Callback 060509

Tich reports that Kadoma has gone for days without electricity and he thinks this is an act of sabotage by ZANU PF; Rewai remains sceptical about the unity government, his main concern being the ‘genuineness’ of ZANU PF. He suspects they are only participating until more favourable conditions, such as the dropping of targeted sanctions and return of overseas investment, are in place then they intend to ‘dump’ their MDC partners. Then, Shumba says that teachers are justified in wanting to strike, and he also raises his doubts about the GNU.
http://www.swradioafrica.2bctnd.net/05_09/callback060509.mp3

Newsreel 060509

Zimbabwean activists granted bail – again
By Violet Gonda
6 May 2009

The political and human rights activists who were re-arrested on Tuesday were freed on bail Wednesday. The bail request was approved by the same Magistrate who had refused to entertain it the day before. In this surprise u-turn, Magistrate Catherine Chimhanda reversed her earlier decision following an agreement with the legal teams. This clearly shows how Mugabe continues to control the rule of law in Zimbabwe as it is believed the Attorney General, Johannes Tomana, consented to the bail as a result of a meeting between Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara late Tuesday.

Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, James Maridadi, told SW Radio Africa that the Principals agreed in the spirit of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) that the bail conditions that were in place before the activists were re-arrested should be re-instated. He said they also summoned Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa and asked him to implement what they had agreed. Maridadi quoted the GPA, saying ‘people should be free of political persecution and discrimination of any kind.’

Defence lawyer Charles Kwaramba said they had filed a High Court bail application on Tuesday and were ready to go and argue the matter when they were told that the Attorney General wanted to discuss the matter on Wednesday. The AG agreed to consent to bail and to stick to the original bail conditions.

Kwaramba also clarified that there were actually 16 activists, including Jestina Mukoko, who had been formally charged on Monday with an alleged plot to overthrow Robert Mugabe – not 18 as previously reported.

After their abduction and incarceration at the end of last year they had been held incommunicado for many months. They were first released on bail two months ago. The lawyer said after their re-arrest on Tuesday, 13 were released from Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison, except for journalist Shadreck Manyere and MDC officials Gandhi Mudzingwa and Chris Dhlamini, who are still being held in police custody in hospital. An application for their bail has been filed in the High Court and the matter is supposed to be heard on Thursday.

Analysts say the re-arrest and sudden freeing of the activists merely shows that ZANU PF continues to play ‘games’ to distract everyone from the critical issues that continue to negatively affect the unity government. Sadly this is happening at the expense of the accused persons, who the MDC say face trumped up charges. On the surface it would appear that Mugabe is giving ground on the issue of political detainees, but if he was working in the spirit of the inclusive government the charges against the ‘political detainees’ would have been totally dropped.

One SW Radio Africa listener asked: “If these individuals are accused of trying to topple Mugabe were they doing it for their own benefit? If they were doing it for the MDC then is the MDC also being indicted? What purpose is this serving if these persecutions serve to undermine the mirage we thought was a unity government?”

The political intervention in a legal matter continues to raise more awkward questions, as both the detentions and the release, twice, on bail were politically motivated. Lawyers say this is a serious indictment on the justice system as they are forced to rely on the ‘charity of politicians’ to ask for bail.

Kwaramba said: “What it means is that politicians can hold accused persons at ransom when they think they want to bargain on the political level. It’s very bad and people lose confidence in the courts.”

The lawyer went on to say: “The decisions are made politically and then you try to implement them in court. We really don’t like this as lawyers.”

Those indicted are:
1. Jestina Mukoko
2 Concilia Chinanzvavana
3. Manuel Chinanzvavana
4. Violet Mupfuranhewa
5. Collen Mutemagawo
6. Kieta Kaseke
7. Audrey Zimbudzana
8. Broderick Takawira
9. Mapfumo Garutsa
10. Regis Mujeyi
11. Zacharia Nkomo
12. Chinoto Zulu
13. Fidelis Chiramba
14. Gandhi Mudzingwa
15. Chris Dlamini
16. Shadreck Andrison Manyere

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MDC gives five-day ultimatum to resolve outstanding issues
By Tichaona Sibanda
6 May 2009

Tendai Biti, the MDC secretary-general, delivered an ultimatum to the inclusive government on Wednesday, when he demanded that all outstanding issues in the Global Political Agreement be dealt with by Monday next week.

This was the first admission by the MDC in nearly two months that the process to implement the GPA was slow and was also a clear indication that things were not going smoothly.

Biti, who is also the finance minister in the inclusive government, warned that if the principals fail to meet Monday’s deadline, his party would refer the issue to their supreme making decision body, the National Council, which will meet in 10 days time.

ZANU PF, reacted to the ultimatum by saying it was ‘unfortunate’ that the MDC had set a deadline when ‘negotiations were going on smoothly.’

ZANU PF’s deputy spokesman Ephraim Masawi said: ‘It is unfortunate that the MDC-Tsvangirai is now setting deadlines and issuing out ultimatums. I am informed that a lot of progress has been achieved. Negotiations are not and should not be subjected to ultimatums and deadlines.’

The outstanding issues that remain unresolved are the appointments of provincial governors, permanent secretaries, ambassadors, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono and the Attorney-General, Johannes Tomana. Also needing urgent discussion and resolution is the fact that Mugabe is still refusing to swear in Roy Bennett as Deputy Minister for Agriculture, and the fact that Mugabe unilaterally decided to remove the key part of the information ministry away from Nelson Chamisa.

