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Zimbabwe police's 'toilet excuse' flushes out MDC rally

Zim Online

Mon 10 July 2006

      CHINHOYI - Zimbabwe police on Sunday banned the main opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party from holding a rally in Chinhoyi
city, 120 km north-west of Harare, saying the venue - a sports stadium - did
not have toilets.

      This was the second rally that the MDC had planned for yesterday but
was forced to cancel on the orders of the police after the law enforcement
agency also banned the opposition party's leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, from
addressing supporters in Kwekwe city about 200 km south-west of Harare over
fears he is mobilising support for anti-government protests.

      Tsvangirai, who heads the main faction of the splintered MDC, has
warned President Robert Mugabe to brace for a Ukraine-style uprising against
his rule if he continues to resist political reforms. The opposition leader
has not given dates for the mass protests.

      In a letter to the MDC executive for Mashonaland West province, under
which Chinhoyi falls, a police Chief Superintendent Nyandoro wrote: ''Your
proposed rally in Chinhoyi Stadium cannot go ahead as planned because the
stadium has no toilets for the occasion. The rally cannot go ahead. Be
advised that the police have not sanctioned the rally.''

      The government's Public Order and Security Act requires Zimbabweans to
seek permission from the police first before meeting to discuss politics or
holding public demonstrations. But the law empowers the police to deny
permission for such meetings only for security reasons.

      Chinhoyi stadium is owned by the city council and has in the past
regularly hosted a variety of public events including soccer matches as well
as political rallies by both the MDC and Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party.

      ZimOnline was unable last night to immediately get an explanation from
either Nyandoro or Chinhoyi city council as to what could have happened to
the stadium's toilets.

      But MDC chairman for Mashonaland West Japhet Karemba accused the
police of coming up with "flimsy grounds" to ban the rally in an attempt to
block the opposition from mobilising support in the province that is home to
Mugabe and is a stronghold of his ZANU PF party.

      ''It is unfortunate that the rally has been cancelled on flimsy
grounds in this province,'' said Karemba.

      The MDC, the African Commission on Human and People's Rights and
international pro-democracy groups accuse the police and army of victimising
the opposition and of applying the law selectively to hamper the MDC from
carrying out its activities. The government denies using security forces to
victimise political opponents.

      Zimbabwe has remained on knife edge since the MDC first threatened
mass anti-government protests last March while worsening economic hardships
and food shortages continue stoking up the tensions.

      Mugabe, who has in the past sent in armed soldiers and police into the
streets to crush dissent, has vowed to be ruthless with opposition-led mass
protests against his rule, warning the proposed protests were a 'dice with

      But the opposition leader appears undeterred, telling Mugabe he must
either give up power to a transitional government that should write a new
constitution and organise fresh elections under international supervision or
be forced out of office through mass protests. - ZimOnline

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Hard-pressed Zimbabweans turn to traditional medicine

Zim Online

Mon 10 July 2006

      HARARE - A long queue snakes out from 54-year old Johannes Mangere's
house in the poor suburb of Sakubva in Zimbabwe's eastern city of Mutare.

      Right at the gate, is a clear sign board inscribed with the words:
Traditional Doctor: specialist in all ailments.

      For once, it would appear the rich and poor are all mingling together
in a true spirit of communalism as they drag themselves in the dust at this
humble home waiting to access services that range from lucky charms to
medication for sexually transmitted infections and breast cancer.

      "Yesterday, the queue was so long I could not get treated. This
morning I have been here by 5am but there were already six people ahead of
me in the queue," says 29-year old Jacob Phiri.

      With the costs for medical care rising every day on the back of a
severe economic crisis that has seen inflation shooting beyond 1 000
percent, many Zimbabweans are resorting to traditional healers, once the
object of scorn and derision.

      Despite President Robert Mugabe's government formal recognition of
traditional healers in the early 1980s, the healers had remained largely
marginalised in medical circles with most Zimbabweans only visiting the
healers at night under the cover of darkness.

      But attitudes seem to be changing in Zimbabwe, almost at the same pace
at which the southern African country's economy is hurtling towards total

      According to Mangere business has never been this good.

