Rebuilding Zimbabwe 180409

Tichaona’s guest is pro-democracy activist Daniel Molokela. Political commentators have been criticising the call by Southern African leaders for US$8 billion to be given to Zimbabwe to rebuild the economy, what are Daniel’s thoughts on the subject?

Newsreel 170409

Comprehensive process of national healing is required
By Lance Guma
17 April 2009

Respected political commentator Dr Alex Magaisa has said the country needs a comprehensive process of national healing, that will also cover atrocities and abuses that took place even before independence in 1980. Speaking to Newsreel on Friday Magaisa said ‘accountability’ was the key word that would allow justice and reconciliation to be possible. He stressed that there was also no use in being selective about the time frame, as the country risked having a particular group of people bitter about what happened in the past.

The topic of reconciliation and national healing has continued to dog the new coalition government, which was formed on the back of the murder of over 200 MDC supporters last year and the displacement of thousands. ZANU PF and Mugabe, who lost the elections to the MDC last year, deployed members of the security forces to carry out a countrywide operation assassinating key opposition figures in the grassroots structures. Thousands were also tortured. The unity deal cobbled together by South Africa has left the victims bitter and demanding justice.

Magaisa urged the recently established ‘Organ on National healing’ to identify what he called the ‘national wound’ which would ‘symbolise the wrongful acts or omissions that have been committed against individuals and communities over the years. Some are obvious and well-known, such as the Matabeleland atrocities, others less so and perhaps forgotten, such as what happened during the colonial era and the war years.’ Only a comprehensive national healing process will solve the country’s many problems, he said.

The academic, who is based at the University of Kent in the United Kingdom, said ‘the wrongful acts visited upon citizens under the guise of Operation Murambatsvina in 2005, the violence, the killings, torture, loss of property and various other wrongful acts committed against individuals, especially during election periods,’ should all be addressed.
In October last year three researchers from the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace saw firsthand the need for national healing after they began interviewing hundreds of torture victims. Coordinator Joel Nkunsane said; ‘It was just horrible. We were reopening the wounds. We were listening, then we would leave them in pain, without giving any help.’ They set up a reconciliation process in Chitungwiza and although they got 17 victims for a 3 day workshop the ZANU PF perpetrators were reluctant to come and in the end only 7 pitched up.
That workshop was however still able to prove that even the perpetrators who are haunted by their deeds want to be able to talk it over with their victims and have forgiveness, to be able to live in peace and harmony. But in the absence of a proper mechanism they will be reluctant to come out and confess.


Mbeki recalled to define Mugabe’s powers
By Violet Gonda
17 April 2009

It’s reported that Thursday’s discussions between Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, over the outstanding issues facing the unity government, hit a brick wall after Mugabe insisted that he has the right to make independent decisions.

We could not get official comment but sources close to the discussions said the principals were supposed to meet again on Friday, but that didn’t happen.

Our source said the principals have now agreed that it was pointless to meet Friday because of Mugabe’s attitude. So they have agreed to invite former South African President Thabo Mbeki to a meeting on Monday, so that he can interpret the terms of the global agreement regarding Mugabe’s powers.

There has been an ongoing wrangle between the rival parties over key issues, such as the appointments of governors, permanent secretaries and ambassadors, plus the land invasions and the freeing of the media.

The 85 year old leader is also refusing to shift on the issue of the appointments of the Attorney General Johannes Tomana and Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono, despite the two MDC formations insisting that the appointments were irregular.

And most recently Mugabe has been refusing to swear in Roy Bennett, the MDC Deputy Minister of Agriculture designate, and has stripped Nelson Chamisa’s Information Ministry, of the department of communications.


Prosecutors get permission to block detainees bail in Supreme Court
By Violet Gonda
17 April 2009

On Friday a High Court Judge granted the Attorney General’s office permission to appeal against the granting of bail to three political detainees.
MDC officials Ghandi Mudzingwa and Chris Dhlamini, plus freelance journalist Shadreck Manyere will remain in jail as the political games over their detention continue.

Welshman Ncube, one of the JOMIC chairpersons, said recently that the monitoring group had been trying to get the Executive, the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General to stop blocking the granting of bail to the three accused. But Friday’s ruling clearly shows the Attorney General’s office wants to prolong their continued detention. They have been in custody more than four months, after their abduction by state security agents in December.

Last week Justice Charles Hungwe granted them bail, but the Attorney General’s office immediately invoked a section of the Criminal Act to oppose this.

The State’s application seeking leave to appeal in the Supreme Court was heard on Wednesday and a ruling on the matter was decided on Friday, when the High Court gave the State leave to appeal the granting of bail in the Supreme Court.

