Newsreel 020409

Chinamasa says SABC lying about state of Zimbabwe’s prisons
Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa dismissed as “false” a South African TV documentary which exposed the appalling conditions in the prisons. RadioVOP quotes the Justice Minister accusing SABC of fabricating the story and claiming the film footage showed other prisons in Africa, not Zimbabwe. But the SABC Executive Producer of the programme, Johann Abrahams, said the documentary was true.

Missing journalist Kudzai Musengi released after abduction
A Gweru-based freelance journalist who was abducted on Tuesday by suspected members of the CIO was eventually released Wednesday evening. Three unknown men bundled Kudzai Musengi into their car and blindfolded him, before speeding off to a bushy area where they subjected him to intense interrogations. His captors accused him of covering stories on the ongoing farm invasions on behalf of Voice of America’s Studio 7.

ZANU PF farm invader arrested

A staunch ZANU PF stalwart who instigated, and in most cases led, violent farm attacks against sugarcane farmers in the Lowveld for almost a decade, has been arrested. Admore Hwarare, the chairman of the Commercial Sugar Farmers Association of Zimbabwe, along with two top officials within the association, were all arrested this week for embezzling hundreds of thousands of US dollars from other members of the sugar association.

Court grants bail to MDC activists arrested for pro-Bennett demos

A group of 10 MDC activists, who were arrested in Mutare in February, were finally granted bail by the High Court on Thursday. Lawyer Alex Muchadehama said the 10 were part of a group of MDC supporters who held regular vigils for MDC official Roy Bennett, when he was in detention.

SADC sets up task force to oversee Zim economic recovery

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has set up a four-member task force, led by South Africa, to oversee Zimbabwe’s economic recovery.

http://www.swradioafrica.2bctnd.net/04_09/newsreel020409.mp3

Callback 010409

Panashe says things are difficult for asylum seekers in the UK, relatives are dying back home but they aren’t allowed to go home; Gabriel says he had to go to South Africa for medical treatment following a car accident last year. In Zimbabwe he was kept in hospital for over a week with just pain killers, only to find out in South Africa that he had in fact received serious neck injuries that could have resulted in him being paralysed. And, Gore says money is ‘tight’ and food is still a luxury.
http://www.swradioafrica.2bctnd.net/04_09/callback010409.mp3

Democracy 101 010409

Dominic, Lameck and Mhlancy are on the programme focusing on the issue of Zimbabwe’s ‘finances,’ and whether funding should only be made available to a truly democratic state. SADC is pushing for funds to be made available but donors are reluctant to sink in money as long as Mugabe remains in the picture.
http://www.swradioafrica.2bctnd.net/04_09/dem010409.mp3

Hidden Story 010409

The country is on the verge of rewriting a new constitution in line with a provision included in the Global Political Agreement. Experts. Politicians and ordinary Zimbabweans believe the new constitution will enable the country to hold free and fair elections, but human rights lawyer Gabriel Shumba warns that as long as Mugabe controls the security services, he can still deploy them to cause havoc, as they did during the last elections.
http://www.swradioafrica.2bctnd.net/04_09/hs010409.mp3

Newsreel 010409

UN human rights commissioner set to visit Zimbabwe
By Tichaona Sibanda
1 April 2009

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who last month called on the inclusive government to immediately restore the rule of law and address the human rights abuses, is now set to visit the country.

Judge Navanethem Pillay set herself on a collision course with Robert Mugabe in February when she voiced concern over the disappearance of MDC officials, the reported use of torture to extract false confessions and infringements of the independence of the judiciary.

Speaking just after the formation of the new government, Pillay said the long drawn-out process to reach a political settlement was marked by the perpetration of serious human rights violations and caused untold damage to the rule of law in Zimbabwe.

‘All eyes will be on this new government to see if it can undo that damage,’ Pillay added.

Her frankness endeared her to the general public in Zimbabwe but the authorities loathed her for that and blocked efforts by her team to visit the country for a fact finding mission.

