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Mugabe 'accepts that Morgan Tsvangirai won

The Telegraph

'
By Peta Thornycroft in Harare and Sebastien Berger, Southern Africa
Correspondent
Last Updated: 7:49PM BST 30/04/2008
Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu-PF party has signalled that it is willing to accept
that the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai came first in the country’s
presidential election.

But they insisted that, contrary to claims by his Movement for Democratic
Change, he had falled short of the absolute majority required for victory.
More than a month after the poll, the Zimbabwe Election Commission has still
not announced the results. Nonetheless senior government sources said that
Mr Tsvangirai took 47 per cent, with President Robert Mugabe second on 43
per cent.

A top Zanu-PF official said: “Those figures are in line with the official
figures and the MDC knows that the official tally is more or less around
that but they have been inflating their numbers to claim a false victory.”

The ruling party’s willingness to concede a first-round lead to Mr
Tsvangirai may be a sign that, having delayed the results and used the time
to launch a campaign of violence against opposition supporters, it is now
confident of winning a second round. It may also have been the best they
could hope for if Mr Tsvangirai really did take more than 50 per cent and
rigging has had to be employed to bring down his share of the vote.

According to Zimbabwe’s Lawyers for Human Rights about 150 teachers who
acted as local presiding officers at the elections have been arrested and
are being prosecuted accused of favouring the MDC.

In the days following the vote on March 29 sources in Harare said Mr Mugabe
and the Zanu-PF hierarchy had been shocked by the fact and scale of his
defeat. By throwing a blanket of silence over the results, it plunged the
country into a political impasse and weakened the MDC’s momentum.

Mr Tsvangirai threatened to boycott a run-off, then said he would take part
if UN-led observers were allowed. If he does not participate Mr Mugabe will
be declared the winner by default, but a third candidate, the former finance
minister Simba Makoni, will back Mr Tsvangirai, according to his campaign
co-ordinator.

Zimbabwe’s election law says the second round must be held within 21 days of
the first vote, but that deadline has already passed and it is not clear
when it will take place.

The chairman of the election commission, George Chiweshe, is a Mugabe
loyalist and sources close to the body said their figures were similar to
the Zanu- PF officials’.

"We don’t have the final figure yet but at the last count we had between 48
and 50 percent” said one. Another said it was above 47 per cent, “but less
than 50”.

On the basis of the Zanu-PF figures, Mr Tsvangirai’s share is at the very
bottom of the margin of error found by the independent Zimbabwe Election
Support Network, which projected he had taken 49.4 per cent, plus or minus
2.4 per cent. By contrast Mr Mugabe’s share is at the top end of his
estimate of 41.8 per cent, plus or minus 2.6 per cent.

The government has also promised to inject a note of reality into its
bizarre economic policies, saying it would abandon its fixed exchange rate
for a market in hard currency.

The destruction of Zimbabwe’s economy has left 80 per cent of people
unemployed and was a key issue in the country’s election in March, which has
thrown it into a political crisis as Mr Mugabe seeks to hold on to power,
but analysts were sceptical about the announcement.

Officially one American greenback is worth 30,000 Zimbabwe dollars — a
currency which traded at more than the US dollar at independence.

But on the black market the rate is 150 million to one, making the
government rate almost meaningless — and some banknotes worth less than a
sheet of lavatory paper.

Nonetheless the discrepancy is one of the drivers of Zimbabwe’s
hyperinflation, now over 165,000 per cent according to the government, and
businesses suffer by being forced to swap foreign currency earnings at far
below their real value, wreaking further havoc on an economy already
shattered by Mr Mugabe’s misrule.

In a statement on monetary policy, Gideon Gono, the governor of Zimbabwe’s
central bank, said that authorised foreign exchange dealers would be allowed
to match buyers and sellers.

He said the authorities were committed to taming the hyperinflation.

“This dragon cannot be allowed to continue and we will be dealing a decisive
blow to its existence,” he said.

But the key issues of what the new exchange rate would be and whether a
truly free market would be allowed to operate remained unclear.

John Robertson, an independent economist based in Harare, pointed out the
language being used was similar to when an auction system was proposed a few
years ago.

“They very quickly stepped in to stop the auction price being anywhere near
the market price, and very quickly the market was not being supplied with
foreign currency any more. I think they are going to interfere in exactly
the same way again.

“There’s a basic philosophy in government that there’s no market so powerful
they can’t legislate it out of existence, and of course the market always
does predominate.” The highest ranks of Mr Mugabe’s regime, who can buy US
dollars at the official rate, had too much to lose from a free market in
hard currency, he pointed out.

“They give themselves the privilege of buying very cheap foreign currency.
The ones who do have all become very rich on that gap. It’s immensely
rewarding to them and they don’t really care very much about the suffering
of the rest of the population.” Another economist, who did not want to be
named, added: “While this move may temporarily stall the rate as people try
and work out what is going on, it’s not going to last.”


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Zimbabwe 'set for election run-off'

aljazeera
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 30, 2008
20:21 MECCA TIME, 17:21 GMT

Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition in Zimbabwe, has
beaten Robert Mugabe in a disputed presidential election, sources close to
the country's electoral commmission say.

If the results of the March 29 poll are confirmed, it will set
the scene for a second round of voting.

Tsvangirai took 47 per cent of the vote against the incumbent
president's 43 per cent, the sources said on Wednesday.

Each candidate had to win 50 per cent of votes cast to avoid a
run-off election.

Tsvangirai, who leads the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC),
has already said that he has won the presidential election outright.

He says that Mugabe, who leads the Zanu-PF party, has delayed
the results of the presidential poll in order to rig the election.

Figures 'credible'
Mugabe will be declared the winner of the presidential poll if
Tsvangirai decides not to take part in a run-off vote, according to election
rules.

A senior Zanu-PF party official said that the figures suggested
by the government sources had credibility.

"Those figures are in line with the official figures and the MDC
knows that the official tally is more or less around that but they have been
inflating their numbers to claim a false victory," the official said.

Another source said that Tsvangirai had in fact taken a higher
proportion of the vote, between 48 per cent and 50 per cent, while another
said the opposition leader had won more than 47 per cent "but less than 50"
per cent.

The electoral commission is due to start a collation and
verification process on Thursday.

Mugabe's chief spokesman George Charamba said he was not aware
of the figures leaked by government sources on Wednesday.

"I was with [electoral commission chairman] Justice [George]
Chiweshe yesterday and he was waiting for results from different centres,"
he said.

Intimidation campaign

The MDC and human-rights groups say that Zanu-PF has led a
violent campaign to intimidate Zimbabweans into voting for Mugabe in a
run-off.

The government has dismissed the accusations.

The presidential vote in Zimbabwe was held simultaneously with
parliamentary and senate polls, amid a worsening economic crisis.

The Zanu-PF party has already lost control of the 210-seat
parliament after results of that poll were released.

The country is experiencing severe food, fuel and foreign
currency shortages.

Its current rate of inflation - 165,000 per cent – is the
world's highest.


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Zimbabwe to float its currency: central bank governor

Yahoo News

Thursday May 1, 04:13 AM

HARARE (AFP) - Zimbabwe has decided to float its local currency on foreign
exchange markets in an attempt to eliminate speculation on the black market,
the governor of the Central Bank said Wednesday.

