The ZIMBABWE Situation
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Robert Mugabe's reforms are ridiculed after police crackdown on Zimbabwe rally

The Times
January 24, 2008

Jan Raath in Harare
Zimbabwean police fired teargas yesterday and charged several hundred
demonstrators who were demanding a democratic constitution, water,
electricity and the right to draw money from banks without queueing.

The leader of the Opposition was detained, ten demonstrators were treated in
hospital and dozens were arrested, lawyers said.

Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC),
was released later to address supporters on a vacant lot next to a stadium
on the outskirts of the Zimbabwean capital, where the rally had been
scheduled to take place.

Mr Tsvangirai said that the police clampdown proved that President Mugabe
was not serious about his pledge to hold free elections in March and
announced that his party would respond by stepping up protests. Mr Mugabe
had “failed the test for a free and fair election”, Mr Tsvangirai said. “If
this is the regime's reaction then elections are just a farce.”

The march and the planned rally were the first test of Mr Mugabe's
credibility after he had agreed, under mediation overseen by the Southern
African Development Community, the 14-nation regional bloc, to a wide series
of reforms of legislation used to crush gatherings of his opponents.
It took nine months of spasmodic negotiations, chaired by President Mbeki of
South Africa, between Mr Mugabe's ruling Zanu(PF) party and the two MDC
factions to achieve an agreement on limited reforms to what are some of the
most repressive laws in Africa. A High Court ruling yesterday morning gave
the party permission to proceed with the rally but not to march to the rally
site, Nelson Chamisa, an MDC spokesman, said.

Mr Chamisa said that police seized Mr Tsvangirai at about 4am from his home
in Harare and released him five hours later. He described the arrest and the
ban on the march as a deliberate snub to South African efforts to find a
solution to Zimbabwe's crisis.

“It's a mockery of President Mbeki's efforts. It's a mockery of African
solutions to African problems. It's a mockery to humankind,” he said.

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Zimbabwe’s Opposition to Apply for Another Protest March Permit Thursday


By Peter Clottey
Washington, D.C.
24 January 2008

Zimbabwe’s main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says it will
today (Thursday) apply for another protest march permit to press home its
displeasure with what it described as President Robert Mugabe’s autocratic
rule. The party said the protest marches are also aimed at demanding the
implementation of a new constitution, ahead of this year’s general
elections. The MDC said the elections should be delayed because Zimbabweans
are not yet ready for them. The protests come after the Southern African
Development Community (SADC)-backed talks reached a deadlock.

The talks between the government and the MDC are aimed at resolving the
country’s economic and political crisis.

John Makumbe is a political science professor at the University of Zimbabwe.
He tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Harare that he expects the
court to grant the MDC the petition to protest.

“The latest development is that the disruption by the police were really
minimal so that the rally was actually held, and Tsavangirai (MDC Leader)
addressed thousands of people who turned up. And he is going to apply for
another permit today so that he can have another march most likely next week
and really create a situation where the regime is forced to pay attention to
the hardships that the people are experiencing,” Makumbe said.

He dismissed as laughable government’s reason that it bans protest marches
because they often turn violent.

“It’s ridiculous really because the people were marching peacefully, and
there was no violence until the police were trying to stop them from
marching. And they were telling them to walk only to the stadium where the
court has said the MDC could hold political a rally. But the people were
saying we are walking to the grounds, and the police were saying you are
marching and it is really unlikely that there would be violence. Violence
would always be provoked in most cases in Zimbabwe by the police
themselves,” he pointed out.

Makumbe said he believes the court would grant the opposition the permit to
ago ahead with their planned protest march.

“I think so yes, I think the experience of today is such that people were
peaceful and they did what the court ordered them to do. They walked to the
grounds and they held a rally, which was addressed by Morgan Tsvangirai and
so the next application should really be granted by the court. In any case,
the court should only intervene if there is a dispute between the police and
organizers of the rally,” Makumbe said.

