The Standard, Zimbabwe 4/6/06
Our own staff
THE Zimbabwean dollar has been on a free-fall against major currencies on the parallel market for the past two weeks, as the country’s economic crisis continues unabated.
The economic meltdown has resulted in the weakening currency and analysts have said that it is going to have a ripple effect on prices of most commodities.
The local dollar was last week trading around $300 000 against the US$1 from $220 000, $50 000 against the Pula from $38 000 and $45 000 against the South African Rand, up from $35 000.
Fuel price last week went up by almost 50% and is now selling at around $300 000 a litre.
John Robertson, an economic analyst, said the increase in fuel prices in response to the falling local currency, was going to push prices of most commodities further upwards.
Transport operators last week increased fares further squeezing the already struggling populace-barely making ends meet.
An economist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the fall in the local currency was in response to speculators who were trying to find a home for their money as the stock market has not been trading for the past two weeks and also the low interest rates prevailing on the money market.
David Mupamhadzi, an economist, said the Zimbabwean dollar was falling largely because most investors were shifting their portfolios from the money market to the foreign currency market.
Heavy liquidity positions on the money market in May saw interest rates falling and most investors terminated their portfolios turning their sights to the hard currency market.
The analysts said the inflation rate was going to continue an upward trend because of the inflationary pressures besieging the economy.
One analyst said the rate for the month of May was likely to be around 1 200% and going further upwards to around 1 500% for the month of June.
The Standard, Zimbabwe 4/6/06
HARARE — In a flagrant style that must have left President Robert Mugabe green with envy, lawyer Lovemore Madhuku and other leaders of Zimbabwe's National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) last weekend chopped and changed the constitution of the country's largest pro-democracy group so they could retain its control.
While Madhuku — who is NCA chairman — has argued that the amendment of the constitution was legal, his civic society allies as well as critics in the government are both agreed that the manipulation of the NCA’s constitution during an annual general meeting last Saturday could only have left the organisation weaker and without moral authority to demand a new and democratic constitution for Zimbabwe.
ZimOnline spoke to Madhuku about this and other issues. Excerpts:
QUESTION: Many people including your allies in civic society say you are power-hungry, that you pushed — President Mugabe-style — for the NCA constitution to be changed so you could remain in office, what is your comment?
ANSWER: Those are very unfortunate comments. They arise from a misunderstanding of what we stand for and what is involved in the struggle for a new constitution. It would be very wrong to equate the processes that we are currently engaged in with the processes of what the government is doing.
Q: But the point is that by pushing for the old NCA constitution to be changed so you could remain in office, you have forfeited whatever moral authority you had to lead the search for a new and democratic constitution for Zimbabwe?
A:The amendments came from the NCA membership. The constitution does not allow the chairman to change the constitution. My moral authority must be judged from the perspective of the people on the ground, the ordinary members, and the struggling majority of the people of Zimbabwe. These are the people who know as a matter of fact that they need a new constitution.
They decide on any change in the organisation, whether the organisation needs any changes in leadership and so on. So as far as we are concerned you can't talk of a lack of moral authority because the NCA membership wanted me to stay on. But if you are looking at it from an outsider's point of view or from that of someone who wanted to take over, then certainly you would think that there is now a lack of morals.
Q:Even if it was the NCA delegates who proposed and adopted the constitutional amendments, why did you have to accept being re-elected when you had served the maximum two two-year terms under the old order?
A: I believe that my leadership at the moment will go a long way in our fight. So when the request came to re-elect me, I was more than happy to accept it. So it doesn't follow that the people who asked me to stand again for re-election were talking to an unwilling person.
I have been around working with them and I know why they need me to remain in this position. They believe I still have a role to play as chairman of NCA. I share that belief and I am not trying to second guess them. It is fact.
Q: Can you tell us why you did not simply recuse yourself from contesting for the chairman's post, not only so that new blood could take over but also for the sake of setting an example to others both inside and outside the NCA that leaders should be prepared to give up power even if not legally bound to do so?
A: We are not here to set examples on how long people should stay in power. We are here to fight for a cause. We are agenda-driven and the best person to lead that agenda to fruition should be given a chance as long as the membership agrees.
Q: Do you really feel you still have the respect of the people to lead the fight for a new constitution or let alone to pressure Mugabe to accept limiting of terms in office?
A: Well, I think you need to understand the role of the NCA. The role of the NCA is not to get Mugabe out of power. It is to push for a constitution that is democratic and a result of wide consultation. We will continue pushing for that. We will not ask Mugabe to leave, we will ask him, force him if we can to embrace constitutional reforms, whether they affect his continued stay as President or not.
Q: The fact of the matter is President Mugabe has no term limits and has refused to yield to pressure for him to leave and you are following exactly in the same footsteps or can you tell us why you think you are different?
A: I think there is a big difference between national constitutions and constitutions of organisations fighting for a cause. First it must not be assumed that we always have enough volunteers to take up the risks involved.
The people in the NCA are trying to push for a certain cause. In that case we should be willing to open up space for whoever is willing to push that cause, instead of shutting them out. In that case you would make a mistake if you would rigidly impose term limits on people who have the capacity and the interest to lead that cause.
But in a national constitution, it would be a whole issue of governmental power. We will be talking about people who control the army, the police and a lot of state agencies. They need limits, lest they corrupt governmental systems. But we have no such power in the NCA. Our only interest is in seeing democracy flourish.
Q: Given the controversy surrounding your re-election and the obvious damage it is doing to the credibility of the NCA, are you still convinced that what you did was the best thing or do you think you could have handled things differently?
A: I don't think there is anything I could have handled differently. I would do it the same way because I don't see anything that was done wrongly. The amendments, the elections, were all done in a democratic and transparent manner.
Q: What specific steps are you going to take to repair damaged relations with other pro-democracy activists and organisations that at this point are dismayed by what has happened in the NCA?
A: I am actually not aware of who was for the amendments and who opposed them. We just left the process to be determined by the Annual General Meeting (AGM). There will be no bridge building or whatever because our understanding is that democracy won. What will happen from now onwards is to make the NCA even more formidable.
Q: And what is your programme of action to achieve the NCA goal of a new and democratic constitution for Zimbabwe?
A: We are going to deepen our penetration of the grassroots, to educate them about the new constitution to raise awareness so that they can join our resistance programmes. We are going to increase the activities, especially the resistance.
This means more and more demonstrations until the government gives in to our demands. The support you saw at the AGM was a result of the good things we have been doing. — ZimOnline
The Standard, Zimbabwe 4/6/06
GENEVA - Living conditions have worsened in Zimbabwe, where most of the 700,000 people who lost homes or businesses in mass evictions last year were still struggling to find shelter, a United Nations housing expert said on Thursday.
