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Pellagra claims 23 lives at Zimbabwe jail

Zim Online

Saturday 05 May 2007

      By Prince Nyathi

      HARARE - An outbreak of pellagra has killed 23 inmates at Zimbabwe's
notorious Chikurubi Maximum prison since the beginning of the year, a prison
official told ZimOnline.

      Dozens more inmates at the prison that is located on Harare's eastern
boundary were sick from the disease that is caused by a poor diet and
general shortage of food.

      "So far, 23 prisoners have died as a direct result of this disease. At
the moment, it is difficult to contain the disease because there is an acute
shortage of food," said the official, who did not want to be named because
he was not authorised to disclose conditions at Chikurubi to the Press.

      Pellagra is a vitamin deficiency disease caused by the shortage of
vitamin B3 and protein especially containing the essential amino acid

      Trypophan is found in meat, poultry, fish and eggs, all rare
commodities at the overcrowded Chikurubi or any of Zimbabwe's infamously
filthy jails.

      With the Harare government preoccupied with finding money to buy food,
essential medicines, fuel, electricity and for salaries for hundreds of
thousands of its workers, prisons have virtually been forgotten.

      Prisoners have on many occasions been forced to survive on a single
meal per day because there is no money to buy adequate supplies. In many
cases, prisoners at Chikurubi or at any of the country's jails are fed a
single meal of sadza (a thick porridge of ground maize) and vegetables
boiled in salted water.

      "On a good day, they eat sadza and beans but still it will too little
to keep someone health," the prison official said.

      A parliamentary committee which toured Chikurubi and other prisons
last year found inmates clad in torn, dirty uniforms and crammed into
overcrowded cells with filthy; overflowing toilets that went unflushed for
weeks as water supplies to jails was cut off due to unpaid bills.

      Prisoners were denied privacy when relieving themselves and used torn
strips of blanket or even pages ripped off the freely available Bibles as
toilet paper, said the committee.

      Prisoners lacked soap or facilities to wash themselves or their single
sets of prison uniform.

      The committee, which described conditions in some prisons as inhuman,
said epidemics of diarrhoea and skin diseases such as pellagra swept through
prisons, due both to unsanitary conditions and prisoners' chronic

      Both Zimbabwe Prison Services (ZPS) spokeswoman Elizabeth Banda and
Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa were not immediately available for
comment on the matter. - ZimOnline

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After priest is arrested, Mugabe warns Catholic bishops over critical pastoral letter

International Herald Tribune

The Associated PressPublished: May 4, 2007

HARARE, Zimbabwe: President Robert Mugabe told Roman Catholic bishops who
issued a letter blaming him for his country's political and economic turmoil
they had chosen "a dangerous path," and church officials said Friday a
priest had been briefly detained for passing the pastoral message on to his

Police later Friday arrested two prominent lawyers who have specialized in
human rights issues, colleagues said.

Mugabe, in extracts of an interview published in the state Herald newspaper
on Friday, declared the pastoral letter "political nonsense" and said the
government would treat the country's nine bishops, all signatories to the
letter, as what he called "political entities" and "deal with them

Church officials said since the pastoral letter was distributed across the
country to coincide with Easter services, state agents visited Catholic
churches and questioned worshippers over their understanding of the bishops'

The five-page pastoral letter called on Mugabe to end oppression in the
country and allow for democratic reform. It also said violent confrontation
and deepening economic hardships was pushing the nation close to a flash

The arrested priest and a member of his congregation were released without
charge after spending 24 hours in jail last month, said Father Oskar Wermter
of the Catholic social communications secretariat in Harare.
It was the first reported arrest of a priest on political grounds in recent
years. The priest had evidently given prominence to the letter in services
in northern Harare.

Wermter said Mugabe's response to the pastoral letter, as reported in the
Herald, was to be expected.

"What is surprising is that he kept silent for so long. People have reacted
to the letter very positively and maybe that is riling him," Wermter said.

Opposition activists and civic leaders along with independent journalists
accused of giving credence to calls for "regime change" in Zimbabwe have
frequently been arrested and assaulted in efforts to silence them.

Attorney Sternford Moyo said police arrested lawyers Alec Muchadehama and
Andrew Makoni at their Harare offices late Friday and held them at the main
Harare police jail, allegedly for attempting to pervert the course of

The two lawyers are currently representing a group of jailed opposition
activists who have denied involvement in a series of petrol bombings since
early March.

The defense team has argued some of the evidence against the activists, who
face life imprisonment on terrorism charges, has been faked by authorities.

Arrests on Friday afternoon are common, preventing suspects having access to
courts until after the weekend.

Police violently broke up a multi-denominational prayer meeting March 11,
describing it as a banned political demonstration. One pro-democracy
activist was shot dead, another died later of wounds suffered in the police
action and Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the main opposition Movement for
Democratic Change, and a dozen senior colleagues were hospitalized after

Mugabe later said Tsvangirai and government opponents deserved the police
beatings and that security forces were ready to again "bash" opponents.

With their pastoral letter, "the bishops have decided to turn political. And
once they turn political, we regard them as no longer being spiritual,"
Mugabe told the British-based New African magazine, the Herald, a government
mouthpiece reported.

"Our relations with them would be conducted as political entities, and this
is quite a dangerous path they have chosen for themselves," Mugabe was
quoted as saying.

"If I had gone to a church and a priest had read that so-called pastoral
letter I would have stood up and said, 'Nonsense,'" Mugabe said.

Mugabe, 83, was educated by Catholic missionaries and has Catholic services
conducted at his official residence.