This means Mudzingwa and Chris Dhlamini will remain under police guard at the Avenues Clinic, where they are receiving treatment after they were tortured by state agents after their abduction. Manyere remains at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.
The three are among a group of civil and political activists who were abducted from their homes last year and are accused of an alleged plot to overthrow the Mugabe regime. They deny all the charges.
On the eve of Independence Day commemorations calls were being made for a return to the rule of law in Zimbabwe. Respected human rights group Amnesty International warned that the continuing human rights abuses undermine the inclusive government. Amnesty expressed particular concern about the continued detention of Mudzingwa, Dhlamini and Manyere and also said they face charges widely believed to be fabricated by ZANU PF.

The rights group said other detainees released in March, including civic leader Jestina Mukoko, also still face charges and this raises real doubts about the government’s commitment to ending the culture of human rights violations against perceived opponents.

Simeon Mawanza, Amnesty International’s expert on Zimbabwe warned: “A lot of hope is invested in this new inclusive government, and they must establish the rule of law and a climate of respect for human rights to maintain their credibility worldwide. This is a very critical phase they are in.”

The rights body also criticised the government for failing to investigate reports of missing activists who were allegedly abducted by state agents between October and December 2008. “It is a scandal that the new government has still not fully investigated the enforced disappearances of more than 30 people last year. Nor have allegations of torture and ill-treatment by the victims been investigated by the authorities. In fact, the state appears to be protecting the perpetrators,” said Mawanza.

Amnesty said it was especially disappointed by the “hands-off attitude” by SADC and the African Union, despite clear evidence showing that ZANU PF is undermining the Global Political Agreement.


MDC MP remains in Chipinge prison
By Violet Gonda
17 April 2009

Mathias Mlambo, the MDC MP for Chipinge East, is being held in police custody. He was arrested Monday for allegedly inciting violence at a funeral of an MDC member who died recently. Magistrate Zuze said he did not have time to study the bail submissions made by the legal teams and will only give his ruling next Wednesday.
The MP was granted bail on Tuesday and was ordered to pay bail of US$10, reside at his home, report once a week to police and not interfere with the police. But he remains in Chipinge Remand Prison because of a disagreement by the legal teams over his bail conditions.
His lawyer Langton Mhungu is arguing that his client is innocent and should not be made to report once a week as this interferes with his work as an MP. He also says it is impossible for him not to interfere with police because the key witness is a police officer, who caused his arrest.
An altercation had erupted last Friday between ZANU PF and MDC supporters at the funeral of the MDC member in Chipinge. It is alleged that ZANU PF supporters came to the funeral and started mocking the MDC, resulting in a fight breaking out. Mlambo says he was at the graveside burying the deceased with other mourners and was not aware that a fight had started elsewhere at the funeral. The police were called in and it is alleged that a police officer discharged a firearm into the air causing a serious commotion.
Mlambo went to report the incident to the local police station, but he was the one who ended up being detained. He was charged with obstructing or defeating the course of justice and stands accused of preventing police officers from arresting people who were involved in the altercation.
Hi lawyer said the people who were allegedly assaulted remain unknown and no one else was apprehended.
The MP told his lawyer that when he tried to confront the police officer after he discharged his firearm, the officer mockingly told him to go and report the matter to his Prime Minister – referring to Morgan Tsvangirai.
The MDC spokesperson for Manicaland, Pishai Muchauraya, said the arrest of the MP has nothing to do with alleged crimes committed but that there is still an agenda by ZANU PF to harass the MDC. He said: “We also realised that Mugabe is running parallel government structures, with his own court systems, meant to just frustrate us.”
The outspoken MDC MP said there is a big difference between what the chefs are saying at the top and what is happening on the ground, where not much has changed since the formation of the inclusive government two months ago. “At the top there is talk of unity and inclusivity, but on the ground there is exclusivity and impunity.”
Meanwhile Muchauraya also said 12 MDC activists who were arrested in early April on charges of extortion and assault in Buhera, were finally granted bail of US$10 each on Friday.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said: “10 of the accused persons are facing charges of extortion in that on 17 March 2009 and at Makumbe Village, the accused persons threatened to assault one Alphas Nhachi for having stolen their chickens during the 2008 presidential run-off elections and recovered six chickens from Nhachi.”
“The other two MDC members are facing allegations of assault in that they assaulted one Philip Gundungwa, whom they accused of murdering their mother during the 2008 presidential run-off election period.”
The Human rights lawyers, led by Blessing Nyamaropa, report that the political environment in Buhera remain tense and that some members of the army who are still present in the area, are instigating the arrests instead of the police. The group said army officials are reportedly giving instructions to court officials on how they should treat suspects.


