Hidden Story 250309

The MDC in South Africa has accused authorities there of fast tracking the deportation of refugees back to Zimbabwe, before checking if it was safe to do. A leading MDC activist in Johannesburg, Solomon Chikohwero, says that SA authorities have failed dismally to deal with the huge influx of refugees crossing its borders, raising fresh fears of more xenophobic attacks. This is why the government is arbitrarily deporting them.

Diaspora Diaries 240309

Bishop Paul Verryn, from the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg, talks about government plans to move thousands of Zimbabwean refugees living at the church to temporary shelters. He says that while the government has promised not to deport them, a more ‘satisfactory’ solution needs to be found to aid them. Alex also speaks to Kajaal Ramjathan-Keogh, from South Africa’s Lawyers for Human Rights, about the organisation’s attempts to have an unlawful immigration detention centre in the border town of Musina closed down. Ramjathan-Keogh says that conditions at the facility are ‘deplorable’.

Newsreel 240309

State not yet ready to put Tsvangirai crash driver on trial
By Lance Guma
24 March 2009
The driver of the truck that was involved in the fatal crash which claimed the life of Susan Tsvangirai 3 weeks ago appeared at the Chivhu Magistrates court on Monday. Thirty-five year old Chinoona Mwanda is being charged with culpable homicide, after his truck hit the Land Cruiser vehicle in which Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his wife were traveling. His lawyer Chris Mhike confirmed that the trial is some way from taking off, after the state said it was not yet ready to place Mwanda on trial.
Last week Mhike told Newsreel the hearing on Monday would be a routine remand proceeding to ascertain whether the accused had not absconded and was ready to face trial. But state papers on the case which include statements from witnesses, diagrams of the accident scene and other relevant papers have still not been completed. A new date of April 20 has been set for the trial to begin. Some reports indicate that Prime Minister Tsvangirai might be called to give evidence during the trial. According to the state owned Herald newspaper, prosecutor John Hama said because Tsvangirai was in the same vehicle as his wife his testimony would be key in the trial.
There have been growing calls for an international probe into the accident, with suspicions of a possible cover up by a ZANU PF controlled police inquirey uppermost in people’s minds. A decision to allow a commission of inquiry into the accident is said to have been made at last Tuesday’s cabinet meeting. Whether the government will allow an international probe remains another matter.


Terrorism trial set for 7 MDC activists
By Alex Bell
24 March 2009

Seven MDC activists, who are facing dubious charges of terrorism, are set to stand trial at the end of June, according to state prosecutors.

The group, which has been charged with committing last year’s bomb attacks in Harare, includes MDC head of security Chris Dhlamini, Prime Minister Morgan Tvsangirai’s former aide Ghandi Mudzingwa, and photo journalist, Shadreck Manyere. The three were abducted last December and have been jointly charged with Regis Mujeyi, Chinoto Zulu, Zacharia Nkomo and Mapfumo Garutsa. Mujeyi, Zulu, Nkomo and Garutsa were recently released from Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison on bail.

Manyere remains incarcerated at the prison while Dhlamini and Mudzingwa are being detained under prison and police guard at the Avenues Clinic, where they are receiving treatment for injuries sustained during their abduction and subsequent police and prison detention and alleged torture.
The MDC’s defence team has been fighting to have the remaining three accused released on bail, and lawyers are seeking a Supreme Court appeal. Meanwhile on Tuesday, the lawyers were back in court seeking the refusal of further remand of the seven accused. The State had sought a further remand of the group to April 30, saying they were in the process of preparing indictment papers for the suspects to be tried in the High Court from May.

On Monday, MDC lawyer Alex Muchadehama agued that the State failed to serve his clients with indictment papers and therefore could not seek further remand. He argued that the last time his clients were in court the State was granted a ‘last chance’ to put its house in order but again failed.

“Failure by the State to provide the accused with indictment papers is a clear manifestation that it has no evidence against the accused,” he said.

He urged the court to refuse to further remand the suspects, saying the matter should proceed by way of summons. Muchadehama urged the court to dismiss the State’s application saying it was ‘misplaced and mischievous’.