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Human rights lawyers Muchadehama & Makoni arrested

By Violet Gonda
4 May 2007

Alex Muchadehama and Andrew Makoni, the lawyers who have been defending and
representing the 30 MDC political detainees, were arrested on Friday
afternoon. The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said the two were picked up from
their legal offices in Harare. At the time of broadcast a team of lawyers
from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights were at the Harare Central Police
Station trying to ascertain why their colleagues had been arrested. We could
not get a comment from the police.

An official from the Crisis Coalition said: "From a political perspective
one can notice a trend that is developing in Zimbabwe and orchestrated by
the ruling ZANU PF party to exterminate and kill off any voices of dissent,
or any organized organizations that express gross human rights abuses of
this government."

Since March 11 hundreds of opposition activists have been beaten and jailed.
Most of the secretariat or administrative personnel in the Tsvangirai led
MDC, including MP Paul Madzore and presidential aide Ian Makone, have been
in police custody for the last four weeks.

Lawyers and doctors have in most cases been denied access to the detainees
who are reported to be in bad health.

The current crackdown on opponents has also spread to Non Governmental
Organisations (NGOs) who were last month told they will be vetted through an
accreditation system. The NGOs see this as an attempt to silence critics of
the regime.

The arrest of the two lawyers is the latest attack on rights defenders. The
official from the Crisis Coalition said: "This is the third step that the
government of Zimbabwe is taking to close off and exterminate human rights
defenders before the crucial election next year."

In a related issue, Pishai Muchauraya  the MDC's spokesperson for Manicaland
was released on Friday morning after paying a fine of Z$ 2,500.00 for
"Disorderly Conduct".  The Tsvangirai MDC said: "But, for four days and
nights he was subjected to torture and beatings because he would not admit
to petrol bombing a police station in Manicaland."

It's reported he has sustained deep tissue bruising of the buttocks, bruised
ribs and a fractured finger.

SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news

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Art imitates violent life at the festival that dares to defy Mugabe

The Times
May 5, 2007

Jan Raath Harare
Just when President Mugabe thought he had smashed a swell of restiveness
into submission, it returned to haunt him. An international arts festival,
taking place a stone's throw from his office, has wowed crowds with its
daring and politically provocative shows.

The opening performance stunned the 6,000 spectators on the lawns of the
Harare Gardens. On stage, male dancers in suits and dark glasses descended
with pickaxe handles on a crowd of young actors, evidently township
opposition activists, as a woman singer growled: "I can't get no
satisfaction." When the limp forms of the victims were carried off the
stage, the song changed to Tracy Chapman's Talkin' Bout a Revolution.

The act was a violent, shocking danse macabrethat reenacted the killings and
savage assaults by Mr Mugabe's security agents on opposition activists,
including Morgan Tsvangirai, the Movement for Democratic Change leader, that
began on March 11. From the back of the audience came shouts of "March 11,
March 11".

The master of ceremonies, flanked by two expressionless men in dark glasses,
opened the show with a mock presidential tirade that began: "Tonight I am
your leader. I will tolerate no opposition." In Zimbabwe's violently
repressive atmosphere it was a highly risky act for the producers of the
Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) to stage before a
dangerous, intolerant regime.

The anti-government flavour has continued throughout the six-day festival
that ends tomorrow. In a locally produced play, Zimbabwe police misconstrued
rumours of an "Orange Revolution" and beat up street vendors selling oranges
who they suspected of plotting to bring down the Government by distributing
poisoned citrus.

Exhibitions at the National Gallery adjacent to the festival grounds are
filled with images of the ruination that has consumed the country in the
past seven years of angry dissent and rebellion.

"The festival is informed by the circumstances in which we are making it,"
said Manuel Bagorro, HIFA's artistic director, who has driven the festival
since its inception in 1998. "I don't want it to feel impotent, that we are
burying our heads in the sand."

The festival is an astonishing, unique phenomenon. Mr Bagorro,
Zimbabwean-born of a Portuguese father and an Irish mother, and his sister,
Maria Wilson, somehow manage to produce - despite 2,200 per cent inflation,
collapsing infrastructure and a rogue Government - what has become
recognised as one of the world's best arts festivals on a $1 million
(£500,000) budget.

Without megastars, he manages to attract a rising generation of actors,
playwrights, opera singers, dancers, classical and contemporary musicians,
magicians, acrobats and comedians from all over the world. This week's
lineup ranges from the British soprano Anne Williams-King, who made her lead
debut in Covent Garden last year, to Hong Kong-based Chris Wong, China's
biggest pop star who came to Harare with his own television crew.

"To put together a big-name, talent-heavy show like HIFA in today's Zimbabwe
is masterful," said Rajiv Bendre, director of the British Council in Harare.
"Even for many European capitals, it would be difficult to match this."

Harare's audiences - a record 48,000 by the third day - are hungry for
culture and entertainment, and respond rapturously. It affects the
performers strangely. On Thursday night, the French flautist Jean Ferrandis
was on an extended note in a piece from Carmen when his accompanist, Patrick
Zygmanowski, rose from the piano, stretched out his arm to Ferrandis and
tapped his watch impatiently. The audience fell about and it set off a
string of impromptu deadpan jokes.

Williams-King said: "I have been absolutely amazed at how wonderful the
whole thing is. I have toured all over the world and I have never had such a
reception from an audience. It is quite uplifting."

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More torture on horizon in Zimbabwe?

