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New currency plan collapses

Zim Independent

Shakeman Mugari

THE Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe yesterday introduced a $50 000 bearer's
cheque, further confirming that its plans to launch a new currency have
collapsed.

The new denominations include a $5 000 bearer cheque which could have
been launched out of a realisation that the current $1 000 was no longer
useful.

The bearer's cheques expire in July this year. The introduction of the
new denomination of bearer's cheque is a clear indication that Sunrise Part
2 which Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono recently said was
imminent is now in tatters.

The new denominations come hard on the heels of a spate of price
increases triggered by business fears that government could freeze prices
under a proposed social contract involving labour, capital and government.

The Zimbabwe dollar has also plunged on the black market, ironically
the major source of foreign currency for individuals and companies, to about
$7 500 to the United States dollar as shortages continue to bite.

The failure of Sunrise 2 leaves the central bank stuck with the new
currency which it printed at a huge cost last year but cannot be introduced
because of galloping inflation.

The currency was printed in Germany from July to December at a cost of
16,5 million. It was based on the RBZ's inflation predictions of two digits
of between 20% and 35%. Inflation is currently hovering around
1 593,6% but indications are that it will continue to climb.

RBZ governor Gideon Gono told the Zimbabwe Independent three weeks ago
that the currency was "coming sooner rather than later".

Indications are however the plans for a new currency have gone up in
smoke with all the prerequisites for its introduction having crumbled.

Inflation, the major factor that the central bank was banking on, is
heading for the 2 000% mark.


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Diamonds seized from ZDI boss's home

Zim Independent

ZIMBABWE Defence Industries (ZDI) CEO Tshinga Dube's son was last week
arrested by police with consignments of diamonds and gold worth millions of
dollars as government battles to crack down on high-profile syndicates of
precious mineral dealers.

The arrest of Dube's son is likely to open a Pandora's box on the
illegal mining activities of ministers, MPs and top public servants who are
said to be the major dealers in the booming illicit minerals trade.

President Robert Mugabe said last week ministers and influential
officials were involved in the underworld operations. The police have also
said ministers and MPs are involved.

Police sources yesterday said Mthulisi Dube (24) was arrested last
Friday evening at his father's home at 20 Metcalf Road, Greendale, Harare,
after a raid by law enforcement agents acting on a tip-off. The police, who
also arrested another key suspect, Nyasha Takunda Mudenge, an Air Force of
Zimbabwe officer, found 764 diamond pieces worth $49 553 427 and 7,42
grammes of gold valued at $98 560.

Another suspect, Charles Makanga, was also arrested in the process.
The three suspects appeared at the Harare magistrates' court on Wednesday
and Dube was granted $2 million bail to March 28. Bail conditions for the
other two suspects were not readily available.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said he was not aware of the case
and referred the Zimbabwe Independent to Inspector Banda at police
headquarters who deals with mineral matters. She said she was not aware of
the charges. But top police sources said the ZDI chief's son was arrested in
a major swoop on illegal dealers across the capital.

Efforts to get comment from Tshinga Dube, a retired army colonel, were
unsuccessful yesterday. His home telephone number went unanswered the whole
day.

Police were said to have removed everybody from the house and cordoned
it off. When the Independent visited the property yesterday there were
people hanging around outside, but repeated calls to the house established
there was no one inside picking up the phone.

Dube, who was at the helm when ZDI was in 1997 entangled in a weapons
hijacking scandal after a Sri Lankan separatist movement, the Liberation
Tigers of Tamil Eelam, seized arms destined for the state, has been cited in
a number of shady minerals deals, especially during the Democratic Republic
of Congo war between 1998 and 2002.

Last year the High Court heard DRC president Joseph Kabila and Dube
had been involved in a DRC diamond mining concern through Dube & Associates
which is registered in the Great Lakes country.
Dube has also been involved in military-run companies exploiting
mostly diamonds in the DRC.

A United Nations report, Final Report of the Panel of Experts on the
Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the
Democratic Republic of the Congo, produced five years ago, names Dube among
senior government officials and army officers accused of exploiting minerals
in the Congo.

"In June 2002, the panel learned of a secret new ZDF diamond mining
operation in Kalobo in Kasai Occidental run by Dube & Associates.

"This company is linked, according to banking documents, through
Colonel Tshinga Dube of ZDI to the Ukrainian diamond and arms dealer Leonid
Minim, who currently faces smuggling charges in Italy," the report says.
"The diamond mining operations have been conducted in great secrecy."

The report also names the then Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa,
who was in charge of DRC operations, former Zimbabwe Defence Forces chief
General Vitalis Zvinavashe, Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi and senior
army officers. They have denied the allegations. - Staff Writers.


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Social contract fails to take off

Zim Independent

Ray Matikinye

A SOCIAL contract between government, labour and employers scheduled
to have come into effect yesterday, failed to take off, suggesting there is
no shared vision in the country on the way forward.

Labour and business only started talks with government for a wage and
price freeze yeterday amid doubts a deal would be struck to sabilise
inflation and rescue the country from economic collapse.

The contract was proposed as a panacea to Zimbabwe's mounting economic
woes.

Economists and social commentators have criticised the proposed deal
as another attempt by government to buy itself a new lease of life.

They doubt that the programme will lift Zimbabwe out of its current
economic crisis, citing a raft of missing ingredients needed before a
successful rollout.

A social contract as proposed by Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono in
his January monetary policy statement, they say, will not work in a
dictatorship or without public buy-in.

It proposed a freeze on wages and prices as a step towards containing
hyperinflation, blamed as a primer for the economic meltdown.

Economist John Robertson said Gono proposed the social contract under
the illusion that the international community would bring in foreign
currency, fund the contract by purchasing parastatals and be willing to
reschedule the US$4 billion arrears Zimbabwe owes international financiers.

"It adds up to absolutely nothing," Robertson said.

"Fixing salaries will persuade workers to think they are enjoying a
constant standard of living but price freezes will lead to severe shortages.
Manufacturers will simply supply the black market to recoup what they
speculate would be the prices charged for foreign currency on the black
market for their next stock of goods," he said.

Robertson said experience had shown that price controls have a reverse
effect of fuelling higher prices charged by informal market operators when
goods become available.

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions president, Lovemore Matombo, said
government needed to address issues of democracy, respect for all parties,
and accept freedoms that society ought to enjoy for the contract to work.

"It will not work in a dictatorship or a tyranny. It can only work in
a post-conflict situation where there is a shared vision," Matombo told a
meeting organised by Zimbabawe Lawyers for Human Rights on Wednesday.

Matombo said in any arrangement necessary for dialogue, it was not
government alone that was intransigent but employers need to change their
attitudes as well.

"Capital has not changed its attitude. Business's attitude has not
changed and still retains pre-Independence practices which serve its
purposes," Matombo said.

Matombo said lack of respect manifests itself when police intervene in
labour disputes.

A tripartite agreement cobbled together seven years ago under the
auspices of the TNF is gathering dust because employers argue they cannot
link minimum wages to the poverty datum line unless labour guarantees
increased production.

But labour counter-argues that increased production can only be
guaranteed under conditions where there are raw materials, most of which
depend on availability of foreign currency over which they have no control.
Social activist Joy Mabenge of the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and
Development doubted the social contract's success saying the whole programme
was based on coercion without the consent of the contracting partners.

"People are not like robots. They don't behave like robots that can be
programmed to respond to certain instructions immediately."


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MDC challenges Electoral Act

Zim Independent

Lucia Makamure

THE opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) will next week
file a legal challenge to the Electoral Act and the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission Act at the Supreme Court.

Innocent Gonese, the party's secretary for legal affairs, confirmed
the legal challenge yesterday although he said it was too early to go into
detail about it.

Information to hand shows that the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC formation
has sought legal opinion from Obert Gutu of law firm Gutu & Chikowero
Attorneys as they prepare for their court battle.

"We are going to file legal challenge with the Supreme Court in a few
days' time and Obert Gutu, who has been helping us with the legal challenge
draft, will be representing us," Gonese said.

Documents with the Zimbabwe Independent indicate that the MDC will
challenge Section 3 of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Act.

The section states that the chairperson of the commission is to be
directly appointed by the president from a list of seven candidates selected
by a Parliamentary Committee on Standing Rules and Orders.

MDC lawyers will argue that Section 3 of the Act gives too much power
to the president in the appointment of members of the commission. It argues
that the chairperson of the commission should appear before a special
committee of parliament for hearings on his or her suitability for
appointment.

The opposition party also wants other members of the commission to
undergo similar vetting processes "to ensure that the president will not
resort to the use of patronage in the appointments of not only the
chairperson but other members of ZEC also".

The registrar-general's office currently has the responsibility of
compiling the voters' roll and registering of voters.

Gonese said there was lack of transparency and independence as far as
the Electoral Commission was concerned. The party will challenge Section
4(1) (b) of the Act which empowers the registrar-general to compile the
voters' roll. The party will argue that the RG should not be in charge of
the voters' roll since he has nothing to do with elections. The party feels
the task of registering voters and compiling the voters' roll should be done
by the commission.

The party is also concerned with the involvement of the national army
and police in the registration of voters, compilation of voters' roll and
registers, voter education as well as the actual running of elections.

The MDC will argue that from past experience it has seen the
involvement of the army and the police resulting in the intimidation of
voters and in some cases, violence.

It has also made recommendations for the introduction of an
independent audit of elections.

The party will call for the auditing of all election by an independent
firm as was done in South Africa and other countries. It is also wants
representatives of all contesting parties to be present at the command
centre on the day when results are announced.

Nelson Chamisa, the secretary for Information and Publicity, confirmed
the challenge was the party's decision.

"This was a party decision and we shall be filing the papers very soon
but I cannot tell you more details now."


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Slim chance for new constitution by 2008

Zim Independent

Shakeman Mugari

TIME is running out for Zimbabwe's opposition political parties which
are demanding that next year's presidential election be held under a new
constitution to ensure that it is free and fair.

The two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) factions - the major
complainants against the current constitution - are yet to organise
themselves into a force strong enough to pressure the Zanu PF government to
reform the constitution before the 2008 poll.

For its part, government has either deliberately ignored the
persistent calls for constitutional reform or merely dismissed them as not
urgent.

With less than a year to go to the scheduled presidential election,
government has not moved an inch to reform defective electoral laws or
repeal repressive legislation like the Public Order and Security Act which
it has relied on as a tool of repression.

The political environment is still poisoned by the existence of laws
like Posa, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and a
severely emasculated judiciary. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission - the body
which overseas the elections - is embedded with the government both in its
leadership and in its operations.

Analysts say the signs that the election will be disorderly are
already starting to show. Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede told a
parliamentary portfolio a fortnight ago that his office was not ready for
the election next year because of lack of funds.

That means thousands of school leavers who have attained the age of
majority since the 2005 parliamentary election cannot vote because they don't
have national identity cards which are required for voter registration.

The voters' roll is likely to be in tatters by March next year when
the presidential election is due.

Given these negative factors and government's lack of interest in
clearing them, there is fear among opposition parties and observers that
next year's election might not be different from the previous disputed
polls. The last two general elections (2000 and 2005) and the presidential
poll (2002) were marred by violence, allegations of vote-rigging and massive
intimidation. The legitimacy crisis that resulted from those polls has
continued to haunt the country.

The political environment which made it possible for Zanu PF to
achieve the disputed victories still remain, analysts say. In some cases the
situation has worsened.

There are very slim chances that there will be a new constitution by
2008. Leaders from both factions of the MDC believe government is keen to go
ahead with the election under the current constitution because it serves
Zanu PF's cause.

The danger, analysts say, is that another disputed poll will push the
country over the cliff. Welshman Ncube, the secretary-general of the MDC
Arthur Mutambara-faction, said it was futile to hold an election under the
current constitution.

"We believe it is futile to have an election under the current
constitution because the results are a forgone conclusion," Ncube said. "We
need a new constitution. We need to repeal the array of repressive laws that
Zanu PF uses to its advantage if this country is to avoid the disastrous
effects of another disputed election."

The need for a new constitution has become urgent especially in the
wake of government's recent ban on rallies in Harare. Although the official
government explanation is that the ban was a response to the violence that
erupted in Highfield after a banned MDC rally last week, sources said the
decision was made earlier as a preemptive measure against a potential revolt
made imminent by the massive discontent among ordinary people.

But apart from revealing the overwhelming fear, analysts say the bans
show that government is resorting to the same laws which civic groups and
the opposition say should be repealed if elections are to be free and fair.

Tendai Biti, secretary-general of the Morgan Tsvangirai-faction, said
unless pressured it was highly unlikely that government would agree to a new
constitution.

"The current constitution is clearly a useful tool for Zanu PF, that
is why they are hostile to the idea of a new one," Biti said.

He said given its way, government would want to keep its weapons of
political repression and vote-rigging like Posa, Aippa and embedded
electoral bodies.

