Mayor and lawyer detained over MPâ€™s rape case
By Violet Gonda
25 May 2009
Kwekweâ€™s MDC Mayor Shadreck Tobaiwa and Tapera Sengweni, the lawyer representing Kwekwe MP Blessing Chebundo were arrested on charges of obstruction of justice on Friday in a case involving the MDC legislator. Chebundo was detained last Tuesday and charged with raping a 13 year old girl at the beginning of the year. He was remanded in custody to June 4th. The minor, who is also from Kwekwe, is now said to be pregnant.
It is reported that the city mayor and the lawyer were arrested after they allegedly contacted the family of the complainant to drop the rape charges and tried to negotiate an out of court settlement.
The case has attracted huge interest in the small town as the legislator was a popular figure in Kwekwe. Sources there said the MP was a friend of his accuserâ€™s father, who is said to be a war veteran and also a member of the Tsvangirai MDC.
But it is alleged that the parliamentarian took advantage of this friendship when he gave the Form Two pupil a ride from Harare to Kwekwe after she had visited her older sister in January.
According to NewZimbabwe website, prosecutor Brian Muzemba told the court the MP knew the girl through her sister, who was once a Child Parliamentarian for Kwekwe.
It is understood the issue only came to light recently, when the 13 year old girl fell sick and discovered that she was pregnant. She then told her sister of the alleged rape.
Prosecutor Muzemba said the MP had also sent text messages to the mobile phone belonging to the girlâ€™s father, asking him to settle the matter out of court.
It is understood the police have now seized both mobile phones with â€˜dozens of sent and received messages to be used as evidence.â€™
Zimbabwean man wins SAâ€™s Comrades marathon
By Alex Bell
25 May 2009
A Zimbabwean man made sporting history in South Africa over the weekend, after becoming the first national to win the world-renowned Comrades Marathon.
Stephen Muzhingi finished the gruelling 89km race on Sunday morning, to thunderous cheers supporting the first African victory in recent years. Russia has dominated both the menâ€™s and womenâ€™s leg of the race for several years, but Sunday became Africaâ€™s day with Muzhingiâ€™s win. Fellow Zimbabwean runner, Collen Makaza, was also heralded for setting a blistering pace at the start of the race, a pace that the defending Russian champion paid tribute to.
Cheering spectators gave Muzhingi a standing ovation when he crossed the finish line in Durban, with many chanting â€œGo Africa!â€ Muzhingi finished the notoriously difficult race in just under five and a half hours, and soon after the finish said he was dazed and in disbelief over the win. He has now vowed to return in 2010 to break the world record.
Muzhingi, who finished third in the 2008 race and seventh in 2007, was awarded a gold medal and a R220 000 cash prize for his race victory. The Zimbabwean native, who only left the county four years ago amid the desperate economic decline and political upheaval, has pledged to invest his cash winnings in a business venture back home.
The first Comrades Marathon was held in 1921, at the urging of a World War 1 veteran, who envisaged the race as a living memorial to the spirit of the soldiers of the Great War. It has continued every year since, with the exception of 1941 â€“ 1945, which were cancelled because of the Second World War. The 89km race alternates every year between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, and attracts thousands of spectators, runners and viewers every year. This year 13 000 people entered the race, with 600 not finishing, mainly because of dehydration.
Prime Minister plays down farm attacks
By Alex Bell
25 May 2009
Members of Zimbabweâ€™s farming community, which has been left reeling by the ongoing farm invasions, have reacted with outrage to comments by Prime Minister Tsvangirai about the attacks.
During an interview about the 100-day milestone of the Global Political Agreement last week, the Prime Minister played down the serious nature of the ongoing and violent farm invasions, calling them â€˜isolated incidentsâ€™ that have been â€˜blown out of proportionâ€™.
â€œWe have investigated examples of those so called farm invasions,â€ the Prime Minister continued, repeatedly referring to the land invasions as â€˜so-calledâ€™ attacks. â€œWe have asked the minister of lands (ZANU PF) to give us a detailed report of what has been happening over all these so called farm invasions and the outcry over that.â€
Tsvangirai also insisted that the matter was being attended to, despite the clear lack of action by the government that has already sparked anger in the beleaguered farming community.