But Robert Mugabe this week agreed to a high level visit by the human rights chief, as the ZANU PF party leader seeks to clean up his act in the face of years of gross human rights abuses.

Pillay is still awaiting finalisation of dates and visas, allowing her to travel to Harare following agreement with Mugabe and Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, that she can undertake the fact-finding mission.

The UN human rights chief has been waiting for almost two months to get the green light from government for the visit. In that time the humanitarian situation has worsened as the economic collapse continues and the cholera epidemic destroyed the lives of thousands.

Irene Petras, the executive director of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), said they look forward to Pillay’s proposed visit as they have key issues to discuss with her team.

‘We welcome any team that tries to look at the past injustices in the country and set out goals of what needs to be done to improve the situation,’ Petras said.

She added; ‘Although we have some movement in trying to bring change, we cannot say the same with the democratization process. We still have a lot of concerns as far as the rule of law is concerned, people still cannot gather as a group and the media hasn’t been opened up yet.’

The ZLHR hope the visiting rights team will provide technical assistance and capacity-building for human rights defenders and state institutions, such as the police and judiciary.

Already, the ZLHR has asked the human rights commissioner’s office about questions of constitutional processes and transitional justice – issues which are currently bogging down the country’s transition to democracy.

………………

MDC says harassment of Roy Bennett continues
By Violet Gonda
1 April 2009

The MDC issued a statement on Wednesday stating that Senator Roy Bennett, the proposed Deputy Minister of Agriculture, continues to be harassed. Police officers are said to be giving the MDC official the run around in an effort to intimidate him.

“Senator Roy Bennett, earlier today appeared at the Harare Central police station for routine reporting to the police in line with his bail conditions. He was informed that he had to see the Officer-in-Charge of Harare Central police station, Detective Inspector Dowa. Detective Inspector Dowa was, at the time, said to be in a meeting, and he instructed Detective Inspector Muchada, who questioned Senator Bennett as to where he is staying, even though the police have a clear record of this. Senator Bennett was then forced to take four plain clothes police officers, who refused to give both their names and force numbers, to his residence,” the statement said.

Bennett is still waiting to be sworn into the new government after having missed the swearing in ceremony of his colleagues in February as he was in prison. He spent a month in jail in Mutare and faces trumped up charges of possessing weapons for purposes of terrorism. He denies the charges and his party says they “have no basis in law and as such they should be dropped.”

Last week Sam Sipepa Nkomo confirmed that Robert Mugabe was refusing to swear in the former commercial farmer, as a deputy Minister.

……………..

Outcry as Zimbabwe cabinet prepares for Vic Falls retreat
By Violet Gonda
1 April 2009

Desperate civil servants are up in arms over poor salaries, prisoners are dying from hunger and disease and the entire nation is still reeling under an economic collapse that has crippled all essential services, including health and water. But barely two months have passed and the government has planned a weekend retreat in the resort town of Victoria Falls. This has sparked an outcry from Zimbabweans who say these are misplaced priorities of a bloated and bankrupt government.

The last two months have brought some small socio economic changes, like the return of basic commodities to shop shelves, but most people can’t afford to buy it. The coalition says it has no money to pay workers better salaries, yet it is uprooting an entire government – which includes 71 ministers and deputies – to an expensive resort town for a working retreat.

Journalist Tanonoka Whande asks: “Are Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai asking SADC for money to entertain this bloated government’s ministers, their deputies and permanent secretaries at Victoria Falls? What is at Victoria Falls that cannot be solved by a memo to all ministries? What is wrong with the Masasa Training Centre? Or even the Quality Inn in Harare? The government of national unity is asking the world for money and yet they are already spending it on themselves before that money is even received on behalf of the people.”

A statement by the MDC information department said the retreat will be “officially opened by the President, Cde Robert Gabriel Mugabe, the retreat
will be presided over by the Prime Minister, Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, and
attended by all cabinet ministers, their deputies and Permanent Secretaries.”

