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The Center for Public Integrity

Encounter With an Assassin
A Zimbabwean journalist puts his life at risk when his paper questions
government policy
By Geoff Nyarota

February 2, 2005 - My children sometimes complain that I tend to be too
friendly in the company of strangers. I am one of those people who cannot
spend time in a line at the bank without striking up a conversation with my
nearest neighbor. My efforts to explain to the family that a genteel
demeanor, including the salutation of total strangers, while inquiring about
the health of their family, is a cultural requisite among the Shona,
Zimbabwe's largest tribe, have failed to rescue me from frequent

That is, until Thursday, July 27, 2000, when this effusive traditional
etiquette literally saved my life.

At the time I was the editor-in-chief of The Daily News, Zimbabwe's only
independent daily newspaper. Trustee House, headquarters of the newspaper,
in downtown Harare, Zimbabwe, was served by two elevators that laboriously
ferried workers and visitors to the 10-story building at an excruciatingly
slow pace.

As I was getting ready to go up that day, I noticed, just as the elevator
doors started to slide close, an athletic man, about 10 years my junior,
making his way to the elevator. I pressed the "Open" button to give him time
to get in. As the elevator buried the two of us in its dimly lit interior, I
noticed that while the other man's attire was the ultimate in sartorial
elegance, he appeared somewhat uneasy. One of the burgeoning ranks of
Harare's upcoming and increasingly powerful indigenous business executives
late for an appointment to sign another multi-million-dollar deal, I

It did not escape my notice that the man did not press the button to stop at
any particular floor.

"Just in time," I said to him to break the silence. "So how is the family?"

"You must be Mr. Nyarota, the editor?" he said in response.

"How did you know?" I asked, feigning surprise. I was accustomed to having
strangers ask such personal questions of me. My picture occasionally graced
the pages of the newspapers, as I was mercilessly lambasted by government
officials or my archrival, the editor of the government-owned newspaper, The
Herald. I was a regular guest on Zimbabwe Television, also government-owned,
where I was routinely interrogated or derided by one overzealous anchorman
or another.

Before my fellow passenger in the elevator explained how he came to know my
name, we reached the second floor.

"Have a good day," I said as I exited, leaving him to proceed to whatever
upper floor of Trustee House he was destined.

Two days later the same man visited my office. While he had no scheduled
appointment to see me, he insisted to my personal assistant, Annie Musodza,
that it was imperative he talk to me. Our security manager had devised some
rudimentary security measures for the office. Under no circumstances was I
to see a stranger who arrived without an appointment.

Annie quizzed him. My life was in serious danger, he said. He was there to
avert an impending calamity. Something about the visitor's demeanor
convinced Annie the man was not to be dismissed lightly. She decided that I
should see him at once.

I was in my office with Daily News deputy editor-in-chief, Davison Maruziva,
and assistant editor, Bill Saidi, at the tail-end of our morning editorial
conference. We decided that they would sit in throughout the meeting with
the visitor while, as an additional security measure, a security guard was
posted outside the door, once the visitor had entered.

None of the three editors in the office was a stranger to the adversities of
African journalism. Saidi, Zimbabwe's oldest practicing journalist, had
worked in Zambia for many years. His no-holds-barred style of writing had
incurred the wrath of President Kenneth Kaunda, who led Zambia to
independence and was sometimes described as a benevolent despot. On a number
of occasions Kaunda publicly rebuked Saidi, who returned to Harare when
Zimbabwe became independent in 1980. He was appointed editor of The Sunday
News in Bulawayo, the country's second city. His tenure of office was short
lived, however, as the government-owned paper was viewed to be too critical
of the administration of President Robert Mugabe.

Maruziva had been my deputy editor at The Chronicle, which was also
government-owned and published in Bulawayo. Our appointments were
prematurely terminated in 1989 after the paper exposed endemic corruption in
the top echelons of the government. Five cabinet ministers were forced to
resign as a result, and Maruziva and I were removed from the newspaper.

Despite working for many years in the turbulent environment of Zimbabwe's
post-independence press, particularly during the 17 months since we launched
The Daily News, none of us had ever anticipated or envisioned the scene
about to unfold.

Tension Escalates
Established in March 1999, The Daily News had, by the time I met Bernard
Masara in the elevator, become Zimbabwe's largest and most popular
newspaper, with a circulation of more than 100,000 copies sold a day.
Launched on a shoe-string budget, the paper defied the odds and the vigorous
opposition of the Mugabe administration, in office for two decades. The
reputation of The Daily News, of which I was the founding editor-in-chief,
grew almost in inverse proportion to the decline in popularity of Mugabe's
ruling Zanu PF party (Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front).

Rampant corruption, a decline in the standard of living, a breakdown in law
and order, political violence and widespread abuse of basic human rights and
shortages of essential commodities had all conspired to undermine the public
standing of the ruling party and government. This happened at a time when a
viable political opposition party emerged in a country that had become a
virtual one-party state.

Zanu PF vowed it would not go down without putting up a spirited fight.
Supporters and officials of the increasingly popular opposition Movement for
Democratic Change and the wealthy white farmers who still owned a lion's
share of Zimbabwe's fertile commercial farming estates became targets of a
vicious campaign of violence by the ruling party. So too were The Daily News
and three weekly newspapers, publications that constituted the vibrant and
increasingly vocal independent press. Hundreds of opposition activists were
killed or maimed, while others lost their homes and other property. Most of
Zimbabwe's 4,000 commercial farmers were dispossessed of land in violent
farm invasions, staged by Zanu PF activists. Journalists working for the
independent press were harassed, wantonly arrested or tortured, while
newspapers were banned from circulating in the rural areas and small urban

Notwithstanding this campaign of violent repression, opposition grew and the
ruling party nearly lost a general election in June 2000, retaining 62
elected seats while the MDC, in existence for less than one year, won 57. As
the campaign of violence perpetrated by the ruling party spiraled, the motto
of The Daily News, "Telling it like it is," did nothing to endear the paper
to the country's rulers.

A grenade attack on Trustee House at The Daily News, two months before the
June 2000 elections, left staff shaken but imbued with a dogged
determination to fight dictatorship. The attack occurred over the Easter
holiday when the building was empty. The grenade exploded in a curio shop
situated directly under my office, registering a huge crack on one of the
office walls.

A few days later an irate Zanu PF supporter mailed me a death threat. If I
did not desist from criticizing President Mugabe, he warned profanely, I
would be "dispatched to heaven."

Then an anonymous caller warned that a bomb had been planted in Trustee
House and was primed to detonate at any time. We all scrambled out of the
building and soon stood, in fearful anticipation, to watch from a safe
distance. The cell-phone number which our benefactor had called was one of
several listed on the front page of The Daily News. We promptly retrieved
the caller's number from the instrument's memory and called back.