Libération Afrique, France

13 April 2007
Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) -

Whilst press reports have quietened over issues in Zimbabwe this week, the
trials and tribulations of the people of Zimbabwe continue to worsen every
day. The latest reports coming from within Zimbabwe are that the ruling
party have recommended the resuscitation of torture camps.

Zanu-PF youth militia and war veterans would run a campaign of terror from
these camps to shut out the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party
from rural areas while also destabilizing opposition support in major

A Zanu-PF representative confirmed the deployment of ruling party youths and
war veterans in rural areas but insisted that they being sent only to
protect villagers from the "violent MDC".

Last week, two trade unionists were forced into hiding after having received
threatening calls from state persecutors warning them to cancel their plans
to support the ZCTU stay-away. It is all part of the regime's campaign of
terror to silence the dissenting voices.

However, the Save Zimbabwe Campaign is holding a prayer meeting in Bulawayo
tomorrow barely a month after the police violently crushed an identical
meeting in Harare. The coalition will join hands with the Zimbabwe Catholic
Bishops Conference for the prayer meeting at St Patrick's Church in

In a bold statement, members of the coalition are standing out against the
threatening behaviour of the state despite fears of a crackdown by Mugabe's
feared security agents by going ahead with the prayer meeting tomorrow.
"This is a prayer meeting for peace and it will go ahead as planned at a
city church and we do not need to seek permission from anyone when we are
seeking God's help to stop our suffering," said a spokesperson for the
alliance, Reverend Ray Motsi.

"It is a horrifying prospect that Muagbe could order the resuscitation of
torture camps in a supposedly democratic country. These actions must be
challenged, they cannot be ignored. We support the valiant efforts of the
ZCTU and other organisations desperately fighting a daily battle for freedom
against this oppressive regime" said Kathryn Llewellyn, Head of Campaigns
for Action for Southern Africa.

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Violence: Zimbabwe's burgeoning culture

New Zimbabwe

By Obert Madondo
Last updated: 05/05/2007 07:24:15
WHEN the recent petrol-bomb attacks started, I thought the architects were
simply testing the invincibility of Robert Mugabe's security forces. Until
recently, Zimbabweans have subscribed to this pervasive myth that Mugabe was
invincible both on the ballot box and in the boxing ring.

While the spirited opposition charge of the last seven years debunked that
myth, a frightening reality is beginning to emerge: violence is beginning to
appeal to opposition sympathisers as well.

Pop culture has self-styled Kings of Pop. The Zimbabwe violence has a
self-styled King of Violence: Robert Mugabe. In classic Machiavellian style,
he pursued and grabbed political power. Throughout his 27-year rule, he used
violence to nourish and defend it. The cost so far is more than twenty
thousand innocent lives and a brutalised, tired country.

Mugabe glorifies violence. He has claimed to posses "degrees in violence".

He once claimed that he was worth ten Hitlers. His Chimurenga nickname is
Karigamombe, which means 'indomitable warrior'. Chatunga is the name of his
son. The name invokes the image of a wild beast with horns, on the rampage,
goring anything in its way.

With chilling words, Mugabe cheered on as state-hired killers executed 20
000 people in Matabeleland and the Midlands in the 1980s. He likened ZAPU
and Joshua Nkomo to a "cobra in the house" and urged his supporters to
"strike and crush its head".

To him, political competitors are enemies of the state, puppets and
This is the language of violence. Unfortunately, both leaders of the MDC
factions seem to have converted.

Morgan Tsvangirai once warned: "What we would like to tell Mugabe is please
go peacefully. If you don't want to go peacefully, we will remove you

Tsvangirai later retracted this statement and told us he wasn't exactly
itching for an armed confrontation. In an opinion article recently published
in The Washington Times Tsvangirai predicts the inevitable "wrath of the
people" if
Mugabe holds on to power. He sees time running out for peaceful change in

Arthur Mutambara is a master of the art of ambiguity. He has declared 2007
the year of the people's revolution and vowed to bring political change "by
any means necessary". He's urged Zimbabweans to "drive the tyrant out of
town". In a recent Independence message, he assumed Zimbabweans' collective
anger and rage, calling Mugabe a spineless coward, wimp and moron.

The verbal venom being splashed onto Mugabe's face does not bother me.
Mugabe deserves worse, much worse. But when the venom comes from a potential
president, I get a bit worried. The three leaders speak on behalf of and to
important constituencies. In a country such as Zimbabwe where leaders enjoy
unadulterated loyalty, their words inevitably become the cue to action.

For Zanu PF supporters, Mugabe's message is crystal clear: kill, maim, burn
and vandalise. With the regime on the ropes, violence is now the only
Tsvangirai and Mutambara's message, while ambiguous and evasive, is simple:
violence is still an alternative. The two risk partnering the dictator in
derailing the democracy project. Democracy is achieved through
none-violence, period!

Violence of any form should be condemned, perpetrators punished.

But these leaders are also playing our favourite tune. Mugabe cannot now
preach peace to his constituency of violence adherents. Tsvangirai and
Mutambara are part of a constituency under siege. For a long time Zimbabwe
tried to hide from Mugabe's violence but now all the hiding places are
manned by Zanu PF thugs with licenses to kill.

One could argue that Mugabe's terror conscripted Zimbabweans into violence
in the name of self-defence. But how do we justify the violence soaking up
online forums on the Zimbabwe issue? The forums have become canvasses for
threats of murder, obscenity and other cheap verbal insults. I've no doubt
that some of the participants would act out their violence if given the

I've begun to believe that Zimbabweans have never had complete faith in
Gandhi-style peaceful politics. We have always believed in violence as a
possible shortcut to political goals. I remember with nostalgia going
toe-to-toe, the entire 12 rounds, against Zanu PF thugs during the historic
1995 election of Margaret Dongo as an independent MP in Harare South.