"This government knows that a new constitution will ensure free and
fair election and Zanu PF cannot stand a chance in such a situation."

Other key aspects requisite for a level political playing field
include allowing foreign observers into the country and lifting of the
blanket of political fear that currently pervades the rural areas.

What is clear though is that Zimbabwe cannot risk holding another
election under the current conditions. But can the opposition get both a
constitution and an election next year?

The MDC factions say they will accept pushing the election to a later
date only if there is an agreed time line for the purpose of having a new
constitution.

"We can push them forward only if it is for the purpose of coming up
with a new constitution," Biti
said.

Ncube said the most important issue at the moment was not an election
but a new constitution which set the ground rules for a free and fair poll.

Perhaps the biggest challenge faced by the oppositions and civic
organisations is how they will get the reluctant government to even start
discussing a new constitution. National Constitutional Assembly chairman
Lovemore Madhuku said all civic groups and opposition parties should brace
themselves for a fight to force government to accept a new constitution.

"It depends on the pressure that we mount now, otherwise this
government will not give in to our demands easily," Madhuku said.

He said there were already constitutional drafts that had been worked
on that just needed fine-tuning and broader consultation with the people.
"Most of the groundwork has been done. What is needed is for government to
get involved so that the process moves ahead," he said.


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Mujuru has destroyed own succession bid - Mugabe

Zim Independent

Dumisani Muleya

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has upped the ante in his succession battle by
intensifying attacks on Vice-President Joice Mujuru in Gweru last weekend,
saying she has wrecked her chances of taking over from him.

Zanu PF sources said Mugabe on Saturday raised the succession stakes
after telling senior party leaders in the Midlands that Mujuru had ruined
her prospects by associating herself with a dirty campaign to denigrate and
stampede him out of power.

The sources said Mugabe told senior party leaders, who included
politburo, central committee and provincial executive members, ahead of
birthday celebrations at Mkoba stadium, the Mujuru faction was trying to
damage his reputation and force him out by all sorts of means, including
biographies.

Mujuru's rival, Emmerson Mnangagwa, was present at the briefing, but
she was absent as it was officially claimed she was preparing for exams,
while her husband arrived late for the celebrations. The Mujuru bloc is said
to be furious over Mugabe's remarks.

Mugabe has accused former Zanu PF secretary-general Edgar Tekere and
prominent publisher Ibbo Mandaza, of trying to use Tekere's controversial
autobiography, Tekere - A Lifetime of Struggle, to undermine him while in
the process promoting Mujuru's presidential bid. He has also said Mujuru and
her allies have "lost the plot" by trying to gain power through such
politics of intrigue.

Mugabe seems to have been angered by the Mujuru group's move to thwart
his 2010 election bid - now almost dead in the water -- and Tekere's attack
on his liberation struggle credentials. The state media is trying hard to
identify some silver lining to Mugabe's disastrous legacy. Furthermore, the
president apparently resents growing internal pressure, largely from Mujuru's
camp, for him to quit now or in March 2008.

Mugabe's indignation at the Mujuru camp is likely to pour fuel on the
succession fires threatening to engulf the ruling party. The president has
publicly admitted deep divisions in Zanu PF and warned his party would
almost certainly disintegrate were he to leave now.

Analysts say this is a realistic assessment of the state of the party
because Zanu PF could indeed break up along regional and ethnic fault lines
after Mugabe. His remarks are also of course self-serving.

The weekend attack on Mujuru in Gweru followed Mugabe's assault on her
last week in his birthday broadcast interview heavily censored by ZBC
managers and state information gatekeepers who feared it would fuel Zanu PF
infighting. They have been proved right.

The ruling party has two main factions, one led by retired army
commander General Solomon Mujuru and the other by senior party official
Mnangagwa, engaged in a power struggle over Mugabe's job.

Mujuru, Mnangagwa and Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono are widely
seen as the frontrunners.

Observers say Mugabe is keeping Zanu PF factions at each other's
throats- a divide-and-rule strategy - to hang onto power.

But sources said the Mnangagwa faction was thrilled by Mugabe's
weekend attack on Mujuru which appeared to signal renewed confidence in them
and reopened a window of opportunity for their leader who has suffered a
series of defeats in the party and in general elections since 1999.

Sources said the Mnangagwa camp has held several meetings to assess
the impact of Mugabe's remarks on the succession debate.

The Mujuru faction was said to have been shocked by Mugabe's latest
outburst. They viewed the remarks, sources said, as a brutal kick in the
teeth by the leader who openly backed their candidate in the run-up to the
party's 2004 congress.

Although Mnangagwa had the support of the majority of provinces in
2004, he was defeated by Mujuru after Mugabe intervened on her side in the
wake of the Tsholotsho incident. The Mnangagwa faction was accused of
plotting to oust Mugabe after hosting a politically-charged prize-giving
ceremony in Tsholotsho.

However, things now appear to have changed dramatically. Mugabe seems
to have turned against Mujuru and is firing at will on their faction. His
edited statements last week suggest a new succession plan might be on the
table. As if to validate his claims of a plot to force him out, Zanu PF
supporters were spotted at his birthday on Saturday displaying intriguing
posters, one which read: "Succession politics, not ouster politics please!"

Despite mounting political pressure, the Mujuru faction has vowed to
fight back with a vengeance. Senior leaders of the camp said this week they
would work to recover lost ground. "We are going to fight back, no doubt
about it, make no mistake," one leading faction member said. "The battle is
on and it's far from over."

While the Mnangagwa group has lost a number of senior members who felt
betrayed by their leader during the Tsholotsho saga, the Mujuru camp has
also of late suffered a series of setbacks. Apart from Mugabe's damaging
remarks about them, the faction's strategic member in government, former
Finance minister Herbert Murerwa was recently fired from cabinet. In fact,
the cabinet reshuffle in a number of ways weakened the Mujuru camp.

The removal of deputy Finance minister David Chapfika and his
subsequent posting to Agriculture, for instance, left Treasury in the hands
of Mujuru's rivals: Mnangagwa and Gono. New Finance minister Samuel
Mumbengegwi is well-disposed towards Mnangagwa's camp, although he is more
of a Mugabe loyalist.

Prior to all this, late last year former Agriculture permanent
secretary Simon Pazvakavambwa, a staunch Mujuru ally, was booted out for
insulting Gono.

Although Mnangagwa's faction did not benefit anything directly from
this, the events represented setbacks for the Mujuru camp which had until
last year seemed to be on an unstoppable march towards State House.

With the Mnangagwa faction heading towards recovery from the 2004
defeat, the explosive Zanu PF succession race is still on and wide open.


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No SDF accounts in 15 years

Zim Independent

Augustine Mukaro

THE Social Dimensions Fund (SDF) meant to provide safety nets for
vulnerable members of society is a shambles as the Ministry of Public
Service, Labour and Social Welfare has failed to account for money injected
into the fund since 1991.

The Comptroller and Auditor-General's report to the Public Accounts
Portfolio Committee says the ministry has never produced accounts for the
SDF funds from its inception.

The SDF fund was established in 1991 through a constitutional
amendment to provide safety nets and retraining for employees retrenched
during the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme.

Information to hand shows that the World Bank and the United Nations
Population Fund, initially the principal donors for the fund, terminated
their support in 2000 citing lack of accountability and government's failure
to repay loans.

More than $430 million was sunk into the fund to finance mitigating
projects and programmes.

However, ministry officials fleeced the fund, ignoring the minister's
directive to stop any disbursements until discussions with the Finance
ministry on the issue were concluded.

"The Comptroller and Auditor-General informed the committee that due
to absence of records an amount of $48 853 863 expended on schools and
examination fees in 1998 could not be substantiated," the committee
presentation said.

Documents also show that SDF director Godfrey Mhishi pocketed $2
million purportedly for fuel reimbursement, while the fund paid out $1,6
billion to an unnamed payee in August 2006.

"The committee is concerned about the manner in which the SDF has been
administered. Since 1999 no accounts have been submitted to the Comptroller
and Auditor-General for audit for seven years," the report said.

Giving evidence to the Public Accounts Portfolio committee last week,
Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister Nicholas Goche said he
gave a directive in December 2005 that no further disbursements should be
made from the fund until his discussions with the Ministry of Finance were
concluded.

But information before the committee indicated that money was moving
in and out of the account as late as October 2006.

Sources in the committee said Goche promised to investigate all the
transactions that took place after the ban and to deal with the involved
people.

The sources said Goche told the committee that the SDF last held a
board meeting in 2001 and since his coming into office in 2005, he had not
called a board meeting.

The source said Goche was planning to transfer the fund to the
Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises and had since held discussions with
Minister Sthembiso Nyoni on the issue.

Documents to hand show that the SDF was investing some of the money it
received as grants and loans on the money market. The fund lost substantial
amounts of money when the ENG was closed in 2004.

"Since not all resources can be used immediately, SDF sought and was
given authority by treasury to invest monies that would not be for immediate
use," reads a report to the portfolio committee dated February 14 this year.



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Govt takes Zim back: EU envoy

Zim Independent

GOVERNMENT is dragging the country into the past through its policies
at a time when the African continent is full of success stories, a top
European Union (EU) envoy has charged.

British ambassador to Zimbabwe, Andrew Pocock, said in a recent
in-house embassy publication, Britain and Zimbabwe, that the nation's life
expectancy had dropped to levels reminiscent of Britain's industrial
revolution in the 18th century.

"Although progress has been slower in Africa, there is no shortage of
success stories across the continent, sadly, not here in Zimbabwe," said
Pocock.

"Here, the trend is the opposite. From a position of relative
prosperity, and infrastructural, educational, health and agricultural
achievement, Zimbabwe is accelerating into the past as a matter of
government policy.

"In statistical terms, as it heads back to pre-modern levels, life
expectancy in Zimbabwe has fallen by one year for every year since 1980."

Pocock said the sad truth about worsening poverty and lack of progress
towards the millennium development goals were problems mainly limited to the
few countries which continue to live under either conflict or gross
misgovernment.

He said the way forward was for governments to embrace a market
economy and to respect property rights.

"Policies which do not encourage investment actively destroy it,"
Pocock said. "Global capital will not be courted by policies which erode
value," he said.

The British ambassador said Zimbabwe's economic recession had nothing
to do with the so-called regime change agenda or illusionary economic
sanctions, which President Mugabe has blamed for ruining economic turnaround
efforts by his administration.

"This has nothing to do with alleged plots against Zimbabwean
sovereignty or non-existent economic sanctions. Denying the law of gravity
will not stop you falling off a cliff. Why should denying economic laws be
different?"

Pocock said Zimbabwe was not a victim of international malevolence as
it had received over 500 million from Britain since Independence. He said
humanitarian assistance should not be necessary but government was denying
itself and its people the benefits of development and partnership. - Staff
Writer.


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Madzongwe gets US visa but . . .

Zim Independent

Itai Mushekwe

THE United States this week issued Senate President Edna Madzongwe
with a visa to attend the third annual meeting of Women Speakers of
Parliament at the United Nations headquarters in New York, which began
yesterday and ends today.

The visa contains a 25-mile radius restriction.

Madzongwe is on the US sanctions list which prohibits her from
travelling to that country. Under the UN headquarters agreement, the US
government is obliged to issue visas for official travel to the UN even
though a visa holder is blacklisted under its sanctions regime. However,
they are prohibited from venturing beyond the stipulated radius.

Madzongwe is attending the meeting together with opposition legislator
for Makokoba, Thokozani Khupe, but unlike Khupe, Madzongwe will be confined
to New York City and environs.

If she violates the restriction she can be deported.

"I can confirm to you that the president of the senate was issued with
a visitor's visa with a 25-mile radius restriction. This means she cannot
travel beyond this area," said a US embassy official in Harare.

The meeting, running under the theme "The Role of women speakers of
parliament in protecting and empowering the girl child - the next
generation", is organised by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).

It coincides with the 51st session of the Commission on the Status of
Women that is taking place at the same venue. The UNDP Thematic Democratic
Governance Trust Fund financed the trip. Women and children were among the
estimated 700 000 people who lost their homes and livelihoods under the
government's Operation Murambatsvina in 2005.


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New TV station for Zim

Zim Independent

Itai Mushekwe

THE television monopoly of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings could
soon end following an announcement by a new pan-African satellite television
station GTV that it intends to set up shop in Zimbabwe by mid-year.

The television channel, a subsidiary of South Africa-based Gateway
Communications, said it was going to roll out its services to people who
have been unable to afford satellite subscription services, thus being
limited to national free-to-air television channels.

Apart from Zimbabwe, GTV is also set to penetrate other African
markets, which include Malawi, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.

The revelation comes at a time when government has maintained solid
gatekeeping of the broadcasting sector. It has maintained the loss-making
ZBC's monopoly through the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA).

The law was crafted under the stewardship of former Information
minister, Jonathan Moyo.

The legislation set up a statutory broadcasting regulatory body, the
Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ), which is tasked with issuing
licences.

