Chamu says free and fair elections are the only way forwards for the country; Venice in South Africa has just returned from a visit home to Zim where he was shocked to discover that in many places he could buy less with his rands than in South Africa, and, Tonderai says that since the GNU came in, rates and rents have become virtually unaffordable.
Cathy Buckleâ€™s Letter from Zimbabwe points out that, â€˜at every opportunity Zimbabwe’s old leadership scream about sanctions and call for the international community to come and help us, but as long as lawlessness prevails, how can anyone trust us.â€™
Violet presents this weekâ€™s Hot Seat where the guest is Finance Minister Tendai Biti, who stopped over recently in London to meet UK Ministers, on his way back from a US fundraising trip. This was the first time US and UK government officials had directly engaged with a Zimbabwean government minister for some years. Listen here
Journalism student Chris Kusema, who has spent 15 years producing gospel music, is the guest on the show. Lance Guma and Brilliant Pongo preview his album The First Chapter and find out track by track what inspired him. Kusema says there is too much negative music in the world and this is an attempt to lift up young people and make them strive for the best in life.
Government and teachers to meet Monday to avert strike
By Alex Bell
01 May 2009
Government officials and teachersâ€™ unions have agreed to meet again on Monday, in an effort to avert a possible strike by teachers at the start of the new school semester next week.
Schools are set to reopen on Tuesday and Mondayâ€™s meeting will see Education and Finance ministry officials trying to sway teachers away from the threatened mass action. Teachers are demanding, among other things, a significant salary increase of more than US$1000, saying they will not return to work until the demands are met. Leaders from the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) and the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) met with Education Minister David Coltart on Thursday, after the deadline for the government to produce a better salary structure for teachers passed this week.
Coltart has already indicated that the government does not have the funds to increase teachersâ€™ wages, and called on acting Finance Minister Elton Mangoma to help explain the situation to teachersâ€™ at Thursdayâ€™s meeting. The meeting was deferred to Monday, apparently to allow the donor community to participate in the talks and to explore ways in which they can assist the government in paying teachers. PTUZ President Takavafira Zhou explained on Friday that teachers understand the financial situation facing the Education Ministry, and said he was pleased there would be a chance to appeal to donors to assist in salary payments.
The government has called on the countryâ€™s civil service, who each receive a US$100 monthly allowance, to be patient over their meagre salaries until the countryâ€™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 teachers and their families financially afloat. Zhou described the reality facing teachers, saying many have been forced into â€˜moonlightingâ€™ as menial workers for any extra money.
â€œIt is so degrading for teachers to do this but they have been left no choice,â€ Zhou explained. â€œHow else can they look after their families?â€
The salary increase of more than US$1000 that is being demanded is highly unrealistic even compared to the rest of Africa, where teachers earn much less than this. Zhou argued that his union is aware that the demand is too high, and instead is pushing for a proposed â€˜salary roadmapâ€™ that will pave the way for significant increases in the future. He explained that teachers would be happy with a US$500 increase in the short term, but also said that a strike has not yet been ruled out.
It is being argued that ZIMTA, which is leading the strike threat and list of demands, is involved in trying to force the MDC out of the unity government. The ZANU PF friendly teachersâ€™ association has never before taken such a strong stance against the government, despite earning a pittance for years under ZANU PF rule. The argument stands that by forcing such an unrealistic salary demand and by threatening the stability of the unity government with a teachersâ€™ strike, ZIMTA is working with ZANU PF to force the MDC out of the coalition.
Meanwhile, salary concerns aside, Zimbabweâ€™s teachers continue to be victims of ongoing harassment and intimidation across the country. According to international rights group, Amnesty International, teachers have expressed serious concerns about their safety, as ZANU PF supporters are still threatening them with violence. Many teachers were targets of politically motivated attack during the 2008 presidential election period, and there are fears among the teaching community that they will still be vulnerable in future elections.
Joice Mujuru faces ouster as ZANU PF infighting intensifies
By Staff reporter
01 May 2009
In yet another sign that the coalition government is far from unified, it has emerged that top ZANU PF official and Deputy President Joice Mujuru, is under threat from within her own party.