Certainly, there is a perverse thrill deriving from subduing Mugabe's thugs.
Driving the tyrant out of town, as Mutambara urges, would be the ultimate

Our campaign trail is a tale of violence. In democratic settings, political
activists knock on people's doors and beg for votes. They engage in
conversation. But, even where threats of violence are non-existent,
opposition activists compete with Zanu PF thugs in the aggressive,
military-style Toyi
Toyi -- marching up and down the streets, chanting war songs and making
threats. The student movement, the gold mine of the opposition movement, is
famous for its militancy, push-ups on the streets and chants of Ahoyi!

Non-political Zimbabweans have allowed violence to thrive. They've never
protested against political violence in their midst. Either they pray for
divine intervention or, like some in our midst, pray to the invisible god of
violence, wishing for "something" nasty, an accident, to befall the
dictator. Who can blame them? Mugabe committed too many crimes to die
peacefully in his sleep.

But Zimbabweans are not naturally predisposed to aggression or violence,
neither did they invent violence. In fact, we've been too peaceful for our
own good. Back then in the 1890s, King Lobengula exemplified our innate
propensity for peace.

A certain Sir James McDonald, in his book Rhodes: A Life (London: Philip
Allan 1928, 403pp) describes how Lobengula, in his last hours and facing a
possible annihilation by the British South African Company militia, sought
everlasting peace for his people. He called together his faithful indunas
and warriors and instructed them to surrender to Cecil John Rhodes and make

He reportedly uttered the famous Ndebele cry of peace: "Hambani kuhle!" (Go
in peace!)

Zimbabweans gravitated, intuitively, toward violence. Every Zimbabwean
living today was born into a thriving culture of violence. Present-day
Zimbabwe, with its current borders, is an offspring of violence. The 1884-85
Berlin Conference partitioning of Africa by Europeans was an act of
violence. It divided kingdoms and clans and tribes, and pitted brother
against brother. The so-called scramble for Africa injected Europeans with a
double insatiable hunger to own what was not theirs and suppress any
aspirations to self-rule by indigenous Africans.

In the 1890s, Cecil John Rhodes and his colonial gang persecuted and
publicly hanged Zimbabwe's twin grandparents, Sekuru Kaguvi and Nehanda.
They defined the character and object of organised state violence. They
persecuted to install new authority and prevent change in society. The
violence unleashed was collective, involving organised, well-funded militias
without any regard to the rule of law and human rights. The victim was
always a political leader, selected as a representative of a group, rather
than as an individual.

In the last 27 years, Mugabe has used violence to stifle political change.
His victims, from Joshua Nkomo through Morgan Tsvangirai to Arthur Mutambara
have been political leaders. In colonialist-militia style, he formed
organised groups such the 5th Brigade, and gave them the blank cheque to
commit murder.

The recent assault on the opposition activists was public by design. Again,
history is our impeccable witness. Nehanda was publicly taunted and hanged.
Public execution was a mode of political communication to the rest of

After vanquishing the initial effort at self-rule by native blacks, the
colonial regime consolidated the culture of violence. They stole land,
forced taxes and treated blacks as sub-humans. This violence created a
counter-reaction in the form of the liberation war. The war is a beacon of
violence to which both sides converted as if for salvation. It was a
rejection of peace as a pathway to political settlement.

The Rhodesian regime routinely bombed refugee camps, killed and maimed.
During the closing stages of the war, it resorted to biological warfare,
spreading anthrax pores on food and live stocks, and dumping cholera and rat
poison in rivers in the countryside.

According to the evidence revealed during the recent South African Truth and
Reconciliation Commission, over 10,000 people contracted anthrax from 1978
to 1980. 200 died.

The liberation fighters were no saints either. In the villages, they
routinely dragged young women to their hideouts as "comfort women" and raped
them. They executed sell-outs, real and imagined. Mugabe and the liberation
fighters glorified violence. They gave themselves war nicknames that bespoke

Current vice-president, Joyce Mujuru, was Teurai Ropa, which means Spill

The war created some of today's institutions and instruments of violence.
Intent on suppressing rising African nationalism, the settler government of
Edgar Whitehead introduced the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act (LOMA) in

The colonial regime created the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) and
used it to infiltrate and weaken the liberation movement. Mugabe embraced
the CIO and LOMA. He recently renamed the latter Public Order and Security
Act (POSA). He created the 5th Brigade. To legislate the independent media
out of existence, he recently added the Access to Information and Protection
of Privacy Act (AIPPA).

The 1990s saw the dramatic transformation of the war veterans into
propagators of violence. To this arsenal Mugabe added the youth militia,
known as the Green Bombers.

A new breed of criminal also emerged in the form of the late Chenjerai
"Hitler" Hunzvi, armed with the license to harass, abduct and murder with
impunity. Impunity now underpins Zimbabwean violence. Contrary to popular
perception Mugabe did not invent it; he simply perfected it.

Impunity came along the day state violence arrived in the 1890s. As I
illustrated above, the liberation war nourished it. The 1979 transitional
reign of British-appointed governor, Lord Soames consolidated it. A general
amnesty was granted for the purposes of smooth transition to independence.
The amnesty meant that there were not going to be trials for those who had
committed war crimes on both sides of the conflict.

Ian Smith and Mugabe's war criminals walked scot-free. If the brutal attack
on Trudy Stevenson is anything to go by, the opposition is offering no
guarantees that violence and impunity are evils of the past.

