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Planeloads of cash prop up Mugabe

The Sunday Times
March 2, 2008

Christina Lamb
MONEY that is being used to prop up President Robert Mugabe’s brutal regime,
keep his military onside and win over voters in the run-up to Zimbabwe’s
elections this month is being printed by a German company.

With inflation topping 100,000% and the highest value 10m Zimbabwe dollar
note worth just 20p, heavily guarded planeloads of banknotes are flying into
Harare almost every day to keep up with the demand.

Documents obtained by The Sunday Times show the Munich company Giesecke &
Devrient (G&D) is receiving more than €500,000 (£382,000) a week for
delivering bank notes at the astonishing rate of Z$170 trillion a week.

“The regime is surviving by printing money,” said Martin Rupiya, professor
of war and security studies at the University of Zimbabwe. “At this stage
there is no other way.”

According to a source at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, G&D delivers 432,000
sheets of banknotes every week to Fidelity printers in Harare, where they
are stamped with the denomination. Each sheet contains 40 notes and the
current production is entirely in Z$10m notes.

Last week some of this money was used to award huge pay rises to the army in
an apparent move to buy their loyalty ahead of the presidential and
parliamentary elections on March 29. Teachers belonging to a union
supportive of the government were also given large sums.

Soldiers received windfalls of between Z$1.2 billion for privates and Z$3
billion for officers, while teachers received Z$500m on average. Those
belonging to the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe, which criticises
Mugabe, were excluded.

“Mugabe is giving soldiers a lot of money as a way of buying allegiance,”
said Raymond Majongwe, the Progressive union’s general secretary. “Mugabe is
planning to rig the elections in March because he must win at all costs. He,
however, believes that we teachers do not deserve increased salaries because
he says we are agents of regime change.”

Last month Z$1 trillion was set aside for managing so-called war veterans
“for the purpose of elections”. Mugabe has long used the war vets to
intimidate voters.

“G&D are literally bankrolling the regime,” said a Zimbabwean banker who
could not be named for fear of reprisals. “These notes are being used to buy
votes, to purchase foreign exchange to import electricity and vehicles to
keep their regime going, and to fund the import of Chinese water cannons and
police equipment to keep us intimidated.

“They are profiting from evil and should be named and shamed.”

G&D’s involvement is embarrassing for the German government which has been
one of the most vocal supporters of European Union sanctions against members
of the Mugabe regime. Chancellor Angela Merkel has taken a tough stance on
Zimbabwe, speaking out at the EU-Africa summit in Lisbon last December to
insist that the world cannot stand by while “human rights are trampled

Asked about the company, a German foreign ministry spokesman said: “It’s
their economic decision. According to current EU sanctions, the government
does not have any legal basis to take action.”

G&D, the world’s second biggest printer of banknotes, is a secretive
company. An official at the Dubai office, which oversees its sales to
Africa, confirmed that the government of Zimbabwe was a long-standing client
but refused to give details. The headquarters in Munich was no more
forthcoming. “The printing of banknotes is a very confidential matter,” said
Daniela Gaigl, a company spokeswoman. “We don’t comment on any issuing

The Sunday Times has established that G&D has been printing the country’s
notes since the breakaway Rhodesian regime of Ian Smith in the 1970s when
Britain declared sanctions. After British officers intercepted a
consignment, G&D secretly shipped three machines to set up a printing press
in the bowels of the Reserve Bank.

These have since been moved to a heavily guarded facility at Msasa in the
industrial area of Harare.

The official value of the Zimbabwe dollar is fixed at 30,000 to the US
dollar. But traders, businessmen, fuel vendors and even nationalised
companies such as Air Zimbabwe use black market rates to set their prices.
Last week, within just seven days, the Zim dollar depreciated from 12m to
24m to the US dollar.

Prices in shops rocketed as traders struggled to make money to cover
replacement costs. In a Spar supermarket in central Harare, sardines rose
from Z$15m per can on Tuesday to Z$30m on Wednesday while the cost of a
single lavatory roll rose from Z$5m to Z$8m.

“We have the world’s first million-dollar banana,” joked one woman shopper.

The economic crisis is not the only reason that the forthcoming elections
may be the toughest faced by Mugabe. The president, who turned 84 on
February 21 and has been in power since 1980, is facing an unexpected
challenge from within his own ruling party, Zanu-PF.

The candidacy of Simba Makoni, his former finance minister, has breathed
life into a campaign in which people had been resigned to the likelihood
that Mugabe would once again defeat Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the
main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

An MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara has thrown its support behind Makoni.
“Mugabe goes into these elections the weakest he has ever been,” said
Gugulethu Moyo, a Zimbabwean lawyer for the International Bar Association.
“Makoni’s candidacy has exposed huge fissures in Zanu-PF.”

While Makoni claims to have widespread support within the ruling party, few
well-known Zanu-PF figures have publicly expressed support. But yesterday,
Dumiso Dabengwa, a senior politburo member, threw his weight behind Makoni.
“We urged him to come clean and take the burden and we will give him the
necessary facilitation and support,” he told business leaders.

Makoni’s supporters are widely believed to include the powerful former army
chief General Solomon Mujuru, whose wife Joyce is Mugabe’s deputy.
Zimbabwean media have reported that Mujuru is under surveillance and his
companies under investigation.

Some fear that Makoni may divide the opposition. A fourth candidate has also
emerged in the form of Langton Towungana, a little-known independent, who is
nevertheless receiving widespread coverage on state television.

Few believe the elections will be free and fair. Negotiations to try to
achieve this, led by Thabo Mbeki, South Africa’s president, have collapsed.

In an open letter, James McGee, the US ambassador to Zimbabwe, warned of
“ominous signs” such as inadequate preparation, voter confusion,
registration irregularities and ongoing violence.

Additional reporting: Nicola Smith in Dusseldorf

Making of Makoni

- Simba Makoni, Mugabe’s strongest challenger, knows Britain well; he
studied chemistry at Leeds University and Leicester Polytechnic

- Youngest member of Mugabe’s first government in 1980

- Dismissed as chief executive of Zimpapers, which controls the Herald, in
1994 after clashes with editor close to Mugabe

- Reemerged as finance minister in 2000

- Resigned in 2002 after Mugabe refused to devalue currency

- Announced last month he was fighting Mugabe for presidency after weeks of
denying it

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Dabengwa dumps Mugabe for Makoni

Zim Standard

  By Kholwani Nyathi

BULAWAYO -  Zanu PF politburo member Dumiso Dabengwa yesterday ended
speculation of his links to former finance minister Simba Makoni when he
joined him at the high table at a rally in White City Stadium.

Dabengwa, a former Home Affairs minister and Zipra intelligence chief
during the liberation struggle was unveiled at the official launch of Makoni's
campaign, as one of a number of key Zanu PF heavyweights backing him, in his
challenge to replace Robert Mugabe as president.

The war hero was joined at the table by the former Speaker of
Parliament, Cyril Ndebele, a highly respected lawyer who featured in the
talks which finally led to the Lancaster House agreement.

A number of former senior ZIPRA commanders stood in solidarity with
the civilians.

Their virtual defection from Mugabe's splintering Zanu PF sounded the
beginning of a death knell to the Unity Accord between PF Zapu and Zanu PF.

The former Zipra commanders included Roma Nyathi, a deputy to the late
commander of ZIPRA, Lookout Masuku.
Nyathi is co-ordinating Makoni's presidential election campaign in

Observers cite Dabengwa's defection as effectively delivering a share
of the crucial Matabeleland vote to Makoni in the 29 March election.

Makoni, whose defection shocked Mugabe into resorting to foul
language, has emerged as the 84-year-old veteran politician's main
challenger, along with the MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai.

"The media has been coming up with all kinds of speculation and
mistruths about where I stand, the latest being The Chronicle," Dabengwa
told a well- attended meeting of business leaders ahead of the rally at the
stadium. "I have never responded to any of the allegations.

"I am doing it today the 1st of March in launching this
Kusile/Mavambo/Dawn, Simba Makoni campaign."

Dabengwa said for a long time he had tried to work with fellow
politburo members to facilitate a "smooth transition" after realising that
the Zanu PF leadership "was getting old". Dabengwa is 69.

He said one such discussion was in Cape Town, where he met Patrick
Chinamasa, the Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs minister and Makoni
and they agreed that it had become urgent to replace the aging leadership.

But their efforts came to nothing, frustrated by Mugabe's
unwillingness to give way.

Dabengwa said Mugabe had betrayed the trust of his colleagues after
making a u-turn on his pledge to retire after encouraging them to openly
discuss his succession.

"It's not regime change, it's leadership change," he said. "We are
saying they have played their role and we wish to thank them for what they
have done for the country and it's now time they gave way to new leadership,
that is up to the challenges facing the country."

He said they had tried to "drum up the message" to Mugabe during the
Zanu PF special congress in December, which endorsed him as the party's
presidential candidate.

Dabengwa said: "We were defeated and ended up with a presidential
candidate we felt should be replaced. We came up with this rescue operation,
to say we could not have our leadership failing to the likes of Tsvangirai,
which will see us going back to the Zambian situation where out of
desperation they replaced Kenneth Kaunda with Frederick Chiluba."

Mugabe, facing probably his greatest electoral challenge since
independence says Makoni is a "political prostitute", who would lose the
election because he did not have a party.

But Dabengwa said they would not respond to the "insults" because it
would be disrespectful to "answer back an old man".

Dabengwa refused to accept any government appointment after he lost
his in the 2000 parliamentary elections to Gibson Sibanda, the pro-Senate
MDC's vice-president.

Last year, he reportedly questioned the way Mugabe was endorsed as the
party's candidate, which he felt violated the Zanu PF constitution.

During the Gukurahundi military campaign that claimed the lives of
more than 20 000 civilians in Matabeleland and the Midlands, Dabengwa was
jailed on trumped up treason charges.

