[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
HARARE, 9 June (IRIN) - Zimbabwe's opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, appears to have stepped back from launching a long-threatened anti-government protest against deteriorating living conditions.
Addressing a press conference in the capital, Harare, Tsvangirai on Friday instead presented a "roadmap to legitimacy" - an ultimatum to the government demanding a new constitution, internationally supervised free and fair elections and an acknowledgement it was responsible for the current "national decay".
"Should the government refuse to give in to our demands, we will be left with no option but to implement the [Movement for Democratic Change] congress resolution, which is to engage in peaceful democratic resistance," Tsvangirai said. The government has repeatedly warned that any protest action would be illegal and bring an immediate crackdown.
The former labour leader underlined that the main MDC faction he leads was not "calling for the violent toppling of the Zimbabwean government, but we want people to be able to exercise their democratic right to express their discontent".
Tsvangirai's more militant faction held a congress in March, when delegates agreed on a "short sharp programme of winter discontent" to register their anger over the country's political and economic crisis.
MDC insiders told IRIN the new "road map" strategy was an attempt by moderates in Tsvangirai's camp to give dialogue an opportunity, amid reports of renewed interest by the international community in finding a solution to Zimbabwe's despair.
Tsvangirai appeared to favour the idea: "The United Nations effort is welcome, but must not be an excuse for regional inaction. The international campaign is welcome, as long as it is going to alleviate the suffering that Zimbabweans are experiencing."
The country is trying to cope with four years of food shortages caused by erratic rainfall, the impact of a chaotic fast-track land reform programme on the agricultural sector and a critical lack of foreign currency to cover imports. Inflation has climbed beyond 1,000 percent while salaries have failed to keep pace.
The MDC, formed under Tsvangirai in 1999, split over a decision to participate in senate elections last year. Tsvangirai overruled a vote by party leaders to take part in the controversial poll and both camps have spurned mediation efforts, weakening their challenge to the 26-year rule of President Robert Mugabe.
Tsvangirai's former ally, Welshman Ncube, told IRIN that he had always doubted whether the anti-senate faction would confront the government on the streets. "I wish them well, but they said it would be a short sharp winter programme and I hear excuses keep coming up. Very soon we will be in the summer and I doubt if anything will have been done."
Zimbabwe's economic crisis has also not spared the security forces, which are suffering unprecedented manpower and equipment shortages, according to a recent all-party parliamentary portfolio committee that recently toured police stations and military camps.
One member of the committee told IRIN: "In Gweru city, the capital of the Midlands province, we found that there were no teargas canisters, while only one police vehicle was servicing the entire city. A lot of vehicles were grounded, either because there was no petrol or there was no money to buy spare parts."
Parts of the report read: "In terms of manpower shortages, Gweru was one of the hardest hit. There were 175 officers working at the station instead of 300, meaning the station is understaffed. The officers faced an acute shortage of accommodation, to the extent that some married officers were accommodated in former horse stables."
Some police stations did not have lights because money to buy the bulbs had run out. At another police station, the committee found that petty criminals detained in the cells had not been fed for two days.
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MUTARE - For 34-year old Maria Hatinei, the joy of living in a house that she could call her own vanished last month when her three-year old son died of cholera in Zimbabwe's eastern border city of Mutare.
Hatinei is among hundreds of people who "benefited" after she was allocated a house under President Robert Mugabe's controversial housing scheme codenamed Operation Garikai (Live Well) near Chikanga suburb in Mutare.
The housing construction exercise followed a controversial clean-up exercise last year that left at least 700 000 homeless and directly affected another 2.4 million, according to the United Nations.
But life in the incomplete two-roomed structure, without running water and electricity, has turned out to be a real nightmare for Hatinei.
There are no window panes at Hatidani's new house with a torn sack covering the doorway. For water supplies, residents here rely on the goodwill of their neighbours in the adjacent Chikanga Phase 3 suburb.
In a sign of the deep crisis here, the 30 families here have been forced to dig pit latrines right in the middle of the city, Zimbabwe's fifth biggest.