There are widespread concerns that Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s personal safety has been deliberately compromised with the continued detention of the MDC’s key security official, Chris Dhlamini. Critics have argued that the tragic road accident that left Tsvangirai’s wife dead would not have happened if Dhlamini had been out of custody and in charge of the security detail in the Prime Minister’s convoy that day. The speculation has therefore left many questioning the real motive behind Dhlamini’s continued detention.


Campaign to have Grace Mugabe banned from Hong Kong
By Lance Guma
24 March 2008

First lady Grace Mugabe might have escaped an assault charge in Hong Kong, using diplomatic immunity, but now lawmakers and human rights activists in the territory are campaigning to have her banned from traveling there. In January this year Grace flew into a rage after British photographer Richard Jones took pictures of her as she left a plush hotel with a female friend and a bodyguard. With help from her bodyguard, who pinned the photographer to the ground, the first lady struck him repeatedly in the face, cutting him with her diamond encrusted ring.

The decision to grant diplomatic immunity to Grace has not gone down well with human rights activists now demanding a full explanation from the Department of Justice. Activist Law Yuk-kai told the government-run RTHK radio station that they wanted to know why Grace got immunity when she was on a private shopping trip and visiting her daughter, who is a student at a local university. Further enraging the activists are reports that the Mugabe’s bought a US$5 million mansion in the territory, when half of Zimbabwe faces near starvation. Mugabe denied the purchase, saying he was just a tenant in the house.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Audrey Eu told the South China Morning Post newspaper that even though Grace, ‘has diplomatic immunity and cannot be arrested, at least we can refuse to let someone who has committed a crime in Hong Kong visit again.’ It remains unclear whether Grace requested the diplomatic immunity or if it was granted automatically.
Hong Kong’s Department of Justice simply issued a statement saying, ‘we have ascertained that … Grace Mugabe is not liable to arrest or detention and enjoys immunity from criminal jurisdiction.’
Although Hong Kong is a self governing territory, matters relating to defence and foreign affairs are controlled by China.


Press Freedom committee condemns crackdown on journalists
By Tichaona Sibanda
24 March 2009

The World Press Freedom committee (WPFC) has said that it has learned with alarm about the arrest and charges levelled against two journalists and a member of the management team, from the state controlled Chronicle newspaper.

The Chronicle recently exposed allegations of corruption against several Grain Marketing Board officials and also said some police officers were involved in the scam. The newspaper reported that millers have accused GMB officials of diverting maize supplies to the black market, while cheating hungry villagers by offering a few bags of grain in exchange for livestock.

Mark Bench, the executive director of the WPF committee, wrote to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Robert Mugabe, voicing concern over the arrests of the three staffers from the newspaper.

The paper’s editor, Brezhnev Malaba, reporter Nduduzo Tshuma and
Zimpapers Bulawayo branch GM Sithembile Ncube, were last week charged with criminal defamation and breaches of the Criminal Law act, over a news article published last month that exposed allegations of corruption at the Grain Marketing Board.

The police in Bulawayo said the offences under the Criminal Law act are under a section which deals with the publication of “falsehoods” and Section 30, that deals with “bringing disaffection” to the police.

Bench said the conduct of the police in Bulawayo is highly damaging to the new government in Zimbabwe – ‘and to your efforts to find solutions to your country’s ills.’

’We believe that unless the spurious charges against the editor and his staff are withdrawn immediately, people will question the new Zimbabwe
government’s dedication to its professed intentions as outlined in the Short Term emergency recovery programme (STERP),’ Bench said.

He added; ‘We make this earnest appeal that your government institute an immediate inquiry into the conduct of the Bulawayo police against the Chronicle and a further probe into the allegations raised by the Chronicle story into the operations of the GMB, while immediately withdrawing the unfounded charges against the paper.’