He said countries in the sub-region are taking note of the activities in

“The SADC is watching everything that is happening in Zimbabwe today. The
news bulleting from other SADC countries are full of stories of this
afternoon in Harare, and yes the SADC would be forced to pay attention to
these peaceful marches to the desires of Zimbabweans, to the demand of the
opposition political parties, to the demands of the citizens of Zimbabwe for
the resolution of the crisis in Zimbabwe. Yes, SADC is going to pay
attention, “ he noted.

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Amnesty International Calls for Police Restraint in Anti-Government Protests

January 23, 2008
1:37 PM

CONTACT: Amnesty International
Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150

NEW YORK - January 23 - With the arrest of a top opposition figure and
police assaults on supporters in advance of anti-government protests,
Amnesty International urged Zimbabwean authorities today to exercise
restraint to avoid further bloodshed.

One eyewitness told Amnesty International that police assaulted Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) supporters, who were on their way to the
demonstration, and bundled them into a police van. Morgan Tsvangirai, a
leader of one of the MDC factions, was arrested at about 4 a.m. today at his
home by officers from the notorious Law and Order section of the Zimbabwe
Republic Police. Tsvangirai, who was severely beaten by police last March,
was detained for about four hours and then released without charge. Two
other MDC officials were also arrested and released.

Simeon Mawanza, Amnesty International's researcher on Zimbabwe, who recently
returned from the country, said: "The fact that there have already been
assaults and three arrests – including of a leader of the planned
protests -- is a worrying sign."

"We are deeply concerned about the continued harassment and intimidation of
MDC leaders by the Zimbabwean government," said Mawanza. "The government
must allow any peaceful protests to go ahead, and ensure the safety of all
peaceful demonstrators and all people taken into police custody."

Lynn Fredriksson, advocacy director for Africa for Amnesty International
USA, said police have severely limited political protests and activities by
the MDC, human rights defenders and perceived opponents of President
Mugabe's government while allowing ZANU-PF party members to assemble and
engage in political activities without restrictions.

"The police are acting in a partisan manner that directly violates
international standards," she said. "The government of Zimbabwe must be made
aware that the international community is watching closely its response to
anti-government protests this week."

Police announced on Monday that the planned demonstration had been banned,
despite the fact that they approved it two weeks ago.

The MDC appealed the ban and the Magistrates Court ruled that while MDC
supporters cannot march through Harare, they can hold a rally in Glamis
Arena, just outside the city.

The last time Tsvangirai and about 50 other MDC and civil society leaders
were arrested (in March 2007), they were severely beaten and some were

"Police repeatedly arrest and beat human rights defenders and MDC activists
engaging in peaceful protest," said Mawanza. "Detainees are then often
ill-treated and denied access to lawyers, food and medicine. This behavior
must stop."

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Anger as black Zimbabwean bishop seizes white owned farm

Daily Mail, UK

Last updated at 20:18pm on 23rd January 2008

A black bishop and former prime minister has taken over a farm in Zimbabwe,
forcing out its white Christian owners.

Abel Muzorewa, who was leader in 1979, moved his own staff on to Cavalla
Farm near the city of Mutare, making 75 workers redundant.

The owner, Lodewyk van Rensburg, 55, had farmed the land since buying it in

Six years ago he voluntarily gave up 700 hectares of the 1,200-hectare site.

But four months ago 82-year-old Bishop Muzorewa - who was leader for a few
months before losing an election to Robert Mugabe in 1980 - arrived with an
official letter to take over.

Mr van Rensburg, a devout Christian who has two children, said: "Ultimately
the Lord will judge what has happened.

"But it does make a mockery of his position as a man of the cloth."

Bishop Muzorewa said: "I just wanted to have land which was taken from my
forefathers without any recompense. It's a correction of injustice."

Mr van Rensburg and his wife Esther will go to court next month to try to
evict the bishop.

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Harare to seize farm, ignores SADC Tribunal ruling

Zim Online

by Simplicious Chirinda Thursday 24 January 2008

HARARE – The Zimbabwe government on Wednesday said it would seize a farm
whose white owner last year successfully applied to a regional tribunal for
an interim order blocking confiscation of the property.

