMBABWE: //CORRECTION//"Govt has to import to improve food
security situation"


This version corrects the original article by making clear in para 6 the
reference is to millions of metric tonnes.

JOHANNESBURG, 31 Jan 2005 (IRIN) - Humanitarian workers are concerned about
the food security situation in Zimbabwe but told IRIN the extent of the
problem hinges on the ability of the government to import enough grain to
cover a production deficit.

The US-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) last week said
5.8 million Zimbabweans - almost half the population - were in need of food

In its overview of food security threats in sub-Saharan Africa, FEWS NET
noted that the situation in Zimbabwe is "deteriorating", and "staple food
availability is declining as market prices continue to rise".

The minister of lands, agriculture and rural development, Joseph Made, has
dismissed the FEWS NET report. He was quoted by the official newspaper, The
Herald, as saying, "Those claims from the West are simply because we have
embarked on an anti-Blair [British Prime Minister] campaign for our
elections, and they can see the land is in our hands. This is a clear signal
of how desperate they are."

Made said the state-owned Grain Marketing Board (GMB), which holds a
monopoly on the purchase and distribution of cereals, was distributing
370,000 mt of grain. "That is besides the 400,000 mt sitting in our
strategic reserve. Apart from that, we are moving some carryover stock into
the country."

The government has maintained that Zimbabwe produced 2.4 million mt of maize
last year, against a national requirement of about 1.8 million mt. However,
a report by the parliamentary portfolio committee on lands and agriculture
revealed that by October 2004, the GMB had received only 388,558 mt: the
board told the committee that some farmers preferred to hold onto their
grain stocks rather than sell to the GMB.

Independent estimates said the country produced only about 1 million mt of
maize last year.

In May 2004 the government decided not to renew an appeal for international
food aid and controversially cancelled a crop assessment mission by the Food
and Agriculture Organisation and World Food Programme (WFP), claiming there
would be a bumper harvest.

According to the South African Grain Information Services (SAGIS), more than
32,000 mt of maize was exported to Zimbabwe through South Africa between
November 2004 and January this year.

A report on informal cross-border food trade, released by FEWS NET last
week, indicated that since July 2004, Zimbabweans had also informally
imported 8,290 mt from Zambia.

Aid workers in Zimbabwe told IRIN they suspected the figures reflected in
the SAGIS import/export records were "too low" and did not fully reflect the
amount of grain the government was bringing into the country.

They also stressed that the government's capacity to cover its import bill
would determine the food security situation over what is traditionally the
lean season, from December to March.

The humanitarian community faces a difficult working environment in
Zimbabwe, and aid officials said it was difficult to gather a comprehensive
assessment of household-level food availability in the countryside.

But, according to separate surveys released by both FEWS NET and WFP earlier
this month, while staple cereals are increasingly unavailable in rural
areas, maize prices on the parallel market continue to climb, limiting the
ability of households to buy enough food to satisfy their needs.

"Zimbabweans have been facing food shortages since 2002 [when 7.2 million
people through to March 2003 were in need of food aid] and their coping
mechanisms are exhausted", an aid worker commented.

Chris McIvor of the development agency Save the Children, which operates in
the impoverished northern Zambezi Valley said, "People's survival strategies
have raised similar concerns, as they did in 2002, primarily because of the
impact on children's lives. For example, their withdrawal from school; the
time spent on labour activities rather than on education; the exposure to
hazards occasioned by trying to find wild foods to supplement their family's

"We continue to note a high incidence of chronic malnutrition [in the
Zambezi Valley], which is indicative of a perennial food shortage in the
area, which impacts on the growth of children. Acute malnutrition, which is
an indicator of sudden food crisis, continues to remain relatively benign."

Other aid workers said the GMB was struggling to regularly supply all its
depots in the countryside. Maize was available in some GMB outlets, but only
for "a few days" at a time.

A Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee report in April 2004, endorsed
by the government, projected that around 41 percent of the rural population
(3.3 million people) would be food insecure from December 2004 to March 2005
if the price of maize reached Zim $750/kg. Maize is already selling at above
Zim $1,100/kg in most rural areas, reaching Zim $2,000/kg in the worst hit
districts, FEWS NET said in a report published in November.

The cost of living in urban areas increased steadily during 2004, and the
majority of urban households struggle to meet their basic expenditure
requirements, FEWS NET said.

The cost of food, as well as non-food items, rose by 92 percent from January
to November 2004, but wages failed to keep up. According to the Consumer
Council of Zimbabwe, the minimum industrial wage of Zim $500,000 (about US
$86.96) could cover only 31 percent of the November expenditure basket.

Zimbabwe could have another poor harvest this year after late seasonal
rains, particularly in the midlands and southern provinces, and lack of
inputs for farmers.

WFP spokesman Mike Huggins said although it was too early to make a
definitive assessment, "Delayed rains, given the limited availability of
fertilisers and seeds, and low tillage, these are some concerns about
Zimbabwe's harvest prospects."