He has criticised the 1987 Unity Accord, saying it favoured the
original Zanu PF and has called for compensation for the  survivors of the
20 000 victims.

"After we vote Makoni in on 29 March, I will retire to write the
correct history of Zimbabwe, which I feel is distorted," Dabengwa said.
"Ibbo Mandaza once approached me with the idea of a book and I told him I
had to first ensure that the problems facing the country were sorted out for
the benefit of the future generations."

Meanwhile, Makoni officially kicked off his campaign for the
presidency with at the well-attended rally at White City Stadium, where
Makoni again called on Zanu PF members backing him to come out in the open.

"We have welcomed and appreciated the Professor Arthur Mutambara's MDC's
endorsement of our candidature and we are appealing to those in Zanu PF and
Tsvangirai's MDC who have done so to support the independent candidate," he
said amid applause.

Makoni, accompanied by his wife, Chipo, said his campaign would not
dwell on "trivialities" such as discussing personalities and insults but
would articulate plans to "help Zimbabweans" out of the economic problems.

About 4 000 people braced the afternoon rains to attend the rally,
which was incident-free.

Makoni swept into Bulawayo on Friday morning, touring bus terminuses
and the high-density suburbs.

He visited the National University of Science and Technology where a
group of the infamous Green Bombers had been deployed to allegedly disrupt
his tour.

But the youths dispersed after he arrived late.

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Govt betrays local varsities

Zim Standard

  By Vusumuzi Sifile

THERE was celebration, jubilation and entertainment at State House on
16 February when President Robert Mugabe held a reception for 481 students
bound for South African universities under the Presidential Scholarship

In  the past, beneficiaries were  sent only to Fort Hare University,
Mugabe's alma mater.

But the programme has been expanded to include Rhodes, KwaZulu Natal,
Witwatersrand, Venda, Nelson delaolitan, Johannesburg, Cape Peninsula and
Walter Sisulu universities.

While the government has expanded the presidential scholarship
programme, it has ironically slashed financial support to students at local

Local students now feel the government has sacrificed them for the
sake of pleasing a few not-so-deserving students.

In the view of the disaffected students the government should improve
the education delivery system at home, rather than expanding what they
describe as the "flawed Mugabe scholarship programme".

On Wednesday, the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) issued a
communiqué calling on South Africa "to immediately revoke students' visas of
all the children of the ruling Zanu PF elite who are currently studying in
South Africa".

"The majority of the beneficiaries, if not all, are kids, friends and
relatives of Zanu PF's top officials," said the communiqué.

"The money used to finance 481 students heading for South Africa
should have been used productively to improve on education systems in the
country for the benefit of the majority. We condemn, in the strongest of
terms, the use of state resources for patronage purposes."

Among other things, ZINASU said the money used for the programme could
have paid local lecturers, some of whom are leaving tertiary institutions to
seek greener pastures. Charity begins at home, they maintain. Interestingly,
The Standard understands Zimbabwean lecturers form a good proportion of the
faculty at most of the institutions to which the government is sending the
scholarship beneficiaries.

"To the receiving country, South Africa, President (Thabo) Mbeki and
President (Jacob) Zuma. we urge you to deport all students studying on
Zimbabwe state resources and have them taste their father's medicine. They
must go through the suffering and pain of studying at a Zimbabwe tertiary
state institution together with us."

The co-ordinator of the scholarship programme, Chris Mushohwe, was
said to be out of his office.

While the students who received scholarships have already left for
their different programmes with everything they needed, students at tertiary
institutions back home are not sure what the future holds for them.

All State universities recently hiked fees, landing some students'
parents with $1.4 billion-a-semester bills. This could prejudice a good
number of qualified students.

At the Midlands State University (MSU), the second semester for the
2007/2008 academic year, scheduled to have begun last Monday, has been
postponed to 7 April because of the harmonised elections due on 29 March.
The fees have also gone up.

At the University of Zimbabwe (UZ), students said they were not even
sure if the campus would re-open as scheduled. The new semester was
initially scheduled to begin on 31 March, but has now been delayed by a week
to 7 April.

Two weeks ago, the institution advertised for 138 academic posts, but
students believe the number is far too short for what the institution needs,
to function effectively.

At least 51 of the advertised posts are in the College of Health
Sciences, which comprises the Department of Medicine, Medical Laboratory
Sciences, Medical Microbiology, Anaesthesia and Critical Care Medicine,
Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Rehabilitation, and Pharmacy.

This has forced the university to rely mostly on private doctors for

According to UZ students' leaders, at the close of the last semester
the university was operating with about 400 lecturers, a discrepancy of 800.

For the better part of last year, the few lecturers who remained were
on strike.

Lovemore Chinoputsa, ZINASU's secretary-general, said under the
current circumstances, it would be pointless for the UZ to re-open.

"At the moment the university has no capacity to effectively execute
its duties," he said.

He is also the president of the UZ Students Executive Council (SEC).

"This is a disservice to the students and the people of Zimbabwe," he
said. "It is disheartening to note that the current government continues to
renege on its responsibility of ensuring quality tertiary education."

Two weeks ago, students petitioned the Minister of Higher and Tertiary
Education, Stan Mudenge, to urgently address the malaise, demanding "a sound
Education Policy that provides for a sustainable growth".

Mudenge on Wednesday said they were not sidelining students at local

"At the moment, they are on vacation," said Mudenge. "They will see
what we are doing for them when they open for the new semester. They should
wait and see what we are doing to address their present plight and situation
when they open."

ZINASU leaders have in the past told The Standard most attempts to
engage Mudenge's ministry on their grievances had not been fruitful.

The minister said "the students have absolutely every right to come to
me if they have any complaints".

One of the few reputable lecturers still teaching at the UZ, Professor
John Makumbe, said it was becoming more and more difficult for the UZ to
"execute its mandate".

"Most of the heads of departments are largely acting people," said
Makumbe. "The situation is so grim, I doubt if some departments will be able
to function when we open. The major reason for all this is just poor pay.
Presently, I think we have a vacancy rate of 60% to 70%, and that is
non-viable. The university cannot execute its mandate under the current
set-up. The current situation is not good for the education system."

At the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in
Bulawayo the situation is said to be "very critical". This has resulted in a
number of departments being run by people without doctorates.

"Most senior lecturers are leaving, and junior lecturers who are
seconded for staff development fellowships have been reluctant to come
 back," said a NUST official.

"The major problem is money. Even the ones who remain are always on
strike. They are as good as if they were not there. People are disgruntled
over salaries and poor working conditions."

Tertiary education in Zimbabwe was once ranked among the best in
Africa, but growing dissatisfaction among professionals and under funding
have seen standards nose-diving.

The government no longer supports students through grants and loans,
as it did only a few years ago.

The charity has gone out of the government's soul, say analysts.

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CIO land grab in tourist resorts irks Zanu PF

Zim Standard

  By Kholwani Nyathi

BULAWAYO - A drive by security agents to take over tourist facilities
in Matabeleland North has sparked fears this might cost the ruling party
votes in this month's elections.

Since last year the Central Intelligence Organisation and the police
have taken over three farms with prime tourist facilities in the province in
controversial circumstances.

The latest to be taken over is the Chiefs' Lodge in the rich hunting
area of Ntabazinduna, where early last month armed CIO operatives seized the
keys to chalets and offices from the owners at gunpoint.

This reportedly angered Zanu PF heavyweights, especially after
allegations the CIO operatives harassed a former aide to the late Vice
President Joshua Nkomo, Stanley Wolfenden.

He is also related to the owners of the lodge.

The CIO took over Induba Lodges whose ownership was being contested by
publisher-turned-politician Ibbo Mandaza.
He is now co-ordinating independent presidential candidate, Simba
Makoni's campaign.

Another facility, Portwe Estates in Bubi District, was taken over by
armed police last year from a commercial farmer, David Joubert.

Floyd Ambrose, who has been running the Chiefs' Lodge since 2004 when
its previous owner was forced to flee the violent land invasions, alleged
the CIO took over the facility on 12 February.

"On 12 February, Mr Tachivei and Makoni from the President's Office,
who were armed, arrived at the lodge and took the keys to all the chalets,
which I don't think was right as we live in the property and this is further
raising suspicion on the matter."

But the CIO were forced to return the keys two days later, after
Matabeleland North governor, Sithokozile Mathuthu's intervention.

Operations have not resumed as eight armed CIO officers were deployed
to guard the property. "We have eight armed operatives and an endless number
of vehicles driving into the lodge on unknown business," Ambrose said.

Wolfenden, a former ZIPRA combatant, said after they took over the
lodge, the CIO called him at his Nyamandlovu base, demanding he should
report to Magnet House, the CIO headquarters in Bulawayo"within five
Nyamandlovu is 40 km from Bulawayo.

"They asked me about my relationship with Dumiso Dabengwa, John Nkomo
and Joseph Msika, before releasing me," Wolfenden said.  "This is not what
we fought for and I warned them to stop harassing me because this is not the
way a government is supposed to operate."

Matabeleland North provincial lands officer, Christopher Dube, told
The Standard the Matabeleland North lands' committee had allocated the lodge
to the President's Office.

"It was agreed by the lands' office that it should be allocated to the
OPC (Office of the President)," he said.  "There were deliberations between
the OPC and the occupants on an exit plan, which I was not part of."

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Fears of flawed poll mount

Zim Standard


ZANU PF has stepped up violence and intimidation against opposition
supporters ahead of this month's polls, virtually shutting out the
possibility of a free and fair election, The Standard can report.

Reports of violence, threats by security chiefs against legitimate
protest and directives on how uniformed officers should vote all disregard
the SADC guidelines on how elections should be conducted.

