Prosecuted farmer, was not on a farm
By Alex Bell
28 May 2009
As the current offensive against Zimbabweâ€™s remaining commercial farmers gathers momentum, it would appear that even non-farming members of the community are being hounded, arrested and prosecuted.
Ian Campbell-Morrison was sentenced in the Mutare Magistrates court on Wednesday, after he was found guilty of occupying his land illegally. He was fined US$800 and was ordered to leave his property by Saturday, or face a jail term.
But Campbell-Morrison has not been involved in farming activities for several years after his tobacco farm in the Vumba Mountains was seized as part of Robert Mugabeâ€™s â€˜land reformâ€™ programme. The former farmer and his wife lost their farm and farmhouse, but were given permission to stay in a small cottage on the land, where the only planting has been in the form of flowers in their small garden. Campbell-Morrison has instead been working at the tourist hotel next door, where he is the greens keeper for the venueâ€™s golf course.
But, regardless of this, the Campbell-Morrisons are now packing up their cottage, as the fast track prosecution of farmers, active or not, picks up speed. Justice for Agricultureâ€™s (JAG) John Worsley-Worswick explained on Thursday that Campbell-Morrisonâ€™s prosecution highlights â€œthe racist, ethnic and citizen issues that still mar the land debate.â€ He said that white farmers in most cases are still widely regarded as â€˜enemies of the stateâ€™, but emphasised that they still have the same citizens rights as the rest of Zimbabwe. The JAG official continued that there are fears the case is the start of the widespread fast-track prosecution of commercial farmers, and that active farming will not necessarily be an indicator of potential prosecution.
The offensive against the farmers has been in the form of a two-pronged attack in the name of Mugabeâ€™s land grab, including court prosecution of farmers and physical land invasions. More than 140 farmers have been hauled before the courts on trumped up charges of being on so-called state land â€˜illegallyâ€™, and many more have been forced into hiding for fear of illegal prosecution. At the same time, land invasions headed by ZANU PF loyalists, have intensified and grown increasingly violent, with widespread looting and massive theft taking place on a daily basis.
Zimbabwean journalists & lawyers brought before the courts
By Violet Gonda
28 May 2009
There was much activity in the magistratesâ€™ courts in Harare on Thursday when human rights lawyers, two senior journalists and WOZA activists appeared in court for separate, routine, remand hearings.
Two editors from the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper, Vincent Kahiya and Constantine Chimakure, appeared before Magistrate Catherine Chimanda, who ruled that they will stand trial on June 16th. This was after the State Prosecutor, Moses Musendo, argued that they face serious charges that justifies them standing trial.
The two, who were arrested on May 11th, are accused of writing a story that would undermine public confidence in law enforcement agents. They had published a story entitled, CIO, police role in activistsâ€™ abduction revealed, containing the names of police officers and state agents implicated in the abductions of MDC and civic activists.
The newspaper editors were ordered to report once a week as part of their bail conditions, but their lawyer Innocent Chagonda successfully had their bail conditions removed.
In another case, Alec Muchadehama, a leading rights lawyer appeared in court for a remand hearing following his arrest on 15 May. He is facing charges of obstructing the course of justice, for allegedly conniving with a judgeâ€™s clerk to have bail orders filed, which eventually led to the release of three of his clients on 17thÂ April.Â He is accused of doing this after the State had obtained leave to appeal to the Supreme Court against the granting of bail.
Muchadehama lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, argued against her clientâ€™s placement on remand saying that the offence leveled against him â€˜did not constitute a reasonable suspicion which warranted or justified either his arrest or placement on remand.â€™Â Magistrate Chimanda postponed the matter to June 1st for a ruling.
Muchadehama told SW Radio Africa said even if the court removes him from remand, the Attorney General can still proceed by way of summonsÂ and put him on trial. The prosecutor indicated that the trial date should start on 17th June. Muchadehama said: â€œFor malicious reason they can actually do that, so that a person can go through these motions of a trial, whilst my time is being wasted and then I am then deprived of doing other things. My rights to practice law are temporarily affected because instead of attending to my clients I then have to attend to my own cases. They can do that for malicious reasons. They are very good at that.â€
Meanwhile rights lawyers, Roselyn Hanzi and Tawanda Zhuwarara, plus eight WOZA members, where acquitted when their trial resumed on Thursday in Harare. The 10 were brought before the courts following their arrest on 10th February for allegedly â€˜participating in an illegal gathering that was bent on breaching the peace.â€™
Muchadehama said the magistrate threw out this case when the State witnesses, two police officers, said â€˜nothing in terms of substanceâ€™ during their testimony.Â The magistrate acquitted the 10 saying they committed no offence.
