The Times, UK June 15, 2006
From Jan Raath in Harare
PHILLIP CHIYANGWA, a Bible-quoting tycoon, makes no apologies
for spending £103,000 on a new 5.5-litre, 12-cylinder, twin-turbo
Mercedes-Benz S600 - the only one in Africa.
He may live in a country with the world's fastest deteriorating
economy, and a population haunted by despair, hunger and HIV/Aids, but he
recently led reporters from Harare's state-run Herald newspaper into an
underground garage to demonstrate the infra-red night radar that displays
the other vehicles in the basement on the dashboard screen and bragged about
how much it had cost him.
"The businesses that I have demand such a car. I am celebrating
my own success. Everything that I have, I owe to God," Mr Chiyangwa
explained. Israel Tswarayi, a flower vendor who spends his day dodging
police anti-hawker patrols, views Mr Chiyangwa's purchase differently. "It's
disgusting," he says. "That money could have been used to buy food for
everyone in Harare for a month. But he used it for one car."
Mr Chiyangwa is one of Zimbabwe's privileged elite, almost
entirely black and mostly connected to President Mugabe's ruling Zanu (PF)
party, that flaunts its wealth through the cars it drives.
Zimbabwe is effectively bankrupt. Its once-proud export
industries have been reduced to little more than a care-and-maintenance
level. Official hard currency to import essentials such as antiretroviral
drugs and water-purifying chemicals for cities is almost impossible to
But last month the central bank agreed to fund a loan scheme for
MPs and senators to import new cars, allocating $350,000 (£190,000) for the
first tranche alone.
The number of imported luxury cars in Harare would raise
eyebrows in Epsom. The parliament's car park glitters with scores of
government-issued ministerial and privately owned Mercedes saloons and SUVs,
BMWs, Toyota Landcruisers, Jeep Cherokees and the most expensive Japanese
double-cab 4x4 pick-ups.
The same dazzling array of vehicles assembles outside Harare's
exclusive private schools to collect children at the end of the day, at the
capital's high-priced shopping centres at the weekend and at outings of the
Shumbas, a golfing society of black senior executives from the country's big
Harare's luxury car dealers say that business has seldom been so
good. "We've had this showroom for 12 years, and last year's business has
been the best," said one, who wished to remain anonymous. "Usually, if I had
five C or E-Class Mercs in the showroom, I would sell them in a day."
About 30 per cent of his trade is with the Government,
corporations or non-governmental organisations. "The rest is private - 95
per cent black and most of it is speculative business," he said.
In a country where inflation exceeds 1,000 per cent, "cars are a
currency", he said. "They are your most certain asset. This is the only
country in the world where the value of vehicles appreciate after they get
"When a new vehicle is ordered and paid for overseas, it can
change hands four times before a single kilometre is on the clock."
The most expensive car in the Herald's classified column last
week was a new Mercedes- Benz E500, at Z$38 billion (about £70,000), a snip
next to President Mugabe's five-tonne armoured 7.3-litre S600, which is
estimated to have cost three times more than Mr Chi-yangwa's newer model.
A full tank of petrol for a medium-size saloon car costs about
Z$16 million. By comparison, a month's basket of basic necessities for a
Zimbabwean family of five is Z$49million.
"We are becoming like Nigerians," Stanley Makombe, who runs one
of Harare's better known vehicle sales companies, said.
"There are a very few people making big money because government policies
leave a lot of loopholes where people can become billionaires overnight. The
loopholes are there to make money by short cuts." What Mr Makombe means by
"loopholes" are better understood as scams.
"You cannot earn 10 or 20 billion Zimbabwe dollars you need to buy these
fancy cars by means that are legal or through hard work. God knows where
they get the foreign currency to import them," an economist, who requested
One way is for well-connected ruling party officials to buy foreign currency
from the central bank at preferential exchange rates, then sell it on the
black market at nearly 400 times the price. Another wheeze revealed by
senior milling company executives last week involves members of the ruling
elite obtaining milling licences that allow them to buy maize, the national
staple, from the state grain monopoly, the Grain Marketing Board, and sell
it at the official price - 50 times more than they paid.
They can make the same profit simply by driving round the block and selling
it back to the marketing board at that price, one executive said.
Even that method can be short-circuited by getting one of the board's clerks
to do the paperwork and pay the "miller" without moving a single pip.
Official price controls on other commodities, such as fuel, sugar and
fertiliser - designed to make them affordable to the poor - are exploited in
the same way.
"As soon as you introduce price controls the goods disappear from the
market. They get sidelined cheaply to the political bigwigs, and then end up
on the black market at exorbitant prices," the economist said.
"The whole system of controlled prices and official perks for the party
bigwigs is completely unworkable, but the system is maintained for the
bigwigs to enrich themselves," he said. "They are stealing with the support
of the authorities."
The enrichment of the ruling party elite in the past few years has coincided
with the emergence of dozens of other dodges.
Another big source of income has been through the theft of tractors, combine
harvesters, farm equipment, hundreds of miles of irrigation piping and
anything else left behind on sequestered white farms, where the owners have
been driven off.
A corruption commission formed about five years ago has yet to produce a
single conviction - with good reason. In 1999, a whistle-blower in a car
racket and his wife miraculously survived a blast of automatic gunfire that
shattered their bedroom window while they slept.
Fri 16 June 2006
MASVINGO - A son of top ZANU PF politician, Shuvai Mahofa, was on
Wednesday sentenced to an effective four years in jail for murdering a man
during a wrangle over the ownership of a former white-owned farm.
High Court Judge Yunus Omerjee convicted Ben Mahofa, 24, Jairos
Chingaire, 33 and Ranganai Chimbunde, 27, of murder with constructive intent
after the trio four years ago assaulted Amos Museva with logs and clenched
fists until he died.
Museva was murdered after he refused to surrender a plot on Lothian
farm in Masvingo province that was coveted by Ben's sister.
The farm was in 2002 seized by the government from its former white
owner and cut up into plots that were allocated to various black farmers.
Although Ben's sister was given her own piece of land she still wanted the
one allocated to Museva because it had the farmhouse.
State prosecutors told the court that at the beginning of January
2002, Ben and his accomplices teamed up and went to Lothian with the
intention of forcing Museva off his plot but ended up beating him to death.
Omerjee sentenced the trio to six years in jail for the murder with
two years suspended for five years.
Ben's mother is the ZANU PF Member of Parliament for the party's
stronghold Gutu South constituency. She once led the ruling party's
influential women's league and is also a former deputy minister of youth in
President Robert Mugabe's Cabinet.
Top ZANU PF and government officials, their relatives and friends have
allocated themselves the choicest farms seized from whites with some among
the ruling elite known to have at least six farms each in open defiance of
the government's publicly stated one-man-one-farm policy.