"Zanu PF headquarters, good day," a voice cheerily said at the other end.

A few weeks later I met Masara in the elevator.

An Assassin's Story
The feared Central Intelligence Organization had hatched a plot to
assassinate me, Masara told the three of us. He was the hired assassin. He
had recruited four other men, who'd kept Trustee House under surveillance
for two weeks now.

He had, however, changed his mind during our brief encounter in the elevator
two days before.

"It was just the two of us in the lift," Masara said, "and he greeted me. He
asked me about my family. I decided there and then that I was not going
ahead with the assignment. I decided I was not going to let him be killed.
My conscience worried me. I realized he was different from the man that had
been described to me."

Not only did Masara proceed to expose full details of the plot; he also
revealed the identity of the senior CIO officers directly involved.

To prove the authenticity of his story, the would-be assassin fully
identified himself and revealed the names of the four persons he had
recruited for the assignment. He even identified a contact person in the
editorial department of The Daily News. We decided that it would be
imprudent to confront the journalist in question. (However, when the Masara
story was published, reference was made to the infiltration of the editorial
department of The Daily News by the CIO. The reporter resigned soon

Masara, who lived in a middle class suburb of Harare, then phoned his CIO
handler. While the senior editors of The Daily News listened incredulously
on a speakerphone to the extraordinary conversation, Masara discussed
details of the assassination plot with his boss.

On subsequent occasions Masara called the CIO headquarters again, each time
identifying himself only as Bernard and being immediately recognized.

In one such conversation Masara confirmed the fee for the assignment to kill
me as being a total of Z$100,000 (a little over US$1,800 at the time) I
listened in awe as the would-be assassin and his intelligence handler
haggled over the bounty on my head.

Masara told us he had been recruited to liquidate me in order to silence The
Daily News, which had "become a formidable opponent of the government."

Masara said he had personally kept both Trustee House and me under
surveillance. His ride with me up in the elevator had been part of the
stakeout, he said. Previous attempts to visit my office had been foiled by
his failure to give a plausible reason over the phone for the proposed

After our encounter in the elevator he said he had been gripped by a
determination to see me, he said. He then had to persuade security guards to
take him to my personal assistant, to whom he stated the gruesome nature of
his intended assignment. He handed her his national identity card and
offered to leave it with her as a sign of his now good intentions.

Stunned by Masara's story, Annie walked in to interrupt the editorial
conference. The three senior editors were soon sitting face-to-face with my
would-be assassin.

Masara divulged that the four other would-be assassins were former guerillas
who fought in Zimbabwe's war of liberation. All were now based at the
provincial headquarters of the ruling party in the capital city. One member
of the group was assigned to pose as a cigarette vendor in front of Trustee
House, he said.

Masara identified his CIO handler as a deputy director in the CIO, whose own
immediate boss was a nephew of President Mugabe.

"I was told there were a number of people they wanted eliminated or
injured-100 percent disability," Masara said. "They said that our first
target was The Daily News because the paper had become a machinery of the

We convinced Masara that the only guarantee of his safety and my own lay in
publishing the details of the assassination plot in The Daily News. The CIO
would become suspicious if I remained alive beyond his deadline. Having made
arrangements for Masara to remain ensconced in a safe house, his story and
picture appeared on the front page of The Daily News on Tuesday, August 1,

While two senior CIO operatives were identified by both name and rank in the
story, neither of them ever challenged the report.

Six months later, in the early hours of Sunday, January 28, 2001, the
nocturnal peace of the western suburbs of the Zimbabwean capital was
shattered by a massive explosion. The attention of our security guards was
diverted by a decoy and saboteurs entered the premises where The Daily News
was printed. They attached a number of limpet mines at strategic points
along the printing press. Experts said the incendiary devices were of a type
that could be secured only from the Zimbabwe National Army's stores. When
the powerful bombs detonated parts of the printing press and the entire roof
of the huge building flew into the air, only to land in a pile of scrap
metal and twisted roofing material.

The press was never to print another issue of The Daily News. But The Daily
News was back on the streets early in the morning of Monday, January 29. A
number of commercial printers had rushed to the rescue of the beleaguered

That issue's defiant and somewhat illogical front-page banner headline was:
"Daily News press destroyed."
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COSATU delegation deported again

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

HARARE, 2 Feb 2005 (IRIN) - A 15 member delegation from the Congress of
South African Trade Unions (COSATU) was on Wednesday barred from entering

The delegation, led by COSATU secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi and first
deputy president Joe Nkosi, intended to conduct a fact-finding mission ahead
of Zimbabwe's legislative elections on 31 March.

"The aim of the visit is not to undermine the government of Zimbabwe, but to
interact with the people of that country and listen to their concerns. We
cannot announce the coming Zimbabwe national elections as being free and
fair if we do not have a true reflection of the problems of the people of
Zimbabwe. The aim of the trip is to experience these problems ourselves,"
COSATU spokesman Paul Notyawa said last month.

Immigration officials at Harare International Airport served the delegation
with deportation orders, saying they were prohibited immigrants, after
Minister of Labour Paul Mangwana warned COSATU that their presence would not
be welcome.

Mangwana was quoted as saying last month that Zimbabwe was not a province of
South Africa, and COSATU should stay on its side of the border.

The deportation of the COSATU team was condemned by the Zimbabwe Congress of
Trade Unions (ZCTU), which said the intended visit had no ulterior motives.

ZCTU secretary-general, Wellington Chibhebhe, said the ZCTU and COSATU
leadership would meet in the South African border town of Musina on Thursday
to map the way forward.

"We are disappointed that our colleagues in COSATU have been denied entry
but that is a reflection of the kind of government that we have. We are
going to lodge a complaint with the International Congress of Free Trade
Unions which is based in Brussels," Chibhebhe told IRIN after the

Last year, another COSATU delegation was deported from the country after
Zimbabwean authorities accused them of interfering in their internal
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2 February 2005

MDC Condemns Deportation of COSATU Delegation

The MDC condemns in the strongest terms the decision by the Zimbabwean
Government to deport the COSATU delegation.

This is a deplorable act but is sadly not unexpected given this Government's
record of intolerance against all those who do not share its myopic outlook.

Today's regrettable episode illustrates just how repressive Zimbabwe has

The Government claims that it has fully complied with the SADC Protocol on
elections. Well, if it has then why is it so reluctant to let
representatives from a noble organization such as COSATU into the country?

The answer is simple. Full compliance is a figment of their imagination.
Anyone who visits the country will realize that the political environment
alone falls well short of what is expected under the new regional standards.