Tel: +27 11 880-4633
Fax: +27 11 447-5472

[This Item is Delivered to the "Africa-English" Service of the UN's IRIN
humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views
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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2005

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From Zim Online (SA), 1 February
Retired army commander also eyed vice-presidency ahead of wife
Mutare - Retired General Solomon Mujuru, the influential ruling Zanu PF party politburo member, also wanted to become the country's vice-president ahead of his wife Joyce but opted out because he had "so many disadvantages". Mujuru told Zanu PF supporters in Mutare recently that after taking into account "disadvantages" he would encounter if he had stood for the post, he paved the way for Joyce whom he said had "more advantages than him". Mujuru did not explain the kind of "disadvantages" he would have faced had he stood for the post, left vacant following the death of Simon Muzenda. But analysts believe the powerful and wealthy former army commander did not want to upset the influential Zanu PF women's league who were pushing for a woman vice-president. "You see," Mujuru said, "When I realised that my wife had more advantages than me, I told her to contest ahead of me because in any case this is now a family position. But the problem was that Sekeremayi (Sydney) also wanted the post. So I told them to go into closed negotiations. They came out and told me they had agreed that Joyce would stand for the post."
Sydney Sekeramayi is one of President Mugabe's confidantes. He did not publicly express his desire to contest for the post of vice-president although it now turns out he was also interested. The ruling party's women's league, at their congress last year, unanimously agreed to have a woman candidate to replace Muzenda. Joyce Mujuru was subsequently elected at the party's congress in December last year amid heavy support from Zanu PF stalwarts, including President Mugabe and his wife Grace, Joseph Msika, John Nkomo, Oppah Muchinguri, Kumbirai Kangai, Dumiso Dabengwa and Rtd General Mujuru. Joyce Mujuru faced a stiff challenge from Emmerson Mnangagwa, the parliamentary speaker and the then Zanu PF secretary for administration. She beat Mnangagwa - thanks to last-minute arm-twisting tactics applied by Mugabe. Most top Zanu PF members who supported Mnangagwa, including Jonathan Moyo and Patrick Chinamasa, burnt their fingers and have been thrown into the Zanu PF political dust bin.
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Mugabe Snuffs Zimbabwe Tobacco, Fueling Zambia Boom (Update1)

Feb. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Miklos Marffy lost his home, his farm and his crop two years ago when Zimbabwe's government seized his land near the northeastern town of Mvurwi. Last year, he grew $460,000 of tobacco in neighboring Zambia after a ``reassuring'' visit from President Levy Mwanawasa.

Zimbabwe's neighbors are profiting from President Robert Mugabe's land redistribution program, which has ravaged the world's second-biggest tobacco export industry since 2000. More than 340 commercial farmers have relocated to Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania, creating jobs and boosting exports from some of the world's poorest countries.

``The entry of Zimbabwean farmers into Zambia is a blessing to agriculture,'' says Chance Kabaghe, 50, the chairman of Zambia Seed Co., who was deputy agriculture minister until last month and lives in the capital, Lusaka. ``They bring with them the latest technology and knowledge.''

Universal Corp., the world's biggest tobacco-leaf merchant, and No. 3 Standard Commercial Corp. are backing the farmers so they can get loans from banks such as Barclays Plc and Standard Chartered Plc. The aid helps ensure supplies of the flue-cured tobacco used to flavor cigarette brands such as Reynolds American Inc.'s Camel and Altria Group Inc.'s Marlboro, after Zimbabwe's production fell by three-quarters in the past four years.

Zimbabwe last year accounted for about 4 percent of global exports of the highest quality flue-cured tobacco, which cigarette makers buy for characteristics such as color and oil content. Five years ago, Zimbabwe had about 20 percent of world exports, second only to Brazil.

`Big Imbalance'

Farmers received an average of $2.02 a kilogram (2.2 pounds) for leaf sold at Zimbabwe's annual tobacco auctions last year, up from $1.69 in 2000, according to the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association, based in the capital, Harare.

``Some of the world's best quality tobacco suddenly disappeared,'' says Antonio Abrunhosa, chief executive officer of the International Tobacco Growers Association, based in Castelo Branco, Portugal. ``This created a big imbalance in supply and demand for quality tobacco.''

Farmers have to invest at least $150,000 to buy land, install irrigation equipment and build the barns and furnaces needed to produce flue-cured tobacco, and some have borrowed more than $1 million, says Chimwemwe Mtonga, senior manager of business support at Lusaka-based Barclays Bank Zambia Plc.

Lower grade burley and fire-cured tobacco, which are cheaper to produce, garner lower prices.

`Mentoring System'

Richmond, Virginia-based Universal and Wilson, North Carolina- based Standard Commercial are contracting farmers to grow the tobacco at guaranteed prices, helping them win loans from banks such as Standard Chartered and Barclays, both of which are based in London. They are also asking larger farmers to advise smaller growers on sowing, tending and curing the crop.

