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Mugabe's intentions are now quite clear

October 1, 2008

By Tendai Dumbutshena

NELSON Mandela was reluctant to publicly criticise Thabo Mbeki, his
successor as president of South Africa. He therefore did not join the chorus
of condemnation of Mbeki's handling of the Zimbabwe crisis.

He, however, felt compelled to break the silence on Zimbabwe following the
inordinate delay in announcing the results of the March 29 presidential poll
and the orgy of violence unleashed by the state.  He attributed the mess in
Zimbabwe to a catastrophic failure of leadership.

Painfully evidence of that is plain to see. Six months have passed since the
March 29 elections and the country has effectively no government.  The
country is bleeding to death while Robert Mugabe fiddles. With the
presidency firmly in his pocket he seems to be in no hurry to implement the
power-sharing agreement signed on 15 September.  This is a clear contrast to
the speed at which things were done, following the forced resignation of
Mbeki in South Africa. Within three days a new president had been elected
who swiftly moved to constitute and swear in a cabinet. This is in a country
that is fully functional.

Such urgency is conspicuous by its absence in Zimbabwe. Soon after the
signing of the agreement Mugabe flew to New York with a large entourage to
deliver another inconsequential tirade against the West. No progress could
be made on outstanding issues while he was away for a full week.  With the
situation on Zimbabwe rapidly deteriorating by the day there was no one to
attend to pressing matters.  The economy, now driven by black marketers,
criminals and corrupt officials, continued on a steep downward trajectory.
On his return a welcome rally at the airport was organized as if he was a
conquering hero.  What is the point? The mindlessness of it all is utterly

Mugabe said a cabinet would be announced by the end of the week.  This gave
the impression that the issue of the sharing of the key portfolios had been

The world was subsequently informed that a meeting between MDC leader Morgan
Tsvangirai and Mugabe on the issue was deadlocked. Mugabe's intentions are
now quite clear. If the agreement is to be implemented it must be on his own
terms. The MDC made all the important concessions to make the agreement
possible. Mugabe said a government would be formed within a few days on the
expectation that yet again the MDC would yield to his demands for Zanu-PF to
get all the portfolios it deems important in its calculations. If the MDC
does not participate on this issue Mugabe is quite prepared to let the deal

The MDC has brought this on itself. It was folly of the highest order to
shift from their critical principled position of a transitional inclusive
government. Once they made that crucial blunder they were on a slippery
slope to surrender. The party's spokesman Nelson Chamisa said Zanu-PF should
not labour under the illusion that they are desperate to be in government.
But that is the impression they created as they ceded ground to Zanu-PF on
all major issues. The end-result was an agreement that merely legitimized
Mugabe as president leaving his powers virtually intact.  Now Mugabe,
resentful of their presence in government, even as junior partners, wants to
humiliate them.  He is conducting negotiations on the cabinet posts on a
take it or leave it basis hoping with some justification that the pattern of
capitulation by the MDC will persist.

AT the airport he made it clear that nothing would change, fully mindful of
the consequences of his sterile rhetoric. Nothing has changed.  For Mugabe
it is "me first, Zanu-PF second and Zimbabwe last and least."  The MDC is
now appealing to the AU and SADC to intervene as guarantors of the
agreement.  These bodies have stated that Mbeki should remain mediator,
notwithstanding his loss of power in South Africa. Mugabe knows that with
his presidency secured he has nothing to fear from Africa.  It is a done
deal. Mbeki neither had the inclination nor courage to apply meaningful
pressure on Mugabe when he was leader of the most powerful country in the
region.  What can he do now that he is stripped of all power? It is not even
clear that he still wants to be mediator after the trauma and humiliation he

As previously stated in this column as far as Africa goes the MDC now has
nowhere to run to. Guarantees given to the agreement by the AU and SADC are
worthless. Both bodies recognized Mugabe's presidency soon after the June 27
putsch. The MDC got itself into this mess and must sort itself out of it. It
is not difficult to imagine what will happen should the so-called
power-sharing government be formed. Frozen out of power Tsvangirai and his
Council of Ministers will be mere spectators as Mugabe continues to rule
with a coterie of securocrats and CIO functionaries.

All he needs Parliament for is to pass the budget which no party can afford
to oppose. Tsvangirai will be in charge of nothing. Mugabe refuses to budge
on the position of head of government because that would have given
Tsvangirai real power over cabinet. As things stand the MDC will have
imaginary supervisory and policy formulation powers. The fact that Mugabe
refuses to give the MDC ministries he considers important reveals what role
he envisages for them in the new government.