The treatment of the COSATU officials should clear up any lingering doubts
about the Government's position on political tolerance and freedom of
association - two of the key principles in the SADC Protocol.

Paul Themba Nyathi
MDC Secretary for Information and Publicity
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Zim Online

State secret agents sniff out journalists stringing for foreign media
Thur 3 February 2005
  HARARE - The government's secret service Central Intelligence Organisation
(CIO) is investigating several journalists it accuses of working with
foreign media and hostile countries to tarnish Zimbabwe's image abroad.

      Sources within the CIO yesterday said that a decision to probe the
media was taken at a meeting of senior operatives of the agency held in
Harare last week.

      Journalists targeted for investigation are those working for
international news agencies such as Reuters, Associated Press and those
suspected of working for ZimOnline and the British Broadcasting Corporation
(BBC), the sources said.

      ZimOnline is based in Johannesburg because it cannot operate in
Zimbabwe where the government's Access to Information and Protection of
Privacy Act (AIPPA) outlaws robust and independent journalism. ZimOnline
employs more than 20 journalists based inside Zimbabwe but all working under
cover for fear of victimisation by state security agents.

      The BBC is officially banned in Zimbabwe.

      One CIO officer, who did not want to be named, said: "There are
journalists who are making a living by selling damaging information to our
enemies and it was resolved that they should account for their actions. A
probe team involving intelligence officers and guys from law and order (a
police department) is already working on that."

      State Security Minister Nicholas Goche, in charge of the CIO, refused
to take questions on the matter saying "issues about intelligence work are
not for public consumption."

      Zimbabwe Union of Journalists secretary general Foster Dongozi
condemned the probing of journalists by the secret service saying it was an
attempt to intimidate and muzzle the media.

      "Journalists in Zimbabwe are already under siege and we strongly
condemn this latest attempt to further intimidate us," said Dongozi.

      He added: "As journalists, we are going to mobilise our members and
friends of the profession against any further attempts to muzzle us."

      Zimbabwe is ranked among the most repressive environments for
journalists in the world. In the last three years, hundreds of journalists
have been arrested and three newspapers including the country's biggest and
only independent daily, the Daily News, were shut down by the government. -
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New Zimbabwe

A 'Gestapo' welcome for Zimbabwe's UK deportees

By Dixon Marisa
Last updated: 02/03/2005 10:54:41
AS BRITAIN steps-up its efforts to deport failed asylum seekers back to
Zimbabwe, those who have already made the dreaded trip report of a real
"Gestapo" welcome at the Harare International Airport.

"We have a right to ask whether these would be deportees or Blair's
mercenaries of regime change or plain law-abiding Zimbabweans returning home
after having been abused and dehumanised in Britain. Their treatment will
depend on which is which," Information Minister Jonathan Moyo said recently.

Moyo's comments are not idle chatter.

Ratidzo (not her real name) said she was one of three deportees forced into
a plane from the UK after the Home Office had refused to extend her student
visa. She also reports of structural changes to the arrival lounge at Harare
International Airport which has been changed drastically to house Central
Intelligence Organisation interview rooms.

She said all deportees were told to use a different entrance and behind the
wooden doors were mean-looking plain clothes officers who identified
themselves as state security agents.

"We were separated and each was led into a different office. As soon as they
closed the door the two officers started shouting at me," she told New

She said her inquisitors wanted to know:

. Why had you run away from Zimbabwe?

. How does it feel to be home again?

. Why did they send you back?

. Why had you claimed asylum in the first place?

. How long were you in the UK?

. What did they teach or train you to be?

. How much are you going to be paid to effect regime change?

. We have information that you are a mercenary, can you prove otherwise?

. Which division of the British Army did you train with?

. Why are you coming back just as we are preparing for elections?

. Are you going to vote?

. Who are you going to vote for and why?

. What is going to be your role in the MDC?

. What method of communication will you use to link with the British spies?

. Give us all your contacts in UK.

      "The British immigration officials did not allow her time even to
withdraw her money from the bank. All her personal belongings which were in
Coventry have since been stolen"

"The intimidating officers fired question after question shouting abuse and
threatening me with incineration at the notorious torture chambers of
Goromonzi Prison," Ratidzo narrated.

"At one time an officer hit me across the mouth when I asked him why they
did not believe that I was just a student wrongly deported. He said, '.we
have a job to do here and sell-outs like you have no grounds to ask us about

Ratidzo said her interrogation continued for about three hours and only
stopped when she remembered that she had an uncle serving in the Zimbabwe
national army. "I told them about him and asked that they make a phone call
so they could confirm my story. They did and my uncle asked them to let me
go, promising that he will keep me in check. If it was not for that
connection, I really do not know which direction my life would have taken."

By the time they released her she was close to a mental breakdown.

"From the time I was picked up by the British immigration officials to the
time I faced the CIO inquisitors, events kept changing in my life so fast
that I could not cope. The most cruel were the British who seem keen to play
a numbers game with people's lives, claiming to have deported such and such
simply because there is an election coming up in the UK

"As for the Zimbabwean side, I have no words to describe the insanity. They
seem to believe Moyo's paranoid guess work when he announced that UK was not
really deporting the Zimbabweans but simply deploying specially trained
agents to cause trouble in Zimbabwe. This is really insane but the CIO
operatives are more than convinced that it's true. As I left the building I
could still hear shouts and groans from the other two deportees."

Ratidzo, who had not been in Zimbabwe for the past three years is now living
in squalor and depravity since the British did not allow her time even to
withdraw her money from the bank. All her personal belongings which were in
Coventry have since been stolen.

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Zimbabwe opposition may defer poll decision: sources

February 02, 2005, 12:30

Zimbabwe's main opposition the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), may
delay its decision on contesting March elections until a regional group
sends a delegation to Harare to determine whether free and fair polls can be

The MDC, the biggest challenge to Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu(PF) party,
began a two-day meeting today, which had been expected to culminate in an
announcement tomorrow that they will participate in the elections.

Mugabe yesterday set a March 31 date for the vote, which analysts say will
be a test of how far his government has implemented democratic guidelines
after charges that his Zanu(PF), in power since 1980, rigged the last two
major elections in 2000 and 2002.

MDC sources told reporters today the opposition is concerned that the
14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) has not yet sent a
mission to assess Zimbabwe's political climate ahead of the elections, and
is not applying the promised political pressure on Mugabe's government.

"That decision could be delayed because we are not happy with SADC who had
promised to send a troika led by (South African President Thabo) Mbeki to
assess the situation here but they have not done so," a senior opposition
official said.

"So we still await that visit and our meeting today will decide whether the
announcement will be made on Thursday," the official said.

