The ZIMBABWE Situation Our thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.

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Zimbabwe Begins Enforcing New Laws on Farm Takeovers By  Peta Tornycroft
      07 February 2005

Zimbabwe has new laws to fast track legal processes for the state to take
over thousands of white-owned farms. Many of these farms have already been
physically taken over by ruling Zanu PF supporters, but the paperwork is
outstanding. Among the properties being processed through the courts Monday
are several farms owned and still operated by South African and other
foreign farmers.

The first case at the administrative court Monday was about the only piece
of land owned by an 81-year-old white South African man who has lived in
Zimbabwe most of his life.

His home is on the piece of land in question, in a dry ranching district in
southern Zimbabwe, and he wants to keep it.

He is one of a minority of white farmers who have never been attacked or had
their property invaded since President Robert Mugabe sent his supporters to
take over white-owned farms in 2000.

A recent amendment to the land law cancelled most previous criteria which
would exclude properties for confiscation, such as farmers who owned only
one piece of land, or foreign owned land or agricultural estates, such as
those producing sugar and tea.

The farmer's lawyer Rodney Makavsi told the court that the independence of
the judiciary was at stake. He said there were judges who were beneficiaries
of land from the government which made them interested parties in this and
similar cases. He said the constitution guaranteed everyone a fair trial
presided over by judges who were independent from the executive arm of

In the last five years, most of about 4000 white farmers have been evicted,
often violently, from farms which were also their homes. However the state's
paperwork has fallen behind and only about 450 have been processed through
the courts so far.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa vowed late last year that the courts
would make great efforts to complete the process. New courts are being set
up and cases are being held in judges' chambers.

Mike Clark, from the Commercial Farmers Union is following the case for
affected farmers in southern Zimbabwe, among them about 15 South Africans.
He links the fast track of land trials to next month's parliamentary
elections. "We look after about 40 farmers who are still sort of farming,"
he said. "We have been relatively left alone until now. There seems to be a
mass acquisition program going on now, and its very questionable. We have
been left alone for so long and now with elections...we have actually got
these fast tracking of cases coming to court. "

Mr. Clark said confiscation of foreign-owned land sends a clear message that
no foreign investment in Zimbabwe is safe.

Zimbabwe's law firms say they are clogged with the sudden rush of land cases
and that another new law gives them only five days to prepare a defense.
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Business Day

Can Rice prevent harvest of death?

CONDOLEEZZA Rice, the newly confirmed US secretary of state, has identified
Zimbabwe as one of six "outposts of tyranny". But experts on Zimbabwe are
far from certain whether she will force regime change in the African country
most in need of it.

Most commentators are focusing on the elections, due to take place next
month. President Robert Mugabe - who stole the last two elections, in 2000
and 2002, by ballot rigging, intimidation, voter fraud and many other
constitutional violations - has said he will live up to the election
requirements of the Southern African Development Community.

The most important are political tolerance, freedom of association, equal
access to state media, and independence of the judiciary and electoral

But there is no sign as yet of political tolerance, or any other condition,
says the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC),
whose leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, told me in November he did not expect
Mugabe to honour any of the conditions.

But if Zanu (PF) reduced violence he would lead his party into the
elections. More recently, Tsvangirai said: "By and large we have witnessed a
decrease in cases of open violence against political opponents."

However, some more sceptical insiders, including his adviser Welshman Ncube,
say the police continue the violence. They also stop the MDC from holding
political rallies, while party activists remain at risk of being abducted,
beaten and tortured by ruling party militias and members of the security

Further, from analysis of the 2000 electoral roll, there are perhaps 400000
deceased people available to vote - and as one activist quipped: "The dead
don't vote for the opposition."

The Independent Electoral Commission is neither a real commission nor is it
independent of Mugabe's control. The independent media has been reduced to
two weekly papers, and the courageous journalists who try to report in a
fair and balanced way are routinely arrested and tortured.

The independent Daily News was bombed out of its offices in 2003, and Zanu
(PF)-controlled television and radio stations spout anti-MDC propaganda,
accusing it of the very acts of savagery (rape and murder) Zanu (PF)

So why is Tsvangirai not boycotting an election he cannot win? The first and
more palatable reason is that if the MDC boycotts the elections, Zanu (PF)
will have enough MPs to change the constitution, which could be crucial when
Mugabe dies or is overthrown. The MDC holds 57 seats, and must hold at least
50 to veto constitutional amendments.