Zanu PF's complaints to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) on
remarks made by an opposition spokesman about lessons from Kenya compound an
already flawed process. The Standard has also learnt that the election
management body's limited capacity to publicise constituency boundaries, the
list of candidates, and the wards in which voting will take place will
conspire to create a highly uneven electoral field.

Since the beginning of the year, the opposition MDC says it has
recorded over 100 cases of torture, assault and intimidation of its
supporters by State security forces and Zanu PF youth militia.

MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said unless Zanu PF and state security
forces stopped this culture of violence, the elections would result in
another disputed outcome.

"This on-going violence undermines the credibility of the whole
electoral process," he said. "Our supporters have been running away from the
rural areas, especially over the past few weeks."

Adding to the concerns over a flawed electoral process, the ZEC has
said it will not give the date the results of the 29 March poll will be
announced on because it feared that might spark post-election violence.

Analysts have said there are fears that if the elections were rigged -
as they believe is widely suspected by opposition parties and civic groups
to be the case - there might be a "Kenya-style" spontaneous outbreak of

Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri has threatened the use
of firearms to quell protests.

But Professor Eldred Masunungure of the Mass Public Opinion Institute
(MPOI) said the effect of the threat by ZEC to the Zimbabwe Election Support
Network over voter education, when ZEC does not have the capacity to educate
voters, "bodes very poorly" for the freeness and fairness of the elections.
MPOI's survey, he said, had found that 75% of the people surveyed had not
received any voter education from the ZEC.

He said police threats against legitimate protest limited the space
for competition and was a "damnation on the freeness and fairness of the
polls and the conduct of the electoral process".

On the complaint by Patrick Chinamasa to the ZEC over statements by
the opposition MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa on the consequences of electoral
fraud, Masunungure believes these could be a signal for a major clampdown on
opposition forces and civil society organisations deemed to be appendages of
the opposition.

"It is a pretext of something being planned and the effect of curbing
freedom of expression will have a bearing on the freeness and fairness of
the elections," he said.

Shupikai Mashereni, the ZEC spokesperson, last week said the
commission would not announce a date when the results would be finalized and

"This is because we don't want to be accused of rigging elections if
we release the results earlier or later than the estimated date.

"Doing so might also spark post-election violence, similar to that
experienced in Kenya should the results not favour the majority."

The ZEC, which took more than a week to release the official list of
successful election candidates, has dismissed claims it faces serious
logistical problems.

Noel Kututwa, the chairperson of the ZESN described as "dangerous and
intimidatory" utternaces by service chiefs. "It's a coup, basically. It is
not the role of the police or army to issue statements like that. They are
there basically to defend the country and uphold the Constitution. Their
allegiance is to the country and not to individuals."

Prisons chief Ret Major-General Paradzayi Zimondi said he would not
salute Morgan Tsvangirai or Simba Makoni should they win on March 29.

The pronouncements, Kututwa said, did not give civil society the
impression that Zimbabwe will have a free and fair election. "There's just
no confidence."

Observers say the same confusion encountered at nomination courts
could spill into the elections.

Since 2000 Zanu PF has been accused of stealing elections when it
faced a strong challenge from the MDC.

Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri said the police, known
for their violent suppression of anti-government protests, would not
hesitate to use force, including firearms, against "mischief makers" during
the election period.

President Robert Mugabe has in the past pledged to "bash" any
anti-government protesters.

Chamisa said the violence was countrywide, citing reports from the
Midlands and Banket in Mashonaland West.

Two weeks ago more than 10 MDC officials were detained for organising
a rally at Renco Mine in Masvingo South. In Mbare, two MDC members were
beaten up and detained briefly at Stodart Police Station.

Three days before the MDC 2008 campaign launch in Mutare, said the
report, military police picked up three people queuing at a city bank,
accusing them of discussing politics. They were beaten up and later

None of the incidents could be independently confirmed

The Crisis Coalition in Zimbabwe (CCZ) said state-sponsored attacks on
opposition members and civil society indicated a political environment that
could not produce a democratic electoral outcome.

"In this regard, the 29 March 2008 elections will be held in a
repressive environment replete with intimidation and organised violence and
will simply become a regular self-legitimating ritual by the government of
Zimbabwe," said CCZ spokesperson McDonald Lewanika.

He urged Zanu PF to dismantle the infrastructure of violence such as
the youth militia and make a political commitment to stop violence.

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'Continue fight for change'

Zim Standard

  By Bertha Shoko

AMERICAN civil rights leader Reverend Dr Elbert Ranson last week
called on Zimbabweans to remain steadfast and continue fighting for change.

Ranson travels the world delivering motivational lectures on the role
that faith-based communities can play in social change.

He was speaking at an awards ceremony in Harare organised by the
Christian Alliance to honour four outstanding human rights activists.

Ranson said "fighting and peaceful protests" paid off for Americans as
they now all have equal opportunities in life.

He encouraged Zimbabweans to continue fighting against an "unjust

Ranson said: "I have come to inspire this great nation to know that
God lives in men and women and God loves his followers and He will prevail
to the end. I come with a great optimism and I know this land with be free
because God prevails.

"I am living testimony to tell this. I have seen the dungeons of
Alabama; I have been mistreated, disrespected. I have given you a capsule
account of our civil rights movement which was inspired by Christian values
and I have confidence that the church can play a part in social change so
don't give up."

Ranson bases his teachings on his experience as an aide to the civil
rights leader Martin Luther King, Jnr, who fought for the civil rights of
African Americans in the 1950s and 60s.

He said when the time was ripe God would deliver the people of
Zimbabwe from bondage.

The former aide to the 1964 Nobel Peace Laureate, assassinated in 1968
gave touching testimonies of the African American struggle against
discrimination and racism.

He gave accounts of the famous Montgomery bus boycott that lasted for
almost a year as African Americans protested against discrimination on

Ranson, guest of honour at the ceremony, presented awards to four
human rights activists, three of them Zimbabweans.

The four were honoured because of their "consistency in the promotion
of Peace and Justice in Zimbabwe and the region".

They are Father Nigel Johnson, the founder of Radio Dialogue in
Bulawayo, Joice Dube, director of Southern African Women's Institute for
Migration in South Africa (SAWIMA), and Anglican Bishop Sebastian Bakare.

The other winner, Bishop Paul Verryn of the Methodist Church in South
Africa, was honoured in his absence.

Bishop Verryn has come under fire from South African authorities for
accommodating destitute Zimbabwean asylum seekers and economic refugees at
his church.

In his acceptance speech Bishop Bakare said Zimbabwe was a nation
living in fear and bondage but said by "God's grace" the country would be
free again.

He said: "We are experiencing chaos in the country which is promoting
anarchy. The environment of lawlessness is destroying us, we are not yet a
nation but we will be a nation soon."

Bakare was honoured for being one of the first people to call for
talks between the MDC and Zanu PF after the disputed 2005 election.

Dube of SAWIMA said she was dedicating her award to all those
Zimbabweans who had died trying to cross the crocodile-infested Limpopo
River to South Africa in search of a better life.

She said: "This award goes out to all the men and women who have died
in search of a better life in South Africa for themselves and their

"Those who died in the Limpopo, those who have been shot by border
patrol officers and farmers - this award is for all these unfortunate men
and women of Zimbabwe. One day you will come back home and your spirits will

Dube was honoured for devoting her life to the fight for the rights of
asylum seekers and economic refugees in South Africa.

She provides food for some who are destitute and are housed at Bishop
Verryn's Methodist Church in South Africa.

Father Johnson, the founder of Radio Dialogue, said the award came to
him as "a surprise" but vowed to continue working towards a better Zimbabwe.

He said what he despised most was the abuse of power by those who had

"What I can't stand are people who want to abuse power, power gained
from wealth, education or wherever," he said. "Those in positions of power
should use that power to lift up the little people in society and make the
world a better place."

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Little known Towungana's 'Huckabee' strategy

Zim Standard

  By John Mokwetsi

UNITED States Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee has
centred his campaign strategy on Christian doctrine in the on-going race to
represent his party in the presidential election.

He has denounced abortion rights, declaring he was "taking Jesus as He
is to the people as they are".

The media love him. They say he might become the second preacher
president of the US after twentieth president James Garfield.

Closer to home, Langton Towungana, 41, the unknown independent
presidential candidate in the make or break harmonized elections on 29
March, might be taking a leaf from former Arkansas Governor Huckabee, even
if, it turns out, he does not know him enough to be aware of the
similarities between them.

Other candidates are President Robert Mugabe, former Finance Minister
Simba Makoni and the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.

"I am not a politician," Towungana told The Standard from his Victoria
Falls base. "Politics cannot run Zimbabwe. Rather, I am a man of God and
only He can bring us the relief we seek."

Towungana, who would not disclose the church he belongs to, said he
was not holding any rallies or meetings because he fears the "wrath of the
militia that beats up people".

He said: "God is in charge of my campaign and the media is another
platform for my messages. Have you ever asked yourself why an unknown is
among the known? This is God at play. I am a replica of the biblical Moses
and my role is to rescue the children ofIsrael from Egypt."

To the question, "Won't you become a full-fledged politician once you
are elected president?" he said:

"Gradually, I might become a politician and my cabinet will be of
politicians as well, but I am not a politician."

But has the father of two ever voted in any national election before,
given that he says he has never belonged to any political party?

Towungana replies with an emphatic "Yes" but goes on to speak in
riddles: "We trusted Zanu PF once and I used to vote for them but I never
belonged to the party because I am a man of God."

Towungana claims to be a retailer, miller and tourist entrepreneur. He
said his milling business is at Jambezi Centre in Victoria Falls while he
transports tourists to different places around the resort town.

On the loyalty and support of the people of the high-density area of
Mkhosana in Victoria Falls where he lives, Towungana speaks like a potential

He said: "People are confused. There is Simba Makoni, who is from the
system and then there is that Morgan Tsvangirai whose party has split. So,
it's difficult to note what voters here are thinking. Time will tell."

