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MDC rival camps fight over assets

Zim Independent

            Augustine Mukaro

            CLASHES erupted this week over the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC)'s assets and areas of influence as the split in the
party deepens.

            The two factions locked horns over a motor vehicle on Wednesday
that was in the Arthur Mutambara camp's possession. It was seized in the
centre of Harare in broad daylight by "youth militia" belonging to the
Morgan Tsvangirai camp.

            The Zimbabwe Independent last night established that the
incident was reported to the police at Harare Central, IR number 032822.The
vehicle in dispute is a white Nissan Hardbody registration AAB 79931.

            This came after skirmishes among faction supporters during a
poorly-attended rally addressed by Mutambara at St Mary's in Chitungwiza on
Sunday. The events make the projected bridge-building talks between the two
sides brokered by Bulawayo MP David Coltart seem increasingly remote,
observers say.

            The MDC factions are on a collision course over the party's
assets that are a source of growing conflict. The assets at stake include
the party's Harvest House headquarters in central Harare, offices in
Bulawayo, Hwange and an office stand in Kwekwe as well as almost 30 party

            Apart from buildings, there is also office furniture, equipment
and computers.

            "After the seizure of the vehicle from the Mutambara faction by
activists from Morgan Tsvangirai's group, this means the Tsvangirai camp now
has 19 vehicles in its possession, while Mutambara's group has eight," a
source said. "The Mutambara group has so far lost seven vehicles since the
infighting began in October last year. There are also other things at the
centre of the fight like equipment, faxes, photocopiers and no less than 30

            The source said Tsvangirai's Strathaven home could also become
part of the tussle because it was bought using party funds although it was
registered in his name.

            "It was bought using party funds from donors but it was
registered under his name," the source said. "Although at law it's legally
his, it can also be contested politically because he is now a factional
leader, which is different from the original MDC."

            A neutral official in the MDC said the prime target for the two
factions was Harvest House, currently under the control of the Tsvangirai

            "Tsvangirai wants to hang on to it because it is his citadel of
power and Mutambara's faction will find it difficult to set up a strong base
in Harare if it can't capture Harvest House," the official said. However,
sources said there was unlikely to be a fight over money - except the
already spent $8 billion from state coffers - because the MDC didn't have
any. In fact it is broke. Donor funds have dried up since the squabbling

            The battle for property between the factions intensified this
week after the seizure of the vehicle from the Mutambara camp by youths from
Tsvangirai's camp along Nelson Mandela Avenue in Harare.

            Mutambara faction spokesman Morgan Changamire said 10 members of
Tsvangirai's "youth militia" pounced on two of their officials in central
Harare and seized a party vehicle.

            He said the group, led by Barnabas Ndira, waylaid the officials,
threatened the driver and forcibly took the vehicle keys before driving off.
The allegation was immediately denied by Tsvangirai faction spokesman Nelson

            "This sort of political clowning is not acceptable," said
Chamisa. "Changamire is excited by his new position and has been rubbishing
president Tsvangirai and the party."

            Tsvangirai's secretary-general Tendai Biti said the Mutambara
camp was creating stories to remain in the news. "They want to remain in the
news," said Biti. "Mutambara's ship has landed and they have to find ways of
remaining in the news."

            Mutambara faction secretary-general Welshman Ncube said he had
spoken to Biti three times over the incident and Biti had promised to
investigate the issue.

            Changamire accused Chamisa of seeking to disrupt Mutambara's
Chitungwiza rally.

            "This act of criminality is not isolated from Sunday's attempt
to disrupt the MDC rally in Chitungwiza and the subsequent threat by Chamisa
that he would ensure that our party would not hold any rallies in any part
of the country," Changamire said.

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'Crater' gives Mugabe scare

Zim Independent

            Shakeman Mugari

            PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe on Wednesday came face to face with
Harare's chaotic service delivery when two huge holes at the intersection of
Rotten Row and Samora Machel Avenue delayed by about 30 minutes a politburo
meeting at the Zanu PF headquarters.

            Mugabe was due to chair a politburo meeting at 9am but came 30
minutes later after the large holes at the centre of the road caused a
security scare.

            His security men, including the bomb disposal squad, were seen
checking the holes and lifting the warning signs at 8:45am. The holes were
dug by council workers to repair burst water pipes last weekend.

            Mugabe was due to pass through the intersection at 8:50am on his
way to Zanu PF headquarters for the meeting.

            Harare town clerk Nomutsa Chideya expressed horror when the
Zimbabwe Independent alerted him at 8:50am that Mugabe's men were examining
a "crater" left open in the middle of an intersection by his workmen.

            "Oh no, oh no," he exclaimed. "How many times do I have to tell
these guys (Works department) to complete work they have started?" cried
Chideya before calling for "Jaravaza" from the Department of Works. Michael
Jaravaza is acting director for technical services.

            The motorcade passed through the intersection at 9:20am from
State House.

            Council workers then arrived to fill the craters at 10:20am.
They left after some 30 minutes.

            Mugabe's motorcade later drove back through at 12:45pm. At about
2.20pm the council workers were back to drain the muddy pool after lunchtime
rain showers.

            Apparently this wasn't enough as they were back again yesterday
morning to seal over the patchwork.

            This time instead of using Rotten Row via the Prince Edward St
junction with Josiah Tongogara, the presidential motorcade was forced to
come and go along Samora Machel Avenue.

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Never in a 1 000 years, says Gono

Zim Independent

            Dumisani Muleya

            CENTRAL bank governor Gideon Gono has warned the economy will
not recover in "a thousand years" if government officials and the generality
of Zimbabweans continue to work at cross-purposes.

            Gono said this in his February 6 letter of protest and another
one on February 13 to Finance minister Herbert Murerwa over government
policy and their working relationship.

            He said although he would now confine himself to his mandate as
demanded by Murerwa, divisions in the government were unhelpful as they
hindered economic recovery.

            "Until as a country Zimbabwe uses the same ladder of development
other states used to get where they are, this economy will never turn around
in the foreseeable future," Gono wrote to Murerwa. "Not with the current
mentality. Never and not in the famous 1 000 years."

            This was an expression first used by Rhodesian rebel leader Ian

            As revealed in the Zimbabwe Independent last week, Gono and
Murerwa have clashed head-on over policy issues as the economy continues to
slide. Gono says their relationship has become "untenable" and wanted to
resign at one time although he has now decided to stay on.

            The battle between Gono and Murerwa is seen as part of Zanu PF's
power struggle now playing out in the government bureaucracy.

            Murerwa has accused Gono of acting outside his jurisdiction by
venturing into quasi-fiscal activities instead of confining himself to
monetary policy issues. The two have also clashed on how to handle issues
relating to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and payment of the
institution's debt.

            Gono - supported by President Robert Mugabe - has printed money
to settle IMF arrears and fund government projects due to the prevailing
fiscal crisis. However, Murerwa is opposed to the move.

            Gono has reacted saying he was after all battling with a problem
which started under Murerwa in the late 1990s. Murerwa has stood his ground
and insisted Gono, now accused by some in government of acting like a "prime
minister", must stop interfering in the Finance ministry's remit through his
quasi-fiscal activities.

            Although Gono has agreed to back off, he said all the decisions
he had taken were backed by cabinet and key government officials. He also
said the $46 trillion he had printed was used for government payments after
the Ministry of Finance failed to provide money.

            Gono said paper money funded parastatals, local authorities,
food and fuel procurement, embassies, the ministries of Defence and Home
Affairs and "sensitive state security organs", as well as pay the IMF US$210

            He also said part of the money went towards "urgent
refurbishment of sensitive military establishments", elections, building of
infrastructure such as dams, upgrading of airports, railways, power
stations, state farms and other critical operations. But henceforth, Gono
said, things will change.

            "In order to protect the integrity of the central bank, I have
directed that no special support shall be given to ministries, parastatals
or any other sensitive government payment requirements without the requisite
funding from the ministry," Gono said.

            "This should expose the hypocrisy of your advisors in the
ministry. Equally, the government overdraft position in the central bank
shall be limited only to levels permitted by law."

            He said Murerwa should now accept delays which come with strict
adherence to bureaucracy.

            Gono said despite Murerwa's order that money could only be
disbursed by the Reserve Bank in "emergency or exceptional situations", he
would not do so because the law does not allow it. The governor also said he
would not leave the minister to determine the exchange rate.

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Gono overrules Nyambuya on power tariff hikes

Zim Independent

            Shakeman Mugari

            RESERVE Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono has
overruled Energy minister Mike Nyambuya on Zesa's proposed power tariff

            Nyambuya had proposed a tariff hike to cabinet last month but
his request was thrown out after Gono wrote a counter memo contradicting

            This signals a widening rift between Gono and ministers, coming
barely a week after this paper revealed his clash with Finance minister
Herbert Murerwa over the RBZ's quasi-fiscal activities.

            In his memo to cabinet on February 9, Nyambuya proposed that
Zesa be allowed to increase power tariffs by 560% with effect from today
(March 31).

            He wanted further hikes of 185% in June, 15% in September, and
10% in November to bring the cumulative rise for the year to 2 280%.

            Nyambuya cited inflation, a weakening exchange rate and the cost
of water and coal to justify his proposal.
            However, Gono immediately wrote a counter memo to cabinet and
President Robert Mugabe attacking Nyambuya's proposal.

            In the memo, dated February 28, Gono blasted Zesa for making
consumers pay for its inefficiency adding that Nyambuya's proposal would
hurt key sectors of the economy and consumers.

            Instead he proposed that the tariff reviews be spread over the
year at 95% per quarter. Cabinet has since adopted Gono's proposal and is
expected to announce the new tariff structure next week.

            Gono said while Zesa whined about the exchange rate it had not
repaid a "single penny on US$32,2 million (or $3,2 trillion)" it got from
the RBZ for power imports and that the effective cost of the exchange rate
had not materially affected Zesa's actual local currency costs.