The end result will be a government that will have no credibility in the
eyes of that section of the international community whose financial support
is essential for Zimbabwe's economic prospects. Unable to improve the
economy the government will lose credibility among the people of Zimbabwe.
This will be no skin off Mugabe's nose. He will be firmly in the
presidential saddle with his power underpinned by the generals and
fatalistically accepted by a frightened population. As for Tsvangirai he
will learn the hard way that in politics you cannot afford to let your
judgement desert you at critical junctures. Good intentions alone are simply
not enough.

Years back the British international publication 'The Economist' published
an edition with the cover title "Africa: The Hopeless Continent.' An
editorial comment in that issue concluded: "Africa is ill-served by its
leaders." Tragically this is being borne out in Zimbabwe. Mugabe's callous
selfishness and Tsvangirai's naiveté combine to deny the people of Zimbabwe
the leadership they so desperately need. It is a catastrophic failure of

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The truth of the matter

Tuesday, 30 September 2008 12:00
Mugabe's address to the United Nations last week was the
ultimate exercise in double-speak. The tragedy is that many will have missed
the irony of his deceptive posturing and forked tongue as a result of the
continuing media blackout and manipulation of the truth in which the Zanu
(PF) government has become so adept while in power.
He spoke eloquently of the eradication of poverty - praising the
UN for focusing on the global food crisis, poverty and hunger in the world
and the need to democratise itself.  "This relates well to our millennium
development goals. For us the eradication of poverty is the first of our
priorities and should indeed continue to receive serious attention," he
The truth of the matter is that on the ground in Zimbabwe over
the past two decades, Mugabe has done everything possible to bring about
poverty. The economic collapse of a once-prosperous and diverse economy has
come about directly because of his mis-governance, his lust for power and
wealth. It is simply because of Mugabe's reign that Zimbabweans now are
poorer than they were in 1953. Only a handful of ruling party fatcats and
hangers on are now fabulously wealthy.  They are easily identifiable,
driving their luxury 4x4 vehicles through the potholed streets of Harare,
elegantly dressed in imported finery, fat as butter.
Mugabe spoke about hunger in Zimbabwe - calling it a crisis that
now qualifies as a "humanitarian emergency which requires global solidarity
to provide post-haste assistance in the form of food, water and energy".
What happened to the tonnes of food aid sent by western
organisations to feed hungry Zimbabweans? The truth of the matter is that
Mugabe refused to let it be distributed to the poor. It was kept in
warehouses for months and then looted by Zanu (PF) fatcats.
He also used the UN platform to bemoan high tariff barriers to
trade imposed by some countries. The truth of the matter is that, two months
ago, his own government introduced punitive tariff barriers of 70% to stop
The Zimbabwean coming into the country - in order to keep the people in the
dark about what is really happening - fed only a diet of the most blatant
propaganda by the state-controlled media.
He ranted on, yet again, about non-existent "sanctions" being
responsible for "untold suffering in Zimbabwe". The truth is that there are
no international sanctions against our nation - only a raft of travel and
economic restrictions on the aforementioned fatcats.
Perhaps most ironic of all, Mugabe told the world (if indeed
anybody was still listening) that Zimbabwe was not a threat to international
peace and security, and that people should heed call of Iraqis in seeking
vengeance and retribution for their suffering under the US-led invasion.
The truth of the matter is that under Mugabe's rule, Zimbabwe
has sent marauding troops into Mozambique and the DRC - neither of which
were a threat to international peace and security. He also turned his guns
onto the people of Matabeleland and massacred 20,000 people. His army
destroyed the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands during Operation
Murambatsvina. More than 200 people were killed after the March elections.
Does Mugabe seriously think that his going to posture on the
international stage has helped the people of Zimbabwe suffering at his
hands? Was there anything gained for Zimbabweans from his UN jamboree? Did
insulting the British and the Americans achieve anything. Aren't these the
same people whose money and food he wants? And finally, where are his
friends, the Chinese and the Russians, in our hour of need?

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Life in Zimbabwe: Wait for Useless Money
Associated Press

At a bank in Harare, Zimbabwe, this week, the police directed customers trying to withdraw their nearly worthless savings.

Published: October 1, 2008

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Long before the rooster in their dirt yard crowed, Rose Moyo and her husband rolled out of bed. “It is time to get up,” intoned the robotic voice of her cellphone. Its glowing face displayed the time: 2:20 a.m.

Zimbabwe issued new denominations of its paper money on Tuesday after it dropped 10 zeros from its inflated currency.