This is a critical moment. The breakdown of the rule of law is complete. At
the same time, the sustained state violence of the last 100 years has
created a formidable counterforce. The recent bombings can only mean one
thing: Zimbabwean violence has assumed a new form. Zimbabweans are losing
faith in peaceful, passive resistance.

As long as opposition leaders speak Mugabe's language of violence, few will
believe their commitment to abolishing LOMA, POSA, AIPPA; disbanding state
militia; de-politicising the military and police services; reforming state
institutions and democratising the political process.

Zimbabweans deserve some assurance that the future will be different, that
Mugabe's departure will be the end of the culture of violence.

Obert Madondo is a Zimbabwean national and writes from Toronto, Canada. He
can be contacted on e-mail:

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Police Release Zimbabwe Opposition Official; Torture In Custody Alleged


      By Jonga Kandemiiri
      04 May 2007

The Manicaland spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change faction led
by Morgan Tsvangirai, picked up by security agents in Mutare on Monday and
alleged to have been tortured by police, was released Friday, opposition
sources said.

No charges were pressed against Pishai Muchauraya, though he was initially
accused of bombing a police station in the Chisamba section of Mutare and
receiving military training to overthrow the government of President Robert

Muchauraya, who refused to sign a "warned-and-cautioned" statement in the
absence of his lawyer, was being treated at a private hospital in Harare
after his release.

The MDC activist told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for
Zimbabwe that police had failed to establish a case against him but gave him
a receipt for Z$2,500 to make it appear as if he had acknowledged guilt and
paid a fine.

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Death Expense in Zimbabwe Becoming Priority as Economic Hardship Increases


      By Netsai Mlilo
      Harare, Zimbabwe
      04 May 2007

Many Zimbabweans say are putting aside savings to pay for death expenses as
economic distress intensifies, hunger grows and more succumb to disease.
Some Bulawayo residents say paying monthly subscriptions to burial societies
is more important to them than paying rent or buying food. From Bulawayo,
Netsai Mlilo reports that traditionally when death strikes relatives,
friends and neighbors ofthe deceased are expected to contribute, to help
bury their departed acquaintance.

But this is considered no longer a popular option, because of death becoming
an increasingly common occurrence, and many families' depleted coffers. It's
not only cash-strapped unemployed Zimbabweans who're seeking alternatives.
Some employed Bulawayo residents say they, too, are joining burial societies
even though they can afford funeral policies.  In the event of the death of
either a memberor a registered relative, burial societies give families
money to cover funeral costs. In turn, members are expected to attend wakes
and offer emotional support to colleagues.

Janet Mahlala, who lives in Gwabalanda, says she's proud of the fact that
she andher family are "fully covered for death."  She boasts of being a
member of 6 burial societies. Mahlala explains she had to join so many
groups to cover herselfagainst rising funeral costs. Aside from paying
monthly subscriptions, Mahlala saysshe also attends monthly meetings where
each society's accounts are updated.  She says she's able to attend the
different groups' meetings because dates usually vary.

Mahlala says things become tricky when more than 1 member dies at the same
time. She acknowledges that while the monthly contributions are minimal; she
struggles to pay.  As result she sometimes skimps on her family's meals.
She says, "It's better to miss meals like breakfast and pay up your burial
society subscriptions. It makes it easy when there is a death in the

Mahlala says she doesn't mind making such a sacrifice, because she doesn't
want to endure additional suffering when one of her loved ones passes away.
Her fears are considered understandable, given the fact that increasing
numbers of Zimbabwean families are battling to bury their relatives. As
result, bodies have been pilingup in mortuaries, compelling the state to
offer a  pauper's burial.

She adds she currently pays a total of 10-thousand dollars to all 6
societies.  In return, she says she expects to receive at least 1 million
dollars if she's bereaved.  Workers who have funeral policies are also
joining burial societies. Kudzai  Kwangwari says although his family has
funeral coverage, he's joined a burial society in his neighbourhood:  "It's
one of the ways that most Zimbabweans can use to bury their loved ones
because the economy is difficult.   Funerals happen when you are not
expecting them so that makes it easier for you to have resources to deal
with the situation."

But Kwangwari has one major complaint; he says he's not happy with the way
burial societies are becoming increasingly commercialized by helping only
paid-up members.  He says this kills the spirit of spontaneously assisting
neighbors in distress. Additionally, he argues it's not right to pay
societies' subscription fees when a relative is ill, and hungry, at home.

Some burial societies are broadening their mandate to include home-based
care, as the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic spreads.  Mahlala says one of
the burial societies she belongs to takes care of ill members, "We don't
have a problem taking care of sick members.  We go as burial society members
to bathe, do laundry, clean the house and cook porridge and make sure the
member eats.   We take turns to go and care for sick members. "

Mahlala and other unemployed residents like her say for the time being
burial societies offer value for money during death.

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Zimbabwe's pursuit of UN chair meets resistance

Monsters and Critics

May 4, 2007, 20:47 GMT

New York - Zimbabwe's pursuit of a prestigious United Nations commission
chair is running into resistance by Western nations worried about the
downward political and economic spiral in the southern African country.

Francis Nhema, Zimbabwe's environment minister, has received backing from
African states to run for the chairmanship of the UN Commission on
Sustainable Development.

The United States said Friday that Zimbabwe's track record in recent years
does not bode well for a committee focused on sustainable agriculture, rural
development and preventing drought and desertification.

'The car of economic development in Zimbabwe for the last few years has only
been going in one direction. And it's backwards,' US State Department deputy
spokesman Tom Casey said.