He switches to Tsvangirai's rally in Mutare, which he says he
witnessed on his way to his "real" home in Rusape.

"That is an example of what rallies can do. The violence was bad.
Tsvangirai appears to have people but he is always losing and we cannot keep
on saying the elections are being rigged. We do not have proof. It is all
speculation although there is a grain of truth in it. Tsvangirai should look
at the reasons his party is not winning."

But who really is this political greenhorn?

Married to Emilia Fusire, Towungana says he is not inspired by anyone
in Zimbabwe or beyond its borders.

He attended St Peter's in Nyazura and St Joseph's in Rusape, for his
primary and secondary education respectively.

He pursued his "A" levels with Rapid Results College and then
proceeded to study for a Diploma in Computer Studies and another one in

He says he is a devout Christian and like Huckabee does not have a
clear policy on how he will lure the non-Christian voters.

"I am not going to say I will win but God is in charge and I am only
answering his call as revealed to me in 2003. What was revealed to me is
known by my pastor and myself. And because the church is victimized in this
country I will not reveal the name of the pastor and the church," he said,
with finality.

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'Top-up' school fees rile parents

Zim Standard


THE sky-rocketing cost of goods and services has resulted in schools
demanding top-up fees, barely a month before the first term closes.

The Standard last week learnt that most schools, especially boarding
schools, are demanding top up fees to restock pantries emptied by galloping

At a world-beating inflation record of 100 580.2%, Gideon Gono's No. 1
enemy has made long-term planning an impossible task for most schools, not
to mention business and industry.

Some boarding schools have threatened to send children back home to
collect the fees, it emerged last week.

One parent with a child at Uzumba High School in Murehwa district said
they were told to pay the top-up fees or the school would hire a bus to send
their children back home.

"How can top-up fees be more than the initial fees?" she asked. "We
were told to pay at least $300 million for the first term in top-up fees."

At the beginning of the term they paid under $150 million.

Parents with children at Gutu High School were topping up by at least
$800 million.

Boarding schools said they were surviving on tight budgets and were
finding it difficult to meet food requirements and the cost of other
services such as water and electricity.

But parents are complaining over the massive hikes, saying most of
them could not afford the new fees.

Parents are particularly distressed because the new fees
structure comes less than a month before the term closes.

The headmaster of a boarding school in Masvingo said most of the
school budget was being spent on food. "Almost three quarters of our budget
covers daily expenditure such as buying maize meal, beans, meat, bread, milk
and cooking oil - there is little left for maintaining the school," he said.

The headmaster, who cannot be identified under the ministry's rules,
said the fees were normal under the present circumstances.

"We are now being forced to come up with a supplementary budget
because the prices of all commodities are going up almost every day."

The Minister of Education, Sport and Culture, Aeneas Chigwedere said
it was illegal for schools to increase fees without the approval of his
ministry and the National Incomes and Pricing Commission (NIPC).

"In terms of the Education Act, no school, without the authority of
the parents, the NIPC, and the ministry is allowed to increase fees," he
said. "If the schools are doing it without our knowledge it is illegal and
we are going to deal with them."

The NIPC chairman, Goodwills Masimirembwa who advocated the 600%
increase in school fees at the beginning of this term could not be reached
for comment.

The fee hikes come at a time of unprecedented price increases for most
basic commodities and services.

What frustrates parents is they pay exorbitant school fees while there
are no teachers in most schools.

On Friday teachers went on a full-scale strike for a minimum monthly
salary of $3.5 billion backdated to February.

Chigwedere on Friday said he was not aware of the strike, as he had
not been informed officially.

"I only read about the strike in the newspaper. I am yet to receive a
report from my permanent secretary, Stephen Mahere."

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Masvingo's Steelmakers plant faces closure

Zim Standard


MASVINGO - THE Steelmakers plant here is on the verge of closure,
having retrenched over 200 workers since the beginning of the year,
according to documents seen by The Standard.

The Indian-owned company has faced serious viability problems related
to the national economic malaise.

The company had become the "positive face" of the Masvingo industrial
site after opening a huge plant two years ago.

But today, plagued by a host of problems, among them failing to pay
its employees and depleted production levels, that face is looking decidedly
scarred and battered.

The documents show that about 200 employees were retrenched by 14
February this year, out of a 500-strong labour force in December last year.

Of that number, 22 were from the human resources department, 16 from
the roads, 15 from quality control, and 14 from electrical departments while
the construction department lost 60.

The documents show the mechanical department was downsized from 36 to
less than 20, while the stores and marketing departments were left with only
one employee.

Sources close to the company's management said its problems were
aggravated by the breakdown of a plant which processes sponge iron from iron
ore late last year.

It is said the company needs huge amounts of foreign currency to
import new parts for the plant but due to low productivity and the shortage
of foreign currency in the country, that has not been possible.

According to an official, the company was considering closing down the
Masvingo plant, with the likelihood of the remaining 300 workers losing
their jobs by June this year.

A number of managerial employees would be transferred to Redcliff and

Steelmakers has other plants in Redcliff, Gweru, Chiredzi, and Harare,
among several others in the country.

Efforts to obtain an official comment from the company were
unsuccessful at the time of going to press.

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Sugar production turns sour

Zim Standard

  By Nqobani Ndlovu

BULAWAYO - Production at one of Zimbabwe's largest sugar producing
companies, Triangle Limited, went down by about 25% last year owing to the
harsh operating environment.

This resulted in the South African-owned company registering an R8
million loss during the last financial year.

In a statement accompanying its financial results for the year ending
31 December 2007, Triangle Limited's parent SA company Tongaat Hulett, said
production at its Zimbabwean plant went down to 193 000 tonnes from the
previous year's 240 000 tonnes.

It said as a result, "total profits from the company were reduced from
the 2006 figure of R62 million to R53 million last year".

Tongaat Hulett also owns another sugar producing company, Hippo
Valley. "In 2007, under extremely difficult circumstances, sugar production
was 349 000 tonnes (including 156 000 tonnes from Hippo Valley) Triangle
produced 240 000 tonnes in 2006.

"The business is presently contending, inter alia, with the extreme
effects of hyper-inflation, a distorted low domestic sugar price, exchange
rate movements and foreign currency shortages in Zimbabwe," it said.

Most Zimbabwe industries last year recorded a huge drop in production
owing to the harsh economic climate, with inflation at over 100 000%.

Last year, the country experienced severe sugar shortages owing to
power outages and foreign currency shortages.

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'It's the economy, stupid' might not swing the vote

Zim Standard


IN the run-up to the 1992 United States presidential elections, George
Bush Snr was riding on the crest of a wave of a successful foreign policy:
the end of the Cold War and victory in the Persian Gulf War.

The foreign policy successes had put Bush ahead of rivals Bill Clinton
and Texas businessman Ross Perot.

Clinton's campaign strategist James Carville took advantage of the
recession in the country to whip up public anger against Bush.

His phrase "It's the economy, stupid", initially hung at Clinton's
Little Rock headquarters, became a rallying cry and portrayed Bush as
"overly focused on foreign policy".

That was the fatal blow to Bush's chances and the Clinton juggernaut
rolled on to the White House.

Thousands of kilometres away and 16 years later, a once prosperous
African state, now virtually on its uppers, goes to the polls with weary,
battered citizens limping to the elections, the most significant since
independence in 1980.

President Robert Mugabe faces off with his erstwhile colleague Dr
Simba Makoni, perennial rival MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and unknown
Langton Towungana for the highest office in the land.

Analysts say the declining economy will be central in the election
campaign as it affects most of the population, except the privileged few.

"The economy is the number one dispute for this electorate," said Dr
Daniel Ndlela, an independent economist. "Eight years in a row of negative
growth: for the ruling party it will be 'vote us into power and we will
finish you off'."

He says no government, having brought down such misery on the people,
cannot with good conscience, stand in front of the people with a straight
face and say: Vote for us."

"To do what? To inflict more damage on the economy, on the people?"
said the Zimconsult boss.

Zimbabwe is in the seventh month of hyperinflation, in what analysts
say is a symbol of a failed state.

High inflation, at 100 580.2% as of January, is the highest in the
world and has reduced citizens to penury.

The crisis has led many companies to downsize and retrench staff, as
industries face raw material and foreign currency shortages.

Four out five people are out of work.

Health and education have all but crumbled.

Analysts agree the economy must be a central theme in this election,
as it pits the opposition's offensive against the government's defensive in
the crucial plebiscite for the hearts and minds of the electorate.

"The economy still remains the central issue," said Eldred
Masunungure, a political scientist. "For the government, it is their
Achilles Heel."

"Zanu PF has to defend its economic proposals to mend or turn around
the economy."

Masunungure, a lecturer in political science at the University of
Zimbabwe, said for the economic issue to be a central theme in the campaign
depends on how the opposition packages its manifesto.

"The opposition focuses more on human rights and governance. To the
ordinary Zimbabwean those things are secondary," he said.

He says the economic crisis makes Zanu PF vulnerable to MDC attacks.

As for Makoni, Masunugure says, he will be weak in condemning the
government's economic policies since he was once part of the regime.

Mugabe launched his campaign in Beitbridge last Saturday, with an
attack on Makoni and Tsvangirai as "a frog and puppet" respectively. He
preached of sovereignty in what Masunungure says is a futile attempt to
distract the population from the economic crisis.

Ndlela says: "You cannot talk of sovereignty when you cannot feed your
own people. Before 1999 we were more sovereign than we are today."

The electorate see the 29 March polls as a chance to vote for someone
who can offer them hope for the future.

"I will vote for a candidate who offers me a better future," said
Vincent Chidatsi a Juice cards vendor along Kwame Nkurumah Avenue in Harare.

