August 31 2006 at 07:58AM
By Fanuel Jongwe
Harare - Zimbabwe's rights record was under the spotlight on Wednesday with critics blasting a proposed surveillance bill and the failure to resettle hundreds of thousands whose homes were razed last year.
In a further blow, the economically-ravaged country's once vibrant tobacco sector hit a new low on the last day of the auction season with sales expected to plummet 31 percent during the previous year.
The Zimbabwean parliament heard that the proposed Interception of Communications Bill allowing the state to monitor phone calls, faxes and emails, flouted basic human rights.
"The bill represents a step backwards and is inconsistent with international standards on human rights and other legal requirements," Wilbert Mandinde, of the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe, told a parliamentary committee.
Lawyer Jessie Majome said the bill, unveiled by President Robert Mugabe's government in May, gave "too much power to the minister of transport and communications who plays the dual role of judge and jury".
The bill empowers the minister to issue a warrant to intercept communication between individuals or organisations and also to hear appeals from those objecting to the interception of their correspondence.
Under the proposed law, telecommunication service providers will be compelled to install monitoring devices.
Jim Holland, of the Zimbabwe Internet Service Providers' Association, said many operators could close shop if they failed to raise foreign currency to import equipment they would be forced to install on computers.
The government says the move is aimed at combatting international terrorism and espionage.
Meanwhile, in neighbouring South Africa, a non-government organisation unveiled a trenchant report on the fate of some 700,000 people rendered homeless - according to UN estimates - by a controversial urban clean-up in Zimbabwe last May.
Almost nothing has been done to rehouse those who lost their homes during Operation Murambatsvina (Clean up Filth) which had also "destroyed the livelihoods of an estimated 90 000 vendors", the Solidarity Peace Trust said.
"Fifteen months later, almost nothing has been done to house those who lost homes and livelihoods, or to salvage the informal trading sector," Pius Ncube, one of Mugabe's fiercest critics, told reporters in Johannesburg.
Ncube, archbishop of the second city Bulawayo, said the "UN and the diplomatic corps should bring pressure to bear on the authorities" to set up new market stalls.
Zimbabwean government spokesman George Charamba immediately rubbished Ncube's claims.
"We have resettled about 2 454 families, we have given 728
families serviced stands, we have 3 474 units under construction to give a total of 7 478 all told," he told AFP in Harare.
"If we use an average of five persons per household... we expect at least 35 000 persons to benefit from this programme of housing. As far as we are concerned, that covers the persons we estimate were affected."
The clean-up drive - launched in winter - targeted shacks, "illegal" buildings and roadside kiosks and was criticised by a UN fact-finding team.
The victims' woes have been exacerbated by an economic meltdown, coupled with 70 unemployment, a near 1 000-percent inflation rate and acute shortages of food, fuel and basic commodities.
The plight of the tobacco industry, once the mainstay of the economy, has been symptomatic of the economic malaise with production levels having fallen dramatically since Mugabe began a series of land seizures in 2000.
On the final day of the tobacco auction season, Andrew Ferreira, vice president of the Zimbabwe Tobacco Association, said sales should cross the 50 million kilogram mark, but the figure would still be the worst since independence in 1980. - Sapa-AFP
business report SA
August 31, 2006
The Zimbabwean government had established a Z$550 million (R16 million) fund in a bid to stem the exodus of skilled workers in the public sector, a state daily reported yesterday.
The money would be used to "pay special allowances to people with special skills" and convince them to remain in Zimbabwe, which is in a crisis with inflation at 1 000 percent, said Washington Mbizvo, the chairman of the government-linked national economic development and retention programme. - Sapa-AFP, Harare
Tuesday, August 29 2006 @ 04:15 PM BST
Contributed by: Reporter
ZIMBABWE’S civic society and the opposition are seething with anger over Southern Africa Development Community’s (SADC) failure to publicly confront President Robert Mugabe in Maseru, Lesotho over the political and economic problems bedeviling the country. Mugabe left Maseru in a huff without even signing the crucial Finance and Investment Protocol after Zimbabwe’s nagging political and economic meltdown had been pencilled for deliberation in a closed-door session of the regional leaders. Government’s spin doctors were quick to deny Mugabe left after being provoked by some leaders and officials in Maseru over dictatorial leadership and skewed policies whose contagion has affected the generality of SADC.With inflation nearly touching 1200 percent, the worst for a country not at war and unemployment at 80 percent in a population of 12 million, Zimbabwe is now regarding as the very sick man of the region, a charge the government vehemently denies.
Simbarashe Mbengegwi, Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs Ministers flatly denied Harare was ever on the agenda of last week’s SADC Summit in Maseru, accusing the local media and civic society of demonising President Mugabe’s government and the ruling ZANU PF. “The meeting (Maseru Summit) was according to the agenda. There was nothing outside the agenda,” said Mbengegwi. “Anybody who claims that there was any other discussion apart from what was on the agenda would be telling a falsehood.”Prior to the SADC summit, there were high expectations that the African leaders would deal with Mugabe over the country’s continued political and socio-economic problems.