Riots break out at NUST University over forex fees
By Lance Guma
17 April 2009

Over 30 students were arrested Thursday after riots broke out at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Bulawayo. Close to 1000 students, unhappy with exorbitant fees pegged in foreign currency, clashed with riot police who were armed with rubber truncheons, sjamboks, tear gas canisters and AK-47 assault rifles. The students marched from the Delta Lecture theatre, where the Students Representative Council President Kurai Hoyi, and former Secretary General Vivid Gwede, had earlier addressed them.
An attempt to meet Vice Chancellor Professor Lindela Ndlovu at his offices was however scuppered by the police, who fired teargas canisters and used brute force to beat up everyone on sight. Students retaliated by throwing stones at the police. Out of the 30 initially arrested, 19 were released after a screening process at the Bulawayo Central Police station, leaving 11 still locked up. Hoyi, who led the protests, told Newsreel even residents from neighbouring suburbs like Matshemlope, Riverside and Selbourne Park fell victim to ‘the barbaric and violent police officers who went on a rampage terrorizing them.’

During the skirmishes 2 students from the university were run over by a passing Mazda pick up truck outside the campus. They were said to be fleeing the advancing riot police when they were knocked over. Both have since been admitted to the United Bulawayo Hospital and their condition is still unknown. Thursday’s protests follow on from another protest held by students last week in which 6 students were arrested. The majority of students are failing to pay the US$375 to US$620 being demanded by the university in fees, before they are allowed to sit for their exams.

Despite police holding 11 students the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) claims the force is still looking to arrest the 4 student leaders who led the protest. These are President Kurayi Hoyi, Secretary General Samson Nxumalo, former Secretary General Vivid Gwede and ZINASU Finance Secretary Sheunesu Nyoni. ZINASU issued a statement condemning ‘the vicious and barbaric actions’ of the police, arguing this was ‘a clear indication that the operating environment for students and human rights defenders has not changed despite the formation of the inclusive government.’
Meanwhile the 11 students currently being detained by police have been listed as Trevor Vambe, Brighton Mukwari, Christopher Hwada, Brighton Mukwari, Fortune Karimanzira, Kennedy Chizana, Michael Zvinowanda, Evans Musara, Mukai Chigumo, Lawrence Bhebhe and Tawanda Saiti. All of them are being charged with malicious injury to property.


Exiles to demand amnesty for Zim prisoners during London demo
By Alex Bell
17 April 2009

As Zimbabweans gather to celebrate Independence Day on Saturday, exiles in the UK will be using the day to demand amnesty for all prisoners inside Zimbabwe’s jails.

The demonstration in London has been organised by protest group the Zimbabwe Vigil, which has been demonstrating outside the Zimbabwean Embassy in the British capital every Saturday for almost seven years. The group has vowed to keep protesting until free, fair and democratic elections are held in Zimbabwe to usher in a period of real change.

The Vigil’s coordinator, Rose Benton, explained that this Saturday’s event will be highlighted by a demonstration calling for a blanket amnesty for all Zimbabwe’s suffering prisoners. The group’s demand follows the recent screening of a shock TV documentary entitled ‘Hell Hole’, which revealed the true horror of Zimbabwe’s prisons. The film, produced by a South African filmmaking team and broadcast by the SABC, showed hidden camera footage of emaciated and ill prisoners, literally starving to death in filthy conditions in three of Zimbabwe’s main jails.

The film has sparked outcry from international human rights groups and is visual evidence of the rights abuses still taking place in Zimbabwe, despite the formation of the unity government. Benton explained that the Vigil’s demand for prisoner amnesty is a ‘challenge’ to the unity government, which, despite global condemnation of the prison situation, has done nothing except deny the situation is real.

Benton said that the government should only imprison the number of people the prison system can cope with humanely, and explained that other prisoners “should be given non-custodial penalties.”

“After all,” Benton added, “most people still inside prison are saints compared to the havoc that has been caused and is still being caused by ZANU PF thugs.”

The protest on Saturday afternoon will include speeches from former Zimbabwean prisoners, who will talk about their experiences, and there will also be accounts from torture victims. A collection will be started to help pay for food, in order to feed Zimbabwe’s starving prisoners.


No end to sanctions without rule of law
Friday 17 April
Staff writer

US Ambassador James McGee, met Deputy Prime Minister
Arthur Mutambara on Thursday morning to discuss America’s concerns over the lack of the rule of law in Zimbabwe.

Speaking to journalists after the meeting Mutambara said the US insists that targeted sanctions against the ruling elite will not be lifted, until clear signs of progress in the unity government and around the rule of law.

Mutambara is quoted as saying: “The Americans are concerned about our misbehaviour, about transgressions against ourselves. They are very keen to see results around the inclusive nature of this government. They want to see an effective implementation of the outstanding matters in the Global Political Agreement.”

The political prisoners who are still in detention and the continuing violent farm invasions are just two of the key issues that indicate that the MDC still has no real power. But Mutambara insists the US should lift the targeted sanction, even though little progress is evident on the ground. “So I told McGee and his friend that you must be careful as you deny us assistance, as you deny us credit line and investment, you are actually playing into the hands of those hawks and those foolish people who are undermining this government because their desire is to see a collapse.”

