Tune in to this weekly dosage of concise political commentary from former ZBC journalist Bekithemba Mhlanga and writer and commentator Msekiwa Makwanya. Lance Guma moderates the panel discussion as usual. Stories under the microscope include the reported difference of opinion within the MDC over a deadline issued by Secretary General Tendai Biti to have all the â€˜toxic issuesâ€™ plaguing the coalition resolved by Monday. And three MPâ€™s and 3 officials in the Mutambara MDC have been suspended for denouncing the party leadership. The programme analyses what this means for the faction.
Zimbabwe Independent newspaper journalists arrested
By Violet Gonda
11 May 2009
Despite the fact that a few days ago it was world press freedom day, journalists continue to be harassed and arrested in Zimbabwe, just for doing their job. On Monday two journalists from the private media were arrested for publishing a story containing the names of police officers and state agents implicated in the abductions of civic leader Jestina Mukoko, journalist Shadreck Manyere and others.
Trevor Ncube, the owner of the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper, confirmed the detention in a message posted on his Facebook site. He said: â€œZimbabwe Independent Editor Vincent Kahiya and news editor Constantine Chimakure will be spending the night in the cells.â€
The two had spent the whole day at the police station on Monday, following a visit by officials from the Law and Order Section on Saturday to the Zimbabwe Independent offices, looking for them. The police said they wanted to arrest Kahiya and Chimakure for publishing a story naming police officers and members of the Central Intelligence Organisation, involved in the abductions of human rights and MDC activists. The activists, who were abducted and tortured between the months of October and December last year, had named in court the officers who brutalised them.
But the Zimbabwe Independent journalists were arrested despite the fact that the information was gathered from public documents, contained in court papers. The names of some of the police officers were revealed, following the formal notices of indictment for trial of the activists this past week. The Independent wrote: â€œThey (the court papers) also revealed that the activists were in the custody of state spies, though the police professed ignorance of their whereabouts until late December when they issued a press statement saying the abductees were in their custody facing banditry charges.â€
â€œA perusal of the notices revealed that Assistant Director External in
the CIO retired Brigadier Asher Walter Tapfumanei, police superintendents
Reggies Chitekwe and Joel Tenderere, detective inspectors Elliot Muchada and Joshua Muzanango, officer commanding CID Homicide Crispen Makedenge, Chief Superintendent Peter Magwenzi, and Senior Assistant Commissioner Simon Nyathi, were involved in some of the abductees’ cases.â€
Media organisation, MISA-Zimbabwe national Chairman, Loughty Dube, said police were unhappy that the newspaper exposed the officers.
The arrests of the two comes at a time when the government has just held an All-Stakeholders Media Conference in Kariba, meant to look at media reforms in the country. The event was however boycotted by the major organisations from the private media, grouped under the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe. The journalists boycotted the conference in solidarity with detained journalist Shadreck Manyere.
Dube said: â€œThe latest arrest of the two and continued harassment of other journalists, is an indication of the non-seriousness of this government in dealing with media violations. The all inclusive government had indicated that it would push for changes and call for a change in the media environment, but that is not showing.â€
Ironically, Kahiya and Chimakure are being represented by lawyer Innocent Chagonda, who is a member of the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) â€“ a panel set up to ensure the implementation of the Global Political Agreement in letter and spirit. It is also, among other issues, meant â€œto receive reports and complaints in respect of any issue related to the implementation, enforcement and execution of the agreement.â€
There are many who would say the continued harassment and imprisonment of journalists is in direct contravention of the agreement.
Judge rules that 3 detainees can re-apply for bail
11 May 2009
A High Court Judge, Justice November Mtshiya, ruled on Monday that MDC officials Chris Dlamini and Gandhi Mudzingwa, plus freelance journalist Shadreck Manyere, could make a fresh bail application, thereby throwing out State arguments that the three could not re-apply for bail because the State had an appeal lodged in the Supreme Court opposing their bail.