The WOZA members had been part of a group that held a peaceful march in Harare and the lawyers had been walking by, when riot police violently broke up the demonstration and arrested them all.
Muchadehama said this is another example of how the authorities abuse their power by arresting innocent people, making them pay bail and forcing them to go through the motions of a trial, only to be acquitted in the end.
An angry Muchadehama added: â€œI think there is a clique in the military, CIO, the police or the Attorney General and so on, who are behind these things (arrests). These are well calculated and planned quite deliberately â€“ where itâ€™s decided that certain people must be abducted, certain people must be killed, and deliberately violate peopleâ€™s rights.â€
He said this plot is systematic and widespread throughout the country and that he was exasperated to see this happening, during a time when there is a new inclusive government in the country. â€œPeople also appear not to be perplexed and shocked and unmoved about such things. How can these things be happening? I am quite upset about this because it doesnâ€™t have to happen this way.â€
Mnangagwa and CIO plot Chebundoâ€™s downfall
By Tichaona Sibanda
28 May 2009
Family and friends of MDC MP for KweKwe Blessing Chebundo, have claimed that Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa is putting ernomous pressure on state prosecutors, to find the legislator guilty for allegedly raping a minor.
Chebundo denies the charge and has told his defence team heâ€™s prepared to undertake a DNA test to prove his innocence. But family and party colleagues are worried at the influence Mnangawa is having on court officials in the town.
Mnangagwa, who lost twice to Chebundo in the KweKwe parliamentary elections in 2000 and 2005, is now said to be virtually based in the town, directing operations with CIO officers in a bid to ensure Chebundo is found guilty.
â€˜The first day Chebundo appeared in court, Mnangagwa was seated in his car outside the court room. The girlâ€™s family are now virtually living under siege from state security agents who have barred anyone from visitng or making contact with them,â€™ an MDC MP in the Midlands told us on Thursday.
The MP told us Chebundo has known the alleged rape victim from the age of eight and has been helping the family with school fees since 2004.
â€˜Chebundo denies ever raping the girl. He admits knowing the girl since she was eight years old. The state are saying the pregnancy is as a result of Chebundo raping the girl. But the MP is saying lets have a DNA test when the child is born. So what happens if the DNA tests proves the child is not Chebundo when the state case is based on the pregnancy? Asked the MDC MP.
â€˜This was suppossed to have been a straightforward case but political meddling has made it impossible for the MP to get a fair trial. Mnangagwa and his cronies are adamant to see Chebundo go down,â€™ the MP said.
Chebundo, a founding legislator with the MDC, is alleged to have committed the rape after he offered a lift in his vehicle to the girl who is now his accuser.
Initial police reports said the legislator, who was driving to his Kwekwe base on January 5th, had pulled off the road along the way and committed the alleged offence, which reportedly came to light when the sister of the girl advised her to report the matter to the police.
According to police, a medical examination had revealed the minor was now 5 months pregnant.
MDC to have national conference over the weekend
By Lance Guma
28 May 2009
The MDC, which entered into a coalition government with ZANU PF 3 months ago, will be holding its 9th annual conference in Harare over the weekend. Under the theme â€˜Celebrating a decade of Courage, Conviction and Leadershipâ€™ the party says it will â€˜review and update its policies, as well as taking stock of the hopes and impediments of the inclusive government.â€™
Over a 1000 delegates from across the partyâ€™s provinces and districts are expected to attend. With several grassroots structures complaining about ongoing victimization from ZANU PF in their constituencies, the conference will be a litmus test of how MDC members view the coalition government.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is expected to deliver the keynote address and review what the party has done in its 10 year history, as well as explain the outstanding issues in the unity government. The MDC says it has invited several guests from different countries, political parties and organizations. The conference will close with what the MDC call a â€˜celebratory rallyâ€™ on Sunday afternoon at the Glamis Stadium.
Speaking to Newsreel on Thursday, party spokesman Nelson Chamisa told us the national conference was the second most powerful body in terms of decision making, after the National Council. Several leadership positions are also set to be filled, particularly positions that have arisen in the National Council.
Meanwhile the delegates from all of the partyâ€™s 12 provinces will submit reports on what is happening in their areas. Chamisa told us the National Conference can make recommendations for the party to pull out from the coalition government, if it feels this is in the best interest of the party.