      "I have to turn away some patients at times because of high demand. I
believe we are now some of the most sought after healers because our charges
are reasonable," he says.

      Zimbabwe's public health delivery system, once regarded as one of the
best in Africa, has virtually collapsed after years of mismanagement and

      Many in the country, including supporters of Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF
party, readily admit that state hospitals have become little more than
places where people go to die because they have neither equipment nor
essential medicines due to a shortage of hard cash to pay foreign suppliers.
In many cases hospitals can administer only pain killers to patients.

      The private clinics that have tried to fill in the gap left by
crumbling public hospitals are not easily accessible to the majority as
their charges are way beyond the reach of most ordinary citizens. For
example, private clinics last week hiked their consultation fees by between
80 and 100 percent, a move health services experts said effectively shut the
door to the private hospital to most ordinary Zimbabweans.

      "People used to shy away from visiting n'angas (local Shona name for
traditional healers) and would try to keep their visit secret. Not now,"
says respected social scientist Gordon Chavhunduka.

      "Our members are experiencing a boom and we are upgrading our
operations to meet rising demand," adds Chavhunduka, who is the president of
the Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association (ZINATHA).

      And the little story of Eunice Masoko, a 45-yearv old mother of two,
bears testimony to Chavhunduka's claims.

      Masoko says when she was charged Z$100 million at a local private
hospital for treatment of her heart ailment, she simply walked away as she
could hardly afford such an amount and today she says she is forever
grateful for that decision to walk away from the hospital.

      "Out of desperation I visited a traditional healer who had been
recommended to me by a friend," Masoko says with a happy grin on her face.

      She adds: "The healer diagnosed my problem and gave me some herbs. I
was told to pay what I could afford and that I could only pay after
ascertaining that the herbs had worked. I gave him Z$5 million only and for
that, look how healthy I am now. He was able to cure me."

      Even Zimbabwe government ministers appear to be backing traditional
healers with Women's Affairs and Community Development Minister Oppah
Muchinguri telling villagers in Manicaland province to make use of
traditional healers.

      "Sometimes the hospitals are too expensive or have no medicines. You
have to use herbs. We used to do it before, we can still do it now until the
situation improves," said Muchinguri in remarks that appeared to pass a vote
of no confidence in state health institutions.

      But talking to many in the small crowd that is slowly forming up at
Mangere's home, one gets the feeling that probably Muchinguri's advice to
Zimbabweans could be a matter of preaching to the converted.

      For example, Simon Munamato, who is a long-time patient of Mangere,
says he last visited a hospital about four years ago.

      "The hospitals are expensive and yet there is no food or medicines. So
why should I waste my time when the guy next door can fix my health
problems?" he says, summing up the views of many here and elsewhere across
crisis-hit Zimbabwe. - ZimOnline

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Harare blocks cross-border food hunt


Sunday 09 July 2006, 19:30 Makka Time, 16:30 GMT

Zimbabwe is cracking down on people using false emergency travel documents
for cross-border shopping trips, a source of survival for many hit by a
severe economic crisis.

Regional officials estimate that up to two million Zimbabweans have sought
economic refuge in neighbouring South Africa.

And critics of Robert Mugabe, the president, say the poor situation at home
has caused a quarter of the country's 12 million people to flee.

The Sunday Mail said police in Plumtree on Zimbabwe's border with Botswana
last week arrested and fined 24 people caught with fake travel documents,
and the authorities were investigating the cases, suspected to be "part of a
broader syndicate".

An official from the government passport office was quoted as saying: "Law
enforcement agents in Zimbabwe and neighbouring countries have been advised
to be on the lookout for those involved in the forgery."

Police and officials from the passport department were not immediately
available for comment on Sunday.

The Sunday Mail said the passport office had received information that a
criminal syndicate based in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second-largest city, was
selling counterfeit papers for trips to Botswana, South Africa, Zambia and

Hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans make a living through cross-border
trade - buying and selling commodities in short supply in their own country.

Critics blame Mugabe's government for an economic crisis that has left
Zimbabwe battling frequent shortages of food, fuel and foreign currency, and
with the world's highest inflation rate of nearly 1,200%.