Zimbabwe has some of the most repressive media laws in the world and since the formation of the inclusive government, the international community have called on the government to restore media freedom, in accordance with Article 19 of the Global Political Agreement (GPA).
Article 19 statesthat the government should ensure the immediate processing by the appropriate authorities of all applications for re-registration and registration, in terms of both the Broadcasting Services Act and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
Independent broadcaster, Capital Radio, was shut down in 2000 after just 6 days of broadcasts, while several independent newspapers, including the Daily news and its sister paper, the Daily news on Sunday, were shut down in 2003 and 2004.
Last month, the new Deputy Minister of Information, Jameson Timba, promised he would actively embark on media reforms that would create an open media environment, in particular the revision of existing media legislation to promote democracy through freedom of expression and the media.
He also gave assurances that he would look into the issue of banned international news organisations such as British Broadcasting Cooperation (BBC) and the Cable News Network (CNN).


Ambassador McGee says sanctions on Zimbabwe to remain
By Violet Gonda
24 March 2009

United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee has warned that targeted sanctions imposed by his government, will not be removed until there is a clear sign that things have changed, especially on the human rights front.

Despite the power sharing agreement, violent disturbances and invasions continue on commercial farms and political detainees remain imprisoned.

The U.S Ambassador said: “There is no reason and no way the United States is going to lift sanctions anytime soon against Zimbabwe, without some very, very clear indication that the country’s new unity government is moving in the right direction.”
The United States has imposed targeted sanctions on individuals and parastatals, and in an interview with an American government website McGee said “they are there for a reason because certain people and entities have been using the country for their own enrichment.”
The diplomat said that a lasting and peaceful solution to the Zimbabwean crisis requires a new constitution within 18 months and free and fair elections in 2 years. He also said that “for the first time in the political history of modern Zimbabwe … there is hope.” He said this hope was seen when people voted resoundingly against the failed policies and programmes of ZANU PF in the elections last year.
McGee also urged Zimbabweans in the Diaspora to go back and help rebuild the country saying: “Go home. We need you.”
However critics have described McGee’s call for Zimbabweans to return at this point as hollow, saying repatriation must be planned.
An exiled Zimbabwean in the US asked: “You want me to return to a country with no health care, a collapsed economy, high unemployment and without a clear plan to integrate returning nationals back into a traumatised society?”
Meanwhile, three-time US Ambassador in Africa, Johnnie Carson, has been nominated by President Barack Obama for the post of US assistant secretary of state for African affairs.
A statement by the US State Department on Monday said: “If confirmed by the Senate, Carson will succeed Jendayi Frazer, who served in the post during the Bush administration.”
Carson served 37 years in the Foreign Service as a career diplomat, including ambassadorships to Kenya, Zimbabwe (1995 1997) and Uganda.
It is understood Carson was very popular with foreign service nationals working for the embassy in Zimbabwe. A former Zimbabwean staff member said he had an open door policy and a very good rapport with them.
There are a lot of challenges facing Africa and the proposed new African envoy is described as a versatile man who would be good in helping to extinguish the numerous fires currently burning on the continent.
One of those challenges will be Zimbabwe, a country he left when the situation was not quite as dire as it is today. But in comparing him with the diplomats who succeeded him, such as Christopher Dell and James McGee, some observers have said he was less aggressive towards the Mugabe regime, preferring to work behind closed doors.
Carson is currently the officer for Africa on the National Intelligence Council.


Tsvangirai back in Zimbabwe
By Tichaona Sibanda
24 March 2009

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai flew back to Zimbabwe on Tuesday, after a week in South Africa following the death of his wife, Susan, in a car accident.

Soon after the burial of his wife, the Prime Minister flew to Durban, together with his six children to rest and recuperate in the wake of the tragic accident that also left him with head and neck injuries.

Many Zimbabweans are still suspicious about the crash, which took place on a major highway which is one of the country’s most dangerous and busiest routes. The trial of the truck driver who slammed into Tsvangirai’s vehicle is expected to begin in April and a state prosecutor said the Prime Minister might be asked to give evidence.

The tragedy came at a very difficult time for Tsvangirai, who faces the daunting task of trying to rescue the ruined country, under the new inclusive government with Robert Mugabe, his old rival.

