NCA boycott Tsvangiraiâ€™s stakeholdersâ€™ forum
27 March 2009
Lovemore Madhuku, chairperson of the National Constitutional Assembly, said his pressure group did not attend the Stakeholders Forum opened by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Friday, because it was â€˜not a genuine meeting but a mere talk shop.â€™
The Prime Minister opened a consultative forum with stakeholders from civil society, the business community and the employment sector, as well as gender and development partners, to hear the concerns of Zimbabweans regarding the crisis in the country.
But the civic leader accused the Prime Minister and his team of trying to undermine the NCA constitutional-making process. Madhuku said the inclusive government wants a â€˜parliament drivenâ€™ constitution, whereas his group is calling for a â€˜people drivenâ€™ constitution.
â€œWe now know that the Prime Minister and his team have an idea of undermining the NCA so that they can get their defective process of making a constitution through. They are trying to sideline and undermine the NCA and create some groups in civil society who will just sing their tune.â€
A statement from the Prime Ministerâ€™s office had said: â€œThe one-day workshop will afford the inclusive government the opportunity to hear the views and concerns of ordinary Zimbabweans regarding economic stability, food security, restoration of basic services, guaranteeing of rights and freedoms, and improving international relations.â€
But Madhuku says the forum was convened by a government which believes the role of civil society is just to support it – and not to hear the other side.
According to the civic leader, his group was not invited as NCA but was invited by the National Association of Non Governmental Organisations (NANGO) and not through the Prime Ministerâ€™s office. He said the NCA is not a member of NANGO and therefore cannot be represented by this group. Madhuku said there was a misrepresentation that the whole process was to go as a cluster, and then NANGO would in turn present their position to the plenary. The NCA objected to this.
He maintains the Prime Minister and Eric Matinenga, the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs, are already aware of the NCAâ€™s position and therefore meeting them again this time will provide nothing new. He said this was a talking workshop and no grievances would have been solved.
Critics of this approach have expressed disappointment at Madhukuâ€™s attitude, saying that this was an opportunity to ask tough questions of the new government â€“ an opportunity that Zimbabweans rarely have.
Minister confirms Mugabe refusing to swear in Bennett
By Violet Gonda
27 March 2009
Sam Sipepa Nkomo, the MDC Minister of Water Resources and Development, has confirmed a report SW Radio Africa broadcast on Wednesday, that Robert Mugabe is refusing to swear in MDC National Treasurer Roy Bennett, as the Deputy Minister of Agriculture.
Nkomo was speaking on Fridayâ€™s Hot Seat programme, where he discussed a number of wide ranging issues, including the water crisis
The Minister said Mugabeâ€™s argument is that Bennett is facing serious allegations in the courts, but Nkomo said this is totally wrong. He said Bennett is still innocent until proven guilty. The former commercial farmer is facing trumped up terrorism charges, of plotting to acquire weapons.
Nkomo said Mugabe made the statement about Bennett during a meeting that was attended by the Deputy Minister Arthur Mutambara and that it was the Deputy Prime Minister who told them about it.
Nkomo said Prime Minister Tsvangirai has a right to appoint his own Ministers and Deputy Prime Ministers, and Mugabeâ€™s job is only to formalise the appointments. â€œWe will not accept it. Bennett is our man and he will have to be sworn in whether Mugabe likes it or not,â€ said the water Minister, who is also the MDCâ€™s Secretary for Home Affairs.
He said the biggest challenge he is currently facing in his ministry is the issue of funding, to buy much needed water purification chemicals, for sewage management and borehole rehabilitation.
But Nkomo admits the problem of funding will remain a problem if ZANU PF does not accept reform. The international community has refused to come to Zimbabweâ€™s aid until there are clear signs of change. Minister Nkomo said he does not blame the westâ€™s stance on Zimbabwe, saying there are some â€˜hygieneâ€™ issues that still need to be resolved in the coalition government.
Major outstanding issues revolve around the distribution of governors, permanent secretaries, ambassadors and the ongoing farm invasions, plus the continued detention of political prisoners.
Nkomo believes his party should get South Africa and SADC involved, since they are the guarantors of the Global Political Agreement (GPA).
â€œI think the MDC itself must put its foot down and say this is an agreement and we must follow that agreement to the spirit and latter of the agreement. And I think until that happens we could be playing games.â€
He went on to say: â€œI think until we do that they will just believe that because we are already in government, therefore everything is alright. Everything will be alright – once we comply with the GPA.â€
Tsvangirai vows to end impunity and to arrest farm invaders
By Alex Bell
27 March 2009
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has vowed to take tough action against the perpetrators of the ongoing farm invasions sweeping the country, stating on Friday that the culture of entitlement and impunity in Zimbabwe has â€˜stainedâ€™ the country for too long.