This is important as elections must be held if the president dies or
resigns. But some ruling-party officials would like Mugabe to appoint a
successor, who would have a few years in power before facing the people with
advantages of incumbency. Nevertheless, even if the MDC takes part in the
election, it may not retain 50 seats to prevent political nepotism.

The second reason Tsvangirai may be taking part is to hold his party
together under his leadership, with or without hope of victory. He will
maintain support of an international community that admires him - which will
keep him on the world stage - and prevent SA's and international officials
from acting.

Inaction from SA has been the order of the day so far. The quiet diplomacy -
the "talk, talk and more talk" - of President Thabo Mbeki is not changing
anything in Zimbabwe, and the west's support of it has, so far, done no

Unlike Darfur or the Asian tsunami, the bodies are not piling up under the
scrutiny of video-hungry media. Black Zimbabweans are dying in rural
communities of starvation and HIV, as harvests are about 15% of normal and
there are no drugs to treat any but the fortunate.

With the next harvest due to be the lowest for decades, the death toll is
set to rise, and around election time. With most food being allocated to
Zanu (PF) voters, the time to act on the betrayal of the most basic human
right is now.

Rice is to be commended for addressing Zimbabwe, but the rhetorical battle
has just begun. She must convince southern African leaders that US aid,
military support and other diplomacy - such as trade deals - hinge on them
solving the problem.

They must believe that, unless they enforce election protocols agreed to by
Mugabe, the US will withdraw support to the region: business as usual is no
longer acceptable for this outpost of tyranny.

Bate is a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute.
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Institute for War and Peace Reporting

Government Ballot Preparations a "Joke"

Mugabe shows little sign of implementing regional leaders' electoral conduct
guidelines aimed at ensure a free and fair ballot.

By Augustine Mutandwa in Harare (Africa Reports: Zimbabwe Elections No 04,

The legitimacy and international acceptance - or not - of Zimbabwe's sixth
parliamentary elections on March 31 hinge on whether the ruling ZANU PF
party respects and applies guidelines on electoral conduct laid down by
leaders of countries in the region six months ago.

Heads of state of the Southern African Development Community, SADC,
including Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe, signed the Mauritius Protocol
on the Indian Ocean island of that name last August.

Drawn up specifically as a result of international condemnation of the
conduct of the last Zimbabwean parliamentary elections in 2000, the protocol
demands that all registered political parties be allowed to campaign freely;
have unlimited access to the media; permitted freedom of association; and
that all citizens be allowed to exercise their right to vote.

The principles and guidelines also talk of the need for an independent
electoral commission to run the ballot and to deploy election observers two
weeks before the polls. The heads of state further demanded that there
should be an independent judiciary and programmes of voter education run by
the government and opposition parties.

With fewer than eight weeks to go before Zimbabweans go to the polls,
President Mugabe - who has been in power since his country's independence in
1980 - has done very little as yet to demonstrate that he intends to honour
the Mauritius Protocol or that he wants to level the political playing field
to allow the free and fair participation of opposition parties.

On February 2, he cocked a snook at his fellow heads of state by expelling a
delegation of the Congress of South African Trades Unions, COSATU, who had
arrived in Harare to hold routine talks with Zimbabwe Congress of Trade

While international attention is closely focused on the SADC rules, Brian
Kagoro of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Committee - an umbrella body representing
pro-democracy groups - said they would have little effect.

"It's a joke," said Kagoro, a constitutional lawyer and human rights
activist. "The reforms cannot be introduced within two months."

He was supported by COSATU general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, part of the
expelled delegation, who said, "Where have you seen a government so
desperate, going to the length that they have to refuse entry to trade
unionists, unless they have something to hide?

Referring to the leaders of South Africa's apartheid government in the
Eighties and Rhodesia before it gained its independence and became Zimbabwe
in 1980, he went on, "[The ruling] ZANU PF was once a liberation movement,
but it has become a brutal regime which has no respect for basic human
rights. Its actions are no different from PW Botha and Ian Smith.