They crept past their children sleeping on the floor of the one-room house — Cinderella, 9, and Chrissie, 10 — and took their daily moonlit stroll to the bank. The guard on the graveyard shift gave them a number. They were the 29th to arrive, all hoping for a chance to withdraw the maximum amount of Zimbabwean currency the government allowed last month — the equivalent of just a dollar or two.

Zimbabwe is in the grip of one of the great hyperinflations in world history. The people of this once proud capital have been plunged into a Darwinian struggle to get by. Many have been reduced to peddlers and paupers, hawkers and black-market hustlers, eating just a meal or two a day, their hollowed cheeks a testament to their hunger.

Like countless Zimbabweans, Mrs. Moyo has calculated the price of goods by the number of days she had to spend in line at the bank to withdraw cash to buy them: a day for a bar of soap; another for a bag of salt; and four for a sack of cornmeal.

The withdrawal limit rose on Monday, but with inflation surpassing what independent economists say is an almost unimaginable 40 million percent, she said the value of the new amount would quickly be a pittance, too.

“It’s survival of the fittest,” said Mrs. Moyo, 29, a hair braider who sells the greens she grows in her yard for a dime a bunch. “If you’re not fit, you will starve.”

Economists here and abroad say Zimbabwe’s economic collapse is gaining velocity, radiating instability into the heart of southern Africa. As the bankrupt government prints ever more money, inflation has gone wild, rising from 1,000 percent in 2006 to 12,000 percent in 2007 to a figure so high the government had to lop 10 zeros off the currency in August to keep the nation’s calculators from being overwhelmed. (Had it left the currency alone, $1 would now be worth about 10 trillion Zimbabwean dollars.)

In fact, Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation is probably among the five worst of all time, said Jeffrey D. Sachs, a Columbia University economics professor, along with Germany in the 1920s, Greece and Hungary in the 1940s and Yugoslavia in 1993.

Making matters worse, cash itself has become scarce. Business executives and diplomats say Zimbabwe’s central bank governor, Gideon Gono, desperate for foreign currency to stoke the governing party’s patronage machine, sends runners into the streets with suitcases of the nation’s currency to buy up American dollars and South African rand on the black market — drying up Zimbabwean dollars that would otherwise go to the banks.

Because of the cash shortage, the government strictly limits the amount people can withdraw. Even so, Zimbabweans say they often wait in vain for hours at banks that send their customers away empty-handed.

Mr. Gono, who blames Western sanctions for the nation’s troubles, did not respond to requests for an interview, but he has shown few signs of doing anything differently.

“I am going to print and print and sign the money until sanctions are removed,” he told state media this week.

Political Solution Needed

Economists say that the only thing that can halt Zimbabwe’s inflationary spiral is a political solution that takes control over the country’s economy out of the hands of Robert Mugabe, the 84-year-old president who still maintains a viselike hold on power after 28 years in office.

“This is the end of the endgame,” Professor Sachs said.

Mr. Mugabe, who lives in splendor here in a mansion hidden behind high walls, returned to Harare on Monday from the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York. He and the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, signed a power-sharing agreement, but they are still deadlocked over the division of the ministries. So far, Mr. Mugabe has refused to give up control of the crucial Finance and Home Ministries.

Basic public services, already devastated by an exodus of professionals in recent years, are breaking down on an ever larger scale as tens of thousands of teachers, nurses, garbage collectors and janitors have simply stopped reporting to their jobs because their salaries, more worthless literally by the hour, no longer cover the cost of taking the bus to work.

“It’s scary and it’s pathetic,” said Tendai Chikowore, president of the Zimbabwe Teachers Association, the largest and least radical of the teacher unions. She said a teacher’s monthly pay was not even enough to buy two bottles of cooking oil. “This is a collapse of the system, and it’s not only for teachers,” she said. “At the hospitals, there are no nurses, no drugs.”

Those who continue to show up often make a little extra on the job. Teachers sell their students candy and cookies, for example, or accept payment from parents in cornmeal or cooking oil, said Raymond Majongwe, secretary general of the Progressive Teachers Union.

Customers waiting for new bank notes this week lined up outside a bank in Harare, Zimbabwe, a common practice these days with the country mired in an extended period of hyperinflation.

Zimbabweans have a legendary ability to make do despite extraordinary hardship, and the money sent home by millions of their compatriots who have fled abroad to escape political repression and economic deprivation continues to sustain many of them. But the deteriorating conditions are creating pressures for a renewed exodus, even as people employ all their entrepreneurial creativity to stay alive.

Among those thinking of leaving is Fortunate Nyabinde, whose salary of $3,600 Zimbabwean dollars a month (or $36 trillion before the government rejiggered the currency in August) does not even pay for four days of bus fare to her job at Parirenyatwa Hospital, one of Zimbabwe’s leading public institutions.