Tsvangirai was speaking to stakeholders from civil society, the business community, employment sector, plus gender and development partners, at the opening of a one-day consultative forum in Harare on Friday morning. The workshop was organised to give the unity government the opportunity to hear the views and concerns of ordinary Zimbabweans, including representatives from the farming sector, who were also present. The Prime Minister stated during his opening speech that the ongoing farm invasions, â€œwhich are being done in the name of the land reform process, are actually acts of theft, using fraudulent offer letters.â€
â€œThose continuing to undertake these activities will be arrested and face justice in the courts,â€ Tsvangirai said.
The comments have highlighted the deep divisions that are present in Zimbabweâ€™s so called â€˜unityâ€™ government, as they are completely opposite to the sentiments of Robert Mugabe. The ageing dictator, who initiated the original land grab campaign in 2000, once again condoned the often violent action during his lavish birthday celebrations last month, declaring that the remaining commercial farmers are not welcome in Zimbabwe. His comments saw the current land attacks intensify, leaving many hundreds of farm workers destitute and stopping critically needed production of food. SW Radio Africaâ€™s Harare correspondent, Simon Muchemwa, explained on Friday that Tsvangiraiâ€™s comments â€œhave come too late for many, especially since Mugabe has already encouraged the attacks.â€
The farming community has been left reeling by the fresh wave of farm attacks that started mere days before Tsvangirai was sworn into the unity government as Prime Minister last month. More than 100 farmers are now facing prosecution on trumped up charges of â€˜occupying state land illegallyâ€™, as part of a two pronged campaign to remove the remaining commercial farmers. The second, and more sinister part of the campaign, has forced many farmers off their land and into hiding, as violent farm evictions have intensified.
How Tsvangirai plans to keep his word is yet to be seen, as it is not the first time, since becoming Prime Minister that he has condemned the farm attacks â€“ condemnation that has not sparked any meaningful action. The offensive against the farmers has been ignored and in many cases supported by police officials, and even local magistrates have been instructed by the Attorney General to ignore court orders protecting the farms and fast-track the prosecution of the farmers. There is therefore doubt that Tsvangirai will be able to sway the proven allegiance of either the police force or members of the judiciary to secure the arrest and prosecution of land invaders, as in many cases, they are themselves beneficiaries of Robert Mugabeâ€™s land grab campaign.
The President of the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), Trevor Gifford, explained on Friday that the Prime Ministerâ€™s comments are welcome, despite him making similar promises in the past. But Gifford also acknowledged that Tsvangiraiâ€™s comments â€œare going to be difficult to keep,â€ because of the involvement in the farm attacks of police, members of the judiciary, and ZANU PF loyalists in the government. Gifford expressed hope that the land issue, which was finally raised in Cabinet this week, will start to gather positive momentum in the wake of Tsvangiraiâ€™s promises, saying that the farmers â€œjust want to get on with the business of reconstructing agriculture and growing food for the nation.â€
University of Zimbabwe not opening Monday due to high fees
By Tichaona Sibanda
27 March 2009
Almost 10 000 students from the University of Zimbabwe have failed to pay their fees for the first term of the 2009 academic year, and this has forced the institution to postpone opening its doors on Monday next week.
The UZ initially resumed lectures in January this year but was forced to close, following demonstrations by students after authorities asked them to pay their fees in foreign currency.
Clever Bere, the President of the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) told us each student was being asked to pay at least US$800 for this academic term. He told us governmentâ€™s attitude towards students was creating ground for conflict.
â€˜Our parents are being paid US$100 a month so where do authorities think we get that sort of money from,â€™ asked Bere.
The student leader said 95 percent of students at the UZ had failed to pay for their fees. He said this represents about 10 000 out of 13 000 students registered with the institution.
â€˜When we demonstrated against the high fees in January, they had asked us to pay US$200 but that amount has since gone up to US$800. Itâ€™s unfortunate that most of us canâ€™t afford that amount,â€™ Bere said.
He added; â€˜We are actively involved in talks with the stakeholders but so far these negotiations have not yielded anything positive. In fact, the higher education minister Stan Mudenge has been avoiding us, so how do you hope to solve this problem when the major player is not sincere.â€™
The student leader said the hold up to the academic year was a major blow to many students who were hoping to graduate this year. Already many students have lost a year of studies following a series of clashes with university authorities.