"It is simply a change of complexion of the oppressor. Anyone who disagrees
[with Mugabe] is jailed and those who have a different point of view are

A SADC election observer mission will be deployed two weeks before the
voting to pronounce whether the political environment is conducive to
holding free, fair and peaceful elections.

But Welshman Ncube, secretary general of the main opposition party, the
Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, said that the government is flouting
the SADC guidelines daily.

"The police continue to stop us from holding political rallies, while
allowing ZANU PF to holds theirs," he said. "Our party activists remain at
risk of being abducted, beaten and tortured by ruling party militias and
members of the security forces."

The MDC, which decided only on February 3 to take part in an election it
expects to be deeply flawed, has said the Mauritius principles can only
begin to be honoured if an independent electoral commission is established
and if the most draconian laws used by Mugabe against opponents are

These include the Public Order and Security Act, POSA, which was inherited
from the previous white minority regime of Ian Smith. It forbids any
gathering of five people or more, and is being used by the government to
deny the opposition the ability to hold meetings and rallies.

The MDC also wants the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act,
AIPPA, repealed before the polls open.

AIPPA is a draconian piece of legislation that requires journalists to be
licensed by the government and has led to the closure of several newspapers,
including the independent Daily News, the expulsion of all foreign
correspondents and the detention of many Zimbabwean journalists.

The MDC also seeks reform of the judiciary, arguing that it is no longer
impartial because the bench is packed with ZANU PF loyalists.

One such judge is George Chiweshe, a 51-year-old former ZANU guerrilla and
Mugabe lieutenant, who has been appointed chairman of the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission. Chiweshe has already erased three important MDC urban
constituencies from the electoral map and is expected to use soldiers,
policemen and prison officers to staff and supervise 6,000 polling stations
instead of trained electoral officers.

The MDC is allowed no time on national radio and TV, while all independent
radio stations have been closed down. One station, Voice of the People, was
silenced after its building was destroyed in a mystery explosion.

Trevor Ncube, former managing editor of the Zimbabwe Independent and now
publisher of South Africa's Mail and Guardian, is deeply sceptical about the
possibility of a free and fair Zimbabwe election.

"An election is not a one day event," said Ncube, who is also chairman of
the IWPR Africa board.

He said ZANU PF was using the SADC protocol in an attempt to reverse what is
seen by most of the world as its illegitimate status, having rigged the last
parliamentary election in 2000. March's ballot is expected to be no
different. According to Ncube, this year's election is "already rigged".

The government has refused to publish voter rolls and will not allow
independent observers into the country to monitor the election process.

In addition, Zimbabwean traditional chiefs charged with overseeing voting
and the distribution of government food aid to their rural subjects have
recently had their salaries doubled and been given government cars to ensure
they and their village communities stay loyal to ZANU PF.

Augustine Mutandwa is the pseudonym of an IWPR contributor in Zimbabwe.
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Daily News online edition

      CIO members arrested and deported from SA

      Date: 7-Feb, 2005

      MUSINA - Three members of Zimbabwe's Central Intelligence Organisation
(CIO) and a civil servant, were last Friday nabbed by the South African
Police (SAP) after attempting to bulldoze their way into a Congress of South
African Trade Unions and Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions meeting.

      The spy agents were later deported back to Zimbabwe after a brief
detention at a local police station in Musina, a police spokesman at the
border town police station confirmed.

      Although no details were available from the local police station, the
four Zimbabweans were alleged to have followed behind the ZCTU delegation
which had a meeting with their South African counterparts after Cosatu was
barred from entering Zimbabwe by the Government.

      An impromptu meeting was then penciled for the border town, where the
ZCTU was supposed to brief the South African labour union on the current
situation in Zimbabwe.

      Sources within the ZCTU said the four, who were not part of the
delegation, had tried to include themselves so that they could have access
to the deliberations. Alarm bells were later raised after some of the ZCTU
members reported the presence of the spy agents to

      their South African counterparts.

      The four were then arrested by the local police who later handed them
over to immigration officials for onward deportation to Zimbabwe.