Analysts say the economy had immobilized the electorate to the extent
they were being manipulated by the rulers.

"When you see hungry people going into a 'million march', it tells you
they are being manipulated," said Ndlela.

Masunungure says the situation is ripe to invoke Carville campaign
slogan, "It's the economy, stupid." But he warned that the situation in the
United States in 1992 is slightly different from the Zimbabwe experience of

He says the economic crisis has been with the population for close to
10 years but Zimbabweans have been able "to navigate and negotiate the
economic crisis to make a living".

They might still not view the economy as the key election issue.

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Zimbabwe will take its place in the Global Village, says Makoni

Zim Standard

  In this Question and Answer interview with The Standard (TS), Simba Makoni (SM)
speaks on his presidential campaign. Excerpts:

TS: How far have you gone with the campaign?

SM: First, the reality...the campaign has started slowly because we
came into this late... because we don't have a party. We have a team of
volunteers who believe in the vision and ideal. There is a shortage of
paper, shortage of material for the T-shirts. Sometimes not even coal to
fire boilers for factories. So, it started slowly but it is picking up. By
the beginning of next week, we will be communicating and circulating among
the people which we haven't been doing physically and personally, other than
through newspapers and the media which have been the main method of
communication. But while I confess we are not as visible as we should be, we
will be shortly and we will be circulating among people and communicate our
messages. The response has been overwhelming...Messages are still pouring
in. Sometimes people just present themselves and say we have come from
Tsholotsho, we have come from Chipinge, and we have come from Chirumhanzu.
We want to collect material to go and campaign with.

TS: And then about the alliances, we understand that you have an
informal alliance with Arthur Mutambara and you are also working on having
another one with Morgan Tsvangirai. Are there any ideological problems
especially with the Morgan Tsvangirai formation?

SM: I am an independent candidate... so how can you be an independent
and be in an alliance at the same time? But I also want us to understand
that I am offering a national platform. We want a new direction for our
country, we want a better life for our people and I made a commitment to the
people of Zimbabwe at my launch... that when I get elected as President of
this country we will set up a national authority that will harness
representatives of all key national constituencies. So that means I am in
alliance with the whole of Zimbabwe.

TS: Can you explain how you can be an independent and at the same time
be in alliance?

SM: Because I am in alliance with the whole nation, that is why I am
saying you must understand we are not about compartments, and paddocks and
little groups, I am in alliance with the whole nation. I am for the people
of Zimbabwe.

TS: You don't say you are in agreement with Tsvangirai and Mutambara.
You are saying if there are other Zimbabweans that want to be in alliance
with you it doesn't have to be formal?

SM: No. I am with the people and for the people and I know the people
are in Zanu PF, the people are in MDC, the people are in other formations,
the people are in churches, the people are in industry, the people are in
trade unions, the people are women, the people are youths, the people are
ex- combatants, the people are farmers, they are industrialists. I am in
alliance with all those and that's why I am an independent candidate. Don't
paddock me; don't fence me into little groups because I am bigger than
little groups. Sorry I am not bigger than little groups, I am more than
little groups.

TS: What it means is that you are not going out and say Tsvangirai let's
agree. You are just appealing to ordinary Zimbabweans?

SM: Everyone is ordinary shamwari. I am very ordinary. There are some
people who think they are not ordinary but everyone is ordinary.

TS: The rural vote is said to be Zanu PF's hunting ground. That's
where Zanu PF draws its support and you say it's clearly a perception of the

SM: I think I want to keep emphasizing that I want to persuade our
people from putting us into little groups and paddocks. The rural people
have no sugar, so do the urban people, so do the peri-urban people. The
rural people have no cooking oil. They have no candles; they have no bars of
soap. What you don't find in an urban supermarket, you won't find in a rural
trading store. So why do you want to distinguish between the experience of
the rural people from the experiences of the urban people and vice versa?
What we are enduring in Zimbabwe is a nationwide experience of fear. The
rural people are more fearful than or as fearful as the urban people, of
privation or deprivation. The rural people are more deprived than the urban
people... The extent of suffering among the rural people is worse than that
of urban people; so we won't devise a different strategy for the urban
people from that of rural people because it would be exactly dividing our
people. What we are offering is a vision for the Zimbabwe of tomorrow and
that Zimbabwe of tomorrow is as rural as it is urban. The food crisis
touches all Zimbabweans, the crisis of education and health is of all I plead with our people to resist the
temptation of being placed in paddocks. We are one people with one
experience and what I am proposing is one future, one brighter future for
one people.

TS: Suppose you are elected president on 29 March (Makoni interjects:
it's not suppose. It's when I am elected) when you are elected president
what will you do in the first 100 days in office?

SM: We have a framework for the initial task. When we outlined the
elements of the manifesto we highlighted key areas that we must deal with.
We must deal with the food crisis, we must deal with the energy crisis, and
we must deal with crisis of production. We must lay the groundwork to get
Zimbabwe working again. So we must set up the national authority... that is
the first action.

TS: National authority... what is this animal called national

SM: This animal is that authority, the entity, the government that
will take Zimbabwe into Mavambo. So we must constitute the government but
composed of representatives of all national constituencies.

TS: In other words you are saying you are setting up a government of
national unity?

SM: I am calling it a national authority, those are the words I found
appropriate. You can call it a unity government. Someone else says are you
talking of a government of national unity. A rose by any name still smells
like a rose. So let's not get bogged down in vocabulary...

TS: So in simple terms you are saying you have a government with MDC,
Zanu, independents?

SM: The constitution prescribes who is coming into government. They
have to be elected representatives. So from the elected representatives with
the mandate of our people for being elected we will constitute a national
authority. On 30 March in accordance with the existing constitution the
executive must be constituted out of elected representatives and those
elected representatives will be from Zanu PF, from MDC, from Independents
and any others who are contesting...

TS: Suppose you are asked to prioritise what they will do in the first
day: is it the constitution or the economy?

SM: The crisis. I have already enumerated the food crisis, the energy
crisis, the water crisis and sanitation, potholes, medicines in hospitals.
It's horrendous that babies should be dying in the antenatal units because
ZESA has switched off the hospital, well not quite that ZESA has switched
off the hospital but the hospital had been switched off. I am sure ZESA are
not doing it deliberately. We must solve those crises and get life for
Zimbabweans to be normal again. That they can go into a supermarket and buy
milk and cereals and vegetables. We will have an immediate crisis plan and
then we roll out a short term, medium term and long term plan for getting
our country back to normal, getting it back to work again.

TS: Roughly how many years do you think are required to bring Zimbabwe
where it was?

SM: It would presumptuous of me. I don't think we just want to bring
Zimbabwe to where it was. That would be such a limited vision. This is the
21st century. We want to get Zimbabwe to the 21st century to be an equal
player in the global village. Just getting back to 1996 is not a vision for
me, it's not an ambition. But obviously you can't do all these at once that's
why we will have a phased programme. First deal with the crisis of everyday
life and I enumerated. But I must also underline that I am not the person to
be doing this. Our rallying call for re-engagement, for national
re-engagement is to get Zimbabweans to do things for themselves. It would be
very arrogant and presumptuous for me to say I am doing this. It won't be
different from those who are saying: you sit under the tree and wait for us
to give you schools and boreholes and medicine, that's the antithesis of
what I am proposing for our people...

TS: There are Zimbabwean businesspeople who were hounded out of
country for one reason or the other; do you have plans to bring them back?

SM: We have plans to get Zimbabwe working again and that means
capturing all the resources and capacity that Zimbabwe has. But the question
has been posed which authorities have refrained from responding to: If these
people committed a crime why are they not brought to the due process of law
to answer for their crimes?

TS: And how about re-engaging the IMF and World Bank.

SM: This country will be back in the international arena, taking our
rightful place in the global village... Zimbabwe needs to be at one with the
rest of the world, not apart from the world... We don't want to put
ourselves in little cells.


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Zimbabwe does not deserve what Zanu PF has done to it

Zim Standard


At a time of extreme hardship, the ruling party and the government have
chosen to demonstrate just how concerned they are about the rest of us.

From Wednesday last week Zanu PF members, drawn from throughout the country,
trooped into the capital just to observe their leader launch the party's
election manifesto. Yet a drive along the main highways throughout the
country will show ordinary people who have spent days hoping to catch a lift
with passing motorists due to the current fuel crisis.

More than a week ago, the ruling party again commandeered transport, and
people from various provinces were ferried to the southern border town of
Beitbridge for President Robert Mugabe's 84th birthday celebrations. Scarce
resources were committed to feasting for one day when people in the two
Matabeleland provinces speak of a maize-meal crisis that threatens lives.

They travelled to Beitbridge via Bulawayo because the Masvingo-Beitbridge
highway is in an atrocious state due to neglect. Yet this is a major artery
feeding transport to neighbouring countries to the north and north east. It
is also used by tourists visiting the country from the south.

Zimbabwe claims it is preparing for the 2010 world soccer cup, which South
Africa will be hosting. Anyone who has been to our southern neighbour will
be impressed by the level of preparations. Zimbabwe's pledges to gear itself
for the soccer extravaganza are embarrassingly hollow. The commitment made
to spruce up Beitbridge in the short time left before the World Cup
demonstrates the ruling party takes Zimbabweans for morons, incapable of
subjecting their statements to the test.

There is no reason why the party's provincial leadership could not have been
given the Zanu PF election manifesto for distribution in their provinces. It
would have been less expensive. But the ruling party is so reckless because
no one holds it accountable. Sometimes they mistake Zimbabwe for their own
personal property. That is why service chiefs can threaten voters as if they
are only allowed to conform to the ruling party's wishes.