``We expect the commercial farmers will provide expertise to small farmers in a sort of mentoring system,'' says Karen Whelan, a Universal spokeswoman. ``The large-scale growers, many of whom were forced out of Zimbabwe, have long experience in growing the quality of leaf required in the international market.''

Universal last year bought 15 million kilograms of flue-cured tobacco and 3.5 million tons of burley from 47 large growers in Zambia and 5,515 small farmers. That compares with 3.1 million kilograms of flue-cured and 1.8 million kilograms of burley in 2000. The company forecasts Zambia will produce 26.7 million kilograms of tobacco this year.

In Mozambique, Zimbabwe's neighbor to the east, Universal bought 591,000 kilograms of flue-cured tobacco from 12 large-scale farmers last year. It bought none in 2000. Universal forecasts tobacco production will rise to 4.3 million kilograms this year.

Malawi Production

Malawi, which juts into Mozambique from the north and shares its western border with Zambia, produced 23.2 million kilograms of flue-cured tobacco last year, up from 11.2 million kilograms in 2002, Universal says. The 2005 forecast is for a crop of 30 million kilograms.

The increased purchases in neighboring countries helped make up for the decline in Zimbabwe. Universal bought about 14 million kilograms of tobacco in the country last year, down from 100 million kilograms four years earlier.

Speaking of the farmers who have moved into the surrounding area from Zimbabwe, Abrunhosa says: ``They have been very important in boosting tobacco production. The economic impact is huge.''

With backing from Standard Commercial and a loan from London- based Standard Chartered, Marffy paid $108,000 for two irrigation pivots, and installed pumps and curing equipment on the 700 hectares (1,730 acres) of land he bought near Mkushi, 100 miles northeast of Lusaka.

Presidential Welcome

Marffy, 48, who lives with his wife and three children in a farmhouse on the property, says he reaped 230,000 kilograms of tobacco last year and plans to grow 300,000 kilograms this year.

In addition to tobacco, the 150 Zimbabwean farmers who have moved to Zambia grow soy, wheat and flowers. Some export seed corn to Zimbabwe, once an exporter of crop seeds. Marffy grows soybeans for sale on the market and corn to help feed his workers.

Mwanawasa in August met with about 20 former Zimbabwean farmers at the Mkushi Country Club and promised that the government would obey the law and respect their property rights.

``President Mwanawasa visited us and told us that we should treat Zambia as our home,'' Marffy says. ``It was really reassuring to have the president welcome you.''

Tobacco production is helping reduce Zambia's dependence on copper and cobalt, which made up more than half of exports last year.

Agriculture now accounts for 17 percent of economic output, Kabaghe says. In 1990, the figure was 12 percent, according to the Washington-based International Monetary Fund. Tobacco production has more than tripled in the past four years, and the government forecasts exports of the crop will total $40 million this season.

Skills and Experience

``Large-scale farming is beginning to pick up, and that is helping diversify the economy,'' says Jan Duvenage, an economist at Standard Bank Group Ltd. in Johannesburg. ``Africa needs skills. The Zimbabwean farmers have skills and the experience of running large farms.''

Zambia is the 10th-poorest nation among 134 countries ranked by the Washington-based World Bank, with per-capita gross national income of $770. About 73 percent of Zambia's people live in poverty, and life expectancy at birth is 33.4 years.

Marffy says he employs as many as 200 people and pays them at least 6,500 kwacha ($1.42) a day. That's about twice the minimum wage for non-union workers.

``In the past, it was easy to find farmworkers. All you had to do was walk to the main road and recruit some people,'' says Clifford Musonda, 31, a farmworker in Mkushi. ``Now it's not possible because everybody has jobs. The only ones who don't have jobs are the lazy ones.''

Nigeria Next?

While Zimbabwe's neighbors have been the first to benefit, other countries are keen to follow.

The Nigerian government is offering 1,000 hectares of land and loans of as much as $1 million to farmers who relocate to the West African country from Zimbabwe, says Bruce Gemmill, whose farm was seized in 2002.

``I am looking at Nigeria,'' says Gemmill, 70, who grew tobacco and fruit on his property 70 miles east of Harare. ``The government there has been helpful. It has gone out of its way.''

Zimbabwe, once southern Africa's second-biggest economy after South Africa, has been hit hard by the departure of its farmers.

The land seizures, which began in 2000 as Mugabe pledged to return land stolen from blacks in colonial times, have shut down most of Zimbabwe's 4,000 commercial farms, displaced many of the country's 310,000 farmworkers and deepened a six-year recession.

Zimbabwe's Recession

The economy shrank 30 percent in the five years to 2004, according to the IMF. Unemployment is more than 70 percent, and the United Nations' World Food Program estimates that 41 percent of the country's 11.8 million people may not have enough to eat until the next harvest in April and May.

A 2003 study commissioned by Mugabe found that 127,000 families had moved onto the confiscated farms. While some of the resettled farmers have taken up tobacco production, quality and production have fallen.