      At the meeting between ZCTU and Cosatu, it was agreed that more action
from the South African trade union and its allies in the African

      National Congress (ANC) was needed. Cosatu also threatened a trade
blockade at the Beitbridge border post.

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Daily News online edition

      Mugabe must learn to let go

      Date: 7-Feb, 2005

      THE hope is that our own Dear Leader, Comrade Robert Mugabe,will learn
from the Togolese experience following the death last Saturday of President
Gnassingbe Eyadema.

      Eyadema had been in power in the former French colony for the last 37
years. That long period does not mean he was loved by his subjects. Far from
it. In those years the longest serving African leader survived at least
seven attempts on his life and, according to AFP, he carried a notebook
pierced by a bullet as a talisman to remind him.

      Most African leaders ascend to the throne as genuine nationalists,
with the people's welfare at heart and promises of taking their countries to
greater heights of political and economic freedom.

      President Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe since 1980, came to power after
spending 10 years in detention and several years as leader of a guerrilla
army that finally toppled the colonial while regime of Ian Smith in 1980.

      During the formative years of Zimbabwe's independence, Mugabe was seen
as an honest leader whose policy of reconciliation with his former enemies,
the whites, won him many hearts the world over.

      But this was short-lived, as happens in mostly newly independent
African states. After five years Mugabe had sampled the trappings of power
and he went out of his way to entrench himself at the top table. He did not
want anything to stand in his way.

      By the time the country went for the second post-independence
elections in 1990, Mugabe the man, had transformed into a tiger and would
not come down from the tree top.

      Today, after lining his pockets and destroying the country's once
healthy economy, he blames the Americans and the British for the mess the
country finds itself in. He insists he will not let go, even at the age of

      He is no different from Eyadema, Kamuzu Banda of Malawi, Kenneth
Kaunda of Zambia or Daniel arap Moi of Kenya. Most African leaders will not
let go. After they have created too many enemies, they are afraid of
stepping down.

      They see ghosts everywhere they go. They think it is better for them
to die in office or choose their own successor who will not open the
cupboards to reveal the stinking skeletons.

      Our own Dear leader is no different from the other leaders. It is so

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NLC Petitions Mugabe Over Deportation of Cosatu Delegation

This Day (Lagos)

February 6, 2005
Posted to the web February 7, 2005

Juliana Taiwo

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has written a protest letter to, Dr.
Robert Mugabe, President Republic of Zimbabwe over the deportation of a
Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) delegation to the Zimbabwean
Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).

In the letter signed by General Secretary John E. Odah government to deny a
South African trade union delegation access to the Congress by Zimbabwean
security and immigration forces after being served with prohibition notices,
was very disturbing.

"We are also disturbed by earlier threats by your government to jail the
delegation's members should they make further efforts to enter the country.

"It is regrettable that your recent action has added to the government's
already poor records of subversion of in the country.

"Mr. President, Nigeria Labour Congress shares the trade union movement
about the need to intervene in the worsening political situation in
Zimbabwe, especially the deteriorating conditions under which workers' and
popular organisations are compelled to operate.

"In addition to other initiatives that may arise at the instance of the
international trade union movement, Nigerian trade unions have resolved to
join COSATU in the efforts to establish the facts on the ground, especially
on the critical issue of whether there are conditions for free and fair
elections in Zimbabwe.

"The challenge for your government is to see these efforts as arising from a
sincere attempt at finding an African solution to what we regard as a
serious situation in which Zimbabwean workers have a serious stake", the NLC

It however said it is counting on Mugabe's constructive view of the evolving
continental trade union efforts at helping to improve the political and
trade union rights situation in Zimbabwe.
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Another heavyweight booted from Zanu-PF
          February 07 2005 at 02:59PM

      Harare - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's ruling party has
expelled a senior member facing espionage charges, state media said on

      Phillip Chiyangwa, a provincial chairperson of the ruling Zimbabwe
African National Union Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) arrested in December, is
the latest heavyweight to be pushed out of the party ahead of elections next

      The decision to axe Chiyangwa was taken at the weekend by senior party

      "We passed a vote of no confidence," Chiyangwa's successor John Mafa
was quoted as saying by the daily Herald.

