Heart of the Matter 300409

Tanonoka focuses on Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s continued optimism while ‘Mugabe continues to show little respect for not only Tsvangirai, but for the whole of the MDC, not to mention the government of national unity itself.’ He once again questions the effectiveness of the GNU and asks, ‘does the MDC honestly believe this thing can work…?’

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Who should write Zimbabwe’s constitution?
By Tichaona Sibanda
29 April 2009

The making of a new constitution is slowly turning into one big fight. That our country needs to revitalise itself is in no doubt, and the fact that it needs a constitutional overhaul is also a well known fact.

But the road to constitutional reform is full of landmines, and more will be planted if threats by the National Constitutional Assembly and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions are to be taken seriously.

Political analysts fear that if the country does not overhaul its constitution to suit its 21st century needs then the next elections in two years time, especially for the Presidency, will still divide the country.

NCA chairperson Dr Lovemore Madhuku argues that since Independence every modification to the constitution has been selfishly driven by ZANU PF with dire consequences for the general populace, as it has been aimed at consolidating power in one individual and his henchmen.

The 2000 attempt to come up with an overhauled constitution ended up in a no vote which some analysts say gave Robert Mugabe the licence to rig the 2002, 2005 and 2008 elections. This year has been promised to be the year of a new constitution. But our Harare correspondent Simon Muchemwa told us that another round of constitution making in the country does not promise much hope.

‘Madhuku and lately the ZCTU President Lovemore Matombo are saying the politicians can never be trusted. They have shown propensity to gag the media and gross mismanagement of funds, so they cannot be trusted to move the country forward,’ Muchemwa said.

However, supporters of the inclusive government, including those who are pro-MDC claim there are two groups that are against the current constitutional review in the country. They are the pro-democracy activists under the umbrella of the civil society, and a group that consists of human rights and constitutional lawyers.
The ZCTU on Tuesday called for an independent commission to lead the drafting of a new constitution for the country, rejecting plans by the government for Parliament to spearhead the writing of the governance charter.

Matombo told journalists in Harare that ZCTU ‘could not trust politicians with the writing of the new constitution,’ and vowed to mobilise workers to reject any proposed new constitution drafted by Parliament in a referendum scheduled for next year.

The Speaker of Parliament Lovemore Moyo has appointed a 25-member committee of legislators drawn from ZANU PF and the two formations of the MDC that will oversee the drafting of the country’s new constitution.

While the inclusive government has said the process will lead to measures that would help build consensus and further dialogue in adopting the new constitution, the NCA, the ZCTU and student bodies argue that issues of national importance will be lost in the corridors of power if parliament controls the process.
But Moyo reiterated that parliament will drive the writing of the new constitution over the next 18 months as outlined under the power-sharing agreement signed by the three main political parties last year. The Speaker added that apart from lawmakers, contributors drawn from groups including business, students, rights organisations, churches, the media, women’s groups, labour and farming will assist the parliamentary-select committee. But the committee will still have the final say in the drafting of the new constitution.

The draft constitution would be put before the electorate in a
referendum expected in July next year and if approved by Zimbabweans will then be brought before Parliament for enactment. Once a new constitution is in place the power-sharing government is expected to then call fresh parliamentary, presidential and local government elections.


Rights group warns against development aid to Zim
By Alex Bell
29 April 2009

Human Rights Watch has warned against development assistance to Zimbabwe, saying critical and irreversible changes should first be evident in the country, before financial commitments by international donors are made.

The unity government has been scrambling to encourage foreign investment in the country that has barely started recovering from years of corrupt misrule by Robert Mugabe. The hope that change was afoot, which briefly followed the swearing in of Morgan Tsvangirai as Prime Minister in February, has since been overshadowed by ongoing rights abuses and violations of the political agreement that is holding the fragile unity government together.

Millions of Zimbabweans are still reliant on international food aid, but state sponsored farm attacks have halted the necessary production of foodm while being openly condoned by Mugabe and his cronies. Unemployment stands at more that 90%, and only a handful of Zimbabweans with access to foreign cash can buy the forex-priced food slowly becoming available in shops. Schools have remained closed with no money to pay teachers, while most hospitals and clinics stand empty, with no staff or equipment to treat the sick. The cholera outbreak that has claimed thousands of lives has slowed its deadly rampage, but experts have predicted a second outbreak is imminent.