Miloon Kothari, the U.N. special rapporteur on adequate housing, said most of those displaced by President Robert Mugabe's May 2005 eviction campaign remained homeless, in resettlement camps or were living without food, safe water or sanitation.
"It is as bad as it can get," Kothari said.
He took aim at the international community for what he called a "shocking" lack of pressure on Zimbabwe.
"The political leaders continue to be silent. They are saying there is quiet diplomacy, but you can't have quiet diplomacy for a year with no results," he said.
"The international community seems to have forgotten the people of Zimbabwe," he told reporters at U.N. headquarters in Geneva.
The Mugabe government used police and bulldozers to demolish street stalls and residences in urban shantytowns in its "Operation Restore Order" eviction campaign.
While authorities said it was aimed at cracking down on black market activity, critics decried the evictions as part of a political swipe against the largely urban supporters of Zimbabwe's main opposition party.
Kothari said some people evicted last year had returned to the site of their previous homes, making them vulnerable to a new round-up by the government.
"We have information that another round of evictions is imminent," he said.
Kothari said he was "extremely concerned" the government had not heeded calls from the United Nations to halt further demolitions and pay compensation for property that was unlawfully destroyed.
He said Zimbabwe's extensive human suffering, combined with difficult economic conditions including the world's highest inflation rates, had compounded the country's problems. -- Reuter
The Standard, Zimbabwe 4/6/06
By Foster Dongozi
EUROPEAN diplomats have rebuffed attempts by pro-Zanu PF clergy to broker a peace pact between President Robert Mugabe, the European Union and the United States.
The diplomatic sources told The Standard that as far as the Europeans were concerned, they were awaiting the outcome of a visit by the United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan.
“As far as the Europeans are concerned, the only discussions over the Zimbabwean issue will be by the United Nations Secretary General, Mr Kofi Annan. We have only read about the European Union talks in the media,” said a diplomat.
The diplomat added: “It would also be interesting to find out whose interests the church leaders are representing in their quest to hold talks with the UN.”
Another diplomat from the European Union said: “All these developments are quite interesting. Mugabe has all along accused the Europeans, particularly Tony Blair of causing his problems. It would be interesting to know why he is now so keen to build bridges and talk to the Europeans.”
Densen Mafinyane, the secretary general of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, which is reported to have approached the EU, declined to shed light on their meeting with the Europeans.
“Look, I cannot comment on what has taken place,” he said.
When asked who would be able to talk to the media, Mafinyane said: “That has not been finalised.”
However, sources close to the developments said a meeting of top church leaders in the country ended in disarray on Friday as the leaders bickered on the strategies to be used in the resolution of the Zimbabwean crisis.
“There was just no agreement. Other church leaders who believe Mugabe is being victimised by Britain want him to be rehabilitated in the same manner that Libyan dictator, Colonel Muammar Gadaffi is being rehabilitated. Others believe Mugabe is the reason why Zimbabweans are suffering which means any discussion should centre on when he is going,” said a source in the church fraternity.
“The meeting ended prematurely because those opposed to Mugabe’s continued misrule of the country insisted that the European Union would not pour money into the country as long as Mugabe continued to cling onto power.”
During a meeting with British Premier, Tony Blair recently, South African President, Thabo Mbeki said the United Nations chief, was the last hope for the solution to the Zimbabwean dilemma.
Despite ridiculing Annan over his planned visit, Harare might have no option but to agree to a visit by the UN chief.
However, government sources said with the economy continuing to implode resulting in increasing hardships, Mugabe’s regime believes if the country receives fresh funding from its traditional donors in Europe, living standards could improve.
Meanwhile the convenor of the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance, Reverend Levee Kadenge, who criticised colleagues in the clergy for singing praises of the government after being hosted by President Mugabe at State House, says he has received threats.
The Alliance is a grouping of churches and religious leaders who have since last year sheltered victims of the government’s widely-condemned “Operation Murambatsvina”.
Attacking some church leaders for praising the government last week, Kadenge said they should have taken the opportunity to tell Mugabe that tens of thousands of Zimbabweans were suffering because of the government’s demolition exercise.
The Alliance recently held a prayer march in Bulawayo for victims of “Murambatsvina”.
They are planning a similar function in Harare.
Sources said Kadenge was being victimised by the pro-Zanu PF churchmen for his role as convener of the prayer commemorations.
When contacted by The Standard, Kadenge confirmed that following the comments he made in the media, he had been accosted by his colleagues who support the ruling Zanu PF party.
The Standard, Zimbabwe 4/6/06
By Foster Dongozi
A FIERCE critic of the government, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube, has alleged that church leaders have been given farms and monetary gifts to campaign for the government.
Archbishop Ncube made the startling allegations to The Standard a week after leaders of Zimbabwe Council of Churches were hosted by President Robert Mugabe at State House where they threw their support behind the government.
Densen Mafinyane, the secretary-general of the ZCC said during the meeting with President Mugabe: “We love Zimbabwe and support your (government) efforts.”
ZCC president Bishop Peter Nemapare, not to be outdone, sang praises of the government. “We know we have a government that we must support, interact with and draw attention (to concerns)," he said.
“Those of us who have different ideas about this country surely must know we have a government which listens."
The ZCC leadership, in a brazen show of bias towards Zanu PF, reversed a negative report on last year’s Parliamentary elections and forced its partners to declare the elections free and fair, according to senior members.
ZCC was one of the accredited election observers.
Ncube said: “Some of our church leaders have been given farms and money by the ruling party and government to campaign for them. The reason why you see some church leaders singing government’s praises is because they have already been bought. When somebody gives you money, you cannot start pointing out their shortcomings.”
While Nemapare was not immediately available for comment, Mafinyane said he had neither received a farm nor gifts from the State.
But Ncube said the ZCC leadership should spend more time ministering to suffering Zimbabweans instead of feasting with politicians. “Pastors should have compassion and feeling for the ordinary people instead of standing by the ruling class and the rich.”
Ncube alleged the Central Intelligence Organisation had infiltrated churches in a bid to monitor sermons. “The evil infiltration has become even more sustained now with the government creating its own Zanu PF pastors to divide the church,” he said.
Ncube also urged Mugabe to resign, adding he had dismally failed to lead the country.
“I know that even the Pope has sent Mugabe messages urging him to resolve the problems in Zimbabwe. The problem with that man is that he does not listen to advice. He listens to himself and his sentiments of dictatorship.”
The outspoken cleric said he did not hate Mugabe as claimed by the President.
Ncube had no kind words for Nemapare and Mafinyane either. “As for Nemapare, I am not really surprised by his statements. He supports Mugabe; he is a Zanu PF loyalist. Mafinyane always changes his stance; today he will have a certain opinion, tomorrow that opinion will have changed.”
The Standard, Zimbabwe 4/6/06
By our staff
ZIMBABWE’S exports to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) declined by 29 % last year, raising worries that the country is losing out on regional trade agreements.