‘Bennett is innocent until proven guilty. According to the GPA, which is now part of the Constitution of Zimbabwe; Mugabe has no powers to refuse to swear-in Bennett after being nominated by the MDC,’ Biti said.

Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara met on Tuesday for the sixth time in two weeks but failed to resolve anything, though reports suggest some progress was made.

Tsvangirai’s spokesman James Maridadi told us on Tuesday the three leaders had also set next week as their deadline to put finality to all issues. Biti did not disclose what his party will do if the issues remain unresolved after the expiry of the deadline. The MDC has lately vowed that it would never quit the inclusive government despite clear attempts by hardliners in ZANU PF to frustrate them into leave.

Tendai Biti also lashed out at the service chiefs for failing to respect the office of the Prime Minister. He said the service chiefs had shown reluctance to respect Tsvangirai during the Independence Day celebrations and at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair.

Courage Shumba, a political analyst, said; ‘Not long ago, there was this euphoria that marked the birth of the inclusive government in February, but within three short months that has been replaced by despondency. The romance will soon be over unless people in ZANU PF change their attitudes.’

Shumba, who described ZANU PF as a criminal organization trading as a political party, said Mugabe was not yet ready to let go of his vast powers and hand them over to the MDC. He said the MDC mistake of going into a government without resolving outstanding issues of senior government appointments, was the proverbial poisoned gift from SADC and the AU that jinxed the MDC-ZANU PF marriage from the start.

‘You have a group of people like the service chiefs vowing they will not salute Tsvangirai. And you have hardliners who are throwing spanners into the works, so this clearly proves ZANU PF don’t want this government to work,’ Shumba added.

……………..

Civic groups demonstrate in SA in solidarity with detainees
By staff reporter
6 May 2009

Rights groups held a protest outside parliament in South Africa on Wednesday, demanding the immediate release of all Zimbabwean activists. The demonstration was organised by the Save Zimbabwe Now campaign, the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and the Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum in South Africa and it was supported by several South African legal and human rights organisation, including the Southern African Liaison Office and the Coalition for Peace in Africa.

The protest was held during the opening of the South African parliament and a petition was also sent to Max Sisulu, the Speaker of Parliament, to draw attention to the continued victimisation of political and human rights activists in Zimbabwe.

The group said: “The opening of Parliament has become a symbol of the commitment of democrats everywhere to consolidating and strengthening the democratisation project of the SADC region and our continent that began in earnest with the fall of apartheid and the election of our first President Nelson Mandela in 1994.We are writing to you on this auspicious occasion to draw to your attention matters of grave concern taking place on our borders with our sister country Zimbabwe.”

The protest was against the re-arrest of 16 abductees in Zimbabwe on Tuesday. The group said the re-arrest represents a massive blow to any hopes of a peaceful transition in Zimbabwe. “The safety of these detainees is of grave concern particularly given their public exposure of the torture, humiliation and violent assault they faced when they were first abducted. It must be recognised that they are in danger and that these actions place their lives under serious threat.”

They also drew attention to the plight of refugees in South Africa.
On the 4th May the South African government promised Zimbabwean nationals a 90-day visitor’s permit and the lifting of visa restrictions on crossing the South African border. The group said although it was a positive development it was also concerned about some of the details of the arrangement.

The protesters said Zimbabwean nationals entering South Africa are not exclusively economic migrants, but are also refugees who are unable to return to their home country for fear of doing so.

……………..

Fresh violence on Chegutu’s Mount Carmel farm
By Alex Bell
06 May 2009

There has been a fresh outbreak of violent attacks on Chegutu’s Mount Carmel farm, with invaders viciously beating a farm worker as well destroying the property, all in retaliation to a court order demanding they leave the land.

The High Court order was handed down to the invaders on Monday, as part of an ongoing effort by the farm owner’s, Ben Freeth and his parents-in-law, to have the invaders removed from their land. But the retaliation started in earnest on Tuesday night, with the invaders threatening to burn down the family’s home. The gang also used tractors to dig up the garden around the house, all while the family was locked inside. When the thugs eventually left, they took out their anger on the farm workers, threatening to burn down the worker’s village before abducting the farm foreman.

Freeth explained on Wednesday that the foreman was only found on Wednesday morning, after he had been severely beaten and then detained at the Chegutu police station. The worker is now recovering from serious injuries, after he was beaten across the head and feet, and Freeth said he is unable to hear on one side anymore. Freeth continued that there has been ongoing intimidation and threats against his staff, with one worker being told by the invaders that they would “cut his lips off if he did any work.”

“There has once again been absolutely no support from police, and these people are just being allowed to destroy our farm,” Freeth said. “This controlled anarchy means we are all living in fear.”

The farm has been taken over almost completely by invaders working for ZANU PF top official, Nathan Shamuyarira. The invaders moved onto the farm more than a month ago, and have since turned the property into a mass looting and camping site. Completely protected and supported by local police, the invaders have used violence and intimidation repeatedly, viciously beating the farm workers. Many were forced into hiding during the worst of the attacks, while seven spent more than two weeks behind bars on trumped up charges. They have since been released on bail, but have to report to the police station on a daily basis.