No atmosphere for free and fair polls
The MDC says electoral reforms recently adopted by Mugabe's government,
including an
"independent" electoral commission, are not enough to guarantee a free and
fair poll. The opposition charges that security laws requiring parties to
seek police clearance for meetings, and media laws that have left the press
under close government control have been affecting its ability to campaign.

Political analysts say the MDC has no choice but to contest the March
elections, and MDC officials said earlier this week that the party had come
under pressure from its supporters and had already informally decided to

The officials said an announcement would be a formality. The MDC won nearly
half of the 120 contested seats in the 2000 parliamentary election, but
political analysts say the party has been weakened by both external pressure
and internal bickering.

Mugabe has said the March elections will give his party a chance to "bury"
the MDC, which he has a long derided as a tool of Western powers opposed to
his policy of seizing white-owned farms to give to landless blacks.

Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC leader, told reporters last week the party is in
a dilemma over the decision: "The problem confronting us is damned if we do,
damned if we don't." - Reuters
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Financial Times

MDC expected to take part in Zimbabwe poll
By FT reporters
Published: February 2 2005 18:49 | Last updated: February 2 2005 18:49

Zimbabwe's main opposition party is expected on Thursday to announce plans
to contest a March 31 parliamentary election.

The Movement for Democratic Change has to choose between boycotting the
vote - and risk becoming irrelevant - or participating in an election that
few observers believe will be free or fair. "We are damned if we do, and
damned if we don't," MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai said last week.

People close to the MDC say its fears of losing credibility, coupled with
pressure from neighbouring countries, have persuaded it to participate.

The decision will come amid renewed international interest in Zimbabwe's
long-running political and economic crisis. Condoleezza Rice, US secretary
of state, last month listed Zimbabwe, among six "outposts of tyranny".
Robert Mugabe's government in turn accused the Bush administration of trying
to destabilise Zimbabwe ahead of the election.

Amid the growing tension, Zimbabwe on Wednesday prevented a delegation from
the South African trade-union federation Cosatu from entering the country.
South Africans do not require visas for Zimbabwe, but one member was quoted
comparing the country to North Korea.

Some foreign governments have joined the MDC in pressing Zimbabwe to hold a
democratic vote under guidelines agreed last year by the 13-member Southern
African Development Community, to which Zimbabwe belongs.

The African-drafted protocol was seen as an important step toward easing
Zimbabwe's crisis, as President Mugabe's Zanu-PF party has rallied regional
opinion by describing his critics as agents of colonial powers.

But with the vote less than two months away, foreign observers and
Zimbabwean opposition members say the Mugabe government is nowhere close to
meeting SADC standards. It has tightened controls on the media,
nongovernmental organisations, and public meetings since the 2002
presidential poll, which observers described as flawed.

Although the SADC guidelines prescribe parties' free access to media, the
MDC has been denied airtime on the state-controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting
Organisation or advertising space in newspapers. Foreign journalists have
been expelled and two independent newspapers closed. A new law requires
organisers of gatherings of more than 10 people to obtain a permit.

Questions have been raised over the voters' roll, which Lovemore Maduku of
the National Constituency Association, the civil-rights group, called "a
shambles" and "years out of date". More than 3m Zimbabweans living abroad
cannot vote.

The MDC also claims that intimidation and violence by the state's
50,000-member youth militia have made some rural regions no-go areas for the

But one analyst believes the elections in Ukraine and Iraq may influence
opinion. "The international mood on rigged elections or election fraud has
changed," said Greg Mills, national director of the South African Institute
of International Affairs.
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Zim 'a threat' to Africa
02/02/2005 20:04  - (SA)

Johannesburg - Zimbabwe's refusal to allow the Congress of South African
Trade Unions (Cosatu) into the country on Wednesday was a "barbaric and
illegal act", and boded ill for the future of the continent, the union's
secretary general said.

"Nepad (the New Partnership for Africa's Development) will stand no chance
if a government such as Zimbabwe willingly disregards its own laws in this
manner," Zwelenzima Vavi warned on his return to Johannesburg International

"The continent will go nowhere if its leaders can act with impunity."

A 20-strong delegation of trade union leaders was turned away when they
arrived in Harare, thus preventing a meeting with their Zimbabwean

Each delegate was presented with a notice "to people refused entry to the
country", claiming it was prohibited under the Immigration Act, ch 4.2, Vavi

The returning trade unionists were cheerful. Undaunted, they planned to
drive to Beit Bridge border post immediately, to meet with members of the
Zimbabwean Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) in Musina on Thursday.

The two federations needed to discuss what their next move would be, Vavi
told journalists. He said the meeting would also demonstrate the differences
between the countries.

"We do not require permission from the minister of labour to hold
discussions with our counterparts."

Mdladlana 'encouraged' Zim

Vavi mentioned possible future demonstrations and marches on the borders of
the country, but said the way forward would be discussed with the ZCTU on

He reiterated that the African National Congress supported Cosatu.

Gwede Mantashe, National Union of Mineworkers general secretary said Cosatu
did not expect anything concrete from the government or the ANC after
Wednesday's event.

ANC spokesperson Smuts Ngonyama told Sapa the alliance partners would
discuss the matter thoroughly at an alliance meeting next week.

He would not comment on Cosatu's insistence that Zimbabwe had broken the law
in ejecting their delegation.

"Whether it is illegal or legal is neither here nor there for us as the ANC.
We respect the sovereignty of Zimbabwe," he told Sapa.

South African labour minister Membathisi Mdladlana could not be contacted on

It was Mdladlana's statement on Monday that gave Zimbabwe the courage to
turn Cosatu away, according to Vavi.

Mdladlana said the visit was pointless and would seriously undermine his
relations with his Zimbabwean counterparts.

"We would not have been chucked out if he had not made that statement. It
was very unfortunate," Vavi said.
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Outlook bleak for Zimbabwe elections
Posted Wed, 02 Feb 2005

A discussion hosted by the South African Institute of International Affairs
(SAIIA) on Wednesday painted a bleak picture of the possibility of free and
fair elections in Zimbabwe.

The administration of justice in Zimbabwe was under increasing stress and
the Movement for Democratic Change was not allowed to air its views on TV or
radio, advocate George Bizos said in a presentation.

Wednesday marked the 15th anniversary of the day then-president FW de Klerk
announced the unbanning of the African National Congress and the release of
Nelson Mandela from Prison, and SAIIA national director Greg Mills compared
Zimbabwe's leader's unfavourably to de Klerk.

"It is improbable to see the sort of statesmanship we saw 15 years ago, in
Zimbabwe," Mills said.