The record 237 million kilograms of tobacco harvested in 2000 were grown by 8,531 farmers, compared with the 12,700 who grew 68 million kilograms last year, according to the Web site of the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association. Universal expects Zimbabwe to produce 90 million kilograms of tobacco this year, while the government forecasts 115 million kilograms.

The small growers favored by Mugabe reap about 900 kilograms from each of their one-hectare plots. Commercial farmers produce more than 3,000 kilograms per hectare on 45-hectare plantations, says Rodney Ambrose, CEO of Zimbabwe Tobacco.

`Massive Decline'

Production of corn, wheat, soy, cut flowers and paprika has also slumped. Zimbabwe, which once ran the highest-yielding corn farms in southern Africa, is importing the grain from South Africa, Zambia, Argentina and the U.S.

``In the commercial sector there has been a massive decline, as much as 90 percent in some crop sectors like soy and corn,'' says Kuda Ndoro, an economist at the Commercial Farmers Union in Harare.

Agriculture now makes up 14 percent of Zimbabwe's economy, down from 18 percent in 2000, the union's figures show.

Even if Zimbabwe were to change its policies, many farmers say they won't return.

``At 48, I am getting too old for a new start,'' says Marffy, who moved to Zimbabwe with his family in 1960 after their farm in Hungary was confiscated by the socialist government. ``Whatever happens in Zimbabwe, whether there is a new regime or not, I can't go back, even though I love the country so much.''

To contact the reporter on this story:
Antony Sguazzin in the Johannesburg bureau 

To contact the editor of this story:
Stephen Farr at
Last Updated: February 1, 2005 03:58 EST
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Zimbabwe urges SA union stay away
Cosatu president Willie Madisha
Cosatu feels trade union solidarity with Zimbabwe's opposition
A Zimbabwean minister has warned South African unions not to go ahead with a planned visit this week, intended to highlight Zimbabwe's political crisis.

Labour Minister Paul Mangwana is quoted by state media as saying the delegation would be sent to jail, elsewhere he says they would be deported.

Last year, a Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) delegation was deported from Zimbabwe.

The high-profile trip could threaten relations between the two neighbours.

South Africa is seen as a key player in attempts to resolve Zimbabwe's problems and some have called for it to stop supplying subsidised electricity to put pressure on Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe.

Union solidarity

"Comrade Mangwana said they would be thrown into Chikurubi [high security jail] if they come," a ZBC radio bulletin reported.

But South African Press Association quoted him as saying:

Morgan Tsvangirai
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai is a former unionist
"We will kick them out, yes, certainly. We will not allow them to come into the country unless they follow the correct procedures."

The 20-member Cosatu team led by secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi no longer plans to meet government officials or human rights groups and says it is on a "fact-finding" assignment ahead of parliamentary elections expected in March.

BBC Southern Africa correspondent Barnaby Phillips says several South African ministers have been publicly supportive of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, while Cosatu has criticised human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwe government suspects that Cosatu supports the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which was formed by Zimbabwe's trade unions.

Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven insisted that Wednesday's trip would go ahead and said they were prepared to go to jail.

South Africa's ruling African National Congress, which has been reluctant to criticise Zimbabwe, has backed the Cosatu trip but on Monday, Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana said the mission could threaten the two countries' relations.

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Zimbabweans Abroad Demand Postal Vote in Court
Tue Feb 1, 2005 07:38 AM ET

By Stella Mapenzauswa

HARARE (Reuters) - A group of Zimbabweans based in Britain have filed an urgent application in the Supreme Court challenging laws that bar them from voting in elections due in March, their lawyer said.

Under existing electoral legislation, only those Zimbabweans out of their home constituencies on national duty during elections can cast postal votes -- a stipulation critics say has disenfranchised more than 3 million Zimbabweans living abroad.

Zimbabwe's voters roll has 5.6 million names on it, but it is not clear how many of those people are living abroad.

Harare lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said on Tuesday she had filed court papers on behalf of six Zimbabweans who argue that the law "curtails our rights to freedom of expression as it clearly curtails our rights to express ourselves politically through the electoral process."

In the application, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters on Tuesday, the six said President Robert Mugabe's government should honor the right of nationals abroad to vote in Zimbabwe's elections in the same manner it had accepted their help in reviving the southern African country's ailing economy.

"This acceptance has manifested itself through programs such as the Homelink in terms of which Zimbabweans in the diaspora send to Zimbabwe through government channels much needed foreign currency which is in turn used for such necessary imports such as fuel and electricity," the application said.

An estimated 3.5 million Zimbabweans live outside the country, some having fled political turmoil over the past five years, while the majority sought better living conditions in the face of an economic crisis which has seen inflation soar to three-digit levels. Unemployment is over 70 percent.

Critics blame the crisis on Mugabe's government, which they say wants to block Zimbabweans abroad from voting because it perceives them to support the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which has emerged as the stiffest challenge to Mugabe's 25-year grip on power.