For most families here, the government's reconstruction exercise cynically named "Operation Garikayi" has turned into a big disappointment.
"I would have preferred to keep my son than stay at this filthy place. This incomplete house has come at a huge cost. Why does the government put us in death traps like this?" she says her voice quaking with emotion.
"I am scared I will soon go the same route my son went. Everyone is concerned about the health situation here," says Hatinei.
Hatidani's three year old son succumbed to cholera earlier this year because of the unhygienic conditions in this settlement.
Cholera, an intestinal disease that thrives in unhygienic environments, is on the resurgence in Zimbabwe which is in its sixth year of a bitter economic recession most people blame on Mugabe's mismanagement.
Hatinei says the nurses at Mutare General Hospital could have saved her son were it not for lack of medicines, a story so common at most hospitals in Zimbabwe.
But last Wednesday, in their cozy boardroom at the ZANU PF headquarters in Harare, Mugabe heard a glowing report from his coterie of praise singers in the ruling party's supreme decision making body, the politiburo, on the "successes" of Operation Garikayi.
The Harare authorities have been at pains to portray the reconstruction exercise as a success in the face of unprecedented criticism from the international community.
Last week, the UN repeated its criticism of the housing project with the world body's special rapporteur on adequate housing Miloon Kothari saying the Zimbabwe situation "was as bad as it gets."
In typical ostrich-style defiance, Mugabe's ruling party described the housing project as "a success" at its Wednesday meeting despite evidence that all is not well at the settlements.
"Our children are always sick here. There are no proper sanitation facilities, no water and the houses are only fit as pigstys. This is a ticking time bomb because of the health dangers," says Memory Chitere, another resident of the new settlement.
"We were better off before they destroyed our backyard shacks. Now we are living like animals," she says.
Itai Zimunya, a local co-ordinator for the Crisis Coalition of Zimbabwe non-governmental organisation, said it was clear to any objective person that the government's housing project had failed.
"There is general discontent among those offered houses under the government programme because they see it as a fraud. Reports of outbreaks of disease at these Garikayi houses are rife," said Zimunya.
In Bulawayo, Catholic Archbishop and government critic, Pius Ncube, said he had also received reports of deteriorating health conditions at most settlements set up by the government.
"The government's own health delivery system is in an advanced state of decay. We are extremely concerned because the government put people in areas where they are at the mercy of disease," said Ncube.
While Health Minister David Parirenyatwa conceded that the government could have done more to lessen the heath crisis at the new settlements, he said the Harare authorities will soon provide health facilities at the settlements.
"We are concerned too. But we have not heard reports of any deaths. This programme is not a one off affair. It is a process and we are in the process of making sure heath facilities are there," he said.
But Hatiende and many others near the Chikanga settlement in Mutare are unlikely to wait for Parirenyatwa's promise.
"I have made up my mind. I am moving out to get lodgings elsewhere," she says
June 9, 2006, 15 hours, 34 minutes and 2 seconds ago.
By ANDnetwork .com
Repairs on Air Zimbabwe’s Boeing 767 which developed a technical fault while in the United Kingdom prior to its scheduled return to Zimbabwe on Monday are expected to take between 20 to 25 days, the airline said yesterday.
As a result, the airline is mulling leasing another engine while the repairs are being done. The national airline announced on Tuesday the B767 had developed an oil leak which was undergoing further investigations by Storm Aviation and Lufthansa Technic —its technical partners in the UK and Germany to ascertain the extent of repair work needed.
"Our colleagues from Lufthansa Technic, who refurbish our engines, are doing work scope after which they will advise us exact details of what requires to be done.
"The PW4000 engine that we use on the B767 aircraft is quite sophisticated and we want to ensure that sufficient investigations are carried out to give us the exact specifics of what requires to be done, where in Europe and how long the work will take," said acting technical operations director Mr Boston Odongo.
"We are looking at options of leasing another engine while this one is undergoing repair work, in view of the challenges we are bound to face given the size of our international operations," he added. The grounding of the B767 has necessitated rescheduling of some flights.