There were also expectations SADC would use the occasion to ask Mugabe to unwrap the Benjamin Mkapa mediation initiative in which the Zimbabwean leader is seeking to build bridges with former colonial master Britain.Even the SADC chairperson, Botswana President Festus Mogae, in his deliberation with Zimbabwe veteran opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on the eve of the summit, indicated that the Zimbabwe issue, alongside that of Swaziland, would be tabled before member states in Lesotho. Given this assurance, Zimbabweans and indeed the rest of SADC were convinced that the regional leaders were geared to confront the 82-year old leader with a view to assist him in coming up with concrete solutions to the problems affecting Zimbabwe.
But this was not to be at the two-day meeting, critics describe as a talk show of paranoid regional leaders reluctant to criticize each other.“It’s a clear indication that SADC is being turned into a solidarity of leadership instead of being a solidarity of the people within the southern region,” commented Nelson Chamisa, the spokesman of Tsvangirai’s faction of Movement Democratic Change (MDC). Chamisa said his party, just like the majority of the impoverished Zimbabweans, was disappointed by SADC’s silence on the ever-deteriorating situation in Harare.“As a party we realize the predicament faced by democratic forces in the region in trying to rein the dictatorship in Zimbabwe yet there is now clarity and consensus in the region on the nature, character and scope of the problem. Mugabe has become a pole cat of the region,” added Chamisa.Ernest Mudzengi, a political commentator with the National Constitutional Assembly, a non-governmental organization campaigning for a people-driven constitution, said SADC’s habitual reluctance to confront Mugabe even in a closed session was a betrayal to democratic forces in Zimbabwe fighting and battling corruption, economic mismanagement and general bad governance.
Mudzengi, whose organization has continued to be a thorn in the government’s flesh with its sporadic public protests in the streets of Harare in their campaign for a new constitution, alleged Mugabe had instilled fear in some regional leaders with his posturing as a Pan Africanist owing to his controversial seizure of land from white commercial farmers for redistribution to landless blacks. “It is easy to fathom why the SADC leaders at that talk-shop failed to instill sanity in Mugabe. They are all afraid of him and being labeled unpatriotic to a self-imposed nationalist,” said Mudzengi. “The brutal truth is that SADC has remained a prisoner to the ideology of moribund nationalism despite the existence within the regional body of some leaders who are committed and sworn in to the dictates of modern global politics and economy. SADC leaders are very afraid to be labeled unpatriotic. Remember he is the guy that in the past has slammed Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki. They are scared of his insults.” Chamisa of the MDC added:
“We are very angry with SADC and we hope they realize it that we are serious about a new Zimbabwe, a new beginning. They must walk the talk. ” Prosper Chitambara, an economist with the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), said SADC risked loosing investment as the international community regarded its silence on Harare as a endorsement of Mugabe's policies. The United States, The United Kingdom and the European Union (EU) have slammed Mugabe and his ruling elite with targeted travel and financial sanctions. Ends
Born in Barotseland, in what is now Zambia, Michael came from a family of journalists. He always said that journalism, in his case, was "not so much a profession as an inherited genetic disorder". He went to England in 1956 to attend Hastings grammar school in Sussex. From there, at the age of 18 he went straight to the Cambridge Evening News. In 1966 he returned to Africa and joined the Rhodesia Herald, concentrating on reporting on courts and municipal affairs.
Through his membership of the Rhodesian Guild of Journalists he waged an unsuccessful battle with management for black reporters to receive pay equal to that of their white colleagues. He was president of the journalists' union from 1976 to 1980. Michael produced reliable reports of events through the power cuts, water cuts, fuel queues and other hassles that have become part of daily life in Zimbabwe.
The trials and turmoils of Rhodesia/ Zimbabwe inspired in him an enduring love for the country. His weekly columns in South African newspapers, including the Natal Witness, Eastern Province Herald, Cape Times and Daily Dispatch provided a unique, personal chronicle of Zimbabwe's growing troubles and won him a loyal readership.
The quality of his journalism was recognised in 2003 when Michael was awarded an honorary doctorate from South Africa's Rhodes University, which cited his working life "in service of the truth and the vision of a just and non-racial Zimbabwe, displaying courage and integrity".
Michael's last column, written on July 24, was an account of the funeral of Andrew Kanyowa, aged 79, with whom he had worked as a court reporter on the Rhodesia Herald 40 years ago. Michael was attending a show of Zimbabwean art that is a high point of Harare's cultural calendar and enjoying a glass of wine with colleagues when he suffered a stroke from which he never recovered.
He is survived by Anne, his wife of 33 years, sons Richard and Andrew, and daughter Jennifer.