Our Harare correspondent Simon Muchemwa told us Tsvangirai, who was met at the Harare International airport by a delegation from his MDC party, appeared to be in good shape and that the swelling on his head had gone down. He did not speak to journalists.

‘He arrived in the country around 12.30pm, onboard a South African airways flight from Johannesburg,’ Muchemwa said.

On arrival the Prime Minister was whisked straight to his car and driven off to his Harare home. His office has confirmed that he would resume duties on Wednesday, where he is expected to meet the visiting Norwegian minister for Environment and International Development, Erik Solheim. The Norwegian minister also flew into Harare on Tuesday.

‘He has rested enough to resume his duties as Prime Minister,’ an official in his office told us. During his absence some key government issues were put on ice, as they required his presence. Top of the list was the appointment of governors and permanent secretaries. A source told us that most of the work concerning these appointments was completed recently, but they were awaiting the Prime Minister’s approval before the appointments could be made official.

Letter from America 230309

In today’s Letter from America, Dr. Stan Mukasa argues that the legacy of the late Mrs. Susan Tsvangirai provides an essential component of the road map for a true democratic Zimbabwe and the resumption of aid and investments to the country.



Callback 230909

Thabani Nyoni is the co-ordinator for the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association and he speaks about the recently launched multi-sectoral Clean-up project called ‘My city, my pride – Keep Bulawayo Clean.’ All residents, from the leadership to those at grass root level, are being encouraged to take part and to be more responsible for their environment. And Chibanda says that although prices for basic commodities do seem to be dropping, they have no money. He says he has no faith in the new unity government.

Reporters’ Forum 230309

Lance Guma looks at the week’s top stories with expert analysis from broadcast journalist Brilliant Pongo and political commentator Bekithemba Mhlanga. Why has Grace Mugabe been granted diplomatic immunity over the assault of a photographer in Hong Kong? Why has South Africa’s Finance Minister Trevor Manuel urged the West to support the new coalition government in Zimbabwe, despite prevailing lawlessness? And just why did civil servants struggle to cash their foreign currency vouchers last week? Tune into the programme for the answers.

Different Points of View 240309


Newsreel 230309

Four arrested as offensive against Chiredzi farmers intensifies
By Alex Bell
23 March 2009

Two farmers and two farm supervisors in Chiredzi have become the latest victims of the fresh wave of farm attacks sweeping the country, and there are fears that the offensive against the Chiredzi farming community is intensifying.

The group were arrested over the weekend and spent Sunday night behind bars. The farmers, Benoit Fayd’herbe and Tony Sarpo, were released later on Monday after appearing in court and being formally charged with ‘illegal occupation of state property’. They were released on free bail and are expected back in court next month. Meanwhile the two farm supervisors, who have not yet been formally charged, are expected to remain behind bars before being brought to court on Tuesday.

One of the supervisor’s employers, who spoke to SW Radio Africa on Monday, explained that arresting his employee and the supervisor of another farm is merely an “attempt to flush us farmers out and arrest us.” He explained that the attacks against the Chiredzi farmers are nothing more than a ‘witch hunt’ that is set to intensify in the coming days. Justice for Agriculture’s (JAG) John Worsley-Worswick also explained on Monday that the arrests and the threat of arrest “is being used as an intimidation tactic to get farmers off their land,” as part of the larger land-grab drive across the country.

The renewed campaign against the country’s remaining commercial farmers has already seen more than 100 farmers facing prosecution for ‘being on state land illegally’. At the same time, invasions have been widespread, with top ZANU PF officials leading the attacks, forcing many farmers off their land and into hiding. The attacks have also taken place despite numerous court orders and even a SADC Tribunal ruling, protecting most farms from invaders, who have resumed the attacks in the name of state entitlement. The Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) has confirmed that orders from the Attorney Generals office to ignore court rulings protecting the land were passed down last month, leading to the fresh arrests, evictions and invasions. Robert Mugabe last month also condoned and encouraged the fresh attacks, saying the white commercial farmers were ‘not welcome’ and should vacate their land.