Today’s Harare to London flight has now been combined with that for Sunday evening to Sunday morning. Passengers from UK, who were scheduled to leave London tomorrow and Monday evenings will now leave London on the Sunday evening flight. All other international flights — the Harare to Beijing this evening and to Dubai on Monday evening and to London on Wednesday evening remain unaffected.
Source : The Herald
June 9, 2006, 14 hours, 11 minutes and 19 seconds ago.
By ANDnetwork .com
Human rights groups in Zimbabwe are preparing to fight a new bill that will allow state agents to eavesdrop on private conversations.
The legistation will also allow agents to monitor faxes and emails.
The rights groups argue that if passed the Interception of Communications law will be repressive and hinder free flow of information in the country.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, say the bill is meant to crush government opponents and intimidate the independent press.
And the Zimbabwe Law Society says the bill is in violation of constitutional provisions that provided for freedom to exchange ideas and information.
The Interception of Communications bill was published on May 27 in the government gazette, the last stage for draft laws before reaching parliament.
The new law will give the minister of Transport and Communications Authority to issue an information interception warrant to state agents.
This is in situations, where there are reasonable grounds for the minister to believe, among other things, that a serious offence has been, or will probably be committed or that there is a threat to national security.
Fri Jun 9, 2006 3:11 PM GMT
By Stella Mapenzauswa
HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's inflation rate vaulted to a new record high on Friday, dashing government hopes of arresting an economic collapse that has fanned fears of national protests against President Robert Mugabe.
Mugabe's government has cited inflation, now the highest in the world at well over 1,000 percent, as one of the chief scourges of an economy now in its eighth year of a recession crisis widely blamed on its mismanagement.
Figures released by the Central Statistical Office on Friday showed prices almost 13 times the level a year earlier, exacerbating a spiral that has left thousands of households struggling to stay afloat.
Analysts said while salary hikes awarded to civil servants in April might have slowed the momentum for countrywide protests threatened by the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and labour unions, inflation would soon render them void.
"The MDC may have to wait a bit longer for the protests to take off, but the inflation spiral is adding fuel to the agitations for policy changes and that moment is not far away," said political analyst Eldred Masunungure of the University of Zimbabwe.
Economists said May's figure of a 1,193.5 percent increase in the consumer price index further undercut Central Bank Governor Gideon Gono's predictions that inflation would ease to 400 percent by December this year and to less than 50 percent by June 2007.
"I think at this rate that (prediction) is now practically impossible, unless we see serious levels of deflation from now on, and I really don't see prices going down," said Farai Dyirakumunda, head of research at Interfin Securities.
"Hyperinflationary expectations are now further entrenched in the economy and the fuel price increases effected recently will have a ripple effect. The ordinary man will probably have to brace for continued hardship," Dyirakumunda told Reuters.
The CSO said medical costs had registered the highest increase in prices over the year at 11,029.9 percent while postal services and hairdressing charges rose 5,180.4 percent and 4,665.6 percent respectively.
Salaries have long failed to keep pace with price hikes, putting many formerly middle-class Zimbabweans in dire financial straits.
Last month the Reserve Bank unveiled a new 100,000 Zimbabwe dollar note -- worth slightly less than a U.S. dollar -- to cope with soaring prices that force shoppers to carry huge stacks of currency for ordinary purchases.
It said it would not hesitate to move to higher denominations in future if need be.
Analysts see inflation, which first breached the 1,000 percent mark in April, hitting 1,800 percent by year-end.
The central bank has over the last two years consistently missed its inflation forecasts as the government grapples with an economic crisis marked by shortages of foreign exchange and fuel, and unemployment of more than 70 percent.
Mugabe, who has ruled the southern African country since independence from Britain in 1980, rejects charges that skewed government policies, including its land reforms, have led to chronic shortages of food, fuel and foreign currency.
Mugabe, 82, whose current term as president expires in 2008, says the economy has been sabotaged by local and foreign opponents of his drive to forcibly redistribute white-owned commercial farms among blacks.
© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.
HARARE — Days after Zimbabwe’s central bank introduced a new 100,000 dollar note to try and keep pace with inflation, the price of bread almost doubled to well above the new denomination — an irony not lost on shoppers. “It doesn’t matter what size denomination they come up with, we will still need bags of money for a trip to the supermarket,” one Harare resident said as he watched a cashier count out piles of notes for his modest basket of groceries.
A loaf of bread has shot up to around Z$130,000 ($1.28) from Z$85,000 sanctioned by President Robert Mugabe’s government, setting the tone for similar hikes for other staples in a country saddled with the world’s highest inflation rate. With the government announcing yesterday that the annual inflation rate hit a record 1,193.5 per cent in May, cynics say the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe should simply bite the bullet and introduce a million dollar note.
Petrol prices have surged to anything between Z$250,000 and Z$350,000 a litre from around Z$200,000, tracking a thriving foreign currency black market where the local dollar is quoted at around 315,000 to the US dollar, far above the official rate of 101,195. “It gives me a headache getting my brain around all these zeros,” said Harare housewife Doreen, displaying a Z$60 million receipt for the three months’ worth of groceries she had just purchased to try and beat erratic price hikes.
Doreen, who declined to give her last name, is one of a tiny minority who can afford bulk purchases in a country where soldiers and teachers, representing a sizeable chunk of Zimbabwe’s working class, earn an average Z$30 million ($296 at the official rate) a month. Salaries have fallen far short of inflation, which analysts see hitting 1,800 per cent by the end of the year, a stark indicator of an economic meltdown widely blamed on government mismanagement. Zimbabwe’s main opposition party and the main labour federation have warned of nationwide protests over the crisis, and although no firm dates have been set, analysts say public anger over rising living costs is keeping tensions high.
In the past week the prices of telephone services have also rocketed, piling pressure on an urban population grappling with frequent electricity cuts which have left urban households shivering in the cold as the winter season sets in. In its latest report on price patterns, the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) said an average family of six needed $485 in May to meet its basic requirements including food, transport and rent, up from $405 the previous month. CCZ said water and electricity costs had surged by 185.9 per cent over the month while transport went up 66.7 per cent.
“The explicit comparison of the wages which some low income earners get and the poverty datum line reflects that some consumers are now forced to forego some basic food and non-food items,” the watchdog said. Zimbabwe’s economy has contracted by 40 per cent over the past 8 years, bearing out the World Bank’s assertion that the southern African state has the fastest shrinking economy outside of a war zone.
Analysts scoff at the central bank’s hopes of taming inflation to two-digits by year-end, saying realities on the ground point to December’s figure topping 1,800 per cent. Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, denies critics charges that he is to blame for Zimbabwe’s economic woes, and on his part points to sabotage by local and foreign opponents of his controversial drive to forcibly redistribute white-owned farms among blacks.
Zimbabwe is the only country in the world whose highest denomination bank note cannot buy a loaf of bread.
By Benedict Unendoro in Harare (AR No. 66, 09-Jun-06)
If an uprising begins in Zimbabwe any time soon it might well be dubbed "the Lemonist Revolution".
So important has the lemon now become that it is a part of every family's shopping basket. People visiting neighbouring South Africa return with plastic bags loaded with the yellow-skinned citrus.
Fresh milk, when available, has become unaffordable for most. The same goes for sugar. At breakfast, to enhance the taste of their morning cup of tea, locals now use lemon instead of milk and sugar. They need it in their porridge too, for the same reason.
"Tea tastes good with lemon," said Margaret Gweshe, a housewife living in Chitungwiza, 28 kilometres from Harare. "But that's not why we have lemon tea every day. We would prefer the old days when we had milk we could afford."
Prices of essential commodities have shot up, with inflation reaching 1043 per cent in May. "People now only have money for the very basics," said Gweshe as she cradles a two-year-old child showing the early signs of malnutrition. "Maize meal is our staple, so all the money has to be directed towards it before we can think of buying anything else."