According to the Zimbabwe Independent the move against Mujuru is being led by Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is alarmed by strong alliances being formed by some ZANU PF heavyweights with the Tsvangirai MDC.
â€œThere was alarm within Zanu PF circles last week after Mujuru and her
allies voted with the Tsvangirai faction against the Mnangagwa group in
parliament, during the election of chairperson for the women MPs caucus,â€ the Zimbabwe Independent wrote.
According to the paper Mujuruâ€™s candidate won against the candidate linked to the Mnangagwa camp, mainly because of the Deputy Presidentâ€™s alliance with MDC Deputy President Thokozani Khupe â€œwhich insiders said confirmed long-standing speculation that the Mujuru faction had a strategic alliance with the Tsvangirai camp in the country’s power matrix.â€
Such is the level of distrust for Mujuru that itâ€™s reported a campaign is underway to remove her at the forthcoming ZANU PF women’s congress in August, before the main party gathering in December. Zanu PF Women’s League chairperson, Oppah Muchinguri, is said to be working with the Mnangagwa camp to oust Mujuru.
Sources told the newspaper that if the ZANU PF Deputy President survives the current efforts to remove her, the new political re-alignment might benefit Mujuru in the end. â€œThey said the calculation by the Mujuru camp is that if they form an alliance with the MDC-T, and Mugabe goes for one reason or another, Mujuru would marshal enough votes in parliament to succeed Mugabe.â€ However with the growing infighting, Mujuruâ€™s alliance with the MDC-T could result in her ouster at the forthcoming Zanu PF women’s congress and the main party congress in December.
Government ghost workers milking salary coffers
By Lance Guma
01 May 2009
The weekly Financial Gazette newspaper reports that millions of dollars in foreign currency is being drained from government coffers, by ghost civil servants and other workers who receive multiple salary payments from different banks. The revelations have led to the freezing of payments to hundreds of civil servants, while some of them have had their contracts terminated. The paper says an audit started by Public Service Commission Inspector General, Clifford Matorera, a fortnight ago has exposed how some nurses, soldiers and other civil servants in the Youth, Foreign Affairs, Justice and Legal Affairs Ministries were paid salaries up to 5 times each month. Some of the civil servants implicated say their names were used, but they never received the money themselves.
Speaking to the Financial Gazette, Public Service Minister, Eliphas Mukonoweshuro, is reported to have said he had been informed about the Public Service Commission audit but did not have detailed information. He said the Commission was an independent constitutional body that reported to the President. â€˜I was informed about that particular audit, but we are going to institute our own (ministry) audit to eliminate possible irregularities that might be in existence. We expect the audit to be on the ground in 30 days. There are a lot of allegations, but as I have said, allegations cannot be regarded as official until there is an investigation,â€™ he said
When Newsreel caught up with Mukonoweshuro on Friday he was equally cautious in his response, saying in the absence of an audit by his own ministry he could not say much. He did however say they needed to investigate a variety of issues including whether the whole public service had adequate manning levels and he wanted to also ensure people were not duplicating responsibilities. Asked if he anticipated resistance to any changes he might try to bring into the ministry, Mukonoweshuro remained positive insisting, â€˜the policy to audit the public service is not an MDC policy but an inclusive government policy so all hands will have to be on deck regardless of political sympathies.â€™
At the beginning of April this year Newsreel reported how two months into a coalition government an estimated 29 000 youth militia members, loyal to ZANU PF, were still on a government payroll and listed as civil servants. With monthly allowances for civil servants pegged at US$100 it meant nearly three million US dollars was being spent on paying youths, regularly used to terrorize opposition activists. Youth Minister Saviour Kasukuwere tried to defend the salaries by claiming they were employed as Youth Coordinating Officers. The Financial Gazette now reports that scores of these youths have since had their contracts and salaries terminated. Hordes of disgruntled youths last week reportedly besieged the Youth Ministry, offices demanding to have their salaries re-instated.