Newly appointed Information minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu on Wednesday
appeared determined to see a new broadcaster coming into the arena.

He told the Zimbabwe Independent in an interview that government had
liberalised the airwaves and had no problems with new stations setting up
shop as long as they met the broadcasting legislative requirements of the
country.

"There is no policy shift here," said Ndlovu.

"Government has already liberalised the broadcasting and
telecommunications sectors. If they qualify they will operate and once the
Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe approves them it is fine they can
operate.

"We can't have a situation whereby any Tom and Jack are allowed to
broadcast without qualifying for a licence."

Ndlovu said he was working for reconciliation between the government
and media as the current hostility was not in the best interests of the
nation.

"I'm trying to build bridges so that the government and media can work
together. There's no need for confrontation. I have just gone into the
ministry so I'm still operating on existing policy."

In a statement released last week, Gateway Communications president,
Julian McIntyre said GTV would provide a unique bouquet of international and
local entertainment content at a competitive subscription rate.


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Dollar takes heavy knock on black market

Zim Independent

Dumisani Ndlela

ZIMBABWE'S vulnerable currency was this week battling to find a bottom
on the parallel foreign currency market which last week broke open on
unprecedented demand for hard currency and concerns the central bank was
losing its battle against swelling inflation.

Inflation surged to an all-time high of 1 593,6% year-on-year in
January and is expected to breach 1 700% in February on the back of
unprecedented price hikes stoked by commodity prices trailing at the
parallel market rate.

Dealers said demand for foreign currency was profound on renewed
uncertainty over Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono's next policy action
after his proposals for a social contract went up in smoke due to sustained
resistance from President Robert Mugabe's cabinet and key stakeholders.

Market watchers said the introduction of a $50 000 bearer cheque by
Gono this week had sparked fears monetary authorities had given up faith in
their campaign to defend the beleaguered currency.

The embattled local unit touched $7 500 to the greenback after
plunging to $6 600 to the US dollar last week, from a rate of nearly $5 000
in January.

It plumbed fresh depths again this week against the British pound,
moving from around $11 000 a pound sterling to $15 000. The British pound
rate had been at $7 000 in January.

The local unit was yesterday trading at $1 100 against the South
African rand, from $880 reached last week. The feeble Zimbabwe dollar opened
the year trading at $350 per rand and had plummeted to $600 to the rand in
January.

It had opened the year trading at $3 000 and $5 000 to the greenback
and British pound respectively.

Zimbabwe is currently battling an acute foreign currency shortage that
has stoked severe fuel shortages and disrupted normal economic activities.

Gono in January refused to devalue the local unit, saying devaluation
was unlikely to result in "planeloads" of foreign currency into the country.
Eight devaluations since he assumed office had failed to give any spark to
the distressed foreign currency market, he said.

Gono last devalued the local currency on the official interbank market
to $250 against the greenback in July, from $101 to the US unit.

Inflows on the formal market have been dismally low as a result of the
unrealistic exchange rate.

Independent economists project Zimbabwe's embattled currency's fair
value to end the year at a rate of $16 588,73 to the US dollar on the back
of surging inflation expected to breach 5 000% year-on-year this year.

The fair value is the realistic value of the currency taking into
account inflation differentials between Zimbabwe and its trading partner
countries.

It is not necessarily the official exchange rate.

The parallel market rate could reach over $20 000 to the US unit on
the parallel market this year.

The parallel foreign currency market has been declared illegal and
several companies and individuals have in the past two years been hauled
before the courts for trading foreign currency on the unofficial market.

However, it has continued to flourish despite outrage from government
and the central bank governor.



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Banks prepare for rate hike

Zim Independent

ZIMBABWE'S major banks were this week reportedly reviewing their
portfolios on fears of a rate hike by the central bank after its proposed
social contract failed to take off yesterday.

Market sources said most banks had detected increased default risk on
bank borrowings and were moving to curtail losses on their books on any rate
hike.

"We're stress testing all our facilities at higher interest rates," a
bank analyst told businessdigest.

Market sources said the failure of the proposed social contract had
raised the spectre of a rate hike by Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono,
expected to take radical policy measures this week to rescue his score card,
marred by surging inflation which touched an all-time high of 1 593,6%
year-on-year for January and is expected to soar to fresh highs on February
figures.Gono kept interest rates unchanged when he presented his monetary
policy statement on January 31, maintaining the key accommodation rates for
secured and unsecured lending to banks at 500% and 600% respectively, but
indicated that the central bank's interest rate policy would be guided by
inflation developments and outlook.

Although government projected inflation to decline to 350% by
year-end, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected an average
inflation rate of 4 278,8% this year.

A bank economist said there was a very high default risk across all
sectors of the economy because of adverse macroeconomic conditions.

A rate hike was likely to push bankers into "selective lending on
targeted sectors", he said, warning that most economic sub sectors would
remain depressed this year and probably push most banks
away from their core lending business.

"We're likely to see a review of interest rates this month," a dealer
said yesterday. "This will probably be done during the course of open market
operations by the central bank as indicated by Gono in January," the dealer
said.

Zimbabwe's economy has incurred a cumulative 40% decline in gross
domestic product (GDP) since 1999.

Government projects the economy to grow marginally by between 0,5% and
1% this year, but independent analysts project negative growth of between
3,5% and 5,5%.

It is likely that Gono will unveil a raft of other measures as he
battles to improve his score card, dented by soaring inflation.

In his monetary policy statement, Gono said experience had "amply
demonstrated that singular application of traditional monetary policy tools,
such as interest rates, in the absence of concerted, holistic, well
sequenced policy packages will only serve to throw the productive sectors
deeper into stagnation - low capacity utilisation co-existing with high
inflation. - Staff Writer.


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Market hikes prices ahead of social contract

Zim Independent

Paul Nyakazeya

ZIMBABWE has witnessed a spate of unprecedented price increases for
most goods and services after the proposed social contract by Reserve Bank
Governor Gideon Gono in his latest monetary policy presented on January 31.

Many retailers defended the increases, saying they were doing so to
cushion their businesses against losses should government freeze price
increases under a social contract which was expected to be in place
yesterday.

Gono said the price freeze would run from March 1 to June 30 "after
which social partners will renew the need for mutually agreed realignments".

Captains of industry told businessdigest negotiations for the
formulation of the social contract had not yet started and that price
increases made out of feared losses arising from the proposed price freeze
were not justified.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president, Callisto
Jokonya, said negotiations for a social contract had not yet started.

"No price freeze would be effective on the said date. There is no
formulation for the social contract as negotiations are yet to start,"
Jokonya said.

"The proposed price freeze is part of a holistic package of measures
to be agreed upon by all stakeholders and not an isolated factor," said
Jokonya.

On what CZI was doing to educate members raising prices weekly,
Jokonya said while the organisation did not condone the culture of price
increases, shortages of foreign currency and rising operational costs had
negatively impacted on industrial viability.

A price survey conducted by businessdigest last week showed basic
commodities prices had gone up by an average of 300% since January.

Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) president, Marah
Hativagone, said the proposed price freeze had induced speculative
tendencies in the country resulting in prices being unreasonably adjusted
upwards.

"Consideration of various protocols are underway and the basis for the
social contract will be the Kadoma Declaration of 2001," Hativagone said.

Consumer Council of Zimbabwe chairman, Philip Bvumbe alleged
speculative tendencies by the business community, maintaining that such
conduct was likely to become common if government failed to establishment
the Prices and Incomes Commission.

"Certainly, we are worried by businesses that are only out to
profiteer in an environment where consumers' disposable incomes have
severely been eroded by steep inflation," Bvumbe said.

Bvumbe said if the business community continued to hike prices
arbitrarily, the country was likely to plunge into anarchy.

Bvumbe said the country needed to establish the Prices Commission
quickly, but said their plea with legislators had "fallen on deaf ears".

"As the CCZ, we have no statutory powers to bring realistic pricing
models into the market, and, obviously, there is no way we can compel
businesses to reduce their prices. What we can only do is to advocate fair
pricing, which in this instance would not help anyone. Effectively, this
means consumers are left at the mercy of retailers and producers," Bvumbe
said.


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Zim unlikely to yield deals from OECS visit

Zim Independent

Shame Makoshori

A VISIT by members of the Organisation of Eastern and Caribbean States
(OECS) this week is unlikely to result in deals, a delegation member told
businessdigest, indicating that a comprehensive study of the country's
economic policies was likely to determine any investment decisions by the
islanders.

Martin Lawrence, a member of the delegation which was hosted by the
Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group, Business Network International and the
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, said the visit was "an information gathering
exercise". Members of the delegation were expected to make reports to their
respective principals before any investments decisions were taken.

"There are several factors that we will explore before we make a
decision on which areas to invest in," Laurence told local business
executives at a meeting in Harare.

Lawrence said: "As foreign investors we will be looking at certain
guidelines. For instance if an investor has the capacity to invest 75% into
a project but the laws restrict him to 25%, he might not be willing to
invest."

He said the delegation, consisting of businessmen from the islands of
St Kitts & Nevis and Antigua, would thoroughly study the country's
investment policies before embarking any investments in the troubled
southern African country, currently facing its worst economic crisis in
history.

The country's policies would also determine the quantum of capital
companies from the Caribbean would inject into the investment-sapped country
as well as the tenure of investment for any planned projects.

Indications were that the failure to repatriate profits by foreign
investors was likely to bother the OECS members, and probably scuttle any
prospects of definite investment commitments, a delegation member indicated.

Laurence also expressed concern over the restive mood among
Zimbabweans, saying this made the country a high risk investment
destination.

"We will also go to the streets to observe the ordinary people and see
if they are happy because if we are sitting here we only get to hear the
views of business executives," Lawrence said.

Zimbabwe is currently grappling hyperinflation and acute foreign
currency shortages that have disrupted the normal functioning of all
economic activities in the country.

Productivity is at its lowest level since independence in 1980, and
this has triggered economy-wide shortages of basic food commodities that
have led to social discontent which government has battled to contain
through heavy handed intervention by state security agencies.

The inflation rate is currently at a record high of 1 593,6%
year-on-year, and independent forecasts for the year-end inflation rate are
at between 4 000% and 5 000%.

Government projects inflation to end the year at a rate of between
350% and 400%.

The economic woes have triggered a host of problems for the business
community, battling crippling cash flow problems due to weekly escalation of
prices. Led by the ABI Group of companies, a multi-sectoral concern with
investment tentacles spanning the financial services sector, property,
tourism, insurance and others, the Caribbean delegation indicated particular
interest in the mining, manufacturing and agricultural sectors.

A raft of pending laws earmarked to force foreign-owned companies to
cede significant stakes to indigenous business people have scared foreign
investors away from the country.

UN statistics indicate that foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows
into Zimbabwe dropped from US$26 million in 2002 to US$9 million in 2004 as
a result of the deteriorating investment climate.

Reserve Bank governor last month indicated that the pending laws had
created anxiety in the business community and should be legislated quickly
so that investors became clear about government intentions regarding black
economic empowerment.



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IMF board calls on Zim to pay US$129 million

Zim Independent

Dumisani Ndlela

THE International Monetary Fund (IMF) executive made no decision on
the contentious issue of restoring Zimbabwe's voting and related rights, but
"expressed deep concern over the deteriorating economic and social
conditions" in the country and called for payment of outstanding arrears.

The call is likely to intensify pressure on the foreign-currency
strapped country to repay its debts to the Bretton Woods institution after
surviving membership expulsion in February last year by paying outstanding
arrears to the IMF's General Resources Account (GRA).

Zimbabwe had hoped the IMF would move to restore its membership rights
after payment of arrears to the GRA but was stunned after a March executive
board meeting voted to retain the suspension of the country's voting rights
as well as rights to IMF resources.

This had soured relations between the IMF and President Robert Mugabe's
regime, which subsequently blocked a planned annual Article IV Consultation
visit by an IMF team, insisting its membership with the Bretton Woods
institution was only nominal because of the absence of membership rights.

Article IV Consultations are carried out on all IMF members annually.

An IMF mission had finally been allowed into the country in December
following a visit by the IMF executive director for Africa, Peter Gakunu,
who had sought a high-level meeting with President Robert Mugabe to discuss
Zimbabwe's frosty relations with the IMF.

The issue of Zimbabwe's membership rights is understood to have been
discussed at that meeting, whose details have not been made public.

The IMF executive board met last Friday to consider issues related to
Zimbabwe's outstanding arrears to the Poverty Reduction and Growth
Facility-Exogenous Shocks Facility (PRGF-ESF) Trust.

The Board also considered the sanctions, including the suspension of
voting and related rights that had been imposed on Zimbabwe with respect to
its arrears to the IMF's GRA, which were settled in full in February 2006.

"With respect to the suspension of Zimbabwe's voting and related
rights, the Board made no decision and agreed to return to the issue at a
later date," a statement issued soon after the meeting said.