Intra COMESA trade has been growing by average of 7% every year since the introduction of a Free Trade Area (FTA) in 2000 but Zimbabwe is still to benefit.
Latest statistics released during a workshop organised by the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce show that the country’s exports to COMESA have dropped from a peak of US$271.6 million in 2000 to US$192.8 million last year.
The country has also fallen behind Kenya and Swaziland whose performance was pegged below that of Zimbabwe before the economic crisis.
Kenya and Swaziland’s exports totalled US$1.2 billion and US$300 million respectively.
Zimbabwe’s import figures on the other hand shot up to US$641.6 million creating a negative balance of trade amounting to US$448.8 million.
Government described the situation as "unacceptable" but business believes that the onus is on legislators to improve the country’s economic conditions in order to enable companies to benefit from the COMESA FTA.
"This calls for a very high level of aggressiveness wherein the business sector should take advantage of the opportunities that arise from regional integration…anything short of this will result in the country increasing her import bill and a negative balance of trade arises," the Deputy Minister of Industry and International Trade, Phineas Chihota, said.
Zimbabwe’s exports have generally been on a free-fall since 2000 when the government implemented the controversial land reform programme that resulted in low productivity on the farms and exports from crops like tobacco, cotton, horticulture plummeted.
In 2008 the COMESA FTA will be transformed into a single Customs Union (CU), characterised by the integration and merger of customs territories into a single customs territory.
The CU will result in common customs laws, external tariff, tariff nomenclature and common legislation to deal with unfair trading practices, competition issue and investment.
The single customs union is also likely to open Zimbabwe to a potential market of around 400 million people, remove tariff barriers and widen the choice of products but industry is worried that companies could lose out on the benefits because of the misaligned exchange rate, which has made exports uncompetitive.
Government was also called upon to implement consistent economic policies to remove the risk attached to investing in Zimbabwe before the country joins the CU.
Joseph Kunyetu, ZNCC vice president, said there was need for a market-driven economy which was relevant to the removal of distortions which are prevalent in the economy.
COMESA is made up Burundi, Djibouti, Egypt, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Sudan, Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
The Standard, Zimbabwe 4/6/06
Market Watch By Debrah-Fay Ndlovu
TRADING resumed at the stock market last Thursday pending a High Court decision on an urgent application filed by stockbrokers contesting the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority’s decision to levy value added tax backdated to 2004.
Stockbrokers boycotted the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange a fortnight ago but have since resolved to resume trading pending the High Court decision.
"The matter is still to be decided in court and until such a time, we have decided to start trading beginning this afternoon (Thursday)," said a broker.
He said that firms have begun to levy VAT but would hold on to it until the dispute has been cleared.
"Going forward, we will be levying VAT but will hold on to it until the matter has been resolved in the courts," he said.
The impasse at the stock market had brought good tidings to the money market with short-term rates increasing to 200% for 7 -14 days.
The 91-day TB rate also rose sharply last week to 493,07% spurred by a rise in inflation figures and cash deficits on the money market.
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe had reduced it to 350% in the past weeks.
Analysts expect it to go higher in line with 1 042% inflation rate.
A dealer with a local bank said last week the increase in the 91 day TB rate was to be expected if real returns were to be maintained on investments.
"But large people are adjusting the rate in tandem with the increase in inflation which is what is needed to maintain positive real returns," said the dealer.
Another analyst attributed the rise in the rate to the deficits on the money market.
"The Governor (of the RBZ, Dr Gideon Gono) made it clear that they want to keep the market as short as possible. They have to offer attractive rates on the 91 day TB," said Terrence Mazango of Highveld.
Wednesday opened $3,8 trillion down because there were no significant inflows from TB maturities.
But analysts said the market should be awash with funds next month on the back of TB maturities totalling $30 trillion for June.
The market watchers said they anticipate that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe will introduce the two-year and three-year papers as part of moves to reschedule debt.
"They could introduce the two-year and three-year papers as part of debt rescheduling. It will be expensive for the central bank to continue to borrow short," said the dealer.
Government debt stood at $14,9 trillion as of 28 April.
The Standard, Zimbabwe 4/6/06
BY WALTER MARWIZI
ONE of the government ministers implicated in the looting of equipment from Kondozi Estate is reported to have returned some of the pipes stolen as pressure mounts on the politicians to surrender their loot.
By late yesterday, The Standard could not verify the identity of the minister and quantities of the irrigation equipment he had surrendered.
Reports said the minister may have succumbed to pressure from Vice President, Joice Mujuru, who wants the estate handed over to its original owners.
The revival of Kondozi is a priority under the National Economic Development Priority Programme (NEDPP).
Colonel Ronnie Mutizhe, the manager of Kondozi, revealed recently that top government ministers had looted farm equipment from the estate.
Under pressure to explain why crops were in a poor state on the estate, Mutizhe named Agriculture Minister, Joseph Made, Energy Minister Mike Nyambuya, Transport Minister Christopher Mushohwe and one feared man referred to as “Nyathi.”
Mutizhe identified Nyathi as Didymus Mutasa, the Minister of Security and Lands, after Mujuru demanded to know who he was.
Sources said it was possible the ministers could face charges arising from the alleged looting.
But Attorney General Sobusa Gula-Ndebele yesterday said he was only hearing about the case in the media.
“I do know anything about the Kondozi issue. Maybe you can talk to the Director of Prosecutions (Loice Matanda-Moyo).”
The Standard, Zimbabwe 4/6/06
sunday opinion by Tom Odhiambo
SEXUAL offences in Kenya have come under the spotlight as a private motion for a Sexual Offences Bill has sparked vigorous debate both within the country’s parliament and among ordinary Kenyans.
The motion was put forward by a woman Member of Parliament (MP), Njoki Ndung’u, who has been left speechless by the reactions from her colleagues. Quoted in Kenya’s The Sunday Nation, Ndung’u said: “I am deeply shocked by the passionate reactions this Bill has attracted. I have amended it twice and I am not sure any more what exactly my (parliamentary) colleagues want.”
During the first reading of the Bill, all female MPs with the exception of the mover and the seconder, the Minister for Justice, Martha Karua, walked out of parliament to protest snide remarks by one of the male MPs who termed women “creatures” and argued that they are “somehow shy” and “not as open as men are” with reference to courtship. During its second reading, after some amendments, The Sunday Nation reported that out of the 13 MPs who contributed during its debate, eight – all men – flatly refused to support it; demanding further amendments or total withdrawal.
But why is this the case when the current ruling party came to power in Kenya on the back of promises to restore human rights? As it stands, the Sexual Offences Bill simply seeks to improve on the Penal Code which does not sufficiently address sexual offences as such rape, sexual harassment, and defilement of minors or the organised exploitation of prostitution for monetary gains.