At the same time, MDC supporters continue to be victims of harassment, arrest and abuse, while seven opposition activists are still missing after being abducted last year. The situation has formed an ominous backdrop to the latest round of crisis talks between Zimbabwe’s leaders, who have continued butting heads over key issues threatening the fragile unity formation that critics say is doomed to fail.

But despite the dire reality that is understandably preventing foreign investors from committing to Zimbabwe’s development, Finance Minister Tendai Biti has continued his global campaign to encourage international donors to fund the coalition government. Currently, the only international aid entering the country is being channelled through NGOs working on the ground, trying to combat the desperate humanitarian situation that still prevails in Zimbabwe. The United Kingdom has this week pledged another multi-million pound humanitarian aid package, that some observers say is an attempt to ‘head off’ requests for government-to-government aid Minister Biti is set to make this week.

The warning by Human Rights Watch this week has echoed growing concerns that foreign investment in the government will merely support the activities of Mugabe and his cronies, and not filter down to help the country’s suffering people. Georgette Gagnon, Africa Director for Human Rights Watch, this week urged international governments to “withhold longer-term development aid and maintain its targeted sanctions.” She said the unity government in Zimbabwe needs to take “bold, irreversible steps to end human rights abuses and carry out major legislative reforms,” before investment can even be considered.


Gono sponsors Herald ad admitting he stole money from farmers
By Lance Guma
29 April 2009

Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono, battling to block an investigation into his alleged illegal activities at the bank, has splashed out cash to sponsor a 20 page supplement in the state owned Herald newspaper on Monday. In the advert Gono, who is accused by Finance Minister Tendai Biti of running a parallel government structure, admitted raiding US$18 million that was meant to go into the accounts of tobacco farmers. This he did without their authority. On top of owing wheat farmers US$2 million the governor has already admitted taking more than US$30 million from accounts belonging to the country’s gold mines. Astonishingly Gono has promised to pay back the farmers using bags of fertilizer claiming this was, ‘the most direct way of supporting their current season’s production activities.’

Finance Minister Biti is having none of it and prompted a heated debate in cabinet last week by demanding that Gono be investigated. Mugabe however is blocking the move, arguing it is an attempt by the MDC to expose his administration. Gono meanwhile is leaving no stone unturned in his quest to justify his actions. In the adverts he talks about how he used the money to buy cars for ministers, sponsored farmers and other quasi-fiscal activities that he says helped the government survive the harsh economic climate. Other reports also accuse Gono of taking cars from central bank staff in order to give to parliamentarians, in what has turned out to be nothing more than a plot to buy their loyalty and dilute the strength of any enquiry from the legislators.

The trench warfare between Biti and Gono escalated this week with the governor taking a swipe at the reviewed national budget presented by the finance minister. In Gono’s Herald advert he alleged that Biti’s budget had ‘alien pieces of advice’ because it sought to cut activities by the central bank that Gono claimed were ‘crucial’ in helping the country’s farmers. The ad has been seen in some quarters as an attempt to incite war veterans and ZANU PF officials, who have grabbed most of the farms, to revolt against Biti.

Amidst this petty sniping though is a power struggle between ZANU PF and the MDC. Mugabe is determined to hold onto his blue-eyed men like Gono and Attorney General Johannes Tomana, while the MDC wants them relieved of their duties to allow investor and donor confidence to flourish.
But Mugabe is refusing to back down.

Mugabe agrees to swear in Bennett BUT only after court acquittal
By Violet Gonda
29 April 2009

The three principals in the unity government, Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, have met five times recently to discuss the controversies surrounding the implementation of the Global Political Agreement, but they have still failed to come up with a solution. Observers say this ‘dilly-dallying’ has been part of ZANU PF’s strategy to wear the MDC down while not addressing the fundamental issues.

However, it has emerged that Robert Mugabe has agreed to swear into office MDC Deputy Minister of Agriculture appointee Roy Bennett, but only after the former commercial farmer has been acquitted of the charges hanging over his head. Bennett was arrested in February and spent a month in prison, charged with ‘conspiring to acquire arms with a view to disrupting essential services’. Although he is out on bail his trial has yet to start and could drag on for a long time.

MDC insists he is innocent until proven guilty.

Mugabe argues that Bennett is facing serious ‘terrorism’ charges, and that he is only prepared to swear-in the MDC official after his case has been finalised by the courts. Most analysts agree that these are merely trumped up charges and attempts to hamper the MDC. Bennett is also not the only MDC ministerial candidate facing charges in court.