'We don't think that Zimbabwe would be a particularly effective leader of
this body,' Casey said.

The panel plans to elect a new chair next week to conclude 10 days of
meetings at the UN headquarters in New York. It it Africa's turn to take
over the committee currently chaired by Qatar.

Western nations cite severe human and civil rights violations and the
deterioration of the economy under the repressive regime of President Robert
Mugabe. UN diplomats said pressure was being put on the Africans to drop
Nhema and choose another African candidate.

The committee was formed at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 to
devise plans to save the deteriorating environment and meet economic
development needs.

İ 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur

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Zimbabwe Civil Society Umbrella Organization Reviews Crisis Strategy


      By Carole Gombakomba
      04 May 2007

The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, a grouping of some 350 civil society
groups, held its annual general meeting Friday in Harare including a review
of its strategy for dealing with a national political and economic crisis
that has intensified in 2007.

Coalition Coordinator Jacob Mafume said about 60 members reviewed the
outcome of the recent summit of the Southern African Development Community
and conditions in the country ahead of March 2008 presidential and
parliamentary elections.

Mafume told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that
his group was prepared to work with the government of President Robert
Mugabe if the Harare administration were willing to seek an end to the
multi-year impasse.

The Crisis Coalition re-elected Arnold Tsunga as its chairman and elected
Tabitha Khumalo vice chairperson, replacing Colin Gwiyo. Macdonald Lewanyika
was designated spokesman, taking the place of Primrose Matambanadzo.

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ZBC purge backfires as court orders reinstatement of 400 workers

By Lance Guma
04 May 2007

A 2002 purge by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) which saw the
retrenchment of 400 workers, backfired at the Labour Court when the state
broadcaster was ordered to reinstate them. Lawyers for the workers applied
for the execution of a judgement made in March 2005 but had been on hold
after ZBC, now called Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH), filed an appeal
in the Supreme Court. Labour Court Judge President Euna Makamure upheld a
decision by an arbitrator who ruled that the workers were still employees of
the ZBC until their retrenchment was completed. The broadcaster apparently
did not comply with the conditions of a retrenchment agreement that it had
set out with the workers. The ZBC has filed a fresh appeal against the
latest decision.

Under the iron grip of former Information minister Jonathan Moyo ZBC carried
out a purge of veteran and talented broadcasters and journalists, replacing
them with inexperienced college graduates and known Zanu PF apologists.
Presenters like Eric Knight, Brenda Moyo, Musavengana Nyasha and others were
sent packing following accusations they were sympathetic to the opposition.
Newsreel spoke to former Radio 2 DJ and TV presenter Knight who said he had
no interest in going back to the ZBC. He says he put his name to the court
application only as a show of support for his colleagues whom he felt got
the rough end of the stick and were left destitute. He said he will only
rejoin ZBC if the media environment changes. Knight says even if his other
colleagues rejoined they would find themselves working under the same
restrictive system.

Presenter Brenda Moyo, now working for Voice of America's Studio 7, told
Newsreel she was not interested in going back to the state broadcaster. She
said the risks were too great to consider even though she missed home badly.
Ezra 'Tshisa' Sibanda, now with UK based Afro Sounds FM, told us he was
never retrenched but left the country following a broadcast which, he says,
landed him in trouble with the authorities. He says the Labour Court ruling
does not affect him since he left 5 months before the retrenchments. He
however said he does not see how his former colleagues, now outside the
country, can ever risk going back to a country that has such repressive
media laws. He warned that any of the broadcasters who planned on returning
were taking a huge risk.

ZBC retrenched the workers in 2002 and promised to pay them financial
packages. This never happened and up until now the workers have not received
anything. Charles Kwaramba their lawyer said out of 480 workers initially
affected some have since died while others lost interest in the case leaving
about 380 on the application. Kwaramba says they have written to the ZBC
lawyers asking when their clients can resume work. The workers have also
demanded their salaries backdated to 2002 when they were retrenched. With
the country's hyper-inflationary environment the packages could end up
amounting to nothing experts say.

SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news

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Risk of getting bashed in Zimbabwe, says activist

Sydney Morning Herald

Joel Gibson
May 5, 2007

AUSTRALIA'S cricketers risk being beaten up if they tour Zimbabwe in
September, a democracy activist has warned on her return to Australia after
being bashed by police.

"That is what will happen to them, because Mugabe is anti-white," said Sekai
Holland at Sydney Airport yesterday.

Clutching X-rays of her broken bones, she said it was fantastic that the
Federal Government was considering asking Cricket Australia to cancel the

"The Zimbabweans would feel that for once Australia has not dilly-dallied
about where its alliances are. There should be no ties with Zimbabwe until
Mugabe goes."

Mrs Holland, 64, the secretary of policy in the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change, was reportedly stamped on, called "Tony Blair's whore"
and a lover of white men during the March 11 assault at a police station
because she is married to an Australian, Jim Holland, and lived here from
1964 until 1980.

Mrs Holland thanked the Australian Government, friends, family and media for
their support of the democracy movement in Zimbabwe but said Australia could
do more to oppose the 82-year-old dictator, such as banning the dependants
of his ZANU-PF party members from studying in Australian and demanding the
UN bring Mugabe to account so that he can be tried before an international

Cricket Australia could face a $2 million fine from the International
Cricket Council if it boycotted the three-match one-day series, unless
Zimbabwe is deemed unsafe for the team. The captain, Ricky Ponting, said
that, even if the three-match tour proceeded, each player would be allowed
to decide whether he would go.