For breakfast she gives the baby maize porridge with lemon in it while she makes do with a cup of tea and a sweet potato from her garden. To preserve maize rations there is no midday lunch. "Maputi is all we will have in the afternoon," she said. Maputi are popped maize, very different from popcorn familiar to film-goers. The latter is made from special corn, while the former are just ordinary maize kernels roasted until they pop.
"For supper we always have sadza [a thick maize porridge] with vegetables boiled in salt. There is no cooking oil. We can't afford tomatoes and onions. Having supper is an ordeal rather than a pleasure," she said.
Zimbabwe's economic meltdown is now virtually complete and ordinary Zimbabweans are bearing the brunt of it.
The price of a litre of petrol increased from 200,000 to 300,000 Zimbabwe dollars at the end of the first week of June. Obviously no foreigner can comprehend, at a glance, what that means.
So bear with me for a short seminar on a country holding two world records - the highest inflation rate in the world and the fastest shrinking economy.
The real value of one US dollar at the black market rate in a country where the formal economy has collapsed is 310,000 Zimbabwe dollars. President Robert Mugabe's has pegged the official exchange rate at 102,000 Zimbabwe dollars to one US dollar, but US greenbacks are exchanged at this rate only in exceptional, unavoidable circumstances. To illustrate how far we have fallen, one Zimbabwe dollar was worth more than one American dollar at independence in 1980.
Eighty per cent of all Zimbabweans now live in abject poverty on the equivalent of less than one US dollar a day.
Every rise in the price of fuel has an immediate effect on everything else. Commuter bus fares rise as soon as the price of fuel rises. The prices of
basic commodities also rise because grocers have to pay more to bring the commodities to their shops.
Zimbabwe is the only country in the world whose highest denomination bank note cannot buy a loaf of bread. Less than a week after the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe introduced a new 100,000 Zimbabwe dollar bank note at the beginning of June, the price of a loaf of bread shot up from 85,000 to 132,000 Zimbabwe dollars. Last Christmas, we were paying "only" 45,000 a loaf.
A lot of things have become so ridiculous in Zimbabwe that they would be hilariously funny if they were not so deadly serious and causing so many of us to die unnaturally early. Another world record we hold is for the lowest life expectancy for our women. According to the World Health Organisation, the average Zimbabwean woman does not live now beyond the age of 34 compared with 60 years at independence.
The word "trillion" has been added to our basic vocabulary, because that is the monetary figure government departments and businesses work in. But a recent snap survey showed that only one in ten professionals know how many zeros there are in a trillion.
The Reserve Bank has introduced "bearer cheques" because it has run out of foreign exchange to import the kind of high quality paper necessary for printing standard bank notes. The bearer cheques are printed on ordinary low quality paper, with no security features, and they expire after a given period. The last "quality" bank note printed in this country was for 1,000 Zimbabwe dollars, which these days does not buy you even a single matchstick.
For a single purchase of twenty litres of petrol, one needs 6 million Zimbabwe dollars or 300 twenty thousand dollar bearer cheques. Petrol attendants use money counters for this and as the cheques purr in the machine the poor quality paper sends lots of dust into the attendant's face. They have to wear masks because the dust causes terrible coughing. The dust pollution is made worse because "some of our customers carry their great wads of bearer cheques in the most unsavoury of containers”, one attendant told IWPR at a service station in the Harare suburb of Hatfield.
In the villages, the new money puzzles the elderly. "Why do they give us this new note when it cannot buy anything," asked an old man at funeral vigil in Chivi, 320 km south of Harare. He told IWPR that in his day, "when money was still money", one could buy a pair of shoes using the biggest denomination note. "Now this 100,000 dollar bill buys nothing, but they bring it to us anyway," he said.
The 100,000 Zimbabwe dollar bill has been dubbed the "greenback" by local wits because of its colour. But, unlike a single US dollar, one of these new notes is useless by itself. To buy a single 40-watt lightbulb you need a dozen "greenbacks".
Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono said on the eve of the launch of the 100,000 Zimbabwe dollar bearer cheque, "It will help reduce the annoyance of carrying loads and loads of money around and make shopping easier." Well, Gono, who lives in a palatial home perhaps second in size to President Mugabe's, is way out of touch with reality. We ordinary Zimbabweans no longer use wallets. They are too small. The country's money is devaluing so fast that you have to lug around plastic bags full of "bricks" of notes if you are going to a small grocery shop. To buy anything bigger, you need a suitcase.
For most low-income urban dwellers whose salaries range from a low of five million to an average of ten million Zimbabwe dollars a month, life has simply become unbearable.
Margaret Gweshe's husband earns ten million Zimbabwe dollars and works near the city centre. He needs 200,000 a day to travel to and from work and the total per month is about four million. Rental accommodation in most working class suburbs ranges between 3 million and 3.5million a month for a single room.
The Gweshes' monthly ten million Zimbabwe dollars is gobbled up just by transport and accommodation. They rent two rooms. Therefore there is no money for groceries, school fees and school uniforms, whose prices are soaring in line with runaway inflation. School shoes now cost 3 million a pair at a shoe shop considered to be one of the cheapest.
"A person earning 10 million is not able to come to work, pay school fees and accommodation. That's what it means," said Fadzai Kaseke who lives in the
sprawling shantytown of Epworth just outside Harare. "That person cannot afford
to get sick. Imagine if a serious illness falls in the family. The person will be in serious trouble."
Most families are surviving on one meal a day. Things that most people used to take for granted, such as milk, margarine, bread, sugar, meat, cooking oil and tea, have become luxuries. Beef, once a staple along with maize, now costs 1 million Zimbabwe dollars a kilogramme in a supermarket.
Zimbabweans joke grimly that they are "poor millionaires". Like Gladys, a domestic worker who earns more than 3 million a month. That is a salary she could only dream of a few years ago when maids' monthly wages were set at 80,000. But these days her millions do not stretch to a regular morsel of meat. So she eats dried grasshoppers.
"We are getting to the point where people can't take anymore,” said Lovemore Madhuku, chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly, a major lobby group for political reform."Poverty and suffering are growing by the day. It's just a matter of time before inflation sparks civil disobedience."
Benedict Unendoro is the pseudonym of an IWPR journalist in Zimbabwe.
By Blessing Zulu
09 June 2006
Consumer inflation in Zimbabwe over the past 12 months hit 1,193% in May, said the country's Central Statistical Office on Friday, following 1,042% in April. Zimbabwe continued to have the highest current level of inflation in the world.
Yet Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono remained optimistic, saying he expects inflation to fall to 400% by the end of 2006 and to 50% by June 2007. But some economists considered his forecast unrealistic, while political analysts said the economic crisis poses a serious threat to President Robert Mugabe's tenure.
For perspective on this latest burst of hyper-inflation, reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke with chief economist Prosper Chitambara of the Labor and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe.
Independent economist Eric Bloch, in Bulawayo, described what might be done to put the brakes on inflation based on the previous experience of other countries.
Reuters, 9 June
Harare - A Zimbabwe government investigator has accused the country's main labour federation of violating foreign currency regulations, a move seen as part of a new crackdown on President Robert Mugabe's critics. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) is one of Mugabe's harshest critics allied to the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change party, and has backed its threats to begin mass protests against the government in the coming months. On Friday, the state controlled Herald newspaper reported that a probe ordered by the government into the ZCTU had revealed that the labour movement had "flouted foreign exchange control regulations and provisions of its constitution." Critics have in recent years accused President Robert Mugabe's government of using stringent foreign exchange laws to clamp down on opponents, while some ruling party officials who have also been caught in the net claimed to be victims of internal wrangling. Foreign exchange has become particularly valuable in Zimbabwe as the country struggles through an unprecedented economic crisis that has seen inflation soar over 1,000 percent amid frequent shortages of staples including food and fuel.