      "It is now a long time since Chiyangwa was arrested and we are heading
for crucial elections," said Mafa, referring to the March 31 parliamentary
polls which will be closely watched as a test of Zimbabwe's pledge to hold a
free and fair vote.

      Chiyangwa and four other senior Zanu-PF members were arrested in
December last year and accused of being part of a spy ring that was
allegedly providing South African President Thabo Mbeki's government with
information on the party's affairs.

      If convicted, the men face up to 20 years in jail and hefty fines, or

      Zimbabwe is also alleged to be holding a white South African
intelligence agent believed to be linked to the spy ring.

      "At first we thought he would resign, but we have discovered that he
is not willing to do so," said Mafa.

      Chiyangwa, a flamboyant Zimbabwean businessman, had been the Zanu-PF
chairperson for Mashonaland West, a north-eastern province that is also
Mugabe's stronghold.

      In January last year, Chiyangwa was also arrested for allegedly
interfering with the judicial process in a multi-million dollar bank fraud
case. He was later cleared of the charges.

      Chiyangwa's expulsion follows the December firing of six ruling party
provincial chairmen for allegedly participating in a supposed plot against
the Zanu-PF leadership. Zimbabwe has a total of 10 provinces. - Sapa-AFP
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MDC denies attack on Zanu-PF offices in SA
          February 07 2005 at 06:14PM

      By Peter Apps

      Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu-PF party accused the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) on Monday of attacking its South Africa offices and
threatening staff - a charge quickly denied by the MDC.

      Johannesburg Zanu-PF chairperson Bigvai Gumede said about 30 to 50
chanting MDC supporters surrounded his office on Sunday. Around 17 people,
some in MDC T-shirts, damaged the office and tried to throw staff from the
second floor window, he said.

      "There were knives," he said, adding two people including himself had
been hit but no-one was stabbed.

      "Their aim was to vandalise the office or kill people. They had a

      Johannesburg police said they were investigating and interviewing
witnesses. Police had not seen the damage, Gumede said, and it had since
been cleaned up.

       The MDC said the story was an attempt to discredit them before March
parliamentary elections, in which they will stand against President Robert
Mugabe's party despite their stated doubts over whether the poll will be
free or fair.

      "We believe it is a strategy by Zanu-PF to show that MDC is now
promoting violence," spokesperson Nicholas Dube said. "We are a peaceful
party and we have never been involved in violence."

      Rights groups and diplomats have long accused Zimbabwe of using
political violence against MDC supporters.

      Dube said MDC T-shirts had been freely given out at rallies and could
have fallen into the hands of Zanu-PF supporters, who were using them to
damage the party's name. Any attack could also have been part of a Zanu-PF
power struggle, he said.

      Tensions have mounted inside Zimbabwe ahead of March parliamentary
elections. The MDC says limited reforms favour Mugabe's party and political
analysts say the elections are almost certain to return Zanu-PF to power,
prolonging a political and economic crisis that has ruined the once
prosperous southern African country.

      Relations have also been strained between Zimbabwe and its key
regional ally South Africa after Harare barred a South African trade union
fact-finding mission and denounced South Africa's main opposition party's
plan to visit.

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Zimbabwe says not expecting 'racist' Leon to visit

February 07, 2005, 16:45

Zimbabwe has dismissed a plan by South Africa's main opposition party to
visit the country on a pre-election fact-finding mission as a racist attempt
to gain international attention. South Africa's Democratic Alliance (DA), a
traditionally white party led by Tony Leon, a lawyer, said yesterday it
would send a team to Zimbabwe to investigate the minimum conditions required
to ensure fair parliamentary elections there.

The DA said Zanu(PF) had made a fair election in March "almost impossible"
because it used food supplies as a political weapon, intimidated voters,
persecuted the opposition, restricted the media and controlled the voting
process. In comments to Reuters, George Charamba, Mugabe's spokesperson,
scoffed at the proposed visit by the opposition delegation from key ally
South Africa. "Tony Leon coming here? What do we need racists for? We ousted
them a long time ago and they have no constituency here," he said.