The murder of Museva is yet another example of how the less powerful
have been trampled upon in the rush to get the best of farms taken from
The controversial farm seizure programme - that Mugabe says was
necessary to correct a colonial land ownership system that reserved all the
best land for whites - has been blamed for plunging Zimbabwe into its worst
food crisis after the government failed to give back support to black
peasants resettled on former white farms to maintain production. - ZimOnline
Fri 16 June 2006
HARARE - A United Nations (UN) appointed panel of experts has
recommended that crisis-sapped Zimbabwe be downgraded to a Least Developed
Country (LDC) category, a decision local analysts said seemed harsh but
reflected world concerns over President Robert Mugabe's management style.
Zimbabwe is in the throes of a deep economic crisis blamed on Mugabe's
government and is highlighted by the world's highest inflation rate at
1193.5 percent, rising joblessness, increasing poverty and shortages ranging
from fuel, hard cash to electricity.
The recommendation was made by the Committee for Development Policy,
comprising 22 UN-appointed experts, but can only be implemented if the
decision is acceptable to Harare. Mugabe's government has outrightly
rejected the proposal.
Analysts said while Zimbabwe was experiencing its worst ever economic
and political crisis that has heightened tensions in the country of 12
million people, a downgrade was without enough justification although it was
a fair reflection of concern by the international community over the way the
country was being run.
"The country is facing serious problems both economic and political
but to say we now qualify to be among LDCs is a bit too harsh," Harare-based
economist James Jowa said. "But it has to be seen in the context that the
world is getting very impatient with the government and the way it is
running things here," he added.
Mugabe is criticised for plunging the country into crisis and for
pursuing controversial policies such as seizing white-owned farms, which has
decimated agriculture and lately, of trying to force foreign mines to cede
51 percent of their shareholding to the government.
Mugabe's political opponents accuse him of using tough policing and
harsh media laws to keep dissenting voices in check, while increasingly
relying on the military to prolong his 26-year old rule.
Zimbabwe's economy is still second to South Africa in the region but
has suffered from falling industrial production and declining exports while
years of turmoil have seen infrastructure such as roads, sewer systems
"That (downgrading) is an overreaction to Zimbabwe's situation," said
Eric Bloch, an economic consultant based in the second largest city of
"Zimbabwe has problems but it is still well developed and I think that
downgrading is unrealistic. But if they were to say the downgrading is based
on the least constructive use of developed resources, then yes, we could
qualify," added Bloch, who is also an adviser to the Reserve Bank of
Analysts consider an LDC status as an admission of failure of a
country's economic policies. Mugabe denies charges he has run down the
country and instead fingers former colonial power Britain and America for
leading a Western plot to destabilise the country in retaliation for his
There are 50 LDCs, of which 34 are from Africa. Besides Zimbabwe,
Papua New Guinea has also been recommended for a downgrade to LDC status.
The Brussels-based International Crisis Group last week said Zimbabwe
was fast becoming a failed state but yesterday Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party
accused the think-tank of encouraging a military coup in the southern
African state. The international political think-tank denies attempting to
instigate a coup against Mugabe.
Supporters of the downgrade point to the government's bulldozing of
shantytowns under Operation Murambatsvina - which the UN says affected more
than 700 000 people - as having further impoverished many families, most who
still do not have accommodation a year after the demolitions.
They say Zimbabwe's domestic national income has decreased rapidly in
recent years, hitting living standards, while the country's human assets
have been hit by the deterioration of educational standards and decreased
enrollment and increased dropout rates, affecting literacy rates over the
Zimbabwe is said to be experiencing declining nutrition, which has
adversely affected mortality rates, especially amongst the most vulnerable
segments of the population, children and those affected by HIV/AIDS as the
public health delivery sector has collapsed.
"Politically this all comes down to the fact that the world is
increasingly getting concerned with events here and it is a warning that if
we don't change course that is where we might end up being," Eldred
Masunungure, chairman of the University of Zimbabwe's political science
department said. - ZimOnline
Fri 16 June 2006
MARIRANGWE - Forty-four year old Claudius Chityo braves the morning
chill as he huddles along huge bags of maize grain along the dusty Nyamweda
road in rural Mhondoro, about 100 km south of the capital Harare.
Chityo, waits patiently for buyers of the maize grain from Harare who
normally prowl the rural area mopping up all the grain on offer for resale
on the black-market in the capital.
Under Zimbabwean law, it is illegal to sell maize to private buyers as
all the maize should be sold to the state-owned Grain Marketing Board (GMB).
But communal farmers in Mhondoro are defying the government ban on
private maize sales saying it makes business sense to sell their maize
quickly to private buyers who offer higher prices than the GMB. "Prices
change daily," says Chityo, hinting at Zimbabwe's run-away inflation which
last May hit 1 193.5 percent.
"If I wait for the GMB to pay me at their own time, I will lose out. I
would rather sell to buyers who pay cash on the spot that I can use while it
still has value," he told ZimOnline along the road.
Zimbabwe's communal farmers, also feeling the pinch after six years of
a severe economic crisis, many blame on President Robert Mugabe's
controversial policies, are shunning the GMB as they sell their maize crop
to private buyers.
The trend has raised fears that the government might fail to meet its
target of harvesting 1.8 million tonnes of maize this season.
Agricultural experts say grain deliveries to GMB depots around the
country have been "very poor and discouraging" mainly because of the
country's atrocious road network and bureaucracy by the state grain company
in paying farmers.
Communal farmers have to deliver their maize to GMB depots at their
own cost compared to the "illegal" grain buyers who visit communal areas to
collect the staple grain.
In Harare, Mufaro Tamandai, emerges from heaps of bags of maize on his
shop verandah in the poor suburb of Budiriro. "I buy the grain from
communal farmers desperate for ready cash," Tamandai says.
Tamandai is among individuals who go out in the rural areas and buy
grain for resale in Harare, cashing in on the failure by the GMB to promptly
pay farmers for grain delivered.
While the GMB is paying Z$31 million a tonne for maize, informal
buyers like Tamandai are willing to fork out as much as Z$37 million for the
same quantity of maize.
Two months after the harvest season began, agricultural experts say
only a paltry tonnage has trickled into GMB depots across the country.
GMB chief executive officer, Rt Colonel Samuel Muvuti last week said
the parastatal had so far received a paltry 5 000 tonnes of grain, way below
the country's target of 1.8 million tonnes.
"We still expect more farmers to come forward with their grain when it
has acceptable moisture content. They are busy drying their grain," he said.
But analysts say the poor grain deliveries to the GMB suggests that
Zimbabwe's food shortages are, contrary to government's pronouncements, far
Earlier this year, the United States-based Famine Early Warning
Systems Network (FEWSNET) warned that Zimbabwe would continue to face food
shortages despite above normal rains during the last agricultural season.
