Callback 090409

John says the two formations of the MDC have betrayed Zimbabweans by joining the GNU, as nothing will change for better; Netsai is questioning Zimbabwe’s sovereignty in using other country’s money and Priscilla had high hopes of the GNU, but now believes it won’t help as Mugabe remains in control.

Behind the Headlines 090409

Gorden Moyo, the Minister of State in the Prime Ministers Office speaks to Lance Guma. The former Bulawayo Agenda coordinator is now essentially Morgan Tsvangirai’s right hand man in the new coalition government and coordinates several activities in his office. Lance quizzes Moyo on the workability of the new coalition government, the ongoing farm invasions, the continued detention of political prisoners, the delay in swearing in Deputy Agriculture Minister Roy Bennett and other outstanding issues, such as the appointment of provincial governors, ambassadors and permanent secretaries.

Hidden Story 080409

ZAPU leader Paul Siwela maintains that it was a mistake for MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai to join forces with Robert Mugabe to form the inclusive government. Siwela says this marriage of convenience will only have one winner, which is Mugabe. The ZAPU leader adds that that inclusive government has apparently reinforced Mugabe and weakened Tsvangirai and will likely end with a complete victory for ZANU PF in any future election.

Callback 080409

Biti condemns the MDC for accepting new Mercedes cars given to them by the government at the expense of millions of suffering Zimbabweans; while Never reports that rural people are selling their livestock to raise money to buy food in forex. Jon says the shelves are full of basic food commodities but no one has the forex to buy it; Mazvichimbwa is demanding to know why this GNU forces even the unemployed to pay rates and rent in forex?

Callback 060409

Ezra speaks to various Zimbabweans about the situation in the country. Grey of Zimbabwe Redevelopment Focus Group calls for all Diaspora Zimbabweans to start thinking about re-investing back in Zimbabwe by organising themselves and getting necessary skills to redevelop the country, while Mudhara says people of Zimbabwe are struggling to cope with the scarce forex. Kephas is happy with the way things are changing for the better in Zimbabwe but believes it’s just temporary and the situation will be worse.

Letter from America 060409

Dr. Stan Mukasa discusses the challenges facing the transitional authority in Zimbabwe.

Newsreel 060409

Farm worker in critical condition after Chegutu invasion turns violent
By Alex Bell
06 April 2009

A Chegutu farming family has been left shaken after spending the weekend defending their farm from land invaders, who viciously beat several staff members and left one of them in a critical condition.

On Friday afternoon, Ben Freeth and his family came under siege by a group of around 15 invaders, who arrived on their Mount Carmel farm and announced that the family had five minutes to leave the property. Freeth explained to SW Radio Africa that the head invader eventually left the property “to get more men to come help him.” The family, who have previously been forced to flee their property under constant harassment, was left on Friday evening in a stand off with the remaining invaders.

The gang of men then returned on Saturday morning only to be forced off the property by the farm’s employees and workers from other farms in the area, who united against the invaders. But the invasion turned violent on Saturday night when the thugs returned and assaulted six of the family’s farm workers. One worker is still in a critical condition in hospital, while another seven have been locked up on charges that have been described as ‘ludicrous’.

Justice for Agriculture’s John Worsley-Worswick explained on Monday that the Chegutu police have been absolutely no help in preventing the attack, explaining that police officials only arrived on the farm at the request of the invaders themselves. He also explained that according to eye-witness accounts, several police officers were also involved in the attacks. The police action is the clearest sign yet that some police officials are intent on assisting the fresh wave of farm attacks, that has forced most of the remaining commercial farmers into hiding.

Freeth and his in-laws, Mike and Angela Campbell, have come under threat on numerous occasions and still wear the scars of physical attacks launched on them for staying on their land. Last year, the three were abducted and viciously assaulted on the same day that Robert Mugabe held his one-man presidential election run off. Mike Campbell was left without hearing in one ear while Freeth had to undergo critical brain surgery from head injures. The family has now sealed off their farm by barricading the roads. But without police intervention it is likely the threat against them will be renewed.