Land Reform Minister Dydimus Mutasa said the farm would be handed over to a
black owner as part of state land reforms and following a Tuesday ruling by
Zimbabwe’s Supreme Court dismissing an application by the white farmer
challenging the seizure of his property.

“We are going to occupy the farm after the judgment," Mutasa told ZimOnline.
“The (new black) owner of the land will soon move onto his land with the
help of the police.”

The white farmer, William Michael Campbell, was not immediately available
for comment on the matter.

Campbell first appealed against seizure of his property at Supreme Court
last March but took his case to the Southern African Development Community
(SADC) Tribunal after what his lawyers said was “unreasonable delay” by
Zimbabwe’s highest court in dealing with the matter.

The Namibia-based Tribunal last December barred President Robert Mugabe’s
government from evicting Campbell from his Mount Carmel farm in Chegutu
pending final ruling on the farmer’s main application challenging the
legality of the Harare administration’s controversial programme to seize
white land for redistribution to landless blacks.

Campbell wants the SADC court - which sits later this month to finalise the
farmer’s case - to find Harare in breach of its obligations as a member of
the regional bloc after it signed into law Constitution of Zimbabwe
Amendment No.17 two years ago.

The amendment allows Mugabe’s government to seize farmland without
compensation and bars courts from hearing appeals from dispossessed white

The white farmer has also asked the Tribunal to declare Zimbabwe’s land
reforms racist and illegal under the SADC Treaty adding that Article 6 of
the Treaty bars member states from discriminating against any person on the
grounds of gender, religion, race, ethnic origin and culture.

Asked what would happen in the event the Tribunal upholds Campbell’s
application, Mutasa was non-committal. “The government of Zimbabwe will have
to wait and see what happens at the Tribunal but for now we go by the laws
of Zimbabwe,” was all Mutasa would say.

Government farm seizures have resulted in the majority of the about 4 000
white farmers being forcibly ejected from their properties without being
paid compensation for the land, which Harare has refused to pay for saying
it was stolen from blacks in the first place.

The government has compensated some farmers for developments on the land
such as dams and farm buildings and says it is committed to compensating all
farmers for such improvements.

Land redistribution, that Mugabe says was necessary to correct a colonial
land ownership system that reserved the best land for whites and banished
blacks to poor soils, is blamed for plunging Zimbabwe into food shortages
after Harare failed to support black villagers resettled on former white
farms with inputs to maintain production.

Poor performance in the mainstay agricultural sector has also had far
reaching consequences as hundreds of thousands have lost jobs while the
manufacturing sector, starved of inputs from the sector, is operating below
30 percent of capacity. - ZimOnline

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Heavy rains wash away crops in parts of Zimbabwe

Zim Online

by Nqobizitha Khumalo Thursday 24 January 2008

BULAWAYO – Heavy rains that have been pounding most parts of Zimbabwe since
late last year have washed away crops raising fears that the crisis-hit
country could again face severe food shortages this year.

Agricultural experts who spoke to ZimOnline yesterday said most of the
early-planted crops were now a total write-off due to water logging.

Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union (ZFU) President, Silas Hungwe, said the heavy rains
will impact negatively on the country’s harvest.

“The rains have had a negative impact on the country, plants are now water
logged and in some areas, crops have been washed away . . . We fear that we
will not realise much this year,” Hungwe said.

Zimbabwe, together with southern Africa neighbours Mozambique and Zambia,
have since last year battled floods after above normal rainfall since

The floods have left at least 21 people dead in Zimbabwe while villagers in
Muzarabani district in the low-lying Zambezi Valley and the southern
province of Masvingo have lost their property and livestock.

The Zimbabwean government has already declared the floods a national

Former Grain Marketing Board (GMB) chief executive, Renson Gasela, who is
also a senior member of Zimbabwe’s main opposition Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC), party said the country would be lucky to harvest 600 000
metric tonnes of maize this year because of the floods.

“The figures are worrying, just last week the projection was that the
country was to get 800 000 metric tonnes but the figures have since been
revised downwards because there is no fertiliser to save the crop while the
rains are not stopping at all,” said Gasela.