Earlier this year, Harare's official Herald newspaper reported that about
100 Zimbabweans cross illegally into South Africa each day, risking drowning
in a crocodile-infested river to search for jobs.

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Zimbabwe's churches say they may have answer to economic woes

Turkish Press

07-09-2006, 04h21

      Zimbabwe's churches are rallying to provide what they call a
"comprehensive document" they believe could help lift the embattled southern
African country from its political and economical muddle.

      The plan drawn up by the influential Zimbabwe Council of Churches
(ZCC) comes in the wake of a recent call by President Robert Mugabe to
"combine our strengths" as the country continues to sink under galloping
inflation, unemployment and fuel and food shortages.

      It includes a suggestion for much-needed constitutional reform and is
expected to have comments from both Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan
Tsvangirai as Zimbabwe seeks yet another key to unlock a six-year-long

      "We are working together to look at sticking points which are causing
problems in Zimbabwe," ZCC's spokesman Trevor Manhanga told AFP this week.

      "After consultation with all stakeholders we will present our document
to the head of state for action as the vision of the church," said Bishop
Manhanga whose organisation includes Catholic, Anglican and Pentecostal

      Manhanga said the churches had a "broad range of issues we want to
present to government, including constitutional reforms which are very
necessary. We can't let things continue deteriorating when Zimbabweans are
capable of solving their own problems."

      The document, said Manhanga, will be ready for presentation to Harare
in two weeks' time.

      Mugabe, in power since independence in 1980, last month called upon
the clergy to help come up with an answer to the deepening crisis in the
country where inflation has hit almost 1,200 percent.

      "Let the church come in and point out where there are shortcomings,
sins of commission or ommission," he said at a prayer meeting in the

      "We must combine our strengths in rebuilding our economy, deriving
wisdom from the Lord Almighty so that our country can prosper," the
octogenarian leader said.

      Zimbabwe's economy has been on a downturn over the past six years and
there are chronic shortages of basic goods like sugar and fuel, while the
unemployment rate is skyrocketing.

      At least 80 percent of the country's 13 million people now live below
the poverty threshold, often skipping meals to stretch the family income to
the next payday.

      Mugabe blames the economic recession on sanctions imposed on him and
members of his inner circle by the United States and the European Union
following controversial presidential polls in 2002.

      Critics however say Zimbabwe's crisis is the result of mismanagement
and corruption as well as Mugabe's controversial policy to fast-track land
ownership from commercial white farmers to landless blacks.

      Some have already scoffed at the plan to effect change in Zimbabwe,
and while Mugabe asked for suggestions, he warned church leaders not to
involve themselves in politics.

      "We believe in the scriptures that God helps those who help
themselves... but certainly not divine intervention alone would sort out the
mess," said opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) spokesman Nelson

      "We also need to put physical and human effort."

      Chamisa told AFP that Zimbabwe needed "political solutions first",
saying a "stakeholders' conference should be held to define a path forward."

      "The prescription is political... we have to sort out political issues
first, then everything will be sorted out," he said.

      Mugabe's request for input from churches also came with a warning:

      "When the church leaders start being political we regard them as
political creatures and we are vicious in that area," he said.


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Eight arrested over attack on white opposition lawmaker

The Citizen

HARARE - Police in Zimbabwe have arrested eight people whom they suspect to
have been behind the attack a week ago on a white Zimbabwean opposition
lawmaker, a state weekly said Sunday.
Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena was quoted by the Sunday Mail newspaper as
saying three of the suspects were arrested after a pre-dawn raid on what was
described as an "MDC safehouse" in Greendale, a suburb in the capital
The rest were picked earlier in the week at Mabvuku, some 20 kilometres
south of Harare, where Trudy Stevenson, an opposition MP for Harare North,
was attacked by the militant youths on Sunday last week.
Bvudzijena said investigations were continuing, saying the "net is fast
closing" on all those involved in the attack.
Stevenson, discharged from a private clinic with deep wounds, claimed she
was attacked by militant youths of a rival faction of the Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC), which is loyal to main opposition leader Morgan
She belongs to a faction led by former student leader Arthur Mutambara.
The MDC split late last year after Tsvangirai refused to participate in the
election of a new Senate.
The MDC was founded in 1999 by Tsvangirai, a former trade unionist. It made
major gains in the 2000 parliamentary elections and now occupies 41 of 120
seats in the Zimbabwean parliament.
Tsvangirai's camp has distanced itself from the attack, saying there was no
evidence that linked it to the incident. - Sapa-AFP.