If the tour is cancelled the Federal Government would pay the fine, the
Prime Minister, John Howard, told Southern Cross radio yesterday, but the
Government had yet to decide whether to ask Cricket Australia to cancel.

"We would indemnify Cricket Australia for any compensation that it might
have to pay to the international body," he said.

"It would not be fair to visit the cost of a foreign policy decision on a
sporting body."

Annual inflation is running at 2200 per cent in Zimbabwe. Unemployment is
between 80 and 90 per cent and the life expectancy is the world's shortest,
at 36 years. Reports say that 600 Mugabe critics have been arrested since

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Zimbabwe forfeit may cost $2m

John Ferguson

May 05, 2007 12:00am

TAXPAYERS could pay up to $2 million to ensure Australian cricketers do not
tour strife-torn Zimbabwe.

Prime Minister John Howard has spoken to Australian captain Ricky Ponting
and Cricket Australia about a possible government bailout of the planned
September trip.
The International Cricket Council threatens big penalties for countries that
fail to compete against any of its 10 members.

The reported fine faced by Cricket Australia for refusing to tour was up to
$2 million.

The short tour of one-day internationals -- if it was to go ahead in
September -- would be held amid international condemnation of the murderous
dictatorship led by Robert Mugabe.

Mr Howard yesterday made a scathing attack on Mr Mugabe, who has all but
destroyed the once prosperous nation.

Mr Mugabe's regime has been blamed for the deaths of up to two million

Mr Howard has asked for the views of the Australian cricketers, but only
leg-spinner Stuart MacGill refused to tour when Australia last visited in

The Prime Minister said the cricketers' views should be considered.

"But the situation in Zimbabwe has become quite catastrophic," he said in

"The failure of neighbouring African countries that have the power . . . to
bring about a change and the only change that can help Zimbabwe is the
immediate departure of Mugabe as President.

"His continued presence is disastrous for the country."

His comments came as the Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo said Australia's
participation in the tour would help legitimise the Mugabe regime.

The main way Cricket Australia could escape ICC sanctions would be if the
tour was cancelled over security concerns.

Officials are slated to visit the country before the planned tour to
determine whether player safety would be compromised.

Mr Mugabe, 83, has spiralled dramatically from being a respected figure in
the Commonwealth to a president derided around the world.

A spokesman said Cricket Australia's position had not changed.

Cricket Australia had noted Mr Howard's comments and that the end of the
World Cup would enable officials to examine the issue more closely.

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State rail firm nearly went into liquidation

Zim Online

Saturday 05 May 2007

By Nqobizitha Khumalo

BULAWAYO - The National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) nearly went into
liquidation two years ago due to gross mismanagement and underperformance, a
parliamentary committee has been told.

Addressing Parliament's portfolio committee on industry and international
trade, NRZ general manager Retired Air Commodore Mike Karakadzai, said the
rail firm last transported its maximum freight capacity of 18 metric tonnes
some 12 years ago.

"Due to mounting debts caused by years of underperformance, we were
seriously affected when the volume, by way of freight movement and passenger
services dropped to very low levels.

"The situation worsened over the years up to 2005 when the organisation
faced near collapse," Karakadzai told the parliamentarians during a briefing
in Bulawayo last week.

Karakadzai blamed NRZ's dire financial position on the low volume of traffic
on its wagons saying the company had failed to generate meaningful revunue
during the period.

"In 2005 . . . most of the locomotives and wagons were grounded when the
maintenance programme was suspended due to lack of money and it was at the
time that we were moving about 3.7 metric tonnes against 18 metric tonnes of
freight traffic last moved in 1985," he said.

The NRZ boss said they had set ambitious targets to move about 10 million
tones of freight and 3.3 million inter-city passengers in 2007 as part of
the parastatal's recovery efforts.

The national rail company is now a shadow of its former self after years of
mismanagement and under-funding.

Non-functioning communication systems as well as serious defects on train
wagons have contributed to some of the worst seen rail accidents in the
country over the past few years.

The NRZ is among several loss-making parastatals, headed by relatives and
friends of the politically well connected in Zimbabwe. President Robert
Mugabe's government has in the past refused to privatise these parastatals
at great cost to the national fiscus. - ZimOnline

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JAG Open Letter Forum No. 481

Please send any material for publication in the Open Letter Forum to with "For Open Letter Forum" in the subject line.

JAG Hotlines:
+263 (011) 610 073 If you are in trouble or need advice,
 please don't hesitate to contact us - we're here to help!
+263 (04) 799 410 Office Lines


Letter 1 - Cathy Buckle

Dear Family and Friends,

Having spent three weeks in a civilized country south of Zimbabwe, I must
admit that there were many things that made me not want to come home. Food
was one thing - its existence, huge variety and consistent pricing. Money
was another thing - coins that are actually worth something, bank notes that
don't have expiry dates printed on them and money that keeps its value from
one week to the next. Then there was the freedom of the media with abundant
newspaper and radio stations with criticism and debate encouraged. There was
the joy of petrol stations that always had fuel and of being able to travel
freely without incessant road blocks and police checks. Even little things
like public toilets that were fit for use by human beings, water that was
safe to drink from a tap, street  signs that haven't been stolen and
dustbins being emptied - all were cause for stares of amazement.

For three weeks my eyes were open wide and slowly it began to sink in just
how utterly shocking everything in Zimbabwe has become. We have all been so
busy trying to survive the horrors that not only have we forgotten how a
country should work but also how to demand that officials paid with our
taxes do our bidding and not their own.