· Michael Hartnack, journalist, born October 17 1945; died August 2 2006.
31 August 2006
The price of mealie-meal, the staple food of Zimbabwean households, has more than doubled in recent days to Z$1,300 for a kilogram from Z$500 previously.
Economists attributed the price surge to a severe tightening in supplies of maize meal, which they blamed on mismanagement by the country's Grain Marketing Board.
Agriculture Minister Joseph Made has acknowledged that maize is rotting at the side of rural roads because the GMB has not arranged transport from producers.
Meanwhile, more than 1,000 tonnes of maize were reportedly sitting at the Beitbridge border crossing to South Africa for lack of funds to settle import contracts and fuel to transport the grain to where it is needed in Zimbabwe.
South Africa Grain Information Services General Manager Anna Enslin said Harare has imported 88,000 tonnes of maize since the beginning of May. But other sources said imports have tapered off recently because of fuel shortages which have been exacerbated by government pressure on resellers over alleged price-gouging.
Reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke with chief economist Prosper Chitambara of the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute, about the problems at the Grain Marketing Board.
The GMB says meanwhile that it will spend Z$15 million to expand its national chain of bakeries.The state-run Herald newspaper reported Thursday that four GMB bakeries are already operating in the cities of Marondera, Bindura, Masvingo and Mutare.
GMB Chief Executive Samuel Muvhuti said the expansion falls under the agency’s so-called commercialization program which comprises milling, food packaging and baking operations. He denied the GMB is threatening existing bakeries, noting that the GMB got into milling and baking in 1996 after existing players failed to meet demand.
For perspective on the GMB's controversial strategy of vertical integration , reporter Carole Gombakomba turned to investment and management lecturer Isaac Kwesu of the University of Zimbabwe Graduate School of Management.
31 August 2006
Opposition parties and civil society groups, meeting in Harare on Thursday, formally agreed to form a unified front called the Save Zimbabwe Campaign aimed at ending the rule of President Robert Mugabe and the ruling ZANU-PF party
The meeting was organized by the Christian Alliance, a Bulawayo-based church group that emerged in 2005 to provide humanitarian aid to those displaced in a state eviction and demolition campaign. Sources said representatives of more than 25 civic groups attended and agreed to autonomy while tackling the national crisis together.
Founding President Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change was present, signaling the participation of his faction of the divided opposition party, while the rival faction led by Arthur Mutambara sent an official unknown to most present. A spokesman for the Mutambara MDC faction declined to identify the representative.
The smaller Zanu-Ndonga party was also represented at the meeting, sources said.
Reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe sought details from a key organizer, Jonathan Gokovah of the Christian Alliance, who said operational logistics of the Save Zimbabwe Campaign will be taken up in an action meeting next week. .
Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the Tsvangirai MDC faction said grouping is pleased with the development and sees it helping the political opposition gain ground.
Crisis Coalition in Zimbabwe coordinator Jacob Mafume was upbeat and said that the meeting outcome showed Zimbabweans are ready to confront the government.
British-based political analyst Pedzisayi Ruhanya expressed confidence that so long as the two MDC factions are genuinely committed to bringing about change, they should be able to work together under the new opposition structure.
'old' Z$ prices for convenience of
30/07/06 06/08/06 increase,1wk 4 weeks
M meal, refined 10kg Z$490,000 Z$430,000 -12.2% 36.9%
tomatoes 1kg Z$388,000 Z$388,000 0.0% 55.2%
matches Box Z$16,500 n/a n/a n/a
Candles,pkt of 6 450g Z$875,000 Z$875,000 0.0% n/a
soap hand,150g Z$145,000 Z$180,000 24.1% n/a
soap bath, 250g Z$330,000 Z$310,000 -6.1% 6.9%
soap blue, 500g Z$440,000 45.1% 45.5%
flour plain, 2kg Z$470,000 n/a
flour Brown, 2kg n/a n/a
tea cheapest,250g Z$160,000 Z$200,000 25.0% 42.9%
bread 700g Z$200,000 Z$200,000 0.0% 53.8%
salt Table, 1kg Z$110,000 Z$110,000 0.0% -12.0%
kapenta 250g Z$365,000 Z$400,000 9.6% 14.3%
soyamince 500g Z$215,000 Z$215,000 0.0% -6.9%
beans 500g Z$167,000 Z$167,000 0.0% 0.0%
cooking oil 750ml n/a n/a n/a n/a
mufushwa 100g Z$154,000 Z$154,000 0.0% n/a
sugar 2kg Z$360,000 Z$360,500 0.1% 0.0%
lacto 500ml Z$170,000 Z$170,000 0.0% 78.9%
milk 500ml Z$140,000 Z$140,000 0.0% 64.7%
P'nut butter 375ml Z$250,000 Z$250,000 0.0% 8.7%