Meanwhile there has so far been no action from the unity government, despite promises by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai that the perpetrators of the land invasions would be arrested. Tsvangirai has previously condemned the recent farm attacks and last week told the media that the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) had been tasked to deal with the land issue. However, doubt has been cast over how the Prime Minister will be able to keep his word. Many police officials and judicial members, who should be handing out justice over the land issue, are themselves beneficiaries of the land grab, and will be unlikely to change allegiance at the request of Tsvangirai.


Government rolls out plan to lift media gag and restore ties with west
By Tichaona Sibanda
6 April 2009

The government has given itself a timeline of three months to restore human rights and ease the strict restrictions on the media, although analysts remain skeptical that such ambitious targets can be met in such a short space of time.

At the end of a three-day retreat in Victoria Falls, ministers in the inclusive government drew up a 100-day ‘renewal’ program that will finally see the lifting of strict media laws. In 2002, the ZANU PF led government introduced stringent media laws which banned foreign reporters, privately-owned daily newspapers and viciously clamped down on any form of free media opposed to the then government.

The renewal program will also see the government strive in the next 100 days to end the country’s international isolation, which is yet another legacy left by Robert Mugabe’s hatred for Western powers. The retreat also resolved to settle all outstanding issues in the power-sharing accord within the 100-day framework.

Gorden Moyo, the minister of State in the Prime Minister’s office said re-engagement of the broader international community including the United States and multilateral institutions, will be a priority of the government in the coming three months. Moyo told journalists at the end of the retreat that the inclusive government came up with a five-point plan to turn the country around: Restore human rights; address security concerns; stabilise the economy; build infrastructure and re-engage the international community. But it remains unclear how the government will go about repairing ties. The actual plans are only expected to be published by the end of the week and the implementation process is set to begin immediately after.

The government has also committed itself to normalise relations between Zimbabwe and those countries that severed links with Mugabe, following allegations of vote rigging during last year’s presidential elections, as well as the breakdown of the rule of law.

Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa said the ministers also agreed to lift restrictions on foreign media and begin consultations on a new constitution. Analysts see this as an important statement of intent, aimed above all at western donors, many of whom remain unconvinced that anything has really changed in the country and therefore reluctant to funnel financial aid into the government.

Political analyst Glen Mpani said on Monday that a lot of the country’s draconian laws can be undone in a matter of weeks if there is political will. He cited the numerous occasions were both parties have come out with strategic plans, which have never been implemented.

During the G20 summit in London last week, South Africa, the only African country that is a member of the grouping, had a difficult time as it tried to persuade the West to help SADC raise US$10 billion needed to revive the country’s economy. Reports say despite making a spirited pitch for Zimbabwe, the South African delegation was told Mugabe had not met their demands for aid to start flowing into the country.

Of concern to the G20 grouping were the continuing detention of political prisoners, fresh farm invasions, violations of human rights and the continued presence of Gideon Gono at the central bank.

Makusha Mugabe, a Zimbabwean journalist based in Birmingham in the UK welcomed the planned reforms but called for changes at the way the state controlled media is run.

“We need objective and impartial leaders at these institutions. Everyone who has a say at the state controlled media is either perceived to be pro-ZANU PF or a sympathiser of that party. We need to change that mindset by appointing reformist at these institutions,” the journalist said.

The United States and EU maintain visa bans and asset freezes on individuals and companies linked to rights abuses in the country, as well as embargoes on arms and equipment which could be used for internal repression. Before halting the tragtted sanctions and unblocking aid, the same countries are waiting to see whether Mugabe is serious about sharing power with Tsvangirai in the inclusive government.


Tsvangirai’s grandson buried in Buhera
By Violet Gonda
6 April 2009

Tragedy has struck again for Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai just 30 days after losing his wife in a car accident. His young grandson Sean Tsvangirai drowned in the swimming pool at the Prime Minister’s Strathaven home in Harare on Saturday.