FEWSNET said contrary to government projections, Zimbabwe would only
harvest between a million and 1.1 million tonnes of grain this season,
leaving the country with a serious shortfall.
The Zimbabwe government has however ignored the warnings insisting the
country will harvest enough to feed itself.
Agriculture Minister Joseph Made, who has been accused in the past of
misrepresenting the country's food security situation, recently told a
parliamentary committee on agriculture that the country will harvest 1.8
million tonnes of maize, equal to national annual consumption.
In a move that captured the clear panic in government circles, the
Harare authorities stationed soldiers and police officers on roads leading
into cities seizing maize from individuals.
But somehow - as is so often with Zimbabwe's cunning black-market
traders - they are still able to slip through the security cordon carrying
tonnes of maize they offload on the illegal but thriving black-market. -
Fri 16 June 2006
HARARE - One of Zimbabwe's largest black-owned conglomerates, TA
Holdings, says the exchange rate of the country's embattled currency has
slid by almost 13.6 million percent over the past 25 years, warning that the
current "imaginary" profitability of local companies was unsustainable.
In a thinly-veiled attack of President Robert Mugabe's mismanagement
of the once boisterous economy over the past 25 years, TA Holdings chairman
Shingai Mutasa described as "crazy" the manner in which the external value
of the Zimbabwe dollar had been allowed to slide.
Mugabe and his government inherited a strong economy at independence
in 1980, with the local unit worth more than one United States dollar. The
American greenback was then worth 62 Zimbabwe cents.
By 1990, one US dollar was equal to 2.63 Zimbabwe dollars and closed
2005 with an official exchange rate of Z$84 588 to the US dollar.
"It just seems crazy," Mutasa told shareholders in TA's 2005 annual
report released this week.
"To say it is tough for a company to increase its earnings or profits
in real terms when the currency, in which most of its assets are
denominated, declines against the US dollar at an annualised 60.47 percent
or a cumulative decline of 13 643 125.81 percent over 25 years is a
self-evident proposition," he added.
The cumulative depreciation of the Zimbabwe dollar exchange rate is
even higher now given developments on the unofficial foreign exchange market
where the greenback is trading at between 340 000 and 350 000 Zimbabwe
The official exchange rate has depreciated even further than the Z$84
588 to one US unit that was ruling at the end of 2005. The official rate is
around 101 000 to the American dollar.
Mutasa warned that current conditions marked by hyperinflation and a
collapsing exchange rate were a recipe for disaster for local companies.
Zimbabwe's inflation, at 1 193.5 percent in May, is the highest in the
"Our caution stems from our belief that should the expression of our
growth result from high inflation and a collapsing exchange rate, it is a
chimerical benefit and, for our country, unsustainable," warned Mutasa.
Mugabe however denies mismanaging Zimbabwe's economy and instead
claims that its problems are because of sabotage by Western powers after he
seized white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks. - ZimOnline
HARARE - Opposition legislator David Coltart, who unsuccessfully tried
to mediate between the two factions of the splintered Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) party, on Thursday announced he was joining the
smaller of the two opposition factions led by Arthur Mutambara.
Coltart, said to be a key fund-raiser for the opposition, had remained
sitting on the fence for the past seven months, turning down executive
positions offered by both Mutambara's faction and the larger wing of the MDC
led by founding leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.
The legislator said he had decided to join Mutambara's faction,
expected by many analysts to play a minor role on Zimbabwe's political
chessboard at least in the short-to-medium-term, because it was committed to
He told journalists in Bulawayo: "I have been encouraged by
(Mutambara's) group's stated commitment to adopt a zero tolerance .. to any
future acts of violence within the MDC and their commitment to engaging in
peaceful, constitutional and most importantly nonviolent forms of mass
action designed to get the ZANU PF regime to agree to a new constitution,
free and fair elections."
The MDC split last October after Tsvangirai failed to agree with his
then deputy Gibson Sibanda and other top leaders on whether to contest
elections for a new House of Senate.
Tsvangirai opposed participation in the poll saying there was no point
in fighting an election that was sure to be stolen by the government. He
also argued that the Senate was a waste of resources that could be better
used to fight hunger stalking Zimbabwe.
Sibanda, backed by secretary general Welshman Ncube and others
insisted that the MDC should contest the election after its national council
voted for the party to do so. They also argued that it was unwise to boycott
the poll and surrender political space to the government.
But political analysts say the senate wrangle only brought out in the
open deep-seated disagreement among the MDC leaders over what strategy to
adopt against a government that remains undoubtedly unpopular with the
electorate but fully in control of all levers of state.
Tsvangirai has since said he will mobilise Zimbabweans into the
streets in Ukraine-style uprising to force Mugabe to step aside for a
transitional government that would be tasked to write a new constitution and
organise fresh elections under international supervision.
But analysts say this is much easier said than done especially after
the MDC was weakened by last year's split. - ZimOnline
Fri 16 June 2006
GABORONE - Civil society organisations in Botswana have urged the
Southern African Development Community (SADC) to adopt a more robust
approach to end Zimbabwe's six-year old crisis, saying regional leaders
could no longer continue treating the crisis in that country as a purely
Speaking at a solidarity church service at the Anglican Church
Cathedral in Gaborone, Alice Mogwe, the director of a Botswana human rights
group, Ditshwanelo, said SADC leaders must do more to help oppressed
"The Zimbabwe situation is no longer a domestic issue, but a regional
problem. It is high time the region and its leaders tackled this problem
head on," she said.
The church service was organised by civic groups in Botswana to
highlight the deteriorating political and economic situation in Zimbabwe.
SADC leaders have in the past tried without success to broker a
peaceful resolution of the six-year old Zimbabwe crisis.
But most of them have effectively ganged up to defend President Robert
Mugabe who is accused of serious human rights violations and failure to
Zimbabwe has been in crisis since 2000 after Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF
party won a controversial election against the main opposition Movement for
Democratic Change party amid serious charges of election rigging and
violence. - ZimOnline
Fri 16 June 2006
JOHANNESBURG - The International Crisis Group (ICG) has rejected
claims by Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU PF party that it was encouraging a coup in
the crisis-hit southern African country.
In an article carried in the Thursday edition of the official Herald
newspaper, former foreign affairs minister and ZANU PF spokesman Nathan
Shamuyarira was quoted as having said the Brussels-based international
political think-tank was encouraging a military coup against President
Robert Mugabe's government and that it had also sponsored violence in the
splintered opposition Movement for Democratic Change party.
Dismissing the claims as unfounded, ICG president Gareth Evans said:
"My old foreign ministerial colleague Nathan Shamuyarira seems to have lost
the plot. As bad as this government is, we have never called for its violent
overthrow, and our reports and briefings on Zimbabwe make that perfectly
The ICG is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation,
with around 115 full-time staff members on five continents, working through
field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly
It regularly produces analytical reports containing practical
recommendations targeted at key international decision-takers.