Eric Matinenga, the MDC Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs was sworn into the new government although he has a case pending in the courts for election related public violence. The Minister spent three weeks in remand prison last year after he was arrested when representing his clients – MDC supporters who were facing political persecution. Judgement in his case was set for May 4th and Minister Matinenga is currently working in the inclusive government. Also, MDC Finance Minister Tendai Biti is facing treason charges and his case has not been concluded, and Mugabe appears not to have a problem with this.

It is believed that Mugabe has agreed to give Nelson Chamisa his Communications portforlio back, but as usual there is a catch. MDC insiders said there was a trade-off, and it appears that the ‘monitoring/snooping powers’ which were under Chamisa’s Communications’ portfolio will be given to Nicholas Goche’s Transport and Infrastructural Ministry – the same ministry that had recently been given the Communications portfolio by Mugabe. Some argue that while Mugabe is giving back with one hand, he is taking away with the other.
While the crisis talks remained deadlocked in a number of areas, it has emerged that the rival parties have agreed to share the original positions of governors. It is reported the MDC-T will get 5 governors, ZANU PF 4, and MDC-M 1.
The principals are expected to meet again on Monday to thrash out the unresolved issues that include the appointment of permanent secretaries and ambassadors. Information is not readily available but according to insiders, the parties have so far agreed that 13 current permanent secretaries will remain, while the inclusive government has to review 25. There are still disagreements over how the other 25 permanent secretary positions will be distributed by the political parties. The issue of the ambassadors, farm invasions and media freedoms are still not resolved.
Mugabe had not budged on any of the issues on Monday, but it is understood he made some of these ‘very slight’ concessions after the MDC threatened to boycott Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, and threatened to hold a press conference to expose his insincerity concerning the Global Political Agreement.
Observers say it is clear that the delaying tactics by Mugabe have a motive, and the motive is to stall the reforms spearheaded by the MDC until ZANU PF has access to its assets, frozen under the targeted sanctions. This is why the regime has been pressuring the MDC to push for the removal of targeted sanctions. An MDC MP said: “Like the fresh farm seizures, ZANU PF is aware that this revolution is not stopping and they want their money. They want to try and secure their freedom and get their money that has been blocked as a result of the sanctions. Mugabe knows that if he settles the outstanding issues without securing this, he will lose politically.”

Hidden Story 290409

Shepherd Yuda is the former prison guard who risked his life secretly filming members of the security service being forced to vote under supervision during the one-man presidential run-off last year. He says the only possible way of reforming the prison system is by having a new government which is not ZANU PF led. Yuda describes how prison officers, some of whom cannot read and write, have been promoted to very senior positions that allow them to become officers in charge of prison stations around the country. He says their only qualification was their participation in the 1970’s war of liberation.

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Zimbabwe assets seizures possible to compensate Dutch farmers
By Alex Bell
28 April 2009

Zimbabwe’s government could soon find its assets seized and sold off, if it is unable to financially compensate farmers whose land was seized as part of Robert Mugabe’s land grab.

The decision was handed down in France last week by a Tribunal of the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), which ruled in favour of 13 Dutch farmers whose land was seized in Zimbabwe in 2003. The farms were meant to be protected against Mugabe’s land grab by a Bilateral Investment Treaty between Zimbabwe and the Netherlands. The government’s defence in the case filed by the farmers in 2003, was that a ‘state of necessity’ prevailed during the years following the onset of Mugabe’s land grab in 2000, thereby “relieving Zimbabwe of the responsibility of complying” with the Bilateral Treaty.

But a state of emergency was never declared in Zimbabwe during that time, and the Tribunal last week ordered the government to make compensation to the farmers, to the tune of 16 million euros. The judgement can also be enforced by the seizure of Zimbabwe’s assets, such as Air Zimbabwe planes, in any countries that are members of the World Bank, including the UK. One of the farmers, Ben Funnekotter, born of Dutch parents in Zimbabwe and who now lives in Australia, was one of the first forced off his land by Mugabe’s thugs in 2000. He told the UK’s Daily Telegraph that if the government does not meet the compensation bill “then I will start proceedings to impound any assets belonging to the Zimbabwe government.”

The assets seizures seem a more likely route of compensation for the farmers, as the government is still trying to attract foreign investment in the country to fill its empty coffers. At the same time, even if Zimbabwe’s government was financially sound, it is doubtful that the multi million compensation order would be honoured. Mugabe has continued to defend his land grab that has continued unabated this year, with the dictator openly condoning the attacks that already violate regional and international protection orders on farms.