"With regard to Zimbabwe's outstanding arrears to the PRGF-ESF Trust,
the board expressed deep concern over the deteriorating economic and social
conditions and regretted that the authorities have not undertaken the
policies recommended by the IMF. The board also noted that Zimbabwe's
payments towards settlement of its PRGF-ESF arrears have been minimal and
that its arrears to the Trust have further increased," the IMF statement
said.

The board urged Zimbabwean authorities "to decisively address the
ongoing economic crisis by immediately implementing a comprehensive
stabilisation package comprising several mutually reinforcing actions
centered on fiscal tightening (including transferring the quasi-fiscal
activities carried out by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to the budget) and
price and exchange regime liberalisation".

It also called for fundamental structural reforms, including public
enterprise and civil service reforms, strengthened property rights and
improvements in governance.

"In light of Zimbabwe's deteriorating policy performance and payments
to the IMF, the board kept in place the decisions previously taken to
address Zimbabwe's arrears to the PRGF-ESF Trust - the declaration of
noncooperation, the suspension of technical assistance, and the removal of
Zimbabwe from the list of PRGF-ESF-eligible countries. The board urged
Zimbabwe to resolve its remaining arrears to the PRGF-ESF Trust promptly,
and agreed that it will again consider Zimbabwe's arrears to the Trust in
six months", the IMF said in a statement.

Zimbabwe would have required a 70% weighted vote of the IMF xecutive
board to restore its voting rights and eligibility to use resources of the
Fund because it took a similar vote margin to suspend the country's voting
and related rights with the IMF.

This is in line with various amendments in the Articles of Agreement
between the IMF and its members.

Zimbabwe cleared its overdue financial obligations to the IMF's GRA in
February last year, but still remained with substantial arrears amounting to
US$119 million under the PRGF-ESF Trust.

The figure has since ballooned to US$129 million.

While the clearance of its arrears under the GRA facility removed the
basis for Zimbabwe's compulsory withdrawal from the fund, the country
remained suspended from exercising its voting rights and rights to IMF
resources as a member of the Bretton Woods institution.

The IMF board had declared in September 2001 that Zimbabwe was
ineligible to use the general resources of the IMF, and removed the country
from the list of countries eligible to borrow resources under the PRGF.

The IMF board noted: "Zimbabwe has been in continuous arrears to the
IMF since February 2001 and is the only case of protracted arrears to the
PRGF-ESF Trust, which currently amount to SDR 86 million (about US$129
million)."


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Shortage looms as wheat farmers miss targets

Zim Independent

Pindai Dube

WHEAT farmers have failed to meet production targets for the current
season, a situation likely to force the country to import the product to
curtail acute bread shortages.

The Grain Marketing Board (GMB) said farmers only managed to produce
150 000 metric tonnes for the 2006/07 season against a target of 220 000
metric tones. GMB acting chief executive officer Colonel Samuel Muvuti said
farmers failed to meet wheat production targets because of power outages,
fuel shortages and lack of equipment.

"Its true the wheat farmers failed to meet the targeted wheat
production target of 220 000 tonnes for the 2000/07 season due to serious
electricity outages and lack of equipments like combine harvesters," said
Muvuti.

He added: "In fact, I have to state that all the inputs were not
available leading the farmers producing only 150 000 tonnes which is not
enough to sustain the bakery industry."

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president, Wilson Nyabonda, said the
failure to meet target was mainly attributed to power outages and late
delivery of inputs. "The failure by wheat farmers was mainly attributed to
power outages and late delivery of farming inputs therefore there were low
yields," said Nyabonda.


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Is Mugabe protecting crooks?

Zim Independent

Vincent Kahiya

THE message coming out of government and the police on the fight
against corruption is not only convoluted but also betrays a bureaucratic
reluctance to deal with the problem.

Official pronouncements on the strategy to fight corruption and what
form it should take have left various state bodies paralysed.

The Anti-Corruption Commission and the police both appear too
constipated to act. The highest political office however has the laxative
which it is reluctant to administer.

This week, the government announced that it was carrying out a
baseline survey to determine the level of corruption in the country. The
very act of carrying out the survey reveals a government that is seeking
confirmation of a phenomenon that it is already aware of. At a training
workshop for reporters covering corruption two years ago, a senior official
in the Anti-Corruption ministry, Patrick Machaya, announced government's
intention to come up with a baseline study of corruption in Zimbabwe.

He said government wanted its own study to debunk the myth that had
been created by international anti-corruption bodies like Transparency
International, which ranked Zimbabwe among the most corrupt countries in the
world. That is fact and does not require an expensive study.

It is undeniable that corruption has become a problem in Zimbabwe
without necessarily trying to compare it with trends in the region. The fact
that Zimbabwe championed the authoring of the Sadc Anti-Corruption Protocol,
has a ministry dedicated to fighting the scourge and that the executive --
at the highest level - is aware of the problem should have given the country
a foot in the door in fighting graft.

This has not happened and in fact, government in its perennial
confusionist mode, at first adopted a hostile demeanour when responding to
those who accused senior politicians of corruption. This was unhelpful and
formed a bulwark against any attempts to cleanse the country of the blight.

This stance has of late been dropped to usher in a new phase where
President Mugabe has openly admitted that there is corruption among his
closest comrades. And suddenly the whole leadership of the party - perchance
including those corrupt to the core - has picked up the presidential hymn
sheet and are singing in unison.

In his recent televised birthday interview, President Mugabe spoke
about corruption in his party as if the officials were up for felonious
Oscars. The disappointing anti-climax to his mini-plot was failure to name
names.

As said earlier, President Mugabe's officials tend to ape their leader
with exacting precision. They have also spoken about corruption but are
afraid of naming names. Industry minister Obert Mpofu - currently on trial
before parliament on allegations of lying under oath - told parliament late
last year that fellow ministers and MPs had looted the bedraggled
Ziscosteel. He later tried to withdraw the statement and is now in trouble
for it.

Anti-Corruption minister Paul Mangwana last year promised to bring to
book corrupt leaders but nothing has come to pass. Instead, he disappointed
the nation again when he attempted to defend those we named as having
benefited from the rot at Zisco.

He said there was nothing wrong with Zisco paying airfares for
ministers or even donating money to Zanu PF and financing Vice President
Joice Mujuru's bash. This was all the more shocking coming from a minister
entrusted with fighting corruption.

Deputy police commissioner Godwin Matanga last month said he had names
of corrupt government officials involved in gold smuggling. He did not
provide names. A Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe official Mirirai Chiremba was also
disappointing when he evicted journalists from a parliamentary committee
meeting where he was set to give evidence on illegalities in gold mining
because he was going to name names. Committee member Tsitsi Muzenda came out
of the meeting to say that Chiremba had not provided any names. She knew
exactly what she was doing.

Then at the weekend police commissioner Augustine Chihuri weighed in
with his contribution to the maze of confusion. He almost accused members of
the public of not coming forward with names. He said police needed tangible
evidence before arresting anyone.

This is the same commissioner whose police arrested bankers on the
flimsiest of evidence three years ago. The same government and police who,
with the backing of the central bank, worked overtime to prove that errant
bankers were responsible for the collapse of the economy. They even enacted
a law to allow police to detain suspects for 21 days without taking them to
court to facilitate investigation.

The same level of enthusiasm has been missing when dealing with the
corruption in diamond and gold mining, and the stripping of state assets at
Ziscosteel. The reason for this lethargy is obvious.

The Zanu PF camaraderie is at play here. The government's vigour has
been diluted even though RBZ governor Gideon Gono says the country is losing
over US$40 million weekly from illegal smuggling of precious metals. This
should have spurred the government to act but instead, there are now
ready-made excuses for not arresting culprits - there is scant evidence,
investigations are in progress, revealing names will destabilise the
country, etc.

The catch is no one in government will name names as long as the
president speaks about corruption in riddles. His charges are looking for
his green light to work, which is the tragedy of our time.

When bankers were accused of plotting to bring down this economy, the
president was very liberal with names of the perceived culprits and all arms
of government followed suit in condemnation.

Going forward, the onus is on President Mugabe to demonstrate that he
is committed to the fight by not only naming the culprits and ensuring they
are prosecuted but by also removing them from government. That he has kept
in his government politicians whom he says have avariciously accumulated
wealth, reduces the fight to a circus.

The only reason he can continue keeping the gold and diamond smugglers
in his government is because he feels that they are serving a useful
purpose - to continue to steal from the nation of course. The president is
now using the false anti-corruption crusade to try and cleanse his image by
heaping the blame on supposed errant lieutenants. He is part of the problem
and cannot run away from it.

Worse still, what is the value to the nation of President Mugabe
giving hints to the criminals by saying he is aware of the individuals
involved in illegalities? By doing so, is he not giving them a head-start
against law enforcers?

In the meantime, the culprits are busy laundering their ill-gotten
wealth or "regularising" their act. One day the thieves will be brought to
book but there will be very little evidence to support prosecution. The
felons will walk scot-free largely because of bureaucracy wrought by Zanu PF
comradeship. Who is protecting the crooks here?


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Rally ban a fatal govt assault on social contract

Zim Independent

Augustine Mukaro

THE ban on political rallies and a crackdown on opposition and civic
groups in the past fortnight could spark a wave of civil disobedience as
people seek to express themselves.

Observers have warned that the government crackdown could scuttle the
proposed social contract involving government, labour and employers.

Government last week invoked the Public Order and Security Act (Posa)
to ban all political rallies and public activities for three months as it
seeks to paralyse growing discontent among hard-pressed Zimbabweans reeling
under severe economic hardships.

The ban, which first targeted Mbare and Harare South before it was
extended to the rest of the city, belies government's fears of potential
disturbances.

A spate of strikes which kicked off with an unresolved doctors' strike
in December last year and further rumblings from disgruntled army, police
and civil servants over eroding incomes have connived to cause panic in
government circles.

Observers said the prohibition of political gatherings was decided
upon by the Joint Operations Command, a forum for army, police and
intelligence commanders where security matters are discussed.

Their current priority is to avert a national revolt. The decision was
taken two weeks ago before disturbances erupted in Harare following a
cancelled MDC rally at Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield.

Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi said the decision was taken due to
the " volatile situation prevailing in the country".

Police have attributed the ban to lack of manpower to provide security
at rallies.

Given the fact that the minister has no right to issue blanket bans,
the opposition took identical decisions to defy the illegal banning of their
meetings, whilst launching challenges against the ban in the High Court.

Political commentators have read the government's action as a clear
statement that it will not tolerate political dissent. They say the ban on
political activities effectively puts Zimbabwe "under a state of emergency -
to maintain the state of affairs".

Otto Saki of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said the
development reminded those who lived in the colonial era that repression was
not confined to the white man.

"By arbitrarily banning peaceful political protest and rallies,
government has for all practical purposes declared a state of emergency,"
Saki said.

"If you leave people no room to express themselves, the only option
would be for them to explode. The bans have taken away the lawful means of
expression which could lead the country to degenerate into a lawless
jungle."

Saki said government was deliberately violating the rule of law, which
it is obliged to guarantee, making people lose confidence in the law
enforcement agents.

"The custodians of the law are openly violating it through defying
court orders," Saki said.

"A case in point is Morgan Tsvangirai's aborted Zimbabwe Grounds
rally. Chief Superintendent Todd Jangara had in court on the eve of the
rally agreed that his charges would not interfere but proceeded to do the
opposite the next day."

Saki said government's behaviour would push people into defiance
campaigns, seeking to assert their rights without even applying for
clearance.

Political analyst John Makumbe said this was the action of a desperate
government, nervous that there could be an uprising by an increasingly
impoverished people.

"The government is not afraid of civic groups or political parties,"
Makumbe, a political science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, said.

"They are afraid of the disenchantment within the army, the civil
service and the ordinary person frustrated by the current hardships. This is
a preemptive strategy to deal with a potential uprising instigated by these
groups, which have hitherto been backing them."

He said people would not be deterred from their struggle for freedom
to express themselves.

Makumbe was quick to point out that the development had dealt a severe
blow to government's social contract initiative before it comes on stream.

"You do not antagonise groups that you would need to participate in
your project because that defeats the whole purpose of dialogue and shoots
the plan down," he said.

"You do not arrest business people, beat up opposition leaders and
civic groups and then expect to call the same people to the negotiating
table."

Tsvangirai in his address to diplomats last week spoke of a rebellious
mood, which has a potential of bursting into spontaneous street protest.

He said people were being pushed physically by the state apparatus of
repression, while their material well-being was daily eroded by the
deteriorating economy.

"There is now a clear mood of rebellion among Zimbabweans," Tsvangirai
told diplomats. "There is now open defiance of violent autocratic authority
and people have now reached the limits of their suffering and are no longer
prepared to suffer silently."

Tsvangirai spokesman Nelson Chamisa said the arrests and the banning
of public meetings and demonstrations are the last gasps of the regime.

"We shall remain resolute in our quest to achieve our vision of a new
Zimbabwe. These terror tactics are just the terminal signs of a tyranny in
its last days, Chamisa said.