The lifting of the targeted sanctions appears to be Mugabe’s only interest in going along with the unity government. Speaking to the state owned television broadcaster ahead of the independence day celebrations, he once again went on about the importance of lifting the sanctions while urging the nation to be ‘patient’ with the MDC, saying they have ‘psychological difficulties’ over the sanctions and should be helped to get over that.

Meanwhile the United States embassy in Harare announced on Thursday the lifting of travel warnings, issued to American citizens in 2002, about Zimbabwe. Whether this will improve the tourism situation in Zimbabwe remains to be seen.

Hotseat 170409

Violet presents this week’s Hotseat with part 2 of the interview with Professor Welshman Ncube, the Minister of Industry and Commerce and co-chair of JOMIC. He talks about the many problems he has inherited in his new ministry and what measures is he taking to try to make it viable. How is he dealing with ongoing chaos at the Beitbridge border post, and corruption around the duty charged on imported items? Also, how is he dealing with corruption at parastatals, like Ziscosteel?

On the Pulse 170409

Lance Guma and Brilliant Pongo preview the debut album from Rassie AI entitled ‘Return To Life’. Rassie says the album, ‘is a therapy for the loss of my brother that perpetually haunts me. So in a way it is his, because his spirit inspired it and led throughout its production.’ Kudakwashe Musasiwa who is part of the KYN record label that produced the album came onto the show to talk about Rassie’s work. He tells the show rather proudly they made sure, ‘the music was peppered by haunting and enchanting mbiras, endearing snares, African percussion and folksy acoustic guitar work.’

Callback 170409

Mai Mwendamberi says that children still can’t go to school as they are being sent home for not having money for fees; Poison reports that apart from those who are beneficiaries, most members of the defence forces are fed up with ZANU PF and they now want to see the MDC in power, and Thompson complains that things haven’t changed since the GNU came into power and they have had to endure daily load shedding of electricity.

Newsreel 160409

Coalition Executive hold inaugural meeting
By Violet Gonda
16 April 2009

Since the formation of the coalition government the MDC has been running around trying to put out fires created by ZANU PF, but Robert Mugabe has been consistent from the very beginning in making unilateral decisions such as the appointment of permanent secretaries and governors. He has also refused to budge on the issue of the appointments of the Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono and Attorney General Johannes Tomana, despite the two MDC formations insisting that the appointments were irregular.

Prime Minister Tsvangirai had resolved to discuss the outstanding issues of the Global Political Agreement in March, but suffered a tragic setback when he was involved in a car accident which killed his wife, Susan. When he returned to work at the beginning of April a meeting had been scheduled, but again had to be postponed over yet another tragedy – the death of his 3 year old grandson who drowned in the swimming pool at his Harare home.

It was reported that the principals would finally meet on Thursday, to thrash out the outstanding issues. According to James Maridadi, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson, Thursday did see a closed door meeting of the top six executive members, but apparently no substantive issues were discussed.

Maridadi said this was just the inaugural meeting of the Government Executive Committee, comprising Mugabe and his two Deputies (Joice Mujuru and Joseph Msika), plus Tsvangirai and his Deputies (Thokozani Khupe and Arthur Mutambara). Maridadi said the meeting was aimed at setting the ‘ground rules’ of how the top six should operate and allocate responsibilities. He gave no other information as to how responsibilities were actually allocated.

It is understood the three principals – Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara – are expected to finally meet on Friday to discuss the outstanding issues of the GPA. The main items on the agenda are the freeing of the media; the catastrophic land invasions; the controversial appointments of governors, permanent secretaries and ambassadors; the swearing in of Roy Bennett, the MDC Deputy Minister of Agriculture designate and also the controversy over Nelson Chamisa’s Ministry, which had the department of communications stripped from it’s mandate by Mugabe last week.

MDC sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, say the Prime Minister is expected to put his foot down and demand that all outstanding issues must be resolved by the end of April. It is not clear what will happen if Mugabe fails to meet that deadline and he has a long history of not responding well to ultimatums. Tsvangirai has also a long history of not following up on his own deadlines.

Observers widely believe that the behaviour of ZANU PF since the inclusive government clearly shows that the Mugabe regime is still not interested in the welfare of the country, but is only interested in securing its own interests. The only issues they seem to want to focus on are the end to the targeted sanctions against Mugabe and the ruling party chefs and trying to pressure the international community to provide billions of dollars, with no accountability.

Many frustrated Zimbabweans are wondering why the MDC did not put its foot down at the beginning and demand immediate action over the more important key crises which are crippling the country. Murders are still taking place on farms, but there appears to be no real move to deal with this.