Army threatens war over Gono removal
By Alex Bell
28 May 2009
The countryâ€™s security chiefs have taken the current political fight over the reappointment of Gideon Gono a step further, threatening to take up arms to prevent the removal of the Reserve Bank Governor from his post.
Robert Mugabe on Monday declared that Gono, his money-man for many years, will retain his job despite the political deadlock that has been created with the MDC over Gonoâ€™s position. The MDC has been campaigning to have Gono removed as head of the central bank because his reappointment by Mugabe was a violation of the terms of the Global Political Agreement. Furthermore, Gonoâ€™s reputation for fuelling hyperinflation, stealing from private bank accounts and funding the goings-on of Mugabeâ€™s murderous regime, has seen an understandable reluctance from foreign donors to trust financial aid being poured into a corrupt banking system.
The political deadlock has forced the MDC to call on the guarantors of the agreement that formed the unity government, to intervene. But while the process of getting SADC involved continues, the countryâ€™s security and military heads have added to the tensions by threatening to go to war if Gono is removed. According to the state run Herald newspaper, Air Vice Marshal Henry Muchena said that Zimbabweâ€™s defence forces were supporting Gono, and were willing to go to war to defend him. Muchena was quoted as saying that the army would not allow anyone to remove Gono from his post, as it would be the same as â€œnegating the struggle for independence.â€
The Air Vice Marshal was speaking at the burial of Gonoâ€™s brother on Monday in Buhera. Also at the ceremony was Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, who reportedly told mourners that by demanding the removal of Gono the MDC is in effect demanding the ouster of Mugabe. Chinamasa also reportedly said ZANU PF would pull out of the coalition with the MDC, if Gono is removed.
Political commentator Professor John Makumbe told SW Radio Africa that neither threat by the army nor by ZANU PF should stop the MDC from campaigning to have Gono removed. He argued that while a military coup would be disastrous for Zimbabwe, ZANU PF will not allow such action to take place, regardless of their own threats to pull out of the government. Makumbe explained that a coup would see the country being cut off from SADC, the AU and the international community, and added that ZANU PF will not run the risk of losing the potential to attract much needed foreign investment.
Tsvangirai and Mutambara have officially asked SADC to intervene
By Tichaona Sibanda
28 May 2009
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara have finally sent a letter to SADC, officially asking them to break the talks deadlock over the appointment of the central bank chief and the attorney general.
On Wednesday we had spoken to two senior MDC officials who had told us that Tsvangirai would be writing to SADC before the end of the week.
But Gordon Moyo, the Minister of State in the Prime Ministerâ€™s office, told us on Thursday the letter, co-authored by the two leaders, was dispatched late Wednesday.
â€˜There is one letter that was sent via the South African embassy for onward transmission. This letter represents the views of the two principals (Tsvangirai and Mutambara). But what is important is what is contained in the letter rather than who wrote it,â€™ Moyo said.
This highlights the problems journalists face in trying to clarify issues with the government, given the lack of official press releases.
Before the SADC letter was officially delivered the MDC had been on a diplomatic offensive, briefing regional leaders about the deadlock. Following these consultations, they finally drafted the letter addressed to the SADC chairman, South African President Jacob Zuma.
It was reported on Thursday that a draft of the letter had been seen and in it Tsvangirai and Mutambara expressed dissatisfaction that the delays in solving the issue of Gono and Tomana were threatening the credibility of the coalition government.
The letter is believed to have referred to the summit held in January in which it was agreed that the appointment of the Reserve Bank Governor and the Attorney General should be dealt with by the coalition government.
Mutambara and Tsvangirai have pointed out in the letter to Zuma that despite innumerable meetings between the three principals, Mugabe has refused to budge on Gono and Tomana, despite the SADC ruling for all parties to agree on senior appointments.
Econet clarify number of new phone lines
By Lance Guma
28 May 2008
On Tuesday we carried a story in which we said the countryâ€™s largest mobile phone network, Econet Wireless, had released an extra 50 000 phones lines for sale. The company have since written to us to say that they have in fact sold more that 107 000 lines through their shops and have been selling at a rate of more than 5000 lines per day. And that they will continue to sell phone lines, as long as people need them.
The company says it has since January undertaken major investment in its network, and has been installing new equipment, to add more than 1.5 million additional customers. â€˜Lines are available on demand, but there has been a backlog arising from several years when there was no capacity, and people could not get lines,â€™ Econet said.
They also said that since the release of their phone lines â€˜queues outside our shops, are getting shorter and shorter with some shops even reporting that they have no queues at all.â€ They added that they are confident that before the end of June, there will be no queues at all.