            "Your Excellency, our analysis of Zesa's profile of power
generation has revealed glaring levels of capacity underutilisation, which
in effect explains the high cost burden ratios warranting high charges being
lumped on the consumer base," wrote Gono.

            He said consumers were paying for suffocating overheads caused
by Zesa's unbundling which duplicated roles.

            Nyambuya's memo cited overheads as the main cause of tariff

            However, Gono shot down the minister's argument saying it was
Zesa's "superstructure" which
            had seen it spending 65% of its revenue on salaries and wages.
He suggested that the unbundling should be reversed to avoid "corporate
incest" among the unbundled companies.

            Irked by Gono's remarks to cabinet, Nyambuya wrote another memo
on March 2 defending his position but failed to convince his cabinet
colleagues. In the memo, Nyambuya said Gono's tariff structure would cripple
Zesa and boomerang on consumers.

            He said the US$32,2 million that Gono claimed Zesa owed to the
RBZ was accounted for in its accounts as a loan but there were no terms of

            He accused Gono of failing to deliver on his promise to give
Zimbabwe Power Company US$3,5 million for spares and maintenance of Hwange
Power Station.

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CBZ law suit a ploy to discredit me - Moyo

Zim Independent

            FORMER Information minister Jonathan Moyo has slammed the Jewel
Bank (CBZ Bank) for suing him over a $500 million loan repayment dispute,
saying the bank wants to "assassinate my character".

            Court papers filed last week show that Moyo lashed out at CBZ
for allegedly leaking the summons to the media before they were delivered to
him as the defendant in the case.

            Moyo, who denied refusing or neglecting to pay the $500 million
loan, said the leakage and demand for loan repayment - "whose due date is
six months away" - were part of efforts to discredit him "for reasons that
are best left to speculation".

            "How can I refuse or neglect a demand that did not exist because
it had not been made to me?" he asked.

            The loan, Moyo said, was borrowed to finance his activities at
his Mazowe farm and is due in six months' time. He said he had sunk $60
billion in the farm and it would be strange after that to fail to repay a
$500 million loan.

            Moyo suggested the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) was
behind the "political and malicious" lawsuit because they banked with CBZ
and had interests and influence in the Daily Mirror and the state-controlled
Herald in which the story was published simultaneously on March 21.

            "As a preliminary point, I wish to register my profound surprise
and disappointment at the fact that the plaintiff (CBZ), who is a well-known
commercial bank, unprofessionally and unethically used the media to
publicise the summons and declaration in the matter before I was served with
the same," Moyo said.

            "The record will show after the summons were issued by this
honourable court on March 17, (CBZ) or its agents availed the same to the
Herald and (Daily) Mirror newspapers for publication on the front pages
under the byline of court reporter when the matter was not yet in an open
court and when I had not been served with the summons."

            Moyo criticised the Herald and Mirror for "unprofessionally and
unethically acting in a conspiracy with the plaintiff in an attempt to
assassinate my character and reputation".

            He said although he was shocked by CBZ's unethical conduct, he
was also aware that the bank had as part of its shareholders "the ruling
Zanu PF government that is known to be malicious and vindictive".

            "What I find particularly objectionable in the extreme about
(CBZ)'s behaviour in publishing the summons before they were submitted to
the Deputy Sheriff for service on me is that one of the newspapers, the
Daily Mirror, which is owned and controlled by the CIO, is very closely
linked with the plaintiff who apparently has been bankrolling it," Moyo

            "Based on the instant matter, Zimbabweans and the banking
community at large have good reasons to have grave concerns about the
unethical extent to which (CBZ) is ready and willing to go to abuse its
links with the CIO and the Mirror by breaching confidentiality, manipulating
and misrepresenting banking data and information to smear and impugn the
character and reputation of some of its clients who may not be in the
political favour of the CIO, Zanu PF and Mirror newspapers.

            "The loan cannot be said to be due as there are still some six
months to go before it can be called or demanded as per agreement," he
said. - Staff writer.

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Tsvangirai denies claim

Zim Independent

            Clemence Manyukwe

            ANTI-SENATE MDC faction leader Morgan Tsvangirai has denied
accusing senior members of the pro-senate camp of plotting with Zanu PF to
kill him.

            Responding to a $100 billion lawsuit instituted by pro-senate
vice-president Gibson Sibanda, secretary-general Welshman Ncube, chairman
Gift Chimanikire, treasurer Fletcher Dulini Ncube and spokesperson Paul
Themba Nyathi, Tsvangirai said he never made the remarks he was being sued
over. He claimed the media had misquoted him.

            Tsvangirai said: "The defendant (himself) did address a
gathering of diplomats in Harare on 20th December 2005 and read out a
prepared written statement. However, the article published by the Star
newspaper (of South Africa) and the words complained of, are not an accurate
and fair report of the defendant's address to the said diplomats."

            In the address in question, Tsvangirai said he had information
his "erstwhile colleagues" wanted to "harm or physically eliminate" him.

            "We are aware of the level of logistical support and the
quantities of material assistance that Zanu PF is providing to our erstwhile
colleagues," Tsvangirai told diplomats.

            "In the past few days it has been brought to our attention by
reliable and impeccable sources that the turbulence within our party over
the past eight or so weeks was also designed to create a convenient
opportunity and circumstances in which some in the leadership, including the
MDC president, are to be harmed and even physically eliminated, and the
heinous crime blamed on intra-MDC conflict. This project is still very much
alive and active."

            The pro-senate leaders claim they were defamed because the
reported allegations portrayed them as "criminals, unworthy and corrupt
politicians who are dishonest sell outs".

            Tsvangirai said in the event the court ruled his prepared
statement to diplomats was defamatory, he will plead he was entitled to
deliver it in the reasonable belief it was true at the time.

            "That in the circumstances the public right to receive
information as enshrined in section 20 of the constitution of Zimbabwe
overrides the plaintiffs' right to protection of their reputation,
particularly considering the political positions of the plaintiffs," he

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Govt desperate for fuel deal with Guinea

Zim Independent

            Itai Mushekwe

            GOVERNMENT is desperately trying to take advantage of the state
visit by Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema to extract a fuel
supply contract from the oil-rich west African state.

            Zimbabwe is reeling from a six-year-old fuel crisis which has
greatly undermined the economy. Fuel scarcity is part of a myriad of
problems at the heart of Zimbabwe's economic decline.

            As reported by the Zimbabwe Independent in 2004, President
Robert Mugabe has been trying to secure fuel supplies from Equatorial Guinea
since the arrest two years ago of 67 mercenaries at Harare international
airport who were allegedly en route to the west African country to overthrow
Nguema's regime.

            Ever since the interception, relations between the two countries
have blossomed. Zimbabwe is even working on a law to deal with international
terrorism as part of efforts to appeal to countries like Equatorial Guinea
seen as vulnerable to coup plots. The law is also seen as part of efforts to
curry favour with the West.

            Mugabe on Wednesday told journalists at State House that he had
discussed wide-ranging issues in areas of co-operation with his visiting
counterpart in a bid to "solidify relations" between the two countries whose
"security systems are inter-twined".

            Industry and International Trade minister Obert Mpofu yesterday
confirmed that Zimbabwe is seeking to procure fuel from Equatorial Guinea at
a breakfast seminar organised by local captains of industry for Nguema.

            "Our initial assessment, and we stand to be corrected, is that
Equatorial Guinea exports vast quantities of mineral fuels and oils, organic
chemicals and various other commodities which are of great interest to
Zimbabwe," said Mpofu.

            "At the same time, among Equatorial Guinea's major imports are
products such as tobacco, dairy products, beverages, beef, poultry and other
meat products; and chemicals, which Zimbabwe produces."

            Mpofu added: "Our respective Chambers of Commerce and Industry
will therefore need to conclude some Memoranda of Understanding on
Cooperation and Information Exchange."

            Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president, Pattison
Sithole, echoed the same sentiments saying: "Your country is endowed with
natural resources which our country requires".

            Equatorial Guinea has a sound economic base thanks to oil. Its
gross domestic product (GDP) is US$5,5billion, while GDP per capita is US$5
300. Its major industries cover petroleum, timber and natural gas.

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Gono in US visa violation storm

Zim Independent

            Dumisani Muleya

            RESERVE Bank governor Gideon Gono is caught in a storm of
controversy for apparently violating his visa conditions during his recent
visit to Washington for an International Monetary Fund (IMF) board meeting
after attending a function at the US Capitol in the process.

            Diplomatic sources said Gono might have breached his visa
conditions by attending a reception held in his honour on March 7 at the US
Capitol where he discussed a chain of business deals on mining,
agro-processing and tourism with delegates.

            The sources said Gono clinched deals with US businessmen who
want to invest in Zimbabwe, those interested in buying gold bars and
platinum, providing funding for mining equipment and building refineries for
oil and other minerals in the country.

            Gono also managed to negotiate structured finance for the
purchase of diamonds and processing of methane gas as well as deals on
agricultural chemicals, natural gas and fertiliser.

            While this was helpful to Zimbabwe, it was in breach of his
travel conditions, a source said.

            "Although the State Department and the Treasury Department have
said Gono's attendance at the function did not violate his visa conditions,
we think it in fact did because he got involved in business negotiations," a
senior Western diplomat said.

            "This was a violation of visa conditions because he is on the
sanctions list which prohibits those under travel and financial restrictions
from doing any business with US individuals and companies. Officials in
Washington thought the event was merely a dinner party."

            The event was organised by the Los Angeles African American
Women Policy Institute, the National Black Leadership Roundtable and the
Independence Federal Savings Bank.

            It was attended by several guests, including California
democratic Congress- woman Diane Watson, who is on the international
relations subcommittee on Africa, and retired congressman Walter Fauntroy, a
close associate of prominent civil rights activist, Martin Luther King.

            Although Watson was the "special guest" at the function, her
spokesman Bert Hammond said she was only asked to "stop by and that's the
extent of it".

            According to the invitation, Gono was expected to "present plans
and complexities of the economic turnaround of Zimbabwe's economy", which is
different from a dinner party. He was also expected to speak on mining,
agro-processing and tourism.