The farm’s legitimate owners, Mike and Angela Campbell, have since left the property that they co-own with their son-in-law, Ben Freeth. They have had to watch as the land has been destroyed and plundered, with all their produce being sold off by the invaders at local markets. Tuesday night’s attack has come on the back of a ministerial order for the invaders to leave the land, and allow farming activities to resume. Freeth explained that there is no hope for the future of Zimbabwe, when even the orders of the Deputy Prime Minister don’t prompt any action.

“We don’t really know what to do anymore, we’re just hoping this government does something soon to make this all stop,” Freeth said.

……………..

Journalists boycott media conference over Manyere detention
By Lance Guma
06 May 2009

The Media Alliance of Zimbabwe has stuck to its guns and boycotted a government media conference that was meant to start on Wednesday in the resort town of Kariba. The national chairman of the Media Institute of Southern Africa – Zimbabwe Chapter, Loughty Dube, told Newsreel they made it clear to the government that as long as any journalist remained in detention, under the same laws that are meant to be discussed at the conference, their members will boycott.

The re-detention of former ZBC newsreader and Zimbabwe Peace Project director Jestina Mukoko, plus that of journalist Shadreck Anderson Manyere, on spurious banditry and terrorism charges, triggered the initial boycott move on Tuesday. Although Mukoko was released on Wednesday along with other political detainees, Manyere remains locked up along with Gandhi Mudzingwa and Chris Dhlamini in hospital. The failure to release Manyere has prompted the media groups to insist they will not attend the conference.

Dube told us they met the Deputy Minister of Information Media and Publicity, Jameson Timba, at his request in the morning. Despite Timba assuring them that the government was doing something to resolve the issue the media alliance members reiterated their position. ‘We are not attending unless something changes in the coming few hours,’ Dube told us. Registration for the conference was meant to begin Wednesday according to Dube, but most journalists were still in Harare in the afternoon suggesting the boycott was being adhered to.

The media alliance comprises the Media Institute of Southern Africa- Zimbabwe Chapter, Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe National Editors Forum, Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe, and the African Community Publishing and Development Trust. Input from the groups is seen as critical to shaping a proper reform agenda for the media, especially given the slow pace of reforms so far.

But even before the latest controversy which triggered the boycott, there was already concern that the conference deliberately ignored most of the major stakeholders in the media and had an unclear agenda. Not only did it ignore exiled media organizations forced out by repressive laws, but the same people who persecuted the media, such as former information minister Jonathan Moyo, were selected to be keynote speakers. A Zimbabwe Standard newspaper commentary described the line up as one of ‘media taliban’s’ and ‘characters with a violently unrepentant disposition towards free speech.’

Reflecting the mess that has shrouded the organization of the conference informed sources claimed Moyo says he is surprised that reports are saying he is one of the key speakers, when he has not received an invitation to do so.

……………..

Confusion mars start of new school semester
By Alex Bell
06 May 2009

The new school term has started under a cloud of confusion this week, with many teachers still waiting for the go ahead for a nationwide strike that was threatened to begin on Tuesday.

The strike was narrowly averted Monday following a crisis meeting between education ministry officials, teachers’ union leaders and international donor representatives. The Education Ministry has admitted that the government does not have the funds to increase teachers’ wages, and has instead called on the help of the international donor community to try to drum up support for Zimbabwe’s teachers. Teachers have been demanding, among other things, a significant wage increase of more than US$1,000, and had threatened the mass action to coincide with the start of the new school term on Tuesday.

But the mass action was averted after the Ministry and the teachers’ unions agreed that teachers’ children would receive free education; banks would be encouraged to reduce their charges to teachers; and the ministry would negotiate a five-year benefits plan for teachers. The donor community has also pledged to help find financial support for the country’s education sector, delaying a strike that would likely have sparked a chain reaction of mass action across the public service.

But while many teachers have reported to work at the start of the term on Tuesday, many of those who did arrive embarked on a ‘go-slow’, refusing to teach classes until the message from their unions to strike or not was received. In Mashonaland, only six of the province’s nine schools have reportedly reopened. Many teachers across the country have also been unable to afford the transport fees to return to their teaching posts.

Oswald Madziva, the Programmes and Communications Officer for the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), explained on Wednesday that the late finish of Monday’s crisis meeting meant not all teachers received the message that the strike had been called off. He said that as of Wednesday, more teachers were back to work, and overall there was a positive response from teachers to the news that the strike had been averted.

Madziva explained that the academic year is likely to be marred by the financial worries of the government, acknowledging that “the plight of teachers will only be resolved with the resolution of the political deadlock.”

The ongoing violations of the Global Political Agreement that are threatening the future of the unity government mean international donor assistance has been held off, leaving the education sector struggling against almost total collapse.
http://www.swradioafrica.2bctnd.net/05_09/newsreel060509.mp3

Newsreel 050509

Journalists protest re-arrests and boycott govt media conference
By Violet Gonda
5 May 2005

The re-arrests of political and human rights activists has sparked fury among civil society in Zimbabwe. 18 activists who have already experienced untold suffering at the hands of state agents were placed back in the custody of the police on Tuesday. They had been formally charged with terrorism the day before.