After months of violent farm invasions, the Prime Minister has appointed a ministerial taskforce to probe disruptions on farms. Maridadi said the team, which will be led by Arthur Mutambara, comprises Ministers Kembo Mohadi and Giles Mutsekwa of Home Affairs, Joseph Made the Agriculture Minister, Herbert Murerwa, Minister of Lands and Gorden Moyo, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office.

“This probe has been necessitated by recent reports of fresh farm invasions just days before the start of the winter wheat season. The team will, tomorrow Friday 17 April 2009, make unannounced appearances on three affected farms. Findings will be presented to the Prime Minister on Monday 20 April 2009.”

ZANU PF has insisted there is no such thing as farm invasions taking place, and it is just the problem of white commercial farmers refusing to leave farms ‘acquired’ for resettlement by the government.

Mutambara has in the past been quoted as saying, ‘the land reform is irreversible, there is no going back on our revolution.’ Meanwhile, the Ministers of Lands and Agriculture have been completely supportive of what have been extremely violent invasions and wide scale theft, so it is unlikely this committee can be genuinely effective.


Ministerial team set up to probe land attacks
By Alex Bell
16 April 2009

A Chegutu farmer, who has come under recent attack by land invaders, says he is encouraged by the government’s decision to set up a team of ministers to probe the recent wave of farm attacks.

The ministerial team, which is being led by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, was announced by Mutambara on Thursday. He told journalists that as of Friday, the team of top officials would be visiting farms, saying: “We are trying to quickly address this political hygiene matter. It’s a matter of life and death.” The team includes Home Affairs Ministers Kembo Mohadi and Giles Mutsekwa, Agriculture Minister Joseph Made, Lands and Resettlement Minister Herbert Murerwa and Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s office, Gorden Moyo.

Chegutu farmer Ben Freeth, on Thursday said he was pleased that some action by the government is being taken with regards to the land attacks; “These politicians need to see what is actually happening on the ground to believe our reports.” Freeth has previously urged Prime Minister Tsvangirai to take action against the invasions, and said on Thursday that he had hoped the Prime Minister himself would be on the ministerial team.

“I am at least encouraged that this is happening by the Prime Ministers instruction,” Freeth said. “He will hear soon enough the first hand reports about how bad the reality for farmers is.”

But the makeup of the committee has raised concerned eyebrows, as Mutambara himself has been quoted as saying that Zimbabwe’s land reforms, initiated by Robert Mugabe, are ‘irreversible’. Lands Minister, Murerwa has also turned a blind eye to the attacks that he has repeatedly denied are taking place, and has previously refused to investigate the numerous reports filed by the country’s commercial farmers. There are doubts therefore that such a committee will be able to present fair findings, when they report back to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai next Monday, when it is clear that the majority of the ministerial team support the land attacks.

Freeth’s Mount Carmel farm has been almost completely taken over by land invaders, who launched an attack on the property more than two weeks ago. Freeth’s staff has been beaten and forced into hiding, while eight employees have been locked up on ludicrous kidnapping charges. Chegutu police have openly supported the invaders, even participating in the violent assault on the farm staff, leaving Freeth and his family with no defence against the ongoing invasions. Freeth’s parent’s in-law have recently left the farm under the stress of constant harassment, and the majority of the Mount Carmel property has been blocked off and looted.


Botswana pledges credit line as SADC funding deadline expires
By Alex Bell
16 April 2009

Botswana’s government has pledged a US$70 million credit line to Zimbabwe, days after a deadline set by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) for members to pledge financial aid to Zimbabwe ran out on Tuesday.

A Botswana delegation, led by the secretary for Economic and Financial Policy Taufila Nyamadzabo, made the pledge on Thursday during a visit to Zimbabwe. Nyamadzabo said the global financial crisis, which has seen the purse strings of most government’s tighten, was keeping Botswana from doing more. The credit line pledge has been welcomed, but it is not the cash boost Zimbabwe’s government has been hoping and working for. SADC leaders have urged African nations to pledge financial aid to Zimbabwe’s government and two weeks ago set the deadline for the country’s to add their pledges to an economic rescue package.

But that deadline passed on Tuesday night and it is still not clear what African governments have pledged to the package – if anything. SADC members have been just as unwilling as international governments to part with their money to assist Zimbabwe, and have merely committed to Zimbabwe’s fundraising and sanction-lifting cause. At the weekend, South Africa’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, said SADC had dispatched teams of ministers to the United States and European Union to lobby for the lifting of targeted sanctions in Zimbabwe and to canvas for economic support for the government. She said, during an election debate broadcast on the SABC, that SADC governments would not raise all the money needed in Zimbabwe themselves, but would try to mobilise it from international donors and international financial institutions.

Last week, a South African Foreign Affairs official reiterated his country’s willingness to assist Zimbabwe’s economic revival efforts, but could not give figures of the economic assistance South Africa was prepared to offer.