            Sources said although Gono was within the stipulated 25-mile
radius from the Washington Monument, his discussion of business issues at
the function was a violation of visa restrictions. Gono is on the list of
128 Zimbabwean officials and 33 organisations under US sanctions.

            According to the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign
Assets Control, the sanctions include a ban on any business transaction with
blacklisted officials and a freeze on assets they have in the US.

            The penalties for violating the sanctions include fines of up to
US$250 000 or 10 years in jail.

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ZCTU at last raises duty for sanitary pads

Zim Independent

            THE Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has finally raised
the US$7 000 ($700 million) needed to clear a consignment of sanitary pads
donated by well-wishers in South Africa after the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority
(Zimra) refused to allow the load in without the payment of customs duty.

            The ZCTU accused the government of politicising a social issue
meant to benefit the majority of Zimbabwean women hard hit by rocketing
prices of sanitary pads.

            The consignment has been stuck in Johannesburg after Zimra
refused to waive the duty on the goods arguing that the ZCTU was not a
registered charitable organisation.

            The consignment of sanitary pads was a donation from South
Africans to Zimbabwean women after an appeal was sent out for the free
supply to be availed to Zimbabwean women, the majority of whom can not
afford the high costs of the pads. - Staff Writer.

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Home-grown constitution the answer, say lawyers

Zim Independent

            ZIMBABWE Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has said Zimbabwe needs
a new home-grown constitution and not piecemeal amendments to the supreme

            In a hard-hitting statement, ZLHR accused the state of
"mutilating the bill of rights" through frequent amendments.

            "The amendment to the Constitution of Zimbabwe to establish the
Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission adds to the numerous constitutional
amendments which have created a mutilated bill of rights and a proverbial
constitution which does not espouse the principles of constitutionalism," it

            The National Constitutional Assembly, which for the past seven
years has been fighting for a new constitution, also joined in, accusing
government of tinkering with the constitution to establish a Zimbabwe Human
Rights Commission

            "The NCA rejects a partisan rights commission designed merely to
serve as an additional bureaucratic ruling to prevent and delay Zimbabweans
from mounting human rights complaints in the international arena which
offers their only hope," the NCA said in a statement. "The NCA fears that
such an amendment will also serve as a vehicle for more sinister amendments
designed to keep the government's grip on power."

            ZLHR said government should refrain from manipulating and
implementing piecemeal amendments which negate the need for broad-based and
inclusive consultation with all stakeholders.

            "To establish a human rights commission in the prevailing
legislative and administrative operating environment without corresponding
and simultaneous changes to the current repressive laws is tantamount to
deception and attempts to create illusory remedial institutions," the
lawyers said. "Such a process will compound the human rights situation in
the country. The commission will be a white elephant if institutions, laws
and state- sponsored practices are not revisited."

            ZLHR said Zimbabwe should do away with laws which restrict the
fundamental rights of assembly, association, expression and movement before
establishing a human rights commission. These include the Access to
Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Broadcasting Services Act and
the Public Order and Security Act. - Staff Writer.

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ANZ seeks order to be deemed registered

Zim Independent

            THE Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) has filed an
application in the High Court seeking an order for the media house to be
deemed registered arguing that the Media and Information Commission (MIC)
has failed to deal with their application within the timeframe stipulated by

            In the application, ANZ, the publisher of the banned Daily News
and its sister paper the Daily News on Sunday, is the applicant while the
MIC and Information minister, Tichaona Jokonya are the respondents.

            In court papers filed on Tuesday, John Gambanga, ANZ's acting
chief executive officer, said the registration application was supposed to
be dealt with within a month after a February 8 High Court ruling that
declared a previous decision to deny them a licence null and void.

            The court also directed the application be reconsidered.

            Gambanga said the commission was in violation of Section 66 of
the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) which
stipulates that the MIC must deal with an application within a month of its
submission and Section 8 of Statutory Instrument 169 (c) of 2002 that
stipulates that the MIC should give written reasons for either granting or
refusing the application. - Staff Writer.

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MDC split: Coltart in a dilemma

Zim Independent

            Loughty Dube

            MDC secretary for legal affairs, David Coltart, is in a dilemma
over which side to back between Arthur Mutambara and the Morgan Tsvangirai
factions, it has been established.

            Mutambara's faction has left the post of legal affairs secretary
open as they wait for Coltart's decision.
            Coltart, who has said his political future will be decided after
the final resolution of the MDC crisis, has repeatedly spurned overtures to
join either camp.

            During Mutambara's congress in Bulawayo, Coltart was elected in
absentia to the pro-senate executive as secretary for legal affairs, but he
turned down the offer saying it was a mistake since he had indicated that he
did not want to be elected to any position.

            It emerged this week that the Mutambara faction has not filled
the position.

            Paul Themba Nyathi, the spokesperson for the camp, confirmed to
the Zimbabwe Independent that the position of secretary for legal affairs
had not yet been filled.

            "We are still looking for a suitable candidate," he said. "We
have a lot of suitable candidates interested in the position but we want to
choose the most eligible," Nyathi said.

            Sources this week however said the Mutambara faction was
struggling to find a candidate.

            "Ever since the congress, it has been difficult to find a
suitable candidate to fill the legal affairs portfolio and the faction still
believes that Coltart will change his mind and accept the position," one
source said.

            Coltart is the only MP in the MDC who did not align himself with
either of the factions and says his major commitment is to see the MDC
problem solved first.

            The sources said Coltart was a vital link in opposition politics
and each faction wanted to woo him to its camp to utilise his wide
connections in the international community.

            However, Coltart has remained adamant that he is not interested
in joining either of the two factions yet.

            "My decision on which faction I join, if they amicably separate,
will be governed on the basis of which of the two sides is committed to a
non-violent solution of the country's problems," Coltart said.

            The move to spurn the two factions has left Coltart without a
national executive post in either camp.

            "I have always wanted to preserve my neutrality so that I can be
objective in my dealings with both camps," Coltart said during an interview
where he laid out his wishes for a united opposition MDC.

            The Tsvangirai camp last week dismissed the Coltart settlement
plan saying there was only one MDC, hence no need for talks.

            However, insiders suggest this could represent political
posturing and that talks between the two sides are still possible.

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Tobacco farmers want local currency devalued

Zim Independent

            Augustine Mukaro

            ZIMBABWE'S tobacco farmers have called for a devaluation of the
local currency ahead of the opening of the auction floors next month.

            The farmers want the exchange rate reviewed from the current
levels of $99 201 to the US dollar to $130 00 per US unit before tobacco
auction floors open on April 25.

            Businessdigest is informed that farmers' groups had made
representations to the central bank to consider an exchange rate review.

            "We are engaging the Reserve Bank with a view to improve the
current exchange rate if farmers are to return to farming this year," said
Wilfanos Mashingaidze, an executive with the Tobacco Growers Trust.

            The exchange rate has not moved since Reserve Bank governor
Gideon Gono announced in January that any Zimbabwe dollar exchange rate loss
on the interbank market had to be volume-based.

            Dealers said there had been inadequate volumes to allow a slide
in the value of the local currency due to declining export proceeds.

            Zimbabwe tobacco sales are expected to fall to the lowest levels
when auctions open, further weakening the country's export earnings.

            The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) this week said
the 2006 crop would drop to 50 million kg from 74 million kg in 2005,
sustaining a five-year decline.

            "We are expecting a crop of around 50 million kg this year which
is much lower than what we had in 2005 due to the numerous difficulties that
farmers are experiencing on the production side," said Stanley Mutepfa, TIMB
general manager.

            Tobacco used to be Zimbabwe's main source of foreign exchange,
but the agrarian reform by the government disrupted all major tobacco
farming activities, precipitating a decline in volumes. - Staff Writer.

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Govt flouts Loans Act

Zim Independent

            Paul Nyakazeya

            THE government exceeded its borrowing limit by 74% in 2004 in
violation of the provisions of the State Loans and Guarantees Act,
businessdigest established this week.

            The development is a clear indictment of the government, blamed
for profligacy and driving inflation due to increased money printing.

            A special report by the Public Accounts Committee presented to
parliament on Tuesday has revealed that the government had not sought
parliamentary approval when it went beyond its borrowing limit determined by

            The report, seen by businessdigest, said: "Information received
by your committee from the Comptroller and Auditor-General revealed that the
borrowing limit of 30% of the general revenues of Zimbabwe as set by Section
3 (2) of the State Loans and Guarantees Act (Chapter 22:13) was exceeded by
$224 332 128 491 (74%) without parliamentary approval."

            The committee said this was a matter of grave concern.

            Zimbabwe is currently going through its worst economic crisis in
history, characterised by high inflation rates which have gained the country
a place in the Guinness Book of Records.

            Year-on-year inflation for February stood at 782%, a record
international high in a country not ravaged by war.

            The committee noted that the Ministry of Finance did not keep
records for treasury bills, money market instruments used by the central
bank to borrow money on behalf of the government.

            Last year, Zimbabwe's budget deficit ran into a massive $62
trillion or 60% of gross domestic product, way above the 2,9% or $3 trillion
announced by Finance minister Herbert Murerwa in his 2006 national budget in

            Much of the deficit had been run through the central bank's
quasi-fiscal operations.

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6 000t of wheat in stock for winter

Zim Independent

            AGRICULTURAL inputs firm, Seed Co, says it has increased its
wheat seed stockpiles this year and hoped production from other seed
companies would complement its efforts to meet demand for the winter season.

            Seed Co's communications manager, Marjorie Mutemererwa, said
Seed Co had wheat seed stocks amounting to 6 000 tonnes for the coming
winter season.

            "It is apparent that one of the major challenges facing Seed Co
and the industry is to ensure we produce enough seed for whatever crop that
is in season to meet this challenge," said Mutemererwa.

            "Issues that include securing and training of committed growers
and also having enough land for own seed production are currently being
negotiated and addressed with relevant authorities," she said.