The Prime Minister’s office said the retreat was to come up with a clear plan of action for the first 100 days of the power sharing government.

But Whande says: “And the MDC now suddenly calls the murderer Mugabe “Comrade” and they go on a jaunt at Victoria Falls, calling it a retreat. Tsvangirai should show more sensitivity than this. The least he can do is to dress up all those so-called ministers into overalls and put them to work. The MDC has become a clone of ZANU-PF. What the hell is going on now? I can’t believe this.”

It was never going to be easy for Tsvangirai to go into a coalition government with the man responsible for murder, mayhem and the destruction of the entire country, and it is not surprising that many Zimbabweans are concerned. For the majority of people there has been little change in their lives and all they see is that Mugabe still holds the reins of power.

On Tuesday night a shocking documentary was shown on South African television. The film showed how Zimbabwe’s prisoners are literally rotting and starving to death, how bodies are piling up in makeshift prison mortuaries. Wouldn’t this be a time for the MDC in the new government to cancel the retreat, take the money that was going to be used, buy the food that is freely available in the shops and actually go and feed the people who are dying?

Whande said: “The MDC cannot continue pleasing ZANU-PF at the expense of the people and the mandate given it by those citizens.”

The MDC have been telling the public that there are fundamental issues that remain unresolved, such as the issue of appointments of permanent secretaries and governors. And yet we have seen ZANU PF appointed governors continue to operate as if the issue has been resolved. It is the same governors who have been briefing the Minister of Lands about the situation on farms, and just this weekend some of the governors told the state controlled Sunday Mail newspaper that there were no new farm invasions, while new invasions were actually taking place throughout the weekend. This was two days after Tsvangirai had called for an end to the illegal activities and the continuing attack on agriculture and property rights.

Critics say the MDC is in danger of losing credibility if they don’t urgently start doing things differently to ZANU PF.

……………..

Leading Zimbabwean HIV/AIDS activist, Lynde Francis dies
By Violet Gonda
1 April 2009

Lynde Francis has died. She was the founder and director of The Centre in Zimbabwe, an organization run by and for people living with HIV. Francis herself lived with HIV for decades, but she died from related complications in Harare on Tuesday. She was one of the first people in Zimbabwe to go public about her HIV status in 1986.

She started the first clinic that provided free anti-retroviral treatment in Zimbabwe and helped form the first group of people living with HIV/AIDS, at a time when it was still taboo to talk about the illness.

Francis was best known for her determination to encourage better nutrition, as an alternative to anti retrovirals, which are available to so few in the third world. She believed that correct nutrition, started early, could maintain good health almost indefinitely for people with HIV.

It’s reported there will be a body viewing at the Doves Chapel in Harare on Thursday, after which she will be cremated in Mutare. There will also be a Memorial Service at Celebration Centre in Harare on Monday, to celebrate the life of this truly inspirational and remarkable woman.

……………..

Tsvangirai appeals to G20 leaders for support
By Lance Guma
01 April 2009

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has appealed to the G20 group of developing nations to help in supporting the new coalition government in Zimbabwe. As leaders from the group meet in London this week, Tsvangirai used an opinion piece published in the UK Times newspaper to outline why the coalition deserved support, despite the many obstacles thrown at it by ZANU PF hardliners. The Prime Minister argued that the agreement between his party and ZANU PF was workable and could help alleviate the suffering of Zimbabweans to allow the country to move forward peacefully towards a new constitution and fresh elections.

Tsvangirai cited the paying of civil servants in foreign currency as having provided much needed stimulus to the economy. He said this had encouraged the opening of hospitals and schools, the taming of hyperinflation and the lowering of prices of basic commodities. He also said he believes the new political dispensation ‘has delivered hope to a country devoid of optimism or expectation.’ He also defended the decision by the MDC to enter into the coalition government, saying they knew they could make an immediate and positive impact on the lives of all Zimbabweans.