"This government is now in panic mode. The regime is afraid of its own
people who are now peacefully expressing their discontent in large numbers
throughout the country."

Chamisa said the MDC believed that no amount of harassment would
dampen the spirit of change that has gripped the nation.

Intimidation and autocratic antics will not, he added, stand between
the people and their vision for a new Zimbabwe.

He said repressive measures being put in place by the government would
only strengthen the people's resolve to fight tyranny and to help shape a
new Zimbabwe of democracy, freedom and prosperity.

"The regime's barbaric terror tactics will not in any way postpone the
inevitable demise of dictatorship. We shall not be intimidated," Chamisa
said.


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Blair should have sent army to Zim

Zim Independent

By Max Hastings

IF Tony Blair had wanted to sponsor a military adventure that would
have played brilliantly with the British middle class, instead of sending
the army to Afghanistan and Iraq he would have dispatched it to Zimbabwe.

In Hartlepool and Hemel Hempstead, there was never much spleen against
the Taliban or Saddam Hussein. A great many people, however, hate Robert
Mugabe.

This is, of course, the fruit of his persecution of the shrinking band
of white farmers in his country - our own kith and kin, to use a phrase that
became familiar during the 14 years of Ian Smith's illegal white regime in
Rhodesia.

Confiscations of land, casual violence and murders perpetrated by
Mugabe's thugs continue to provoke British outrage even when they are
commonplace.

Peter Godwin's new memoir, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun, documents in
the most vivid fashion the experience of a nation in thrall to a monster as
wicked and depraved as was Papa Doc in Haiti or Idi Amin in Uganda.

Godwin was raised in the old Rhodesia, lost a sister to white
"friendly fire" in its civil war, and as a journalist has since reported on
Zimbabwe's descent into hell.

He portrays the shrunken white community, now clinging to the country
by its fingernails. His own elderly parents spent their last years in
poverty, fear, and squalor, harassed by Mugabe's dreaded "war vets",
watching the disintegration of the society they had known for half a
century.

Amid their misery, Godwin learned for the first time that his father
was not a British immigrant, but instead a Polish Jew, most of whose
relations perished in the gas chambers before he reinvented himself in
Rhodesia. Having escaped from one outcast purgatory in his youth, the old
man endured a second such experience as he died.

Godwin's tale is profoundly moving, partly because it is written
without sentimentality. Though he focuses upon Mugabe's white victims, he
knows that millions of black Zimbabweans are worse off.

Yet the world does nothing. President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa
continues to treat Mugabe as an ally, not least because many of his own
voters applaud Zimbabwe's land confiscations and, indeed, the ruthless
treatment of its white rump. As a hero of the "freedom struggle", Mugabe is
inviolate.

The tragedy of Zimbabwe makes some of us search our own consciences,
back to the years of white supremacy. I was among visiting correspondents
who reported the guerilla war, until I was deported by the Smith government
in 1976.

Some British acquaintances with long memories say to me today: "Don't
you feel pretty stupid, when you see what Mugabe has done? You were one of
the silly ***** who thought his thugs were freedom fighters."

Yes, we did. Like most of my colleagues, I reported from Rhodesia 30
years ago in an almost permanent state of rage. We saw a smug, ruthless
white minority, beer guts contained with difficulty inside blazers with RAF
crests, proclaiming themselves the guardians of civilisation in the heart of
Africa.

They killed carelessly, tortured freely, and exploited censorship to
conceal their worst excesses. The city dwellers, patrons of Meikles Hotel
bar, were the worst, because they were the most hypocritical. Fervent
supporters of "good old Smithy", many took care not to expose their necks,
preferring to "kill Kruger with (their) mouths", as Kipling had put it 70
years earlier.

The farmers commanded much greater respect. They were brave people,
enduring much peril behind barbed wire on their remote acres, taking to the
bush in uniform without complaint as police or army reservists.

I spent many nights at their firesides, arguing the toss about their
cause. They were uncomprehending of how I, an ex-public schoolboy whose
great-uncle was president of the Rhodesian Tobacco Growers' Association,
could lack sympathy for them - was, frankly, a traitor to my caste.

I told them they should recognise that they were utterly alone. They
were disbelieving. The American and British governments would never abandon
them to a black communist rabble, they said.

They flourished letters from cousin Charlie in Tunbridge Wells, urging
them to keep up the good work, saying that his local Rotary club was right
behind them. Maybe, I said, but not a manjack of them in Tunbridge Wells
will get off his bottom and help you.

They could not believe that "the munts", "the indigenous", as they
called the black population, could militarily defeat them: "They even lay
their bloody landmines upside down."

Determined to fight to the last ditch, they did so. Only when the
Portuguese quit Mozambique, the South African apartheid regime withdrew its
support, and the country was on its knees militarily and economically, did
the Smith regime quit.

By then, there had been far too much death and bitterness for
reconciliation. I thought those white farmers who stayed on after Mugabe
assumed power in 1980 crazy - though not as crazy as newcomers, who bought
land as recently as a decade ago.

Their answer was, of course: "Where else do we go? We belong here. We
are Africans, too."

It remains a source of deep grievance to many white people born in the
continent that their black neighbours and rulers will not accept them on
their own terms.

Because I was one of those who passionately opposed the white regime
and supported black majority rule, I often ask myself whether I bear a
minuscule share of responsibility for Mugabe.

Reading Godwin's tale of tragedy, of misgovernment on an epic scale,
it is difficult to deny that whatever black Rhodesians endured under Smith
is less than they have suffered under Mugabe.

Godwin quotes an observation familiar in modern Africa, that the two
great tragedies to befall the continent were: the coming of white people;
and their departure before creating new institutions capable of sustaining
themselves, to replace those that they had destroyed.

Many of us always acknowledged that majority rule would be fraught
with problems. Yet nothing can make those who saw white minority rule in its
naked ugliness lament its passing.

I cannot bring myself to feel profound pity for Peter Godwin's white
Zimbabweans, decent people though some of them are. Their exclusion was
ordained a generation ago, by their own leaders' folly and savagery.

Compassion is overwhelmingly due to black Zimbabwe, which neither
white guns nor white butter can save from the monsters who are the legacy of
the Europeans' brief sojourn in Africa. - The Guardian.


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Mugabe buys time

Zim Independent

By Alex Magaisa

THOSE that often watch closely each step and speech by President
Robert Mugabe must have had their hands full in the last two weeks, what
with two interviews in the state media on the occasion of his 83rd birthday,
an essentially private affair that over the years has been magnified and
represented as a national event.

Often characterised by pomp and feasting, it is out of sync with and
insensitive to the conspicuous poverty of the nation.

The reported statements and the behaviour of those around Mugabe have
sparked a flurry of speculation in relation to the succession issue in Zanu
PF and the consequences for Zimbabwe. What, therefore, if any, can be
gleaned from the president's recent statements?

While there has been a rush to give all manner of interpretations, I
think it is important to understand the context in which the statements have
been made because the purpose and strategy may not be as appearances
suggest.

I do not think that events in Zanu PF are as simple and
straightforward as they have been interpreted and, importantly, it is quite
possible that the continuing uncertainty and speculation over the succession
question may well be part of an orchestrated scenario designed to purchase
time both for the leadership and the party.

The first significant aspect, assuming that the report is correct, is
that the ZBC interview was heavily edited in such a manner that key
statements that would have yielded revelations about the president's
supposedly raw thoughts and feelings regarding the succession issue and the
central characters involved were omitted.

Now, it is normal journalistic practice to edit material but the
suggestion in the reports appears to be that the editing was so extensive
that it resulted in the removal of key material that would have been of
major public interest, revealing as it is said to have done the president's
views on the major characters involved in the succession drama.

Instead of shedding light onto the issues, the interviews have
therefore enhanced the mystery, uncertainty and speculation. The analysis
therefore has to start from the unfortunate position where everything
remains shrouded in mystery.

This presents a critical question as to whether, in fact, it was
always the object of the whole exercise, that is, to enhance the uncertainty
and speculation about the succession issue, leaving the aspiring princes and
princesses with little clues as to what the reigning king really thinks
about the future.

The cynical might suggest that there is, in fact, method in the
madness that appears to be obtaining in Zanu PF. The view is that, by
speaking in tongues that are difficult to grasp with any measure of
certainty, the vultures circling over the presidency are kept sufficiently
unaware and unsure and therefore at an adequately safe distance.

This is because the more they are certain about the preferred choice,
the more the pressure for the president's departure increases. The result of
the uncertainty and speculation is that the battle remains, at least for
now, between the factional leaders and their constituents, leaving for the
moment sufficient breathing space for Mugabe.

If the president feels strongly that the interviews did not accurately
portray his views, he of course has plenty platforms to state the very same
things that are reported to have been edited from of the interview.

If he named and shamed individuals whose tactics he disapproves of, he
can always do so publicly without the aid of television cameras. That this
has not happened has simply heightened speculation, some of which may be
attractive to those within and outside Zanu PF who see opportunities but may
well be wide of the mark.

In this respect, I respectfully suggest that some of the literal
interpretations of his statements appear to have missed the point.

For example, in trying to justify the proposed harmonisation of the
2008 presidential and 2010 parliamentary elections, Mugabe reacted to the
resistance by arguing that it was not because he wants to extend his term as
has been suggested but, more significantly, he suggested that he could
always stand again for the presidency in 2008 and win another six-year term.

He did mention the MDC but, with respect, it must be recalled that it
is not only the opposition that is against the election harmonisation
scheme. This scheme has faced criticism and rejection from some powerful
groups in his party, as evidenced by the Zanu PF Goromonzi congress where,
for example, Mashonaland East province reportedly refused to endorse it.

In making the suggestion that he could stand again next year, Mugabe
may, in fact, be speaking not to the MDC but to his own ambitious comrades
in Zanu PF who are singing a different tune on that point.

He may be saying to them that even if they reject the harmonisation
plan, there is nothing to stop him from running again on the Zanu PF ticket,
which would effectively derail their immediate plans.

It is interesting in this regard that Mugabe refers in glowing terms
to the Zanu PF youth and women's leagues, powerful constituencies in his
party, and is disparaging about what he calls the "main wing" - presumably
the leadership.

He is probably saying to his comrades, "you can stand against me in
the party and I will win" and therefore "I remain the kingmaker".

The thesis that the confusion and uncertainty is carefully
orchestrated is evident from the vacillation between the so-called preferred
candidates of Mugabe in the past few years.

There was a time, not so long ago, when it was said that the most
favoured heir was Emmerson Mnangagwa. But when it came to the replacement of
the late Vice President Muzenda in 2004, Mugabe appeared to openly support
Joice Mujuru, which derailed Mnangagwa's ascendancy.

Indeed, barely three months ago, interpretations of Mugabe's speech at
the Goromonzi congress suggested that he was unhappy with Mnangagwa when
Mugabe verbally chastised those in the leadership who were fighting battles
in courts of law. Mnangagwa had reportedly commenced legal action for
defamation against John Nkomo, the Zanu PF chairman, also a presidential
aspirant.

Incidentally, Mnangagwa had taken umbrage at statements allegedly made
by Nkomo to the effect that Mnangagwa had been involved in the infamous
Tsholotsho Declaration in 2004, a euphemism for the event at which it was
suggested that some party leaders were plotting in favour of Mnangagwa to
block the rise of Mujuru to become vice-president.

Taking into account the reports that Mugabe was least pleased with
Mnangagwa and the circumstances surrounding the catapulting of Mujuru to VP
at his expense, it must therefore be an amazing turnaround in the
preferences of the president and indeed Mnangagwa's fortunes to now suggest
that he is once again the preferred choice. I may be off the mark, but I
find it too simplistic to be true.

In any event, when she ascended to the presidium, Mugabe appeared to
champion Mujuru's presidential aspirations by suggesting that if someone is
fit to become VP, there was no limit to higher ambitions. If he was so
confident to suggest it hardly three years ago, what has changed that has
suddenly caused him to shun that possibility as has been reported?

There could be another way to look at it: was it a game cleverly
played to put Mujuru in a position of power to gauge her capacity and the
extent of her ambition or the ambition of those around her? Was it a move,
cunningly orchestrated in order to hoodwink those around her into the false
belief of comfort and security that she was the favoured one?

These are difficult questions which cannot be answered with certainty
but nonetheless crop up as we try to comprehend what appears to be a change
in the relationship in the presidium of both Zanu PF and Zimbabwe.

Mugabe spoke, almost resignedly, about the calibre of his lieutenants
for engaging in corrupt activities and personal aggrandisement. Yet he
appeared to be powerless in relation to them.

He is the president and ministers serve at his pleasure. So if he
knows they are doing the wrong thing, why has he not dismissed them? What
kind of power do they hold over him that even when he knows their misdeeds
and poor performance he does not seem to have the power to get rid of them?