Zimbabwe’s finance ministry, now under the control of the MDC’s Tendai Biti, has been fighting to secure financial investment in the country, where critically needed cash boosts have only been in the form of humanitarian aid. But international donor governments have understandably been reluctant to invest in the unity government until real visible change is evident in the country, change that the fledgling government has not been able to deliver.

The ongoing farm invasions, which have shown a clear fault line between the government’s leaders, are the main reason why direct financial aid is being held back. But with Robert Mugabe continuing to condone the attacks that have drawn international condemnation, it is unlikely that the money the government so desperately needs, will start entering the finance ministry’s currently empty coffers, any time soon.


MDC confirm participation in Independence Day celebrations
By Lance Guma
16 April 2009

The MDC will, for the first time, take part in Independence Day celebrations this weekend with ZANU PF, a party statement has confirmed. Following a decision to enter the coalition government with ZANU PF two months ago the party said they now felt they could attend the April 18 celebrations that mark Zimbabwe’s independence from colonial rule. Previously their argument against participation was that ZANU PF had privatized the occasion every year, to suit their own political interests.
The MDC has already demanded that the ‘programme, the speeches and the general arrangements of this important day must reflect a diverse people working together for the betterment of the country of their birth. The day must reflect the new-found camaraderie among erstwhile political protagonists.’

There was however no such camaraderie in Masvingo where police are reported to have banned an MDC independence rally on the grounds that it would be disorderly and create a clash with the state sponsored festivities there. MDC provincial spokesperson, Wilstuff Sitemere, confirmed that police had reversed an earlier decision which had allowed them to stage a rally at Nemanwa Growth Point South of Masvingo town. The police however are adamant they did not ban the rally; ‘What we just said was that the 18th of April is a national day, not a party day, hence they have to find another day’.
Meanwhile the MDC has called on the state run Herald newspaper and the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation to refrain from using inflammatory language in their reports. Despite the formation of the coalition government the two organizations continue to be used for ZANU PF propaganda purposes. On the celebrations themselves the MDC suggested ‘a non-partisan body to deal with the organization of such national events as well as the selection of national heroes and heroines so that subjective narrow interests do not prevail over the national good.’

Whether ZANU PF and MDC supporters can sit peacefully side by side in a stadium to celebrate a national event remains to be seen, given the state sponsored violence that claimed the lives of over 200 MDC activists last year and saw many thousands tortured. An example of the tension was on display last week when violent clashes broke out between ZANU PF and MDC supporters at a youth summit, organized by the Ministry of Youth Development, Indigenization and Empowerment. Scuffles broke out at the Rainbow Towers hotel during the feedback stage of the conference, over the sensitive issue of national healing and reconciliation.

Heart of the Matter 160409

Tanonoka raises his concerns about the government of national unity. He says, ‘they are the supposed engineers of peace, forgiveness, reconciliation and unity. But they are not showing us any of these – violence on the farms continues, innocent people remain in jails, and Mugabe has started firing and trimming opposition cabinet ministers’ portfolios.’

Callback 160409

Zvichaita feels change is slowly coming and things are gradually improving; Tichaona believes that the MDC should participate in the upcoming Independence celebrations because it is a national event, not just for ZANU PF supporters, and Enock encourages everyone to join in the weekend celebrations and put all political differences aside.

Behind the Headlines 160409

Denford Magora, a Zimbabwean journalist whose blog on the Zimbabwean situation has captivated readers worldwide speaks to Lance Guma. How does he balance running the blog and being a spokesman for Dr Simba Makoni’s Mavambo Movement? Magora has since taken the MDC to task for accepting what he called ‘blood stained’ cars from the Reserve Bank. Lance questions him on this and many other controversial articles he has written.

Newsreel 150409

War veterans demand salary increase
By Lance Guma
15 April 2009

Online website The Zimbabwe Times reports that war veterans have told Robert Mugabe to immediately review their salaries, or pull out of the coalition government. The veterans are said to be earning monthly pensions of US$40 each but say this is not enough to sustain them. The Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association is said to have written a strongly worded letter to Mugabe, who is patron of the group. In the letter they told Mugabe they liberated the country and should not be looked down upon by the new government.

The veterans went further to claim, ‘We were better off when our party ZANU PF was in control and our suffering has now worsened following this inclusive government.’ Tranos Huruva, the Masvingo provincial chairman, was quoted as saying the war veterans association had to make sure their members are not neglected. But the Zimbabwe Times reports the veterans are not happy with Mugabe for telling them to engage Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on the issue of their pensions.
Political commentator Bekithemba Mhlanga believes the latest demands from the war vets are part of a strategy by a group recently created by ZANU PF, called the Social Revolutionary Council, who are being used to undermine the coalition government. He pointed to Mugabe saying the war vets should engage Tsvangirai on their pensions as a good example of this attempt to undermine the situation. Mhlanga is convinced the hardliners in ZANU PF, including Mugabe, are merely opening another front in the battle to torpedo the new government, this time using financial demands from the war veterans.
In 1997 unbudgeted gratuity payments to the war vets sent Zimbabwe’s economy crashing and economists have warned the new government against being bullied into another unplanned increase in pensions. But just like the youth militia, the war vets have served as Mugabe’s shock troops and are regulary used to invade white owned commercial farmers on behalf of senior ZANU PF officials.
At the beginning of April we reported how an estimated 29 000 youth militia members, loyal to ZANU PF, are still on the government payroll and are listed as civil servants. With monthly allowances for civil servants pegged at US$100 it means nearly three million US dollars is being spent on paying youths whose only mandate was to terrorize opposition activists.