            Zimbabwe is currently facing acute wheat shortages due to a poor
harvest last year. Inadequate input supplies for farmers as well as shortage
of diesel for harvest affected crop output.

            Mutemererwa said Seed Co would ensure that it produced
world-class quality seed and aggressively seek to protect its reputation on
the market.

            "Seed Co has a strong breeding team that continuously releases
hybrids that are high-yielding and tolerant to major diseases," she said. -
Staff Writer

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The question remains unanswered

Zim Independent

            Dumisani Muleya

            LAST Friday the Zimbabwe Independent came under siege from a
small but vociferous group of self-styled thought police over our article on
the opposition headlined MDC in shambles: what is to be done?

            The group of readers, some choking with emotion and others in a
state of self-righteous anger, charged the newspaper and author of the
article with thought-crime.

            They claimed that the article had tribal connotations and was
part of a plot to undermine the democratic struggle.
            Others gave informed criticism which persuaded us to factor in a
number of considerations when looking at the MDC crisis.

            One of our critics even produced a statistical document to
illustrate the MDC's regional representation for both factions.

            While it debunked some of the myths, especially to do with where
individual MDC leaders hail from, it also confirmed the villagisation of
politics in both camps, a point we tried to make last week.

            We also maintain our view that the MDC, even at the height of
its popularity, was unpopular in Mashonaland and Masvingo for various
reasons. This remains the case and one of its major weaknesses.

            We were better informed after reading the MDC document and
appreciative of it. We acknowledge we could have been a little off target in
some cases.

            A prominent MDC lawyer, for instance, was adamant that he came
from Shurugwi, not Masvingo but we were not referring to him!

            There were however a few readers who insisted the author of the
article was not Zimbabwean but South African.

            This had something to do with Mzilikazi making arbitrary
boundary adjustments in the 1840s, we gather!

            The Harare lawyer said he was shocked by the "tribal tone" of
our article. He claimed it was critical of only one of the MDC factions and
insisted we should have noted the fundamental problem in the opposition:
that there was a "Ndebele rebellion" against the founding MDC leader.

            The lawyer - along with many others - was plainly unhappy with
our claim that Morgan Tsvangirai's faction was dominated by the Karanga
ethnic group, but we pointed out to him that we also recently took to task
Arthur Mutambara over claims that his faction was Ndebele-dominated.

            We asked Mutambara if he was a token leader. He gave us his
response without much ado. So why should we not ask Tsvangirai the same
question if some political observers make similar claims?

            We wanted to put this question to Tsvangirai in the past two
weeks but he declined an interview claiming he was not yet ready to speak to
the press.

            Indeed, his press advisors have repeatedly declined to take up
the Independent's offer of op/ed space to pitch their views and vision to
the public.

            Instead, William Bango apparently believes the Independent must
be punished for not giving his faction uncritical coverage. It must be said,
the Tsvangirai camp is not well served by this adolescent attitude.

            The idea is not to fan ethnic hatred, as the young hotheads
would like to think, but to make leaders accountable for their decisions and
expose the flaws of their command structures which might create problems if
they ascend to power unchallenged.

            We have always exercised professional caution over these issues
because we understand our responsibilities to readers and society.

            That is why we do not publish hate speeches, abuse or defamatory
allegations which some readers send to us regarding the political struggle.

            We appreciate that in such a politically volatile environment a
flutter of a butterfly's wing may cause a thunderstorm but we are also not
inclined to slide into whitewash journalism out of fear of being emotionally
blackmailed by a few holier-than-thou Harvest House adherents.

            There were other readers who sent messages by SMS and e-mail
expressing mixed views.

            We simply welcomed their opinions and took most of them in good

            Although we respect the views of our readers, the main issue
remains that the MDC's internecine conflict has taken the struggle for
democracy five years backwards.

            It is plainly unhelpful to pretend that this was a necessary
cleansing process, as with Zapu and Zanu in 1963.

            That episode was followed by petrol bombings, bitterness and
violence in the nationalist ranks that lasted until 1987.

            The only cleansing dimension to it was Gukurahundi!

            As it is, the MDC has let the country down.

            At just the moment when democrats are crying out for leadership,
it has chosen to pretend that unity is unimportant; that the one camp is the
only authentic voice of the party and the other will be whipped into line by
the force of public opinion.

            This is arrant nonsense.

            The opposition forces are fractured and fragmented and as a
result Zanu PF continues to rule by default when it hasn't got a clue how to
rescue the country from the current crisis.

            The opposition as it stands is performing a signal disservice to
the nation with its self-indulgent divisive politics.

            Our article asked: What is to be done?

            Many in the MDC appear unable or unwilling to answer that

            Our columns remain open to them. They should stop sulking and
assist their cause by engaging in open discourse.

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A challenge to turn splits into strength

Zim Independent

            By Jethro Mpofu

            DESCRIBING the worrying social, political and economic condition
of Africa, Professor George Ayittey in his book Africa In Chaos,  mentions
disorder, division, confusion and chaos as the "qualities" that punctuate
the African condition.

            The picture is gloomy as the continent seems to be "lost" in
chaos, underdevelopment and poverty.

            Adding chilli sauce to a fresh wound is the fact that
governments are increasingly behaving like a bloodthirsty "vampire" with an
insatiable appetite.

            As things stand, Zimbabwe fits neatly in the description.

            Our economy is in decay, while our political affairs appear to
be in disorder as poverty threatens to envelope everyone.

            The government continues to ignore good political and economic
advice like the proverbial fly that ignored sound advice and followed the
corpse into the grave.

            As things look, if we collectively do not exercise the needed
seriousness, concern and imagination, we will find ourselves sleepwalking
our country into doom.

            Besides the evident chaos in the opposition, the splits, the
factionalism and the disappointments, the unity of purpose amongst all the
political forces in the country, the creation of a new democratic
constitution, the removal of Zanu PF and the experience of a new democratic
dispensation are still feasible in Zimbabwe.

            Previously, politics has always been referred to as a "dirty
game".  It is the only department of our lives where there is no one truth.
There are as many truths as there are politicians and political groupings.

            Politics is that sphere of our daily existence where what is
true cannot always be correct.  It is not a game for angels nor is it a game
for saints and philanthropists.

            Machiavelli actually put it that "human beings are either good
or bad - but for the purposes of politics, they must be treated as bad".

            This means that in politics, mistrust, suspicion and general
distrust of the politician is a strength.

            Politicians by nature are slippery characters, they are sly.
They are cunning.  They are dictators.  They can betray, they can confuse
and they can mislead.  They can create wars, spark genocide and manufacture
national crises.

            They are dangerous people.  But, fortunately and unfortunately,
they always become our heroes and idols.

            It is actually said that "politicians are those people who
privately create problems and then publicly pretend to solve them" and then
expect our thanks and our votes for it.

            We have a problem with our politicians in Zimbabwe.

            They create factions in the opposition, they betray our trust
and those in government continue to slide us into the mire of suffering and

            We are even afraid that after removing President Robert Mugabe
and Zanu PF, another Mugabe might rise again, and the question is what must
we do?

            What must we do about the political parties and politicians who
are our heroes and villains, at the same time our assets and suspects?

            I believe strongly that what will protect the citizens of
Zimbabwe from the trials and tribulations and from the social and economic
vagaries that can be created by the leaders who lead us in the removal of
Zanu PF and its traditions and eventually form our new government is a
democratic and a new people-driven constitution.

            We need, as Zimbabweans, to realise that our heroes, the leaders
of our political parties and other groupings have potential to outdo Mugabe
in Mugabeism and even our political parties have the potential to outdo Zanu
PF in Zanuism but a new constitution drawn from the depths of our economic
and political experiences, inspired by the heights of our collective
national heroism, strengthened by our wealth of intellectual strength,
maturity, commitment and love for our motherland will protect us today and
tomorrow from the excesses and weaknesses of our political leaders.

            In pursuit of the historic grand project of creating a new
political culture in Zimbabwe, our politicians in the opposition and the
creative ones in the ruling party must play a big role in restoring the
confidence of the masses and the interests of the citizenry in the political
processes in the country.

            The MDC split has disappointed and disillusioned millions of
suffering Zimbabweans.  This has the danger of possibly leading the masses
into believing that practice in opposition politics in Zimbabwe is an
exercise in futility.

            This bears the danger of cultivating one of the worst enemies of
democracy in Africa - apathy.

            This also has the danger of donating the masses and all the
publics to Zanu PF, which would be a tragedy.

            So our politicians have the grave responsibility to assure the
publics that these divisions are constructive rather than destructive.

            I believe, strongly actually, that these divisions can
creatively be turned into a strength.

            If the opposition leaders in the country decide to employ the
sacrificial spirit, suppress personal ambitions for the national good, it is
possible. If they decide to suppress the temptation of working for fame and
fortune at the expense of collective national happiness, it is possible.

            The (Morgan) Tsvangirai-led faction of the MDC can strengthen
its strongholds while the Arthur Mutambara-led faction can also strengthen
its strongholds.

            As the United People's Movement also extends its base and draws
out scores of leaders and followers from the ruling party, the opposition in
Zimbabwe will definitely emerge stronger.

            These political parties need to go to the ordinary people in the
rural areas and enlist them into their support bases.

             There is need to create huge no-go areas for Zanu PF.  There is
need for our political parties to recognise and respect their differences
and then work over time to ensure that a new constitution is created in
Zimbabwe that will protect the rights of the citizens, the politicians and
the political parties.

            In his very good book Manufacturing African Studies and Crises,
Paul Tiyambe Zeleza complains that political parties in Africa have the
problem of concentrating on personality contests instead of policy and
programmatic contests.

            They have the problem of concentrating in intra-elite urban
political and economic struggles, forgetting that the country is bigger than
names and towns.

            He says that actually, politicians of the elitist approach "tend
to expel" the ordinary people from history. So, our political parties, if we
are to bury Zanu PF as we all wish, should have a rural mobilisation
programme that will enlist the support of the peasantry into the struggle
against tyranny.