Elephants flee Zimbabwe as poaching increases
By Alex Bell
28 April 2009

Zimbabwe’s endangered elephants have become the latest ‘refugees’ fleeing the country, moving in their hundreds across the border to the relative safety of Zimbabwe’s neighbours.

According to the independent Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, as many as 400 elephants have crossed the Zambezi River into neighbouring Zambia in recent months. Another three elephants, which roamed into Mutare this month, could soon face slaughter, with state wildlife authorities bent on destroying the animals before they cause human harm. The task force has said this week that increasing human encroachment into areas previously reserved for wildlife has partly driven the sudden migration.

The alarming trend is also being linked to the increase in poaching across the country, which has been crippled by desperate food shortages. Conservationists say that villagers have been torching the bush to drive out even the smallest of animals into the open, to catch for food, and that more fencing around wildlife preserves is needed to stop the poaching. But, more concerning than poaching driven by hunger, is the increase of poaching driven by the almost complete breakdown of law enforcement.

The alarm has already been raised for Zimbabwe’s rare rhino population, although for many years poaching had been relatively well controlled. But now there is an upsurge. Last week a heavily armed rhino poacher, identified as a former army officer, was shot and killed by rangers in southern Zimbabwe. The surge in rhino poaching has been blamed on “well co-ordinated local, regional and international syndicates” and has caught the attention of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), an international regulatory body.

“Rhino poaching is now becoming a very serious concern for us,” the head of the state Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, Morris Mtsambiwa told state media on Monday. “We now have to answer serious questions at CITES.”

The ongoing threat against Zimbabwe’s wildlife is set to further damage the country’s already depleted tourism industry, as game viewing was once a highlight of a Zimbabwe tour. Tourism and photographic safaris have dropped in number significantly in recent years due to the political crisis, but with the ongoing animal slaughter and forced animal migration, there soon won’t be any wildlife left to attract tourists back to the country, when the political madness is over.


Zimbabwe Prison Services needs complete overhaul
By Tichaona Sibanda
28 April 2009

The Ministry of Justice is facing fresh pressure to overhaul its prison facilities, after the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was finally ‘allowed’ to begin work on improving conditions at the prisons.

Andre Jaross, the ICRC deputy head of delegation in Harare, said the organization began work two weeks ago at Chikurubi Maximum Security and Harare Central prisons, and would soon extend its work to other jails across the country.

The government reached an agreement with the ICRC to work in the prisons following shocking reports that emerged in the media that brought international condemnation.

Film taken secretly in the prisons showed living skeletons, unable to move, and makeshift mortuaries filled with bodies. A prison sentence in Zimbabwe today is almost a guaranteed death sentence. Prisoners who have no family to bring them extra food are virtually guaranteed a slow and very painful death.

Shepherd Yuda, a former prison officer, told us prisoners are packed into dark, airless, lice-infested cells, where they are exposed to life-threatening diseases like AIDS and tuberculosis, for which they receive little or no medical treatment.

Yuda urged the ICRC to do more than simply assess conditions in prisons, and urged them to evaluate inmates’ requirements and prepare a report for the government. He said they should call for an overhaul of the whole prison system, starting from top to bottom.

Yuda blames Prisons Commissioner Paradzai Zimondi for the decay in the prison system. He said that before Zimondi took over the country’s prison system was one of the best in the Southern African region.

‘We used to have standards and guarantees about the treatment of prisoners: an individual, whatever his or her crimes, must not be tortured; must not be held in unsanitary or unsafe conditions that could place him in danger or lead to his death; he is entitled to adequate nourishment and medical care. He is, above all, entitled to his dignity. Yet this basic right is routinely being flouted throughout the prison system in Zimbabwe,’ Yuda said.

‘Every single level of authority in our country has failed our prisoners. Overcrowding and tight budgets create an atmosphere ripe for disease, abuse and violence. Right now our prisons don’t help rehabilitate anyone. Conditions in the system create monsters instead of reforming,’ Yuda added.

Human-rights groups have also voiced their concern about the prison conditions in the country. They said it will take a major reform of the entire system to eradicate the kind of practices prevalent in the prisons.

ZimOnline reported on Monday that a local prisoners’ rights group, the Zimbabwe Association for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation of the Offender (ZACRO), said at least two inmates die everyday from hunger and disease at Chikurubi and Harare Central – the country’s two biggest jails.