Zimbabwe, which has battled severe food shortages over the past eight years,
requires at least 1.4 million tonnes of maize every year. A chaotic land
reform programme initiated eight years ago has left Zimbabwe unable to feed

Last week, Zimbabwe’s Agricultural Technical and Extension Services (AREX)
said the rains were adversely affecting farming operations with most crops
now showing signs of nitrogen deficiency due to water logging.

Agricultural experts say this year’s farming, dubbed “the mother of all
agricultural seasons,” had virtually gone to waste because of incessant
rains and failure by the Harare authorities ensure adequate supplies of seed
and fertiliser. - ZimOnline

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Power Restored In Zimbabwean Capital But Blackouts Persist Elsewhere


By Patience Rusere
23 January 2008

Electric power was restored Wednesday in most parts of the Zimbabwean
capital of Harare but sources reported continued outages across much of the

Beitbridge on the border with South Africa had power for just two hours, and
Victoria Falls on the country's northern border with Zambia was entirely
without power, while in eastern Mutare power was on downtown but several
districts were without electricity.

Power supplies to Chinhoyi, northwest of Harare, was reported to be erratic.

In Harare, many employers sent workers home because no work could be done.
Some banks were unable to carry out electronic transfers.

The Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority did not explain the continuing
power cuts. An official from the utility interviewed on state television
said local power outages were unrelated to a problem with the regional grid
in Kariba, on the northern border.

But news reports quoted Zambian officials as saying the country would no
longer export electric power to Zimbabwe due to tight local supplies. Zambia
has also been experiencing blackouts amidst power shortages across Southern

Spokesman Mfundo Mlilo of the Combined Harare Residents Association told
reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that his
organization is concerned power cuts are worsening, causing much
inconvenience and sometimes suffering.

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WITNESS: Returning to Zimbabwe, life looks tougher for most


Wed Jan 23, 2008 11:52pm EST

Stella Mapenzauswa has been working for Reuters as a reporter for 13 years.
She moved to Johannesburg to report on South Africa's economy in October
2006 after writing about her native Zimbabwe since 1995. She made her first
trip home last month, for Christmas. In the following story, she describes
how living conditions have deteriorated during her absence.

By Stella Mapenzauswa

BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe (Reuters) - As I drove from the border with South Africa
to my home town I recalled the refrain Zimbabweans use when pondering the
economic meltdown in their country: "surely things cannot get any worse than
they are".

That mantra has helped them soldier on during the last eight years as they
grappled with an ever-growing list of shortages, which now include water and

But on my journey home to Bulawayo, which should have taken three hours but
lasted double that as I dodged gaping potholes in the pitchblack night, I
realized things had gotten worse.

After 14 months living in Johannesburg, with its tarred highways and
bustling, well-stocked shopping malls, getting reacquainted with the
hardships back home took the joy out of reuniting with family and friends
for Christmas.

When I went to the bathroom in my parents' house, my mother handed me a
bucket of rain water to flush the toilet and wash my hands, because there
was nothing in the cistern or the tap.

Although drought-prone Bulawayo was enjoying its wettest summer in recent
history, running water from the city council had been erratic for months;
there was no money to import treatment chemicals.

I got used to seeing women and children balancing containers on their heads
along dusty township roads, begging water from residents lucky enough to
have some.

Bulawayo long enjoyed a reputation as Zimbabwe's cleanest city, with
charming, colonial-style buildings, but the walls were now peeling and gone
too were the street cleaners who used to keep the central business district

Stinking litter lay rotting in makeshift dumps close to houses. The garbage
disposal company stopped its weekly collections three months ago because of
a fuel shortage.

"We try and burn some of the trash, and dig the rest into the ground," my
mother said, pointing at mounds of soil in what used to be her tiny but lush
vegetable garden.


A sense of despair hung over the city, with none of the spontaneous parties,
complete with loud music, that had heralded Christmas Day on my previous
visits home.

This is partly because electricity is now a rare commodity. The pile of
firewood in my parents' backyard and the candles in every room said it all.