The Prime Minister’s office meanwhile has reportedly been ‘inundated’ with both local and international calls about the fresh wave of violence on the country’s farms. The unity deal which saw Morgan Tsvangirai sworn in as Prime Minister, agreed to end farm attacks and encourage food production. But the government that was formed on the basis of this unity deal has done nothing to stop the ongoing farm attacks – which not only threaten the fragile coalition government itself, but also the government’s quest to secure financial investment in the country. It also stops the production of vital food, in a country where over half the population is facing starvation and is being fed by international aid organizations.

The Prime Minister’s office has now called a meeting of security and agricultural ministries about the farm invasions. The meeting, which is only expected to be convened next week by the Minister of State, Gordon Moyo, is set to be attended bythe co-Ministers of Home Affairs, Kembo Mohadi and Giles Mutsekwa, plus Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, National Security Minister, Sydney Sekeramayi, Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri and CIO chief Happyton Bonyongwe, among other security chiefs. Representatives from the CFU are also expected to attend, although, with such a heavy ZANU PF contingent attending the meeting, it seems unlikely that the farmers will get a fair hearing.

Meanwhile, many hundreds of farm workers have been left jobless and desperate as a result of the farm attacks, adding to the country’s already staggering unemployment rate of 94%. More than 80 farms have been seized since the offensive against the farmers began in earnest last month, and according to the General Agricultural and Plantation Workers Union, more than 700 families have been displaced as a result. JAG’s Worsley-Worswick also explained that many workers, who have been allowed to remain on the invaded farms, are now being exploited by the invaders themselves.

Zimbabwe prisoners starve to death as service collapses
By Violet Gonda
23 March 2008
A major humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Zimbabwe’s prisons, due to lack of food and a total break down of the prison service. It’s reported that inmates ravaged by disease and hunger are ‘dying like flies’ with no solution in sight. This is happening while the ‘chefs’ continue to splash out millions of dollars on fancy cars for themselves.
Although access to the prisons is restricted, reports from relatives and friends of inmates have exposed the dire situation. This past week an estimated 1,300 people at Harare Central Prison were left to starve, as the prison ran out of food completely.
While some relatives and friends are providing a vital lifeline for their loved ones by taking in much needed food regularly, the prison service is now relying heavily on donations of soya beans and mealie meal to feed the general prison population.
A rights activist, speaking on condition of anonymity on Monday, said the inmates at Harare Central are fed just once a day, at around 3pm, and on Sunday they had a few soya beans, with nothing else.
We were not able to get prison authorities to confirm the situation, but our source said about 10 inmates are dying everyday at Harare Central Prison alone.
“It’s pretty shocking when we’ve got between 1,300 and 1,500 prisoners in a prison and there is no food to feed them. If you are in the bush you can forage, but in a prison there is not much you can do if you are not getting food,” the activist said. Many prisoners have suppressed immune systems, due to HIV infection, a situation that is worsened by lack of proper food.
It’s also reported there is no coal for the boilers at Harare Central and so inmates are cutting down trees on the side of the road for firewood. Our source said: “I don’t know how the prisoners are able to cut down the trees because if you look at some of them on the side of the road, their legs are about the size of a woman’s wrist.”
MDC official Roy Bennett, who spent a month in Mutare Remand Prison, said it’s a major humanitarian disaster. “There is absolutely nothing in the prisons. Prisoners get one meal a day – a piece of sadza the size of your hand and water with salt in it. Those prisoners who do not have relatives or people outside supporting them are in worse conditions – or look like those emaciated, skeletal bodies we saw during the holocaust. Basically it is a human rights tragedy and a serious abuse of human rights.”
He said that five people died while he was there, in the most terrible circumstances, ‘unconscious and defecating in their blankets.’
An additional horror is the fact that because of the general break down of the prison system, dead bodies are not removed immediately. Bennett said, “They sit in the laundry, there is no mortuary. Most of them sit there for four days – one sat for five days. They had to put them in plastic bags.”
Many detainees are in prison without ever having been convicted in a court of law, which has exacerbated the overcrowding conditions in remand prisons. On numerous occasions prison authorities have failed to take the detainees to court because of the fuel shortages.
Meanwhile, the pressure group Sokwanele is appealing to well wishers to donate food to Harare Central Prison. The group said donations can be sent to Chaplain Kurida on +263 4 793891 extension 163. Sokwanele said: “Please give what you can: especially beans, vegetables, mealie meal, salt and soap. The soap is to help clean the cells and prevent the spread of infections and diseases – the prisoners have weakened immune systems from nutrition-poor diets and are exposed to horrific conditions.”