Yet, for now, she keeps going to work, wheeling a trolley of cornmeal porridge from ward to ward, mostly because she can eke out an extra 20 cents a day by selling basic necessities to patients that the hospital usually does not have in stock: toilet paper, toothpaste, soap.

“If they come to the hospital without anything, they will have to buy from us,” Ms. Nyabinde said.

Signs of a Calamity

Clues to the calamitous state of the country can be found even in recent articles tucked into Mr. Mugabe’s mouthpiece, The Herald, the only daily newspaper he has allowed to keep publishing.

The bodies of paupers in advanced states of decay were stacking up in the mortuary at Beitbridge District Hospital because not even government authorities were seeing to their burial.

Harare Central Hospital slashed admissions by almost half because so much of its cleaning staff could no longer afford to get to work.

Most of the capital, though lovely beneath its springtime canopy of lavender jacaranda blooms, was without water because the authorities had stopped paying the bills to transport the treatment chemicals. Garbage is piling up uncollected. Sixteen people have died in an outbreak of cholera in nearby Chitungwiza, spread by contaminated water and sewage.

Vigilantes in Kwekwe killed a man suspected of stealing two chickens, eggs and a bucket of corn.

And traditional chiefs complained about corrupt politicians and army officers who sold grain needed for the hungry to the politically connected instead.

Zimbabweans standing in bank lines across the capital offer their own stratagems for survival. At the Avondale shopping center, a strip mall with a cafe serving cappuccinos and a multiplex showing “Sex and the City,” more than 200 sweaty, grumpy people lined up one recent morning to withdraw whatever they could from the bank.

Mrs. Moyo, the early riser, had her usual sought-after, low number — 26 — while Mrs. Nyabinde, the hospital worker on the overnight shift, was far back at No. 148 because she had arrived late — about 5:15 a.m.

No. 132 was Stanford Mafumera, 35, a security guard who spends most of his time at his job or in line at the bank; he is so poor that he sleeps beneath the overhang at the mall rather than pay for bus fare home to his family. His clothes hung loose on his gaunt body, and his dusty shoes were coming apart.

“Since Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, there was no cash here,” he said. “We started getting cash only yesterday.”

Most days, he said, he eats only a bag of corn nuts to conserve his monthly pay — worth $10 a week and a half ago, but only $5 now because of inflation.

Each day, he buys a pack of cigarettes and sells them one by one, making an extra 20 to 30 cents. But he was unable to afford the cost of taking his 5-year-old daughter to the doctor recently when she got diarrhea after drinking dirty water from an unprotected well.

Mr. Mafumera blamed the government’s land reform program for Zimbabwe’s woes. It chased away the white commercial farmers who had made the country a breadbasket, he said, as well as donors from Britain and other European countries and the United States who sustained Zimbabwe’s starving millions for years.

“A lot of people got farms, but they can’t produce anything and this is what is causing the poverty and hunger,” he said. “There’s no food.”

Chaotic Land Reform

Zimbabwe’s economic unraveling has, indeed, accelerated since the chaotic, often violent invasions of thousands of white-owned farms by Mr. Mugabe’s supporters began in 2000. The big farms now produce less than a tenth the corn — the main staple food crop here — of what they did in the 1990s, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported in June.

In the years since, the country has suffered extreme food scarcity, rampant inflation, a shrinking economy and collapsing public services. In Mrs. Nyabinde’s neighborhood, every spare spot of ground sprouts the greens people eat with cornmeal porridge, evidence of the scramble for food.

And in a country that used to have an education system that was the pride of the continent, the schools that Mrs. Nyabinde’s children — Chenai, 10, and Darlington, 6 — attend are now empty of teachers. So she sends them to Stella Muponda, a teacher who quit her public school job last year, for a couple of hours of instruction a day. The money Mrs. Nyabinde pays Mrs. Muponda for the children’s lessons is now worth only about 40 cents, enough for a single bread roll.

Mrs. Muponda, a widow with twin, 14-year-old boys, said she and her sons grew thinner, weaker and more sickly last year, unable to eat enough on her meager pay. When she no longer had the strength for the five-mile walk to and from school, she quit.

Gaunt and exhausted, she kept saying, “I only wish I could get a decent job.”

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Harare diary: Daydreaming over
Wednesday, 1 October 2008 00:14 UK
Zimbabwe flag with MDC's open hand symbol

Esther (not her real name), 28, a professional living and working in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, tells how the initial delight over the power-sharing deal between President Mugabe and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai has fizzled out.