ZEC and ZANU PF boycott conference on electoral reforms
By Tichaona Sibanda
1 May 2009
Despite confirming that they would be there, no one from the Zimbabwe Election Commission or ZANU PF attended a two day regional conference on electoral reforms in Victoria Falls this week.
The workshop was organized by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, in conjunction with the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa. It was attended by senior government officials, MPs and members of civil society.
Though Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa pitched up briefly, delegates pointed out that he was there in his capacity as a government minister and not a ZANU PF representative. He also left the conference almost immediately after addressing the delegates.
The boycott by ZEC and ZANU PF representatives is seen by many as an indicator that they are not interested in reforms. This is buttressed by the fact that analysts believe Robert Mugabe would not win an election if it is conducted in a free and fair environment.
A delegate who spoke to us from Victoria Falls on Thursday said the assumption among those present at the conference was that ZEC officials were worried they would be asked awkward questions over the conduct of the 2008 elections, which were largely discredited by regional, continental and international bodies.
The widely-documented harassment and physical abuse of MDC supporters and rights activists in the months preceding and following the polls, by government supporters and state forces, were some of the issues raised by delegates on the sidelines of the conference.
â€˜Most delegates were left frustrated because they wanted to hear from ZEC the reasons for excluding election observers from countries which have criticized the Mugabe regime and journalists from foreign media organizations who have done the same,â€™ one delegate said.
Justice and Legal Affairs Deputy Minister Jessie Majome told delegates when she officiated at the opening of the conference, that difficulties encountered in the previous polls could be overcome through revisiting the electoral laws and processes.
Solomon Chikohwero, chairman of the MDC Veterans Activists Association, said a lot has to be done to overcome difficulties encountered during the previous elections. Despite promises to ease restrictions on political partiesâ€™ activities and freeing the news media, Chikohwero says these do not go far enough.
â€˜Zimbabwean voters in the past decade have been constricted by limits on political assembly, by one-sided information from state-owned news media and by a lack of information on electoral procedures,â€™ he said.
â€˜Intimidation must end by ZANU PF supporters, including members of the security forces, war veterans and, in particular, the youth militia. These green bombers have wreaked so much havoc and caused mayhem in rural areas. It is one institution that is used for violence and it is also used for intimidating ordinary voters. They must disband all these if we are to have free and fair elections, Chikohwero added.
Shepherd laments that Zimbabweans are continuing to suffer and the ones to blame are selfish politicians; Mwanawevhu feels the GNU should do what it can to stop farm invasions and political detentions, and Roy Bennett should be sworn in straight away as he is a duly elected official, and, Original says there is no unity of purpose in the new government and Zimbabweans are beginning to lose faith in it.
Harare City Council rocked by corruption scandal
By Tichaona Sibanda
30 April 2009
The Town Clerk of Harare, Tendai Mahachi, has been plunged deep into a corruption scandal after the Harare Combined Residents Association (CHRA) implicated him in the disappearance of large amounts of council funds.
CHRAâ€™s chairperson, Simbarashe Moyo, told us on Thursday they were demanding the immediate suspension of Mahachi, following reports of massive corruption and mismanagement at the Town House. Mahachi is a well known ZANU PF crony and is heavily protected by Ignatius Chombo, the Local Government minister.
The MDC controlled council has since its installation last year unearthed numerous cases of corruption at the City Council, mostly involving officials with links to ZANU PF. But their investigations have either been blocked or dropped midway by Chombo. The state owned and private media have also picked up on the rot at the Town House and have reported on the disappearance of vast amounts of funds from council bank accounts.
Moyo was livid that instead of carrying out investigations against Mahachi, Chombo was in fact insulating him from any probe and has blocked further investigations into the disappearance of 100 beasts from a council farm.
â€˜We have it on good authority that Mahachi was allegedly involved in the illegal selling of 100 cattle belonging to the council and that he misappropriated funds from the transactions. Further, he is alleged to have made false presentations to councillors about council projects which are non existent at all, yet huge funds were channelled towards those projects,â€™ Moyo said.