The MDC says the ruling ZANU-PF party rigged parliamentary elections in 2000 and a presidential vote which Mugabe controversially won two years later.

Mugabe insists he won fairly, and charges the MDC is a puppet of former colonial power Britain which Harare claims has led a campaign to undermine the economy over the seizure of white-owned commercial farms for redistribution among landless blacks.

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From The Cape Times (SA), 1 February
Just like Oom Fanie, Mugabe's enemies ruthlessly lost everything
By John Scott
Many years ago I attended an election meeting in the Paarl town hall where the chairman, Oom Fanie van der Merwe, provocatively threw himself off the stage three times in one evening, landing each time on the press tables. At least, that is what I discovered afterwards. At the time I thought National Party MPs and others had manhandled Fanie and thrown him off. He was chairing a meeting of the extremist breakaway group, the Herstigte Nasionale Party, when the Nats turned up and demanded to use the microphone. Fanie said if they wanted a microphone, they could hire their own. This naturally infuriated the Nats, who then appeared to grapple with Fanie and push him bodily down into the audience. Every time he stormed back on stage, they seemingly flung him off. Later the Nats said Fanie had thrown himself off the stage, to inflame the audience and make the governing party look like bullies. It proved to me that even when you are on the spot, you don't always realise what is really happening.
The same thing has now obviously happened in Zimbabwe. We all thought the white farmers had been forcibly thrown off their farms, their buildings and machinery seized, and their workers beaten up. Quite a lot of the farmers got beaten up themselves, and a few died. But it wasn't like that at all, apparently. Robert Mugabe's chaps say that the white farmers were actually working in cahoots with the British government and stage-managed the looting of their own properties to discredit the Zimbabwean administration. It shows you that the Zim whiteys will stop at nothing, even deprive themselves of all their possessions and their sole source of income. The most sinister aspect is that some 4 000 farmers did this. It was clearly a conspiracy of massive proportions. No wonder the president is cross with them. It's almost enough to make him take a white farm by force, as the farmers claim he did.
Now that my eyes have been opened, I wouldn't be surprised if the independent newspapers in Zimbabwe voluntarily closed themselves down, and the foreign journalists deported themselves. The police who broke up MDC rallies and threw opposition politicians in jail were probably paid to do so by Morgan Tsvangirai to evoke international sympathy. No doubt the government was tricked into the prohibition on toyi-toying in Harare's streets, the ban on toy whistles to register displeasure with the regime, and the veto on the use of red on Zimbabwean TV (because it coincides with the colour of the official opposition), to make it look stupid. Just like Oom Fanie, who was prepared to break his own neck in Paarl all those years ago, Robert Mugabe's enemies are absolutely ruthless
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Sent: Tuesday, February 01, 2005 8:53 AM
Subject:Re "Help" - MDC Disclaimer

I have been contacted by the MDC Legal Department to say that although the
Courts have ruled that the Political Parties Foreign Funding Act is
unconstitutional, it is still the law of the land and it is therefore
illegal for the MDC as such to fund raise outside the country. The message I
sent out under the heading "Help" does not mention the MDC but because it
went out from my office, it might be assumed that this is so. To avoid any
possible confusion, ZIMFUND, both local and in SA is non partisan and is
being operated simply to support the democratic process in Zimbabwe. As you
know this was a function carried out in two previous elections by civil
society NGO's. This will not be possible this time because of yet further
legistalation that has banned this activity by NGO's. So we are left with no
alternative but private, non partisan effort.

So this appeal is NOT MDC but if you have any queries please call me on my
cell phone - 263 91 227 144.