Tsvangirai had just returned to work on April 1st, after taking a leave of absence following the loss of Susan, his wife of 30 years. Upon hearing the news, the Prime Minister flew back to Harare from Victoria Falls on Saturday where he had been attending a three day working retreat for government ministers.

Sean was the child of Tsvangirai’s second son Garikai, who lives in Canada but was in Zimbabwe to mourn the death of his mother. The Prime Minister has six children and had two grandchildren. Four year old Sean was living with his grandparents, and had been looked after by his late grandmother, while his parents were studying in Canada.

Family spokesperson Hebson Makuvise said Garikai and his wife Lillian were in the process of finalising their only child’s papers in order for him to return with them to Canada.

The Prime Minister’s spokesperson James Maridadi said in a statement: “Sean was playing outside when suddenly he sneaked to the back of the house and undressed before he jumped into the deep end of the swimming pool. He was discovered later floating.”

Makuvise said scores of people, including government ministers from ZANU PF and both MDC formations, attended the burial of three year old Sean. He was buried next to his grandmother in Buhera on Monday. Susan Tsvangirai died exactly a month ago on Monday.

The latest tragedy has left many wondering how the Prime Minister will be able to cope with the demands of his job with all these tragedies that have unfolded in the short time that he has been in office.


Supreme Court denies 3 political detainees bail
By Violet Gonda
6 April 2009

Supreme Court Judge Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku has dismissed a bail application by three political detainees who have been in custody for four months.

MDC officials Chris Dhlamini, Gandhi Mudzingwa and photo-journalist Shadreck Andrew Manyere are among a group of seven people facing charges of sabotage, terrorism and banditry. They are accused of bombing police stations and railway lines to destabilise the Mugabe regime. Four co-accused persons were granted bail in February by High Court Judge Justice Yunus Omerjee, but Dhlamini, Mudzingwa and Manyare were denied.

Defence lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court and on Monday Justice Chidyausiku dismissed the application saying there was no misdirection to the earlier ruling by Justice Omerjee. The State alleges the three political detainees were found in possession of ‘explosive weapons.’

Lawyer Charles Kwaramba said the charges are fictitious and that is why the State has not been able to produce any evidence to bolster their accusations in court. Kwaramba said in the case of Dhlamini and Manyere, the state claims to have found fuses used to detonate dynamite and 48 rounds of ammunition respectively, after having conducted illegal searches at their homes in the absence of the accused or their lawyers. In Mudzingwa’s case, the State claims to have found a teargas canister in his pocket. However Mudzingwa says that his wallet and other possessions were in fact stolen by his abductors when he was kidnapped at gunpoint.

Scores of political and civic activists were abducted from their homes or workplaces during the months of October and December last year. All known activists except the three were released recently, but the MDC says at least seven more are still missing.

Human rights lawyers are going to file another urgent bail application in the High Court on Tuesday. A statement by the MDC on Monday said the continued detention of the three political detainees is going against the spirit and letter of the Global Political Agreement.

“The continued detention of MDC activists has nothing to do with the law but is a product of political machinations of the residual elements in ZANU PF and the securocrats who are waging a perpetual battle to scuttle change by undermining the inclusive government.”

“The MDC calls for the immediate release of the three prisoners and the scores of MDC activists who are being held in secret locations after they were abducted by State security agents last year,” the statement said.


Seven arrested after NUST university demo over fees
By Lance Guma
06 April 2009

Seven students were arrested at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Bulawayo on Monday following a demonstration over fees pegged in foreign currency. According to our correspondent Lionel Saungweme the students who included Sheunesu Nyoni, Kurai Hoyi, Eddios Mucheuka, Vivid Gwede, Kudakwashe Maguchu and two others were being held at Bulawayo Central Police Station. Nyoni is the treasurer for the National Students Union (ZINASU).