â€˜We have always expressed shock at Chomboâ€™s meddling with city councils. This is the reason why CHRA are pushing for constitutional reforms within the local government sphere so that at the end of the day we donâ€™t have a minister wielding so much power in council issues.â€™
â€˜We want a constitution that will empower the councillors and mayors so that they can be the owners of government issues. Itâ€™s not the ministerâ€™s business to interfere. That has to come to an end,â€™ Moyo added.
He warned that if Chombo fails to comply with their demands to suspend Mahachi to pave the way for an investigation, they will call for a massive rate boycott and institute court proceedings against the Minister and Mahachi.
Education Minister and teachers meet as strike action threatened
By Alex Bell
29 April 2009
An ultimatum set by the countryâ€™s leading teachers unions, for government to produce a proper salary structure for teachers, ran out on Thursday. This has set the scene for an anticipated strike next week, when schools reopen on Tuesday.
The Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) and the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) have both threatened mass action for the start of the new semester next week, because of poor salaries. Teachers are demanding, among other things, a salary increase of up to US$2300 a month, a highly unrealistic figure for a continent where state teachers generally earn very little. The Finance Ministry has already indicated it cannot meet even the minimum demand of an increase to US$780 per month, because of a lack of government funds, and a strike as of next week appears imminent.
Shortly after the unity government was formed in February, education and finance officials stepped in to end an ongoing strike, by offering teachers and other civil servants a US$100 monthly payout, on top of their local Zimbabwe dollar wages. The government promptly introduced a voucher system to make good on its promise, with civil servants able to redeem the vouchers for goods in participating shops. The vouchers also became redeemable for cash. 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 teachers and their families financially afloat in an increasingly expensive market.
Education Minister David Coltart conceded on Wednesday that the teachers threatened strike action would be a serious blow to the stability of the unity government, as encouraging teachers back to work was the coalitionâ€™s first perceived success. Coltart has also previously indicated that the government is unable to meet the salary demands of teachers, effectively declaring a stalemate in the education sector. He has admitted that the current salaries are inadequate, but has said that the governmentâ€™s â€œhands are tied.â€
The Education Minister met with both teachersâ€™ groups on Thursday in an effort to avert next weekâ€™s strike.
Leading the movement against the government is the ZANU PF friendly ZIMTA, that for years has refused to challenge the Mugabe led government on various issues, despite earning pittance wages before February. Many critics say this sudden change of heart and desire to be involved in a wage protest, could be part of ZANU PFâ€™s game plan to try to discredit the MDC.
The MDC, as part of the unity government, now has the heavy responsibility of sorting out both the collapsed Finance and Education ministries. The Education ministry cannot meet teachersâ€™ demands for higher salaries until there is no money in the government coffers, due to years of chronic mismanagement and corruption by ZANU PF. And understandably, foreign investors are holding back development aid to the unity government until real change is visible on the ground, change that is yet to come and change that is still being blocked by Mugabe.
Tsvangirai says he will not adopt â€˜megaphoneâ€™ approach to talks
By Lance Guma
30 April 2009
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai spent 2 hours with the MDC provincial structures in Bulawayo and spelt out the partyâ€™s policies on a variety of issues, especially the shaky coalition government. According to our correspondent Lionel Saungweme Tsvangirai noted several transgressions of the unity deal by ZANU PF, but insisted the MDC will not adopt a megaphone approach towards solving the problems. He said coalition governments the world over have always been problematic and this is why the MDC â€˜will steer ahead to try and improve the lives of the people.â€™ Tsvangirai told party officials that improving peopleâ€™s lives was at the core of the party manifesto and this should be their objective.
A total of 5 meetings between Tsvangirai, Mutambara and Mugabe have so far failed to reach agreement on several issues paralyzing the coalition government. Mugabe stripped the communications sector away from a ministry controlled by the MDC, has delayed swearing in Deputy Agriculture Minister Roy Bennett, condoned fresh farms invasions and is silent on the continued detention of political prisoners. The coalition government is also still to agree on the appointment of governors, ambassadors and permanent secretaries. Mugabeâ€™s intransigence suggests he feels he has the upper hand, while the MDC now adopt the â€˜quiet diplomacyâ€™ they so often criticized themselves previously.