"The Reserve Bank has with immediate effect introduced a willing
buyer-willing seller... arrangement in the foreign exchange market,"
governor Gideon Gono said at a news briefing.

The official exchange rate in Zimbabwe has been kept at 30,O00 Zimbabwe
dollars for one US dollar since September 2007 -- but on the thriving black
market, one US dollar can be exchanged for around 100 million Zimbabwe
dollars.

Gono said that with the new reforms, "the availability of foreign exchange
will gradually improve to a point not experienced over the last few years."

This is the second time in four years the beleaguered southern African
country has opted to liberalise its foreign exchange trading system.

In January 2004 Zimbabwe introduced a foreign exchange auction system in
which the central bank determined the rate in a bid to narrow extreme
differences between the official and parallel rates.

Economic experts said the move was long overdue.

"It was a very bold and welcome move. It will work for the economy," John
Mangudya, chairman of the Bankers Association, told AFP.

"There was no need to continue starving the economy" of foreign exchange.

He said bankers were due to meet on Friday to decide on rates from which
trading could kick off.

Zimbabwe has long been experiencing a shortage of foreign currency which saw
the government failing to import adequate vital commodities such as fuel,
electricity, food and medicines.

Traditional top foreign currency earners such as tobacco and tourism have
nosedived in recent years due to failure of the country's controversial land
reform programme and political tensions, according to critics.

Zimbabwe is currently in the throes of one of its worst economic crises
since independence from Britain in 1980, with unemployment at 80 percent and
inflation at 165,000 percent.


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Sokwanele Urgent Press Release

Sokwanele - Enough is Enough - Zimbabwe
PROMOTING NON-VIOLENT PRINCIPLES TO ACHIEVE DEMOCRACY

PRESS ALERT

Farmer and family currently under seige in Zimbabwe: farm workers are being violently assaulted
Sokwanele : 30 April 2008

Wayne Munroe, a farmer in Nymandlovhu (just outside Bulawayo in Matabeleland South, Zimbabwe), has been under siege since early this morning. His property has been encircled by in excess of 100 "war veterans".

He phoned the police in Nymandlovhu to inform them of the problem and was on the phone to them when 4 "war veterans" entered his office. He immediately told the member in charge that they were there and that a 303 (gun) was being pointed at his chest. He was forced to hang up.

A tussle ensued: Munroe was injured on the hand with the head of an axe blade and he sprayed the attackers with pepper spray enabling him to escape.

He was fired at 4 times, but they missed, and Munroe managed to get to the farm house where his mother and grandmother live.

The war veterans moved into the compound outside the perimeter fence and are busy right now beating the workers.

Munroe's wife and his two children, aged 4 and 5, are holed up in their own house some 100m away.

One of the workers managed to escape the beating at the compound (which is outside the perimeter fence of both farm houses) and managed to get to Munroe.

He told Munroe that after they finished beating the workers, they were coming for the farmhouses.

Mrs Munroe (Ursula) managed to phone out that she was going to attempt getting to her husband, but has failed because more armed "war veterans" have moved in.

She is currently there now.

Senator David Coltart has repeatedly called Chief Inspector Munyira at Nymandlovhu to go and assist the Munroes.

Coltart was told by the police they would send a detail out but at 3.10pm one - ONE - police officer arrived at the gate of the farm and then left.

To add to the sinister nature of the situation, this morning the regular member in charge and various other officers were replaced at Nymandlovhu police station. This points to the fact that the police were not trusted to carry out this brutal assault.

Yesterday Munroe was warned that there had been a meeting at stops camp in Bulawayo where the decision to invade had been made.

==== For more information please contact =======

SWRadio Africa (http://www.swradioafrica.com) are attempting to contact the Munroes. To prevent the Munroe telephone line from being blocked up with calls at a time of crisis we are asking the press to please contact SWRadio Africa directly for information. They will be functioning as an intermediary for press enquiries.

  • Gerry on (44) 2083871407 direct line until 6pm UK
  • Gerry mobile (after 7pm) (44) 7789874019
  • Tererai mobile (44) 7985140135
  • Gerry@swradioafrica.com

David Coltart can be contacted on : +2782-5520988


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South Africa Blocks UN From Sending Envoy



SW Radio Africa (London)

ANALYSIS
30 April 2008
Posted to the web 30 April 2008

Tichaona Sibanda

South Africa once again showed on Tuesday that it was in bed with the regime
in Harare, when it blocked attempts by the United Nations Security Council
to send an envoy to investigate atrocities against MDC supporters.

President Thabo Mbeki has come under attack at home and abroad for his
softly softly approach to Zimbabwe, when the regime is butchering unarmed
civilians as punishment for voting for the MDC in last month's elections.

Other nations who spoke up against any Security Council discussion and
action on Zimbabwe were China, Russia, Libya and Vietnam. Burkina Faso said
that Africa should take the lead and the Southern African Development
Community should be given the opportunity to mediate in the crisis.

MDC secretary general Tendai Biti was in New York at the UN where he briefed
the council on the post-poll crisis. He had called for a 'strong and
decisive' resolution from the 15-member Security Council against the Mugabe
regime, as well as for the dispatch of a UN envoy or fact-finding mission to
Zimbabwe. 'The meeting was frustrating,' Biti said, in reference to South
Africa's position to block the Security Council from taking any action
against the regime.

The MDC MP for Harare East has openly accused Mbeki of sympathising with
Mugabe. MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa called the Security Council's failure
to take action against the regime a 'tragedy'. Last week the MDC called on
Mbeki to step down as the SADC mediator.

At the UN meeting Tuesday, Western countries pressed for a UN mission or
envoy to visit Zimbabwe, where the results of the disputed presidential
election four weeks ago have still not been released.

The MDC won the parliamentary majority in the elections and says its leader
Morgan Tsvangirai won the March 29 vote outright. The party accuses Mugabe
of delaying results to rig victory and says a prolonged crisis will lead to
further and widespread bloodshed.

Reports from New York indicated that European countries, Latin America and
the United States supported sending a verification team, but South Africa,
which currently holds the council presidency, said such a move was not a
matter for the council.

France's UN Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert, told reporters the fact the
Security Council had met to discuss the crisis sent a signal to the regime
that 'we are looking very carefully at what they are doing'.

The UN under-secretary general for Political Affairs, Lynn Pascoe, had told
the closed meeting that Zimbabwe was in the midst of its worst humanitarian
crisis since independence from Britain in 1980.

Countries including the United States and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon
have said it was clear Tsvangirai won the election.

Political analyst Bekithemba Mhlanga described the stance taken by the South
Africans at the UN as demoralising and depressing to all Zimbabweans. He
said what would be helpful is for South Africa to make their position clear
as to why they are taking that position.

'All along they were saying it's a problem that needs to be sorted out by
Zimbabweans and yet people in Zimbabwe did just that on the 29th March when
they voted the MDC into power to change the country's fortunes,' Mhlanga
said. People are now beginning to seriously question the moral compass of
the South Africans.

'At his inaugural speech when he took over the South African presidency
Mbeki said he was proud to be an African walking the streets of Mbare
(Zimbabwe) and Guinea Conakry. What people should ask him now is does he
still feel proud to be an African seeing all the atrocities in Zimbabwe?
asked Mhlanga.