The Judge ruled in favour of the defence argument which was that their formal indictment on 4th May made it possible for the applicant to apply for fresh bail, on the grounds of changed circumstances.
The media organisation, MISA-Zimbabwe, said after the ruling State Prosecutor Chris Mutangadura made an application to have the matter postponed to 13th May, but the judge threw out the application stating that a bail application was by its very nature an urgent application and it could not be stalled.
Justice Mtshiya ruled that the fresh bail application would be set down for hearing on 12th May.
Cabinet to be briefed on outstanding issues affecting unity government
By Tichaona Sibanda
11 May 2009
A full cabinet meeting on Tuesday is set to be briefed on the outcome of the talks between Morgan Tsvangirai, Robert Mugabe and Arthur Mutambara which have been aimed at ironing out the outstanding issues still facing the power-sharing pact.
The three principals to the Global Political Agreement were meeting again on Monday, in what insiders said was probably their last round of talks on outstanding issues, such as new appointments of the central bank governor and the attorney-general.
The MDC, and Zimbabweans generally, have been unhappy at the slow pace of resolving disputes over the appointment of ambassadors, permanent secretaries and the swearing in of Roy Bennett as deputy minister of Agriculture.
This forced the mainstream MDC last week to set Monday as the deadline for the resolution of all outstanding issues between the party and ZANU PF. MDC secretary-general, Tendai Biti said if these issues were not resolved by Monday, the party would refer the issue to the partyâ€™s supreme making decision body, the National Council. The MDC National Council is scheduled to meet on Sunday.
Analysts though remain skeptical that the principals would meet the deadline, although Tsvangirai revealed on Friday in South Africa that the principals had resolved most of the outstanding issues.
â€˜We will reveal most of the details during our cabinet meeting next Tuesday. I am happy with the progress that we have made so far in resolving these issues and still hope that even those few that remain will be completed amicably, as we continue working on them,â€™ Tsvangirai said.
Asked if Mondayâ€™s meeting was to be the last, Tsvangiraiâ€™s spokesman James Maridadi was noncommittal, saying it all depended on the outcome of the meeting.
â€˜As the Prime Minister has said, they have covered a lot of ground so really a few issues remain to be sorted which should not be a problem,â€™ Maridadi added.
Political analyst Isaac Dziya said Zimbabweans should remain hopeful, but added: â€˜It would be catastrophic for Tsvangirai to concede more, because all those appointments were done without consultation by Mugabe. People are just hoping Tsvangirai sees to it that Tomana and Gonoâ€™s appointments be reversed or no aid would come into the country,â€™ Dziya said.
Civil servants give government 7 day ultimatum over salaries
By Lance Guma
11 May 2009
A week after the Ministry of Education averted a teachers strike by promising various incentives, civil service unions have issued a 7 day ultimatum to the government to also review their US$100 monthly allowances. Teachers were promised a review of their salaries, free education for their children and exemption from bank charges, among other benefits. The civil service unions are however unhappy at what they feel is a divide and rule tactic and say these concessions were made outside the normal negotiating forum for civil servants.
According to the Zimbabwe Standard weekly newspaper, civil servants representatives met in Harare on Friday and demanded a review of their salaries, in line with what the teachers have been promised. Jeremiah Bvindiri, the Deputy Executive Secretary of the Public Service Association (PSA), said they had given the government up to the 15th May to resolve their concerns, or face a job boycott. â€˜We take great exception in the divide-and-rule practice by government, where some sectors have decided to flout the rules of the National Joint Negotiating Council,â€™ the PSA said in a statement.
Interestingly, under sole ZANU PF rule the PSA has not led many general strikes against the government. Commentators have pointed out that the sudden willingness to strike, over allowances that are considerably better than what they used to earn before, could be construed as an attempt to undermine the MDC who are in charge of the Finance, Education and Civil Service Ministries. The same union kept quite during the days of trillion-percentage inflation for many, many months, before the unity government was in place. It has been suggested that after failing to manipulate teachers to go on strike last week, ZANU PF has now turned its attention to the civil service.