The polls, scheduled for March 31, pit Mugabe's ruling Zanu(PF) against the
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). However, the opposition says limited
reforms favour Mugabe's party and political analysts say the elections are
almost certain to return Zanu(PF) to power, prolonging a political and
economic crisis that has ruined the once prosperous country.

MDC 'puppet of white and Western interests'
Mugabe's government has long categorised the MDC, led by Morgan Tsvangirai,
a former trade union leader, as being a puppet of white and Western
interests seeking revenge for the state-sponsored seizure of white-owned
farms for landless black Zimbabweans. Asked what Zimbabwe would do if the DA
pressed on with the trip, Charamba said: "They won't come, they cannot come.
This is all a side show meant to attract international attention."

"We would rather they invite the MDC, their partners, to go to South
Africa," he added.

Last week the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), an ally of
the ruling African National Congress, embarked on a similar trip to Zimbabwe
but were denied entry by Harare, which said they were visitors with a
hostile agenda. They say Mugabe has failed to deliver on international
demands for wide-ranging democratic electoral reforms, and has compounded
the Zimbabwe crisis with a set of cosmetic measures designed to keep his
Zanu(PF) party in power.

Mugabe (81) this month and in power since independence from Britain in 1980,
denies charges that he rigged Zimbabwe's last two general elections and also
that he has mismanaged the country over the last 25 years. The veteran
leader says the opposition MDC is a front for his Western opponents who want
to push him from power, and have undermined Zimbabwe's economy as pay-back
for land seizures. - Reuters
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Iran Republic News Agency

      Iran, Zimbabwereview expansion of economic cooperation
      Tehran, Feb 7, IRNA -- Secretary General of Iran`s Cooperatives
      Chamber Mohammad-Reza Ramezani said here Monday that Economic
      Cooperation Council has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU)
      with India-ASEAN Economic Cooperation Committee (IAECC) and
      Zimbabwe`s National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) to broaden the current
      economic cooperation between the parties.
      Speaking to IRNA, he said the MoU is to facilitate trade exchange
      between Iran and Africa.
      The MoU backs holding of trade fairs in Zimbabwe, he said
      adding that to help consolidate economic relations it was agreed that
      joint meetings should be held every 45 days to follow up the
      implementation of agreements and remove existing obstacles.
      The two sides also agreed to signed required agreements to
      further upgrade current level of trade ties between the two countries.
      The two sides will endeavor to exchange information in the
      fields of economy, production and commerce to meet the two sides
      demands, he pointed out.
      The two sides underlined speedy implementation of the MoU signed
      by the two sides.

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Deposed chairman heads to court

Cricinfo staff

February 7, 2005

The ongoing dispute within the Mashonaland Cricket Association (MCA) looks
set to end up in court after Tawengwa Mukuhlani, the deposed chairman, and
three other sacked board members told a local newspaper that they were
taking legal action action to try to overturn their dismissals.

The four were sacked during a heated special general meeting just before
Christmas after members accused them of not taking a firm stand against the
running of Zimbabwe Cricket. Now Mukuhlani is claiming the meeting was
unconstitutional. "The board did not agree on the meeting," he told the
Zimbabwe Independent. "We just decided that since clubs had said they wanted
to go ahead with the meeting, we did not want to be a stumbling block . we
had agreed to set the agenda for the meeting which was to discuss the change
of logo and name. We were very surprised that people did not stick to the
agenda item."

Mukuhlani said that the new board had fuelled the dispute with ZC, choosing
confrontation ahead of negotiation. "Before the dispute broke out ZC
approached MCA to discuss several issues affecting cricket. MCA agreed to
discuss everything apart from the re-branding, and indication that they were
rearing for a fight."

The legal maneuvering was dismissed by Cyprian Mangenge, the new MCA
chairman, who said that the constitution had been adhered to.

It is believed that Mukuhlani was recently told in no uncertain terms by
Peter Chingoka, the ZC chairman, to reassert his authority over the MCA. The
aggressive attitude of the new board has led to some bitter discussions and
casued further unease within Zimbabwe cricket at a time the board are keen
to be seen as united.