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Farm Workers Severely Assaulted By Zanu-PF Thugs in Nyandhlovu



SW Radio Africa (London)

29 April 2008
Posted to the web 30 April 2008

Tererai Karimakwenda

A group of about 200 ZANU-PF thugs descended on a farm compound in the
Nyamandhlovu area outside Bulawayo on Wednesday, and brutally assaulted farm
workers and their families.

Some in the group were armed and they fired shots into the air while
toy-toying. The farm owner and his wife have been barricaded in separate
houses all day, along with some farm workers who escaped from the compound.

The attackers have been shouting that they want Munroe and singing in
Ndebele. The police came and left without getting involved. It is believed
that Obert Mpofu, the local ZANU-PF MP, ordered this attack.

Wayne Munroe, the farm owner, was phoning the police when 4 war vets entered
his office. It is not clear whether they grabbed the phone from him, but a
scuffle followed and Munroe was injured on the hand with the head of an axe
blade. He managed to spray the attackers with pepper spray and in this way
created an opportunity to escape. The attackers fired at him 4 times but
they missed. Munroe made it to the farmhouse where his mother and
grandmother live.

One of the farm workers escaped the beatings at the compound and ran to join
Munroe. He reported that the attackers were planning to come for the farm
houses, after they finished beating the workers.

Newsreel spoke to Ursula Munroe, while she was barricaded in the farmhouse
and the attackers were out in their yard shouting for her husband. She has
her two children with her aged 2 or 4. She said some of the attackers appear
to be local settlers from neighbouring farms. She believes that they were
offered food or other scarce commodities for carrying out these attacks.
Among them are women and children in ordinary clothing who do not appear to
be war veterans.

State-sponsored violence and intimidation on commercial farms has
intensified this week. Several white farmers have been barricaded in their
farmhouses and others have been evicted without much notice. As we reported,
the President of the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) Trevor Gifford is
barricaded in his house and experiencing serious problems on his farm. Deon
Theron, the CFU Vice President, has been evicted from his farm.


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Schools in Crisis As Teachers Flee Rural Violence



SW Radio Africa (London)

30 April 2008
Posted to the web 30 April 2008

Tererai Karimakwenda

An educational crisis has developed around the country with many schools
suffering from a shortage of teachers, due to the current crackdown on
suspected opposition supporters and officials.

Our correspondent Simon Muchemwa said teachers are not returning to work
because they are being hunted down and victimised for the role they played
during the elections and because the ruling party considers them agents of
the opposition.

The problem is most serious in the rural areas where the state-sponsored
violence is more intense. Muchemwa said teachers in these remote areas are
normally provided accommodation on the school grounds or near the school so
that they do not have to travel to work. This makes them easy targets to
find.

Our correspondent spoke to a teacher from Murehwa who said he was threatened
with death before schools opened. He had worked as a polling officer for his
constituency and was being blamed for ZANU-PF's loss in the area.

The teacher told Muchemwa that his story is not unique. He said most of his
colleagues in the profession are refusing to go back to rural schools until
they are promised safety. This will not happen because the authorities who
can guarantee that safety are the ones ordering the attacks.

Tens of thousands of teachers have left the country seeking better
opportunities so they can support their families. Those who stayed have been
working for extremely poor salaries and without adequate resources. Muchemwa
said even these dedicated professionals are now looking for opportunities
outside Zimbabwe.


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Six workers with anti-poverty agency arrested in Zimbabwe

Monsters and Critics

Apr 30, 2008, 16:07 GMT

Harare - Zimbabwe's police have arrested six members of the international,
non-governmental organization, Action Aid, in eastern Zimbabwe.

Police said the aid workers were helping them with their investigations into
post-election violence in the area.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa that the
six Action Aid workers who include the Zimbabwean acting director Nancy
Kachingwe had been located by police in Manicaland province.

'We are holding them so that they assist us with investigations of
violence,' said Bvudzijena.

Tensions have erupted into violence in the area ahead of the release of the
disputed March 29 presidential election results.

'They were seen in the areas were violence took place so we want them to
assist with investigations. As soon as they finish cooperating we will
release them,' Bvudzijena said.

Action Aid is a South Africa-based organization that fights poverty and
works to uphold human rights.

'We are yet to be charged, the police want us to explain why there was
violence in Manicaland,' read a text message sent by one of the Action Aid
workers.


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Continuing criminality by the mugabe regime

STATEMENT

COMBINED HARARE RESIDENTS ASSOCIATION [CHRA]

The continuing failure of the regime to call duly elected councillors to office must be opposed. The City of Harare has been occupied by an illegal commission for 4 years. Local Government elections were held on 29 March and the winning candidates were declared duly nominated on 30 March. A month later, elected Councillors have still not been sworn into office in a flagrant breech of the law. This serves to emphasize the illegal and criminal nature of the regime.

CHRA calls upon the elected Councillors to be pro-active and to press ahead with the business of Council, starting with neighbourhood meetings to inform residents about their intended policies for our city. CHRA is ready to facilitate such meetings.

CHRA
30 April 2008

RELEVANT LEGISLATION:

Chapter 29:15Urban Councils Act Act 21/1997

[As amended by Local Authorities Election Laws Amendment Act, 1997 - (LAELA)]
[Note: Repeals made to this Act by LAELA were superseded by amendments to the Electoral Act.]

47 Assumption of Office by councillor

(1)A person who is deemed to have been elected as a councillor at the close of the nomination court in terms of section 103M of the Electoral Act [Chapter 2:01], or who is declared to have been elected in terms of section 103N of that Act following the withdrawal of a candidate, shall assume office—
(c) in the case of a general election of councillors, on the day following polling day.
[Subsection as substituted by LAELA, s.27(a).]
(2)Any person who is elected as a councillor as a result of a poll shall assume office—
(b) in the case of any subsequent general election or by-election, on the day following polling day.
(3) Before undertaking any duty as such, a councillor shall take and subscribe before the town clerk of the council such oath of loyalty and office as may be prescribed.
[Subsection as inserted by LAELA, s.27(b).]

....

84 Meetings and special meetings of council
(1)A council shall hold its first meeting on such date and at such place as the Minister may fix and thereafter the council shall, subject to this Act, meet for the dispatch of business and adjourn, close and otherwise regulate its meetings and proceedings as it thinks fit:
Provided that the council shall hold an ordinary meeting—
(a) as soon as is practicable after each general election; and


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World Bank ties Zimbabwe help to policy shift

Reuters

Wed 30 Apr 2008, 12:25 GMT

By Charles Mangwiro

MALEMA, Mozambique, April 30 (Reuters) - International donors are ready to
help Zimbabwe's ailing economy recover as soon as the government proves it
is committed to economic and social change, a World Bank official said on
Wednesday.

"Zimbabwe is in a bad situation and the reality is that many donors are
ready to assist Zimbabwe once the government shows the commitment to the
international community that they are willing to address the critical
economic and social problems," said Michael Baxter, the World Bank's
director in the region.

Baxter, who returned from an evaluation mission to Zimbabwe on Tuesday, said
inflation in Zimbabwe -- the world's highest at 165,000 percent according to
government figures -- was "realistically" at 200,000 percent. That figure is
still far below estimates of other analysts.