The power disruptions, already in evidence before I left the country, had
worsened as state utility ZESA struggled to import energy in the face of a
foreign currency crunch.

The goodwill that had kept Zimbabwe lit despite mounting debts to her
neighbors was drying up.

Watching the billowing smoke in our neighborhood as people cooked evening
meals, I mused that I could be in a rural village, and not the
second-largest city in what used to be one of Africa's most thriving

A trip to the supermarket a few days later left me gaping at empty freezers
and shelves which only a year ago were stuffed with meat, milk, bread,
cooking oil, maize meal and toiletries.

Retailers had stopped stocking basic goods to protest government price
controls imposed to stem inflation, the highest in the world at over 8,000

Although a few commodities were finding their way back to the shelves, after
the government backtracked on the controls, shoppers were not exactly
snapping them up.

They were busy waiting in long queues at commercial banks, trying to
withdraw money -- now also in short supply.

"It's exhausting just getting from one day to the next," a childhood friend
still living in Bulawayo told me. "If it's not water cuts, then it's the
electricity, or banknote shortages, or the empty shelves."

The only money in abundance were 1,000 Zimbabwe dollar notes which had long
lost their value and littered street corners.

"You offer one of those to a 3-year-old and they will laugh in your face,"
my brother said. He was right. A piece of candy, the cheapest item in
stores, cost 100,000 Zimbabwe dollars.

I tried to squelch the familiar sense of guilt at having "bailed out" like
thousands of other Zimbabweans who have left the country as the economy sunk
deeper into a meltdown critics blame on government mismanagement.

Of some 13 million Zimbabweans, around 3.5 million are estimated to have
fled the country's political and economic crisis. Some 2.5 million are in
neighboring South Africa.

Critics say veteran President Robert Mugabe, in power since the end of white
rule in 1980, has pursued skewed policies, including the seizure of
white-owned commercial farms for blacks ill-prepared to fully utilize the

Mugabe points a finger at Western economic sanctions he says were imposed in
retaliation for land reforms meant to correct colonial ownership imbalances.

Watching the despair etched on many faces, I saw that the optimism for which
my compatriots have long prided themselves has started to wane, in the face
of the likelihood things will probably get much worse before getting better.

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Zimbabwe journalist discusses oppression in his African country

International Herald Tribune

The Associated PressPublished: January 23, 2008

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas: Easing governmental restrictions on journalists
before planned March elections in Zimbabwe will not be enough to allow
opposition leaders to wrest power away from President Robert Mugabe, a
former independent newspaper editor said Wednesday.

Geoffrey Nyarota, who faced repeated arrests as editor of The Daily News,
said the African nation's constitution already enshrined freedom for the
press and opposition parties. However, Nyarota said Mugabe simply ignores
those rights and derides anyone opposing his rule as being a mouthpiece of
the West.

"Everybody should have free access to the media. It is not enough for him to
say: 'I now allow you access to the media,'" Nyarota said. "It is

The now-shuttered Daily News served as the nation's sole independent daily
newspaper, as the state controlled the other newspapers, radio stations and
television channels. In January 2001, its presses were destroyed by a bomb
hours after a government official described the paper as "a threat to
national security which had to be silenced." It later ceased publishing.

Mugabe, 83, has ruled Zimbabwe since it gained independence from Britain in
1980. He pushed for the often violent seizures by blacks of white-owned
commercial farms that began in 2000. Those seizures disrupted agriculture in
a country once considered southern Africa's bread basket, sparking official
inflation of 8,000 percent and prompting citizens to flee.

Nyarota, in Little Rock to speak to the Arkansas Committee on Foreign
Relations, said the West largely gave Mugabe a pass when he first came to
power. However, the leader always had "dictatorial tendencies" other nations
only realized when he began the land seizures.
Changes to Zimbabwe's media, security and electoral laws — negotiated in
talks between the ruling party and opposition aimed at ending the nation's
political and economic crisis — were rushed through parliament at the end of
2007. They became law Jan. 11.