In its latest report on Zimbabwe, the think-tank warned that the
southern African country was facing an increased prospect of descending into
violence and anarchy as a potentially explosive presidential election draws
nearer in 2008, while the battered economy hurtles towards total collapse. -
Andrew Meldrum in Pretoria and Jonathan Watts in Shanghai
Thursday June 15, 2006
China today threw Zimbabwe's disintegrating economy a lifeline with energy
and mining deals worth £700m.
The largest deal will see China set up coal mines and build three coal-fired
thermal power stations, providing relief for the state power company which
cuts power for seven hours a day to factories, businesses and homes.
Neither China nor Zimbabwe indicated how the investment would be repaid, but
the deal will give Beijing access to Zimbabwe's wide variety of precious
minerals, including the world's second largest deposits of platinum as well
as gold, chrome, coal, nickel and diamonds.
As the deal was announced in Harare, China continued to ramp up its role as
a global player by hosting a summit of states encompassing almost half the
world's population and some of Washington's most prominent opponents.
The Chinese president, Hu Jintao, said the Shanghai Cooperation
Organisation - which brought together the leaders of 10 nations in and
around central Asia - is designed to promote peace and stability in a region
that has become an increasingly important source of oil and gas.
But the group's potential role as a counterweight to the US was underlined
by the presence of the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who received
a warm welcome in Shanghai despite his country's standoff with international
nuclear inspectors over Tehran's uranium enrichment programme.
The countries gathered in Shanghai control almost a quarter of the world's
oil supplies and are building a series of pipelines across the region. A
pipeline is being planned from Iran to China that would cross Pakistan,
whose president, Pervez Musharraf, yesterday requested to be admitted as a
full member of the SCO.
In Zimbabwe's rapidly devaluing currency the new Chinese deals are worth
Z$143 trillion (£700m) at the official rate of exchange or Z$310 trillion at
the more realistic parallel (black market) exchange rate.
The Chinese firm China Machine Building International has built thermal
power plants in Nigeria and Sudan and has been involved in mining ventures
"It is a welcome investment for the Mugabe government but it will only begin
to produce much-needed electrical power in several years time," said Harare
economist John Robertson. "Until then we will remain in the dark."
Another agreement will see a joint venture between Zimbabwe's state mining
development corporation and China's Star Communications to mine chrome, with
funding from the China Development Bank.
Zimbabwe also plans to import Chinese equipment for telecommunications,
road-building, irrigation and farming. Robert Mugabe's government already
relies on China for imports of aircraft and weapons that it can no longer
buy from western countries because of international embargoes. Last year
Zimbabwe bought three passenger planes, six military trainer jets and nearly
400 commuter buses from China.
Thirsty for oil and raw materials, China has invested billions into
resource-rich African countries. China's trade with Africa jumped by 39% to
$32.17bn (£17bn) in the first 10 months of last year, according to official
Chinese trade statistics. Analysts said the surge was fuelled by China's
increased imports of African oil.
Africa is also buying almost as much in Chinese-made goods, the figures
show. Highlighting China's dramatic economic expansion into Africa, the
Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, embarks today on a tour of seven African
nations - Egypt, Ghana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, South
Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.
June 15 2006 at 02:44PM
Harare - Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
will be "trashed" if it attempts to overthrow the government of President
Robert Mugabe, a ruling party spokesperson was quoted as saying Thursday.
Nathan Shamuyarira accused Brussels-based International Crisis Group
(ICG), which last week warned that Zimbabwe was on its way to becoming a
failed state, of urging the opposition to organise a coup, said the official
Both the MDC and the main labour body have threatened to hold protests
soon over the deteriorating living conditions in this once prosperous
southern African country, but no date has yet been set for the action.
State media last weekend accused former colonial power Britain and the
United States of using think-tanks like the ICG to try to topple Mugabe.
"Having failed completely and repeatedly to topple the strong
government of President R G Mugabe, either by the ballot box at elections
that are held regularly, or by acts of sabotaging the national economy, they
(Britain and the US) are now resorting to the last card, a military coup,"
"The MDC and its supporters will be trashed, humiliated and split even
further," the spokesperson for the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union
Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) added, in reference to a damaging split in the
opposition group late last year that has left it weakened. - Sapa-dpa
The trial of the six trustees of the independent radio station "Voice of the
People" (VOP), begins today at the Magistrates' Court, Rotten Row, Harare.
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and the Observatory for the
Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OBSERVATORY), a joint programme of the
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation
Against Torture (OMCT), have sent a trial observer to monitor whether the
proceedings comply with international standards for fair trial and whether
the charges comply with international human rights law.
The trial takes place against a background of alleged irregularities in the
handling of the case by the investigating police. These include reports that
investigating police assaulted an employee of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human
Rights (ZLHR), an organisation chaired by one of the VOP Trustees, Mr.
Arnold Tsunga, and arbitrarily detained employees of two of the VOP trustees
in order to compel those trustees to present themselves to the police for
arrest. Mr. Arnold Tsunga, who was a co-recipient of the 2006 Martin Ennals
Award for Human Rights Defenders , is also Chairman of the Zimbabwe Human
Rights Association (Zimrights). Zimrights was recently informed of a serious
threat to Mr. Arnold Tsunga's life.
The ICJ and the OBSERVATORY have mandated Mr. Ronald Selvan SC, a
distinguished South African lawyer and acting Judge, to attend the hearing
and monitor whether or not the accused receive a fair trial, before an
independent and impartial tribunal, as required by international human
rights law. The ICJ and the OBSERVATORY call on the Zimbabwean Government to
ensure that international observers are able to attend the trial without any
On 25 January 2006, six VOP trustees, Mr. David Masunda, Mr. Arnold Tsunga,
Mr. Lawrence Chibwe, Mr. Nhlanhla Ngwenya, Mr. Millicent Phiri and Ms.
Isabella Matambanadzo, were arrested and charged with broadcasting without a
license, a charge carrying a penalty of up to two years imprisonment. The
accused are currently free on bail. A preliminary hearing was held on 28
February 2006, at which a Magistrate decided not to accept the defence's
submission that there was insufficient evidence to send the case to full
 The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA), created in
1993, is a unique collaboration among eleven of the world's leading
non-governmental human rights organisations to give protection to human
rights defenders worldwide. The Jury is composed of the following: Amnesty
International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, FIDH, OMCT, the ICJ,
Diakonie Germany, International Service for Human Rights, International
Alert, Front Line, and Huridocs. Mr. Arnold Tsunga shares the 2006 MEA with
the Iranian human rights defender Mr. Akbar Ganji.