The statements conjured up images of a father trying desperately to
make his family understand him, desperately trying to retain a measure of
control over family members who have gone out of control, but is quite
unsure how and whether they still respect his decisions.

* Dr Alex Magaisa is a Zimbabwean lawyer based in the UK.


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Social contract on collision course

Zim Independent

Comment

WHEN Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono proposed a social
contract in his January monetary policy statement to rescue the country from
an economic recession, now in its seventh year but whose tell-tale signs
became evident much earlier, he forgot that the issue of legitimacy
surrounding President Robert Mugabe's regime had to be addressed first.

The reason for this is that under the social contract theory,
government has to be the enforcer of the contract.

Essentially, the social contract theory is an argument that government
is necessary because it is in the interests of all citizens, who are,
however, essentially free, interacting under laws meant to produce a happy
life for all instead of anarchy. Its essence is that society and the state
agree on a mutually-reinforcing relationship. The government has to derive
its authority and power from the consent of the governed.

The social contract gives a people a way to distinguish a good law
from a bad one, tells them what sort of behaviour ought to be considered
criminal, and establishes limits on the way government can use its power to
hurt and punish its citizens.

Mugabe's government fails on every detail of a social contract, and
this is precisely the reason why Gono's project totters on the brink of
collapse, assuming the process to come up with the social contract had been
initiated.

Firstly, the growing disillusionment in the country points to a
glaring lack of confidence in the government, and various electoral disputes
by the opposition over rigged elections cast doubt over the legitimacy of
the incumbent regime - its power and authority are not derived from the
governed.

Besides, government has, since a constitutional referendum for a new
constitution which it lost against the backdrop of increasing social
upheaval, put in place several bad laws that have criminalised all sorts of
social and economic behaviour in a clearly authoritarian manner.

Public protests have been banned and people have been restricted from
expressing their views publicly on issues related to Mugabe's regime and how
it has run the country's economy. Many have been arrested, tortured and
brutalised for daring to stand up against the injustices of the regime.

Business people have been arrested for increasing commodity prices to
remain in business, while the independent press has been beleaguered by the
state and its security agents for carrying messages different from those
purveyed by the establishment.

Almost everything done by Zimbabweans to earn an honest living has
been criminalised, but ruling party and government bigwigs and their cronies
have plundered the economy with reckless abandon without apprehension from
Mugabe's regime.

This has left many citizens in no doubt that Mugabe's government is
not "in the interests of all citizens".

In his monetary policy statement that called for a social contract,
Gono recognised the evil presented by the skewed policies of his principals,
but skirted forthright criticism by calling for the removal of price
distortions in order to start "decriminalising Zimbabweans".

"The deep-rooted distortions currently prevailing in the economy are
making it virtually impossible for the average citizen to earn a living
strictly and entirely through ways that are fully compliant with the laid
down laws and regulations," Gono said in his monetary policy statement.

Such laws and regulations, Gono said, should be removed and the
central bank, itself a partner to policies that have resulted in the
incarceration of bankers and informal market players, would "restrict our
surveillance roles strictly on matters relating to banking sector prudence,
exchange control affairs as well as anti-money laundering".

This, Gono said, would deepen "the virtuous drive to promote mutual
trust and confidence" in the economy.

But that view, while laudable, is narrow and timid. Mugabe needs to
completely overhaul all laws that have criminalised free speech, public
protests, and criticism of his regime for policies that have pushed the
country to its worst economic crisis since Independence in 1980.

He needs to deal with all delinquent elements within his regime that
have plundered the economy and impoverished the nation.

This is partly the reason why proposed parties to the social contract
are saying government needs to adopt the Kadoma Declaration which calls on
government to move away from interference in commerce and industry, to
respect the rule of law and promote good governance and human rights.

Only then will people be prepared to go through the pain of a
comprehensive package to turn around the economy under a social contract.


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Research doomed without political will

Zim Independent

Candid Comment

By Joram Nyathi

IN last week's column I alluded to the launch of a survey to research
on the extent and definition of corruption in Zimbabwe. That nebulous idea
has coalesced into the Baseline Survey on Corruption which will gobble a
whopping US$800 000. That is enough to purchase 54 Nissan Sentras for the
striking junior doctors. That money would help Tobaiwa Mudede reduce the
backlog on passport applications or sort out the voters' roll in readiness
for next year's presidential election.

What is interesting is that the government doesn't have the money.
State media reports say government will provide US$450 000. And then ask the
African Capacity Building Foundation to "provide" part of the remaining
US$350 000.

Anti-Corruption minister Samuel Undenge said at the launch of the
survey that corruption was like a moving target, "changing shapes in
response to various economic and political solutions and situations". It was
therefore necessary, he said, in the fight against corruption, to find
solutions based on "scientific empirical data". He didn't bother to define
corruption even though he said Zimbabweans in the diaspora would also be
consulted as "they had been affected" by it.

The survey will cover the country's 120 constituencies over its
eight-month duration.

This is one project I won't hesitate to call an insult to the ordinary
Zimbabwean.

First, Zimbabwe already has an anti-corruption ministry, suggesting
that there was a perceived need to focus on the scourge. Why the need for a
definition now?

Second, there were many anti-corruption adverts on radio and
television for much of last year, again reminding Zimbabweans of the cancer.
The implication is that people know what corruption is and can therefore
identify it.

Third, there have been numerous cases of high-profile corruption that
have evaporated into thin air when people expected serious action. Everybody
in government knows who got subsidised fuel, seed, fertiliser and tractors
that were meant to boost production on the acquired farms but which ended up
on the black market for a quick buck. The situation is not helped by a
president who has all the information about who is involved in illegal
diamonds, gold, emeralds and fuel dealings but will not name them.

To me the issue is not about insulting Zimbabweans with definitions
and feigned ignorance. Transparency International Zimbabwe can come in handy
here.

The simplest definition of corruption is the exploitation of one's
position in an organisation or of one's political influence for personal
gain. Instead of company or national resources being used for the benefit of
the organisation or the nation, they benefit the individual and his
immediate family at the expense of all. That was the case with fuel,
fertiliser, seed, tractors, diamonds, gold and emeralds. All those are
national resources in which individuals have used their political influence
or connections for self-enrichment.

Zimbabweans know all this and know it is corruption. It doesn't call
for a US$800 000 definition from impoverished citizens or ivory-tower
intellectuals feeding from a dunghill of corruption and political patronage.

Nobody needed special definitions to expose the Willowgate vehicle
scandal in as much as we don't need any definition to know there are big
names involved in the smuggling of precious minerals out of the country and
that this is illegal. The Reserve Bank has said as much. Small-scale miners
have said so. The police have confirmed it.

RBZ governor Gideon Gono this week told the parliamentary portfolio
committee on Defence and Home Affairs that the country was losing between
US$40 million and US$50 million every week through the smuggling of gold and
diamonds out of the country. I don't believe these are idle figures or that
all this is the work of small men who don't even have equipment.

To me, the solution lies in three key areas. The first is the
political will to root out endemic corruption. People need confidence and
faith that political leaders are prepared to fight corruption. This can only
come from the way powerful members of society engaged in illicit activities
are treated, not from the way the powerless are victimized. Lack of action
breeds cynicism and lures more players into the game.

Second, the whistleblower's fund should be revived, together with
secret suggestion boxes where the public can drop in tips in both government
and the private sector.

Third, whistleblowers need to be assured of their secrecy when they
provide vital leads or information. They must be guaranteed protection. A
definition of corruption does not help a whistleblower feel safe when a
whole president and a parliamentary committee are afraid to name and shame.

Last, government would do the nation a lot of service if part of the
US$800 000 was used to train state security agents, investigators and
prosecutors to identify white-collar crime. This should also cover the
training of investigative journalists to help expose the culprits.

However, all these actions will come to naught in a situation where
poor journalists and law enforcement agents must sell their souls to
survive. It means the rich and powerful can always buy their way into
obscurity while the law chases after illegal panners and foreign currency
dealers.


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Of failed leaders and the magic cure

Zim Independent

Editor's Memo

By Vincent Kahiya

IT is common for African leaders to claim to possess magical powers.
It cannot be denied that ancient cultural practices have continued to take
centre stage in policy formation and the general conduct of African heads of
state.

The idea of culture, for long ignored in the larger planning and
interpretation of many African policy issues, is becoming the final
determining factor in Africa's existence, critics of new-order programmes
such as Nepad would say.

But this adherence to traditional norms can degenerate into
irrationality which breeds a sense of invincibility in leaders who have
become semi-deities.

Cameroonian social scientist Daniel Etounga-Manguelle, writing in the
book Culture Matters - How Values Shape Human Progress, underlines the "high
cost of irrationalism spewed by the African culture".

"A society in which magic and witchcraft flourish today is a sick
society ruled by tension, fear, and moral disorder. Sorcery is a costly
mechanism for managing conflict and preserving the status quo, which is,
importantly, what African culture is about. Therefore, is not witchcraft a
mirror reflecting the state of our societies?"

Etounga-Manguelle's project came to mind this week after reading of
the expulsion of Zimbabwean diplomat and UN resident representative Dr
Fadzai Gwaradzimba from the Gambia following her comments casting doubts on
President Yahya Jammeh's ability to cure HIV and Aids.

Gwaradzimba was given 48 hours to leave the Gambia for boldly stating
there was no scientific proof to back President Jammeh's herbal treatment of
the global scourge. She warned that President Jammeh's purported cure could
only encourage risky behaviour thereby worsening Africa's fight against the
disease.

"To date, no cure for Aids has been announced internationally and,
once a person has been infected with the Aids virus, he or she remains
infected for life," she noted, urging people living with the virus to stick
to life-prolonging anti-retroviral treatments.

It would be unfair perhaps to accuse Jammeh and his league of modern
African leaders of practising witchcraft but his claim to cure HIV and Aids
is the stuff for magicians. Jammeh's magical cure consists of the Holy Quran
and seven leaves. He has declared that his concoction works.

"Whatever you do, there are bound to be sceptics, but I can tell you
my method is foolproof," President Jammeh has declared. "Mine is not an
argument, mine is a proof. It is a declaration. I can cure Aids and I will."

There is a dangerous streak in President Jammeh's shocking behaviour
that runs through a number of African leaders who head failed states. They
oftentimes come up with shocking policy pronouncements which are not only
outright silly but usually subject their countries to international
ridicule. In their poisonous adventures, the leaders are usually supported
at the shoulder by ministers and experts who dump their entire professional
credo for the sake of solidarity with their leader.

Jammeh is supported in this inane agenda by his Health minister Dr
Tamsir Mbowe who is responsible for registering patients coming to the
president's clinic. The sad part of trickery is that there are people in the
Gambia who actually believe in Jammeh's curative powers largely because he
has positioned himself not just as a head of state but also as an omnipotent
oracle who cannot be faulted.

One would expect Jammeh's fellow African leaders who have been
preaching the African Renaissance in political leadership to immediately
condemn the leader's conduct. But that is asking too much from them because
a lot of them are also deeply engaged in various forms of voodooist
practices to cure their countries of economic collapse, war, poverty, hunger
and so on.

While Jammeh could have gone overboard by being the first ever head of
state or government to make such an awkward claim, he is not much different
from his peer in Niger who rejected food aid when his subjects were starving
or the Sudanese leader who denies there is a genocide in Darfur.

Only last week, our own dear leader was on television to tell us the
economy was not sinking but declining. These are leaders who think that they
are making a difference to the poor state of their countries. They believe
that the situation in their countries cannot improve without them on the
throne. They then devise ways to help.

In our case, our ruler has ordered the printing of money as a magic
cure. When basic commonsense denotes that this is the last thing that is
required in this economy, the printing press has been kept busy to this day.
Where will government get money to finance the increments given to civil
servants last week without resorting to printing more notes?

While Jammeh has the Quran and seven leaves, we have a failed party
manifesto and a printing press.


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The last king of Zimbabwe

Zim Independent

Muckraker

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe's 83rd birthday has been treated abroad to the
press it deserves: as a tasteless display of extravagance in the midst of a
sea of poverty. "Mugabe feasts as his people starve," was one news agency
heading.

The London Sunday Times carried a story pointing out that the sum
collected for his birthday bash in Gweru would have been worth 150 000 when
Zanu PF officials started collecting money for the event in December, but by
last weekend it was down to 23 000, so fast is the currency falling in
value.

The Sunday Times continued: "Giant cakes had been baked and thousands
of children wearing red sashes were bussed in to the stadium where,
according to the state-controlled Herald newspaper, they would 'interact
with political leaders and role models that would inspire them to serve
their country with decorum'. The 'role models' turned up in an array of
luxury vehicles. They were the same party officials whom Mugabe, in a rare
moment of realism, had described in an interview last week as 'ambitious,
corrupt cheats trying to drive him out'."

The rest of the international media adopted a similar perspective in
portraying the birthday party as reflecting Mugabe's cognitive dissonance;
failing to understand the extent of the desolation his policies have
spawned.