Journalists from the private media have now decided to take some form of action as a sign of protest. It’s reported that in an unprecedented move Zimbabwe’s embattled journalists took to the city streets in Harare Tuesday to protest the re-arrests of Jestina Mukoko and her 17 co-accused, including photo-journalist Shadreck Manyere. In a display of solidarity for Manyere, the group marched through the city streets, singing songs, and chanting slogans for Manyere’s release. The journalists also boycotted a press conference held by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara on Tuesday afternoon.

Representatives of the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ) also announced later on Tuesday that they will not be attending a four day Zimbabwe All Stakeholders Media Conference that opens Wednesday in Kariba.

MAZ is composed of:
MISA-Zimbabwe Chapter
Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe National Editors Forum
Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe
African Community Publishing and Development Trust.

The group had recently criticised the government media stakeholders’ conference saying it was littered with anti press freedom participants, ignored major stakeholders and had no clear agenda.

Announcing the decision to now boycott the event, the media group said in a statement: “This decision was made following the re-arrest and detention of human rights defenders, in particular Zimbabwe Peace Project director Ms. Jestina Mukoko and freelance journalist Mr. Andrisson Manyere, on charges that can only be considered political. It is MAZ’s view that their re-detention represents an apparent abuse of the judicial process which undermines the spirit and letter of the Global Political Agreement, especially as regards the restoration of a political environment that is democratic and respectful of the rule of law, as well as cognisant of the urgency of ensuring the security and freedom of human rights defenders and citizens in general.”

“It is in this context that MAZ considers it impossible to participate at the government All Stakeholders Media Conference when human rights defenders and journalists such as Ms. Mukoko and Mr. Manyere, who are presumed innocent until proven guilty, continue to be targets of repression.”

The harassment of media practitioners continued in Zimbabwe as the world celebrated World Press Freedom on May 3. US President Barack Obama condemned the jailing and active harassment of journalists in Zimbabwe, and other countries. He said: “In every corner of the globe, there are journalists in jail or being actively harassed: from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe, Burma to Uzbekistan, Cuba to Eritrea.”

On Monday, the US embassy launched the World Press Freedom Day “Lost Voices” exhibition in Harare. The exhibition is a joint initiative of the U.S. Embassy’s Public Affairs Section and Zimbabwe’s Media Monitoring Project, featuring reproductions from various publications printed since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980.

US Ambassador James McGee, Jameson Timba the Deputy Minister of Media, Information and Publicity, MMPZ board member and human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa and MMPZ director Andy Moyse, all spoke at the event.
The MMPZ called on the government to prioritize media reform ahead of the constitution making process. Mtetwa said: “We cannot embark on a constitution making process before the media is reformed because you need a free media to reach the people out there.”
Ambassador McGee urged authorities to lift restrictions on the media to promote the free flow of information. He said: “Zimbabwe stands at the door of incredible opportunity. The world is watching to see if the country will open the door with a new commitment to freedom of expression, freedom of speech and freedom of the press.”
“The world wants to know, I want to know and most importantly, Zimbabweans have the right to know,” said McGee.

Unity government in turmoil after re-arrest of 18 abductees
By Tichaona Sibanda
5 May 2009

The inclusive government was on Tuesday thrown into turmoil after 18 MDC and civil society members, facing trumped-up charges of banditry, terrorism and insurgency, were re-detained.

The ruling by a Harare magistrate to re-arrest the activists was immediately condemned by the MDC who issued a statement calling for an urgent meeting of their national executive to discuss the latest crisis.

The MDC urged SADC and the African Union, as the guarantors of the Global Political Agreement, to urgently address the political stalemate in the country as it threatened national and international stability.

The party called for the immediate release of all the re-detained activists and also the release of seven MDC activists whose whereabouts remain unknown after they were abducted by state security agents in November and December last year.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara were informed by aides of the re-arrest of the detainees as they prepared to attend the weekly cabinet meeting on Tuesday. But a source told us there is an agreement observed by the inclusive government that issues pertaining to the GPA are never discussed in cabinet.

‘These issues are left to the principals to sort out between themselves. They were supposed to meet soon after cabinet, ideally I think the issue would be top on their agenda,’ the source added. Its reported Tsvangirai received a hand written note on a piece of paper alerting him to the unfolding drama as he walked to the cabinet meeting.

Tsvangirai’s spokesman James Maridadi confirmed that the principals met after the cabinet meeting but did not have details of what they discussed.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai formed the inclusive government in February, after months of wrangling and pressure from SADC and South Africa, but sharp differences still remain over issues, such as the review of the posts of central bank governor Gideon Gono and Attorney General Tomana.
Western donors are likely to express great concern over the re-arrests. They have called on the inclusive government to carry out wider political and media reforms and to release all political prisoners before committing any funding to help rebuild the country.

All civil society organizations in the country expressed shock at the latest blatant disregard for human rights shown by the State on Tuesday, in re-detaining the political and human rights activists. The MDC described the action as undermining and threatening the goodwill that the inclusive government had begun to enjoy on the continent and in the broader international community.

‘Today’s ruling seriously threatens not only the life and health of the inclusive government, but its longevity and durability. Today’s ruling is a flagrant disregard to the commitments and agreements by the three principals to the GPA,’ a statement from the MDC said.

Political analysts and commentators seem to agree on one thing: The push for a lasting conclusion to outstanding issues in the GPA is firmly stuck.

Cape Town based analyst Glen Mpani said negotiations are going nowhere. He said the re-arrest of activists is a clear signal that there are elements within government and ZANU PF who are against the implementation of the GPA.