Along with easing rules on protests, the revised laws relax rules for
journalists to obtain licenses, and set up a new licensing authority.

Independent media groups say the real test will be if foreign journalists
receive visas and accreditation to visit Zimbabwe for the elections. In the
recent past, foreign journalists have routinely been denied visas and

Nyarota, who now lives in Boston, hopes to be able to return to Zimbabwe one
day. However, he said freedom will continue to be curtailed in Zimbabwe
until Mugabe leaves office or dies.

"You hear people now say, 'We're putting our lives in the hand of God,'" he
said. "I think that is wrong to expect democracy to come through divine

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ZCTF Report: Update on Tatenda

20th January 2008
We apologize to those concerned for the delay in sending out this report but this is due to the recent tragic shooting of Tusker the elephant.
Thanks to those of you who responded to our appeal for assistance to feed Tatenda, the little rhino who was orphaned due to the slaughter of 3 black rhino at Imire Game Park in November last year, he is thriving.
A big thank you to Brian Jones of the Kruger National Park in South Africa who donated 100kg of fat free skimmed milk powder. Urs and Linda Honegger of Animal Talk Magazine in South Africa really went beyond the call of duty and drove all the way from Johannesburg to Harare to deliver the milk powder. They also personally donated a quantity of glucose and Protexin, a vitamin essential to the well - being of the little rhino. Thank you very much Urs and Linda.
Linda and Urs arrived in Harare on the 7th December and on the 8th, we escorted them to Imire to meet Tatenda and shower him with his gifts.
We also delivered 10 teats donated by Colleen Redfern of Bulawayo and25kg of glucose powder donated by Agnes of Willowmead Junction. (Sorry Agnes, we don't know your surname). Thank you very much to Colleen and Agnes.
We went back to Imire to visit Tatenda a month later and we noticed a big difference in his size. He is taller and hasput on a lot of weight.
8th DECEMBER 2007 13th JANUARY 2008
Tatenda consumes 60kg of milk powder and 24kg of glucose per monthand he has almost gone through the entire 100kg of milk that was donated to him. We therefore extend our heartfelt appreciation to the Clover Milk Company of South Africa who have donated a further 300kg of milk for him. If anyone can assist with more glucose powder, this would be greatly appreciated.
There are a handful of very special people in Zimbabwe. These arepeople who, with limited financial resources, devote their lives to the preservation of wildlife, not for financial gain, but because they have a deep understanding of the importance of doing this. This is especially true of people like the Travers family of ImireGame Park, who are trying, in an extremely difficult economic climate, to preserve the very few black rhino we have left. The black rhino is an endangered species and the importance of the selfless task they have undertaken, cannot be overstated. In addition to caring for little Tatenda, they are also desperately trying to ensure the safety of the3 adult rhinos they are left with. They do not "own" these special animals - they are merely their caretakers.
The 3 remaining rhino have the freedom of the game park during the day, although they have armed guards following them at all times. To ensure their safety atnight, they are led into pens where they sleep. The Travers need to erect 6 floodlights around the pens andthegame fence around the boundary of Imire, an area of 4 800 hectares, has to be replaced in order to protect the rhino as well as the other animals. They also need to sink a borehole capable of producing 200 litres of water for 10 hours a day to provide drinking water for the rhino and they have had to employ additional security guards. The cost of all these preventative measures is astronomical. If anyone is in a position to assist with any of these requirements, please contact us - contact details below.
Another special person has requested our assistance. Janie Style lives in Buffalo Range and she istaking care oftwo six-month old rhinos named Carla and Lisa Marie. Carla's mother was shot and killed and little Carla was shot throughher shoulders and chopped on her face with a panga (a large knife). Lisa Marie was caught in a snare andalmost lost her back foot but Janie has nursed the 2 young rhinos back to health. She is still bottle-feeding them but she is finding it very difficult to cope financially. She desperately needs skimmed milk powder and Pronutro. We would be very grateful if anyone can assist her.
My daughter, Brigitte Rodrigues and David Scobieare a singing duo known as "Brogue". They have released their firstCD, "Rhythm of the Celts" which is doing very well in the UK and Europe.
They donate part of the proceeds from their cd sales towards the preservation of wildlife in Zimbabwe so those of you who would like to help towards conservation and listen to beautiful music at the same time, please go into their website and listen to their music - If you would like to order a copy of their cd, you can either do so on their website, or you can contact us - contact details below.
1980 MODEL
Johnny Rodrigues
Chairman for Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force
Tel: 263 4 336710
Fax/Tel: 263 4 339065
Mobile: 263 11 603 213