Since Tsvangirai was sworn in as Prime Minister in February, more than 100 farmers have been hauled before the courts on trumped up charges of being on so-called State land â€˜illegallyâ€™. Thousands of farm workers have lost their jobs with an estimated 80 farms being forcibly taken over by Robert Mugabe loyalists, while the physical land attacks have turned increasingly violent. Last Friday a Banket farmer was beaten by the son of a ZANU PF affiliated political official, set on stealing the farmerâ€™s land. Just days later, the 80 year old mother of a Chinhoyi farmer was assaulted by police, when the officials came to arrest her son for being on his land. She was briefly detained and then released with serious injuries.
At the same time, the attacks on the Karori Farm in the Headlands district have intensified, with two of the farmâ€™s workers being assaulted last week by a top Army official. The Brigadier General has harassed and victimised the farmer and his staff for several years in an effort to steal the land. In Chegutu, Mount Carmel farm has been completely taken over by violent invaders working for top ZANU PF official Nathan Shamuyarira, and the farm owners and their staff have been living in fear because of the ongoing harassment by the hired land thugs. The Chegutu farming community has been worst hit by the countrywide wave of attacks, with numerous other farmers facing violent eviction or unlawful arrest.
The Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) on Monday said Tsvangiraiâ€™s statements are a clear attempt to â€œgloss over the truth to encourage Western donors to loosen their purse strings.â€ The farm attacks, which serve as evidence that little has changed in Zimbabwe since the formation of the unity government, have seen an understandable reluctance by donor governments to invest in the country. CFU Vice President, Deon Theron said that Tsvangirai was deliberately playing down the problem because the government is desperate to secure foreign investment. He said the comments are â€˜absurdâ€™ and â€˜simply not trueâ€™ explaining that farm attacks have drastically increased since Tsvangirai was sworn into the government in February.
â€œIt is like hoodwinking the international community into giving up funds by making them believe everything is fine on the agricultural front,â€ said Theron.
He added:Â â€œIf agriculture does not recover, Zimbabwe will not recover.â€
Tsvangirai to ignore Gono letter
By Lance Guma
25 May 2009
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has still not received an acrimonious letter, allegedly written by Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono complaining of victimization by Finance Minister Tendai Biti. But even if the letter does eventually arrive, Tsvangirai will ignore it, officials have confirmed. This is because the MDC does not recognize the appointment of Gono and Attorney General Johannes Tomana, and as such Tsvangirai feels it is not necessary for him to intervene.
Newsreel spoke to Gorden Moyo, the Minister of State in the Prime Ministerâ€™s office, and he told us that as of Monday no letter from Gono had yet been delivered to them. This is despite the fact that the letter that is currently circulating is dated 11th May. He said the Prime Minister had offices and channels of communication and anyone with grievances could use them. But he confirmed that Tsvangiraiâ€™s office would not be responding to the letter that has so far only been published on the internet. Speculation in some quarters fingers Mugabeâ€™s press secretary George Charamba, as the author of this letter.
The 15-page letter accuses Biti of pursuing a personal vendetta against Gono, because the central bank was investigating allegations his law firm, Honey and Blanckenberg, â€˜externalizedâ€™ foreign currency. Nothing in the letter implicates Biti as an individual. Exiled businessman Gilbert Muponda reminded Newsreel that â€˜not too long ago Gono accused former Guruve North MP David Butau of the same charges.â€™ The MP eventually fled to the UK only to be acquitted of the charges when he came back home recently. Butau, just like Biti, had sought to have Gono investigated by parliament.
Unperturbed, Biti is pushing ahead with proposed amendments to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Act, in an attempt to halt its much condemned quasi-fiscal activities. He wants the functions of the bank to be clearly spelt out and ensure they do not cross over into what his ministry is meant to do. Under his proposals the RBZ will have a non-executive chairman sitting on the board, in a move that will ensure the governor does not chair. He also wants this board to have more powers in terms of supervision and ensure the governor does not become a power unto himself.