Murder on Stockdale farm
By Violet Gonda
15 April 2008

The violence on farms in Zimbabwe reached alarming proportions on Sunday when a man was murdered in Chegutu, allegedly by farm guards working for Edna Madzongwe, the Senate President.

Justice for Agriculture (JAG) spokesperson John Worsely Worswick told SW Radio Africa the man had been caught stealing oranges at Stockdale Farm, owned by the Etheredge family but illegally taken by Mrs. Madzongwe. The pressure group said the Senate President, who has been an illegal resident at the farm since March 5th, was in residence when the murder took place.

Worswick said it is believed the man was just an ordinary member of the public who probably got hungry and helped himself to some oranges.

“This gentleman was taken to the citrus pack shed where he was tortured for most of the night; at around 05:00 on the 13th march 2009 this man was released by the guards (no police report was made of the theft). This gentleman’s body was found near the entrance to the farm.’

A report was made to the Chegutu police and three of Madzongwe’s guards, plus two Stockdale former employees, were picked up by the police and taken to the police station. However no arrests have so far been made.

Worswick said that on Monday MDC youths in Chegutu reacted angrily to the murder and stormed the farm, chasing away the remaining guards.

JAG also said in a statement: “These people then started shouting at Madzongwe and her two grown up children, who were in the cottage that she had broken into on the 5th March. The group shouted at her calling her a murderer and a thief, as she has destroyed many farms in the Chegutu district.”

They warned Madzongwe to vacate the premises by the time of their friend’s funeral. Police were deployed at the farm during the night because of the volatile situation and the frightened Senate President sneaked off the farm at midnight. “She was made to walk off the farm and I believe she was not allowed to take her vehicle,” the JAG spokesperson said.

Edna Madzongwe is no stranger to controversy. She first arrived at Stockdale Citrus Estate in April 2007, with an expired ‘offer’ letter signed by Minister Didymus Mutasa. Stockdale had not been gazetted at the time and no audit had been carried out on the land.

This was followed by a systematic campaign of violent evictions and looting of property worth over a million US dollars, by thugs under the instruction of the Senate President. Despite several court battles and rulings in favour of the farm owners, the Etheredges, Madzongwe continued with the onslaught to acquire the farm.

Madzongwe has defied four High Court orders and ignored a SADC ruling that protects the farm from acquisition. JAG said she has also occupied and destroyed eight other farms in a similar manner. “Madzongwe’s other farm (Aitape), which is occupied by her, is close to Stockdale. It is understood that there is no active farming on Aitape by Madzongwe in spite of it being a very productive farm in the past. Madzongwe is a beneficiary of the farm equipment programme and has a massive amount of equipment parked on Stockdale and on her other farms, Reyden farm, Bourne farm and Mpofu farm”

“It is interesting to note that Madzongwe and her entourage arrive at Stockdale farm each time the citrus export crop is ready to reap, demanding that the Etheredges vacate the farm.”


MDC Home Affairs Minister Mutsekwa survives car accident
By Lance Guma
15 April 2009

Recently appointed Home Affairs co-Minister Giles Mutsekwa, survived a car accident on Monday after his official Mercedes Benz vehicle was rammed from behind. Mutsekwa told Newsreel he was traveling from Mutare to Harare but when he got near the Macheke turnoff he encountered a long convoy of vehicles all heading to the capital. This he says forced him to slow down and an over speeding Nissan pick up slammed into the back of his car. He escaped without injuries, despite the damage to his vehicle.

Other reports say police have since arrested the driver of the pick up truck, but Mutsekwa himself said, ‘I have (since the accident) been locked up in meetings and haven’t been able to know what happened to this particular bugger.’ The incident has once again raised the issue of security for MDC officials, given widely held suspicions that Mugabe has often eliminated political opponents using stage-managed car crashes. Monday’s incident involving Mutsekwa’s official car becomes the fourth accident involving someone from the MDC.