He said the World Bank was prepared to offer emergency grants to help get
the local economy back on its feet as soon as the government showed it was
dedicated to reform.

Baxter did not comment on Zimbabwe's disputed presidential elections, in
which opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai says he unseated veteran President
Robert Mugabe. He was speaking about Zimbabwe's government in general terms.

"Once the government says 'we want to address seriously our economic and
social challenges', many multilateral and bilateral donors are ready to
support (Zimbabwe)," Baxter said.

"The first thing will be grants and not loans, because ... it's an emergency
issue," said Baxter, who is also in charge of Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia and
Angola for the Bank.

"We will put up a programme for emergency support and this will depend on
the government's priorities. But at the moment, for us, it's food, health,
supplies to small-scale farmers in the form of seeds and fertiliser, (and)
the repair of water and sanitation infrastructures including electricity
generation."

Zimbabwe -- which once boasted strong agricultural and manufacturing
sectors -- has slowly descended into economic chaos over the past decade,
weighing on regional development.

The country faces chronic shortages of food, water and fuel and has an
unemployment rate of 80 percent.

About 3.5 million out of a population of 12 million Zimbabweans have fled
the country since the late 1990's.

Baxter, who was speaking to Reuters by telephone from Maputo, said
Zimbabwe's arrears to the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the
African Development Bank stood at $1.1 billion.


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Torture, murder, threats as Zimbabwe sinks into violence

Monsters and Critics

Apr 30, 2008, 12:06 GMT

Johannesburg/Harare - Mid-April, state-controlled radio in crisis-ridden
Zimbabwe began to play its first war songs.

Songs such as Mr Government, containing the words: 'We are living like
squatters in the land of our heritage ... give me my spear so that I can
kill the many sellouts in my forefathers' country.'

Another song entitled Tora Gidi (Take the Gun) is a call to arms in the
fight for freedom, according to the non-governmental organization, Media
Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ).

The songs are supposed to incite hatred and violence and target opposition
members, from whom the fruits of the struggle against colonialism must be
defended.

The United Nations confirmed early Wednesday that the wave of violence in
Zimbabwe had reached alarming levels.

In neighbouring South Africa, media like the private TV-Station e-tv or
newspapers like the Sunday Independent are already talking about the threat
of civil war. Secretly-filmed footage revealed the extent of the violence
with frightening images of tortured, traumatised people with horrific
injuries. A variety of human rights groups independently confirmed these
claims.

These reports show that the army and police are, at the very least,
indirectly involved in the campaign of terror, being conducted by the
thuggish militias of President Robert Mugabe, 84.

The victims have all one thing in common - they are suspected to have voted
for the opposition. They are dragged off, beaten with clubs or belts,
tortured or burnt.

One victim reported that militia members had put a plastic bag filled with
inflammables on his back and set fire to it. Hospital doctors in the
surrounding area had been strictly warned not to treat the injury, the
opposition claims. The police did nothing.

'There is a de facto state of emergency in the country, Movement for
Democratic Change(MDC) Secretary General Tendai Biti said ahead of the
largely-ineffective general strike to press for the release of March's
presidential election results.

The MDC has warned of 'massive violence' through state repression leading to
the deaths of Zimbabweans.

Speaking at UN headquarters in New York Wednesday morning, Biti warned:
'Zimbabwe is a war zone with the militias deployed everywhere. There is a
complete militarization of the country by the military junta and people are
disappearing.'

Biti said his country was facing a 'humanitarian catastrophe' because of the
lack of food supplies since the turmoil after the March 29 presidential
elections.

According to observers, President Robert Mugabe hopes through widespread
intimidation tactics to win a possible run-off election with MDC leader
Morgan Tsvangirai.

A month after the presidential election there are still no official results.
According to Tsvangirai, Mugabe had expected defeat immediately after the
election and had made contact with the opposition.

But than all contact had been broken off.

'I think what went wrong is this: some of the hawks in the military said we
can't accept a transfer of power,' Tsvangirai told the South African
newspaper City Press. 'And that's when the problem started,' he said.

Owing to human rights abuses, many of the generals in Mugabe's regime would
fear the retribution of the international courts.

Deutsche Presse-Agentur


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UN voices reluctance to act on Zimbabwe

International Herald Tribune

By Warren Hoge and Celia W. Dugger Published: April 30, 2008

UNITED NATIONS: The Security Council heard on Tuesday what an American
official called a "sobering" account of electoral stalemate and violence in
Zimbabwe, but ended up discouraging proposals for direct United Nations
involvement in the crisis.

"There are a number of delegations that don't believe the Council should be
engaged on this, which is regrettable," said the official, Alejandro Wolff,
the deputy American ambassador.

The briefing, delivered to a closed session of the Council by B. Lynn
Pascoe, the under secretary general for political affairs, prompted calls
from the United States and its European allies for sending a fact-finding
mission or special envoy to the country.

Karen Pierce, Britain's deputy ambassador to the United Nations, said Pascoe
had spoken of "a level of political intimidation and violence that I think
many Council members found quite chilling."

But diplomats said the proposals ran into opposition led by South Africa,
this month's president of the Council. "It's their country; we don't need a
special envoy," said Dumisani Kumalo, the South African ambassador.

Arguing that the electoral impasse did not constitute the kind of threat to
international peace and security that demands the Council's involvement,
Kumalo said: "Different countries hold elections; some do it very well, some
do it not so well. That is the only way you can look at elections around the
world."
The final results of the March 29 election in Zimbabwe have still not been
released, and the delay has led to accusations that the nation's autocratic
president, Robert Mugabe, is trying to ward off what appears to have been a
defeat for him and his ruling party, ZANU-PF.

Tendai Biti, the general secretary of the opposition Movement for Democratic
Change, or MDC, called the outcome of the Council consultations "tragic as
it is disappointing." He added that some countries "have decided to play
Ping-Pong with our people."

Pascoe said that the United Nations had "a great deal of concern" about the
unrest in Zimbabwe and that it was working through the African Union and the
Southern African Development Community. "At the moment, I think they have
the lead on this issue, so let's see what the government and the opposition
want us to do," he said.

In Zimbabwe, most of the people who were rounded up Friday at MDC
headquarters in Harare, the capital, were freed Tuesday by order of the
country's High Court, without being officially charged.

Alec Muchadehama, the lawyer representing them, said 182 people, who had
been scattered to police stations across the capital, were released. Among
them were people wounded in the postelection violence, some with broken arms
and legs.

Muchadehama said their detention since Friday in Harare jails would probably
deter others from coming forward to lodge complaints with the police about
attacks by the governing party's youth militias and supporters.

The Herald, the state-owned newspaper, reported Tuesday that on Monday the
police had released 29 of those taken into custody Friday, primarily women,
babies and the elderly.

In what could be interpreted as a clear warning to those who claim to have
been attacked by state-sponsored thugs, the newspaper quoted the chief
police spokesman, Wayne Bvudzijena, as having said, "We have profiled
everyone we rounded up, so that if need arises, we will always make a
follow-up."