Ndung’u’s Bill goes further to include such offences as marital rape and female circumcision. Several male MPs have reacted strongly to these two elements and have argued that criminalising marital rape and female circumcision undermine both private and community rights. However, recent evidence indicates that rape is on the increase in Kenya; that it is underreported – with marital rape possibly not being reported at all; defilement of minors is common; and several communities continue to circumcise girls and women. This is despite interventions by many non-governmental organisations.
For those who followed the rape trial of Jacob Zuma in South Africa, it will be interesting to read that many of the Kenyan MPs are concerned about a clause in the Bill that protects a rape accuser having his or her sexual history dredged up in court. Just like some of the reported reactions to the Zuma case, the arguments for or against the Bill have invoked terms and phrases such as “African cultures” or “alien and foreign practices” either to reject some of the clauses or to oppose it.
What is lost in these arguments is the essence of the Bill, what its proposer Ndung’u has called “insecurity at home”. Backed with statistics she argues that “Kenya is a country at war”, not in the conventional sense, but in the sense of sexual violence.
These are sentiments that resonate in many parts of the continent where women continue to be victims of either religious laws or some residues of “traditional” cultural practices perpetuated by men and male-controlled institutions.
Some of these laws and practices are at times out of step with real life experiences or are unjustified. Examples include the recent invocation of the Sharia law in some parts of Nigeria to punish women offenders only while absolving the men of any blame in the assumed transgression and the continued practice of female circumcision in many parts of Africa.
Indeed, gender inequality and violence will not realistically disappear overnight. But is it possible to dream of the attainment of parity between men and women when most men would rather ridicule, mock or laugh away such a serious issue as gender violence? In Kenya’s case, it seems the struggle is still a long way from even starting.
Women, who constitute the majority of the population, must aspire more to public office and power. The insignificant number of female MPs in the current Kenyan parliament means that issues affecting women will continue to be marginalised. If there is one other significant issue that the drama surrounding the reading of the Sexual Offences Bill highlights, it is that of power. That the Kenyan parliament and most of the public offices are still a male domain simply means that men control and exercise immense powers over several public institutions and everyday life.
It is therefore important that women claim an increasing stake in public life in Kenya. Indeed a campaign such as the Sixteen Days of Activism Against Gender Violence which have received much more serious attention in South Africa need to be spread across the continent. It is only through perpetual activism that women will be able to attain some amount of respect of their identities and lives from their men-folk.
The ignorance and male chauvinism that Kenyan parliamentarians have exhibited over the Sexual Offences Bill is not merely about the Freudian symbolic fear of castration or the physical castration that the Bill initially proposed – which was later amended to chemical castration. This is a case of blatant sexism with no regard for the rights of women and children.
The Standard, Zimbabwe 4/6/06
By Our Staff
THE honeymoon for local companies continues, with most releasing good results despite the hyper-inflationary conditions.
Powerspeed, Delta and ZSR were the latest to release their results which analysts passed as "exceptional".
ZSR saw its operating profit going up 1 614% to $1.2 trillion for the financial year ended 31 March 2006 from $70 billion in the previous reporting year buoyed by the 1,566% currency depreciation which increased export viability.
This was despite the 17% decline in refined sugar exports to Botswana and Namibia.
Analysts said ZSR’s results were above market expectation and predict a good financial year ahead because of the group’s move to diversify operations.
Interfin said: "Without disruptions to sugar pricing, ZSR certainly has blue chip characteristics and we believe that the focus on value-added foods and other non-sugar operations will continue to yield results."
Its share price should also benefit with projections that it will rise to $75 000 from the present $17 600, said Interfin.
Powerspeed, on the other hand recorded a 1126% growth in historic earnings to Z$68b for the six months ended 31 March 2006 a three fold increase from Z$21 billion at year-end driven by increased demand for electric motors and accessories applied towards irrigation.
Interfin said the results "were on the upper end of our expectations" but added that not declaring a dividend could see profit taking on its counter.
"The lack of a dividend may however see some profit taking when trading resumes," the analysts said.
Delta survived exchange rate losses of $562 billion to post an overall profit figure of Z$2.4 trillion for the financial year ended 31 March 2006.
The group recorded a 42% decline in soft drink volumes during the financial year due to concentrate supply interruption but analysts still insist that the beverage company’s performance was in line with projections with an EPS of Z$2,435 and a Z$320 dividend.
While the acquisition of Ariston is starting to bear fruit, analysts said Delta’s future performance could be dampened by the crisis in the economy.
"A moderate volume recovery is anticipated given a better supply picture and an improvement in the agro-harvest output from prior year. The overall GDP outlook for the economy remains depressed and this will be reflected in the performance," said Interfin
The Standard, Zimbabwe 4/6/06
IN order to help me buttress my argument, I propose to begin this piece by paraphrasing the general definition of democracy, and a couple of other systems of government. More curious and inquisitive readers can find comprehensive and exhaustive definitions from any decent encyclopaedia or from the Internet.
Democracy literally means a rule by the people and for the people and is derived from two Greek words, demos (people) and kratos (rule). It can be contrasted with two other forms of government, oligarchy and autocracy. Oligarchy is a form of government where all political power rests with a small segment of the society, usually the most powerful. It is derived from oligo (few) and arkhos (rule). Autocracy occurs when unlimited political power is held by a single individual, and is derived from autokratôr (self ruler).
Two separate stories in The Standard last week (28 May 2006) prompted me to seek to understand the real meaning of democracy in our local context. The first was a story on Senator Chief Musarurwa’s remarks that President Robert Mugabe should be made life President so he can continue leading the country.
The second was a story on the controversial re-election of National Constitutional Assembly’s leader Lovemore Madhuku after a constitutional amendment allowing him to extend his term for a further five years.
People can quickly dismiss Chief Musarurwa’s remarks as those of a typical Zanu PF apologist resistant to, or afraid of change, but in actual fact his shallow grasp of basic concepts is only a microcosm of wider and more worrying misconceptions by Zimbabweans from different angles of political inclination.
When people advocate for a change in leadership after a reasonable period of time, it is not necessarily because the incumbents are no longer capable of leading, but simply a way of helping people retain their confidence in the democratic systems. It often happens that competent leaders are replaced by less effective leaders (we can not all be great men and women), but if people’s confidence in democracy is retained, we can all work together to ensure that the fundamental pillars of democracy remain firmly in place.
Therefore, Senator Chief Musarurwa’s remarks are unfortunate as they negate the fact that Zimbabwe is supposed to be a democracy where people have a right, nay, an obligation, to choose their leaders and actively participate in the way they are governed. No matter how good Chief Musarurwa thinks the President is, the truth is that Mugabe is not the only one capable of leading the country.