Police briefly detain award winning poet

By Lance Guma
23 March 2009

Police once again showed their intolerance to criticism, after briefly detaining an award winning poet, Julius Chingono, in Harare on Saturday. The incident came a few days after Bulawayo police detained journalists from the state owned Chronicle newspaper, over a story attacking the force for corruption. On Saturday Chingono recited a poem in front of over 200 people in Harare’s First Street, close to the portable police cabin in the area. His recital was part of proceedings to mark World Poetry Day, an event organized by the Zimbabwe Poets for Human Rights, in collaboration with the Media Institute of Southern Africa- Zimbabwe Chapter.

Chingono’s poem ‘My uniform’ talked about how policemen abuse their uniforms to jump queues for bread and other essential commodities. ‘When the bread bin is empty, I put on my police officer’s uniform, medals dangling down my chest, to the rowdy bread queue to maintain order, to buy bread without a hassle.’ He used the same analogy to explain how they jump the queues to buy maize meal, sugar and fuel. Soon after he completed his poem police manning the portable cabin summoned him for questioning. He was later released.

Last week, police in Bulawayo charged the Chronicle newspaper with criminal defamation, after a story claimed officers were involved in the Grain Marketing Board maize scandal, which saw many tonnes of maize being sold on the black market, and also into neighbouring Zambia. The paper’s editor, Brezhnev Malaba, and reporter Nduduzo Tshuma, were summoned to the police station and made to sign a warned and cautioned statement. Commentators say the incidents highlight just how far the country has to go in terms of promoting a culture of tolerance and acceptance of criticism.

Government struggling to pay civil servants salaries
By Tichaona Sibanda
23 March 2009

Southern African leaders are expected to finalise a regional economic aid package for Zimbabwe, as the inclusive government struggles to pay civil servants their March salaries.

The SADC leaders will meet on March 30th in Cape Town, South Africa, to discuss a regional economic deal that would help spur the country’s recovery from the massive economic and humanitarian crises, South African Foreign Affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said; ‘We expect a final decision to be taken on the US$2 billion Zimbabwe economic aid package proposed by the SADC finance ministers last month.’

Finance ministers from the 15-nation SADC met for two days in February and agreed to push for donor help to rebuild Zimbabwe’s ruined economy. But the new Finance Minister, Tendai Biti, last week laid out an economic recovery plan that will require a total of five billion US dollars in aid. A huge amount in the face of the global economic recession.

Robert Mugabe last week pleaded with ‘Zimbabwe’s friends’ to finance the recovery plan, which the inclusive government hoped would be backed mainly by Western donors. As usual he also called for the lifting of sanctions, once again ignoring the fact that there are no economic sanctions on Zimbabwe – only targeted sanctions on the ruling elite.

But the international community, quite naturally, has said there must be a return to the rule of law before any aid can be released. The United States government said the power-sharing government had ‘a long way to go’ before the Obama administration could consider lifting the targeted sanctions, and recently extended them for another year.

US state department spokesman Robert Wood, told reporters in Washington that they have not yet seen sufficient evidence from the government of Zimbabwe that they are firmly on a path to inclusive and effective governance, and as well as respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Meanwhile our Harare correspondent Simon Muchemwa said there has been a re-emergence of bank queues as a result of cash shortages in the country. Banks have switched to dispensing cash in foreign currency, but there is a serious cash shortage of the main foreign currencies now used.