Still in Bulawayo Tsvangirai also tackled the controversial issue of luxury cars bought by the Reserve Bank and given to parliamentarians. He re-stated that the party policy on the issue was that the Reserve Bank should stop engaging in quasi-fiscal activities and because of this MPâ€™s could not accept the vehicles. Those who took the cars have already been asked to return them he said. During the party meeting Tsvangirai also expressed disappointment with the teachers unions for threatening to go on strike if the US$100 allowances were not increased. He said although they would like to increase the money paid to teachers, the country was broke and reliant on well-wishers. He described Zimbabwe as â€˜one big bag of collective debt.â€™
Meanwhile Tsvangirai used Wednesdayâ€™s party meeting to reverse the suspension of Bulawayo Province Chairperson Agnes Muloyi, Youth Chair Bekithemba Nyathi and the cautioning of Vice Chairperson Matson Hlalo. The trio had been given a set of questionnaires on the partyâ€™s operations by the MDC head office. But some members of the provincial executive saw these documents and believed them to be subversive and part of a plot to topple Tsvangirai. They were unaware that the questionnaires had been sanctioned by the party.
Journalist Shadreck Manyere hospitalised
By Violet Gonda
30 April 2009
The legal games concerning political detainees Chris Dhlamini, Gandhi Mudzingwa and Shadreck Manyere continued on Thursday.
A magistrate and the various legal teams had to conduct a remand hearing for Dhlamini and Mudzingwa at the Avenues clinic, where the two MDC officials are receiving treatment for injuries received from torture when they were abducted by state agents. They are facing charges of banditry and terrorism.
It has also emerged that one of their co-accused, freelance journalist Shadreck Andrison Manyere, who was released on bail from Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison on 17 April, is in hospital. Shortly after the three were released on bail, the police re-detained Mudzingwa and Dhlamini, who were already hospitalised at the Avenues Clinic, and then conducted a manhunt for the journalist. Lawyer Andrew Makoni said Manyere was not on the run but had been staying at his home since his release and was later admitted into hospital.
â€œManyere succumbed to the torture at the hands of his abductors and after his release from prison, he went to seek medical treatment and was eventually detained in hospital – because when the doctors looked at him he was in bad shape. So he had to be detained for purposes of treatment.â€
Makoni said on Thursday afternoon a Harare Magistrate was presiding over their remand hearing, at the hospital.
On the same day a High Court Judge, Justice Bharat Patel, dismissed an urgent application by the accused persons to have the police officers guarding them removed. The accused said they were released lawfully on bail and the police should not be at the hospital. The defence team argues that the State had seven days to appeal against the granting of their clients bail, but had appealed outside that period.
However Justice Patel said the seven day period excluded weekends and public holidays and therefore ruled in favour of the State, saying they had appealed within the seven day time frame.
Makoni said: â€œTo the State it means they have ammunition to keep them under guard at the moment because the judge has just validated their appeal which they had noted in the Supreme Court, which in our view was improper.â€
He added: â€œWe intend to challenge this judgement by the High Court and we believe that the Interpretation Act gives guidance to the court as to how to interpret a seven day period, which is given in any act of parliament.â€
In a separate case, another High Court Judge dismissed an application by the Attorney Generalâ€™s office, to re-arrest the detainees. The State had applied to the court to re-arrest the three accused persons saying their release had been un-procedural. But Justice Chatukuta threw the case out saying the matter was not urgent.
On the 25th February this year Civil Society groups formed an independent monitoring and evaluation mechanism, to assess the implementation of the inter-party agreement between ZANU PF and the two MDCâ€™s. Lance Guma speaks to Fambai Ngirande, Programmes Director for the National Association of Non Governmental Organizations, who gives us details of their first monitoring report, covering the months of February and March.