Things are really very quiet. Nothing is happening.

When the deal was signed earlier this month we were all euphoric but now, the devil most certainly is in the detail.

The MDC apparently wants the crucial ministerial posts - home affairs and finance - but says Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party want all the key ministries.

Our lives are haywire again
Initially, the week after the signing of the deal, the parallel market rate dropped quite significantly. It was so strange, going from three rate rises per day to none or even a drop.

It was unbelievable and we were all like: "Oh good, finally things are stabilising."

But by Friday, things were right back to where they were... going up every day.

Our lives are haywire again. Nothing has changed.

I had to stay at home all weekend because I couldn't be bothered to queue for hours to draw cash to pay for public transport.

Welcome downfall

Cash supplies are very limited. Only on Monday did they increase the withdrawal amount to 20,000 Zimbabwean dollars (about $20; £11).

L-R: Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai and Thabo Mbeki hold hands
Esther says Zimbabweans welcomed Mr Mbeki's fall from power

Before the daily allocation was only enough for two rides on public transport - to work and back home. No money left for lunch or anything.

A lot of us were so happy that South Africa's Thabo Mbeki was forced to go as president. He's not our favourite person here in Zimbabwe and his downfall was welcomed.

I personally think that at the thick of our crisis (after 29 March election), he didn't push for free and fair polls and so the democracy, as wanted by the Zimbabwean people, couldn't prevail.

I blame Mbeki for the deadlock now.

Apparently food supplies are being handed out around the country.

But I don't even know for certain if it is happening. No-one I know has heard of anyone who's benefitted. But then because of the lack of cash no-one can travel from the city to their families in the rural areas so no-one knows.

If it does start though, then everyone will benefit, which is fair - unlike before when only people carrying Zanu-PF party cards could get food.

No harassment

Here in town, the police and army are not hanging out on street corners in gangs anymore.

Zimbabweans waiting to draw cash from bank ATMs
People were seen queuing for cash in Harare all weekend

And I see many people walking around in their MDC T-shirts now.

There is no harassing going on anymore. There's not much fear either. At least not in Harare but I don't know what the situation is out of town.

Even the Herald newspaper [one regarded as the Zanu-PF mouthpiece] has had to change its editorial policy: Morgan Tsvangirai is not belittled or directly attacked anymore. Instead they rant about the colonial powers, criticising him indirectly.

Just after the deal had been signed, when we were all still daydreaming, my work colleagues and I were saying how the entire editorial team at the state-run broadcaster and press would have to be changed but two weeks down the road, the same reporters are still writing and talking away, but without attacking the new prime minister designate.


I'm going down to South Africa this week.

I'm getting the overnight bus because flying is too much now - one-way would've cost me $300 (£168).

The bus is costing me $50 (£28) to go to Johannesburg and back.

I just cannot wait to be there.

It is the little things I long for - the little things that are now luxuries... eating lots of different types of food, getting take-outs, buying clothes.

I'm definitely going to enjoy myself.

I can't wait to taste pizza again.


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UN warns over Zimbabwe food aid

Wednesday, 1 October 2008 00:39 UK
A woman waits at a Unicef water stall in Mabvuku, 16/09
Zimbabwe, once Africa's bread-basket, now relies heavily on aid

About half the population of Zimbabwe could soon be in need of constant food aid and medical assistance, the UN's humanitarian chief has told the BBC.

John Holmes said three million people were already reliant on aid, and that figure could rise to five million.

He said the situation was already grave and deteriorating.

However, he acknowledged that access for aid agencies had improved greatly since a political power-sharing deal was signed two weeks ago.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF agreed to work together after years of political and economic crises.

Under the deal, Mr Mugabe remains president while Mr Tsvangirai - who pulled out of a presidential election earlier this year, citing violence - will become prime minister.

Farming worries

Zimbabwe's official inflation rate is still about 11 million per cent and there are severe food shortages.

Mr Holmes warned that preparations needed to be made for next year's harvest to avoid millions more people becoming reliant on aid.

"Planting season for the next harvest starts in five or six weeks time, at least for maize, and there is massive shortage of seeds and fertilisers in the country because of the economic situation," he told the World Service's World Today programme.

"We're looking to see whether we can accelerate even at this late stage and get some of those seeds and fertilisers and other imports into the hands of small farmers."

He said he hoped the the farmers would plant more seeds "so they can harvest more, so we have less of a food assistance problem next year".