But as Zimbabwe National Students Union President Clever Bere noted, ‘continued farms invasions, a log-jam over the appointment of governors, permanent secretaries and ambassadors, are clear pressure points for democratic reversal in Zimbabwe. Further the continued incarceration of Ghandi Mudzingwa and other abductees shows a serious sincerity deficit on the part of the former ruling party ZANU PF.’

Tsvangirai sought to allay any fears over these issues by arguing in the article; ‘We were correct in allowing for the residual resistance that we are now experiencing from a small faction of non-democratic hardliners’. However he said this resistance would be swept aside by ‘the overwhelming momentum being generated as we move forward as a nation.’

He added that the government was not perfect, but went some way towards representing all Zimbabweans and was committed to a new constitution and free and fair elections and he appealed to the G20 leaders to consider Zimbabwe and other partners in Africa as investment opportunities, with the potential to stimulate their own economic growth.

A member of the MDC UK executive who traveled back to Zimbabwe last week told Newsreel there was still a very long way to go before things return to normal. He said people are struggling with high utility bills, school fees and other exorbitant charges, when the average civil servant is earning just US$100 a month. The official, who refused to be named citing security concerns, says the only noticeable improvement is the peace and quiet being enjoyed by people, especially in the cities. This is in stark contrast to the violence which rocked the country as ZANU PF sought to cling to power last year, despite the overwhelming victory by the MDC in harmonized parliamentary and presidential elections.
Meanwhile there are reports that Tsvangirai’s MDC party wants to table a motion in parliament seeking to have an inquiry into last year’s post-election violence. The motion will seek to bring to justice perpetrators of the political violence that claimed the lives of more than 200 people, mostly opposition supporters, in the run-up to the June 2008 presidential election run-off. Hundreds of thousands of others were displaced, tortured and beaten.

……………..

UN human rights commissioner set to visit Zimbabwe
By Tichaona Sibanda
1 April 2009

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who last month called on the inclusive government to immediately restore the rule of law and address the human rights abuses, is now set to visit the country.

Judge Navanethem Pillay set herself on a collision course with Robert Mugabe in February when she voiced concern over the disappearance of MDC officials, the reported use of torture to extract false confessions and infringements of the independence of the judiciary.

Speaking just after the formation of the new government, Pillay said the long drawn-out process to reach a political settlement was marked by the perpetration of serious human rights violations and caused untold damage to the rule of law in Zimbabwe.

‘All eyes will be on this new government to see if it can undo that damage,’ Pillay added.

Her frankness endeared her to the general public in Zimbabwe but the authorities loathed her for that and blocked efforts by her team to visit the country for a fact finding mission.

But Robert Mugabe this week agreed to a high level visit by the human rights chief, as the ZANU PF party leader seeks to clean up his act in the face of years of gross human rights abuses.

Pillay is still awaiting finalisation of dates and visas, allowing her to travel to Harare following agreement with Mugabe and Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, that she can undertake the fact-finding mission.

The UN human rights chief has been waiting for almost two months to get the green light from government for the visit. In that time the humanitarian situation has worsened as the economic collapse continues and the cholera epidemic destroyed the lives of thousands.

Irene Petras, the executive director of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), said they look forward to Pillay’s proposed visit as they have key issues to discuss with her team.

‘We welcome any team that tries to look at the past injustices in the country and set out goals of what needs to be done to improve the situation,’ Petras said.

She added; ‘Although we have some movement in trying to bring change, we cannot say the same with the democratization process. We still have a lot of concerns as far as the rule of law is concerned, people still cannot gather as a group and the media hasn’t been opened up yet.’

The ZLHR hope the visiting rights team will provide technical assistance and capacity-building for human rights defenders and state institutions, such as the police and judiciary.

Already, the ZLHR has asked the human rights commissioner’s office about questions of constitutional processes and transitional justice – issues which are currently bogging down the country’s transition to democracy.

http://www.swradioafrica.2bctnd.net/04_09/newsreel010409.mp3

Callback 310309

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Diaspora Diaries 310309

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Different Points of View 310309

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Newsreel 310309

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Newsreel 300309

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