Most people will be relieved if the President were to relinquish power sooner rather than later because times are hard, and he doesn’t seem to have a clue on how to solve the country’s litany of problems. In reality, however, even in good times leaders should still be replaced once they have stayed in power for more than is reasonable if for no other reason, then simply to give others a chance, and for the sake of our democracy.
The NCA similarly, risks losing the moral authority of advocating for a new democratic constitution for the country if they are seen to be bending the rules to enforce a pseudo-autocracy within their own organisation. Democracy is like a team sport where everyone in it should play a role, and where no one individual is indispensable or beyond reproach.
A lack of understanding of these basic facts will only help to deceive people that Zimbabwe is a democracy, or fighting for democracy, when in actual fact it is only a few powerful individuals who wield all the power.
Hudson Yemen Taivo
The Standard, Zimbabwe 4/6/06
By Our Staff
RIOZIM Limited says it has put on hold US$120 million expansion plans at Murowa Diamond Mine until the debate on the proposed amendments to the Mines and Minerals is settled, albeit at the expense of production.
Company chairman, Eric Kahari, told shareholders at the AGM held last week that while holding back expansion plans would result in the diamond project winding down production in 2009, "conditions relating to mining investment" were not conducive for implementation.
"Murowa production fell in the first quarter as the end of surface enrichment was reached. Production from the mine will continue at lower levels than those achieved last year and without expansion production will wind down from 2009," Kahari said.
He added: "Feasibility work has commenced on the expansion project but with a capital cost of around US$120 million implementation will depend on the conditions relating to mining investment."
The proposed amendments stating that government would get non-contributory 25% equity on the promulgation of the bill into law and the nationalised stake would be increased to 51 % within five years.
The proposed mining laws, Kahari said, were also threatening the viability of other projects that the company was considering.
"Recent ownership pronouncements, while undoubtedly deterring overseas mining investors from considering Zimbabwe as an investment opportunity, have also made it difficult for us, a Zimbabwean company, to finance a development such as the One Step gold opportunity," he said.
The One Step project was viable but could not continue without a change in the investment conditions in the mining industry, said Kahari.
The chairman also said the company was planning a bonus issue to enable them to align the number of shares in issue to the requirements of the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange.
He said the proposal that would see shares in issue increase to 29 million, well in excess of the 10 million required by the ZSE, would be tabled at the Special General Meeting for approval by shareholders.
The bonus issue, he said, has also been necessitated by the need to increase their share price while shareholders would also be required to approve a revised set of Articles of Association to replace those written 50 years ago.
The Standard, Zimbabwe 4/6/06
WHAT those who fight so hard to hide the truth from President Robert Mugabe do not realise is that at the rate at which deterioration is fast setting in, even they will have no security of property or lifestyles to enjoy.
Two recent incidents illustrate this argument. In Masvingo, a 27-year-old junior military officer, frustrated by the government’s misrepresentations over salary increases summoned enough courage not only to accuse his superior of lying, but went further and assaulted him. Soldiers have been implicated in extra-legal activities in order to make ends meet.
The second incident relates to last month’s round- up of 10 224 squatters and street people netted in “Operation Round-up”. Police said they had ascertained that street people and vagrants were responsible for a significant proportion of crimes, particularly robbery, theft and rape, committed in Harare.
It is important to point out that there have been numerous operations — some of them on a monthly basis — by the police and municipal officials aimed at ridding the city centre of street people and vendors. But they always return because there are no other known alternatives.
Last month, Peter Moyo, one of Zimbabwe’s successful business exports to South Africa warned that the country’s recovery will have to come from those who have more to lose.
“Fixing employment is not going to bring all the chartered accountants that have left the country. Zimbabwe needs more than that… In business and in history, we also know that no change has ever been led from the palace…” he counselled.
What those who have sought to protect Mugabe from the reality and hardships the majority of Zimbabweans confront daily do not realise is that, sooner rather than later it will not be one junior officer taking up the fight against his superior. It will be hordes of them. Even bribing senior military officers with perks such as the latest top-of-the-range vehicles will not be possible because the country’s capacity to generate wealth to sustain such lifestyles will have collapsed.
Those that surround Mugabe and daily feed him lies may find comfort in their cluster houses or cantonments, but the moment they venture out they will come across products of more than 80% unemployment, haunted by the uncertainty of where their next meal will come from, when the majority earn below the Poverty Datum Line, pegged at more than $41 million a month.
The majority of the workers still in employment spend more than $200 000 daily on transport alone. For others it is much more than that.
The security guards who are posted to the cluster houses will soon find an answer to their pressing needs in helping themselves to properties they are supposed to protect.
How does Zimbabwe’s elite think these squatters, street people and vagrants will react when they see the elite pushing shopping trolleys laden with groceries through supermarket aisles when the down trodden of the earth have nothing in their stomachs? Of course, they will help themselves because those that decide the fate of this country have betrayed hopes and aspirations of securing employment and leading a more secure life.
It was good that Mugabe toured the Zimbabwe Platinum Mines venture in Ngezi and was briefed, as well as seeing how just one investment had transformed that part of the country. That is the reward for providing an attractive investment climate — even though Mugabe spoke of his government’s desire to reap where it has not sown.
The Standard, Zimbabwe 4/6/06
sundayopinion by Pedzisai Ruhanya
DR Lovemore Madhuku, the chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA)’s understanding of democracy has gone to dangerous and unacceptable levels to the extent that if other civil society organisations and leaders remain silent the end result of his unquenchable thirst for power will destroy the institution.
His behaviour will spread to all sectors of the democratic space outside of the government and state realms and ultimately destroy the ability of civil society to challenge governmental power and abuses associated with the Harare administration.
The irony of Madhuku’s political expedition is that he has done what he wants President Robert Mugabe and his government to stop doing. Madhuku and his followers have endorsed his constitutional amendment to facilitate his continued stay in power, the same thing that he legitimately wants the government to stop in a bid to create a democratic and people-driven constitution.
It is also a matter of public record that among other things, the NCA and civil society organisations are opposed to long incumbency and therefore want a constitution that limits the power and terms of any future leader of the country. It is therefore a contradiction in terms for Madhuku to do exactly the same thing that he wants Mugabe to stop.
It is difficult to understand why Zimbabweans should accept Madhuku’s long incumbency while at the same time demonising Mugabe for doing the same. The point is Mugabe and Madhuku’s long incumbency must be equally condemned.
We also heard that Madhuku managed 744 votes out of 805 in order to implement his power project and then went on top of the mountain and shouted that the will of the people prevailed.
While the constitutional amendment may have been technically legal, it is clearly immoral and politically incorrect; it is political suicide.
Assuming that Madhuku was voted overwhelmingly as we are made to believe, it is without doubt that as a seasoned scholar, Madhuku should have taken heed of the contributions of the few people who challenged him to stop amending the constitution to suit his quest for power.