‘It’s a clear indication of who is in charge in the inclusive government. I think its victory for the (ZANU PF) rogues we have heard of in the past weeks who are against the inclusive government,’ Mpani said.

‘It has exposed the MDC to the fact that there is no power sharing in this arrangement. What they need to tell the world is – are they part and parcel of a government that represses the rights of individuals who have been fighting for democracy in Zimbabwe,’ Mpani added.

……………..

Zimbabwean abductees re-arrested, pending trial
By Violet Gonda
5 May 2009

Human rights campaigner Jestina Mukoko and 14 other abductees were back in jail on Tuesday, after having been formally charged in the Magistrate’s Court on Monday. At that hearing their trials were set into three separate cases, for the months of June and July, and the Attorney General’s offices immediately made a submission to have their bail terminated, using provisions of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act. The prosecutors used a legal technicality that revokes bail if a person is formally charged, unless the Attorney General agrees to remand them out of custody.

On Tuesday Magistrate Catherine Chimhanda remanded them all in custody, including 70 year old Fidelis Chiramba. Lawyer Charles Kwaramba said it is believed 15 activists have now been taken back to Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison. Freelance journalist Shadreck Manyere, plus MDC officials Chris Dhlamini and Gandhi Mudzingwa, are still being ‘detained’ in hospital where they are receiving treatment for their injuries from torture during their incarceration.

The State views the re-detentions as legal, but rights groups and the MDC say this is an unjustified attack that undermines the entire Global Political Agreement that created the unity government. Kwaramba said the Magistrate did an astonishing u-turn on Tuesday despite the fact that on Monday she had agreed to defer the matter, to allow the defence team to get clarification from the Attorney General’s Office. But Kwaramba said on Tuesday the Magistrate basically said she was not going to entertain any submissions from anyone.

The courthouse was packed Tuesday with journalists, members of civil society and the diplomatic community, who were left shocked after the Magistrate remanded the accused persons in custody. Eyewitnesses said Mukoko looked pale and dejected when she heard the news. The accused persons were all abducted and tortured between the months of October and December last year.

The AG’s office claims there is compelling new evidence and that the individuals pose a flight risk as a result of the ‘serious charges they are facing.’ This is in spite of the fact that none of them had fled the country after they were released on bail two months ago.

On Monday lawyer Andrew Makoni said they had submitted that there was no basis to re-detain their clients and that the AG’s office was making unilateral decisions in trying to cancel a political agreement that had been made by the Principals to the unity government, to have them all released on bail, pending trial.

They had hoped to bring in officers from the AG’s office and members of the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC), to show that there had been a political agreement to grant bail. Despite being a monitoring body, it is understood that there were no members of JOMIC, not even those from the Tsvangirai led MDC, turned up to court on Tuesday.

JOMIC member and MDC-T MP Tabitha Khumalo told SW Radio Africa that she had only just been informed of the present developments, by a member of civil society and was making her way to Harare from Bulawayo. She said the chairmanship of JOMIC rotates on a monthly basis and last month it was in the hands of ZANU PF. The MP said ZANU PF does not care about the detainees’ issues and therefore did not call for a meeting. She hopes that the matter will be discussed this month when the chairmanship of JOMIC is taken over by the MDC-M.

Meanwhile the MDC issued a strongly worded statement expressing shock over “the blatant disregard of human rights shown by the State” against the 18 activists who face “trumped-up charges of banditry, terrorism and insurgency.”

The party said: “Today’s ruling seriously threatens not only the life and health of the inclusive government, but its longevity and durability. Today’s ruling is a flagrant disregard to the commitments and agreements by the three principals to the GPA. Today’s ruling slams shut the door of international goodwill. It undermines and threatens the goodwill that the inclusive government had begun to enjoy on the continent and the broader international community.”

According to the MDC, seven of their activists are still missing after they were abducted by State security agents in November and December last year.

One of the critical outstanding issues at the ongoing talks between the Principals, is the freeing of prisoners and the latest development shows that the Mugabe regime is not serious about respecting human rights and restoring the rule of law. Analysts say this is a clear indication that the regime is determined to block the progress of the inclusive government, as ZANU PF knows it will not exist in a free society.

Meanwhile, questions are now being asked about what Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is going to do about this and whether the guarantors of this unity deal, SADC and the African Union, will finally do something.

……………..

JAG challenges MDC over arrests and farm invasions
By Alex Bell
05 May 2009

Justice for Agriculture (JAG) has lashed out at the MDC, for the party’s ‘complicity’ in the ongoing farm invasions and the re-arrest of 18 political activists on Tuesday.

Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, Jestina Mukoko and 17 other activists, who all spent months behind bars facing trumped-up terrorism charges, were hauled back into custody Tuesday. At the same time, countrywide farm invasions, led by ZANU PF loyalists, have continued unabated since the formation of the unity government, forcing most commercial farmers into hiding. More that 100 farmers are facing charges of being on their own land ‘illegally’, while an estimated 700 farm workers and their families have been displaced by the recent attacks.

These are all clear violations of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) that formed the basis for the unity government, which Zimbabweans had hoped would usher in real change in the crisis weary country. But the violations have seen a muted response from the MDC members in the unity government, and concern is beginning to surface that the party is just passively allowing events to unfold.