            A strong MDC 1 and strong UPM and a strong MDC 2 can have a
united purpose of creating a new constitutional era that ensures that Zanu
PF and Zanuism are history in Zimbabwe.

             Jethro Mpofu is a Bulawayo-based civic activist.

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Ah, so I was wrong!

Zim Independent

            Candid Comment with Joram Nyathi

            I WAS wrong. At least in the eyes of some senior members of the
MDC faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai.

            A number of commentators who have been writing about a split in
the MDC are equally mistaken.

            Also lost are those like myself who were advocating a mending of
fences between the two imaginary camps in the MDC.

            There is only one MDC led by Tsvangirai.

            I got this enlightenment during an informal discussion with two
senior members of Tsvangirai's camp at the weekend.

            Their argument was that there are no factions in the party.
Unlike the split that occurred in Zapu in 1963, in the case of the MDC, it
was only "a few members of the executive who walked away". "There was no
split down the middle," they said.

            The officials said there was nothing to reconcile over since
"there was never a split".

            This despite the bitter acrimony and counter-recriminations
prior to the two congresses!

            The executives who went away were free to return if they so
wished, I was told.

            There was a caveat though.

            The "erstwhile colleagues" had complicated the rules of
engagement by bringing in an unknown factor called Arthur Mutambara.

            It would therefore be difficult to discuss anything with
Welshman Ncube and Gibson Sibanda because of the Mutambara factor, I was

            "Who is he and where did he come from?" they asked. "How do we
talk of reconciliation or unity with somebody who was never in the MDC?"

            I asked if the imaginary rift would not affect the opposition

            The answer was the same.

            There was only one MDC and therefore the issue of splitting
votes did not arise.

            The few executive members who left the party did not take away
any voters with them.

            I was left to ask myself why the party fielded two candidates in
the Chitungwiza ward and council elections.

            The officials said we were also wrong in reading too much into
the number of people who attended the MDC congress in Harare.

            The president wasn't happy about the huge turnout, they said.

            But he had to follow the constitution which people have accused
Tsvangirai of ignoring.

            They said the constitution required that every cell head be
physically present at congress.

            They strenuously denied that the 15 000-throng was a deliberate
show of strength.

            For their resolutions to have effect they would therefore need
about 9 500 delegates for a two thirds majority.

            This meant, I was assured, that the congress in Bulawayo couldn't
pass a binding resolution because there weren't enough people. In short,
they violated the constitution.

            We were wrong again to say the party did not enjoy overwhelming
support in mainstream Mashonaland - especially in rural areas.

            The Zanu PF rigging machine was working non-stop in those areas.

            But they couldn't explain why the effort was half-hearted in
other parts of the country where the MDC has been winning, from Matabeleland
South to Gweru Rural in the Midlands up to Mondoro.

            It was an inauspicious discovery I made.

            I realised a party that is in deep denial about what is an
obvious reality. Could it be true that we are all mistaken about there being
factions in the MDC and the real danger that the party is losing voters?

            It is one thing for a court to confirm Tsvangirai as the leader
of the MDC, but quite another to face the reality that there are two camps
and that voters are divided and confused about the way forward.

            By denying the existence of factions, the party is refusing to
accept the fact that there are other options in fighting the same evil

            It is denying the synergies that emanate from democratic forces
coming together.

            There is a danger of mistaking the individual or individuals for
the party and pretending that there is no other way of doing things except
the proverbial Zanu PF way.

            For the truth is that everybody else from civic groups, business
and students to churches and other well-wishers can see the chasm in the MDC
and this does not augur well for opposition politics.

            When the stakes are so high and the enemy is Zanu PF, there is
something to be gained from knowing that this is not the time to be making
new enemies.

            If losing 23 MPs against your 18 means nothing to a party
leader, that party must be very strong indeed. Unless the message is that
those who voted for these MPs did so for the love of its leader. While a
crowd of 15 000
            looks impressive inside the City Sports Centre, in a national
election that figure is far too thin on the ground.

            I concluded that without a positive change of attitude, we are
all doomed.

            What I discovered is that all the discourse is framed in such a
way as to allow for no alternative - there is no room for accommodation,
compromise, or other options and that no fruitful exchange of ideas can take
place to break the impasse.

            Whatever it is that was decided at the City Sports Centre is
cast in stone. I was immediately reminded of the MDC trying to make
overtures for dialogue with Zanu PF soon after President Mugabe's disputed
reelection victory in 2002.

            What could there be to discuss with losers, Zanu PF's amadoda
sibili or hawks must have asked themselves disdainfully.

            Yet the whole nation and the international community felt that
therein lay the best option for the country. You can already see that
playing itself out all over again.

            Even interviews with the party leader have become a journalist's
Holy Grail. It's a pity the way they all turn out the same for all the
differing rhetoric! And Zimbabwe and democracy are the biggest victims.

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Aid appeal exposes humanitarian crisis

Zim Independent

            Augustine Mukaro

            ZIMBABWE'S 2006 consolidated appeal for aid has exposed the
failure of government policies to improve people's lives or attract foreign
investment, forcing the nation to seek assistance in virtually all sectors.

            A massive US$277 million is being sought to fund food imports,
agriculture, shelter, health and other basic needs. Of this sum, food
accounts for the largest single item at US$111 million despite the country
receiving above-average rainfall this season.

            Agriculture, which was the mainstay of the economy until the
launch of government's chaotic land reform programme six years ago, requires
US$44 million, the second largest sum on the appeal.

            Shelter, which has never been an issue in Zimbabwe's previous
appeals, requires US$20 million, courtesy of government's disastrous
Operation Murambatsvina.

            Sweden, Norway, Ireland and the Netherlands have already
responded to the appeal either through direct contribution or pledges, with
Sweden availing US$5 million.

            The allocation will be channelled through the International
Organisation for Migration and the United Nations' arms of Humanitarian
Assistance and Children's Fund Unicef.

            The appeal, drafted by the United Nations and its implementing
partners in conjunction with government, shows that state policies have
worsened the humanitarian situation characterised by high unemployment,
sharp economic decline and fuel shortages.

            "The humanitarian situation was further compounded by government's
Operation Murambatsvina/Restore Order which targeted what government
considered to be illegal structures and informal businesses," reads the

            "The operation further exposed the underlying challenges
involved with rapid, unplanned urbanisation and the subsequent acute housing

            The operation led to rapid growth in the number of displaced and
homeless people, combined with loss of livelihoods for those that previously
worked in the informal sector."

            Government estimates that 133 000 households were destroyed
during the operation but UN secretary-general Kofi Annan's special envoy for
Human Settlement Issues in Zimbabwe, Anna Tibaijuka, said 700 000 people
were directly affected through the loss of shelter and livelihoods.

            "Of those who lost their homes many continue living in the open,
while others stay in the ruins of their former houses or drift from location
to location. Some have found alternative rental housing in urban areas,
while others have returned to rural areas," the appeal says.

            In response government built only 5 000 housing units under
Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle programme, leaving the donor community to
seek over US$20 million for shelter for displaced people.

            The appeal further exposes government's failures in agriculture
and food security policies. Food and agriculture account for US$154 million
in the appeal in a year when government has forecasting a bumper harvest.

            "Government acknowledged that more than 2,9 million people will
be in need of food relief in 2005/6," the appeal says. The appeal confirms
that the country faces a maize deficit of more than 1,3 million tonnes this

            "In the 2005/6 season at least three million people will require
food assistance, as the country harvests an estimated 600 000 tonnes of
maize compared to its requirement of 1,8 million tonnes," the appeal says.

            "The humanitarian situation is likely to continue to deteriorate
in 2006, particularly due to the steady decline of the economy, which will
have an adverse effect for already vulnerable populations," it said.

            "Among the expected developments in 2006 are decreases in the
quality and access to basic services, deepening of urban poverty, continued
difficulty of people previously employed in the informal sector to
re-establish their livelihoods, continued emigration, new farm evictions and
deepening overall vulnerability to natural disasters."

            The appeal says the enactment of the Constitutional Amendment No
17 nationalising all land, created uncertainty which
            made investors hesitant to venture into agriculture.

            "In September 2005, parliament ratified the Constitutional
Amendment Number 17, which nationalised all commercial farms and ousted
powers of the courts to entertain any claims by owners of nationalised
 land," the appeal says.

            "This has further marred the interest of foreign investors in
the Zimbabwean economy."

            Analysts said the uncertainty in the agricultural sector had
affected both commercial farmers and the new farmers since they don't have
security of tenure on the land they are occupying.

            The appeal says the priority humanitarian action would be to
save lives, enhance positive coping mechanisms, mitigate the impact on
vulnerable populations and ensure comprehensive and coordinated humanitarian

            The appeal aims to provide: food assistance to an estimated 3
million people; agricultural and livelihoods support to 1,4 million
households; improve access and quality of education services for 93 000
children; temporary shelter to 23 000 displaced and homeless households;
immunise 5,2 million children against preventable communicable diseases and
ensure nutrition and disease surveillance; support home-based care for 55
000 persons living with HIV/Aids, health care, including essential drugs and
anti-retroviral drugs to 3,6 million people; assist 600 000 women and
children in mother and child health care programmes, target 1,6 million
community members in the health monitoring and surveillance;
            conscientise 4,5 million people about HIV; sensitise 1,5 million
people on the prevention of sexual and gender-based violence; provide
multi-sectoral assistance to the 300 000 mobile and vulnerable populations;
            assist 96 000 returning deportees; offer assistance and
psychosocial support to over 500 000 orphans and vulnerable children, and to
deliver improved the water and sanitation services for 2,4 million people.

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Zim nears 'divide by zero' situation as inflation soars

Zim Independent

            By Charles Frizell

            MOST ordinary people in Zimbabwe are confused about the reason
for the frightening level of inflation. Who knows where it will go from

            Economists will give you many complicated reasons for the causes
of runaway inflation, and indeed the reasons are many and complicated.