Mills was speaking at a discussion on conditions necessary for free and fair
elections in Zimbabwe.

Electoral commission not independent

Independent analyst Dren Nupen said that although Zimbabwe had an electoral
commission in place in accordance with Southern African Development
Community (SADC) norms and guidelines, it was "stacked" with supporters of
the leading Zanu-PF party.

Mail and Guardian CEO Trevor Ncube also spoke at the discussion.

He said Zanu-PF was using SADC protocol as a veneer in order to attempt to
reverse its illegitimate status.

Zanu-PF would lose the elections if it adhered to SADC rules all the way,
Ncube said.

Cosatu treatment not a good omen

Bizos added that the treatment meted out to the last Cosatu delegation,
which was kicked out of the country, did not augur well for the March 31

Mugabe announced the election date on Tuesday, and on Wednesday a second
delegation of Cosatu leaders attempted to visit the country unsuccessfully.

No representatives for the South African government were present, Mills
said, because it thought the moment was "too sensitive" to participate in a
public forum.

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      Good African crops cold comfort for hungry refugees

      Wed February 2, 2005 1:47 PM GMT+02:00
      By Peter Apps

      JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Africa's farmers have produced more than
expected despite locust plagues and drought, but that is cold comfort to the
continent's countless refugees with no cash to pay, or aid agencies whose
funding has dried up.

      "We are looking at a very serious situation," United Nations World
Food Programme (WFP) spokesman Ramin Rafirasme, told Reuters from Senegal.

      The WFP says it saw donations for Africa vanish almost completely in
January, after the tsunami that devastated the Indian Ocean region, forcing
it to cut back on how much food it buys -- bad news for producers with
surplus stock to shift.

      The U.N. agency said it received $36 million in November and December
for southern Africa prior to the tsunami, but another $74 million was still

      "We have already reduced food rations in Liberia because of lack of
resources," Rafirasme noted.

      Roughly 900,000 Liberians -- mainly refugees returning to their
villages following the end of a 14-year civil war in 2003 -- rely on WFP
handouts. The agency had intended to buy some 200,000 tonnes of food in 2005
for them and for refugees in neighbouring Guinea and Sierra Leone.

      In nearby Mauritania, the agency says it will need 187,000 tonnes of
food to cope with consequences of drought and locust swarms, but fears the
insects might have destroyed most of the crops in neighbouring countries
were largely unfounded.

      The WFP says it will also have to cut back its operations in southern
Africa unless funding -- which looked bad in December and has entirely dried
up since Christmas -- improves.


      Traditionally, some countries, particularly the United States, have
donated physical food to the WFP, but agencies increasingly want cash
donations so they can buy food on the continent, boosting African

      As their futures prices crash on poor demand and overproduction, South
African maize traders are looking for any markets for their product -- but
many think the price will have to drop below its current 570 rand a tonne.

      In the past, South African farmers have profited from food shortages
in southern Africa, but better rains and agricultural reform mean the 2005
harvest looks better than previous years, and aid agencies have been buying
better priced Zambian produce.

      A band of drought has hit southern Zimbabwe and Mozambique, but in
general aid workers say the region's remaining food shortages are due to
people being too poor to buy food due to unemployment and economic collapse
rather than crop failure.

      Most South African exports have gone to the region, but traders say
demand elsewhere in the continent is also good news.


      In central Angola, several hundred thousand people -- including many
refugees who had returned home following the end of a 27-year civil war,
might soon need aid, South African Development Community food security
adviser Gary Sawdon said.

      "This population is extremely vulnerable," he said. "They had very
poor harvests last year and are now in the heart of the lean season."

      In Sudan and neighbouring Chad, refugees are also driving up food need
demand. Offshore, WFP is distributing stocks already held on the Indian
Ocean island of Madagascar to homeless and vulnerable groups after a cyclone
killed at least 17 last week.

      The worst problems remain in the Horn of Africa where aid workers say
more than eight million Ethiopians and 2.2 million Eritreans are still at
risk to food shortages.

      "A few months ago, people were talking about 12 million Ethiopians
needing food aid," Care International food security specialist Dan Maxwell
told Reuters. "Things look a little better...but in Somalia things aren't
better at all."

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From The East African (Kenya, 31 January

Did Mkapa broker Mugabe, Moyo talks?

Stanley Kamana

Nairobi - Tanzanian and Zimbabwean officials are keeping silent on what
transpired during a four-and-a-half-hour tete-a-tete between President
Benjamin Mkapa and President Robert Mugabe in State House, Harare on January
22. There is widespread speculation that Mkapa was on a "peace-making"
mission to heal rifts in Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu PF. The Tanzanian leader
made a one-day visit to Zimbabwe for what he described to reporters on his
return to the country as routine consultations between two "brotherly'
countries governed by "sister" parties. However, informed sources both in
Harare and Dar es Salaam have told The EastAfrican that President Mkapa flew
to the Southern African country to play honest broker between President
Mugabe and his erstwhile information minister and propaganda chief, Prof
Jonathan Moyo. Prof Moyo was Mugabe's top confidant until last month, when
they fell out following allegations by some ministers in Mugabe's Cabinet
that Moyo attempted to block Mugabe's appointment of Joyce Mujuru as Zanu PF
vice president and the state second vice president. He was subsequently
kicked off the party's central committee and its politburo along with his
perceived accomplices.

The fact that the two presidents, chose to meet in camera gives credence to
the speculation that it was no ordinary consultation. Col (rtd) Nsa Kaisi,
President Mkapa's political advisor, told The EastAfrican that since he did
not travel with the president to Harare, he could not say for sure what
transpired in the closed door meeting. "But I know that the meeting was not
an impromptu encounter, he said. Col Kaisi is a former journalist colleague
of the President Mkapa. They were both journalists at The Nationalist
newspaper. "The Harare discussions had been scheduled to take place in
Zanzibar, where President Mugabe was special guest at the 41st anniversary
of the Zanzibar Revolution. But they were unable to hold the discussions
there, prompting President Mkapa to travel to Harare at a later date," he
said. Col Kaisi said both presidents belonged to the Peace and Security
Committee of the African Union (AU) and as such, have to consult now and
then. He cited President Mkapa's two-day visit to Uganda a week earlier as
being part of this scheme of things.