In March tragedy struck when, Susan, the wife of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, died when their Land Cruiser was hit by a truck along the road to Masvingo near Beatrice. Also in March Water Resources Minister Sam Sipepa Nkomo, and Minister of State Gordon Moyo, were involved in an accident along the airport road, when a truck rammed them from behind.
In February a vehicle owned by Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe was hit by a Santana vehicle, killing her aide Timond Dube and badly injuring her mother, Catherine Mabiza Khupe, who later died in a South African clinic from her injuries.

Asked what he thought about all these accidents Mutsekwa said; ‘All accidents are not comfortable, so naturally we are worried why they are happening. I am not in a position to say why they are happening but certainly we are worried.’ But Mutsekwa remained adamant the MDC would not be forced into reviewing their security policy arguing; ‘Our security is manned by the state. We are senior officials in government so there is no way we can have a parallel security structure apart from the one that is provided for by the government. In any case the road is also the number one security advisor and operator.’

Despite Mutsekwa noting that the poor state of the roads affects safety, it’s curious that only MDC officials seem to have been affected by this. No ZANU PF officials or ministers have had the same problem.


MDC Chipinge MP remanded in custody
By Violet Gonda
15 April 2009

Mathias Mlambo, the MDC MP for Chipinge East, was arrested on Monday for allegedly inciting violence at a funeral of an MDC member who died recently. The MP was granted bail on Tuesday, but remains in Chipinge Remand Prison after the State and the defence team disagreed over his bail conditions.

Lawyer Langton Mhungu said the MP was ordered to pay bail of US$10, reside at his home, report once a week to police and not interfere with the police. “And our view was that it was impossible for him not to interfere because the key witness is a police officer who caused his arrest,’ the lawyer said.

Last Friday an altercation erupted between ZANU PF and MDC supporters at the funeral of the MDC member in Chipinge. It is alleged that some ZANU PF supporters came to the funeral and started mocking the MDC, resulting in a fight breaking out.

The lawyer said his client, who had contributed significantly to food provisions at the funeral, was at the graveside with other people and was not even aware that a fight had started elsewhere at the funeral. The police were called in and it is alleged that a police officer discharged a firearm into the air causing a serious commotion.

Mlambo went to report the incident to the local police station. But he was the one who ended up being detained. He appeared in court on Tuesday and was charged with obstructing or defeating the course of justice. He is being accused of preventing police officers from arresting people who were involved in the altercation.

His lawyer said ironically the MP, who went to report the unprofessional behaviour of a police officer, was the one who ended up getting arrested and being charged with inciting violence. The people who were allegedly assaulted remain unknown and no one else was apprehended.

The MP told his lawyer that when he tried to confront the police officer after he discharged his firearm at the funeral, the officer mockingly told him to go and report the matter to his Prime Minister – referring to Morgan Tsvangirai.

A Chipinge magistrate will make a ruling on the bail conditions on Friday.


Chegutu farm workers still behind bars as invasion continues
By Alex Bell
15 April 2009

Seven farm workers from Chegutu’s Mount Carmel Farm are still behind bars this week, more than ten days since their vicious and wrongful arrest.

The group was hauled into custody by Chegutu police, the day after the illegal invasion on the farm began in earnest earlier this month. More than fifteen thugs stormed the farm property and demanded that the farm owners leave the land. After an overnight standoff, the farm’s staff and workers from farms in the surrounding area joined together to forcibly remove the invaders from the land. But the invaders retaliated with force later that same night, viciously attacking the staff, with the help of Chegutu police. The seven staff members who were arrested were all brutally tortured by the police in an effort to force false statements from them. They are now facing trumped up charges of kidnapping, and have been repeatedly remanded in custody.

The invaders meanwhile have been allowed to run riot on the land, threatening and beating the remaining staff, to the point that the farm staff have all been forced into hiding. One staff member was so badly beaten in the first attack that he suffered a fractured skull. The same man was even thrown into an open fire and escaped with burns to his legs.

The farm’s owners, Mike and Angela Campbell, have since left the farm because of the continued stress. Their son-in-law, and co-owner of the farm Ben Freeth, explained on Wednesday that almost the entire farm has been completely looted, including vast amounts of produce that is now being sold by the land invaders. He explained that the situation is ‘chaotic’ and that not a single police or government official has attempted to prevent the ongoing attacks.

Freeth has previously urged Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to take action to stop the land attacks that have forced many of the country’s remaining commercial farmers into hiding. In an open letter to the Prime Minister two weeks ago Freeth called for the immediate halt to the ongoing farm attacks, saying the ongoing invasions were preventing real change in the country. Freeth has since written a second open letter to the Prime Minister, after receiving no response from the first urgent plea. He has again implored Tsvangirai to take action by having the invaders arrested, a promise Tsvangirai made during a speech over two weeks ago. But it is becoming daily more clear, as the invasions continue, that Tsvangirai has no power to prevent the attacks, which are openly condoned by Robert Mugabe. Critics say the farm attacks will ultimately be the final nail in the coffin of the unity government, which Tsvangirai is already being urged to leave.

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