            However, in the case of Zimbabwe, the reason is that the value
of Zimbabwe's exports is far smaller than the value of essential imports.
And it continues to shrink.

            Added to this and compounding the problem is the fact that as
local industries close, the products that they used to manufacture now have
to be imported.

            This requires far more foreign currency than the small amount
needed by the manufacturer.

            We should all remember from school that when you divide one
number by a smaller number the answer is a larger number.

            We should also remember that when we divide a number by zero,
the answer becomes an infinitely large number.
            Now if we divide the value of our imports by the value of our
exports we will get a number larger than one if exports are smaller than

            As exports shrink, this number becomes larger and larger. And
then, when exports cease the number becomes infinite.

            At this point the currency becomes valueless and the economy can
be said to have collapsed.

            With official inflation of nearly 800% (and unofficially
estimated to be much higher) we are obviously getting very close to the
"divide by zero" situation.

            The reasons of course are known by all: the destruction of
agriculture leading to the collapse of many industries, the continual
attacks on all productive businesses and now the proposed nationalisation of
the mining industry.

            Even the government no doubt knows the reasons but as it caused
them in the first place, it is very unlikely to have the courage to rectify

            Charles Frizell is a Zimbawean writing from the UK.

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Nyarota attempts to spin his mistakes

Zim Independent

            By Percy Makombe

            WHEN the history of Zimbabwean journalism is told, there is no
doubt in my mind that Geoff Nyarota's name will be among the top crop of
journalists who have made sacrifices and risked life and limb to tell the
Zimbabwean story.

            Nyarota's role in investigative journalism is a matter of public
record not least because of his strenuous efforts that led to the revelation
of the Willowvale scandal.

            Indeed, the way Nyarota and his team of dedicated journalists
managed to continuously churn out copy after copy of the now banned Daily
News is commendable.

            Much more commendable is the way they were prepared to return to
work and continue with their profession even after their printing presses
were bombed in what had the hallmarks of a military operation.

            Nyarota and his journalists refused to be intimidated and for
that they carved their place in our media history for their dedication to
the cause of freedom of expression and investigative journalism.

            I must however express my utter disappointment with Nyarota's
article, "Tsvangirai, Mutambara and MDC's future", that first appeared in
the Financial Gazette (March 16).

            Much more disappointing is Nyarota's failure to acknowledge the
terrible error of judgement on his part during that abominable Gukurahundi

            At that time Nyarota was the editor of the Bulawayo-based
Chronicle newspaper - a paper that was very loud in its silence as
defenceless Zimbabweans were being slaughtered for their perceived PF Zapu

            Journalists have a tendency to spin their mistakes.

            In a subsequent article in the Financial Gazette (March 23),
Nyarota attempts to spin his mistakes by making allusions to the different
and difficult times that they were operating in at that time.

            This simply does not wash, especially as evidenced by the stance
that he took in the Willowvale investigations.

            In 1988 then Defence minister Enos Nkala summoned Nyarota and
his deputy Davison Maruziva to his offices and threatened to send the army
to drag them if they refused to come.

            Needless to say that both were not intimidated and went on to
publish information that was regarded as sensitive in a
government-controlled newspaper.

            The point is that Nkala was running a whole army but Nyarota and
Maruziva still refused to succumb to his threats.

            This is the same stand that Nyarota should have taken during the
Gukurahundi era. Having failed to take such a stand then, it is not amiss to
show contrition rather than hand-wringing arrogance.

            Also disturbing is not so much his attack on Welshman Ncube as
his utter lack of evidence to back his claims. Nyarota takes the use of
evidence to new lows.

            He is convinced that Ncube was plotting a palace coup since

            His evidence for this is based on information received from
Elias Mudzuri and Colonel Dyke. So because Mudzuri and Dyke have said it, it
must be the untainted truth.

            The whole idea of Ncube sending Dyke to negotiate for coverage
in the Daily News is as suspicious as it is unbelievable.

            This idea we are told also had the backing of Emmerson Mnangagwa
and Solomon Mujuru. Mnangagwa and Mujuru working together?

            It is a sign of journalism gone awry when illustrious editors
build an entire body of evidence based on information gleaned from
suspicious sources.

            Nyarota also accuses the pro-senate MDC faction of pursuing an
MDC-Zanu PF unity pact. Indeed Nyarota makes a meal of the meetings between
Patrick Chinamasa of Zanu PF and the MDC's Ncube.

            He is not the only one who seeks to make a meal out of these

            It has been suggested in other circles within the MDC that Ncube
took a unilateral decision to begin talks with Zanu PF and come up with a
constitution as part of the process to deal with the Zimbabwe problem.

            This, it is said, was done without MDC president Morgan
Tsvangirai's knowledge.

            This is patently false.

            And one need not look beyond Tsvangirai's national council
report to congress to see that Ncube was doing no more than what the MDC had
asked him to do. This is what Tsvangirai has to say:

            "After the June 2003 mass action - a time when the people shut
down the country for five days - Mugabe, working with President Mbeki,
revived the dialogue.

            Former secretary-general Welshman Ncube and Justice minister
Patrick Chinamasa began to explore a possible solution through the
constitutional amendment route.

            That effort was once again stalled by Zanu PF and Mugabe. The
process took us nowhere."

            Arthur Mutambara is accused of making strategic miscalculations
by joining the "rebel" faction.

            He is also attacked for joining an "irrelevant ethnic-based
clique" although little is offered in the form of evidence of why the group
he prefers to join is called "irrelevant" or "ethnic-based".

            Ncube and Paul Themba Nyathi are accused of having an unhelpful
"traditional attitude that the party is the exclusive preserve of the
founding fathers and mothers".

            This seems to be ridiculous, for how do you attack Ncube and
Nyathi for inviting Mutambara into the party and then in the same breath
accuse them of wanting to keep the MDC a preserve of its founding fathers
and mothers?

            So what is to be done?

            Nyarota's suggestions are as clear as mud as they are an
exercise in doublespeak.

            He says if Mutambara or Tsvangirai are to lead Zimbabwe, then
they need to have the capacity to "rally around them some of Zimbabwe's more
progressive politicians" and he gives as an example the following people:

            Simba Makoni, Tendai Biti, Roy Bennett, Daniel Shumba, Francis
Nhema, Oppah Muchinguri and Thokozani Khuphe.

            Here is a person who throughout his article has been attacking
Ncube and company for ostensibly wanting a government of national unity now
proposing what by all accounts looks like a government of national unity of
his own.

            What exactly is going on here?

            Having said all this, I still look forward to reading Nyarota's
book. Nothing will take away his achievements in Zimbabwe under a very
trying environment.

            As Zimbabweans, and especially as witnesses, we need to record
our history so that the world will know our story, and history.

            The kind of national identity that is promoted by the public
media is a xenophobic kind. It will therefore be interesting to read an
account of journalism in Zimbabwe from one who has both the public media and
the private media experience.

            To the feuding MDC camps I offer the advice of the 18th century
French philosopher Voltaire. When he was invited on his deathbed to renounce
the devil he replied: "This is no time for making new enemies."

             Percy Makombe was the MDC's senior press and communications
officer in the run-up to the 2002 presidential election.

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A new constitution should come first

Zim Independent


            THIS week Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) came out
strongly against government's intention to amend the constitution for the
18th time to set up a Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission.

            On the other hand, the usual crowd of cheer leaders who applaud
every government move were wheeled onto national television to give the
proposed amendment a thumbs up and to praise government for its vision.

            But their blindness to the realities on the ground and the rules
of constitutional governance is the dangerous instrument which our
government has always used to justify mutilating the constitution for
political expediency.

            Lawyers have pointed out that the amendment to establish the
Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission will create "a mutilated bill of rights and
a proverbial constitution which does not espouse the principles of
            They are right.

            History has shown that in constitutions written on the spur of
the moment, at a specific point in time, usually when society faces very
difficult economic, social and other problems, there is a temptation and
often a necessity to deal with these problems swiftly.

            But provisions designed to quickly deal with immediate problems
may not be appropriate solutions for the long-term.

            In such instances human rights are not adequately protected, and
it will be difficult to do so later.

            Our government has been introducing piecemeal constitutional
changes to deal with land, to set up an upper house and now to set up a
Human Rights Commission.

            In the first two instances, the omnibus amendment carried with
it provisions which infringed the bill of rights by attacking property
rights and abridging the authority of the judiciary to hear cases relating
to land.

            It will not be surprising if the proposed amendment also brings
in egregious provisions to limit our democratic rights.

            As rightly pointed out by ZLHR, government should refrain from
manipulating and implementing piecemeal amendments to the constitution,
thereby negating the need for broad-based and inclusive consultation with
all stakeholders.

            This handicap in constitutionalism is deliberate. The government's
constitutional draft was rejected in the 2000 referendum.

            It is fully aware that in an all-inclusive process, the people
will reject self-serving laws. The plan is therefore to introduce piecemeal
measures on the hoof.

            This brings us to the dichotomy arising from Zimbabwe's
tinkering with supreme law-making and enactment of legislation.

            A constitutional amendment should be necessary to deal with a
particularly important issue. In this case the government has told us that
it intends to protect the citizens of Zimbabwe by setting up a body that
will deal with
            human rights abuses by state and non-state actors.

            We agree with human rights lawyers that to "establish a human
rights commission in the prevailing legislative and administrative operating
environment without corresponding and simultaneous changes to the current
repressive laws is tantamount to deception and attempts to create illusory
remedial institutions".

            A commission crafted in an environment of state-perpetrated
authoritarianism aided by repressive laws is a mockery to the populace
seeking protection from the constitution.

            Laws deemed to infringe the constitution must first be removed
from our statutes if the government's proposed commission is to be taken

            On that raft of legislation is the Access to Information and
Protection of Privacy Act and  the Broadcasting Services Act which have been
used as a pretext to close independent media houses, harass and arrest
journalists and to close independent radio stations.