Eddie Cross

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1 February 2005
Our party leadership, the national executive and the national council meet this week to examine and audit our growth, to analyze existing political challenges and to map out the future after five years of a fervent democratic struggle for freedom.
We believe we have won that struggle; we believe we are firmly driving the political agenda. What remains in dispute though is how to arrive at a valid power allotment mechanism to turn the people’s vision and values into reality.
Like all African political transitions, we are in a delicate phase to contain a potentially wayward behaviour of a regime that is losing power and for the MDC to steer a determined and victorious people to claim their freedom permanently and in earnest.
Given our experience over the past five years, we need an opportunity to express our political feelings with a clear understanding that elections occupy a central role in political transitions, particularly where previous elections have been disputed and there is evidence that past electoral processes were deeply flawed. We must maintain our vigilance.
For the first time in 25 years, it is clear to the tormentor and the tormented that the end is in sight. The challenge facing our nation today rests on the management of this sensitive period. The democratic struggle is finally assuming a new dimension. We are now at a stage where the test is on our leadership, at all levels and across the political divide, to show patriotism and mirror the people’s wishes.
For five years, we never regarded an election as an end in itself. Our goal is, and has been, to transform our political culture, to roll the nation back to the ideals of the liberation struggle, to extend basic freedoms and to put together all aspects of our nation into single entity.
Our democracy project has advanced significantly, withstood the regime’s plan to destroy the people’s spirit and cruised through the rough waters of this post-colonial tyranny with a determination similar to that shown during the struggle for independence. I am glad to acknowledge that the MDC has provided the platform for a resolute and an unwavering expression of a critical national sentiment during this difficult period.
The forthcoming election could provide the medium through which the people realise their cherished goals. We are keen to take part in this process, provided the conditions on the ground are right. We pledge to respect the will of the people.
The party’s leadership is therefore set to make a decision that has the potential to change the course of our history. Whether we opt to stay at home or not, the ensuing consequences shall push the political temperature beyond boiling point and hasten the demise of tyranny in our country.
A democratic election can mark the beginning of an intense period of societal evolution as the people assert their authority and sovereignty; launch a new Zimbabwe and commence a new beginning anchored by public control, national unity and national healing.
The choices are obvious. The status quo has become untenable, totally unable to move the nation ahead. The status quo is a serious national liability; a real threat to national security and national survival. The status quo is loathed by our neighbours and the international community – in short, the world is uncomfortable with present-day Zimbabwe. These negatives, as we have seen during the past five years, are very harmful to the tormentor and the tormented, the regime and the people. The era of madness must come to an end.
Judging by the mood on the ground, we understand the country is ready to put an end to uncertainty, political anxiety and fear. We are ready to embark on a decisive road towards the democratisation of our nation and our institutions; and to introduce a far-reaching political culture, with freedom as the foundation for prosperity.
In my interaction with the people at the weekend in Chiredzi South, through Rutenga, in Mwenezi and Chivi, in Gokwe in the north west, in Zhombe, in Kwekwe and in Kadoma, I was encouraged by a consistent and uniform message pointing to the demise of the dictatorship. I am happy to record that the majority have already made their political choices. The people have already taken sides, out of the realization that neutrality or fence-sitting helps the tyrant – thus delaying our plan for a new Zimbabwe.
In much of our communities, the question is no longer how and when Zimbabwe shall be out of the woods. The people are already far ahead of the process, making suggestions on the development format Zimbabwe must adopt, presenting alternatives for a re-engagement with the international community, debating the restoration of their dignity and food security, and renewing our economic base to generate jobs.
The debate is beyond the election. The debate has been placed firmly on rural development, on how to combat the perennial humanitarian emergencies, averting chronic shortages of basic goods and services and on national reconciliation. The status quo has failed the people because of the regime’s failure and inability to inform, engage, include, consult and empower ordinary Zimbabweans.
An analysis of the regime’s vision, programmes and behaviour shows that it is no longer possible for the status quo to turn around the nation’s fortunes. That leaves the people with a single option to start afresh, in a new setting, with a leadership that has a clean record and unblemished ideas.
Coming out of a violent five years, Zimbabweans have begun to put up building blocks for love, political space and freedom. The people are no longer silent about their vision for Zimbabwe. They have realized that silence assists the oppressor; so they are speaking out robustly against violence. In their churches, villages, streets and settlements, the people have vowed to put a stop to violence and to cast away a boss-ridden, warlord culture where force is celebrated and choices are suppressed. Their main worry is centred on the future.
As we face the most trying moment in our history, let us seize the opportunity to embrace the national call to effective political service; a call to invest in the resolution of the crisis of governance. We can only start to rehabilitate our nation if we accept that Zimbabwe needs a new beginning.
We understand the weight of your expectations on the MDC. We are aware of the serious questions, demanding serious answers, which you are asking every day. We are relieved by the fact that our values as a social democratic party and as post-liberation formation direct us to pay attention to these concerns. The nation is with us in this regard, ready to rise and make sure that Zimbabwe succeeds.
We believe we must go an extra mile and seize an exit arrangement for a permanent solution to Zimbabwe’s transitional anguish. The people have charted the way forward. Let us provide the essential leadership. We eagerly await the outcome of our series of consultations and political reviews within the next few days.
Together, we shall win.
Morgan Tsvangirai
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Sent: Wednesday, February 02, 2005 2:31 AM
Subject: SOUTH AFRICA: Begging to get off the streets

SOUTH AFRICA: Begging to get off the streets

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

JOHANNESBURG, 1 February (IRIN) - Sarah Mudzingwa does not remember the
last time she had a decent meal, and it's been more than three years since
she and her three children had a proper roof over their heads.

A cardboard shack in an alley off Joubert Park in Johannesburg's city
centre was not what she bargained for when she left Zimbabwe looking for a
better life in South Africa.

A blind single parent, her expectations could arguably have been a little
too high but in comparison with Zimbabwe, the past three years have been
extremely tough.

"Life in Johannesburg has turned into a nightmare for me. I came from
Harare hoping for a new life here, but all I've seen is misery and more
misery. Being blind makes things even more difficult - I cannot do any
other job, so I am trying to survive through begging on the streets, but
there are no donations coming," Mudzingwa told IRIN.