The ZCTU had between 2002 and 2003 exchanged tens of thousands of U.S. dollars on the black market and remitted money outside the country without authority from the central bank, the Herald said. The newspaper said Labour Minister Nicholas Goche had set up an investigation into the union's affairs following allegations of financial irregularities and had said he would take "appropriate action." ZCTU President Lovemore Matombo and Secretary-General Wellington Chibebe - who are travelling abroad - were not available for comment on Friday, and other officials said they had no authority to speak to the media. But in the past the two labour leaders have denied allegations of mismanagement and abuse of foreign currency, saying the charges were part of a campaign by the government to suppress its opponents. Lovemore Madhuku, chairman of a political pressure group National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) said: "There is no doubt that this is part of a harrassment campaign to keep pressure on civic society." The ZCTU is expected to meet with the main opposition and civic groups next week to chart the way for countrywide anti-government protests that some analysts say could spur wider public unrest.
Zimbabwe Independent, 9 June
South African President Thabo Mbeki has relaunched his diplomatic offensive to engage President Robert Mugabe in a bid to resolve Zimbabwe’s escalating political and economic crisis, it emerged yesterday. Mbeki’s initiative comes at a time when Mugabe is under mounting pressure from several fronts, including the United Nations, local diplomats and churches, to give a firm timetable for his departure to pave way for the reconstruction of the country shattered by years of misrule. A report by the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think-tank run by retired statesmen, this week said Zimbabwe’s multi-faceted problems had left Mugabe’s regime "increasingly desperate and dangerous". This, it said, was a recipe for disaster in a country that has virtually lost political direction and was hurtling towards a failed state. The report said the international community needed to intervene to prevent possible instability and violence. Official sources said Mbeki - who has been battling for six years to find a negotiated settlement in Zimbabwe - yesterday dispatched his Intelligence Services minister Ronnie Kasrils to meet State Security minister Didymus Mutasa for talks on a possible summit between their two leaders.
Sources said Kasrils flew into Harare on a private jet shortly after midday accompanied by a high-powered delegation comprising South Africa’s National Intelligence Agency (NIA) chief Manala Manzini and South African Secret Service (Sass) boss Dennis Hilton. NIA deals with internal intelligence while Sass focuses on foreign intelligence. After meeting officials from his embassy in Harare, Kasrils is said to have gone into a meeting with Mutasa for discussions on the state of affairs in both countries and their relations. Sources said the main issue on the agenda was to arrange a summit between Mugabe and Mbeki to address the local crisis. The two ministers, who resolved the spy saga deadlock between the two countries last year, had dinner last night at a local hotel. Kasrils returns home this morning. An official source said the need for Mugabe to meet Mbeki had become urgent in view of the accelerating national decline and strained relations between the two leaders following a number of rebuffs from Mugabe.
South African ministers have of late been pointing out the need to resolve the local crisis to prevent a regional contagion. Mugabe in February suggested Mbeki must "keep away" from Zimbabwe. Mbeki’s spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga yesterday said he was not aware of plans for a meeting between his boss and Mugabe. "I’m not aware of that," he said when contacted for comment. Sources said Mbeki recently sent Kasrils to London to meet government officials and intelligence chiefs before his visit three weeks ago to meet British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Mbeki and Blair have met twice this year to discuss the local problem. South African Intelligence Services ministry spokesperson Loran Daniels said she would "check" on Kasrils’ visit to Harare. "I have to check on that issue. Are you not able to check on your side, while I check this side?" she said. Efforts to contact Mutasa were unsuccessful. Mbeki said in London three weeks ago he was hoping UN secretary-general Kofi Annan’s expected visit would sort out the crisis. Annan is preparing to come to Harare despite Mugabe’s attempt to block him to prevent Zimbabwe becoming a UN Security Council issue. Last week the UN boss recalled the world body’s ambassador to Harare, Agostinho Zacarias, for consultations over the issue.