            Laws which restrict the enjoyment of fundamental rights such as
assembly, association, protection of the law, freedom of expression and
movement such as the Public Order and Security Act, the Miscellaneous
Offences Act and Constitutional Amendment Act No 17 should be repealed.

            What Zimbabwe is crying out for are not more sweet-sounding
monoliths fashioned to bribe the nation's conscience that freedoms and
protection of rights will come from statutes.

            We live in a closed society where repression and brutality by
security forces is condoned by the state on the pretext of maintaining law
and order while the courts are unable to uphold the liberties to which we
are entitled.

            There is urgent need for a democratic constitution as the
foundation for a democratic government and only after such a process can our
constitution contain provisions for the establishment of a genuine and
effective human rights commission.

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Converting challenge to opportunity

Zim Independent

            Eric Bloch Column

            ONLY those capable of gross self-delusion and unfounded, extreme
optimism would suggest that all is well with the Zimbabwean economy.

            In fact, to the other extreme, a majority of the business
community are almost totally convinced that the economy has been destroyed
to such an overwhelming extent as renders it beyond recovery.

            Despondency and depression ranges far and wide, be it in
Zimbabwe's industrial areas, business centres, shopping malls, mines and
mining offices, or elsewhere.

            There is an almost continuous caterwauling that all is lost and
beyond redemption.

            If this were the characteristic of each and every Zimbabwean in
general, and of the entirety of the business sector, in particular, it would
be not only an absolute prophecy of doom and gloom, but also a prophecy
which will be self-fulfilling.

            Fortunately, however, that is not the case.

            Although the negative perceptions are massively wide-ranging,
with ever greater numbers at, or near, the point of no return, there are
still some who are not prepared to surrender to the abysmal economic

            There are those who are not prepared to succumb to the
innumerable business problems confronting them, and who remain determined to
overcome the crippling difficulties oppressing their business operations.

            Admittedly, those with the continuing resolve to fight on until
better times arrive are a minority of Zimbabwe's economic community.
              Nevertheless, they are still sufficient in number to provide a
foundation and a platform upon which the governmentally destroyed economy
can be rebuilt.

            One very pronounced element of the fighting spirit of those who
are not prepared to give in is adherence to a concept that every challenge
also presents an opportunity, and a belief that the opportunity must be
seized in order to overcome the challenge.

            One of those that have demonstrated, and continue to
demonstrate, that resilience and desire to survive is the Zimbabwe
International Trade Fair Company which vigorously continues to mount the
Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) every year, without fail, as well
as divers other exhibitions.

            In so doing, it does not only aid its own survival but also that
of the economy in general, and the enterprises that avail themselves of the
opportunities that it provides, in particular.

            ZITF and its antecedents can trace a history of promoting the
economy over a period of more than 107 years, commencing with an
agricultural show as long ago as 1899 on the same prime site in Bulawayo as
now houses ZITF.

            Over more than a century shows were staged with pronounced
regularity, promoting agriculture, commerce, industry, mining, education and
much else.

            The extensive exhibits by both local and foreign exhibitors have
displayed furniture and interior décor, tourism and hospitality, engineering
and construction, electronics and information technology, transport and
automotive products, mining supplies, clothing and textiles, agricultural
equipment and implements, seed, fertilisers and pesticides, irrigation and
water technology and almost all other facets of economic activity, inclusive
of informal sector produced commodities.

            Moreover, ZITF has provided a forum for dialogue on diverse
critical economic issues through the medium of international business
conferences and similar events, generally staged concurrently with the
annual fair.

            Inevitably, with the intensifying straitened economic
circumstances that have prevailed in Zimbabwe, and which continue to worsen
almost continuously, the extent of participation in ZITF has progressively

            In 1991, the fair hosted 1 190 exhibits, of which 552 were
non-Zimbabwean, representing 42 foreign nations.

            By 2001 the number of exhibitors had fallen to a low of 585, but
during the following four years there has been a progressively increased
participation, with a total of 696 exhibitors in 2005, including eight
"direct" foreign exhibitors (Austria, Botswana, China, Kenya, Malawi,
Mozambique, South Africa and Zambia), and 70 "indirect" (via Zimbabwean
representative enterprises) foreign exhibitors.

            Also of great importance is that over and above the public
visiting the fair to witness the array of products on display, it was also
visited by 47 689 business visitors last year, some from Zimbabwe, some from
the foreign exhibitor countries, and some from Bangladesh, Namibia, Angola,
Russia and Kuwait.

            The bottom line of the 2005 ZITF was that not only were there 78
foreign countries and enterprises who recognised that the Zimbabwean economy
will, no matter how distressed, survive and recover, and that therefore
there is benefit in continued promotion of self and of products, but there
were also 618 Zimbabwean enterprises who had like recognition.
            They were the ones who were not prepared to submit to the
surrounding economic morass, but are determined to do everything possible to
survive, and to play a role in bringing about economic transformation.

            In other words, those who displayed their wares at ZITF during
the years of economic decline were not prepared to be part of that decline,
but resolved to "hold their own" in anticipation of better days to come, and
to do what they could to assist and hasten the arrival of those better days.

            They were not oblivious to the myriad of challenges confronting
them, but were set upon not only surmounting those challenges but also to
converting them into opportunities, attracting business and support that
their competitors were forfeiting by depression-induced lethargy and
destructive attitudes.

            Current indications are that, although there is not yet any
prospect of an early return to the exhibitor support levels of 15 years ago,
ZITF 2006 will again be a vehicle for those with the tenacity and commitment
to overcome Zimbabwe's economic ills.

            To quote ZITF's general manager, Daniel Chigaru: "Despite the
difficulties that all businesses are experiencing currently, the response
for ZITF 2006 is good."

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There's no fool like an old fool

Zim Independent


            WE read with interest the Herald story on Tuesday about a
policeman who lost his car keys and a communication radio to suspected armed
robbers in Hatfield.

            There is no doubt that his was an act of outstanding valour in
approaching the four men single-handed. But there was also a certain level
of bravado that suggests foolhardiness.

            After forcing three of the robbers to surrender and lie down,
why was it necessary for him to chase after the lone run-away?

            Did it not occur to him that they might not just take the
vehicle keys but drive the car away with them? Why did he leave the keys in
the ignition and the communication radio in the vehicle when he needed it to
call for reinforcements?

            Did it not occur to him that the robbers left behind could
easily have shot him dead and disappeared? Yet arresting the three robbers
he had already subdued would have helped the police track down the fugitive.

            The article reads like a fairy tale in which the villain is the
victor. It doesn't paint a good picture of police training if it produces
such reckless officers. In seeking to win everything, he almost lost

            Still on the subject of car keys, why did none of the Herald
reports on Kumbirai Kangai's stolen Merc ask what the driver was doing
giving lifts to people at Roadport bus terminus? This was a government
vehicle. The suspicion arises that it had become a taxi!

            On Friday the Herald carried the colour portraits of nine
ambassadors who were presenting their credentials to President Mugabe. The
significance of this item cannot have been lost on even the most obtuse
Herald reader.

            Most of the new envoys will be "conducting their diplomatic
business from South Africa", we were told.

            In some cases it was Zambia. But the point is, nearly all the
countries cited in the report used to have ambassadors based here in Harare.

            Denmark, Slovakia and Argentina, for instance, used to be
represented here but decided to relocate elsewhere in recent years.

            Others have reduced their staff numbers as trade and the need
for consular services dries up.

            Many of the envoys presenting their credentials at State House
last week tried to think of something polite to say about their new posting.
But all they could manage was that there was "potential" for trade and

            The Danish ambassador nearly gave a hostage to fortune by saying
relations between Harare and Copenhagen were "now on the right footing

            He should beware of a Caesarian section!

            New British ambassador Andrew Pocock nearly had an involuntary
operation when he made some uncontentious remarks last week after a meeting
with Joseph Msika about the need to lay foundations before bridges could be

            But he was obviously not going to be drawn beyond that. So the
Herald had to content itself with repeating what Mugabe said when he met the
ambassador last month.

            It must be obvious to all observers now that there is no basis
for talks between Harare and London. You cannot have talks when new
draconian measures are being presented to parliament and the state is
fuelling inflation of over 800%, thus making business of any sort

            The Herald's reporter trotted out the tired official line that
"relations between Zimbabwe and Britain have been sour since the year 2000
when Harare embarked on the land redistribution programme".

            This is a comforting illusion. Relations between Zimbabwe and
many countries soured when political violence and fraud were used to prevent
the MDC winning the 2000 election. That is the reality the Herald's handlers
refuse to admit.

            And the establishment of a Human Rights Commission will make no
difference. The government has had ample time to investigate complaints of
torture by what Patrick Chinamasa calls "state actors" and has done nothing
to punish those responsible. Its failure to apprehend Joseph Mwale is
emblematic of its refusal to take human rights seriously.

            Chinamasa unwittingly sabotaged the commission's credibility by
saying it would have "the same independence as our judiciary and our
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission".

            So, no change there! But what interests Muckraker is how this
all came about in the first place.

            Obviously, key cabinet ministers don't wake up one morning and
decide to set up a Human Rights Commission because Zimbabwe is out of step
with certain international treaties. So who has spurred them into action?
How does it work?

            The Herald's Nathaniel Manheru column was last week spewing
venom at Independent staff over what appeared to be resentment of comments
in this column.

            The author didn't say which comments in particular had given
offence and to whom but we do recall drawing attention to the absence of
Manheru from the Herald the previous week and references in the same paper
to "Cde" George Charamba's presence in Windhoek at the opening of the
Southern Times' offices there.

            This apparently constituted "cockiness" which joins the long
list of offences an increasingly paranoid state finds unpalatable. Can we
expect a Suppression of Cockiness Bill to make its way to parliament soon?

            The reptilian author of the Manheru column, who likes to
regularly advertise the little learning he received at the hands of our
erstwhile imperial masters, threatened the editor and proprietor of this
newspaper with retaliation for letting the "Rhodesian dogs" out.