June 15 2006 at 03:50PM
Harare - Zimbabwean police Thursday razed shacks at a slum on Harare's
fringes more than a year after a controversial urban clean-up drive, leaving
scores without shelter, an activist said.
"At least 78 families have had their shacks razed to the ground by
municipal police early this morning," Precious Shumba, spokesperson for the
Combined Harare Residents' Association said.
Shumba said those affected "including many women and children have
been told that if they do not find an alternative place to go, then Harare
officials will again come back for them tomorrow."
The slum on the banks of the Mukuvisi river in Harare's south housed
families rendered homeless during a sweeping urban demolitions blitz last
year which left at least 700 000 homeless and destitute, according to the
"All in all, 150 people have been affected by burning houses destroyed
in June last year when the government embarked on Operation Murambatsvina,"
or Clean up Filth, he added.
In May last year, the government launched the demolitions campaign
that it described as a drive to rid cities of filth and crime. It was
launched in winter, amid severe food and fuel shortages.
Zimbabwe is in the throes of severe political and economic crisis,
with some 80 percent of the population living under the poverty threshold.
More than 70 percent are jobless and inflation crossed the four-digit
level in April and currently stands at nearly 1 200 percent.
Tafadzwa Mapfumo, a lawyer with the Zimbabwe Human Rights forum which
is representing the affected families said it had petitioned the high court
to halt the evictions. - Sapa-AFP
The Herald (Harare)
June 15, 2006
Posted to the web June 15, 2006
Fidelis Munyoro And Chakanetsa Chidyamatiyo
ZANU-PF administration director Cde Fredrick Shava and Gokwe-Kana Senator
Shaddy Sai must leave a farm they occupied on the strength of an eviction
order from the Kwekwe Magistrates' Courts.
The High Court yesterday granted an application for a provisional order by
Mr Jacobus Oosthuysen and his family who were evicted from the farm without
notice in April. The farmer's other family members are Richard Gravett
Oosthuysen, Phillip Charles Alexander Oosthuysen and Sophia Oosthuysen
listed as applicants in the case.
Justice Anne-Mary Gowora, also granted a final order for the two to return,
immediately, the farming equipment to the Oosthuysen family. In her judgment
on Monday, Justice Gowora said the Oosthuysen family had made out a case for
the granting of the interim relief it sought. "I will as a consequence issue
an order in final terms for the equipment to be released to the applicants
(the Oosthuysen family) and further that they may be permitted in terms of
this order to retrieve from whomsoever may be in possession of the same,"
said Justice Gowora.
"A provisional order is issued in terms of the draft." Justice Gowora
criticised the Kwekwe magistrate who deal t with the case for breaking the
natural rules of justice, when they failed to allow the Oosthuysen family a
chance to be heard in court. " . . . the learned magistrates (Mr E A Kadye
and Mr C Mudzongachisvo) who issued the ex-parte orders have filed
affidavits in opposition of the relief being sought. In my view, they have
taken positions in the cause wherein they seek to defend the orders which
they issued. Would they change their stance if the matters were brought back
before them? "I find no proper justification for a judicial officer to
depose to an affidavit in defence of a decision he or she would have made.
He or she should not involve himself or herself in the merits of the
decision being challenged," Justice Gowora said.
Cde Shava, a former Cabinet Minister, and Sen Sai occupied the farm after
securing an eviction order from the two Kwekwe magistrates on April 10, and
evicted the family on the following day. The Oosthuysens then filed an
urgent application in the High Court, which sought to bar Cde Shava and Sen
Sai from occupying the farm pending confirmation or discharge of a final
order in the magistrates' courts.
But Justice Gowora found that the Oosthuysen family had been improperly
evicted because the magistrates' courts rules do not permit the grant of an
order for eviction, without allowing the other party to be heard. "Apart
from infringing this rule (Order 22 Rule 1) in a fundamental way, the orders
granted for eviction of the applicants from the farm without notice of the
application to them also violates the rules of natural justice," the judge
The judge also said it was disturbing to note that all family members were
evicted through an order issued against Mr Oosthuysen yet their occupation
of the farm was through Rolling River Enterprises (Pvt) Ltd, which was the
title holder of the property. The judge dismissed an argument by Cde Shava
and Sen Sai asking the court to deny the application on the basis that it
was pending at the Kwekwe Magistrates' Courts. "Given the manner in which
the orders for eviction (of the family) were obtained and executed, it would
only be fair in the circumstances for me to hear the application despite the
matter being in the Magistrates' Courts in Kwekwe," the judge said.
Justice Gowora also dismissed an argument by the two that the Oosthuysen
family used a wrong procedure and should have sought stay of execution at
the magistrates' courts and not the High Court. She said the Oosthuysen
family could not stop a process that had already been executed. David Drury
of Gollop and Blank represented the Oosthuysen family while Masawi and
Mangwana Law Firm assisted by Mr Charles Chinyama of Chinyama and Partners
acted for the two who took over the farm. Last week, the High Court ordered
the eviction of a newly-resettled farmer Mr Day Muyambo who had been
allocated land in Hurungwe under the land reform programme paving the way
for the previous farm owners to repossess their property.
Mr Muyambo was allocated the land in September last year, but Justice Bharat
Patel ruled his occupation of the farm as unlawful and granted a provisional
order compelling him to leave the farm. In his judgment, Justice Patel said
the former owners Hendrick Pieter Terblanche, Gert Cornelis Terblanche, Anna
Terblanche, Moy Enterprise and Nduba Farm who had applied for a provisional
order to continue to conduct their farming operations without interference,
should do so.
This he said, should remain the case until such time when the land and
improvements made on it were compulsorily acquired in accordance with the
law. In their application, the previous owners of the farm argued that the
property had not been subjected to an acquisition order, adding that the
acquiring authority had not served them with a competent notice to vacate or
to wind up operations. They also argued that their right to possession,
occupation and production was protected by subsisting grower's contracts and
partnerships with approved investors.
However, in his submissions Mr Muyambo argued that the national policy on
land redistribution overrides any other agreement. He said the aggrieved
farmers could only be compensated in terms of section 16A of the
Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Act.
By Tererai Karimakwenda
15 June 2006
Highlighting governments disastrous demolition policies Tuesday,
another displaced victim of last year's operation died in a squatter camp
outside Bulawayo. This death could have been prevented had the
non-governmental organisations and church groups in the area been allowed to
feed displaced families and to provide shelter and blankets for the winter.
But according to church officials government policy has been to deny the
people the basic necessities and to make it difficult for anyone else to
We spoke to a reverend who has been gathering blankets and collecting
food for displaced families at the informal settlement of Killarney outside
Bulawayo and he told us at least 2 people are dying there every week. He
said the main cause of the deaths is malnutrition combined with the cold
weather that has set in. There is a desperate need for food and blankets.