The threats - as those made by the same security chiefs during the run up to
the 2002 presidential elections - are a dangerous development, designed to
whip everyone into supporting and voting for Zanu PF. Essentially they seek
to subvert the right of the people to vote the way they wish.

Zanu PF has had 28 years to demonstrate what it is capable of doing but all
it can offer are promises. Its campaign promises issues for which it has a
record of uninterrupted failure.

But as in 2002, the threats are significant if only because they are
indicative of the level of panic within the ruling party and its admission
of having failed to deliver on its promises for nearly three decades.

Very often it is argued that the opposition has failed. It's time this
argument was revisited: It is the people who have failed the opposition in
this country. Each one of us has relatives in the rural areas - Zanu PF's
assumed stronghold. It is time each and every one of us helped to empower
those ourside the towns and cities to make decisions that will take this
country out of the present crisis. We live this crisis, but more importantly
we recognise the architects of the crisis. It is time we gave them their
marching orders - in the greater interests of this country.

Zimbabwe does not deserve what Zanu PF has done to it and it does not need
salutes from the party's delinquent dependants.

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Mugabe's legacy: gnashing of teeth

Zim Standard

  sundayopinion by Bill saidi

HOW I would love to be a fly on the wall as Nathan Shamuyarira, with
an old man's triumphant "Whoopee"! puts a full stop on the last sentence of
his much-anticipated biography of Robert Mugabe.

It's been in the works for years. Last year, at a reception in Harare,
I asked him how far he had gone with his potential masterpiece, about this
former teacher who has spent nearly 30 years turning a country, once called
a "gem", into a pariah poorhouse.

Incidentally, I wonder if Mugabe's "kitchen cabinet" pays attention to
events elsewhere in the world, except London and Washington.

Do they know that Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga ended their feud with
the aid of Kofi Annan who could have helped Zimbabwe to an era of sunshine,
if he had been encouraged? But Mugabe only encourages people who idolise him

He didn't encourage Ben Mkapa either and Mkapa was with Annan in
Nairobi, helping to end a quarrel which cost more than 1 000 lives.

It makes you wonder why Mugabe prefers Thabo Mbeki as mediator.

I know many people would be surprised if Shamuyarira's work turned out
to be as sanitized as James Boswell's book on Samuel Johnson.

Boswell wrote so glowingly of Johnson, the author of the first
Dictionary of the English Language, it was said if it wasn't for him, few
would ever have recognised Johnson as the titan of English literature that
he was made out to be.

Shamuyarira has not been a starry-eyed Mugabe admirer. Unlike many
political zombies who spout Mugabe praises at the drop of a cockerel's
feather, he would not shout a slogan to the heavens that no man ever lived
who did more for Zimbabwe than Gushungo.

He once left Zanu PF. He has not apologised for his sortie into the
Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe (Frolizi). Others there included George
Nyandoro and James Chikerema, who I first met in 1957, before the Southern
Rhodesia African National Congress was formed the same year.

For me, they epitomised that extraordinary selflessness which
distinguishes heroes from charlatans.

Joshua Nkomo was the president, Chikerema his deputy and Nyandoro
secretary-general. Paul Mushonga, owner of the Highfield shop where most of
the ANC plan was hatched, was a high-ranking official.

It would be a number of years before Mugabe featured in the
nationalist hierarchy.

Yet today hardly anything can be recalled of the past without his name
being trotted out. No one disputes his heroism, although reading Edgar
Tekere's ruminations, perhaps we should be wary before swallowing all the
garbage from the Mugabe-niks.

Today, as he prepares to throw his last political dice, it is not
premature, presumptuous or prurient to speculate on his legacy.

How will Zimbabwe remember him? What will be his legacy to this great

It's a great country, never mind what an absolute mess they have made
of it. They can pretend all they want, but a country with an inflation rate
of 100 000% is a bloody mess, in any language.

Or will people remember how he reminisced on his 84th birthday, on his
television network, about R S Garfield Todd, an education pioneer at Dadaya
and one of the few prime ministers of Southern Rhodesia backed by The
African Daily News in an election, of which Shamuyarira was editor at the

Although he lost to the white supremacists in 1958, Todd remained
intensely disgusted with racism.

We now know why the government stripped him of his Zimbabwean
citizenship: Mugabe just didn't like the man.

The body language he used in the interview on TV suggested he would
have loved to punch him to a pulp. His account of how he and Todd interacted
at Dadaya was filled with cruel, crude humour.

Perhaps he didn't like Todd for having remarked about him (Mugabe),
according to Judith Todd's autobiography, Through the Darkness: A Life in

What I cannot forgive is how many people he has corrupted.

Mugabe spent many years in jail during the struggle, before he and
Tekere were helped to cross into Mozambique by Chief Rekayi Tangwena. All
this was after 1958, the year Todd lost to Edgar Whitehead.

But from what Mugabe said, you would think he blamed Todd for all his
tribulations. Certainly, not many Zimbabweans harbour such rancour towards

In her book, Judith Todd tells this story after her father's death in

"Some months later, walking through Bulawayo, I met Teacher Moyo, who
was still elated by the circumstances of father's funeral. 'It was a
wonderful occasion,' he said. 'We saw friends there we hadn't met for years.
It was more like a wedding than a funeral. We sang all the way home.'"

Mugabe's legacy won't feature much singing. There will probably be
more wailing and gnashing of teeth.


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Preventing tyranny of the majority

Zim Standard

  reflections with Dr Alex T Magaisa

WHEN President Robert Mugabe took office as the first Prime Minister
of newly independent Zimbabwe in 1980, amid the wild scenes of euphoria,
there also emerged a dangerous, but largely unnoticed phenomenon. It is the
problem of the "tyranny of the majority", which manifested itself in severe
deprivation of political space for those outside the framework of Zanu PF

The trouble now, is that there is a very real risk of this happening
again after 29 March, unless the winner of the election genuinely commits to
a more inclusive structure of government, at least whilst working on
damage-limitation efforts to solve the economic malaise and constitutional
shortcomings. Perhaps little change is to be expected of Mugabe, who, unless
there is a sea change in approach, is likely to continue with the current
system that has largely been exclusionary.

There is a perception in opposition circles that there will be no
room, in a new dispensation, for anything or anyone that is Zanu PF-related.
Given the poverty brought onto the people by this party's policies over the
last 28 years, this perception is perhaps understandable. But it is neither
realistic nor practical.

No country can operate properly if every time there is a change of
government, there is a complete removal of those aligned to or related to
the outgoing party. Certainly those in key positions may find their
positions to be untenable given the different ideas and policies they will
be required to implement. But there will, surely, be others who may be
prepared to adapt and go with the flow. Some continuity in personnel may be
necessary and indeed, unavoidable, in running of the affairs of the state.

But there is another reason for more inclusiveness.

Today's Zimbabwe is probably more polarised than in 1980. A key
challenge will be to mitigate the effects of a culture of intolerance that
has plagued parts of Zimbabwean society. No one among the political players
is entirely innocent. The ruling party is intolerant of the opposition and
similarly the opposition seems to be intolerant of not just the ruling party
but also, worryingly, alternatives to their own views. This culture of
intolerance now extends beyond the leaders to the ranks of ordinary members
of society. There is a certain irony in this that those claiming to be
leading the fight for freedom of expression, become very uncomfortable with
any expression that conflicts with their own.

But the dangers of this culture of intolerance are more easily
manifested when the majority is intolerant of the minority. In this
relentless march towards realising the will of the majority, there is a risk
of overlooking that democracy should, of necessity, also take into account
the interests of the minority. It is far too easy, as we have learnt from
our history, and the histories of other nations, to not only ignore but also
to bludgeon, conquer and batter into submission the minorities. This may
even be celebrated as the manifestation of the will of the majority. In
addition to its ability to give effect to the will of the majority, a mature
democracy must surely pass the test on how it treats the minorities.

Most Zimbabweans who now find themselves in the Diaspora may overlook
the fact that many of their compatriots from the Southern and Western parts
of the country (Matabeleland) discovered the Diaspora long before them. In
many cases, it was because they were marginalised by virtue of being a
political minority. But then the political majority, who only discovered
hardships much later in the 1990s, did not bat an eyelid for those souls.
They were the majority who were least affected by those difficulties visited
upon their compatriots. They were either blissfully ignorant or did not care
or both. But there was an insidious form of a "tyranny of the majority" at
that time.

It does not help that our political system is based on the
"winner-takes-all" principle. It establishes the basis of the exclusionary
politics that we have experienced since independence. It is, in many ways, a
continuation of the colonial era politics which effectively excluded the
majority of the people from the electoral process and governance.

But this exclusionary effect also has implications for stability,
security and the protection of human rights. Upon assumption of power,
Mugabe retained the colonial era security legislation and emergency laws
ostensibly because of security threats, real or imaginary. It did not matter
that he and his comrades had been imprisoned and thwarted in their
liberation efforts under the same laws. As such there are no real guarantees
that a new government post-29 March will dispense with the current set of
security laws. They may well claim, as Mugabe did in 1980, that there exist
security threats and hence the need to maintain order.

Such fears could be mitigated, however, not by retaining draconian
laws and use of force, but by creating a more inclusive system of government
which does not totally close spaces for the losers. This is particularly
important in a country where restoration of stability is of paramount
importance so that that focus can be placed on constitutional reform and
economic regeneration - the two key issues that are so vital to Zimbabweans
right now. In forming a government, the winner of the Presidential election
is not barred from appointing persons from other parties.

Sometimes we look up to the older, perhaps more mature democracies,
like the US and in Western Europe and it is easy to overlook the fact that
their systems have been built over time, chiselled and nurtured for many
years, to be where they are, and still they are imperfect. But at least they
have developed in-built mechanisms, which remain work in progress, to more
effectively deal with interests of political minorities.