However, the Uganda visit is not difficult to understand since there are
peace and security problems both in Uganda and in neighbouring DR Congo and
Sudan's Darfur region. The same cannot be said of Zimbabwe, though, whose
internal problems have yet to be addressed by the AU. Similarly, the
Zimbabwean ambassador to Tanzania, Chippo Zindoga, who travelled to Harare
for the Tanzanian president's visit, said that the meeting was a one-on-one
talk between the two leaders and it lasted four and half hours. Ms Zindoga
said that only the two presidents know what they discussed at State House,
Harare. Tanzania's ambassador to Zimbabwe, Brig Gen (rtd) Hashim Mbita,
speaking to The EastAfrican from Harare last Thursday, also said the
leaders' meeting was a closed-door affair and as a former journalist
himself, acknowledged that it is only natural that such meetings arouse
speculation. Gen Mbita, who is close to the Zimbabwean ruling clique, having
worked with them during the liberation struggle as executive secretary of
the Organisation of African Unity Liberation Committee, said no political
party worth its name was without problems, be it internal conflicts or minor
differences. He was referring to the conflict in Zanu PF. "Take an example
of Kenya, he said, "What is happening within the ruling National Rainbow
Coalition? These are normal, ordinary things for political parties. So if
our leaders chose to discuss the problems in Zanu PF as you are saying, then
there is nothing earthshaking about it. That's politics. But what I can tell
you categorically is that the presidents met alone and none of us knows what
transpired. In fact, they were due to hold these talks in Zanzibar during
Revolution Day celebrations, but I think time did not allow it. That is why
President Mkapa had to come this way for the talks.

Mr Mbita also referred to the fact that both Zimbabwe and Tanzania will be
holding general elections later this year and said that this alone is a
reason for consultation between two brotherly countries. The party strife
could not have come at a worse time for President Mugabe, who is facing a
general election in March this year, even as he faces stiff opposition from
other political parties, particularly the Movement for Democratic Change led
by former trade union chief Morgan Tsvangirai. President Mkapa is one of the
African heads of state who have publicly supported Mugabe's land policies.
Sources say that President Mkapa has been worried that an open split in
Mugabe's ruling Zanu PF party resulting from the demotion or departure of
Moyo from its ranks would be disastrous to the party's chances of winning
the election. "It would also reflect negatively on the veneer of
invincibility that Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) likes to portray, especially
when the party has a general election on its hands this year, said a source
in Dar es Salaam. The argument goes that since President Mkapa is
constitutionally barred from running in the coming elections, CCM can
ill-afford a split in a "sister" party, which could set a bad precedent.
"President Mkapa must have gone to Harare to avert what looks like a sure
split in Zanu PF following Moyo's ouster and subsequent moves to bar him
from defending his parliamentary seat of Tsholotsho," said our source,
adding: "He must be looking ahead at what might happen here if one of the
major contenders fails to get nominated and decides to go it alone." CCM
will pick its presidential candidate in April, six months early, in a
departure from the usual last-minute nomination.
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Zim Online

Thur 3 February 2005
  HARARE - Zimbabwe's main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
party will today announce whether it is contesting a key general election
next month, party spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi said last night.

      The opposition party, which last year threatened to boycott the poll
until the political playing field was levelled, had finished consulting
ordinary members on the March 31 election and a meeting of its national
executive council today will take a final decision on the matter, Nyathi

      He said: "The national executive has completed its consultative
exercise throughout all the 12 (party) provinces.

      "All the provinces have expressed an opinion in one way or the other
regarding participation or non-participation in the parliamentary elections
and the final decision will be made public at the end of the national
council deliberations tomorrow (today)."

      The MDC spokesman said members of the opposition party were concerned
that the government had done little to implement Southern African
Development Community standards and principles for free and fair elections.

      "The provinces believe that pressure must continually be exerted on
the regime by all people within and outside the country so that the
government implements the guidelines as stated by SADC protocols which
Zimbabwe has ratified," said Nyathi.

      Analysts have said the opposition party is caught between a rock and a
hard place over the election.

      Either it boycotts the ballot and is consigned to political oblivion
or it participates and gives legitimacy to an election designed to achieve
only one result, the victory of President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF
party.  ZimOnline
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Zim Online

ANALYSIS: Mugabe deports COSATU to send clear message to Mbeki
Thur 3 February 2005

      HARARE - By deporting South African labour leaders yesterday, Harare
was sending a message to that country's broader ruling alliance led by
President Thabo Mbeki that it will not brook criticism even from its most
important regional ally, analysts said.

      The deportation of Congress of South African Trade Unions leaders, who
were on a mission to assess whether conditions in Zimbabwe were conducive
for a free and fair election next month, highlighted how little the space
for democracy is in the country's political spectrum, they said.

      But more significantly, noted University of Zimbabwe (UZ) Institute of
Development Studies professor Brian Raftopoulos, the deportation was a
signal to Pretoria and other allies in the region that Harare will not take
criticism for failing to open up political space in line with a regional
protocol on democratic elections.

      Raftopoulos said: "Clearly President Robert Mugabe and his government
are not happy with critical comments made recently by the secretary general
of South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) party.

      "So the deportation is a clear message to the broader ruling alliance
in South Africa that the government of Zimbabwe will not take criticism from

      Departing from the ANC's policy of quiet diplomacy on Zimbabwe, party
secretary general, Kgalema Motlanthe, last month openly called on Mugabe to
lift restrictions on the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change
party under which the party cannot hold political meetings without police

      The ANC, which is in a tripartite ruling alliance with COSATU and the
South African Communist Party, had also publicly backed the labour union's
ill-fated mission to Harare only saying the union had to abide by Zimbabwe's

      But Zimbabwe's Labour Minister Paul Mangwana refused to grant an
application by the South African trade unionists to be allowed to visit
Zimbabwe for talks with the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions on
labour-related issues and political conditions in the country.

      Mangwana and his Home Affairs counterpart Kembo Mohadi on Tuesday
threatened to jail the COSATU officials if they came to Zimbabwe without

      They promptly acted yesterday declaring COSATU secretary general,
Zwelinzima Vavi and his 15-member delegation prohibited immigrants on
arrival and ordered them back onto the South African Airways plane that had
brought them to Harare.

      UZ law lecturer and human rights activist Lovemore Madhuku said by
deporting COSATU on the eve of an election seen by the international
community as a test of how far he has moved to embrace democracy, Mugabe was
thumping his nose at the world and at Mbeki in particular.

      Designated by American President George W. Bush in 2003 as the
point-man in southern Africa, Mbeki - who controls Africa's richest
economy - is viewed as Mugabe's most critical ally without whose support the
Zimbabwean leader would not last.

      "Mugabe did not just deport COSATU. This was an attack on Mbeki as
well. This is a direct assault on Mbeki. Mugabe is just showing him that he
is not so powerful," Madhuku said.

      Mangwana told ZimOnline last night that Zimbabwe had deported the
South African union leaders to show it was a sovereign state and not an
extension of its giant neighbour.