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Where a beer costs $150,000

Los Angeles Times

Inflation is strangling Zimbabwe.
By Douglas Rogers, Douglas Rogers is a Zimbabwean-born journalist based in
New York City.
July 9, 2006

I WAS INTRODUCED to the "Zimbabwean wallet" on my first day back in my home
country. I needed to change 100 U.S. dollars into local currency, and a
friend in Victoria Falls, the resort town where I had just arrived from
Zambia, said he knew a black-market money dealer. He called a number, asked
for a man codenamed "Mashishe" and inquired what the day's rate was.
"Three," came the reply. Could he change $100? It appeared he could.

Ten minutes later, a car pulled up in the driveway. My friend took my $100,
went to meet his man and, seconds later, returned with a knapsack bulging
with thick bricks of Zimbabwean dollars - in notes of 20,000 - held together
with rubber bands. It totaled 30 million Zimbabwean dollars.

"Here," he said, handing me the heavy bag. "The Zimbabwean wallet."

In the 1980s, when I lived in Zimbabwe, Z$30 million would have made me one
of the richest men in the country. Today, it barely buys a family a week's
groceries. The "three" quoted by the money changer did not mean three
Zimbabwean dollars to one U.S. dollar. It meant 300,000 to 1. As I write
this, a week after returning from Zimbabwe, the black-market rate has
climbed again - now it's 450,000 to 1. Even at the unrealistic
government-set bank rate of 101,000 to 1, Zimbabwe's currency is the worst
performing in the world; Zimbabwe's 1,200% annual inflation rate is the
highest in the world.

The sheer volume of cash that people in Zimbabwe have to deal with draws
comparisons to 1920s Weimar Germany and the peso crisis in Argentina in
2001-02. Indeed, one of the few growth industries in the country is in
imported money-counting machines that can rapidly sift through and add up
the thousands of notes required to purchase fuel or food or to pay bills.

Prices go up every day, and shoppers can be seen in supermarket aisles with
pencils and paper, trying to add up all the zeroes on their bill before
checkout time. Until June, the highest-denomination bill in print was the
Z$50,000; my visit coincided with the introduction of the Z$100,000 note -
but even this denomination is not large enough.

"Our money loses half its value every four months," explained Zimbabwean
economist John Robertson. "The Z$100,000 note at the official rate is US$1,
but really it's worth 25 cents. In four months, it'll be worth 12 cents. A
million-dollar note is more realistic."

None of the new denominations are, in fact, real currency. The government
does not have the money to pay for the paper on which real money is printed,
so it mass prints notes on ordinary low-quality paper, with no security
features. Known as "bearer cheques," these bills are blank on one side and
resemble Monopoly money.

This doesn't mean the smaller denominations no longer exist. In fact, even
the copper one-cent coin is still considered legal tender.

A Zimbabwean recently sent out a mass-circulation e-mail in which he made a
surreal calculation: If a beer in a bar costs Z$150,000, you could pay for
it with 15 million one-cent coins - which would weigh 45 tons. If, however,
you were to smelt the coins, you could earn $117,000 - U.S., that is - on
the London Metal Market at today's high copper prices.

Inevitably, people innovate to survive. A friend who is a game ranger told
me he no longer banks his money when he gets paid. "I go and buy furniture -
chairs, couches, tables. At least a couch is worth something. We're slowly
going back to a barter system," he said.

With unemployment at more than 70% and the average monthly salary at about
140 U.S. dollars - not enough to pay rent or school fees - a vast parallel
market has sprung up. Pulling up at a supermarket in the eastern city of
Mutare, my former hometown, I was approached by a dozen youths offering to
sell me sugar, cooking oil and maize meal - essential foods that
supermarkets must sell at low, state-controlled prices. Informal traders
hoard these goods and, when the inevitable shortages come, sell them at
inflated prices. Informal trading is illegal, but it is the only way many
Zimbabweans earn a living.