But we liked the Herald picture of him receiving the stuffed
crocodile. The obvious question: Why wasn't it a live one? Why does
everything at Zimbabwe House have to be stuffed? Now there's an idea!

Minister of State for Policy Implementation Webster Shamu said the
croc reflected the president's cultural roots. We thought it had more to do
with outlook!

Shamu said the animal "symbolised maturity, distilled and accumulated
wisdom and majestic authority - attributes that have been characteristic of
the president's leadership."

This fawning statement wins Muckraker's Bootlicker of the Year Award.
Even though there are 10 months left, we are sure nobody will match it. Not
even Noczim and the GMB.

The only excuse Shamu might offer is that he was devastated at not
getting the Information portfolio in the recent cabinet reshuffle and is
determined to get noticed next time around.

Still with crocodiles, we were interested to note Nathaniel Manheru's
rebuke to Edgar Tekere for issuing writs to his detractors.

"Amazing how a word warrior is himself terrified by words," Manheru
notes. "I mean it is as foolish as a soldier in a war suing an opposite
number for pointing a gun at him."

We are inclined to agree. But what happened to that $15 billion suit
Manheru's author lodged against the Independent last year? At least
following his self-confessed ATM encounter we no longer have to worry about
problems of identity!

Campion Mereki, a regular letter writer to the Herald, says that the
world over the office of the head of state and government is a venerated one
that should not be abused. Even the Canadian prime minister's office is held
in very high esteem, he notes.

This follows a Canadian advisory to its nationals visiting Zimbabwe
not to denigrate President Mugabe.

Mereki has evidently never read a Canadian newspaper. Nor has he seen
US newspaper cartoons of President Bush! It is completely untrue to suggest
that the world over heads of state are held in high regard. In functioning
democracies heads of state are subject to scrutiny and lampooning, or
satirical comment, which reminds them they serve the people instead of
lording it over them.

In Zimbabwe the head of state attacks his opponents and then hides
behind a wall of protective laws when he is criticised in the same vein. Is
Mereki unaware of people who have been prosecuted for merely suggesting
Mugabe's regime is worse than Ian Smith's? There is not a jail large enough
to hold
all the people who believe that today.

What planet has Mugabe been living on prior to his 83rd birthday? He
reportedly "took a swipe at some members of the business community who are
deliberately fuelling inflation through corruption, dishonesty and greed",
saying they were conniving with imperial powers bent on regime change.

This was all designed to foment social unrest, he suggested.

Is that the perception of the public, that businessmen were
deliberately fuelling inflation? Or is it the public perception that the
printing of money and runaway state expenditure are fuelling inflation?

Mugabe appears unaware of exactly who is to blame for poor fiscal
management. Have police chiefs not recently referred to corruption by
ministers and MPs? Why is the state powerless to act against those involved
in illicit gold and diamond dealing?

Mugabe should stop looking for scapegoats among businessmen struggling
to recover their ever-rising costs and instead worry about the underlying
causes of inflation for which he is directly responsible.

The machinations of the business community were meant to "create an
impression that the government is failing to implement sound economic
policies", Mugabe claimed.

Does it really require business leaders to create the impression that
the government is failing to implement sound economic policies? Isn't that a
widely held view, shared by investors and the IMF? And aren't Mugabe's
disastrous land seizures, bloated ministries, and collapsing parastatals at
the root of the country's problems?

For how long can he get away with blaming others? As for regime
change, that is something everybody in this country yearns for except
perhaps a small self-indulgent coterie around him.

It is terrible to think that the obstinacy of one man is blocking
recovery and progress. Why should he go on denying the nation the
opportunity of change? And those in the state media that insist on
publishing his facile pronouncements without challenge are part of the
problem. That includes media mercenaries like Obi Egbuna who are hired to
attack Zimbabweans seeking change.

By the way, we can't wait to hear Barack Obama's response to Egbuna's
request for solidarity with Mugabe!

Meanwhile, the state media reports Mugabe as saying EU sanctions were
put in place because "we repossessed our land". In fact they were a response
to the expulsion of EU election monitoring head Pierre Schori in 2002. But
the lies go on unchallenged.

The IMF last week extended the suspension of financial and technical
assistance to Zimbabwe. According to Munyaradzi Huni, the IMF could not
report fairly on Zimbabwe as its hands were tied by forces beyond its
control.

The moment we read that bit we knew we were set on a wild goose chase
after some conspiracy theory. Predictably, the British and American
governments were to blame for this bad turn of events, Huni made us know.
This was despite Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono making it clear that the
outcome of the IMF executive board was self-evident since nothing had
changed since March last year.

The IMF, just like everybody else keen to speak the truth, has said
Zimbabwe's problems are mainly political rather than economic. It has
complained about price controls, the chaotic farm invasions and the erosion
of property rights. These are problems of our own making, as Gono himself
acknowledged. It's got nothing to do with the British or the Americans. That
Huni keeps repeating this self-serving political lie will not turn it into
fact.

Gono pointed out in his latest monetary policy statement on January 31
that what Zimbabwe needed was a political settlement, not tinkering with
symptoms of a deep-seated crisis.

He said as much again to Huni in the Sunday Mail when he pointed out:
"The IMF will not come to direct us to be more united as a people, the IMF
will not come and police Marange diamonds and stop them from being smuggled
out, the IMF is not going to come and stop farm vandalism, disturbances or
tell us to be more productive at our farms, the IMF will not come and solve
our corruption problems in high places nor will the IMF come and stop abuse
of Noczim fuel."

Apparently the truth hurts for Huni. Now is the time for introspection
instead of casting around for non-existent enemies, Cde Huni.

President Mugabe apparently remains an inscrutable enigma for both the
opposition and his party supporters. None can discern what his next move
will be.

Speaking soon after his recent cabinet reshuffle, he said there were
young appointees who were still deputies "but sooner or later they will be
able to take over from the old ones".

"We are preparing the ground for the future, and they, too, will
prepare the ground for the future and so on," he said.

This must have sounded reassuring to the nave, that there was room
for succession in the Zanu PF leadership. But suspicions should have been
aroused why Mugabe would be thinking of grooming deputy ministers to "take
over from the old ones" when he should be leaving office at the end of his
term next year.

There was also an opportunity to ask him whether his own deputies did
not deserve a shot at the top job, if not, why he was keeping them. All that
went unexplained until his birthday interview last week.

Mugabe attacked those plotting to assume the presidency "through
biographies". The only way to State House, he said, was through the people
via a congress. When asked directly whether people could debate his
succession, Mugabe glared at his interlocutor, telling him squarely: "There
are no vacancies because I am still there ka, pane vacancy, iwe urikuiona
vacancy yacho?"

It shows you how tenaciously the battle for 2010 will be fought.

Why does Infrastructure Development minister Munacho Mutezo think that
his portfolio is so important that local authorities should just acquiesce
in his demands to control water works in all urban centres? At a strategic
workshop in Harare last Thursday he attacked local authorities for
politicising Zinwa's takeover of water in towns and cities. This is what he
expects the local authorities to do.

"Some councils including those of Gwanda, Karoi and Victoria Falls,
had already surrendered water supply to Zinwa before the cabinet directive,"
he said. Mutezo's assertion is emblematic of Zanu PF's philosophy of
grabbing every asset in sight, notwithstanding the party's poor record of
service.

Mutezo came face to face with this incompetence at the Zesa National
Training Centre in Belvedere where the "strategic" workshop was being held.
The entrance to the centre was strategically flooded with treated water
which was gushing out of a distribution point.

Zinwa board chairman Willie Muringani told the workshop Zinwa was
already working on rectifying the problem. What a poor showing Willie!

When commitment to the job at hand called - that is ensuring the leak
was plugged - the minister and Zinwa bosses retreated to the safety of the
lecture room. We bet there was bottled water on the tables and not Zinwa's
sewage-flavoured brew from Lake Chivero.

President Thabo Mbeki is in denial about the extent of crime in South
Africa, we are told. This is reflected in the official media where it is
played down. But following the mugging of five SABC staff at Zoo Lake last
weekend the reality may be sinking in. They were robbed of their cellphones.

Adding to the rollcall, CNN's Jeff Koinange and his pregnant wife were
robbed at gunpoint outside the Metal Box office tower, which is right next
to the Milpark Garden Court Hotel at 7:45 on Saturday morning.

Some South Africans are evidently in training for 2010!

Finally, in our mystery relations series, we note from the Chronicle
that Filabusi GMB manager is Mrs Clara Langa. She was explaining maize
delivery in the district. "Also present at the function was MP for Insiza
Cde Andrew Langa", we were told.


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Privatisation talk without action

Zim Independent

By Eric Bloch

FOR more than 16 years government has talked of energetic
privatisation of parastatals. Programmes of privatisation were
characteristics of the 1991 Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (Esap),
of the 1996 Economic Development Programme, of the 2000 Millennium Economic
Programme, of the 2006 National Economic Development Priority Progamme
(NEDPP), as well as of many of Zimbabwe's annual budget statements.

However, the reality of insignificant performance has repeatedly given
the lie to government's declared intents, for the only substantive
privatisations that have occurred (and with great success!) were those of
Dairibord (now Dairibord Zimbabwe Ltd), the Cotton Company (now Cotton
Company of Zimbabwe Ltd), the Rainbow Tourism Group (now Rainbow Tourism
Group Ltd), Zimbabwe Reinsurance Company Ltd, and the Commercial Bank of
Zimbabwe (now CBZ Bank Ltd).

These five privatisations were overwhelming successes which should
have motivated and incentivised government to proceed with its declared
intents of many more, but that has not been so.

In a supplement to the January monetary policy review statement, the
governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), Gideon Gono noted:
"Governments across the world are involved in business enterprise and wealth
creation activities", but he also noted that this was generally "in
partnership with the private sector", and that there is "considerable
variation in the scope and scale of government involvement in the production
and marketing of goods and services from country to country".

However, he also stated: "Most governments have significantly scaled
down on direct business enterprise, preferring to concentrate on the core
government business of providing social welfare services such as health and
education, as well as national security, peace and stability".

In making this statement, the governor recognised that the reduction
by governments of their involvement in direct business enterprises "has been
achieved mainly through extensive divesture and public enterprises reforms'',
in many sub-Saharan African economies and other parts of the world.

In contradistinction, the government has a continuing, intense
involvement in business, extended to all major areas of economic activity,
including industry through the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC),
mining through the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe (MMCZ) and the
Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, agriculture through the
Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) and various agricultural
marketing bodies such as the Grain Marketing Board (GMB), Cold Storage
Company (CSC) and the Agricultural Marketing Authority, in transport via Air
Zimbabwe, National Railways of Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe United Passenger
Company (Zupco), energy and fuel via the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply
Authority (Zesa) and the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (Noczim),
communications and allied activities, through Tel*One, Net*One, Zimbabwe
Broadcasting Holdings, Zimbabwe Newspapers (via the Mass Media Trust), and
innumerable others.

The RBZ supplement very validly recognises that there can be
highly-positive benefits from privatisation, and therefore very credibly
argues that "there is need to review the current range of public enterprises
and government shareholding in different sectors of the economy, with a view
to unlocking value through undertaking further privatisation and disposal of
targeted shareholdings".

It contends: "Through this strategy, the country would stand to
benefit, not only from relieved burden on the fiscal budget, but also
through the effective defence of the external value of the Zimbabwean dollar
on the back of the foreign exchange to be raised through privatisation."

In that regard, the supplement records that "increased foreign
exchange inflows could be realised through the participation of foreign
investors in joint ventures and strategic partnerships. The improved foreign
direct investment inflows, coupled with increased access to offshore lines
of credit would avail more foreign exchange resources, critical for economic
recovery and sustained growth and employment".

Of great significance is the contention of the supplement that
"privatisation is expected to improve efficiency and productivity of
privatised entities. Efficiency will be promoted through several means,
which include introduction and enhancement of value-addition.

Further efficiency gains are realised through commercially driven
structures, free from civil service rigidities, and further that "the
engagement of private strategic partners is also likely to bring much-needed
expertise and leads to diffusion of technology," which would, according to
the governor, "significantly improve efficiency of those enterprises, as
well as increasing capacity utilisation".

He further argues that "technology transfer would underpin factory
refurbishment and increase productivity".

The governor understandably voiced concern that "over the years, many
parastatals have continued to impose a significant burden on the fiscus",
and that this "has undermined the quick turnaround of the economy."

In contradistinction, the governor stated that "privatisation is also
aimed at relieving financial and administrative burden from government in
undertaking, maintaining and supervising public entities."

The governor therefore suggested that a policy of privatisation is
"designed to relinquish management to the private sector and allow
government to concentrate on traditional functions such as facilitating
growth, welfare distribution objectives and maintaining peace, security, law
and order, thereby resulting in decreased budget deficits", and would halt
the fiscal drain by parastatals.