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Mbeki's Zimbabwe role up to SADC -SAfrica minister


Wed 1 Oct 2008, 22:18 GMT

By Claudia Parsons

NEW YORK (Reuters) - South Africa's foreign minister said Wednesday she was
confident that former President Thabo Mbeki would continue mediating
power-sharing talks in Zimbabwe if he is asked by the Southern African
Development Community.

Mbeki's role in the process, now deadlocked over cabinet appointments, has
been in doubt since he was ousted last month by his ruling African National
Congress after accusations of meddling in the corruption case against ANC
leader Jacob Zuma.

Zimbabwe's opposition MDC said Wednesday only mediation could end a deadlock
in talks with President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF on forming a cabinet.

The 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC), which asked
Mbeki in 2007 to mediate in neighboring Zimbabwe, has said the resignation
would have no impact on Mbeki's role as a mediator. The ANC also indicated
support for him to continue.

"I think if he's asked, (Mbeki) will continue because I think he was not
just doing it just because he happens to be president," Foreign Minister
Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma told a small group of reporters in New York.

"He's convinced that all the assistance should be given to Zimbabwe," she
said during a briefing on her visit to the U.N. General Assembly in New

She said an agreement brokered last month by Mbeki spelled out that there
were three guarantors for its implementation -- SADC, the African Union and
the facilitator himself.

"When there's a problem the guarantors must come in and try and do something
about it," Dlamini Zuma said. "Whether president Mbeki himself will
continue, of course that's a matter for SADC because he was appointed by

Mbeki faced criticism for not taking a tougher stand on Mugabe, but he
scored a coup in mediating the Sept. 15 power-sharing deal.

Dlamini Zuma said the South African government under Mbeki's successor would
continue to be involved and assist in the process. She said she did not see
differences between Mbeki's position on Zimbabwe and that of the ruling
African National Congress.

The talks between Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF and the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change have reached an apparent impasse over who will control key
ministries in the unity government to be established under the deal.

Asked about the possibility of Western countries led by Washington imposing
more sanctions on Mugabe's government, Dlamini Zuma said that would not be

"Whether you put sanctions or not, Zimbabwe needs a government," she said.
"I don't think sanctions will help in the process right now. What will help
is really assisting them to be able to form a government." (Editing by
Michelle Nichols and Xavier Briand)

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Mayor defies Chombo's illegal directive

October 1, 2008

By Our Correspondent

MUTARE - Brian James, the MDC mayor for Mutare, has defied a directive by
the Member of Parliament for North, Ignatius Chombo, to install losing
Zanu-PF members as special interest councillors.

Chombo who represents Zanu-PF in the House of Assembly was the Minister of
Local Government in the previous government. Zimbabwe has not had a cabinet
since February when the previous ministers were stood down in preparation
for the harmonised elections held on March 29. Zanu-PF, which lost its
majority in Parliament in the same elections and the MDC, now the majority
party, are currently engaged in negotiations to set up a new cabinet after
they signed a power-sharing agreement last month.

The MDC says notwithstanding these well publicised developments Chombo had
now appointed as city councillors businessman Esau Mupfumi and Misheck
Mugadza - both Zanu-PF candidates who lost in the March local government
elections in Mutare.

James flatly refused to swear in councillors illegally appointed by Chombo.
Now the Member of Parliament for Zvimba North is said to have threatened
James with dismissal. Chombo has no authority to dismiss or appoint
councillors or Mayors in Mutare or anywhere else.

The MDC has refused to recognise Chombo as a minister citing the
power-sharing agreement signed between President Robert Mugabe, leader of
Zanu-PF, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, now Prime Minister-elect, and Arthur
Mutambara, head of a breakaway faction of the MDC.

In a statement, the mainstream MDC, led by Tsvangirai, said: "Zvimba North
MP Ignatius Chombo, a legendary enemy of democracy, has once again
threatened the elected mayor of Mutare, His Worship Brian James, for
refusing to install losing Zanu-PF stalwarts as special interest

"Chombo phoned the mayor on Tuesday and threatened him and the 11
democratically elected councillors with dismissal if they did not install
Zanu-PF bigwigs Esau Mupfumi and Misheck Mugadza as councillors."

Mugadza is the former chairman of the Mutare Council Commission appointed by
Chombo to thwart the legitimate city council, while Mupfumi, a prosperous
businessman, is a member of Zanu-PF's central committee.

The MDC said the Mutare mayor refused to swear in the pair because Chombo
was imposing them as "special interest" councillors when they did not bring
in any special expertise or add value to the popularly elected MDC-dominated

"Chombo continues to meddle with council decisions in most cities and towns
yet he is not a cabinet minister," said the MDC. "There is no legitimate
government in Zimbabwe at the moment and the nation is eagerly awaiting the
conclusion of inter-party talks so that an inclusive government can begin to
respond to the needs of the people.