The reverend chose to protect his identity and that of the deceased
because he believes that otherwise he may find it even more difficult to
continue his vital work. He told us NGOs are not allowed to feed the
residents at Killarney, an informal peri-urban settlement that was destroyed
during Operation Murambatsvina in 2005. Many of the families that were
displaced at the time have come back to nothing and are living in shacks
without any running water. The reverend said the church has been assisting
these families but working under stringent rules and in a very negative
Malnutrition weakens the immune system and without shelter many of the
displaced people have been coughing. The reverend said in most cases the
cough brings on severe chest pains which eventually lead to death. He
appealed for help with maize meal and other food items and blankets would
ease the suffering of these desperate people.
The death on Tuesday has intensified debate about the role of the
church in resolving the crisis that has gripped the country. Some of church
leaders who met with Mugabe last month have been accused of supporting the
ruling party's policies and forgetting about the people's suffering.
The church in Zimbabwe is now split over how best to approach the
crisis. The Archbishop of Bulawayo Pius Ncube has said some church officials
were given farms and bribes by the ruling party in exchange for bringing
their parishioners to support ZANU-PF.
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
By Tichaona Sibanda
15 June 2006
Over 1,5 million people across the country's second largest city of
Bulawayo were plunged into confusion and chaos after a huge power cut on
Thursday, forcing the city to grind to halt for the first time in many
years. Industries were shut down, supermarkets and shops were closed and
workers were told to go back home as morning rush-hour traffic became
gridlocked. The blackout had hit the city at midnight Wednesday. By midday
Thursday most of the city still had no power.
Our correspondent Themba Nkosi said that as the day progressed
electricity began to come back in some areas of the city although most was
limited backup power. Zesa officials said full restoration would take much
longer. Nkosi said Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority officials have
blamed the outage on a breakdown of their outdated equipment, which has been
in operation for the last half century. But the power cut has exposed the
state utility's battle to supply adequate electricity to its consumers.
The regime in the country will argue that it has moved swiftly to kick
start the upgrading of the Hwange power-generating plant in an attempt to
forestall criticism of the country's ailing power network. Two days ago,
vice-President Joyce Mujuru, signed a US$1.3 billion deal with China to help
relieve an acute shortage of energy. The Herald newspaper said Chinese
companies will build new coal mines and three thermal power stations in the
Zambezi valley on the Zambian border.
In the last 5 years countless deals have been signed to upgrade the
country's power stations but nothing has ever got off the ground.
An electrical engineer based in the UK said with almost all the
domestic electricity production reliant on hydro-electric and coal power
stations like Hwange, utilities constructed many years ago, the crisis can
only be dealt with by acquiring foreign currency to import new parts.
'The unprecedented power cut which left Bulawayo in darkness on
Wednesday is symptomatic of a growing problem not confined to that city
alone. In almost every part of the country, generators have been unable to
keep pace with the increasing demand for electricity and with the need to
spend money on upgrading outdated infrastructure, the government is surely
fighting a lost battle,' said the engineer.
In Zimbabwe, the rate of power plant construction has failed to keep
pace with growing demand, which has been boosted by the rise in the
popularity of air-conditioning units and refrigerators.
'Privatisation of power generation is another way of solving the
problem, but with the present government, its obviously a non starter. I won't
be surprised to hear that the whole system has now been compromised and can
collapse in a domino effect as each point down the line gets overwhelmed
leading to other cities and towns going the same way as Bulawayo,' the
SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news
12 June 2006
Roy Bennett refused asylum in SA
On May 26, South African government denied political asylum to Roy Bennett,
the outspoken critic of Zimbabwe's ruler Robert Mugabe and former member of
that country's Parliament. Bennett fled to South Africa in April 2006 to
escape incarceration on trumped-up charges of attempting to assassinate
Mugabe. If returned to Zimbabwe, he will likely end up in jail. Bennett's
treatment stands in stark contrast with Pretoria's treatment of
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whose corrupt and authoritarian rule over Haiti did
not prevent him from getting an asylum in South Africa. Clearly, as far a
Pretoria is concerned, not all political refugees are equal.
Bennett made the news in May 2004, when he scuffled with Justice Minister
Patrick Chinamasa on the floor of Zimbabwe's Parliament. Bennett, who lost
his farm during Mugabe's disastrous land expropriation policy, lost his cool
when Chinamasa said that Bennett "has not forgiven the government for
acquiring his farm, but he forgets that his forefathers were thieves and
murderers." Though he later apologized for the incident, Bennett was
sentenced to one year in prison by the Parliament dominated by Mugabe's
loyalists. Bennett was "made to stand naked in front of prison guards and
... given a prison uniform covered with human excrement." While in jail, the
once stocky farmer ruined his health and lost 66 pounds.
Earlier this year, Bennett went into hiding and later fled to South Africa.
His flight followed the alleged discovery of an arms cache on a farm in
eastern Zimbabwe. The government immediately started rounding up opposition
figures and put out a warrant for Bennett's arrest. Once he arrived in South
Africa, Bennett petitioned for political asylum under that country's 1998
Refugees Act. According to the act,
"no person may be refused entry into [South Africa], expelled, extradited or
returned to any other country ... if as a result of such refusal, expulsion,
extradition, return or other measure, such person is compelled to return to
or remain in a country where he or she may be subjected to persecution on
account of his or her race, religion, nationality, political opinion or
membership of a particular social group; or his or her life, physical safety
or freedom would be threatened on account of external aggression,
occupation, foreign domination or other events seriously disturbing or
disrupting public order in either part or the whole of that country."
Under normal circumstances, Bennett would have a strong case for remaining
in South Africa. He is a political refugee from a country where public order
and the rule of law have totally broken down. The government routinely
ignores court orders it disagrees with and murders its political opponents.
The country's economy is being run by and for the benefit of Mugabe and his
cronies. And there is little doubt that Bennett's personal safety would be
imperiled, considering that Zimbabwe's Security Minister Didymus Mutasa
already threatened the regime's opponents with physical elimination.
Absurdly, Mutasa's fellow cabinet minister in charge of Home Affairs, Kembo
Mohadi, recently stated that the government has "never persecuted anybody in
However, South Africa's ruling elite is strangely enamored with Mugabe, the
former Marxist revolutionary turned despot. South Africans have pursued a
policy of appeasement toward Mugabe, which they euphemistically call "quiet
diplomacy." The policy has been a massive failure. In the last few years,
Zimbabwe deteriorated into a primeval state marked by violence, famine and
disease, 80 percent unemployment, and 1,000 percent inflation.