      "I told them not to come without authority. Zimbabwe is a sovereign
state. Zimbabwe is not a province of South Africa," Mangwana said

      Zimbabwe harassed and deported a similar mission by COSATU last year
accusing the union of teaming up with Western countries led by former
colonial ruler Britain to topple Mugabe's government.

      The Harare administration claims it is being targeted for retribution
by Western powers opposed to its confiscation of white-owned farmland for
redistribution to landless blacks. - ZimOnline
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Zim Online

COSATU says barring of team "barbaric and illegal"
Thur 3 February 2005
  JOHANNESBURG - Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) secretary
general Zwelinzima Vavi has condemned as "barbaric and illegal" the barring
into the country of its fact-finding team at Harare international airport

      Vavi and his 15-member delegation were yesterday declared prohibited
immigrants and were immediately put on the next flight back to South Africa.

      "NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa's Development) will stand no chance
if a government such as Zimbabwe willingly disregards its own laws in this
manner," Vavi said soon after arrival at Johannesburg International Airport.

      He however said the delegation will drive to Musina today to meet with
the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and chart the way forward. Vavi
would not shed more light on how COSATU will deal with the latest turn of

      The COSATU team was in Harare to meet the ZCTU to assess the plight of
workers and whether conditions for free and fair elections exist in the
country ahead of the March 31 parliamentary election.

      ZCTU president Lovemore Matombo also expressed disappointment over the
barring of the COSATU team saying the South Africans were in the country at
the invitation of the ZCTU to discuss "matters of interest to the workers".

      Matombo said: "We were in communication with the minister (Paul
Mangwana). He should have told us, rather than embarrass people like this."

      Earlier this week Zimbabwe's Labour Minister Paul Mangwana threatened
to jail COSATU delegation if they proceeded with their trip to Harare.

      This is the second time COSATU has failed to successfully complete its
mission in Zimbabwe.

      Last October, a similar delegation was bundled out of the country
raising tensions within South Africa's ruling tripartite alliance. South
Africa's ruling African National Congress party condemned COSATU accusing it
of playing to the gallery in dealing with the Zimbabwean issue, while the
South African Communist Party, which is part of the ruling alliance backed
the federation over the visit. - ZimOnline

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The Herald

Time for parastatals to produce results

By Tinotenda Mabwe
PARASTATALS in Zimbabwe played a pivotal role in the economy both before and
since independence but some were a stress on the fiscus and there were
worries about their efficiency.

Since independence the Government has adopted the idea of commercialisation,
that is turning organisations set up under an Act of Parliament, into
commercial companies that would operate according to the Companies Act and
which would be unable to survive as loss-making concerns.

Almost all parastatals have now been through this transformation, including
several strategic companies such as Zesa Holdings and Zimbabwe Broadcasting

Right from the beginning of the process, President Mugabe made a clear
distinction between commercialisation and privatisation. Commercialisation
involved how the organisation was run. Commercial organisations have to make
a profit but generally have considerable more flexibility in management.

More importantly, companies have to follow a very clear system of accounts,
which allows owners and anyone else with access to these accounts to see
very clearly what is going on. It proved impossible to monitor parastatals
effectively simply because their accounts, while accurate, were not in the
commercial form that the real world of business finds absolutely necessary
if sensible decisions on capital expenditure, asset replacement and pricing
are to be made.

Privatisation involves the Government selling shares in the commercialised
entity. So a parastatal can be commercialised, without being privatised. Or
elements can be privatised.

For example in Zesa, there has been discussion on bringing in partners into
power generation, but not into the national grid. With the railways, no one
would seriously suggest selling shares in the company owning the track,
rights of way and fixed infrastructure, but there has been debate on whether
others can run private services on this track.

In some cases the Government decided that shares should be sold, with
producers or others in the industry being the first target as share-

This initiative saw companies like Dairibord and the Cotton Marketing Board
being privatised and all this was done after the companies went through
commercialisation as the Government was offloading some of its shares.

This privatisation process also gave many Zimbabweans a chance to become
shareholders in listed entities.

At the moment these strategic companies are something to smile at as
evidenced by the performance of Dairibord and Cottco on the stock exchange.

The companies have been turned from public enterprises to private companies
where the board of directors really mean business as it has to report to
shareholders who want to see their investments put to good use.

Privatisation, however, lost steam at the turn of the century, largely
because those who ended up as shareholders were not the original targeted

Commercialisation is, however, still regarded as a key policy with decisions
to be taken later on the benefits or otherwise of the Government selling any
of its shares or allowing its shareholding to be diluted through the issue
of new shares.

Most of the recently commercialised parastatals were found to be grossly
undercapitalised, a problem that went right back into the settler days when
they were founded. So once the accounts are switched to commercial formats,
the need for restructuring became dramatically apparent and for the first
time it was possible to differentiate clearly between structural weaknesses,
such as investment, and bad management.

In this regard the central bank has unveiled $10 trillion rescue plan under
the Parastatals and Local Authorities Reorientation Programme that will see
these entities getting facelifts.

The management boards of parastatals have been under fire on numerous
occasions from the Government and the public for failing to provide the
required services.

"To date, most parastatals have been a drag to our turnaround efforts and a
source of misery for both households and the economy as a whole," said the
RBZ Governor last week.

He added that these have been a missing link in the economy and he called
for their shake-up with immediate effect, hence his plan.

But the Governor has made it clear in the past that he wants to see
up-to-date and properly set out accounts before releasing special funds to
parastatals. Such accounts would allow Reserve Bank staff to assess what
money applied where would solve a problem. Some areas of the parastatals do
require huge injections of capital. In others this would simply be throwing
away money because non-monetary solutions are needed.

The authorities will have to closely monitor turnaround strategies that
these companies employ and ensure they are adhered to at any given time. For
example, Zesa revealed last year that it lost investments worth more than $2
trillion due to "untimely policy decisions".

The Reserve Bank has increased its own monitoring powers by insisting on
proper accounts at the very least before a parastatal or State company can
access concessionary funds.

Most people agree that the way forward is for the parastatal community to
exercise the highest level of transparency, accountability and
responsiveness to society's demands on them.

Therefore, as we celebrate the Silver Jubilee it is mandatory for the
parastatals to do some soul-searching and know where they stand with regard
to their contribution to the economic well-being of the country.
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Pretoria News

      Zim faces blockade of borders
      February 3, 2005

      By Basildon Peta, Jeremy Michaels, Mizwakhe Hlanganic

      Blockades of Zimbabwe's borders are in the pipeline following the
unceremonious expulsion of a Cosatu mission from Harare yesterday.