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Government and ECB pass Zimbabwe parcel

The Telegraph

By David Bond
Last Updated: 1:31am GMT 24/01/2008

The pressure is growing on the Government to make a firm decision on whether
Zimbabwe's cricketers will be granted entry to Britain for their tour of
England in the summer of 2009.

Although the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, has made the Government's
opposition to the series clear, the England and Wales Cricket Board are
still being urged by ministers to seek a financial peace deal with Zimbabwe
which would avert another diplomatic crisis.

Zimbabwe are due to come to England next year to play two Test matches and
three one-day internationals. Four years after the humiliating farce of
England's one-day tour to Zimbabwe, both the ECB and the Government are
determined to avoid another public relations victory for dictator Robert

High-level talks between ministers and the ECB have been under way for weeks
in the hope of finding an early solution.

The fallout from another mishandling of the situation could be extremely
costly for English cricket. The ECB not only face a possible 225,000 fine
from the International Cricket Council for failing to meet their obligations
to the Future Tours Programme, but they could be temporarily suspended from
the international arena. With Australia due to tour England to defend the
Ashes in the second half of the 2009 season, that is a risk the ECB cannot
afford to take.

On top of that, the Zimbabwe Cricket Union are threatening to demand that
England is stripped of its right to host the Twenty20 World Cup, also in
2009. The financial implications of bungling the decision are vast.

The ICC will be powerless to punish English cricket, however, if Gordon
Brown's Government steps in and orders the tour to be called off. Officials
are already looking at whether they can refuse entry visas for Zimbabwe's
players. The approach is similar to the one used last year by the Australian
Prime Minister at the time, John Howard, who prevented the country's tour of
Zimbabwe by refusing to grant visas to Ricky Ponting's side.

So far the British Government are stopping short of taking that drastic
step. They are also waiting to see whether Mugabe's Zanu PF party is toppled
in the March elections. Even if he is returned to power by a nation facing
economic meltdown, there are hopes he could be replaced by a challenger from
within his own party.

Ministers are worried that if they act too soon they could spark a
retaliatory boycott of the London 2012 Olympics by Zimbabwe and its African
allies, especially South Africa. But one senior African Olympic official
told Inside Sport that an Olympic boycott had not even been discussed.

The Government is basing its stance on the confusing principle that while it
is fine for Zimbabwe to send athletes to Britain for the Olympics because it
is an international sports event organised by the International Olympic
Committee, bilateral cricket tours between England and Zimbabwe are

To be fair to the Government, they would not be able to stop Zimbabwean
athletes and officials travelling here in 2012 even if they wanted to,
because they have signed host city agreements with the IOC which guarantee
entry for anyone accredited by the Olympic body.

Ministers would like the ECB to reach a financial settlement with the ZCU to
stop the tour. But it is understood that the ECB are unwilling to offer any
money to the ZCU. They deny reports that they offered the ZCU 200,000 to
stay at home at a meeting in Johannesburg before Christmas.

The ECB, in turn, would like the Government to make a decision before March,
which would give them more than enough time to arrange alternative
opponents. Bangladesh are the favourites to be asked to step in.

Yesterday the ECB chairman, Giles Clarke, said he was confident the
Government would not let them down.

"My impression is that the Government will not leave this to the cricket
authorities and that they will not issue visas to Zimbabwe when they come
here," Clarke said.

However, the shadow sports and Olympics spokesman Hugh Robertson said
ministers must make a clear decision now. "The Government has got to stop
talking the talk and take some action," he said.

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