Here Churchill's words on democracy as a system of government assume
even greater significance. He said "democracy is the worst form of
government except for all those others that have been tried". We too need to
understand the complexities of our polities and the peculiarities of our
societies. These features may imply that we need to take different routes in
how we organise ourselves politically in order to achieve the objectives of
stability, tolerance and economic development.

The problem of creating a tyranny of the majority was famously
recognised way back in 1787 by James Madison, one of America's Founding
Fathers in the essay Federalist No. 10, a reference point for constitutional
jurists. Madison articulated the problem of factions that results within a
direct democracy and the risk that if left unchecked, the majority faction
could work in ways that are detrimental to the minorities and the aggregate
interest of the society as a whole. Events in many small African countries,
with their colonially linear demarcated boundaries bear testimony to this
assertion. The small democracies are uncertain, shaky, short-lived and often
end up in sordid violence, as events in Kenya evidence.

Madison thought that smaller democracies suffered more from the
problem of the majority faction since it means that passions and interests
more easily spread to a greater number of people who can form a majority,
and enact their will without hardship through the so-called democratic
government. Madison thought that the effects of this problem could be
mitigated by, among other things, creating a system of checks and balances,
which still forms a key part of the American constitutional system. That is
not to suggest that it is perfect; rather it serves to indicate that this
problem of a tyranny of the majority is not new to us and needs to be
properly accounted for.

One way of course is to have an overhaul of the constitutional
framework, an argument valiantly pursued by many Zimbabweans in the last
decade. This is why constitutional reform should form one of the first
projects in the aftermath of the 29 March elections.

* Dr Magaisa is based at The University of Kent Law School and can be
contacted at or

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How the politicians abuse gullible youths, then dump them

Zim Standard


JOSE is my brother's son. He came to stay with his people a few years
ago. In tow, he brought with him two wives and two children. He had "grown
up" with his mother's people in Zaka. His mother never lived with my
brother. We learnt that the uncles decided to send him to his people because
he had become a nuisance. Who would want to look after a man in his 20s with
two wives and two kids?

Notwithstanding his nefarious tendencies, he actually has remained
very respectful towards me, despite my strong criticism of his conduct,
especially political. When sober, he looks troubled, when drunk only a
mother can stand him.

The home that was torched is in fact a single hut. But a man's home is
his castle, no matter the size. He has two wives and two children. When I
last saw him in August last year, the wives appeared to be expecting.

When I read your online edition of the 17 February 2007 about his
predicament and the fact that a retired military man had allegedly been
employed to cause this man a destruction of his homestead, I ached. I
imagined Jose's bright daughter, his desolate wives and the contrasting
satisfaction of the entire village and beyond.

Jose came into the village late. Since then, he has been a sore thumb.
Many dares, both formal and informal, were held to discuss his expulsion
from the village.

Many have been hurt over his flagrant disregard of human decency and
his violent support of Zanu PF. He arrived as a foreigner and his lack of
decency confirmed it.

His tragedy is a broad indictment of Zimbabwean politics, and so is
his existence. His burnt-out home lies some 50 or 100m from my own house. I
would have been one of the first to offer water to put out the fire. For
Jose does not even have a well at his home. But I know that many in the
village wished worse had happened.

Many in the villages across our beautiful country have seen this
political road before. Politicians with political ambitions come and hire
jobless youths to cause mayhem and ensure that they win. After these
"victories", the youths are dumped. The promises of jobs are never
fulfilled. The many litres of opaque liquor bought during the campaign have
long converted to urea and have irrigated the bushes.

Jose does not even have a Blair toilet at his home.

My brother's son is a poor man. He is an easy gullible tool. He had
reportedly been campaigning for Dr Paul Chimedza before Gutu South's gender
was declared by Zanu PF. He is hired precisely because he is naïve, poor and
a downright ruffian. He has no clue about much that happens in the world
beyond his horizon.

He is like many others that Zanu PF politicians hire and use with
great impunity. At every election, they return to be used again and again,
all for an effort from which they gain nothing. They are the foot soldiers
of the rich and powerful. Nobody who uses them really knows or cares about
their daily plight. They struggle to eke out a living.

Until he received the peanuts and decided to free himself from the
scourge, no politician had an interest in where he lived. Someone ought to
have felt the embarrassment of torching the lonely hut at his home. A home
without even a chicken! But no, politicians have no heart.

Mai Mahofa's husband and accomplices will have to answer questions
about their alleged conduct. But for many back home, it's "ndomene
haichemedzi". The young man brought these troubles upon himself. He allowed
himself to be condomised by politicians. Used every time and immediately
thrown away to wallow once again in poverty. The real pawns of the game of
rural politics!

Sekuru Ngwena's son ironically named Tafirenyika was in Jose's
position for many years. He was used in the same way. A loving soul found
him work in Gweru. When he visited home around the 2005 elections, he
surprised everyone by his recantation. "Never again!" he said.

I am somewhat in an awkward position about the protagonists in the
fight for the constituency known as Gutu South. Jose is my brother's son.
Mai Mahofa is my friend's mother. The Mukonoweshuro family is revered in my
area because one of them was a good headmaster at Bako School.

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Zim Standard Letters

How Makoni can help

Simba Makoni professes to want to free Zimbabwe from
the tyrannical rule of Mugabe. If he really has the interests of the people
of Zimbabwe at heart he would evaluate the effect of standing for President
in these elections.

It will be near impossible for Makoni to reach the rural voters. The
areas are vast, the road networks are in a shocking state, time is very
short, he will not be able to access enough cash or fuel given the economic
constraints, the police will take up loads of his time, and MDC is well
known, these among just a few of the problems he will encounter.

If he really wants to help Zimbabweans attain their freedom from
dictatorship he would bow out gracefully now, throw his weight behind MDC
and leave the fight to the two contestants - Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert

I implore Makoni and his backers to put their political aspirations on
hold and concentrate on the main hurdle of unseating Mugabe.

A McCormick

Highlands, Harare

 Students 'guided by principles'

SINCE its foundation in 1989 and formalization in 1997, the Zimbabwe
National Students Union ZINASU has remained consistent and resolute to its
primary calling for being - that is to create a representative platform of
engagement with key stakeholders such as the government, college and
university authorities on issues concerning students.

It has remained our concern that students receive a decent education.
This includes up-to-standard learning, teaching and research facilities, a
sound students funding package that allows a conducive learning environment
and a sustainably growing economy with vast employment and business

Stories from our brothers and sisters who went through Zimbabwe's
decent tertiary education during the 1980s to the late 1990s used to
motivate and rejuvenate students' struggles with hope and anticipation of
enjoying the same.

Alas, not with this stubborn government of (President) Robert Mugabe.
Students' hopes and anticipation has turned into dismay and hatred. Poor
decisions and misprioritisation of state resources has led to the collapse
of social services, education and health.

This was actually the beginning of a road map to our liberation: in
September 1999 the labour movement and the students' union founded a
political party, the Movement for Democratic Change.

The people shall govern; the time and the need had come to evict
Mugabe and his cronies from office.

In the March 2002 Presidential elections, the MDC won overwhelmingly:
oh yes, it did! Indeed we needed a sustainable post-election strategy.

Restless Arthur Mutambara is a laughing stock. One wonders how many
positions he has declared since his entry into national politics and one
must continue to wonder if he has a position at all.

For the record, there was never a split in the MDC: actually a few
individuals left the MDC. Our party has grown from strength to strength, has
stood the test of time, and is ready for office.

We shall not discuss further those who finish all the water reserves
and later see the need to start searching for more. The students' union
makes no apology with regards to its allegiance and alliance to any process
that champions student interests. We remain guided by our own founding
principles and values during these trying times.

Clever Bere

President, Zimbabwe

National Students Union


 Beware crooked estate agents

THANK you for a wonderful paper which is miles ahead of all these
pseudo-online Zim journalists which rush to copy and paste what others

lt's refreshing to read you every week. Let me digress and use this
platform to expose a scam on land, involving one firm of estate agents which
fleeces people of their hard- earned cash for a Glen View 1 Extension scheme
which never seems to take off the ground.

They sell you a stand and promise you that building would start within
two months. But then you wait forever. Once you have paid up they ignore
your inquiries.

l understand it's an indigenous-run company. So perhaps they have Zanu
PF protection to cheat people. Everybody looking forward to being a landlord
should avoid this estate agent like the plague.

Tamirira Taneta

Dorchester, UK

 Mobilising for action

CAN this be forwarded to someone in the MDC.

A number of people are appointed for each high-density suburb.

These people in each suburb are alerted that mass action is to take
place. They go to each house and wake up all the adult occupants, except for
one (one adult is left at each house to look after the children).

As these people leave their premises they are instructed to move to
other houses to wake up and instruct those occupants, as they have been
instructed to do. The people tasked to wake up others should operate in

All these people then make their way into town, to a given meeting
point eg Unity Square.



 Defrauded by sim card-selling internetsite ABOUT two months ago, I was
going through Zimbabwean news websites when I came across I
clicked on the link to see what they were about. I learnt they were selling
products including Econet Buddie SIM cards.

I was interested in purchasing the SIM card for a family member in
Zimbabwe. One morning early on 18 February 2008, I bought an Econet Buddie
SIM card. After the purchase I called It was 10AM in the UK. I
was on hold for half an hour after which I hung up.

A relative in Zimbabwe was to receive a text message with the voucher
for that SIM card. Two days later I called the UK based yeszim Ltd in an
effort to speak to their customer service department. I needed to find out
when the SIM card would be delivered. I was at this point getting frustrated
and decided to email them because each time I called, I was on hold for far
too long.

I became suspicious of them when each time I would be the first one in
line, yet I would be on hold for over half an hour. I knew there was a
battle ahead of me so I sent an email telling yeszim Ltd what was coming to
them. I waited over 24 hours for their response but never heard a word from

I then called their payment gateway company, PayPal, and detailed my
account. PayPal told me that they were going to be on yeszim's tail until
the money was refunded. Two days later I got an email from PayPal informing
me that they had taken care of the "fraud case".