Gonoâ€™s reign has left a trail of broken careers, lives and law suits. Lee John, the Australian businessman deported last week, had apparently just won a US$1 million legal claim against the Reserve Bank. Instead of paying out the authorities simply revoked his residency permit. The Zimbabwe Standard newspaper also reports how a company registered in the British Virgin Islands has now approached Zimbabweâ€™s High Court, to force the RBZ to pay US$5 million for 89 buses supplied to the bank.
Huge crowds at Susan Tsvangirai memorial in Buhera
By Lance Guma
25 May 2009
Over 10 000 people thronged Morgan Tsvangiraiâ€™s rural home in Buhera to attend the memorial for his late wife, Susan Tsvangirai, who died in a tragic car crash in March this year. Several chiefs, diplomats and senior MDC officials were present during the service organized by the Methodist Church in which Amai Tsvangirai was a leading member. Tsvangirai, Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe, Finance Minister Tendai Biti, Information, Communication and Technology Minister Nelson Chamisa were some of the officials who attended.
Amai Tsvangirai died when the driver of an aid truck side-wiped the Land Cruiser vehicle carrying her and her husband to their rural home.
The accident generated much suspicion that it was an attempt on the life of the Prime Minister and his wife was the unwitting victim. With a long history of previous accidents that have claimed the life of Mugabeâ€™s opponents, many noted how convenient the accident was for Mugabe, particularly since it involved the man who beat him in last years presidential elections.
Meanwhile the trial of the truck driver Chinowona Mwanda began in court last week with an onsite inspection of the crash scene. A report by the state owned Herald newspaper said the court went to assess the condition of the road. This lasted roughly an hour and is said to have caused a traffic jam near the scene. Police stopped motorists using the Harare-Masvingo road to enable the court to do its business the paper reported.
In earlier proceedings at the Chivhu Magistrates Court, traffic accident evaluator Joel Muchirawatu testified that Mwanda had caused the accident by over-speeding. But defence lawyers are still insisting that their client was within the 80km/hour speed limit and that a hump on the road caused him to lose control. Speculation that Mwanda has a military background has fuelled doubts for those who believe the crash was planned. Worse still the owners of the truck insist he was not one of their employees.
No electricity for Harare high density suburbs for 4 days
By Violet Gonda
25 May 2009
Harare suffered a major breakdown of power service on Friday, resulting in most high density areas having virtually no electricity for the past four days. Our correspondent Simon Muchemwa said that places such as Mbare, Glen Norah, Mufakose, Kuwadzana and Warren Park were affected by the breakdown of the power grid in Harare. Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) has only been able to supply about 30 minutes of power a day to most of these areas.
The power cuts severely affected the water pumps, which need a consistent supply of electricity, thereby also disrupting the supply of water into these areas. But of course this breakdown of service is nothing new to long suffering Zimbabweans.
Muchemwa said although it is 100 days into the coalition government, life has not been made much easier for the general public, and itâ€™s even harder to survive in a US dollarised economy. Just three logs of firewood cost US$1, an amount of money that is inaccessible for the average person.
Itâ€™s reported that Elias Mudzuri, the MDC Minister of Energy and Power Development, visited some affected areas to explain to desperate residents that his cash strapped ministry was trying to restore the energy supply. He explained to them that massive renovations to the national grid were needed.
Ben Rafemoyo, the chief executive of the ZESA, told Reuters news agency that the country â€˜needs to invest at least US$4.5 billion to boost its power supply capacity by 7,500 megawatts by 2015.â€™ He said the economic crisis had proved a major challenge for the utility, but hoped to raise the funds through tariffs and the support of international agencies and to attract independent power producers. Itâ€™s reported Zimbabwe produces 1,000 megawatts of electricity, while its peak demand is about 2,200 megawatts, forcing it to import over half its power needs from neighbours.
But in the towns and cities residents are becoming increasingly angry as the utility suppliers continue to charge unacceptably high tariffs, without providing an adequate service delivery.Â In most cases electricity and water bills are more than the civil servants monthly â€˜allowancesâ€™ of US$100.