"I used to live in a disability care centre in Harare. Before the economic
crisis we were very well cared for - they even taught us Braille. But
hunger set in when the centre ran out of funds in 2001 - services
collapsed and many people were forced out to fend for themselves through
begging, but begging in Zimbabwe was so hard, so I decided to come here
together with my family."

Like other Zimbabweans fleeing the country's economic crisis, Mudzingwa
regarded neighbouring South Africa, with its large and sophisticated
economy, as the place where a hardworking person, even though disabled,
could be given a chance to prosper. Instead, every morning, her
10-year-old daughter leads her and the younger siblings across the streets
from Joubert Park to their begging spot 4 km away in Braamfontein. None of
her children attend school.

An estimated two million Zimbabweans live in South Africa, the majority of
them illegal economic migrants dodging the police and immigration

Disabled non-South Africans who need welfare assistance are the worst off:
to access services they would be entitled to at home they are often asked
to produce asylum seeker or refugee permits. Most of those IRIN spoke to
said they did not even know how to go about applying.

"As illegal immigrants, we cannot even report crimes against us - we are
victims of daily crimes, but going to the police station to report is just
like handing oneself over for deportation. Many suffer in silence because
they do not have the identity papers; we need help in getting the papers,
if they are the only means of gaining access to social services," said

Johannesburg-based Zimbabwean civil society organisations have formed a
coalition to provide assistance to the most vulnerable, including the

"We have noted with concern the increase in the number of disabled people,
mostly women with children, on the streets of Johannesburg. We see it as a
result of the collapse of the health and social services departments back
at home," said Nkosinathi Tshuma, a humanitarian services officer with
Heal Zimbabwe Trust.

"We now have a consortium of organisations that look specifically after
the humanitarian needs of all displaced Zimbabweans. Through this
initiative we hope to assist them by providing food, shelter for the
homeless, and basic amenities. We also want to help them gain legal status
by assisting them through the process of applying for asylum."

Tshuma said disabled people required special attention, and the NGOs plan
to set up liaison groups with the relevant South African ministries,
allowing them to recommend some cases for special attention once they gain
legal status.


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us at with any comments or questions you may have

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to change your keywords, contact e-mail: or Web: . If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post
this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Reposting by
sites requires written IRIN permission.]

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We have sent this message from a no-reply address to avoid bounced
messages into our general email folder. Please do not hesitate to contact
us at with any comments or questions you may have

Tel: +27 11 895-1900
Fax: +27 11 784-6759

[This Item is Delivered to the "Africa-English" Service of the UN's IRIN
humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views
of the United Nations. For further information, free subscriptions, or
to change your keywords, contact e-mail: or Web: . If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post
this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Reposting by
sites requires written IRIN permission.]

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Zimbabwe Diaspora to launch weekly newspaper

afrol News, 31 January - A newspaper to cater for Zimbabweans in the Diaspora is to be launched on 11 February by the founder of the silenced 'Daily News'. The weekly paper, to be called 'The Zimbabwean', is to be published in the UK with a Southern African edition produced in Johannesburg. It aims to become a "voice for the voiceless" Zimbabwe Diaspora.

According to a statement sent to afrol News by the newspaper's founder, Wilf Mbanga, "the initial print run will be 120,000 copies." More than a million Zimbabweans live in exile in the UK and more than two million live outside Zimbabwe in Southern Africa. This large Diaspora is seen as the newspaper's principal market.

The newspaper will give a voice to these Zimbabweans, who by now constitute some 25 percent of the total population. "It will build links and encourage readers to tell their own stories and those of their families, as well as articulating their fears and frustrations about the issues concerning them," the statement by 'The Zimbabwean' says.

Announcing the launch, Mr Mbanga, said the project would seek to harness the energies and synergies of exiles, many of whom constitute Zimbabwe's professional, skilled and intellectual cream. "They are hungry for news about home and effectively cut off from their families and each other. Many do not have access to the internet at work or at home and are dependent upon internet cafes and e-mail," he said.

'The Zimbabwean', a tabloid weekly, says it will focus on news from Zimbabwe as well as life in exile. The content would "obviously have a heavy emphasis on Zimbabwean politics, but will also include arts and culture, business, sports, gender issues, social issues and news analysis." Letters to the editor were to become a key feature, as would classified advertisements.

Current legislation makes it difficult to operate as an independent journalist in Zimbabwe. Many bright, young journalists have been forced out of the country into hardship and unemployment abroad. Some of these have teamed up with Mr Mbanga, who is also the founder of the now-silenced 'Daily News', Zimbabwe's only independent daily from 1999 to 2003.

- I have been deeply touched and encouraged by the willingness with which Zimbabwean exiles have responded to my call to get involved, said Mr Mbanga. "Obtaining independent news from Zimbabwe will be a challenge, as foreign correspondents are banned from entering the country. The various on-line resources, together with some radio stations, have done an excellent job in keeping the story alive since the silencing of the 'Daily News'. We will be maximising synergies with them."