How did Zimbabwe get to this point? It began in the late 1990s when, in
order to pay for a costly military incursion into civil war-torn Congo,
President Robert Mugabe ordered the printing of vast amounts of money, and
inflation climbed steeply.

But it has reached today's levels only since the commercial farm invasions,
in which 4,000 out of 4,500 white commercial farmers were kicked off their
land, beginning in 2000. White farmers accounted for an estimated 60% of the
country's foreign currency earnings through the export of tobacco and other
crops. The invasions not only crippled domestic production, they scared away
foreign investment. To dig itself out of debt and pay its bills, the
government has simply printed more money.

Meanwhile, production by "new farmers" - landless peasants who moved in to
occupy the white farms - is pitifully low. Part of the reason is that
although the government offers fuel and maize-seed subsidies to new farmers,
many have discovered that it's more profitable to sell the maize seed and
fuel on the black market for inflated prices than to use them on the farm.
Millions of acres of once-productive commercial farmland lie fallow. Of
course, the government then blames drought, even though the rains have been

It is the gradual collapse of Zimbabwe's once-sound infrastructure, however,
that shocked me most since my last visit 18 months ago. There have been fuel
shortages since 2001, but now electricity cuts leave many parts of the
country without power several hours a day. The government and state press
routinely blame this on "international sanctions" and Western "sabotage."
The charge is laughable. There are no international sanctions - only travel
bans on leading members of the ruling party, known as the Zimbabwe African
National Union-Patriotic Front.

What's really happened is that many of the country's power turbines have
broken down, and the state has neither the foreign currency to buy the spare
parts nor the technicians to fix them. (An estimated 4 million Zimbabweans,
including a huge number of the country's most skilled workers, have left.)
Zimbabwe also imports 40% of its energy from South Africa, Mozambique and
Congo, and it cannot afford to pay its bills, hence the blackouts. "What did
we do before candles?" goes the local joke. "Electricity!"

If the state is concerned by the economic situation, it does not show it.
Members of the ruling party are in a power struggle over who will succeed
Mugabe, who has said he will step down in 2008. But in April, they still
found time to grant pay hikes of 300% to the army, police and civil service
at a cost of Z$60 trillion - and once again paid for it by printing more
money. "They are addicted to printing money," Robertson said. "The solution
is a political one, but they are unable to see it."

Alarmingly, things are likely to get worse. Zimbabwe is only now reaching
the level of rapid economic decline seen in once war-torn African countries
such as Angola and Mozambique. Although 1,200% annual inflation might seem
surreal, it has not yet reached the 100% a day experienced in Argentina. And
if a knapsack as a wallet sounds bad, in Weimar Germany, there was the
wheelbarrow. That day might not be far off.

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'My naked hell in Zim jail'     


Jeremy Gordin
          July 09 2006 at 01:37PM

      Two years spent stark naked with no blankets, never seeing the sky -
this was part of political prisoner Kevin Woods's life of hell in Robert
Mugabe's prisons. He was released last weekend.

      Woods is a quietly-spoken, balding and bearded man who has just spent
19 of his 53-and-a-half years in Zimbabwe's Chikurubi and Harare Central

      He spent five of those years in solitary confinement on Chikurubi's
death row, during which time he never saw the sky. And for two of the years
on death row he was forced to go naked - those were the rules - and without
blankets. He spent most of the remaining 14 years in a 7m by 4m communal
cell, with about 35-40 other prisoners.

      "I don't know how I kept sane - maybe I'm not sane. I may look okay
sitting here, but I'm strung out inside. All I can say is that there's that
old adage about taking things one day at a time, and that's what I did. You
have to programme your head never to think beyond the day that you're living
in. Even thinking about the next month was too much for me.