      Cosatu general-secretary Zwelinzima Vavi also warned of industrial
action "which could turn southern African politics on its head" after an
18-member delegation was turned back at Harare airport yesterday. Vavi and
his team are due for a meeting in Musina this morning with the Zimbabwe
Congress of Trade Unions to chart the way forward.

      While the South African Government yesterday signalled it was at odds
with Cosatu over its second abortive mission to Zimbabwe, "Cosatu wanted to
meet their counterparts and there's nothing wrong with that," ANC
secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe told Independent Newspapers late

      Chief government spokesman Joel Netshitenzhe said he did not believe
the incident would sour relations between the two countries.

      He said the government respected Cosatu's right to travel to other
countries, but warned that there would be "consequences" if the union
federation did not observe their laws and protocols.

      "If they (Cosatu) fail to do that, then there are consequences that
are attached to that. We hope it will help to inform how they plan and
conduct campaigns in the future," Netshitenzhe warned.

      Vavi, who previously said action would only be decided on at a Cosatu
executive meeting later in the month, yesterday said broad range
consultations with other trade union movements on the sub-continent would be

      He did not rule out the possibility of protest blockades of Zimbabwe's
borders and a source said protest marches and pickets on Zimbabwean
interests in South Africa could be expected.

      Vavi said Cosatu members could also be asked to refuse to process
Zimbabwe labour minister Paul Mangwana's passport when he came to South
Africa, forcing him to return to Zimbabwe in the same manner he had ordered
Cosatu's expulsion.

      As Mangwana may lose his seat in the upcoming elections, other
ministers and senior officials could be targeted.

      Vavi was forthright on the need for African leaders to rally against

      "Nepad will stand no chance if governments such as that of Zimbabwe
willy nilly disregard their own laws and act in such a barbaric manner," he

      In a separate interview, Cosatu president Willie Madisha said that
while the federation supported President Mbeki's efforts in resolving the
Zimbabwe crisis, the need for all African leaders to rein in Mugabe could
not be over-emphasised.

      "All the leaders of Africa must come together and decide what they
should do with this man (Mugabe). It's not Mbeki alone but all leaders of
Africa," he said.

      Meanwhile, the ZCTU secretary general Wellington Chibebe said last
night they would take action against the Zimbabwe government.

      "We can't disclose the nature of the action or the timing lest they
start rolling their machinery of repression in right away. We will take them
by surprise," he said.

      Among the actions expected is mass action.

      The Democratic Alliance said it was "sad" but "not surprising" that
Cosatu was thrown out of Zimbabwe.

      "Once again by its actions the government of Zimbabwe has made a
mockery of quiet diplomacy," said the DA's national chairman Joe Seremane.

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Zimbabwe's ruling party accused of tampering with elections


Chicago Tribune

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - (KRT) - Efforts by Zimbabwe's government to
rebuild its international image in upcoming elections are likely to fail,
largely because the ruling party has already rigged the voting, fearing it
will lose power if it does not, regional political analysts said Wednesday
in Johannesburg.

Upcoming parliamentary elections, set for March 31, "can never be considered
to be free and fair," said Trevor Ncube, a Zimbabwean journalist who now
runs the Mail and Guardian newspaper in South Africa. By barring opposition
rallies, refusing to publish voter rolls, banning opposition advertising,
intimidating rivals and denying observers entry to the country, Zimbabwe's
government has already ensured that "the playing field is far from level."

"An election is not a one-day event," he said. Ncube said the Zimbabwe
government's actions in recent months mean the elections are "already

Zimbabwe's longtime ruling party, stung by international condemnation and
sanctions after it tampered with 2002 presidential elections to hold on to
power, has in recent months waged a concerted campaign to repair its image
and show that this time it is meeting international standards for free and
fair elections.

Last month it appointed a new, purportedly independent commission to oversee
the upcoming polling and to bring its policies in line with standards of the
African Union and the Southern African Development Community, the region's
main oversight body. A delegation of SADC lawyers last week visited Harare
to check Zimbabwe's compliance with the rules and is expected to issue a
report within weeks.

But opposition leaders and international analysts insist Zimbabwe's changes
amount to little more than window-dressing.

The new election commission, they charge, is stacked with ruling-party
supporters. Government-controlled media have refused to carry stories about
or accept advertising from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change,
they say, and the government has shut down most private media outlets.
Draconian security laws also now require any political discussion involving
more than 10 people to be approved by the police, who have refused to grant
the opposition authority to hold campaign rallies in most parts of the

Opposition officials have been refused permission to see the country's voter
rolls, reportedly stacked with dead voters, analysts say. And Zimbabwean
traditional chiefs, charged with overseeing voting and government food
distribution in rural areas, have recently seen their salaries doubled and
have been given the right to a government car in an effort to ensure their
loyalty to the ruling ZANU-PF party, Ncube said.

Perhaps most telling, however, is that Zimbabwe's government has so far
refused to issue invitations for election monitors and on Wednesday turned
back at the airport an influential delegation of South African trade union
leaders who had arrived to meet with their counterparts in Zimbabwe.

Such rebukes have led to stepped-up pressure on Zimbabwe from the government
of neighboring South Africa, which up to now has insisted on sticking to its
much-criticized and largely ineffective policy of "quiet diplomacy" with the
government of President Robert Mugabe.

South Africa's ruling African National Congress for the first time last
month said that Mugabe's mistreatment of the opposition meant free and fair
elections there were unlikely. Specifically it called on Zimbabwe's
government to allow the opposition to campaign, to give the MDC access to
state media and to ensure that the country's police, implicated in
widespread beatings, rapes and arrests of opposition figures, act in "an
impartial manner."

The MDC, which has threatened to boycott the elections if it is not given a
fair chance to compete, has still not made a final determination about
whether it will contest the vote.

Forced to choose between losing a rigged election or not running at all, the
opposition "appears to be damned if it does and damned if it doesn't," said
Greg Mills, national director of the South African Institute of
International Affairs, which played host to Wednesday's roundtable on
Zimbabwe's elections.

The opposition party won nearly half the country's parliamentary seats in
2000 elections that stunned Mugabe and set in motion his rigging of the 2002
presidential elections and his confiscation of the country's white farmland
in an effort to win back popular support.

But the opposition movement has been paralyzed by tough new security laws
and by its own internal failings to lead an effective and organized peaceful
campaign against Mugabe's government, analysts say.

Meanwhile, Mugabe's mismanagement has sent the once prosperous country into
an economic tailspin. Inflation was 400 percent last year, the number of
formal sector jobs has shrunk 40 percent since 2002 and millions are hungry
in a nation that once was a major food exporter for the region. Prices of
staple foods such as cornmeal are now beyond the reach of many families, and
the government has driven out private aid organizations and limits
distribution of government food aid to its political supporters.
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