Madhuku understands very well that the idea of democracy lies in the fact that in critical situations such as faced by the NCA and the idea that he had led the organisation for some time; democracy would entail the maximisation of the interests of the minority and the minimisation of the interests or power of the majority.
I contend that Madhuku should have been magnanimous to the extent of accepting that small vote as a sign of democratic maturity and not to go by the views of the majority who have now soiled his image as a democratic resistance fighter.
There are similarities between Madhuku and other African leaders including President Mugabe that we should be wary of. These have to do with the creation of personality cults at the expense of strong institutions that are supposed to nurture democratic ethos in troubled countries such as Zimbabwe.
The problem that we have in Zimbabwe is that we have allowed ourselves to build a strong leader who later became dictatorial at the expense of building institutions that are strong such as the judiciary, the legislature with a capacity to curtail the excesses of any leader.
For instance, President Mugabe has become so powerful that he has substituted the Politburo of Zanu PF which in turn has substituted the central committee of the party and in the end the Central Committee of Zanu PF has substituted Zanu PF supporters and the people of Zimbabwe in general.
Such a scenario has left Mugabe privatising State affairs to the extent that there is no difference between Mugabe, the State, government, the Zanu PF Politburo, Central Committee and Zanu PF supporters.
This is exactly the direction that Madhuku is taking through his constitutional amendment. Madhuku is in danger of creating a personality cult in the NCA where everything revolves around him.
He has joined African leaders such as Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni in seeking the third term under the guise of trying to achieve the objectives of the organisation. If Madhuku was genuine, why can’t someone be the chairperson of the organisation and he works with that new leadership to achieve the goals of the organisation?
I challenge Madhuku to tell Zimbabweans why he thinks he deserves to run the NCA for more than six years without handing power to another person. As a constitutional lawyer, Madhuku should also tell Zimbabweans and his followers what constitutional values he is advancing by pursuing parochial personal interests. I raise these issues because I am of the view that constitutions are not made for the angels we know but for both the angels we know and devils we do not know.
As it stands, the NCA has lost its moral authority to do that because it has violated one of the fundamental cornerstones of democracy, that of limiting the life of the incumbent leader. The government has every right to reject and question Madhuku when he questions Mugabe about his tenure.
Given the state of the NCA, the challenge lies with other civil society organisations and partners which have ties with the NCA. If these organisations foster institutional building as a way of advancing the democratic cause in Zimbabwe then they should censure Madhuku and remind him that he has gone out of step and this image problem could affect many organisations.
It is not good enough to claim the democratic will of the people in the NCA circus when indications were clear that Madhuku wanted to cling on to power as witnessed by the postponement of the AGM last year.
Lastly Madhuku should be held responsible for any institutional collapse of the NCA as he seeks to pursue what appear personal interests at the expense of the organisation and the greater national democratic objective started by others who have left the leadership after expiry of their mandate.
The Standard, Zimbabwe 4/6/06
By Estelle Shirbon
LAGOS - Negotiators in Nigeria's oil-producing southern delta were seeking the release on Saturday of eight foreign workers kidnapped from an oil rig by gunmen demanding jobs and development for their community.
Six Britons, one Canadian and one American were seized from an offshore rig on Friday, raising new security fears after a campaign of militant attacks earlier this year that have cut a quarter of crude oil output from Africa's top producer.
The sophisticated night-time raid, carried out 40 miles off the coast of the Niger Delta by 20 to 30 gunmen in four speedboats, showed that even deep offshore facilities are no longer safe from well-armed local groups.
"There are negotiations going on ... We are getting help from a couple of people who seem to be accepted by both sides," said a source from one of the oil companies involved who did not wish to be named to avoid making himself or his firm a target.
"Good progress is being made ... We're very optimistic ... We don't think this is likely to be prolonged," he said.
The kidnappers had not listed any specific demands but wanted to force the oil companies to negotiate on a range of issues including employment for local people, environmental impact and development projects, the source said.
Abductions are a common tactic by disgruntled groups in the Niger Delta, a vast, impoverished wetland that produces the bulk of Nigeria's 2.4 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil. Local people have seen few benefits from the industry.
Poverty, graft, lawlessness and struggles over a lucrative trade in stolen crude fuel militancy and unrest in the delta.
MILITANTS DENY INVOLVEMENT
The militant Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which earlier this year launched a series of attacks on oil facilities and took a total of 13 hostages, said on Saturday it was not involved in the latest kidnappings.
"That makes me hopeful that this can be resolved soon," said a U.S. diplomat. Two separate multiple hostage takings by MEND in January and February dragged on for weeks.
Security analysts say the real motivation of most kidnappers is to get hefty ransoms from oil companies, which usually pay up. The companies deny this, but analysts say the practice exists and encourages abductions.
The company source said the eight hostages were being well treated and their captors had allowed a delivery of food, clothes and toiletries for the men.
"Everyone is in good health. The captives are being allowed to use the satellite phone. They made three calls to our Port Harcourt base yesterday and one of them was allowed to call his wife at home," said the source.
The men are believed to be held in a swamp in the Ekeremor local government area of Bayelsa state, the coastal area nearest to the Bulford Dolphin rig where the raid took place.
The rig is owned by the Norwegian oilfield services group Fred Olsen Energy ASA (FOE.OL) and leased to the Nigerian firm Peak Petroleum, which operates it in partnership with Equator Exploration.
The attack had no impact on oil output as the facility is an exploration rig that will not produce crude for years.
MEND's attacks, which have forced the closure of more than 500,000 bpd of crude oil production since Feb. 18, contributed to several spikes in world prices. OPEC member Nigeria is the world's eighth-biggest exporter of oil.
MEND demands greater local control of oil revenues but authorities say it is a criminal gang bent on extorting money. -- Reuter
The Standard, Zimbabwe 4/6/06
By Haitham Haddadin
KUWAIT - A new international aid mechanism for the Palestinians agreed last month by the "Quartet" group of Middle East mediators could be finalised in as little as a week, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State David Welch said on Saturday.
"I believe it will be completed maybe within the next seven days or maybe at most three weeks. I'm confident we will arrive at this understanding," said Welch, who is visiting Kuwait as part of a tour to include Qatar, Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories.
He said the Quartet of the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations was working on the details of the mechanism to funnel aid to Gaza and the West Bank, while bypassing the Hamas-led government. Washington calls the Palestinian militant group a terrorist organisation.
The Quartet raised Palestinian hopes last month with a promise to funnel the aid.
"In terms of its details, I think people want to see the most urgent humanitarian needs taken care of," Welch, told a news conference in Kuwait City, adding those might be specific such as medical items.
He said the Europeans are interested in possibly providing some further funding for certain operations like the Gaza power electricity plant as well as providing humanitarian assistance to families with difficulties.