The re-opening of some schools, hospitals, gold mines, and the payment of US$100 monthly allowances to civil servants, have been viewed as some of the few successes of the coalition and critics believe Mugabe is trying to undermine all of this in his turf war with Tsvangirai. But the PSA, which is the umbrella body of all five public sector unions, tried to untangle themselves from this allegation by insisting they have been patient enough in waiting for the coalition government to work. In their statement they said they felt the coalition â€˜is ignoring the machinery that is supposed to produce results.â€™
In another sign of the mess that has been created by ZANU PF, Senator David Coltart, the Education Minister, has expressed fears that millions of dollars worth of foreign currency may have been lost paying ghost teachers since February this year. Coltart said they have launched a probe which was necessitated by the fact that there were some shocking figures presented to government by the Salaries Services Bureau. They paid out US$100 allowances to 94 000 teachers, and yet teachers unions said they had around 60 000 members.
MDC MP jailed for 10 months, with hard labour
By Violet Gonda
11 May 2009
Mathias Mlambo, the MDC MP for Chipinge East, was convicted and sentenced to ten months in jail with hard labour by a Chipinge magistrate on Monday. Mlambo, who was arrested in early April, was found guilty of allegedly obstructing the course of justice and inciting violence at a funeral. Magistrate Zuze gave him ten months but suspended three months on condition of good behaviour.
The MDC MP and spokesperson for Manicaland province, Pishai Muchauraya, said trouble started for the MP when he attended a funeral for an MDC activist in Chipinge on 10th April. It is alleged a ZANU PF activist came to provoke the mourners and was moved away by force. MP Mlambo said he was at the burial site of the deceased while the commotion was taking place elsewhere at the funeral. The gathering was later disrupted by the police who stormed the funeral in search of an unidentified â€˜suspectâ€™, which resulted in Mlambo being arrested for obstructing justice. Police said he must have known what was happening and was just being difficult.
Muchauraya believes this was nothing more than a political judgment and has no legal merit. He remarked on how quickly the courts â€˜fast trackedâ€™ the matter and gave judgment instantly, â€œwhen we have some cases that took place in June last year which have never been investigated and have never been brought before the courts of law â€“ but itâ€™s because they will be ZANU PF cases.â€
An MP loses their parliamentary seat if slapped with a custodial sentence of more than six months. However Mlambo remains an MP for now, until his appeal has been heard. Muchauraya said lawyers were on Monday applying for bail, pending appeal. He said if bail is refused they will take the matter up to the higher courts and also appeal against both sentence and conviction.
The jailing of the MDC MP comes shortly after Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai insisted that Robert Mugabe is part of the â€˜solutionâ€™ and wants to see the unity government succeed. Tsvangiraiâ€™s statements, made in South Africa this weekend, seemed to contradict an earlier statement by his Secretary General and Finance Minister Tendai Biti, who announced a â€œdeadlineâ€ for Mugabe to resolve the outstanding issues in the unity government. But Tsvangirai said there was no deadline, saying 95% of outstanding issues in the power sharing government had been resolved.
But Muchauraya disagrees and believes Mugabe is running a parallel government with his law courts, his police and his military. â€œThere is complicity there in the sense that a man cannot be part of the solution when he is sending MDC supporters to jail and to make matters worse sending parliamentarians to jail.â€
He added: â€œWe also have another MP, Mike Makuyana for Chipinge South, who is awaiting sentence at the same court in Chipinge and you canâ€™t classify that as justice or democracy. We have a dictator who is doing whatever he likes and he is hiding behind this term called inclusive government.â€
â€˜Zimbabweâ€™ says civil servants should go on strike for better pay because the government would have more money if it didnâ€™t have to pay so many ministers, MPâ€™s and governors; Chaka says people should stop blaming â€˜hard linersâ€™ for all the problems in the GNU when itâ€™s clearly Mugabe who is to blame, and Chingwa is 29 and he has not been able to find work since he finished secondary school. He fears for his future in Zimbabwe.