            "Kana koririsa koda kaparuka," he warned.

            This is not the first time this individual has threatened staff
at this paper. But let's put it on the record so when Chinamasa stands up in
parliament and talks about the need to bring delinquent "state actors" to
account we can mention a few names!

            And hasn't Manheru learnt yet that his threadbare "Rhodesian"
label has lost its purchase on the public imagination? Doesn't the miserable
failure of his Keystone Cops gang in Mutare tell him something about public
impatience with these diversions when the country is going down the tubes
thanks to his time-expired boss?

            And there was Didymus Mutasa in the Saturday Herald trying to
blame the police for Zanu PF's latest debacle.

            Needless to say, he was allowed to get away with it by the
nation's most unchallenging reporter who asked questions like: "What do you
think about the discovery of arms caches 26 years after Independence?"

            Shouldn't that have been: "How can you go on pulling stunts like
this 26 years after Independence?"

            But Mutasa had some jewels to share with us.

            "There are people in Zanu PF who worked so hard to bring this
country to where it is today."

            Indeed, no disputing that. Then there was his assertion that
"the economy we inherited was never intended for
            the number of people there are in the country".

            So that's why he's running it down?

            And can you believe Ceasar Zvayi asking a question that begins:
"Morgan Tsvangirai, who was tried on charges of high treason, has threatened
to violently remove President Mugabe", without disclosing that the MDC
leader was acquitted on  those charges?

            Indeed, it has become a habit of the state press to repeat
charges at length long after they have been dismissed either before plea or
in court.

            Mutasa was asked if he was being "groomed for the presidium".

            "I do not have that kind of ambition," was the reply.

            But wasn't it in an earlier "conversation" with Zvayi that he
revealed his ambition to be vice-president? Have both he and Zvayi conspired
to forget that?

            "What is the secret behind your success?" Zvayi gushed.
            Muckraker was too busy throwing up to catch the reply.

            Meanwhile, Vice-President Joseph Msika has been calling
Tsvangirai a fool.

            "Do not listen to that fool. He is nothing. He is waffling,"
Msika told farmers in Makonde.
            But he appears to forget that "there's no fool like an old fool".
We recall him waffling about dogs sniffing around not so long ago.

            "I will defend the gains of our liberation struggle with all my
intelligence." he told his audience. They must have been greatly reassured.
Also reassuring was his claim in Gwayi that "everything is well on course in
so far as the turnaround strategy is concerned".

            Still on the subject of intelligence, why did Nathan Shamuyarira
and Elliot Manyika have to issue a joint statement condemning Tsvangirai? Is
it a double act? Do they need to prop each other up?

            And next time Shamuyarira purports to be defending the gains of
the liberation struggle he should be reminded of the F-word. Frolizi! By the
way, what happened to his magnum opus on the struggle?

            Some of our ambassadors abroad are so intimidated by negative
reports about Zimbabwe that they are failing to undo the damage caused, a
former senior diplomat told a meeting last week. Strategies were needed to
overcome a hostile press, Ambassador Tendai Mutunhu said.

            "If the negative reports are not true there is no reason why our
tourism sector should continue to suffer like this."

            So what sort of untrue reports is he talking about: inflation at
over 800%; arbitrary arrests and detention of government's critics;
newspapers closed down; commercial agriculture ruined; irrigation equipment
stolen; fuel diverted for sale on the black market; 700 000 made homeless by
state-sponsored attacks on their homes and businesses (with more to come)?

            Which one of those negative reports is "untrue" Ambassador? Were
they all invented by the media? And do you really think you are going to
lure visitors back to this country by getting our diplomats abroad to claim
nothing like that is happening?

            People who live in our tourism source markets are not the fools
you take them for. And, unlike ours, the media there cannot be suborned into
saying all is well in Zimbabwe when it manifestly isn't.

            A reader called in on Tuesday to say he witnessed the following
incident at around 8pm on Monday night. The presidential motorcade had just
passed the junction of Lomagundi Rd and King George Road heading back into
town, presumably after visiting the home of the late police protection unit
officer, Winston Changara.

            A vehicle had apparently detached itself from the motorcade and
a soldier who had got out was beating a motorist, kneeling on the ground
beside his car, with his truncheon. The victim had his arms up trying to
cover his head from the savage assault.

            This horrific episode was caught in the headlamps (the
streetlights weren't working) of numerous motorists who, transfixed by the
scene, remained stationary despite the lights turning to green.

            It was useful to have this report in the same week that
Chinamasa referred to "falsifications" and "exaggerations" of human rights

            Let's hope there were no tourists watching!

            Finally, a lighter moment:

            A young man consults a fictitious publication's agony aunt.

            Hallo Tete,

            I have a problem and ndovimba kuti muchandibatsira ne nyaya iyi.

            I am a car thief and dealer in Mbare who has recently been
diagnosed as a carrier of the HIV virus. My parents live in Mufakose and one
of my sisters, who lives in Mabvuku, is married to a gold smuggler.

            My father and mother have recently been arrested for growing and
selling marijuana. They are financially dependent on my two sisters, who are
prostitutes at a city hotel.

            I have two brothers, one is currently serving a non-parole life
sentence at Chikurubi and my other brother is currently at Remand Prison
awaiting his sentence.

            I have recently become engaged to marry a former prostitute who
lives in Highfield.

            All things considered, my problem is this. I love my fiancée
very much and look forward to bringing her into the family.

            I certainly want to be totally open and honest with her.

            Should I tell her about my cousin who is an MDC supporter?

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When god came to town

Zim Independent

            Editor's Memo

            Vincent Kahiya

            IN his short story When god came to town, author Yuval Cohen has
these lines: "The sun should have been shining and the birds should have
been singing, but not even god's almighty sun could have penetrated the gray
clouds of smoke and the yellow clouds of sulfur that hang over town like a
painting by some mad artist who'd have made Dante's description of hell look
like a childhood fantasy of an imagination-less nun...And besides, all the
birds were dead."

            The reason for this failure of the godly power to bring light to
the doom and gloom is perhaps because this was not the real omnipotent God.
There are many who have pronounced themselves or have been given the title
god but are in reality deeply bereft of the messianic mantle.

            A god came to town this week. Equatorial Guinean President
Teodoro Obiang Nguema who is in Harare on a state visit has been given this
fulsome title by his praise-singers. Like Cohen's god, we do not expect his
sun to bring any illumination after the visit.

            In 2003, state-operated radio in his country declared that
Obiang was a god who is "in permanent contact with the Almighty".

            "He can decide to kill without anyone calling him to account and
without going to hell because it is god himself with whom he is in permanent
contact and who gives him this strength," a presidential aide announced on a
show Bidze-Nduan (Bury the fire), which deals with "peace, tranquillity and
the order reigning in the country".

            His visit was an important fillip for our rulers as the list of
visiting heads of state has over the years dwindled. Zimbabwe is definitely
not the flavour of the month and Obiang's visit this week was a rare
opportunity for the president to showcase his newfound allies after falling
out of favour with the West.

            I recall in the early 1980s being bussed into town early in the
morning and dropped off along Julius Nyerere Way to cheer a visiting head of

            We would miss school all day waiting in the baking sun for the
esteemed leader amid promises from our teachers that he would be arriving
soon. The wailing siren of a council ambulance would send us rushing for
strategic positions to view the great leader. When the real wailers came
through we would all wave at the speeding vehicles without even getting a
glimpse of our target hidden behind darkened windows.

            The streets were then adorned with portraits of the visiting
head of state and flags of his country and of course our own prime minister
smiling down at his subjects from the perch of a shiny steel mast.

            The masts and boards to hold the portraits have rusted over
extended periods of idleness. Some of them have been brought down by
inebriated motorists. The rusting tall poles are reminders of the heyday of
Zimbabwe's foreign policy when the country had friends who mattered and had
clout abroad.

            This was a time when heads of state would come to announce
generous plans to assist the fledgling state and aid would flow in.

            There was an attempt at this former splendour this week with
flags and portraits to announce the arrival of Equatorial Guinea's Obiang
who has been in power since 1979 after he toppled his uncle in a violent
coup and subsequently executed him.

            Prior to this Obiang visit, Zimbabwe had received Uganda's
Yoweri Museveni in 2004, Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia in 2002 and the DRC's
Joseph Kabila in 2001. All these heads promised to enhance co-operation
between their countries and Zimbabwe.

            Museveni signed memoranda on agriculture and tourism. Kabila
promised greater co-operation in mining and agro-forestry while showing his
appreciation for Zimbabwe's expensive campaign in the DRC. We are still
waiting for the spin-offs from these visits.

            The "god" who was in town this week has fuel, and an energy pact
with his counterpart would not be a bad idea.

            He was also excited with Zimbabwe's timely tabling of the
Suppression of Foreign and International Terrorism Bill to protect the
country from those trying to remove the government unlawfully. Remember
Zimbabwe's "valiant" efforts in thwarting a mercenary mission to remove
Obiang from power in 2004?

            Mugabe was in familiar company this week considering Obiang's
political CV. He formally assumed the presidency in October 1979. A new
constitution was adopted in 1982; at the same time, Obiang was elected to a
seven-year term as president. He was re-elected in1989 as the only

            Although Obiang's regime is considered more humane than that of
his uncle, most domestic and international observers consider it to be one
of the most corrupt, ethnocentric, oppressive and anti-democratic states in
the world, a reincarnation of Haiti under Papa Doc Duvalier. Equatorial
Guinea is now essentially a single-party state, dominated by Obiang's
Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE).

            All but two members of the 100-seat national parliament belong
to the PDGE, or are aligned with it. The opposition is severely hampered by
the lack of a free press as a vehicle for their views. Obiang was re-elected
in 1996 and 2002, but the conduct of both elections was not acceptable to
international observers.

            Sounds familiar, doesn't it? By the way, does anyone still
remember Tony Gara's proclamation of Zimbabwe's only "begotten son"?
Yearning for a headline: "Two deities meet". But sadly there will be no

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