"Chombo cannot abuse his former position by appointing Zanu-PF's losing
candidates in the last election as "special councillors" to subvert the
sovereign will of the people who voted for the MDC.

The MDC said, "By appointing these unsuccessful Zanu-PF election candidates
as special councillors Chombo is declaring war on democracy, the people of
Zimbabwe and on the spirit of togetherness and the MoU signed by the three
parties. He cannot be allowed to do that."

The MDC controls all urban local authorities in Zimbabwe. It is understood
that Local Government is one of the ministries that Zanu-PF is demanding in
the ongoing negotiations on allocation of cabinet positions among the three
political parties. Given that Chombo does not seem to accept that he is no
longer Minister of Local Government, President Mugabe's predicament becomes
patently clear. His party is negotiating with the interests, not of the
generality of people of Zimbabwe, but of individuals such as Chombo, in

Last week, the MDC accused Chombo of disrupting the day-to-day operations of
the MDC-dominated councils. The party also said Zanu-PF was using a dubious
quota system to appoint certain councillors, especially losing Zanu-PF
candidates, in a bid to reverse the MDC's majority in most council chambers,
both urban and rural.

"We cannot allow democracy to be subverted at this stage," said the MDC
statement. "In March, the people of Zimbabwe voted for what they believe in.
Chombo cannot unilaterally reverse what the people want. The MDC calls upon
the people of Zimbabwe to reject and resist Chombo's manoeuvres.

"What the people have built, let no man put asunder. The people are the
ultimate victors."

Independent Member of Parliament, Jonathan Moyo, has petitioned the High
Court to reverse the election of Speaker of Parliament, Lovemore Moyo, who
is the MDC chairman, saying his election was illegal. Prof Moyo was not
available to explain whether he would challenge Chombo's illegal appointment
of councillors in High Court in the interests of fairness and justice.

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Zimbabwean children endure the worst poverty as political leaders dilly-dally on key decisions

 By Stephen Chadenga  Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Chirumanzu, Zimbabwe-From a distance, tiny bodies make swift movements on
branches of a huge wild fruit tree. One would mistakenly think they are wild
animals scavenging for food, but a closer move to the tree shocks one's
life. Children as young as five years hang on branches as they make and
search for today's meal.

The first conscience at such a touching sight is the children's safety. What
if the little kids fall 15 metres down the tree, one ponders It is summer
season and snakes are active, what is to become of the kids if they cross
the path of vicious and poisonous snakes? As a concerned adult, you attempt
a word of advice on the dangers of climbing trees, but with stunned faces
the kids stare at your ignorance. You are just coming from town and not well
versed with what is happening in this rural set-up.

The kids climb down with pockets full of the fruit meal. It is them now
lecturing you on the biting poverty, they and their parents face on a daily

"Asi hamuzivi kuti suma ndidzo dzinodyiwa makuseni nemasikati mozodya sadza
manheru (Don't you know that you have to consume this fruit in the morning
and afternoon and serve it for the main meal in the evening)," explains
eight-year-old Tawanda in the local vernacular.

Mealie-meal, which forms the most basic of the majority's diets, is not
readily available. In rare cases where grain is sold, many cannot afford it,
as it sells at exorbitant foreign currency pegged prices.

Even in cases where a family luckily gets hold of a bucket of grain, the low
capacity electricity at Mutenderende shops, which has gone on like this for
more than three months now since power cuts became the order of the day in
Zimbabwe, cannot drive the grinding mill to function. People in this area
have to travel by scorch-carts and in most cases on foot distances as long
as 30km in search of a mill.  It never rains but pours for these rural

At one village homestead, a six year old pleads with his mother to make
porridge. The mother tries to explain that there are no ingredients for the
porridge but with a sad look, the kid explains to the mother that it is
better than not having anything at all. Young children know what it means to
eat porridge without sugar, salt and peanut butter. They seem to understand
poverty like mature people.

74-year-old Sekuru Dube lies under a shed of his granary. He is puffing
tobacco from his long pipe. His grey eyes are looking in the distant space
in the direction of two hills.

"I have known poverty in this country as a growing young man but this is
just too much. I think the ancestors are cursing us. Only a week ago two
kids from beyond those two hills died after eating too much of these wild

These rural folks like many Zimbabweans believe that the delay in sharing
government ministries between Zanu PF and the Movement for Democratic Change
is the root cause of their suffering.