© Cricinfo
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A Dubious Report Card for Grade Zero
Wilson Johwa

BULAWAYO, Feb 7 (IPS) - Hats a size too large for most of the small heads,
formal school uniforms equally incongruous, they march on regardless - the
vanguard in an effort to bring pre-schoolers into Zimbabwe's education

Beginning this year, primary schools in this Southern African country are
required to have at least one class that caters for four- and
five-year-olds, to help these children prepare for first grade. This
pre-school class, also known as "grade zero", is part of government's Early
Childhood Education and Care Programme (ECEC).

Parents like Veronica Ndlovu have welcomed the move.

"I think it's a good idea because by the time he starts grade one, he'll be
in a better position to appreciate basic concepts," she says of her
five-year-old son.

A variety of studies support Ndlovu's beliefs on this point, noting that
children who have had the benefit of early childhood education are able to
avoid repeating grades. In the long term, these children are also less
likely to become criminals - or, in the case of girls, fall pregnant.

For its part, Zimbabwe's Presidential Commission into Education and Training
in 1999 said it had received positive reports about the "alertness and
motivation to learn" by children who had attended early childhood education
facilities - and who were now at primary school.

The expansion of schools to include early childhood education is one of 139
recommendations made by the commission.

"Pre-schools are to provide care for children, educate them and foster their
development into responsible individuals with good communication skills,"
says the body's report, which estimated that at least two-thirds of
Zimbabwean children did not have access to ECEC centres.

Until now, pre-primary education has mostly been the preserve of better-off
families in towns and cities.

Training facilities in rural parts of Zimbabwe and crowded urban areas, said
the commission, were in a sorry state: "Centres ranged from a tree to a
thatched shelter, from a wooden shack or a log cabin to a tiny but crowded
sitting room in a high density area with 30 or more little ones sitting in
rows, to structures with leaking roofs."

In addition, facilities that provided pre-primary education were rarely
linked to primary schools, while not all followed the recommended
curriculum. Teachers who took charge of pre-schoolers often lacked the
appropriate training.

While few would dispute the need for early childhood education, concerns
abound that schools are too hard pressed at the moment to implement the
grade zero initiative effectively.

Zimbabwe is embroiled in an economic crisis, the product of political
upheaval and fiscal mismanagement, which has had a severe impact on the
nation's schools. Many of these institutions are struggling simply to meet
existing commitments - such as basic maintenance of school toilets and
sports fields, or the provision of textbooks to pupils.

In a public protest last month, members of a woman's pressure group demanded
the resignation of Education Minister Aeneas Chigwedere, saying he had
presided over falling education standards. They also appeared to question
the sincerity of new schooling initiatives.

"A lot of things that we are currently seeing are things that we expect to
see ahead of an election, after which they will fall by the wayside due to
budgetary constraints," said Jenni Williams, head of Women of Zimbabwe
Arise. Zimbabweans go to the polls for parliamentary elections at the end of
next month.

Fears that Harare simply doesn't have the ability to put its money where its
mouth is as concerns pre-primary classes are borne out by the situation at
facilities like Gampu Primary School in the southern city of Bulawayo.

Here, grade zero lessons have not begun - the enthusiastic response from
parents notwithstanding. A qualified teacher has yet to be found to conduct
the class, and no furniture has been provided for the pre-schoolers. Toys
and a special play area adapted to the needs of young children are little
more than a pipe dream.

"The government has said the community should see what it can do," says
Tineyi Hwande, a treasurer of the parent-run school development association.

But, parents are as cash-strapped as the education ministry.

"We still want it to be an affordable programme, so we cannot raise much
money through (parents') levies," notes Hwande. (END/2005)
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DA unfazed by Mugabe man's broadside
          February 07 2005 at 07:28PM

      The Democratic Alliance is unconcerned about Zimbabwe's dismissal of
the party's plans to visit the country on a fact finding mission ahead of
Zimbabwe's March 31 general election, DA Africa spokesperson Joe Seremane
said on Monday.

      It was reported earlier on Monday that Zimbabwean President Robert
Mugabe's spokesperson George Charamba scoffed at the proposed visit by the
DA, saying his country did not need "racists".

      "They won't come, they cannot come. This is all a side show meant to
attract international attention," Charamba reportedly said.

      Seremane said anyone who knew Mugabe would not be surprised at this

      Anyone who did not agree with Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF party were
automatically labelled "racists, colonialists and puppets".