Zimbabwean election officials had raised hopes over the weekend that Mugabe
and his leading challenger for president, Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC,
might be called in as early as Monday to begin verifying the outcome of the
presidential election, a process expected to take about a week. But Utoile
Silaigwana, the deputy chief election officer, said Tuesday that the
verification would not begin until Thursday, representing yet another delay
in satisfying a growing clamor for Zimbabwe to finally say who won the
presidential contest.

Election officials say a recount of 23 of the 210 parliamentary seats is
completed, but they have yet to officially announce the results for all 23.
There has been no change in the outcome of races in which they have
announced recount results.

It is now widely expected that the MDC and a faction that splintered from it
will together have a majority in Parliament, the first time the governing
party led by Mugabe has lost control of the legislative branch since
Zimbabwe gained independence from white rule in 1980.

Warren Hoge reported from the United Nations, and Celia W. Dugger from
Johannesburg.


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Zimbabwe dismisses U.N. talks as "racist and colonial"

Vancouver Sun

Cris Chinaka, Reuters
Published: Wednesday, April 30, 2008
HARARE (Reuters) - President Robert Mugabe's government dismissed the United
Nations' first session on Zimbabwe's election crisis as "sinister, racist
and colonial" on Wednesday and said it would have no impact on the country.

At the U.N. Security Council meeting on Tuesday, Western powers pressed for
a U.N. mission or envoy to visit Zimbabwe, where the results of a disputed
presidential election four weeks ago have still not been released.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says its leader Morgan
Tsvangiari won the March 29 vote outright. The MDC accuses Mugabe of
delaying results to rig victory and says a prolonged crisis will lead to
widespread bloodshed.

"For us, this (U.N. session) is a sign of desperation by the British and
their MDC puppets. It is sinister, racist and colonial for Britain to try to
rope in everyone to support its neo-colonial agenda here ... but it will
fail," Zimbabwe's Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga told Reuters.
Former colonial power Britain has been at the forefront of international
pressure on Mugabe. It is seeking an arms embargo on Zimbabwe, an
investigation into post-election violence, and has called for the election
results to be issued immediately.

"While we condemn all these machinations, we are also sure that the larger
international community are getting to understand that our main problems are
with the British. They are behind all these moves against us, but we will
stand our ground," Matonga said.

Verification of election votes has been put off until Thursday, again
delaying when Zimbabweans will know if Mugabe will stay in power in a
country critics say he has ruined with reckless economic policies. The
process could take a week.

"HUMANITARIAN CRISIS"

France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert told reporters the fact that
the Security Council had met to discuss the crisis sent a signal to
Zimbabwe's authorities "that we are looking very carefully at what they are
doing."

The U.S. and British envoys said U.N. Under-Secretary General for Political
Affairs Lynn Pascoe had told the closed meeting that Zimbabwe was in the
midst of its worst humanitarian crisis since independence from Britain in
1980.

Zimbabweans had hoped the election would ease economic turmoil. Instead,
severe food, fuel and foreign currency shortages are worsening and there are
no signs an inflation rate of 165,000 percent -- the world's highest -- will
decrease.

In the aftermath of elections, violence which the opposition blames on
Mugabe has spread through the country. The government denies it is involved.

Human Rights Watch said in a statement late on Tuesday that Zimbabwe's army
is supplying militants with weapons to intimidate voters to ensure Mugabe
wins a possible runoff.

The rights body said military forces had equipped war veterans with weapons
and trucks to scare Zimbabweans into backing Mugabe.

European countries, Latin American U.N. members and the United States also
supported sending an envoy, diplomats said, but South Africa, which
currently holds the council presidency, said such a move was not a matter
for the council.

South African President Thabo Mbeki has come under attack at home and abroad
for his softly approach to Zimbabwe.

Countries including the United States and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
have said it was clear Tsvangirai won the election.

Zimbabwe's U.N. ambassador suggested both sides would need to come up with a
power-sharing deal in a national unity government.
"There is no way anybody can do without the other," Boniface Chidyausiku
told the BBC.

(Writing by Caroline Drees)


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US Senate calls for Mugabe to quit

Channel4 News

Last Modified: 30 Apr 2008
Source: PA News

The US Senate has called for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to step
aside and begin a peaceful transition to democratic rule.

In a non-binding resolution passed by a voice vote, the Senate said the
Zimbabwean Electoral Commission should immediately release the results of
the March 29 presidential election, which Mugabe is widely believed to have
lost.

Senator John Kerry, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who
lost the 2004 US presidential election to George Bush, introduced the
resolution.


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Zimbabwe's MDC says 20 members died in poll unrest

Reuters

Wed 30 Apr 2008, 17:17 GMT

HARARE, April 30 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's opposition MDC said on Wednesday 20
of its members had been killed by pro-government militias in violence since
last month's elections.

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said the violence had reached alarming levels
and soldiers took part in attacks on party members.

"More and more people perceived to be MDC supporters continue to be beaten
up resulting in over 20 MDC activists being killed in just one month," he
said in a statement.

"Only over the past two days, five MDC activists have been killed by ZANU-PF
militia including soldiers." (Editing by Andrew Dobbie)


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Zimbabwe Farmers Hold On To Tobacco Crop Citing Low Prices

nasdaq

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AFP)--Zimbabwe's tobacco selling season was called off for
the second time in as many weeks Wednesday after farmers withdrew their crop
from the auctions citing low prices.

The auction floors in Harare, ranked among the continent's largest, were
supposed to open at 7:30 am local time (0530 GMT), but after around 80 bales
went under the hammer, farmers started ripping off the price tags in
protest.

"The price is useless, I would rather keep my tobacco and sell to buyers
from Malawi or Zambia," Ottilia Mavhunga, a farmer from Karoi, a farming
town in northern Zimbabwe, told AFP. "I have been waiting here since Tuesday
last week for them to offer us this nonsense."

An AFP correspondent witnessed angry farmers standing on tobacco bales as
they shouted their protest over the price while some tore the bales and
flicked tobacco leaves around the floor.

Around 400 farmers waited on the auction floors as officials from
government, buyers and farmers' representatives met to try to resolve the
price dispute.

The government offered the farmers 70 million Zimbabwean dollars - the
equivalent of U.S. dollar a kilogram - falling short of the parallel market
rate widely used by service providers.

Farmers get paid in Zimbabwe dollars based on the official exchange rate
with the U.S. dollar which is a tiny fraction of the black market rate in a
country where inflation is running at around 165,000%.

In April last year, sales of tobacco - once Zimbabwe's top foreign exchange
earning crop - were also delayed over a pricing stalemate.

Tobacco production in Zimbabwe has declined from a record high of 236,130
metric tons in 2000, the year controversial land reforms were launched, to
just 68.8 tons last year.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires
04-30-080527ET


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Zimbabwe commercial bank eases foreign exchange rules

Reuters

Wed 30 Apr 2008, 14:02 GMT

By MacDonald Dzirutwe,

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's central bank eased foreign exchange rules on
Wednesday, allowing commercial banks to set the currency rate to help thwart
a thriving parallel black market.

The southern African country is in economic meltdown with official inflation
at 165,000 percent, unemployment of more than 80 percent and consumers
facing chronic shortages of food, fuel and foreign currency.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono said the country would move
away from the current fixed exchange rate to a willing-buyer, willing-seller
policy.

"Under this framework, authorised dealers will match sellers and buyers of
foreign exchange guided by a pre-determined priority list as set from time
to time by the Reserve Bank," he said in a monetary policy speech.