Muchemwa said most banks have failed to provide the cash for this month’s salaries for public servants, soldiers and employees of state utilities, which saw thousands of desperate workers stranded over the weekend with most forced to sleep outside the financial institutions.
Biti recently assured the nation that the new inclusive government had obtained funding from donors and other external sources to meet salaries for February, March and April.
But Muchemwa said; ‘I understand government has directed banks to advance payment to civil servants in the hope that they will soon raise the cash to pay back to the banks. In other words government seems to be borrowing from banks, money that will be remitted once they get an injection of funds from the economic package promised by SADC.’


Grace Mugabe gets diplomatic immunity for assault charge
By Lance Guma
23 March 2009

First Lady Grace Mugabe will escape prosecution from charges that she assaulted a British photographer in Hong Kong, after she was granted diplomatic immunity. In January Grace flew into a rage after Richard Jones took pictures of her as she left the five-star Kowloon Shangri-la Hotel, with a female friend and a bodyguard. The bodyguard pinned the photographer to the ground while the first lady struck him repeatedly in the face. A diamond encrusted ring she was wearing caused cuts to his face. But on Sunday authorities in Hong Kong confirmed long held fears that Grace was entitled to diplomatic immunity, as the wife of a sitting head of state.

The photographer reacted furiously to the decision saying; ‘I think it’s a disgrace for the Hong Kong government to allow a person to walk on a street in Hong Kong, punch a member of the media, and walk free from it. This is a town where the freedom of the media is a strong tradition,’ he told the AFP news agency. Michael Vidler, the lawyer representing Jones, said they had secured CCTV footage and statements from witnesses, which was enough to provide strong evidence against Grace in court. They also felt the lacerations to Jones face were serious enough to warrant a charge of ‘wounding’ rather than the more minor ‘common assault’ charge.

Although Hong Kong is a self governing territory, matters relating to defence and foreign affairs are controlled by China. In this case Hong Kong’s Department of Justice issued a statement saying: ‘Grace Mugabe is not liable to arrest or detention, and enjoys immunity from prosecution,’ and that these rights fall under Chinese regulations on diplomatic immunity and privileges. However Michael Sheridan, who is the Far East correspondent for the Sunday Times newspaper, said ‘diplomatic immunity should not be a shield for unacceptable and illegal behaviour.’

While over half the country faces starvation, Grace has been accused of regularly raiding the Reserve Bank for hundreds of thousands of United States dollars to fund her lavish shopping trips abroad. The Mugabe’s were also reported to have bought an expensive mansion in Hong Kong, although they denied this. Their daughter Bona Mugabe is also alleged to be attending a university in Hong Kong, despite denials from the Universities there. She is thought to be studying under a false name.


Prime Minister Tsvangirai to return to Zimbabwe Tuesday
By Violet Gonda
23 March 2009

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is expected to fly back to Harare on Tuesday, from South Africa where he went to recover following the tragic accident that killed his wife Susan.

James Maridadi, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson, confirmed Tsvangirai would be arriving on Tuesday and is expected to start work the following day.
The Prime Minister took time off and traveled to South Africa with his children, soon after burying his wife in Buhera and attending the burial of the late former Defence Forces chief, General Vitalis Zvinavashe, at Heroes acre over a week ago.
Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe has been acting premier in his absence.
It has not been an easy time for the premier who has had to deal with his own personal grief and juggle this with the enormous task of trying to rebuild a bankrupt and crisis ridden country.
It’s reported that he is well rested and will this week officially open a two-day national tourism stakeholders’ conference that begins on Wednesday. He will also chair the Council of Ministers meeting on Thursday among other engagements.

News Roundup 210309

No more food for Harare prisoners
Reports have come in that prisons in Harare have now completely run out of food. Without outside help and donations prisoners are likely to starve and Prison Chaplains have issued an appeal to the public for donations of essential items, especially beans, vegetables, mealie meal, salt and soap.

Through the Valley 210309

Richard looks at the message of liberation and freedom that runs through the Old Testament in Exodus, through the New Testament and into our time. This week the church remembers the Catholic Martyr Oscar Romero, who was killed 28 years ago for standing up for the poor and oppressed in El Salvador. Also members of the Anglican Church in Harare are defying the continued harassment of riot police. Bishop Bakare told one member of the security services at the altar last week, “If you want to attack me, I am in your hands.”

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