Mr Mbanga said his new newspaper would be dedicated to freedom of expression and access to information for all the peoples of Zimbabwe, "founded on the sacred principles of journalism – fairness and honesty."

- We believe the paper can play a role in drawing attention to so much that is offensive to basic human decency and hostile to peace in our beloved Zimbabwe, said Mr Mbanga. "Such exposure may help the country to return to the path of wisdom, democracy and the rule of law. We believe those in positions of authority and power should be held accountable to those they are supposed to serve and that a free" he added.

'The Zimbabwean' hoped to become "an authoritative and accurate newspaper of record and a reliable source of information to all those individuals, agencies and governments with an interest in Zimbabwe," the founder said. "A news blackout is dangerous for any society. The forthcoming general election scheduled for March adds urgency. We will ensure that our coverage is accurate, fair and balanced. We will be accountable to our readers."

A fair coverage of the upcoming election was seen as important to the new tabloid weekly. "We will endeavour to give all viewpoints, and everyone – including the government of Zimbabwe – will have the right of reply. In short, we will do everything the government newspapers in Zimbabwe are not allowed to do," said Mr Mbanga

The newspaper founder added that his research had led him to believe that a physical newspaper was essential - but 'The Zimbabwean' would also be available online soon after the middle of February, at

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Over 6 000 Children Sexually Abused

The Herald (Harare)
February 1, 2005
Posted to the web February 1, 2005

By Tendai Pasipanodya

OVER 6 000 children aged between six months and 17 years were sexually abused last year, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) has said.

Of the victims, 75 tested HIV-positive while some 43 girls fell pregnant after being raped.

The figure, however, only accounts for reported cases as most of such abominable acts go unreported.

The Family Support Trust, an NGO working alongside the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, said it received about 6 000 sexual abuse reports during the period under review.

In most cases, the organisation said, the perpetrators were people well-known to their victims and their families.

The 43 girls who fell pregnant were aged between 14 and 17 and only four were allowed to terminate the unwanted pregnancies.

Out of those who tested HIV-positive, 69 were girls and the remainder boys.

An official of the Family Support Trust said toddlers aged as young as six months were among the 6 000 abused in the period under review.

"Last year we started a programme to give anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) to abused children who reported within 72 hours of the abuse," said the official.

ARVs are life-prolonging drugs which are prescribed for those infected with HIV, the virus that causes Aids, and those in the full-blown stage of the incurable disease.

They have the effect of decreasing the likelihood of infection; reducing the viral count in the body for those already infected; and curbing opportunistic illnesses which attack full-blown Aids sufferers because of reduced immunity.

The ARVs were administered to children deemed to be running the risk of contracting the virus.

Children given a high dosage of ARVs had reduced chances of contracting HIV.

"When the doctor's examination confirms the child was raped, they are tested for HIV; and if they test negative, they are put on ARVs for between two to four weeks," the official said.

Last year, 58 children between the ages of 18 months and 16 years were given anti-retrovirals under the programme and two of these were boys.

Of concern was that children were abused by people known to them who, in normal circumstances, should protect the children.

Harare had the biggest number of abuses with about 4 187 having been reported, while Chitungwiza and Mutare recorded 1 313 and 1 055 respectively.

The Family Support Trust has three clinics in the country and about 6 555 children in the age under focus either reported or were referred to their clinics last year.

After counselling, the children are tested for HIV/Aids and, in the case of girls who have reached puberty, syphilis and pregnancy.

The official said some teenagers between the ages of 13 and 16, particularly boys, failed to report cases of abuse as they deemed it embarrassing to make such admission.

"We are not seeing half of the numbers of abused children, especially between the ages of 13 and 16 who probably consider it demeaning for them to admit they were abused," said the official.

Ninety percent of the reports made at their clinics are referrals from police, doctors and the community.

Post-test and pre-test counselling is done to the child and parents for HIV tests. When the child tests positive, they are referred to the relevant organisations that can assist the child in getting treatment.

The Family Support Trust Clinics manager Mrs Eunice Garura said the organisation endeavours to sensitise the community, and provide training nationally and regionally.

"Other countries in the region have shown willingness to adopt some of our concepts, such as the victim friendly courts," she said.

The clinics provide medical and psycho-social support to victims of child sexual abuse, including preparations of medical affidavits - a vital piece of evidence required by the courts.

Medical services provided by the Family Support Trust include full examination of the child's general health, including pregnancy, prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections.

The Family Support Trust finance and administration officer, Mr Stewart Mwanasa, said sexual abuse victims needed a comprehensive service under one roof, which involves the family.

The NGO had the duty to help the victim and their family accept the problem to make an informed decision.

The Family Support Trust has put up counselling and examination rooms designed as playrooms which help relax the younger children making them forthcoming in the manner they relate their ordeals.

Sexual abuse is classified under different categories such as rape, statutory rape, incest, sodomy and indecent assault.


Copyright © 2005 The Herald. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (
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