Crossing the border back into Zimbabwe there were just three people in the
queue. On the other side of the counter at least 60 Zimbabweans were
jostling to get out of the country. I knew I was home within minutes of
leaving the border post. Deep potholes litter the highways; cows, donkeys
and goats have right of way and there are no roadside fences. Road markings
have worn away, cat's eyes in the tar have gone and sign posts have been

But it was good to be home and the scenery this time of year is exquisite.
Baobab trees in full leaf, crowds of yellow flowers in the dry bush and
eagles soaring in the skies. The names of dry, dusty places conjure up
images that can only be of Zimbabwe: Bubye, Nuanetsi, Sosonye, Mwenezi and
Mount Guhudza. In the middle of nowhere there are always bottle stores: The
"Try Again Bottle Store" caught my eye - a shabby little building,
surrounded by red dust, women trying to sell water melons and men sitting
drinking beer in the middle of the morning.
This for sure is home!

Breaking the journey at one stage and in the middle of nowhere, two young
teenage girls  appeared. "Hello," I called out, "How are you?" "Hello," they
answered, " we are eating!" One girl opened her hand to reveal a dozen shiny
black berries. "Take them" she said, "you are welcome." I thanked her and
took two. She told me they were called Subvu and I gave her some peppermints
in exchange. We all clapped our
hands in thanks and the girls went away giggling. Instantly I was overcome
with emotion and patriotism. In a land where hunger is rampant, in a country
with the lowest life expectancy in the world, two young girls would offer me
a mouthful of their food. Where else could I be except at home and this is
the Zimbabwe that everyone knows and loves. Later I found that the berries
are from the Mutsubvu tree and also called Chocolate berries.

The grim reality of being back home came soon. On the  bottom of the
electricity bill waiting for me when I got home were the words: "Tariff
increased by 350% effective 1 April ."

I thank the two young girls on the roadside for making me feel welcome , and
my mum for writing her letter 'from the diaspora'  these past three weeks
and keeping the news current. Until next week, thanks for reading, love


Letter 2 - Bobbejaanspanneroligist.


It appears that Thabo and Robert are busy emulating Putin to maintain a
"managed democracy" in Zimbabwe - to secure the continued grip on power by
Robert. A facade of a free and fair election in 2008 is an integral part of
their international charade known as "Democratic Zimbabwe."

They remember that Joshua and Robert (The PF) declined to participate in the
Smith, Chirau, Sithole, Muzorewa elections in the late 70's.  These black
participants were disparagingly termed "BlackSmiths."

In August 2003 Robert set ZRP a quota of five white farmers detained per
police station over the August heroes holidays - regardless of any law.

One perceptive detainee (held at the same police station that wilfully
blocked the ambulance from collecting a seriously injured farmer in April
2000, to guarantee his death)  enlightened the Officer in Charge with:"You
are a Bobbejaan Spanner - you are a tool of the government."
Tsvangirayi, Mutambara, Biti, Chamisa, Coltart, Bennett and their colleagues
need to give some serious thought to what they think they will achieve in
participating in an electoral process that is already announcing the
results - a year in advance!

The western world supports democratic change, and better life for the
Zimbabwean people but Thabo appears as the key bobbejaan spanner at Robert's

Are the opposition going to fall for it all again and become "glorified
bobbejaan spanners" once more? I think that The Bobbejaan is still looking
for more bobbejaan spanners.

He knows that bobbejaan spanners create legitimacy.

Bobbejaan spanners are "new age muijbas." Bobbejaan spanners are expendable.
He wants legitimacy. At any cost.



Letter 3 - Brian Hayes

Dear JAG,

I am trying to obtain a detailed list of names of farmers and the names of
their farms, who were murdered by dissidents after 1980 - quite urgently.

Any assistance you can give will be greatly appreciated.

Brian Hayes


Letter 4 - Lesley Hacking

Dear JAG,

Betty Ann and Bob Jefferies of Augusta, West Australia would like to
re-establish contact with  Wendy & Rex Carey who used to farm on Waterford
Farm, Ruwa and Gina and Nigel Robey who have a daughter Talulah.

If anyone has any idea of their whereabouts please contact us on:

Ox and Les Hacking
Molloy Island, Augusta, WA,


Letter 5 - Conroc

Dear JAG,

Please could you insert an urgent appeal in your next bulletin on behalf of
David and Susan Kaye whose home in Kadoma was broken into during the early
hours of Thursday 26 April 2007.  All of their personal documents were
stolen and may have been discarded by the perpetrators.  The following is a
complete list of all of the items stolen:

A solid grey briefcase with combination lock containing:
4 British Passports contained in a grey wallet in the names of David, Susan,
Natasha and Shelley-Ann Kaye
Original Birth Certificates for the whole family
Original Marriage Certificate
Residence Permit
South African Book of Life iro David Kaye
Falconry Permits in the name of David Kaye
All documents were contained in a blue plastic folder.

One Wharfdale DVD / HiFi
One Multichoice Decoder
One Goldstar Video Player ( front cover missing where tape is inserted) -
video Miss Congeniality 2 still inside
The following new Powersave tools which were still in original boxes:
Electric Hand Drill
Electric Hand Skill Saw
Electric Hand Planer
2 Nokia cellphones:
 Blue and grey model 1100
Dark Blue model 3510i
The family are most anxious to recover the stolen documents and may be
contacted on Kadoma (068) 24037 during office hours and (068) 22688 or cell
0912 837301 after hours.

All letters published on the open Letter Forum are the views and opinions of
the submitters, and do not represent the official viewpoint of Justice for

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