The Website said most prisoners have to survive on a single meal per day of sadza and cabbage boiled in salted water, because there is no money to buy adequate supplies.


IMF agrees to set up multi donor trust fund for Zimbabwe
By Violet Gonda
28 April 2009

Finance Minister Tendai Biti was expected to leave the US on Tuesday evening, following a fundraising trip to try and get immediate financial rescue packages from the US government, the International Monetary fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

It is understood that although there was no sign of an immediate bail out by the institutions, the IMF has agreed to set up a multi donor trust fund to be run by itself, the United Nations Development Program, the World Bank and the African Development Bank. It’s reported the money will be used ‘for budgetary support until the inclusive government has a track record’.

Massive corruption and the bad financial policies of the Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono have meant that the Zimbabwean government has no economic credibility. It is understood that this trust fund will be used as a stop gap measure, until such a time as the government can be trusted by the international funding institutions. The funds will be sent direct to Tendai Biti’s Ministry of Finance and will completely bypass the Reserve Bank.

The news comes after the IMF’s Africa Department Director, Antoinette Sayeh, said that the actions taken recently by the inclusive government were ‘encouraging’ and urged other international donors to assist. She said in a statement: “It’s the context in which we think there is a window of opportunity in Zimbabwe that is worthy of support by the international community.”

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwean delegation also held meetings with senior US officials from the Treasury, National Security Council and State Department.

The Finance Minister told reporters that he had appealed to the Americans to support the inclusive government as it was ‘the only game in town’, but the US government said they are concerned about the continuing farm invasions and unresolved Global Political Agreement issues, including the controversial role of Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono.

Biti said this was an historic meeting as it was the first time that the Zimbabwe government had directly re-engaged with the US government since the US slapped targeted sanctions on the Mugabe regime. Biti agreed that for the international community to open up the flow of aid efforts have to be made to implement the GPA to its letter and spirit.


Unity government talks on the verge of collapse
Lance Guma
28 April 2009

The 5th meeting between Morgan Tsvangirai, Robert Mugabe and Arthur Mutambara, aimed at resolving outstanding issues in the coalition government, teetered on the edge of collapse Tuesday. Mugabe continues to refuse to back down on his unilateral amendments and violations to the unity deal, and all his coalition partners have been able to do is declare them ‘null and void’. Although the South African Business Day newspaper reported that talks held on Monday remained deadlocked ‘after long hours of intense discussions’ Tsvangirai’s spokesman James Maridadi insisted Mondays’ meeting was brief and only sought to set the agenda for the next meeting.

On Tuesday that meeting took place around 3pm, soon after the normal Tuesday cabinet meeting. Maridadi was reluctant to say if there was any progress on the issues that have paralyzed the government so far. Under dispute is how Mugabe unilaterally stripped away the communications sector from a ministry controlled by the MDC, has dragged his feet on swearing in Deputy Agriculture Minister designate Roy Bennett, encouraged fresh farms invasions and kept mum on the continued detention of political prisoners. The appointment of governors, ambassadors and permanent secretaries is another issue that the parties have also failed to agree on.

Over the weekend Tsvangirai told an MDC rally in Chinhoyi that there was ‘no going back on the unity government’ and that he was working well with Mugabe. ‘We respect each other, although we may disagree. There’s nothing Mugabe does without me approving and there is nothing I do without him approving,’ he added. His supporters expressed worries he might have spoken too soon and dug himself into a hole over the remarks. Evidence so far suggests Mugabe has no intention of backing down, despite theories that its hardliners in ZANU PF who are trying to torpedo the deal. ‘He remains firmly in charge and focused on undermining Tsvangirai by giving him responsibility without authority,’ one commentator told us.

The MDC meanwhile has also come under criticism for being too optimistic in the face of glaring evidence that the stalemate will persist. A few months ago it was former South African President Thabo Mbeki being accused of practicing ‘quite diplomacy’ in his dealings with Mugabe, now the MDC face the same accusation, of being too soft and accommodating of the ZANU PF leader.

Both ZANU PF and the MDC had agreed all outstanding issues should be solved by the end of April but Tuesday’s meeting represented the last day to do this as most government officials were taking evening flights to the International Trade Fair in Bulawayo. Tsvangirai was due to catch a morning flight on Wednesday while Mutambara, Nelson Chamisa, Gorden Moyo and others traveled Tuesday evening. Mugabe is also traveling but his itinerary was not yet known.