"U.N. organisations sometimes do that for the refugee populations, so there's a question of what happens to the other part of the population," added Welch, whose State Department specialty is the Near East.
Welch said Washington, which strongly opposes any direct aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, will not agree that salaries could be paid from these funds. He said the salaries of public employees were the responsibility of the Hamas government.
"I think instead, what the international community will look at is is there some way we can help those who are really in the most urgent and critical situation, who may have nothing to do with the (Hamas) government ..." Welch said.
He said the Hamas government has the money to pay salaries.
"They seem to have a lot of people who are able to drive around all over with nice uniforms and gasoline in their cars, they're sending delegations abroad to talk to everybody about their difficulties," Welch added.
Israel and the United States have called on other countries to boycott Hamas, which crushed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's long-dominant Fatah faction in January polls, until it disarms, recognises the Jewish state and interim peace deals.
"All that is needed is yes, yes, and yes," said Welch, adding there was no change in Hamas's policy.
Asked about concerns the aid will not be enough to meet the needs of Palestinians and if Washington would agree to channel funds for the salaries to the Palestinian presidency, he said:
"That is not a solution ... to transfer the problem over to President Abbas, he knows what he wants done, he agrees to this approach, he has a platform of peace ... the problem is with the government of Hamas." -- Reuter
The Standard, Zimbabwe 4/6/06
I write to correct the insinuations and factual inaccuracies in Phillip Pasirayi’s letter to The Standard of 28 May 2006 entitled: Letter misled readers about Mutambara’s meeting.
Pasirayi was responding to my letter entitled, There is space for everyone in opposition politics published in the same paper on the 21 May 2006.
Pasirayi states as a matter of fact that in my letter of 21 May I argued that the MDC pro-Senate faction led by Professor Arthur Mutambara provides a better alternative to that led by the founding President, Morgan Tsvangirai.
I had no ground to make that comparison and did not do so because I had only attended Mutambara’s meeting. I could only advance the argument that he suggests on the basis of comparison. I did not make any comparison between Mutambara and Tsvangirai. It was about getting a better judgment of Mutambara in his own right having previously heard a lot of different things about him but not met him in person.
I, of course, respect Pasirayi’s every right to comment on my letter. He made his own interpretation that I am an MDC pro-Senate member but that is his own interpretation of events, which I respect. I only object to the manner in which he reached his conclusion – that by chairing and organising a meeting I therefore automatically became a member of a faction.
He states it as a matter of fact yet the reality is otherwise. To be sure, I did not organise the meeting in London. I was invited to chair the meeting and I was honoured to do so at a meeting, which informed most of us as Zimbabweans, including Pasirayi, about the merits and demerits of Mutambara’s leadership.
I only accepted that chair to be of service to all of us and I would do the same if invited to a meeting involving any Zimbabwean public figure, including Tsvangirai, and anyone else regardless of the political affiliation. I think it is not fair to make blanket conclusions based on one’s own perceptions and conclude that to be fact.
Secondly, and far more seriously are statements in the letter insinuating that I am or was in some way connected to Zanu PF. My recollection of the circumstances of the meeting in 2000 at Chikanga Catholic Centre to which he made reference are that it was not a ZINASU congress.
The sponsors have the Conference Report if anyone would like to see it. I was not and have never been a member of ZINASU and there is no way I could have invited guest speakers to a ZINASU congress. I attended that meeting at the invitation of the sponsors having previously assisted in other meetings involving civic society organisations.
Minister Patrick Chinamasa was invited in his capacity as Minister of Justice to speak on a relevant topic. I take exception to the insinuation emanating from Pasirayi’s statements that I had any connection to Zanu PF.
To put forward his insinuations, Pasirayi relies on what he refers to as allegations made by other people that he does not name.
If it was so significant to publish the allegations, it seems to me to make sense to refer specifically to the persons behind those allegations. What is more baffling is that after making mere allegations, in his letter he goes on to state that he does not wish to make any comment about the merits of those allegations. Why then, one is left to question, would he repeat those allegations if he has no intention of commenting on them?
Why was it relevant to include unsubstantiated allegations on which he did not wish to express any opinion? One is left to conclude that the statement was made to tarnish my character by associating my name with Zanu PF. I respect public discourse, but I find such cheap shots to be in very bad taste.
Pasirayi states that we know each other. Without appearing to be rude to him, I honestly do not share the same view. He may know me but I do not know him to the level of having to write in a public newspaper that we know each other. It creates an impression in the mind of the ordinary reader that we know each other well enough, which is incorrect. I am not sure why he found it necessary to profess his knowledge of me – perhaps to bolster his point about my alleged connection to Zanu PF?
Last but not least, it was neither the purpose of Mutambara's meeting nor my duty to tell the readers of this paper that Pedzisai Ruhanya is former Daily News deputy news editor and student of Human Rights at the University of Essex. The meeting was attended by Zimbabweans studying PhDs with other bigger universities and others pursuing high profile jobs in the UK as well who also contributed in the meeting.
The Standard, Zimbabwe 4/6/06
By Lloyd Mutungamiri
A THREE-man Zifa delegation today leaves for Germany to attend the Fifa Congress, on what is without doubt a crucial leg of the roadmap that seeks to turnaround the fortunes of Zimbabwean football.
The Congress, normally held every two years, starts in Munich tomorrow and Zimbabwe will be represented by football association chairman Wellington Nyatanga, his deputy Tendai Madzorera and chief executive officer Jonathan Mashingaidze at a forum that brainstorms on such matters as Fifa statutes, annual reports as well as the holding of elections, the most important of which is the organisation’s presidency.
The Congress culminates in the 2006 Fifa World Cup that explodes into life on Friday as Germany take on Costa Rica in Munich.
Throughout the four-day indaba, associations exchange notes and such partnerships as regards sponsorship, invitational tournaments and technical co-operations are discussed.
The Zimbabwean delegation goes to Europe with a serious mission not only to strike bilateral relations, but sell the country to the international community after failing in the same mission with last month’s debacle in bidding for the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations.
But glaring shortcomings seem to make this a journey into the wilderness.
According to Mashingaidze, a major part of their mission includes convincing fellow associations Zimbabwe is an attractive destination and share in the business that will come with the 2010 Fifa World Cup to be hosted by South Africa, tell the Warriors’ success story to attract invitation to lucrative tournaments, as well as take a leading role as the region comes up with a common position ahead of the next global event.
Yet there is no one from the tourism sector in the travelling party, and the country’s soccer legends, whose mere presence sells Zimbabwean football more effectively than any dossier, have been snubbed yet again.
“What we are concerned with, in addition to the interaction with other associations, is the issue of the 2010 World Cup, where we are saying this is not an event for South Africa alone. We have to discuss as a region about who should play what role and come up with a common position. This is the opportune time to meet the rest of the world at the same time and tell our story, so that come 2010, Zimbabwe will also share in the spin-offs of the World Cup,” Mashingaidze said.