JAG’s John Worsley-Worswick explained on Tuesday that the MDC was in a prime position to challenge the Robert Mugabe regime when they formed the coalition government, because the GPA included the release of all political prisoners and encouraged production on farms.

“The battle fields were clearly defined by the agreement, and people were heartened when the political prisoners were all released,” Worsley-Worswick said. “But the MDC has instead been tepid in responding to the violations since then and people are losing faith.”

Worsley-Worswick argued that the MDC’s passive response to the farm attacks, which started in earnest the same week that Morgan Tsvangirai was sworn in as Prime Minister, set the scene for the re-arrest of Mukoko and the 17 others. Worsley-Worswick continued that it is obvious that the Mugabe regime “has every intention of scuttling the agreement,” but argued that the MDC will be party to the collapse of the agreement because of the it’s passive response to the events that are putting the entire future of the country at risk.
http://www.swradioafrica.2bctnd.net/05_09/newsreel050509.mp3

Diaspora Diaries 050509

Alex Bell discusses the agreement between the South African and Zimbabwean governments to drop visa rights for Zimbabwean passport holders. Alex is joined by Gabriel Shumba from the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, who says the visa waiver is a welcome move and says the decision will ultimately see “a significant reduction in human suffering” at the border. The border town Musina is plagued by corruption and Zimbabwean exiles often fall victim to criminals. Shumba argues Zimbabweans will now be able travel without risk, and says the expected influx of Zimbabweans into the country should now also be properly controlled. Hear the discussion on Diaspora Diaries.
http://www.swradioafrica.2bctnd.net/05_09/dd050509.mp3

Callback 050509

Bongo shares his thoughts on the re-arrest of the political detainees, and comments on how it was announced by the state media; Banda says people may be content now with the GNU but he predicts that things will only get worse, and production will cease completely in the country, then, James, who is a civil servant, says the US$100 allowance is an insult because it buys him nothing.
http://www.swradioafrica.2bctnd.net/05_09/callback050509.mp3

Different Points of View 050509

Duane explores the wilderness experience that Zim is passing through and analyses some of the attendant temptations.
http://www.swradioafrica.2bctnd.net/05_09/dpv050509.mp3

Callback 040509

Vu says while the price of food may be dropping many like him still aren’t able to afford those prices; Maronga says those in the old guard of ZANU PF are not happy with the new GNU because they can no longer practice the same levels of corruption, and, Masawi says muggings and robberies have increased since forex was made legal tender.
http://www.swradioafrica.2bctnd.net/05_09/callback040509.mp3

Letter from America 040509

Dr. Stan Mukasa makes a case for the continuation of targeted sanctions against Mugabe and ZANU.
http://www.swradioafrica.2bctnd.net/05_09/lfa040509.mp3

Reporters Forum 040509

Lance Guma is joined on Reporters’ Forum by writer and political commentator Msekiwa Makwanya and former ZBC journalist Bekithemba Mhlanga. Stories under review include comments by Finance Minister Tendai Biti that US targeted sanctions should be removed, unending talks between Tsvangirai, Mugabe and Mutambara, ghost civil servants draining government coffers and remarks by Prime Minister Tsvangirai that the country is broke and civil servants have to make do with the US$100 per month for now. Mhlanga puts this in the context of reports that the trade fair in Bulawayo had a ‘disgraceful’ display of luxury cars used by government ministers and officials, who still claim the country has no money.
http://www.swradioafrica.2bctnd.net/05_09/rf040509.mp3

Newsreel 040509

State wants to re-detain all 18 abductees
By Violet Gonda
4 May 2009

After being illegally abducted, tortured and spending months in horrendous prison cells, the State is still determined to target a group of civic and political activists, who face charges of trying to overthrow the Mugabe regime. All abductees were in court Monday and were formally charged. Their trials were set for June and July and the Attorney General’s offices made submissions in court to have the bail of all 18 accused persons revoked.

Their defence teams submitted that there was no basis for such an action and that the AG’s office was making unilateral decisions, by trying to cancel an agreement that had been made by the Principals to the unity government, to have them all released on bail pending trial.

The defence team told the court they hoped to bring in officers from the AG’s office and people from the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC), to show that there had been a political agreement to grant them bail.

When Magistrate Chimhanda announced that the individuals, including civic leader Jestina Mukoko, journalist Shadreck Manyere, MDC officials Chris Dlamini and Ghandi Mudzingwa, had been indicted for trial, the prosecutor immediately asked for bail to be revoked and that they should all be remanded in custody. 15 activists actually appeared in court. Mudzingwa, Manyere and Dlamini are ‘detained’ and receiving treatment at the Avenues Clinic – having treatment for their injuries from torture during their incarceration. The 15 had only been released recently, after lawyers spent months fighting in the courts to have them released on bail.

Lawyer Andrew Makoni said: “The understanding is that the decision to place them on bail – after the State had strongly opposed to it in the first place – was because of an agreement reached by the Principals which was communicated to the Attorney General, who then prevailed upon his officers to consent to bail.’

Makoni said his team had readily agreed to this arrangement because they wanted their clients, who had suffered so much at the hands of state agents, to be released from custody.

He said: “Magistrate Chimhanda deferred the matter to tomorrow (Tuesday) to allow us to call in the evidence of officers from the AG’s office – who communicated to us that this was a political kind of compromise, and also two officials from JOMIC who perhaps will have to confirm in court that it was indeed an agreement as the political parties, that the accused persons be admitted on bail.”