Anyone who wants to check this for themselves can do so by calling a
number on the yeszim Ltd web site at You will
notice, however, that the voice instructions on that recording appear to be
that of an English man. It appears to me that someone out there is trying to
take advantage of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora. Be careful! They try to fit
in where they don't for as long as they see an opportunity to make money.

I can share my case with anyone interested as I have an email from
PayPal. I can also help anyone who may have fallen victim on how to file a
claim with PayPal, their payment gateway company. You can also visit PayPal's
web site at for instructions on how to file a claim.

Don't be a victim of circumstances. Together we can fight cyber crime.

Amos Chivaro


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The angry little boy who showed them all

Sunday Times, SA
Book Review
Published:Mar 01, 2008

Payback time: Robert Mugabe, then Zimbabwean Prime Minister, salutes his supporters at a rally after sacking Joshua Nkomo, who he accused of plotting to overthrow his government in 1982. Nkomo’s PF-Zapu was largely destroyed by the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade, which Mugabe sent into Matabeleland soon after. A new book detailing Mugabe’s childhood paints a picture of him as a bookish, lonesome child scorned by villagers as a cowardly mummy’s boy 

We laughed at him because he was so serious. Our mother told us to leave him alone. She believed he was a holy child
From bookish child to king of the castle

Robert Mugabe’s formative years were spent as the fatherless, friendless favourite of a cold, religious mother, writes Heidi Holland in her new book.

Robert Mugabe’s only surviving brother, Donato, (now deceased) is sitting on an upturned plastic milk crate on the veranda of his house at Kutama, about 100km southwest of Harare, the village where he and his siblings were born and where Donato has remained all his life.

He is a large, white-haired man with a lot of laughter lines on his face, but he looks decidedly wary on this occasion.

He and his wife, Evelyn, invite me indoors reluctantly. Huddled together on the sofa, they are silent and unblinking.

I am acutely aware that few, if any, journalists have been to talk to Donato before me, possibly because we were collectively not interested enough to uncover Mugabe’s ancestry in earlier years when the going was good, but later on because it’s dangerous to ask leading questions in Zimbabwe, let alone to walk into the middle of the terrorised country’s first family.

Donato begins by telling me that for some years during his schooling at Kutama, Robert Mugabe lived with his maternal grandparents “so that he could be watched carefully by them”, he says.

“He was a good boy and he loved to play tennis at school. That was what he did besides reading. He passed teacher training in 1942 but he did not show off.

“He was quiet and never harsh to anyone. He was always determined. Whatever he wants to do, he can do.

“He never recognised the word ‘no’; it was not in his language. He went to Ghana for teacher training and sent letters to our mother.”

His wife says something to him in Shona and he suddenly bellows: “Sally came from Ghana.”

Looking delighted at the thought of his late sister-in-law, his eyes stare into space again for a while.

“She was a lovely person. It was a happy marriage,” he remembers. “It was a happy time in Zimbabwe.”

When I mention Grace, Mugabe’s second wife, Donato nods sagely, offering no comment at first.

“She gave him children,” he says on reflection, nodding slowly .

Behind the sofa is the large official portrait of Mugabe that hangs in government offices and most public spaces in Zimbabwe.

Alongside the couple on a table is a framed, unsmiling photograph of Bona, the president’s late mother, her unusually elongated head wrapped in a scarf that typifies the attire of local rural women.

Robert Mugabe adored his mother. He attended Mass with her every day and twice on Sundays in the years following the deaths of two of his older siblings.

Both of the dead children were boys. One of them, Michael, was the acknowledged family favourite, loved by everyone in the village, not only the Mugabes.

Donato’s description of Michael’s cause of death as “something he ate” is typical of the bare details on offer, not only because the man sitting in front of me does not entirely trust me with his story but because, in the ’20s, life at Kutama was austere. People endured, they fell ill, and they died.

Donato, who was christened Dhonandho and called Donald at school, does not remember how or why Raphael, the second son of the family, died.

Their father, Gabriel, left home after Michael’s death, says Donato. “He went to live in Bulawayo, where he could get work, and he remarried there. He was a very good carpenter. Robert remained cross with him because he would never help us with our schooling. He came back later with three children, and died at Kutama.”

That was a lot of loss for Bona to bear. After her husband left, she became depressed by all accounts. She could not cope alone.

Robert, although only 10 at the time, stepped into the breach.

Suddenly the oldest child, he became his mother’s favourite.

It was he who set about trying to restore the light in her eyes, to be what she wanted him to be.

He could not forgive his father the hurt he had inflicted because Robert’s life was so difficult in Gabriel’s absence.

“The other children used to tease him and he became lonely. He didn’t seem to care, but maybe he did,” muses Donato.

“Our mother protected Robert from everyone, especially me, but he himself did not fight. Our (half) sister Bridget was the one who fought with me. She was the strongest one — never Robert. She had the courage of a man, not like him.”

The Catholic head at Kutama was an Irish priest, Father Jerome O’Hea, a gifted teacher and an exceptional man.

He soon noticed the solemn, talented Robert Mugabe and began to nurture him as a scholar and a credit to St Francis Xavier.

Donato remembers Robert “hanging around” outside the priest’s classroom, ever eager to help the man (who had probably become a substitute father) by carrying his books or cleaning the blackboard.

Unlike the happy-go-lucky Donato, Robert’s childhood had effectively ended when his brothers died and his father left home.

He found solace from the pressures of Bona’s disappointment and expectations in books, not in other children.

An introspective child who may have been neglected in babyhood by a burdened mother and therefore failed to develop confidence in himself, Robert began to adopt a lofty attitude towards his siblings and fellow students.

As Bona’s special one in the family and an increasing favourite among teachers in the classroom, he focused all his energy on being “a good boy”.

“Robert was always a loner,” recalls Donato. “He was a person who was not interested in having many friends. His books were his only friends. I was the opposite, talking to everybody and even fighting with some of them. I could run fast but Robert could not, he was lazy, just reading all the time.

“When he went to herd cattle because our grandfather told him to go out into the fields, he would take his book. He held the book in one hand and the whip in the other. It was a strange thing for all of us to see. When the cattle were settled, he would sometimes sit in the shade under the trees.

“Sometimes, if our grandfather asked him to get something for supper, he would catch many birds, especially doves. He would cut sticks, tie them with grass and put some soft leaves inside with some seeds. This nest he would put near the river and wait quietly, reading his book.

“When the birds came to drink water, he could catch them. He was the only one who could get the birds because he could sit very quietly and that’s why grandfather said it was his job.”

Robert was different from his siblings in other ways, too.

He loved to be at school even when his brothers and sisters were home playing.

Their house was so close to St Francis Xavier College that he could come and go as he pleased.

“He used to be very serious and not always happy,” recalls Donato. “He seemed to have matters to think about.”

Then came the prestigious endorsement of Robert’s scholarly efforts that was to have profound implications not only for his life but for the future of the country he would lead to disaster six decades later.

“Our mother explained to us that Father O’Hea had told her that Robert was going to be an important somebody, a leader .

“Our mother believed Father O’Hea had brought this message from God; she took it very seriously. When the food was short she would say, ‘Give it to Robert.’ But he would refuse and say he didn’t want to eat.

“A doctor (academic) from Salisbury (Harare) came to talk to Robert about his lessons. We laughed at him because he was so serious, until he became cross. Then our mother told us to leave him alone. She believed he was a holy child and she wanted him to become a priest.”

Father O’Hea went out of his way to help the shy child he described as having “unusual gravitas”.

With “an exceptional mind and an exceptional heart”, the boy merited extraordinary attention, he believed.

Promoted to the next class as soon as he could hold his own, Robert was always younger and physically smaller than his contemporaries.

His greatest desire was to please his mother and to earn praise from Father O’Hea.

However, the favouritism of two such important adults in a tight community made him increasingly the butt of jokes among his peers, including his brothers and sisters.

As the children teased him mercilessly, Robert became defiant and presumably angry.

With his reputation for cowardice well established, he was constantly mocked for having his nose in a book by the village children who had not scored highly enough for ongoing study.

As he grew up, Robert got his sense of who he was from Bona, a cold, stern nun of a mother.

She left him in no doubt that he was to be the achiever who rose above everyone else; the leader chosen by God himself.

She may also have viewed him as a substitute for her own failure to serve the church as she and her parents had intended.

Aloneness and the inability to co-operate are the dominant features in all the descriptions of Mugabe’s childhood.

Considering all the available evidence, Mugabe seems to have been driven from very early on by a determination to show those who scorned him and his books, who called him a mummy’s boy and a coward, that he was, nevertheless, the king of the castle — and that they would all have to acknowledge it sooner or later.

Instead of seeing their taunts accurately as sibling rivalry and jealousy from less-accomplished classmates, Robert seems to have felt persecuted, bitterly resenting the failure of everyone around him to appreciate his difficult role in a fatherless family.

“He said he did not have time to play and we always laughed when he said big stuff about himself,” admits Donato.

What the young Robert achieved by single-mindedly pursuing his studies at school, and for years after he left Kutama, was truly remarkable.

To become one of the most erudite Africans in the country from the humblest of beginnings — with no electric light to switch on at home and read by, seldom enough food to eat, and little support except from those whose ambitions robbed him of childish things — was a triumph of discipline over adversity in the classic Jesuit style.

Against the odds, the angry little boy with no friends did become the king of the castle.

But Robert’s diligence was also his way of coping with a universe he believed to be against him.

Despite periods of contentment, he was to be consumed by distrust for the rest of his life.

  • Holland’s book, Dinner with Mugabe, is due to be released by Penguin Books this month
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