The Bulawayo Trade Fair has gathered very little support this year from companies both local and international. Observers have expressed concern that talks on which the future of the entire nation depends are not regarded as important as a Trade Fair.


Diaspora Diaries 280409

Alex Bell discusses the various options available to the unity government to rebuild the shattered economy, including joining the Southern African Common Monetary Area (CMA), which currently includes Namibia, Swaziland and Lesotho. Economist John Robertson explains that while there would be tremendous gains in joining the CMA, Zimbabwe would first need to qualify to satisfy the concerns of the group’s other members. He says Zimbabwe is a long way from meeting these standards, but restoring property rights and the rule of law would significantly change Zimbabwe’s

Different Points of View 280409

Duane questions whether or not it is appropriate to let bygones be bygones at this inconclusive time of blatant disregard for firm agreements with no evidence of repentance or expectation that things will miraculously change in the future.

Callback 280409

Dzinganisai describes the current situation as ‘beyond pathetic’ with a supposed new dispensation in power, yet farm invasions and political detentions still continuing; while Kureva has faith in the new GNU and says that he is certain of changes for the better that will eventually lead to free and fair elections.

Callback 270409

Chateka says that even though the recent Independence Day celebrations were focused on unity, the GNU is still much divided; Jeff also raises concerns about the GNU – he says that they have been in place long enough to have started demonstrating some changes, but that is not the case, and, Dhewa says that the Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has made things better for the people but if he were solely in power he would be able to do more.

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Makumbe: Tsvangirai covering up for Mugabe’s misdemeanours
By Violet Gonda
27 April 2009

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has been making statements that people find hard to reconcile with events on the ground. There is speculation as to whether he is trying too hard to make this controversial unity government work.
This weekend he told thousands of party supporters: “We respect each other, although we may disagree. There’s nothing (Robert) Mugabe does without me approving and there is nothing I do without him approving.”
People are questioning what could have made the Prime Minister make such a statement, at a time when his own Director of Security, Chris Dhlamini, and former aide Gandhi Mudzingwa, are being hounded by the police and are under an illegal arrest. And to what extent has the Prime Minister been consulted on the ZANU PF led violent farm invasions campaign?

Observers say the trouble is by saying such things Tsvangirai makes himself equally responsible or accepting liability for ZANU PF’s wrongdoings. If it is the case that the two leaders respect and consult each other, did Mugabe consult Tsvangirai when he appointed his own governors and permanent secretaries? If it is true that there’s nothing Mugabe does without Tsvangirai approval, why are the political rivals locked in a stalemate over issues to do with appointments of the Reserve Bank Governor and the Attorney General?

Political commentator Professor John Makumbe said: “I think it’s an exaggeration of the reality on the ground in the sense that there are things that Mugabe has done without consulting either Morgan or Arthur (Mutambara) and these things have been challenged by Tsvangirai and Mutambara. So I think he is really covering for Mugabe’s misdemeanours – which is really not necessary. He should tell it like it is, that it is a daily battle and that Mugabe would like to run the country as if the MDC or the GNU do not exist.”

To some extent it is natural for a politician to put a spin on government policies, to remain consistent with the principle of collective responsibility. Makumbe also believes that to some extent the Prime Minister is left with little choice, saying a collapsed government of national unity could mean going straight back to violence.

But the commentator added that Tsvangirai does not have to try so hard to sanitise Mugabe’s appalling behaviour.

International donors are not fooled by this inclusive arrangement and have repeatedly said they will only increase the flow of aid to Zimbabwe when the government respects the rule of law and property rights.


Student leader still in custody 6 days on
By Lance Guma
27 April 2009

The Zimbabwe National Students Union has issued a statement slamming the continued incarceration of Courage Ngwarai, their secretary for legal affairs who was arrested 6 days ago. On the 21st April Ngwarai and 22 other students were arrested in Masvingo, following a demonstration at the Great Zimbabwe University. Students were protesting against the exorbitant fee structure which has been pegged in foreign currency.

Although the other 22 students were released on Friday, ZINASU is worried that the state has opened fresh charges against Ngwarai, dating back to 2007 when he led previous student demonstrations. The students union called for his release and urged, ‘the inclusive government to loosen the primitive measures which the police have traditionally taken against innocent and peaceful students’ protests. The arrest and detention of Ngwarai flies in the face of the spirit of the Global Political Agreement and is a violation of human rights and academic freedoms.’
Meanwhile 3 students from the Midlands State University in Gweru, who were suspended indefinitely for leading protests against the dollarization of fees, are expected to appear before a disciplinary hearing on Tuesday. Obert Masaraure, Prince Ncube and Arthur Maboshe were suspended in February this year. Lawyer Brian Dube will be representing them.