       These statements did not bother the DA, and the party would proceed
with its planned visit, even without a guarantee that it would be allowed
into the country or be treated differently to the Congress of South African
Trade Unions' delegation, that was twice barred from visiting Zimbabwe. -

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Business Day

Africa's VIPs fly on a higher plane than the public


A NIGERIAN businessman I was chatting to recently at the airport in

Abuja, Nigeria's capital, said: "The president of Burundi? Hell, I don't
know who the president of Rwanda is either - nor a couple of others."

We were discussing the merits of Africa's presidents from our position as
victims of the "movement of very important persons" directive issued by the
Nigerian government on the eve of the 40th African Union interim summit held
in the city this month.

Because of the impending movement of said VIPs into Nigerian airspace, the
airport in Abuja was closed for nearly seven hours, to allow the heads of
state unhindered access to the city.

By all accounts, none of the plethora of domestic airlines was informed in
advance of the development, for security reasons. Thus it was that the
airport tarmac was littered with aircraft that had been refused permission
to take off and the airport itself, surprisingly small and unsophisticated
for the capital of one of Africa's giants, was crammed with restless,
grounded travellers. Some sat in their planes for more than two hours as
anxious pilots waited for a gap in the VIP programme. But there was no
reprieve, and everyone was eventually dispatched back to the airport

The problem was not confined to Abuja. Aircraft from many other states and
from Lagos were also grounded at their point of departure or were caught
short in midair, having to make emergency alternative plans to land.

When the summit ended three days later, the same fiasco ensued. A pilot from
one of the country's biggest airlines, ADC, was arrested for defying the
airspace closure ordered by the federal government - despite obvious safety
considerations prompting his actions. Being forced to circle in midair for
some time, after unsuccessfully trying to enter the suddenly closed airspace
around Abuja, he began to run short of fuel and simply had to put down. And
was promptly locked up.

I was told that on a previous occasion, an aircraft of another domestic
airline was held for several days for violating a suddenly imposed no-fly
directive issued to allow Nigeria's vice-president to land unhindered by the
needs of mere citizens.

Only a few hours before my flight to Lagos was postponed overnight due to
the VIP saga, I was at a conference attended by Ghana's President John
Kufuor and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria. The conference was held to launch
the Nepad Business Group of Nigeria, at which the contribution of the
private sector to Africa's development was celebrated. The need for greater
public-private partnership was highlighted. That the government alone could
not bring Africa to its full potential and needed business to help it reach
notable goals was, naturally, mentioned.

Obasanjo, who loves to portray himself as a man with the common touch at
functions, was at his best, joking with delegates, insisting on taking
questions from the floor despite his hosts' concerns that he was too busy,
and generally strutting his stuff.

All the while, officials of his government, in collusion with heads of state
across the continent, overtly or not, were making it abundantly clear the
priority was not, in fact, the private sector, but each other. Many of the
country's top business people and some foreigners, many of whom had attended
the same conference, were sidelined so the very important people could
arrive in style amid absurdly overblown security arrangements.

The partnership here is clearly seen as being between un-equals.
Politicians, flying around the continent on taxpayers' money, deem
themselves on a higher plane, so to speak, than the private sector they say
is a critical player in their lofty plans - and which contributes
significantly to the coffers from which they draw so enthusiastically.

Business meetings were compromised. Connecting flights to capitals around
the world were delayed and money was lost, not least by the airlines
themselves, which had to cancel or reschedule flights without prior notice.

The divide between many African leaders and their people is well documented.

The advent of Nepad and the new, reformed African Union were supposed to
have ushered in a new era for Africa - one in which the people count.

The allegations of elitism levelled at both these initiatives are
highlighted when airports are closed, roads emptied and people even shot (as
has been the case in Zimbabwe) to allow leaders to be as separate as
possible from ordinary people.

In Lagos, the day after the Abuja airport fiasco, I was offered the VIP
suite in my hotel. I had to turn it down. I may not be the president of a
country or a really important government official, but by then I'd had as
much of the VIP factor as I could cope with.

¸Games is director of Africa @ Work, a company focusing on research,
publishing and events in Africa.
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