Mashingaidze would not discuss it, but Standardsport has it on good authority the Zimbabweans will also meet officials from German sports goods manufacturing companies Adidas and Puma, during the Congress. A comprehensive report listing the Warriors’ achievements will be presented to the two firms.
The meetings with the German companies hold the key to the future of Zimbabwean football as their sponsorship also comes with a cash injection, a crucial component taking into account the reluctance by local companies to bankroll the game.
Yet the composition of the travelling party means Zimbabwe has not learnt anything from the Egypt disaster, where an equally inappropriate delegation saw the CAF executive dismiss the country’s ACON 2010 bid out of hand.
The inclusion of such icons as Peter Ndlovu, for instance, could have guaranteed Reinhardt Fabisch as the next Warriors technical adviser as the delegation is also supposed to meet German officials on the appointment.
Sunday Independent (SA), 4 June
Ask Zimbabwean Zenzele Ndebele about his job and you'll get a mouthful about the challenges facing an entire urban community. Ndebele is production manager for Radio Dialogue - a spirited community radio station in Bulawayo - and if his feisty and straightforward manner is anything to go by he would probably make big waves on air. The station exists in the vacuum that is the Zimbabwean broadcast media environment. In most countries community radio stations are licensed and regulated by an independent broadcasting authority. In present-day Zimbabwe access to information, particularly in broadcast media, is strictly controlled by the government. "At the moment there are only four radio stations in Zimbabwe and they are owned by the state," says Ndebele. "This means that they broadcast Zanu PF propaganda." Radio and television in the country are regulated by the Broadcast Services Act (BSA), a piece of legislation much maligned by media observers and practitioners alike, and rendered draconian by the many limitations it places on the basic tenets of freedom of expression and access to information. Thus, says Ndebele, "there are very few platforms for people to express their views. The state media does not often tell the story of the ordinary Zimbabwean".
The BSA in its present form seems intent on keeping this status quo intact. According to the Media Institute of Southern Africa, under the BSA, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings "is the only broadcaster in the country permitted to carry out diffusion services and is currently used to propagate the ideals of the ruling party". A station like Radio Dialogue is within its right to apply for a licence under the act, but the success of the application is subject to such a slew of bureaucratic and restrictive conditions - including licence fees considered out of reach of even commercial stations - as to render it a non-starter from the word go. Radio Dialogue was established as a trust in 2001, which may partly explain why it has managed to survive the often ruthless media terrain in Zimbabwe. A committed staff of 16 has come up with innovative ways of engaging the citizens of Bulawayo in debate and dialogue on topics ranging from health and environmental responsibility to how to dress for funerals or get along with one's neighbours.
A particularly novel approach is the Taxi Tunes series. Radio Dialogue records cassettes, which are then distributed free of charge to taxi organisations that are members of the station. The cassettes are played in the taxis for the benefit of commuters - stimulating dialogue and raising awareness. At present the trust makes between 500 and 3 000 copies of each series, depending on the availability of funds. The Taxi Tunes initiative raised the eyebrows of some people in government, says Ndebele. "Soon after we started, the state gazetted a law under the BSA that made it a crime to produce tapes and distribute them to public transport operators. They said it amounted to broadcasting, so we would need a licence to do that. Obviously, it was just a move to stop people from sending information to the community. We knew that even if we applied they were not going to give us the licence. Since the passing of the BSA in 2000, no one has been granted a licence to operate a private radio station in Zimbabwe."
Not to be thwarted, Radio Dialogue decided to put participatory democracy - what's left of it in Zimbabwe - to good use. "We now distribute the cassettes through ward representatives in Bulawayo rather than directly to taxi operators," explains Ndebele. "There are 29 wards in the city and each ward has a committee of seven people. These are ordinary people elected by the community and many are members of Radio Dialogue. By using them to distribute the cassettes we are making the programme one that is community-driven and that gets to the community." The Taxi Tunes are popular, particularly among young people, because they often feature well-known celebrities and tackle issues affecting youth. One of the cassettes features discussions on the problem of owindi or touts - men who hang around bus and taxi ranks and target schoolgirls for sexual favours. "Some of these guys are drivers, others are conductors or they load passengers into taxis," says Ndebele. "They 'fall in love' with young girls and sometimes spend whole days with them in the taxi. They provide transport and money to the girls, most of who come from poor families." The cassette features interviews with young girls, taxi drivers and the touts themselves, as well as parents and teachers. People hear a variety of opinion on the topic and so are able to engage all sides of the story.
Ndebele says that this particular cassette is very popular among taxi drivers because "their voices are also heard". It has spurred the community to act. The programme has made parents and teachers more vigilant. "Teachers are now becoming strict and not allowing these taxis to enter school premises. Parents are also making efforts to get their children home." Radio Dialogue is integrating the Taxi Tunes concept so that members of the community are engaged as people who not only have something to learn but also something to say. "We organise meetings in community halls to discuss social and political issues such as food shortages, corruption, good governance, refuse collection and so on," says Ndebele. "We work with community members to produce local news, which is read as part of a live broadcast at the meetings. The meetings are recorded and distributed to our members." The community meetings create space for people to speak out, express their views, share good and bad experiences and address common problems together. Ndebele compares the initiative to giving a voice to the voiceless. "We also invite government representatives, including MPs and councillors, to answer questions and respond to allegations. Our aim is to make them accountable to the people they claim to serve." Accountability does not come easy in the present climate and invited officials often don't show up or, if they do, deny prior knowledge of the problems raised or simply pass the buck and promise the community that "everything will be OK". Things are not OK for the majority of Zimbabweans, but in Bulawayo at least, dialogue, debate and the spirit of community are alive, on and off the air.
Mail & Guardian
04 June 2006 09:15
Five people were killed and 24 others injured when a freight train rear-ended a passenger train on Saturday in southern Zimbabwe, state television reported.
"The derailment occurred after a goods train that was travelling from Rutenga to Gweru rammed into the back of a passenger train," the broadcaster said.
Four of those killed in the accident were employees of National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ), travelling on the freight train, while the fifth was a person on the passenger train, it said.
The injured were taken to hospitals in the southern cities of Bulawayo and Gweru, the report said. Six of the survivors were described as having severe injuries.
An official from the NRZ said that the accident, which occurred early on Saturday, could have been caused by "the non-functioning of the parastatal's central train-control system", which operates signals on the rail network.
The accident comes a little more than a week after 34 passengers were injured when 10 carriages and a dining car derailed near Dete in north-western Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe's ageing rail network links major towns and cities but is suffering from a shortage of money for spare parts and maintenance amid the country's economic collapse. -- Sapa-dpa