And so Bennett's request for political asylum was denied. Contrast that with
Pretoria's treatment of the deposed ex-president of Haiti Jean-Bertrand
Aristide. According to a report by the U.S. State Department, Aristide ran a
"corrupt" government "shot through with drug money." Another recent report
by the U.S. Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
claimed that "8 percent of illegal drugs entering the United States had
passed through Haiti." Moreover, during his 2004 trial in Florida, Beaudoin
Ketant, a former confidant of Aristide's and his daughter's godfather,
testified that Aristide "controlled the drug trade in Haiti. He turned the
country into a narco-country. It's a one-man show. You either pay [Aristide]
or you die."
In December 2005, Raoul Peck, who was Haiti's Minister of Culture under
Prime Minister Rosny Smarth, wrote in the Wall Street Journal, that Aristide
"turned into a mob leader. The language of reconciliation gave way to the
"necklacing" of political opponents, the firebombing of radio stations,
homes and offices of opponents, the murder of journalists like Jean
Dominique and Brignol Lindor, and the unwillingness to bring the criminals
to justice. Hired thugs raped and kidnapped even the poorest of the poor in
the slums that Aristide always pretended he was defending." South African
government's response to the mounting evidence of Aristide's misrule was to
send him a shipment of armaments to keep him in power. When that failed, he
was welcomed to South Africa, where he enjoys luxurious exile paid for by
the South African taxpayer.
Pretoria's treatment of Bennett drips with hypocrisy. Isn't it about time
that South African government started living by the high principles it
preaches around the world?
Marian L. Tupy is Assistant Director of the Project on Global Economic
Liberty at the Cato Institute.
Thursday, June 15, 2006; Posted: 08:42 AM
(RTTNews) - Thursday, Zimbabwe's consumer basket for a family of six gained
17% month-over-month in May, a consumer council report indicated this week.
The number, considering only urban centers, stood at 48 million Zimbabwe
dollars in May compared to 41 million Zimbabwe dollars in April. Increases
in commodity prices, especially transport and bread, pushed the number
higher. Earlier in the week, the nation's statistical office said the
poverty datum line for the month of May rose to 52 million Zimbabwe dollars
from $37.9 million Zimbabwe dollars in April, while Bulawayo emerged the
most expensive province in the country.
Thursday, June 15, 2006; Posted: 08:56 AM
(RTTNews) - Zimbabwe government's domestic debt has surged to an all-time
high of 22.36 trillion Zimbabwe dollars in May, reports said Wednesday. The
African nation has the world's highest inflation rate pegged at 1193.5% in
May. The central bank is blamed for flooding the market with excessive issue
of paper in an effort to stem inflationary credit. Meanwhile, economists
warn that the central bank's move may result in money supply problems in
June 15 2006 at 02:27PM
Harare - The trial of seven directors of an independent radio station
charged with violating Zimbabwe's tough media laws was postponed on Thursday
after a key witness for the prosecution failed to turn up at the court.
Prosecutor Justin Uladi said an expert from the government
broadcasting authority who was due to give evidence at the start of the
trial was in Switzerland on business.
Lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa protested at the delay questioning why the
witness had travelled overseas when he knew he was expected to attend the
"This is unacceptable," Mtetwa told the court. "Since January the
prosecution has been telling us and even yesterday (Wednesday) they said
they are ready for trial and we keep getting these postponements."
The seven directors of the Voice of the People (VOP) radio station
were arrested in December and January and briefly detained at Harare's main
police station, accused of possession and operation of transmission
equipment without a licence.
The seven - Arnold Tsunga, Millie Phiri, Isabella Matambanadzo, David
Masunda and Nhlanhla Ngwenya, Lawrence Chibwe and John Masuku - are now due
to stand trial beginning on September 25.
The shortwave radio station is one of only two independent
broadcasters which have managed to circumvent Zimbabwe's repressive media
laws by using transmitters outside the country to carry their programmes on
Most of VOP's programming is in the two main languages - Shona and
Ndebele - placing it among the few independent media able to reach the large
rural population who have no access to newspapers.
Zimbabwe has four radio stations and one television station all
controlled by the government.
Plainclothes police in December ransacked the radio station's offices
in central Harare, arresting staffers Maria Nyanyiwa, Takunda Chigwanda and
Nyasha Bosha and held them in cells for four days.
The three employees are also to face trial alongside the seven
Under the strict broadcasting laws passed in 2001, radio stations are
required to register with a government-appointed board.
A breach of the laws attracts a ZIM$5-million (about R333) penalty or
a jail term of up two years.
VOP broadcasts into Zimbabwe on shortwave from its transmitter in
Madagascar. Its offices were firebombed in August 2002.
By Patience Rusere
14 June 2006
The outspoken Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo has taken aim
at Zimbabwe's political opposition, criticizing its leadership for failing
to inspire enough confidence in the population to bring about mass protests
Known as a blunt-speaking critic of President Robert Mugabe, the prelate
said in an interview with the Catholic News Service this week that the
founding president of the Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai,
talked big but had "no vision." Ncube said Tsvangirai had ignored national
crises like the government's 2005 slum-demolition drive and tended to cling
to power much like President Mugabe.
As for rival MDC faction leader Arthur Mutambata, Ncube said the former
student leader and expatriate businessman lacked political maturity, which
he said had helped to perpetuate the split in the opposition and thereby
reduced its effectiveness.
Reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe interviewed Ncube.
Tsvangirai spokesman William Bango took issue with Ncube's comments, saying
that Tsvangirai has been implementing policies agreed on by the party's
membership. But Deputy Information Secretary Abednico Bhebhe of the
Mutambara wing of the MDC said Ncube's criticisms were constructive and
would be taken to heart.
Elsewhere on the political scent, Interim leader Daniel Shumba of the newly
founded United People's Party said he hopes more than 100,000 people will
turn out June 24 for the party's official launch. The former ZANU-PF
chairman for Masvingo Province was suspended from the ruling party in the
course of a 2004 power struggle.
Shumba told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that
he hopes his party will make a difference in the country's political and
A fortnight ago exiled UK Zimbabweans called on Archbishop of York Dr John
Sentamu, a Ugandan former judge, to intervene in the argument about the
actions of a pro-Mugabe Anglican bishop.
But now Lambeth Palace has announced that his boss, Archbishop of Canterbury
Dr Rowan Williams, has stepped into the dispute.
Dr Williams has said that Bishop Nolbert Kunonga should be suspended until
allegations against him have been dealt with.
In 2005 Kunonga was brought to trial and accused of violations of canon and
civil law, including incitement to murder his opponents. The trial broke
down after the judge abruptly quit, throwing the proceedings in disarray.
But the problems have not gone away.
"In the context of a prolonged and political crisis, the [Anglican] Diocese
of Harare faces intolerable strain in the form of the very grave and
unresolved accusations against Bishop Kunonga," said a statement from the
Archbishop's London office.