Crisis government talks postponed amid reports of tensions
By Alex Bell
27 April 2009

Crisis talks between Zimbabwe’s government leaders were postponed after a brief meeting on Monday, amid reports of a tense atmosphere brewing between the country’s three main principals.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara have been locked in discussion with Robert Mugabe over key outstanding issues, such as the appointment of governors, permanent secretaries and the recent attempts to weaken the power of Nelson Chamisa’s Information Communication Technology Ministry. Last week’s round of talks all proved inconclusive, with the meeting being rescheduled to Monday.

The Prime Minister’s spokesperson James Maridadi explained on Monday that the meeting to discuss the outstanding issues convened as planned, but was adjourned later in the day, until Tuesday. But a source close to the talks has told SW Radio Africa that Monday’s meeting was ‘tense’, a likely cause of the yet unexplained postponement.
The tensions are in direct contrast to public statements made by the Prime Minister over the weekend, where he said there was no going back on the unity government. He was addressing supporters at a rally in Chinoyi, where he called for reconciliation among the country’s political opponents. Tsvangirai expressed satisfaction with the progress of the inclusive government so far, as well as his dealings with Mugabe, saying: “There is nothing Mugabe does without me approving. There is nothing I do without Mugabe approving.”
His statements came a day after his MDC party on Friday said the failure by the government’s leaders to resolve the outstanding issues is threatening the viability of the unity government. In a sign of growing frustration at the talks, the MDC said the delays to resolve the outstanding issues and several other problems had left the country with a “handicapped government” that was not fully functional.
Tsvangirai’s ‘satisfaction’ with the government will therefore likely need explaining, as will the apparent relationship of approval that Tsvangirai has said he maintains with Mugabe.
If the Prime Minister’s approval is sought over various violations of the Global Political Agreement, this would have serious negative implications, as so far they have all been attributed to Mugabe.


Judge reserves ruling over political detainees’ re-arrest
By Violet Gonda
27 April 2009

Two MDC officials and a freelance journalist continue to fight for their freedom in the courts, even though they were lawfully released out of police custody more than a week ago. On Monday their lawyers made an urgent High Court application to remove the armed police guards at the hospital, where Chris Dhlamini and Gandhi Mudzingwa are receiving treatment.

The police are also searching for freelance journalist Shadreck Andrison Manyere and have been looking for him at his house to re-arrest him, but they have failed to locate him. Lawyer Alex Muchadehama said his bail condition merely stipulated that he must reside at his place but did not say he must always be there.

Muchadehama said despite the fact that the three were lawfully released on bail on April 17, armed police are illegally guarding his clients – Dhlamini and Mudzingwa – at the Avenues Clinic. He said the police are continuing with their unlawful actions even though they “have no court order which allows them to continue guarding them and they have not re-arrested them for any new charges.”

High Court judge Justice Bharat Patel reserved judgment on this matter to Thursday.

The three are among a group of people accused of plotting to destabilise the Mugabe regime through acts of banditry and sabotage. Scores of activists have been released on bail but there appears to be a concerted effort to single out Dhlamini, Mudzingwa and Manyere in particular.

Prior to Monday’s hearing the State had also made a court application on Saturday in which it argued that the three accused persons were improperly released and should be sent back to Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison. But the defence counsel said the State was approaching the court with dirty hands as they had already incarcerated the MDC officials without any court order and without following any legal procedures.

The matter was heard by Justice Chinembiri Bhunu – the judge who initially granted the State the right to appeal to the Supreme Court against a decision granting bail to three on the 17th. But the accused persons were on that same day released because the State had been granted leave to appeal outside the seven day period.

Muchadehama asked for the judge to recuse himself in the latest matter, because he had already ruled in favour of the State and also argued that the application was supposed to have been heard by Justice Hungwe, the High Court judge who had initially heard the bail application. Eventually Justice Bhunu recused himself and is expected to refer this matter to another judge.

The court battles continue and the State maintains the police will remain guarding the MDC officials and will continue looking for the journalist, to re-arrest him.


Wounded Chegutu farm worker arrested
By Alex Bell
27 April 2009

A Chegutu farm worker who was wounded after police opened fire on Stockdale citrus farm last week, has been arrested and is being held and questioned by police.