The top priorities would be food and agriculture inputs.

Currently, the official rate is Z$30,000 to the dollar, while the national
revenue authority uses a rate of Z$270,000.

It trades as high as Z$190 million on the black market.

John Mangudya, head of the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe: "We (banks) get
to set the rate because this is on a willing buyer, willing seller basis."

"If the central bank tries to set the rate then there will be no willing
seller," Mangudya said, adding he hoped to meet with the Reserve bank on
Friday to get more detail on the new policy.

Gono also announced that the main lending rate would increase to 4,500
percent from 4,000 percent and vowed to tame rocketing inflation.

"We remain committed as ever before to tame this dragon. This dragon cannot
be allowed to continue and we will be dealing a decisive blow to its
existence," he said, without giving further details.

Zimbabwe's inflation is the highest in the world.

The policy changes come amidst a political crisis over a delay in announcing
presidential election results.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has said he won the March 29 election
outright and accuses President Robert Mugabe of delaying the result to rig
victory.


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Raid On MDC Office Claims Another Life



SW Radio Africa (London)

30 April 2008
Posted to the web 30 April 2008

Lance Guma

An MDC female councillor for Sadza (Mashonaland East) has died from injuries
she received after being beaten. She had gone to the MDC headquarters in
Harare, hoping for sanctuary and medical treatment, but she was caught up in
the police raid on Friday.

Police bundled over 250 MDC activists and staff members into buses and
trucks and took them into custody. 24 babies and 40 children under the age
of six, plus 30 elderly villagers, were among the arrested. All had fled the
state sponsored violence campaign in rural areas. A Crisis in Zimbabwe
Coalition statement says councillor Rusere was part of that group and she
was detained at Braeside police station in Harare. Despite a High Court
order Monday allowing for medical attention for all those detained, police
ignored it until Tuesday when they released some of them. Only then was
Rusere transferred to hospital where she died.

The crackdown on the opposition and civil society groups showed no sign of
abating Wednesday when police raided the offices of NGO Action Aid around
lunchtime. Police from the Law and Order department detained five people
from the organisation, including acting country director Anne Chipembere and
senior programmes officer Precious Shumba. On the same day Fambai Ngirande,
the information and policy manager for the National Association of
Non-Governmental Organisations, was released by police following a day in
custody. He had been arrested Tuesday over NANGO's 'Make Your Vote Count'
campaign. Ngirande was warned against speaking out against Robert Mugabe.

Meanwhile pressure group Human Rights Watch released a statement Tuesday
accusing the Zimbabwean army of supplying Zanu PF militants with weapons to
be used against opposition supporters. It said war veterans, soldiers and
supporters of the ruling party are, 'intensifying their brutal grip on wide
swathes of rural Zimbabwe to ensure that a possible second round of
presidential elections goes their way.' Georgette Gagnon, the Africa
Director for Human Rights Watch, said the army was providing the militants
with weapons and trucks for use in their campaigns. The group has urged the
United Nations Security Council and the African Union to 'take immediate
steps to help prevent a further escalation in violence.'

Over 15 MDC supporters have been killed since the March 29 elections that
handed control of parliament to the opposition. Mugabe has since blocked
announcement of the presidential election results, which many believe he
lost to MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai. The Joint Operations Command, who
comprise mostly security chiefs, have ordered a deliberate state sponsored
campaign of violence countrywide to condition the population for a run-off.
Reports say Emerson Mnangagwa has replaced state security minister Didymus
Mutasa as head of JOC. Mnangagwa is thought to have persuaded Mugabe to hang
onto power and that a campaign of violence would be enough to see Mugabe
re-elected in a run-off. The perpetrators of the violence have been given
carte blanche to do as they please without any legal consequences.

Adding to the evidence that it is a deliberate Zanu PF sponsored violence
campaign, last week the Minister of Small to Medium Scale Enterprises
Sithembiso Nyoni is said to have watched her aides beat up opposition
supporter Zachariah Isaac Ncube in Nkayi North. Ncube was so badly beaten he
had to be admitted to hospital. Lionel Saungweme our correspondent in
Bulawayo says the minister watched in silent approval as her aides set about
beating Ncube while calling him a 'sell out' and 'stupid Blair' (a reference
to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair). It's also reported that
Mugabe's regime has set up 5 torture bases in Matabeleland South all manned
by 'young' soldiers, a fact that would confirm Human Rights Watch's
observation, the army is arming Zanu PF militants.


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Investors eye Zimbabwe, hope regime change will reduce risk

Santa Barbara News Press

DONNA BRYSON

April 30, 2008 9:50 AM

with BC-Bullish on Africa

Associated Press Writer

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) - For all the current political and economic
chaos in Zimbabwe, foreign investors are testing the potential of its stock
market.

The Zimbabwe stock exchange and the value of Zimbabwean companies traded in
neighboring South Africa soared when it appeared Zimbabwean President Robert
Mugabe had lost March 29 elections. But the boom went bust quickly as it
became clear Mugabe would try to hold onto power, whatever the results of
the election, which have yet to be released.

Alka Banerjee, New York-based global equities vice president for Standard &
Poor's, said the stock surge, however brief, shows how closely investors are
watching Zimbabwe, waiting for the right time to move in.

''Firstly, Africa is hot, everyone wants to invest in Africa because there's
a commodities boom going on,'' she said.

Zimbabwe should have been riding high on that boom, with its platinum,
nickel and other resources, Banerjee said. Less than a decade ago, she said,
it was seen as a strong emerging market because of its natural resources, an
agriculture sector driven by tobacco, and several strong banks and other
companies.

Zimbabwe's key agriculture sector was devastated, bringing the rest of the
economy with it, by a land reform campaign Mugabe launched in 2000 that saw
the often violent seizure of farmland from whites. Mugabe claimed the
program was to benefit poor blacks, but much of the land was handed over to
his cronies.

Fuel, food and other goods are scarce. Zimbabwe has the world's highest
inflation, officially 165,000 percent, though independent estimates put it
closer to 290,000 percent.

Mugabe's response has been to print more money and keep his exchange rate
artificially low. He has been increasingly isolated - suspended from the
World Bank in 2000, shunned by Western donors who accuse him of abusing his
citizens' human and political rights.

Some potential investors worry about being accused of supporting Mugabe's
regime, said Barry Davies, chief executive officer of franchising with the
South African property company Chas Everitt International. But Davies, a
former Zimbabwean, said investors can help the country recover from Mugabe.

In the week after the elections, Everitt noted it was opening offices in
Zimbabwe, saying ''hopes are high for a peaceful regime change.'' Davies
says he has heard in the last two weeks from dozens of potential investors
interested in commercial agriculture as well as other real estate.

''I think it's inevitable there will be change,'' Everitt said, adding the
decision about when to invest ''depends on appetite for risk.''

While some weigh when to go in, Johannes Gawaxab, managing director of
African operations for South Africa's Old Mutual, says his financial
services group is in the best position: sitting on investments in financial
services companies and real estate it has held in Zimbabwe for more than 100
years, waiting for a chance to expand.

''The economy has got good drivers,'' Gawaxab said. ''We are currently in a
holding pattern, just to see what the political future is.''