      "I was also blessed - yes, blessed - that there was no family member
in Zimbabwe to visit me after my death sentence was commuted," Woods said.
"Because I think that, if I had had to see loved ones, I could not have

      Woods, Michael Smith and Philip Conjwayo - known by some as the Harare
Three - were sentenced to death in 1988 for the murder of Obed Mwanza, a
Zimbabwean driver, whom they hired to drive a car to a house occupied by ANC
officials in Bulawayo. Mwanza did not know the car was carrying a bomb which
the three men detonated, killing him and injuring three ANC officials. Their
death sentences were commuted to life in 1994 by the Zimbabwe Supreme Court.

      Woods said that he had been working at the time for South Africa's
National Intelligence Service, the successor to Boss, the Bureau for State
Security. "But, when I was caught, I was dropped like a dead rat by them. I
have not been paid, nor is anyone going to pay me. I have nothing."

      Last Friday, Woods, Smith and Conjwayo, were summoned to the office of
the commander of Harare Central.

      "I was expecting bad news because when you get called to the
commander's office, it's inevitably bad news," said Woods yesterday.

      "Besides, I've had nothing but bad news for 19 years. The commander
waffled for a while - then he told us that President Robert Mugabe had given
us clemency and that Smith and I were going to be deported. I didn't believe
it was happening till I stepped over the border at Beit Bridge."

      Woods, an ex-Rhodesian policeman, said he did not know why Mugabe -
who previously had refused requests from former president Nelson Mandela,
Desmond Tutu and Njongonkulu Ndungane, the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town,
that the three men be released - changed his mind last week.

      "I believe it was all due to Father Fidelis Mukonori," Woods said.
"He's an elderly, gracious and kind Catholic priest who started visiting us
about two years ago. He's also, I believe, Mugabe's confessor and a personal
friend of the president. He's one of those people: when he starts talking,
you listen.

      "I'm so glad to be out of there, I even feel grateful to Mugabe. The
only thing I feel bitter about is that it's taken so long. I mean, my war
was with the ANC and it ended in 1994. And the ANC forgave us - look what
Mandela tried to do for us. But it took until now."

      Woods's worst days were on death row because once prisoners heard that
they had lost their appeals against the deathsentence, he said, "nothing
would happen, nothing would be said, until the officials would just show up
at 4am, without warning, usually the first Friday of the month, and take you
to the gallows. Often the families of the hanged men would not even be told
until they came to visit."

      "Once you lost your appeal, it was cheers. There's one man who's been
on death row in Chikurubi for 17 years. He's completely mad now. And of
course we had to go around naked. But the worst was that, on death row, you
never breathe fresh air or see the sky. Never."

      Yesterday morning at Johannesburg International Airport, in the
company of Storm, his daughter, Wood saw Jane, his ex-wife for the first
time in 14 years. She was out of the country until yesterday.

      "I hugged Jane just now," he said. "It was the most amazing thing that
has ever happened to me. Look at my eyes - you can see how red they are. It
was even better than my first chicken burger when I got back to South Africa
a week ago - because, believe you me, there were no chicken burgers on the
menu at prison."

      Woods said that breakfast (mieliepap) was given to prisoners at
8.30am, lunch (pap and boiled cabbage) at 10.30am, and then supper (more
pap) at 1.30pm.

      "So in effect we went without food for about 19 hours. Some lucky
prisoners - like me, because I have a coronary problem - got bread and tea
in the evening. But most did not."

      After breakfast, said Woods, the prisoners in the communal cell took
what few possessions they owned outside in a plastic bag and then sat in a
large concrete exercise area until they were locked up again at about 3pm.

      "What did we do all those hours in the cell? Nothing - what could we
do? People talked to one another. I had a radio."

      Woods said he never had any troubles with any of his fellow prisoners,
that in fact he often intervened on other prisoners' behalf.

      "We were considered political prisoners and we were never touched. But
other prisoners who did not squat fast enough - you have to squat when you
see an officer in Chikurubi - were often beaten mercilessly. I often tried
to stop that."

      He said the worst problem faced by the prisoners was during the past
10 years or so when the Zimbabwean economy took a dive. "No hot water, often
no water at all, no soap, none of that stuff - and the worst was that
medical attention deteriorated," Woods said.

      This article was originally published on page 1 of Sunday Argus on
July 09, 2006

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