"Dai vachingonyorerana pasi CARE ne Oxfam zvidzoke. Tatambura nenzara
mwanangu. (My son's hunger has become unbearable here, it our wish that Zanu
PF and MDC sign so that humanitarian aid organisations like CARE and Oxfam
can start distributing relief food), bemoans 45-year-old Faith Chisako, a
mother of two.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai met in Harare on Tuesday after the former's return
from New York to try to resolve the impasse over the sharing of key
government ministries, but nothing fruitful came out of it.  Mugabe had
declared upon his arrival on Monday from the United States that there was no
deadlock over ministries and that a new cabinet would be appointed by the
end of the week.

Government banned humanitarian aid from Non-Governmental Organisations
during the June presidential election run-off. Though the ban has since been
lifted, much ground is still to be covered to feed millions of Zimbabweans
who are facing acute starvation.

A United States aid organisation, US Agency for International Development
(USAID) Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) said in a statement
last week that Zimbabwe could face a "critical shortage or exhaustion of
cereals." The aid organisation warned that the country faces completely
running out of food as early as November.

As one villager, Admire Sokutamba remarked: "You have to be in this poverty
to understand It." One wonders if that is the reason politicians seem not to
notice the urgency required to solve Zimbabwe's economic collapse.

Stephen Chandega is a journalist in Zimbabwe

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Animal feed grabbed to feed the hungry

Tuesday, 30 September 2008 11:59
The weary Zimbabwean farmer had been accused of a lot of things in the
past couple of years, but this one was new.
After armed government men burst through his gates and hauled off the
last of the maize he used to feed his livestock, one of them accused him of
trying to starve the country's black population.
"I told them that the grain is for my stock and the men who work here
and their families," said the farmer, who asked to be anonymous for fear of
"I told them that now I'll have to slaughter my pigs because I've got
nothing to feed them, but they took it just the same."
With just three weeks after the signing of the power-sharing deal,
militants are all too aware that the new government will not back the policy
of land seizures.
The wholesale confiscation of the 280 remaining productive farms has
created a potentially catastrophic food shortage and, in desperation, the
government is seizing animal feed and any other grain it can find.
Many rural areas - notably parts of Matabeleland, Masvingo and
Mashonaland - are already facing serious food shortages. In the cities,
shops are bare of the cheaper basic maize, and supplies of the more
expensive, refined variety are limited. Cooking oil has not been seen in
many areas for weeks. The few stores that have milk, ration it.
The President's critics say the situation is entirely of his making
because the farm seizures by 'war veterans' have left huge tracts of land
The thousands of small-scale farmers Mugabe said were desperate to
start planting have yet to materialise.

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Zim gets second chance to host COMESA summit

by Patricia Mpofu Thursday 02 October 2008

HARARE - The Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) has given
Zimbabwe a second chance to host the bloc's 13th summit, in an apparent show
of confidence in the country following the signing of a power-sharing
agreement two weeks ago.

Officials from Zimbabwe's Ministry of Industry and International Trade told
ZimOnline yesterday the regional summit will take place in the resort town
of Victoria Falls from November 25 to December 8, 2008.

Industry minister Obert Mpofu also confirmed the summit will take place in
Zimbabwe but refused to disclose further details on the matter. "I heard
that it's coming but I can't comment further," said Mpofu.

The summit had been initially set to take place in Victoria Falls in May but
was cancelled after state-sponsored violence engulfed the country following
President Robert Mugabe's loss to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in a
first round presidential election in March.

The violence also forced Tsvangirai to pull out of the second round
presidential vote after more than 100 of his supporters were killed and
thousands of others displaced in the run up to the June 27 run-off election.
Mugabe went on to win the run-off poll uncontested.

In postponing the summit at the peak of political violence in May, COMESA
had said it was doing so to give Zimbabwe time to conclude its electoral

The COMESA seeks to promote regional economic integration through trade and
investment. It boasts 19 member countries, which represent a market of 319
million inhabitants.

Total trade between member countries adds up to about US$159 billion per
year. The regional body has a gross domestic product of US$275 billion a

Zimbabwe was a major player in COMESA before its economy disintegrated over
the past decade due to what critics say are Mugabe's wrong economic policies
and political repression.

The power-sharing deal signed by Mugabe, Tsvangirai and another opposition
leader Arthur Mutambara is seen as the best opportunity yet for Zimbabwe to
end an acute recession that is seen in the world's highest inflation of 11
million percent, deepening poverty amid shortages of food and every basic
survival commodity.

However, the deal remains in limbo and at risk of unraveling after Mugabe
and Tsvangirai failed this week to agree on how to share key posts in the
proposed unity government. - ZimOnline

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