A team of local diplomats and a think-tank have already secured the services of former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa to mediate between Mugabe and Blair. Mugabe has said he wants to "build bridges" with Blair. Tanzania is sending a new ambassador to Harare as part of its strategy to help resolve the issue. British ambassador to Harare Andrew Pocock said this week he has been "quietly exploring for room" to improve strained relations between Harare and London. Blair has given clear conditions for talks with Mugabe including a timetable for Mugabe’s departure and political reform.
Zimbabwe Independent (Harare)
June 9, 2006
Posted to the web June 9, 2006
ASKING the fairly new Baobab Grill manageress, Kelly Allison, what she advised for supper on a chilly Africa Day, she replied with another question: did I like ribs?
Well, actually, I haven't had them for ages, at least not since my son and daughter left for the Diaspora, but who doesn't relish a generous portion of barbecued ribs, dripping with lashings of delicious basting sauce, in pleasant surroundings with delightful company?
One reservation was, I am not totally mad about eating main meals with fingers, but there is no way you can do justice to, or get full value for money and nutrition from, sizzlingly seared spareribs without digging in with disgustingly dripping digits and gnawing every last delightful sticky morsel off the bones.
In the interest of troublesome uric acid, I wouldn't have had beef ribs, but these were lean tasty pork, mightily meaty, done to a turn.
And plenty of them: a Desperate Dan-sized helping. It was only after I'd cleaned the final tacky, sticky, fragrant gunk off hands in a tepid finger bowl, that I learned this house specialty was $2 million.
But that's not really a train smash today when you can eat until, candidly, uncomfortably replete. The gnawed bones made a nice treat for Blaze the X-Labrador and that was only half the quantity of ribs served.
One doggy-bag held skeletal debris of a much enjoyed meal (even managed all the good, golden crispy chips and vegetables); a second bag held half the meat portion originally dished up: destined for next day's lunch at home with baked potato (Zesa permitting).
Nothing but the highest possible praise for the restaurant's presentation and service; both main course rib dish and humble-sounding chocolate mousse ($350 000) were worthy of being painted as still life studies and prominent display in the National Art Gallery.
Apart from looking good, the pudding tasted superb, one of the richest creamiest around, with really mouthwatering deep dark chocolate: a decidedly decadent dessert for the discerning diner.
Kelly has a degree in hospitality management from the University of Bournemouth and worked at several top class restaurants, not least of which was the world famous Savoy Hotel in London. She looks uncannily like Lee Stewart who owns Baobab Grill and the abutting Thai, Blue Banana, with husband Heath. Assuming they were sisters, I was assured that error is often made. The other night duty manager was Jonathan Baker, formerly with Meikles.
A "workman-like" side salad accompanied entrée; as a main course, salads are $680-$860 000. A range of eight different starter courses are from $450 000 (stuffed potato cakes) to $600 000 (Zambezi Ritz or beef kebabs) with soup of the day $520 000 or creamy mushroom soup $600 000.
A 250g fillet steak is $1,4 million, 200g ladies' fillet $1,2 million, rump $1,75 million; house special burger $980 000, all with chips, rice or sadza. Fish and chips there is now one of the most reasonably priced around in these days of galloping hyper-inflation at "just" $1,25 million; chicken dishes are $1,35-$1,6 million; vegetarian plates $900 000.
The twin restaurants are among the most child-friendly around with special play room, children's TV and video, games, colouring books, supervised by a trained nurse. The children's menu has Wieners and chips, mini-pizzas and burgers at around half-a-million and puddings at a quarter of a million.
I had one (or two?) Pilsener lagers at $220 00, but a planned cappuccino was scrubbed, as Zinwa once again made the Newlands/Eastlea area as dry as the Sahara and the machine won't hiss and splutter without good mains pressure. Strong filter coffee proved an agreeable alternative.
I felt the rack of ribs just too large for average appetites; offering half the amount at (say) $1,1 million may well increase throughput, turnover and profit.
Highly recommended; booking advised.
* Baobab Grill, Newlands shopping centre. Tel: 252269/252275. Closed Saturday lunch and Sundays.