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Zimbabwe police accuse opposition

BBC

19:30 GMT, Wednesday, 30 April 2008 20:30 UK



Zimbabwe's police chief has accused the opposition of trying to rig
elections and stirring political violence.

Augustine Chihuri said more than 100 cases of fraud had been found
following last month's elections, whose results have not yet been published.

Meanwhile, government sources said that opposition leader Morgan
Tsvangirai had defeated President Robert Mugabe, but failed to secure an
outright victory.

The report comes as electoral officials are due to start verifying the
results.

Nelson Chamisa, a spokesman for Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC), said reports that his party leader had won 47% of
the presidential vote to Mr Mugabe's 43% appeared to be a rumour spread by
the government to prepare people for a run-off.

The MDC insists its leader, Mr Tsvangirai, won the presidential
election on 29 March outright.

Zimbabwe's Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu said he was not
aware of any election result, urging people to wait for the official
results.

In a separate development, Mr Chamisa said 20 people had been killed
in politically-motivated attacks in Zimbabwe since the polls.

'Old trick'

Mr Chihuri, a key backer of President Mugabe, described the alleged
fraud as "evil" and a new phenomenon.

Human rights groups and the opposition say the ruling party is behind
a wave of attacks on opposition activists.

But Mr Chihuri blamed the violence on those who were complaining.

"The old trick of claiming human rights violations when somebody steps
on your toe, yet you yourself are poking out other people's eyes, will not
work this time around," he said.

Mr Chihuri is one of the Zimbabwean security chiefs who reportedly
persuaded Mr Mugabe not to step down immediately after the 29 March
elections.

Many of Zimbabwe's top security officials took part in the 1970s
independence war and share the president's fiercely nationalistic outlook -
blaming the country's problems on the West.

Before the election, Mr Chihuri said he would not allow "puppets" to
take over - seen as a reference to the MDC.

'Brutal'

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused the army of organising the
attacks on MDC activists, by providing weapons and transport.

"We have seen incidents of people being made to lie on their stomachs.
And brutally beaten on their backs and buttocks with logs, thick logs, with
iron bars with huge rocks and stones," HRW researcher Tiseke Kasambala told
the BBC.

She blamed most of the violence on Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party but said
there had been two cases of MDC revenge attacks, which she warned could lead
to "anarchy".

A traditional chief in Hurungwe, north-west of Harare, has fled his
home after being attacked by ruling party supporters.

"The Zanu-PF youths accused me of not mobilising my subjects to vote
for the party, although I got a plough and farming inputs [from the
government]," Tendaupenyu Katongomara told a BBC contributor in the area.

The MDC and HRW say the violence is intended to intimidate opposition
supporters ahead of a possible run-off in the presidential election.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai says he defeated President Mugabe
outright.

But independent observers and Mr Mugabe's allies say a run-off may be
needed as no candidate gained more than 50% of the vote.

UN divided

There are numerous reports of teachers in rural areas saying they had
been threatened by Zanu-PF supporters after working as election officials.

One teaching union official said that 9,000 had not reported for work
at the start of term this week.

Mr Chihuri said that 108 suspects were helping the police over
allegations of fraud.

"Placing wrong candidates in office who were not selected by the
people is evil and should never be allowed at all cost," he said.

"This is a new phenomenon in the electoral history of Zimbabwe."

The MDC and Western countries say Mr Mugabe and his supporters rigged
previous elections.

The UN Security Council on Tuesday discussed the situation in Zimbabwe
but could not agree on what action to take.

UN Under-Secretary for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe told the Security
Council that Zimbabwe was in the midst of its worst humanitarian crisis
since independence.

He expressed concern about a very high level of political intimidation
and violence, and the "use of food as a political weapon".

MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti had travelled to New York to lobby
members to send a special envoy and humanitarian assistance.

But countries such as China and South Africa were not in favour of
taking any action.


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Zims face deportations as army assume sub chiefs roles

The Zimbabwean

Wednesday, 30 April 2008 09:25

By Trust Matsilele

Pretoria: Over 100 Zimbabwean activists are facing deportation this
weekend after the Department of Home Affairs found them to be illegal in
South Africa.
These Zimbabwean nationals were arrested whilst demonstrating at the
Chinese Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa last Friday.
The demonstrators had failed to file an urgent application to the
South African Police Service (SAPS) as to go and hand in a petition at the
Embassy seven days prior to the demonstration as required by the law.
Meanwhile Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (ZEF)
, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and Solidarity Peace Trust are fighting nail,
tooth and claw to have these activists as they face persecution once in
Zimbabwe.
On Tuesday about thirty of the 150 who had been arrested on Friday
were released after paying a bail of R500 each and among them are the
Revolutionary Youth Movement leaders, Simon Mudekwa and John Chikwari.
This reporter has it on high authority that the Ambassador of Zimbabwe
to South Africa, Simon Khaya Moyo has collected the names from Sunnyside
Police Station and intent on handing them to the Beitbridge Law and Order
section unit.
With over 15 Movement for Democratic Change activists having been
killed following the post election violence lives of these Zimbabweans will
obviously be in danger if they are deported back home any time soon .
Reports’ coming from Zimbabwe alleges that every chiefdom and sub
chiefs are now under the heavy surveillance of the Zimbabwe National Army,
Military Police and Joint Operation Command in preparation of a possible
run-off.
A resident of Masogwe village in Mwenezi district of Masvingo who just
fled from the warlike region alerted the Zimbabwean that all sub chiefs in
the district had been suspended and members of the army were presiding over
these areas as interim sub chiefs.


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Seven days of fantasy in a city of crushing reality

Sophie Shaw sees the spirit of John Lennon and Bob Marley inspire Zimbabweans at Harare's International Festival of the Arts

Artists perform a scene showing a satirical version of recent elections in Zimbabwe during the main act of the opening day of the Harare International Festival of the Arts.

Artists perform a scene showing a satirical version of recent elections in Zimbabwe during the main act of the opening day of the Harare International Festival of the Arts. Photograph: Howard Burditt/Reuters

The bloated, bloodstained king of an enchanted land takes centre stage. He extends his life vampirically by stealing the music from his people. Some he beats until they stop singing, others are persuaded to sell their melodies for Chinese tractors and other tat. His country's spirit dies - apart from the songs of hope people sing in their dreams.

This was the motif for Dreamland, the opening event of Harare's International Festival of the Arts last night. The festival is an annual miracle that rejuvenates and encourages Hararians, in the midst of one political crisis after another, and cultural starvation for 51 weeks of the year.

An astonishing collection of international, particularly African, talent arrives for a week of performances and collaborative jams with talented Zimbabweans. The product is a dense programme of acts ranging from Welsh opera to Malawian tribal dance. The highlights are always the cultural fusions, like Spanish reggae act Canaman and South African supergroup Freshlyground.

As Dreamland begins, small choirs dotted around the arena sing Shona songs of love and freedom. One by one, they are silenced by storm troopers, who chillingly hood and throttle the singers before dragging them off-stage.

The backdrop to the festival is that Robert Mugabe's youth militias are rampaging through the country, dishing out punishment beatings to those who dared to support the opposition on 29 March. A wave of refugees has fled the violence, but hundreds, including mothers and children, have been arrested in Harare on absurd charges and kept in squalid police cells.