In particular, the governor emphasised that "privatisation provides
opportunities for the private sector to expand its role in economic
productivity and development. The commercial project orientation of the
private sector provides impetus for further growth. through higher
efficiency gains and profits deployment while government obtains additional
revenue to finance other socio-economic development initiatives.

"Privativisation also improves capacity utilisation, thereby enhancing
economic growth. Most public enterprises are currently operating below 40%,
which is directly retarding the capacity of the private sector to grow."

Having argued authoritatively that privatisation conveys very great
benefits, including greater economic productivity and development, enhanced
efficiency, lesser burden upon the fiscus, and greater fiscal inflows,
foreign exchange generation, accessing of technological developments, and
much else, the governor concluded that Zimbabwe's privatisation policy needs
to be implemented within the broader national economic recovery policy
framework, supported by other complementary policies, such as the creation
of a more private sector friendly investment climate, through the removal of
all distortions and price controls.

"Therefore, in recognition of the positive contribution of
privatisation," the governor stressed that "there is need to review the
current range of public enterprises and government shareholding in different
sectors of the economy".

Regrettably, government's records of heeding advice that is good, but
which it does not like, is abysmal. Over the years it has demonstrated a
great ability to disregard such advice or, at best, to accord it much talk,
but no action.

As great as the benefits of constructive, far-ranging privatisation of
most of Zimbabwe's parastatals would be, history yields little hope that
government will now, albeit belatedly, do that so rightly urged by the
governor of the RBZ, and as would be so economically beneficial.

Government is usually very able to "talk the talk", but not able to
"walk the talk". But one can always hope for a transformation!


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Zim Independent Letters

Some hope for deprived Zimbabwe citizens
By LL Petho

THE article by Tichaona Shorai "Mudede won't learn", (Zimbabwe
Independent, February 16), prompted me to give an update to my fellow
citizens on the class action on citizenship.

In 2002, I obtained permission from the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe to
bring a class action in terms of the Class Actions Act (Chapter 8:17) in
order to protect the citizenship of Zimbabweans who belong to the following
classes of people:

* All persons born in Zimbabwe;

* One or both of whose parents were born in a foreign country; and
those

* Who have never applied for and/or obtained a foreign citizenship.

What I am seeking from the court is an order that all persons in these
classes did not have to, and do not have to renounce any potential foreign
citizenship which they may or may not be entitled to.

I am also seeking an order that all persons in these classes have all
the rights and obligations of full Zimbabwe citizenship and that they be
entitled to hold Zimbabwe passports.

One of the requirements sought by the court to launch this class
action is that I broadcast notices about it on Radio Zimbabwe.
Unfortunately, the ZBC refused to broadcast these notices and I had to
return to the court to obtain an order against the ZBC, which I succeeded in
getting. This has resulted in more than three years' delay.

Now I am trying to gather the funds to pay the ZBC to broadcast the
notices so that the class action can commence.

I believe that over a million Zimbabwean citizens fall within this
class action and its successful conclusion will not only secure their
birthright as citizens of Zimbabwe, but also restore their associated rights
and dignity.

* LL Petho writes from Harare.

-------------

Media at beck and call of evil masters
I AM neither a renowned columnist nor recognised analyst, but I
am depressed to say some of our media houses and their journalists are
driven by self-centred, hidden agendas that have nothing to do with national
interests.

On February 19, having followed the build-up to the weekend, I
woke up with an urge to go online and read news from my beloved motherland.

I browsed through all the online newspapers that I know:
NewZimbabwe, ZimOnline, Zimdaily, The Zimbabwe Times, and the Herald.

I noted that all newspapers, save for one, carried a similar
lead story: the slide of Zimbabwe into a police state where the police
disobey and disregard High Court orders with impunity.

One publication said three people were feared dead following
clashes with the police while one revealed that some senior MDC officials
had to hide in a "nearby maize field" as the "riot police" and the Green
Bombers tore into everyone seen walking in the streets.

I also read that some worshippers had their Sunday service
disrupted as chaos spilt into the church from the streets. The Herald tried
to twist the cause of the violent running battles in Highfield.

I noted with interest that one of the "big online" publications
chose to travel to remote south-eastern Zimbabwe - Chiredzi - for its lead
story, "While Mugabe celebrates Mutambara receives yellow card".

I was particularly baffled by its celebrations at the wide gap
between votes garnered by the winner and the losing candidates. It declared
"...the people of Chiredzi South sent a clear signal to the Mutambara
faction" .

Surely, if this vote is anything to go by, then it means the
same people (or their vote) sent a clear message that Zanu PF has the
support of the people of Chiredzi.

It states though that the result was pre-determined. If so, how
then can we be sure the results for the Mutambara faction were correct? Were
they determined by the people of Chiredzi, or pre-determined?

Unless one is involved, one cannot know which figures were
pre-determined and which were determined by the people through the ballot.

Since October 12 2005, I have been bothered by what I see as an
obsession by some online publications to delight in the creation or
sustenance of tribal or regional divisions in Zimbabwe.

The publications hate one opposition leader not because of his
beliefs or vision for Zimbabwe, but because, according to them (editors and
reporters), he joined the wrong opposition.

I think pro-nationalist Zimbabweans (editors included) should
write in a manner that unites people regardless of tribe, race and political
affiliation.

I hate the deliberate hostility displayed towards Mutambara
while turning a blind eye to other opposition leaders' weaknesses and
shortcomings. If not checked, these same editors will create for us another
Mugabe in Tsvangirai the same way they made Mugabe what he is today in the
1980s.

I imagine a short pot-bellied editor/owner of a newspaper who
like his former master shares the same past, stained by "a moment of
madness" in the 1980s.

I imagine when one is worried by their past they would rather
hear people say "let by-gones be by-gones" not because they embrace that,
but because chances are that people will forget and move on.

Someone probably realises that should Mugabe go and Tsvangirai
or Mutambara take over, and there is freedom of speech, it'll be payback
time. No more awards. It'll be time to face the music. They probably realise
that unless the suppression of freedom of speech for a certain region is
sustained, it'll open the Pandora's box.

I dread the wrath this article may stir but my spirit cannot be
broken. It's clear to me that to some, the focus of the headlines was not on
Zanu PF against the opposition in Chiredzi, neither was it between
Tsvangirai and Mutambara, nor Mugabe versus the people of Zimbabwe, but a
phase of history - the 1980s - of which they are a critical part and from
which they seek to divorce themselves and their contributions, and hope to
re-write history that's so far clearly engraved in the minds of the people
of Zimbabwe.

Can they run and hide forever? I wonder!

Mina Thabani kaBaba,

UK.

-----------------

Tsvangirai should lecture armed forces
IT was with a mixture of sadness and hope that I read
about the riots in Highfield.

Sadness at the police brutality and disregard of the High
Court ruling concerning the MDC rally, and hope about Zimbabweans'
willingness to take their destiny and lives into their own hands.

After all, we as Zimbabweans have been leaving our destiny
to the fat cats for far too long.

My only appeal is for MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai to take
every opportunity he can to address the armed forces directly.

He had a good one at the Zimbabwe Grounds to appeal to the
humanity of the police officers as Zimbabweans and family men first and
foremost than as police officers.

They may be brutal, but how many of them are behaving the
way they are out of choice?

Appeal to them to think of their country and families.
Remind them that they can help effect change. In fact, they are the key to
change.

All they have to do is let the masses proceed with their
constitutionally-awarded right to protest and show their displeasure.

Remind them that the people in general, and the MDC in
particular, will back them. In future they will have no cause to fear and be
ashamed of their actions when change comes.

The message might take a while but it will sink in
eventually. After all, the police are human.

Sitheni Bwanya,

Gaborone

--------------

Tide of revolution unstoppable
THE ban on rallies is a ploy to disrupt the
struggle.

Ian smith did it in Rhodesia, PW Botha tried it in
South Africa, Mobutu Sese Seko in Congo, and other dictators tried and
failed in other parts of the continent.

Laurent Kabila, a puppet of President Mugabe, was
shot dead by his own aide. You can never stop the tide of revolution. Those
who support such regimes should rethink.

Mhofu-Machichiri Gandavaroi,

nhetetariro@yahoo.co.uk

--------------

Mugabe no angel amid this strife
THE letter by Casper Shumba "I wish you many
more happy years, president", in a recent issue of the the Herald refers.

Shumba writes: "You (President Robert Mugabe)
made Zimbabwe a leader and not a passenger in Africa and the world...
Critics may not like it but there will never be a Zimbabwe without you. I
don't believe you are an angel but surely you have done so much for your
people... Happy Birthday!"

Is there any reason to believe President
Mugabe could be an "angel" in this hour of need?

I do not want to believe that Satan dispatched
our current president although it would be wise to learn more about Shumba's
very interesting proposition.

Brotherhood,

Harare

-------------

Luggage here, but ?
IT is with great relief and happiness that I
report the safe return of my lost luggage; the locks removed, the case
opened and various presents ripped open and the clothing bundled back.

I have been advised by the London office that,
and I quote: "If you had any expenses while your luggage was delayed ...
send details to BA Baggage Claims Harare" etc and in a further letter: "It
is not possible to settle claims from every customer from our UK office, we
can settle your claim locally". How about that! At what rate one may ask!
The whole matter is becoming academic as I have been unable to elicit any
response from BA apart from the reply "Shabbily treated by British Airways",
(Zimbabwe Independent, February 16).

Future BA travellers fear not: "Your luggage
is missing - we are delighted to inform you that you will be compensated in
Zim dollars, as you will appreciate we want to encourage travellers to use
our airline!"

Mary Cox, Borrowdale, Harare.

------------
Opposition's obduracy an obstacle to
prosperity
THERE is no doubt that we are all desperate
and want to see our country prosper.

Nevertheless, while we search desperately for
a solution, and naturally expect government to provide direction as we
always should, we have to accept that the ultimate responsibility for
creating political stability and economic prosperity (especially capacity to
produce) lies with the ordinary people.

We cannot all be central bank governors, let
alone presidents.

The political issue that needs to be resolved
is the intransigence of the opposition clinging to an imaginary political
victory that was an issue nearly five years ago, and the European Union's
sanctions that arose as retaliation for the land-grab, itself a proper and
fitting punishment for the advocates and perpetrators of the "Bush
War".

It is a fitting punishment that land was
justifiably taken away due to the mode of its expropriation in the first
place.

Yet the same section of the community
continues to blackmail the society in company with the EU, rather than focus
on re-building the nation in company with government, which may be
constituted in any form - de facto or de jure.

In the meantime, the MDC is embarking on yet
another more distracting path for national unity - a presidential campaign.

Are they serious? No!

If this drive fails (and don't be fooled to
believe it is a "final push" rather than sheer posturing to deceive the
nation) and then followed by the presidential campaign that might be pushed
to 2010, who is going to look a confirmed and permanent loser? What will the
opposition do then?

Mordecai Mutiswa Betera,

West Midlands, UK.

-----------------

Open letter to President Pohamba
By F ya Nangoloh

I AM writing on my own behalf and that of
all my human rights colleagues and many voiceless Namibians and Zimbabweans
both in this country and in Zimbabwe.

Mr President, the reason for this letter is
to both formally and directly inform you and thereby obtain your
understanding of our intention to register (last Wednesday) our outrage
about the unacceptable human rights, humanitarian and political situation
prevailing in the Republic of Zimbabwe.

The rationale behind this open letter is not
to embarrass Your Excellency and your administration.

The people of Zimbabwe 's oppressor is the
government of Zimbabwe under the leadership of President Robert Gabriel
Mugabe who arrived in Namibia on Tuesday on a three-day state visit.

Needless to say, the situation in Zimbabwe
is outrageous and unacceptable inter alia because human rights groups and
labour unions are under siege, the independent print and electronic media
have been banned, peaceful political activity, if any at all, have been
severely restricted, and the rule of law and the independence of the
judiciary have been undermined and are virtually non-existent.

An 80% unemployment rate and an inflation
rate of nearly 1 600% have exacerbated hunger, poverty, homelessness and
disease, which are on the increase in Zimbabwe.

Mr President, due to this state of affairs,
for which President Mugabe's government is held directly responsible, more
than five million Zimbabweans have fled their country since 2000 alone.

Following President Mugabe's 2005 Operation
Murambatsvina, more than 700 000 Zimbabweans were left homeless. Yet this
situation did not deter him from marking his 83rd birthday with lavish,
luxurious and insensitive celebrations.

As we know Your Excellency, you personally
also do not agree with, nor accept the situation prevailing in Zimbabwe.

But we also understand that, as Namibian
head of state, you have the duty to receive President Mugabe.

We are therefore appealing to you, Mr
President, in your personal discussions, to impress upon President Mugabe
that the situation in Zimbabwe is totally unacceptable, and should be
brought soonest to normalcy.

On our part, together with other civil
society colleagues, we register our strongest disapproval of the human
rights, humanitarian and political situation obtaining in Zimbabwe and
express our solidarity with the oppressed people.

* F ya Nangoloh is executive director of
NSHR, a Namibian human rights organisation.

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