It continued: "In other jurisdictions, a priest or bishop facing such
serious charges would be suspended without prejudice until the case had been
closed. It is therefore very difficult for Bishop Kunonga to be regarded as
capable of functioning as a bishop elsewhere in the communion."
Dr Williams is spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and it
was felt that he alone had the authority to make this move, even though he
has no official juridical powers.
The Rev Paul Gwese, exiled rector of St Francis of Assisi in the Harare
suburb of Glen Norah, says that "since his controversial ordination in 2001
[Bishop Nolbert Kunonga] has terrorised Christians, and is turning his
diocese into a religious branch of Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party."
He adds: "People want spiritual leaders who are accountable, but when you
look at the way things are being done in Harare Diocese, church politics is
no different from secular politics."
Christians in Zimbabwe have been divided by President Mugabe's often brutal
rule, which has destroyed the economy, violated human rights and attacked
Some have been courageous in speaking out for social justice. But others
have been cowed into submission or collusion.
Canada Free Press
You bloodywell are - that's who!
By David Cobain
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Millions of human beings are starving in Zimbabwe, thrown off their land or
out of their jobs by their barbarous compatriots - and you are responsible,
in complicity with the academic leftists, social loonies and corrupt
politicians you have spawned.
That's how I thought I should start a recollection of my experiences in
Zimbabwe 20 years after leaving that fatally appealing piece of southern
Africa. But further reflection induced in me a moderating sadness that no
degree of indignation could lessen.
Outrage can be entertaining, of course, but bludgeoning readers with
statements and statistics risks turning even Canadian tolerance, that
philosophical poodle of our age, into a sullen beast. Perhaps, I thought
then, a few telling anecdotes, instead. Thus....
One lunchtime, during my first week in what was then Rhodesia - days before
Prime Minister Ian Smith unilaterally declared his country independent of
Britain - I was introduced to Chad Chipunza, leader of the opposition United
We were drinking, I and my editor, in the National Club, at the Ambassador
Hotel in Salisbury, now Harare. Chad, knowing my companion well, came over
to greet us and stayed for the next hour or so, until we returned
reluctantly to our office.
He was the first African I had met socially, apart from brief encounters
with visiting politicians, businessmen and students I had interviewed, and
occasionally had drinks with, when I worked for the Central Office of
Information in London.
I was charmed and immediately attracted. Chad was a naturally friendly man,
blessed with a rotund face that swelled frequently into an embracing grin.
He was also given to dropping into any receptive ear the most startling
names of the day or decade.
'As I said to Jack...', he once began a sentence to me. 'Jack?' I said.
'Jack Kennedy!' he responded, with histrionic surprise.
On another occasion, he confided: 'Dev - I am going to London, to see
Harold'. Knowing by then how the game was played and sure of my role, I
responded as required: 'Harold?' 'Wilson!', said Chad, with indulgent
Chad was a truly wonderful companion and a good friend, demonstrating to me
over the years many appealing facets of what one might consider the nature
of the sub-saharan African and his view of life and the dangerous world he
had always inhabited.
But he was more than that. He was, if no seer or pundit, a thoughtful man
with a rare grasp of Africa's past, combined with a sympathetic
understanding of its present and a growing apprehension at what he regarded
as its fearsome future.
'If Africans get so upset about this,' he observed once, after street
protests about some actual or imagined racial hurt, 'they should wait and
see what their own people do to them.' And, this time, there was no smile on
the face of my usually genial friend.
If I knew that Chad was dead (I am not sure, as we lost touch over the
tumultuous years, but he was unlikely to have long survived the advent of
Mugabe, whom he referred to, characteristically, as Bob), I'd be glad he
didn't live to see his forecast so monstrously fulfilled.
I don't wish this on all my Zimbabwean friends, of course - but I'm inclined
to hope, too, that Delia, our one-time housegirl, has also, one way or
another, avoided the horrific 'independence' and 'Africanization' that we
have, collectively, imposed on them.
Delia was a lovely young woman. Not a designer Afro-this or Afro-that...but
a good, bright, conscientious African youngster who enjoyed her position in
my home (snigger, you bloody socialists!) as much as we delighted in her.
We parted from her reluctantly, and sadly, when the rush of
'Zimbabweanization' after the 1980 election took my job (which I didn't
resent for a second) and made expedient a move to then badly troubled, and
increasingly fearful, South Africa.
There were, at the time, perhaps five million black Africans in the new
Zimbabwe and fewer than 100,000 whites. Finding a job for Delia in such
circumstances seemed unlikely - but, still, we put an ad in The Rhodesia
Herald extolling her virtues.
We were surprised, then, and Delia overcome by almost insupportable pride,
to receive responses from eight families looking for a reliable housegirl.
Seven of the families, judging from their names, were European or white
Rhodesian, one was African.
Given a list of their details, Delia scanned it and quickly made her first
decision. 'Not that one!' she said, stabbing the African name with a finger.
We didn't ask why: we thought we knew. It was, anyway, Delia's life and one
of the few choices open to her.
Delia went off to toil for her new European master as we decamped to face
the unpleasantness of much of life in South Africa. And she seemed, we
learned from her first letter, to have landed on her - or, anyway, somebody's
- feet. She asked that we send her a watch.
As with my wish for Chad (whose name came from a church his father spotted
during a visit to London: St. Chad's, I suppose), I hope life has gone well
for Delia. But, given the savagery rampant in her country, that hope is as
thin as she must be, if she is alive.
I am no more optimistic about Kingston Mpanda, my friend and protector from
all manner of evil, about Daniel Kabaya, a touchingly childlike admirer I
tried to groom for one of Zimbabwe's new consular posts, about Hudson, a
desk clerk at the Ambassador Hotel.
It was Hudson, one of those taciturn Africans suspected, no doubt rightly,
of harbouring unacceptable political ambitions, who paid me one of the most
affecting compliments of my mis-spent life. It brings tears to my eyes, even
now, all these years later.
He leaned across his desk one night, as I left the bar to stagger
uncertainly homeward. 'You know,' he said, a stern puzzlement on his face as
he peered at me, 'I don't like white men in my country. But I don't mind
you...I don't know why!'
I didn't know, either. What I do know now is that the brutal rapine
inflicted on beautiful Zimbabwe as 'progress' and 'self-determination' makes
me weep for my lost friends and their enchanting innocence. May they rest -
if they cannot live - in peace.
David Cobain has worked as a writer, editor and broadcaster in eight
countries around the world for such organizations as CondÈ Nast, Reuters,
Associated Press, Agence France Presse, the South African Press Association
and the BBC. As he tells it, he's 'worked for the best and been rejected by
the most dismal - notably, The Toronto Star, the (Toronto) Sun and the
National Post'. Born in London, England, he's lived in Toronto,
intermittently, for 50 years. David can be reached at