Police allege the group stoned a car belonging to a visitor on campus during the demonstration. ZINASU President Clever Bere said he was unaware of the stoning incident but confirmed that students are not happy with the exorbitant fees which are pegged in foreign currency and beyond the means of most parents or students. Last week the University of Zimbabwe in Harare failed to open after over 70 percent of students failed to pay the fees which are as high as US$800 per term for some courses. This contrasts sharply with most civil servants earning US$100 a month.

Students at NUST are said to have taken exception to a decision by the authorities to ‘defer’ to next term the progress of students who have failed to pay the fees. Bere questioned the wisdom of such a decision saying students could not have a whole year wasted because they did not have the money.
Meanwhile Saungweme reports that several parents milled around Bulawayo central police station enquiring as to the welfare of the arrested students. Most were seen bringing food for their detained children.


Prison officers arrested for filming shock prison footage
By Alex Bell
06 April 2009

Three prison officers have been arrested on allegations of helping to film a South African television documentary exposing the horrendous conditions inside Zimbabwe’s prisons.

A senior police officer in Beitbridge was quoted Sunday in the Standard newspaper as saying that warders Thabiso Nyathi, Siyai Muchechedzi and Thembinkosi Nkomo were arrested last Friday. They face charges under the Official Secrets Act, which prescribes lengthy jail terms for government employees who leak ‘state secrets’.

The three were arrested despite vehement denials by Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa that the footage was filmed in Zimbabwe. Chinamasa last week accused the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) who screened the film last Tuesday, of fabricating the story. He also insisted the footage was taken at other prisons in Africa. The film’s executive producer, Johann Abrahams last week denied Chinamasa’s accusations, and explained the footage is absolutely factual. He told SW Radio Africa that there is proof and extensive footage showing the visuals were in fact filmed in Zimbabwe.

The documentary titled ‘Hell Hole’ has sparked international outrage from human rights defenders. The film showed scores of skeletal prisoners dressed in rags and dying of malnutrition and disease in filthy institutions without food, medication or basic cleaning materials. The SABC team behind the film had provided sympathetic prison warders with secret cameras to film the conditions in Khami, Beitbridge and Harare Remand prisons.

The shock film provides visual proof of the horror inside Zimbabwe’s jails, which previously has been detailed by thousands of MDC supporters and innocent Zimbabweans who have been arrested and suffered the conditions for themselves.

SABC officials meanwhile on Monday said the confidentiality of their prison sources that help obtain footage for the film was not compromised, and said in a statement that the arrests were made ‘in error’. The statement follows complaints that the SABC did not do enough to protect the prison officials, despite knowing the risks in filming the conditions usually kept a closely guarded secret.

The film is set to be re-broadcast in South Africa on Tuesday night, after what the SABC has called “overwhelming public response and international coverage of the story.”

Reporters Forum 060409

Lance Guma looks at the week’s top stories with political commentator Msekiwa Makwanya and broadcast journalist Brilliant Pongo. The panel debates the controversy over the cabinet retreat in Victoria Falls this past weekend and whether it was a waste of money as alleged by some.

Rebuilding Zimbabwe 040409

Parliament’s standing rules and orders committee on Wednesday set up 20 portfolio commitees that will examine government expenditure and the policies initiated by the new inclusive government. Piniel Denga the MDC MP for Mbare, sits on the Agriculture, Water and Lands Resettlement committee. He says their first task will be to investigate the new wave of farm invasions, which are disrupting any hope of encouraging international donors to provide funds to rebuild the country.

Callback 040409

Paddy asks why the MDC, who are now part of the government, are doing nothing about the ongoing farm invasions; Farai says more Zimbabweans are arriving daily in South Africa, but it’s a lot more difficult for them now because of the governments’ harder stance on granting asylum status. And, Shumbazi says that as long as they continue to have food they will put up with having to pay in forex.

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