The farm worker and a colleague were both struck in the legs when police fired random shots at the vehicle the workers were travelling in on the farm property last Tuesday. They had accompanied the farm’s owner, Peter Etheredge to inspect the farm that has been forcibly taken over by the President of the Senate, Edna Madzongwe. Madzongwe has refused to leave the land that most of Stockdale’s employees and the Etheredge family have been forced to flee. The Senate President, who has timed her invasion to coincide with the profitable orange harvest season, has since enlisted the assistance of the Chegutu police to guard the farm.

Peter Etheredge was arrested after the police attack on Tuesday and spent almost four days behind bars. He was released on Friday, but the harassment has continued this weekend with one of his wounded employees being arrested. The worker now joins another seven Chegutu farm workers who have been hauled behind bars in recent weeks, as part of the ongoing offensive against the commercial farming community. The other seven detained staff, all from Chegutu’s Mount Carmel farm, were arrested more than two weeks ago and are being held on trumped up kidnapping charges. The rest of Mount Carmel’s staff is in hiding for fear of their lives, as invaders have almost completely taken over the land.

No effort is being made by the police to stop the illegal takeovers, and in most cases the police have been wholly supportive of the sometimes violent activities. In Chegutu, which has been worst hit by the fresh wave of attacks, the farming community has been left with little option but to wait and see what the government’s decision on land reform will be. It follows a visit by a ministerial delegation more than a week ago that was tasked to probe the farm attacks. The delegation, led by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, called for an end to the invasions, and ordered the invaders to stop preventing critical farming activities. But the orders have been ignored, in a clear sign that the MDC still has no power in the unity government, with Robert Mugabe still firmly in charge.

Meanwhile, thirteen commercial farmers in Guruve have been granted ‘offer letters’ and are now being allowed to stay on the land that is legally theirs. It is being reported in the state’s mouthpiece publication, The Herald, that the farmers have been “complying with all the terms of the Land Reform Programme” and were “co-operative and hardworking.” The move has prompted an angry response from observers, as the farmers do not require any form of permission to stay on their own land.



Mutambara MDC deny suspending former MP Sikhala
By Lance Guma
27 April 2009

The MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara has denied suspending its Secretary for Defence and Security, Job Sikhala, for organizing an ‘unsanctioned’ rally at which he attacked the party president. The maverick former St Mary’s MP has so far held 3 rallies in which he has accused Mutambara of being too close to Mugabe, to the detriment of the party’s image. Sikhala claims that when Mutambara praised Robert Mugabe as the‘Father of Africa’ and also ‘the best leader Africa has ever produced’ the party members were ashamed to move in the streets and the MDC-M suffered irreparable damage.

Speaking to Newsreel on Monday deputy party spokesman Renson Gasela denied any knowledge of a decision being made to suspend Sikhala. Several online websites have covered a story claiming Sikhala had been suspended and that, ‘an announcement will be made on Monday or Tuesday.’ They claimed Sikhala will be ‘on suspension pending a disciplinary hearing that would be conducted within a certain period of time according to the party’s constitution.’ All quoted an unnamed party source, claiming the decision was reached during a meeting chaired by Lyson Mlambo, the party’s Secretary for Disciplinary Affairs.

But Sikhala told Newsreel on Monday that the story had been planted in the media by party officials ‘trying to test the waters’ and gauge the reaction to a possible suspension. He also said he had not received any letter notifying him of the reported suspension, as claimed in the story. Pressed on whether reports linking him and Nkayi South legislator Abednico Bhebhe to the formation of a breakaway faction of the Mutambara MDC were true, Sikhala denied this. Instead he said they were seeking, ‘a process of purification to get rid of ZANU PF moles who are trying to yoke the party to Mugabe.’

Meanwhile there are reports that the planned transformation of Dr Simba Makoni’s Mavambo Movement, into a full fledged political party, has been put on ice. A report in The Zimbabwean newspaper quotes Makoni’s spokesman Godfrey Chanetsa saying; ‘Makoni didn’t see it fit to launch the party when there is bickering in the movement. New dates for the launch will be decided once there is peace in the movement.’ Problems erupted last year in October when several provincial executives sought to topple Makoni, demanding among other things that he account for financial resources donated to the party.

Letter from America 270409

Dr. Stan Mukasa comments on the newly-elected South Africa president Jacob Zuma’s prospects in resolving the continuing dispute in Zimbabwe.

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