The defence team said the latest developments send a very bad signal, especially to the international community. “Particularly when you take into consideration what we already know about the prisons. We know that those things are death traps and surely you can’t expose somebody who had gained their liberty to again be exposed to those kind of situations. We believe that in all fairness and given the nature of the case they are facing – particularly the lack of evidence – we don’t believe that there is any basis for them to be put back in custody,” Makoni added.

Meanwhile rights lawyers have written a letter to the co-Home Affairs Ministers Giles Mutsekwa and Kembo Mohadi, to ask them ‘to explain their alleged complicity in the continued incarceration’ of Mudzingwa, Dhlamini and Manyere.

This emphasises the difficult nature of the unity government, with Mutsekwa being tainted by the same brush, even though it’s members from his MDC party who are being ‘abused’ by the State. Observers say it also highlights the fact that the MDC have no real power in this unity government.

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Teachers urged to return to work as donors take up salary fight
By Alex Bell
04 May 2009

Teacher’s unions are encouraging their members to return to work at the start of the new school semester on Tuesday, after a crisis meeting to avert a mass strike action proved successful on Monday.

Education officials and representatives from the international donor community met with union leaders on Monday, in an effort to avoid the threatened strike over the meagre teachers’ salaries. Teachers are demanding, among other things, a significant wage increase of more than US$1,000, and threatened the mass action to coincide with the start of the new school term. The Education Ministry has admitted that the government does not have the funds to increase teachers’ wages, and has instead called on the help of the international donor community to try to drum up support for Zimbabwe’s teachers.

Takavafira Zhou, the President of the Progressive Teacher Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), explained on Monday that the meeting has given union leaders hope that their needs will be met soon. He said that the UN will be approached on their behalf about the financial dilemma in the education sector, and said PTUZ members were being encouraged to return to work as usual, as of Tuesday.

“We need to give the unity government a chance, and so we are asking our members to keep working,” Zhou explained. “But we can only wait until June and then we won’t have a choice but to embark on a mass action.”

The strike would likely start a chain reaction of rolling mass action across the civil service, over desperately low state wages. The government has called on the country’s civil service, who each receive a US$100 monthly allowance, to be patient over their meagre salaries until the country’s economy begins to stabilise. But with the economy completely dollarised and the local dollar being abandoned in favour of foreign currency, the US$100 payout has not been able to keep the public service employees and their families financially afloat.

State schools meanwhile have been ordered to slash their fees to make education affordable for financially beleaguered families. According to the Sunday Mail newspaper Education Minister David Coltart has recommended that state schools should make ‘substantial cuts’ when they open for the new term on Tuesday, because many parents cannot afford them. The government set school fees at between US$20 and US$280 a term earlier this year, but most parents have failed to pay, citing low wages and high living costs.

“When the fees were set in March, the assumption was that we would get balance of payments support to kickstart the economy,” Coltart said. “But this has not materialised and parents are worse off than before.”

Only a handful of students have returned to school this year because of financially constraints, and there are mounting concerns for the future of the once respected education sector in Zimbabwe. Once a shining beacon for education in Africa, learning has now slipped beyond access for most students, and a whole generation of Zimbabwean children face having no education at all.

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Service chiefs still refusing to salute Tsvangirai
By Tichaona Sibanda
4 May 2009

Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa has still to brief Members of Parliament why the country’s defence chiefs still refuse to salute the Prime Minister, six weeks after the issue was raised by an MDC legislator.

The MDC MP for Makoni Central, John Nyamande, first raised the issue with Mnangagwa in March. His question has however been deferred on several occasions, due to the Defence Minister’s unavailability to respond to it.

‘Whether he’s ducking the question or not, I don’t know, but I will still ask him because sooner or later he’s going to be in parliament to answer questions,’ Nyamande said. Parliament is currently on one of it’s numerous breaks, but will reopen on the 12th May.

According to the Votes and Proceedings of the House of Assembly order no 18 of the 25th March 2009, MP Nyamande asked Mnangagwa whether the service chiefs still maintain that they will not salute Morgan Tsvangirai. He also asked the Defence Minister to explain their absence during the swearing in of Tsvangirai by Mugabe at State House.

‘People want to know what the service chiefs are up to,’ Nyamande added. The MP, an educationist by profession who holds a BA in Philosophy and a Masters in educational studies, defeated Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa in last year’s parliamentary elections.

‘In the spirit of the inclusiveness of government we expected that the service chiefs would follow in line with Robert Mugabe and Tsvangirai’s working relationship. What has suprised many of us is that they haven’t extended the same kind of respect and spirit of inclusiveness. That worries a lot of people,’ the MDC legislator said.

A source in Harare told us once Nyamande’s question was raised it was sent to Mnangagwa’s office, who in turn passed it over to the service chiefs for their input.

‘A lot of middle ranking and junior officers are of the opinion that if their commanders are reluctant to salute Tsvangirai, they should resign from the security forces. This issue has raised a series of consultations within the security forces and you can tell a lot of people are uncomfortable with the status quo,’ our source told us.

The service chiefs seem to be living up to their public vow which they made just before last year’s harmonized elections, when they said they were not going to salute Tsvangirai. Since the formation of the all inclusive government earlier this year, they have not yet demonstrated that they have abandoned their disdain for the Prime Minister.