This gave new meaning to songs, like The Cranberries' haunting Zombie, richly sung by Zimbabwean singer Prudence Katomene:

"Another mother's breaking,
Heart is taking over.
When the violence causes silence,
We must be mistaken."

Anyone who knows the Cranberries' music would have noticed that Katomene changed a lyric to make clear that she was referencing Zimbabwe today, not Northern Ireland a decade ago:

"It's the same old theme since 1980."

As Katomene neared the end of her song, actors dressed as stormtroopers got on stage and clubbed her theatrically to the ground, stifling her last note.

Also altered by context was Bob Marley's celebration of independence, Zimbabwe, performed by another superb female native vocalist - Chiwoniso. Zimbabwe needs to be liberated again, but this time not from white supremacists, but from a tiny clique of old men.

The comedic high point of the show was the arrival of the king, tottering, hands dripping with blood, stuffed into military uniform. The crowd booed and jeered, only to burst out laughing, as the king sang The Jackson 5's Never Can Say Goodbye.

The climax was John Lennon's Imagine. As the song progressed, dozens of young children tried to light candles. But it's a chilly, blowy autumn here and many times their little flames were put out. They kept trying and in the end, every child was a tiny point of light. It could have been a saccharine moment, but for the genuine earnestness of the youngsters and the poignancy of youth here.

If Robert Mugabe was at State House last night, he cannot have failed to hear the sound of young Zimbabweans singing out their hopes for a better future, or of 3,000 Hararians cheering as the old man was mocked and derided.

Zimbabweans feel that this could be the last arts festival of the Mugabe era. But that does not change the fact that these are tough and dangerous times. At least for this week, the festival is lifting spirits and inspiring activists to face the trials that are to come.

• Sophie Shaw is a pseudonym


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Robert Mugabe chewed up

Financial Mail, SA

02 May 2008

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Edgar Tekere was a founder member of Zanu, with Robert Mugabe, in
whose first cabinet he served. The controversial Tekere was expelled from
Zanu-PF by Mugabe in 1988. He spoke to Amarnath Singh about the Zimbabwe
elections.

Were the elections fair?

The ending shows they did not go well. But whatever happens, one thing
is clear: Robert Mugabe lost, he got chewed up by Morgan Tsvangirai, and now
he is trying all sorts of tricks to hold on. But he is finished and can
never be an effective head of state again. He is resorting to criminal and
outright treasonable things, on top of his many other human rights abuses.
The intelligent thing would be for him to ease himself out, but I do not
credit him with much intelligence.

Will Tsvangirai be president?

Tsvangirai won the elections. He ought to be president. It's up to him
to sort it out. There is talk of a government of national unity to lift the
country out of the mess it has been put into by Mugabe. We need brains and
resources beyond any one party, but absolutely not Mugabe. The people have
said no to him because he has destroyed the country in every respect.

Has Thabo Mbeki's mediation helped?

I don't think much of Mbeki - he is a colourless character. He is not
helping our situation at all. He behaves like Mugabe's running-boy. I don't
know what animal quiet diplomacy is. He had no cause to insult ordinary
Zimbabweans by saying there's no crisis in this country.

Is the army an obstacle to change?

There's a lot of speculation about that, but on a slightly amusing
note, would General (Constantine) Chiwenga (head of the army) accept
Tsvangirai as head of state after Mrs Chiwenga publicly assaulted the MDC
leader when he was inspecting food availability at a supermarket in Harare
some time ago?

Will the army prevent him?

If any commanders don't like him they must resign. We have rules.

Is the land question settled since farms were seized from whites?

I said to Tsvangirai this act of land reform was a revolutionary move
and that he should use his platform to smooth out the things that were left
unsettled, such as the element of corruption, some top people having more
than one farm, and to make the resettled farmers more productive with the
help of the agricultural research and extension service. But the seizing of
the farms was not illegal. It should not be reversed, but polished up.

What party do you support?

I am a founder member of Simba Makoni's project, Mawambo, which means
dawn or the beginning - a name inspired by the fact that almost everything
has been destroyed by the Mugabe regime and will have to be rebuilt.

Was the last election reminiscent of 1990 when your party, the
Zimbabwe Unity Movement, challenged Mugabe but saw the results "managed"?

The 1990 "election" was a very significant happening, which was not an
election because at the counting stage Mugabe, typically, was jolted when he
thought I was running ahead, so the whole process including the ballot boxes
disappeared into State House. It was extremely vulgar. In the 2008 election,
the same thing happened but it was a bit less vulgar. It's the same old
Mugabe - he does not like contests.

In one line, what will his legacy be?

Disaster.


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Harare diary: Lean times for meat eaters

BBC
08:30 GMT, Wednesday, 30 April 2008 09:30 UK

A woman passes posters of Zimbabwean presidential candidates Robert Mugabe, Simba Makoni and Morgan Tsvangirai on April 27 in Harare


Esther (not her real name), 28, a professional living and working in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, is writing a regular diary on the challenges of leading a normal life.

Zimbabwe is suffering from an acute economic crisis. The country has the world's highest rate of annual inflation and just one in five has an official job.

I am still living at home, with my parents and siblings.

We are four working adults, but after church and a late breakfast on Sunday, we were discussing cutting down on meat consumption.

Not for health reasons, but because of the incredible expense - having meat for supper every night, as we did when we were growing up, now costs Z$ 8-10bn per month.

Converted to hard currency it is not much - about 50 US cents. But that is one person's entire monthly salary!

So it looks like I am going to become a part-time vegetarian.

Not a pleasant thought, as I love my meat. And Sunday breakfast used to consist of eggs, sausages or bacon, baked beans, nice crusty bread and creamy coffee.

Now it is tea with lemon or powdered milk, eggs and stale bread.

Well these times will certainly leave us leaner and healthier!

Zimbabwe"s opposition Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, supporters are taken by police from outside the Harvest House, the headquarters of the MDC, in Harare, Zimbabwe, Friday April 25, 2008
MDC supporters face continual harrassment

I heard on the news (a foreign news bulletin) that our ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) will be through with whatever they have been doing this past month today.

I would call it verification, but they say that is the process they will be starting today.

Hmmmm, interesting. I would like to nominate them for a prize. Their thoroughness is quite beyond belief.

We are still waiting for the results, but the excitement is gone.

Besides, it seems obvious who won as Zanu-PF is not crowing from the rooftops.

It was a fairly quite week, although of course one keeps hearing of people being beaten up.

I have heard people actually boast of how in their rural home area opposition youths avenged beatings so thoroughly that it has become a no-go area for the ruling party militia.

Revenge rampage

The story is that the police no longer investigate cases of political beatings in the rural areas but just ask the complainants to sort it out for themselves.

So now the youth from the avenged faction tend to go on a rampage of revenge.

If these stories are true, then chaos is reigning out there - total anarchy.

One of the reasons people gave for not believing Simba Makoni was a genuine opposition candidate in the presidential election, was that he had never been locked up for no reason and beaten to within an inch of his life.

I think people have developed a kind of outer body experience concerning brutality.

It is too painful to contemplate seriously that our police and army would rather do this than protect civilians.

So there is a kind of distance in the mind, it is happening, and it is horrid, but it carries on.