The powerful service chiefs, who include Defence Forces Commander General Constantine Chiwenga, Army Commander Lieutenant General Phillip Sibanda, Prisons Commissioner Paradzai Zimondi, Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri, and Air Marshall Perence Shiri, are seen as a major stumbling block towards full implementation of the terms set by the unity agreement.

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University of Zim on verge of collapse amid funding crisis
By Alex Bell
04 May 2009

As the education sector battles to avert a mass strike by the country’s school teachers, it has emerged that the University of Zimbabwe is facing imminent collapse, because of critical under funding.

Only an estimated 68 out of 12 000 students at the institution are reported to have paid tuition fees for the year, while funding from traditional sources, such as the government, has not been released. The once respected university now faces total collapse, with the financial situation across the country unlikely to improve soon.

The UZ has remained almost completely closed since last year because of a total breakdown of infrastructure. All the toilets at the institution have not been functioning for a year, while only one out of seven boreholes is pumping water there. Last August the first semester was postponed because the lack of clean water posed a serious health risk in the midst of the cholera outbreak. The academic year finally got underway in November, only to end in the middle of first semester exams because the water situation had not been rectified. The situation has continued to deteriorate, and the university has remained virtually shut, despite the second semester that was meant to begin in March.

But the sanitation risks at the university have only been part of the larger problem. There are no basic materials, such as pens or textbooks, and even all the food outlets on the campus have been closed. UZ Vice-Chancellor Professor Levi Nyagura told The Sunday Mail last week that the university requires US$4,6 million to resuscitate it’s crippled infrastructure and operations.

The news comes amid revelations that Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono also looted the foreign currency accounts of Zimbabwean universities, to prop up the Robert Mugabe regime. Gono’s illegal activities have been made public in recent weeks, with admittances by Gono that he raided the personal accounts of aid groups and businesses. An MDC legislator has now taken the looting of funds from the private Africa University to parliament, through an upcoming question and answer session, amid reports that three other universities say donor money vanished from their accounts.

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Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara now set to meet Tuesday
By Tichaona Sibanda
4 May 2009

The three principals to the Global Political Agreement met briefly in Harare on Monday, but deferred until Tuesday the outstanding issues that have been threatening the three month old inclusive government.

It was reported last week that ZANU PF leader Robert Mugabe, MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, leader of the other MDC formation, would meet again on Monday to address the outstanding issues.

But James Maridadi, Tsvangirai’s spokesman told us none of the problematic issues of the GPA were tackled on Monday. He said the principals were likely going to meet again Tuesday, after the cabinet meeting.

Some reports suggest that the principals in the inclusive government are close to declaring a stalemate on the outstanding issues of the GPA, a move that would presumably result in the intervention of SADC to try to break the impasse.

Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara have met five times within a fortnight, but have completely failed to agree on the way forward.

But while the three principals sit and fail to come up with a workable solution, violent farm invasions continue, the rule of law does not exist, there is no media freedom and the economy continues to be in freefall.

Ordinary Zimbabweans urgently need to see some action taken to overcome these real issues that affect any hope of future investment in the country.

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Media ‘talibans’ set to dominate Kariba conference
By Lance Guma
04 May 2009

A government organized conference set for Kariba this week, to look at reforming the media, has already drawn criticism for ignoring most of the major stakeholders and having an unclear agenda. Not only has the conference ignored exiled media organizations forced out by repressive laws, but the same people at the forefront of persecuting the media have been selected to be keynote speakers.

Set to make presentations will be the Jonathan Moyo (credited with crafting the repressive media laws that were used to shut down newspapers and which ensure there is still no independent broadcast media); Media and Information Commission Chairman Tafataona Mahoso, (whose body denied licences to independent newspapers); Attorney General Johannes Tomana (a blue-eyed member of the ZANU PF regime and former ambassador to China); and senior Mugabe aide Chris Mutsvangwa.

A commentary in the Zimbabwe Standard newspaper attacked the presence of what it called ‘media talibans’, saying skepticism about the government’s intentions was being fuelled by the inclusion of, ‘characters with a violently unrepentant disposition towards free speech.’ Zim Rights national director Okay Machisa is equally shocked that media ‘oppressors’ are emerging at the forefront of so-called media reform. Other commentators questioned the need for a media conference in a holiday resort, when it was clear all that is needed is for repressive laws to be scrapped.

Although MDC official Jameson Timba, the Deputy Minister of Media, Information and Publicity, has been telling journalists the government is serious about media reforms, his counterpart, Information Minister Webster Shamu, has still been threatening journalists. Last week Shamu threatened to ‘punish’ the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper for “publicizing cabinet deliberations” claiming that the fact that they did so without government authority was a ‘punishable offence’ the world over. The persecution of journalists like Anderson Manyere, Jestina Mukoko and others also adds another reminder that media reform is definitely not on the ZANU PF agenda.

The organization of the conference has also been mired in confusion. It was initially set for Kariba’s Carribbea Bay Resort before it was moved to Nyanga. Now it has been moved back to Kariba. Journalists have slammed this as an attempt to exclude most of them from the conference, by taking it far away. The Media Alliance of Zimbabwe also criticized the agenda for the conference, saying the agenda and topics were ‘fatally compromised.’
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