Behind the Headlines 190309

Finance Minister Tendai Biti said in his budget presentation Wednesday that Mugabe’s government survived on beer and cigarettes for revenue. With the coalition government launching a new blue-print for economic recovery Lance Guma moderates a panel discussion on the plan’s chance of success. Businessmen Mutumwa Mawere and Gilbert Muponda, who were both hounded out of the country, are joined by economic analyst Lance Mambondiani.

Callback 190309

Mavis says that women and mothers like her are struggling to provide for their families, especially now that everything is priced in forex; Richard Pantlin is about to embark on a trip where he plans to raise funds for HELP Zimbabwe by cycling 600 kms from Bulawayo to Harare – dressed as a clown! Details of his trip and how you can help are at And, Benson says his generation is faced with an uncertain future because they had to study and write exams without input from teachers.

Democracy 101 180309

Willy and Dominic are joined by Freeman as they delve into current efforts to build a democratic dispensation, and some of the practical requirements. They discuss efforts being made by the inclusive government to source funding to resuscitate institutions on the ground. Most international sources of funding have expressed their reluctance to commit funds to the new government because they question ZANU PF’s sincerity. There’s no denying the great need for funds to rebuild our country so perhaps a way forward is for more targeted aid, as the Australians have done.

Callback 180309

Desire says that the only possible way forward from the current crisis is to hold elections next year; TurnZimbabweGold is asking people in the Diaspora to contribute to a recovery fund to help rebuild Zimbabwe. And, Chimusoro who survives by buying and selling vegetables, talks about what he believes is a bleak future for Zimbabweans.

Newsreel 160309

NRZ bosses implicated in looting scandal as workers remain unpaid

By Alex Bell
16 March 2009

Workers at the ZANU PF controlled National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) have revealed a high-level looting scandal that has seen their bosses acquiring top of the range vehicles worth more than US$1 million – but the workers themselves have not been paid since August last year.

This is according to the ZimEye online news service, which reported last week that the NRZ’s management, led by Retired Air Commodore Mike Karakadzai, was looting the company’s resources. According to the report, NRZ workers revealed that the looting has intensified in order for the management team to walk away with as many goods as possible before the unity government appoints a new management team there.

Sources reportedly told ZimEye that Karakadzai, who is a firm ZANU PF supporter, recently acquired the latest model of the Toyota Landcruiser valued at US$250 000, as well as five Toyota Prados for US$100 000 each. The vehicles have since been parked at the company headquarters in Bulawayo and are reportedly waiting to be given to NRZ directors.

Karakadzai has also reportedly acquired a state-of-the art LCD television, sofas and a laptop, among other expensive items for his office in the NRZ building. His looting apparently also includes the acquisition of furniture for his double storey house, where he lives adjacent to his directors who have also bought new furniture for their houses.

The workers have not been paid since last August while the local rail network itself has been described as ‘dilapidated’ and the revelation of the looting has now sparked protests at the NRZ, where the workers committee chairman Albert Mahlangu launched a scathing attack on Karakadzai and his cronies.

Meanwhile, over 1 000 workers last Thursday thronged Karakadzai’s office demanding they be paid and threatened to confiscate the new vehicles and furniture. The workers have since been promised that they will be paid by Friday.

Tsvangirai to be away for one week
By Tichaona Sibanda
16 March 2009

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai will be in South Africa for a week with his family, to rest and mourn the death of his wife Susan, who was killed in a car crash 10 days ago.

He travelled with all his six children and was also accompanied by his chief of staff, Ian Makone. A source told us the Prime Minister will be kept in touch on all government business, though decisions would be left to acting premier Thokozani Khupe. The MDC deputy president will take charge of government business until Tsvangirai returns to work.

‘We expect him to be back in the country this weekend. He is a strong character and he seems to be coping well with the pressures of losing his dear wife of 31 years,’ our source said.

Political commentator Bekithemba Mhlanga said the Prime Minister will not totally divorce himself with what will be happening in his office, adding that he will keep his finger on the pulse of activities in his office.

Tsvangirai’s last official engagement in the country was attending the burial of the former defence forces chief, General Vitalis Zvinavashe, at Heroes Acre on Saturday. At the burial Tsvangirai came face to face with the country’s service chiefs, the group of military hardliners who have, in past, said they would not salute Tsvangirai.

Reports suggest the service chiefs only saluted the casket carrying Zvinavashe’s body. Air Marshall Perence Shiri was reportedly wearing civilian clothes and was seated among ZANU PF and MDC ministers in the VIP enclosure. It’s reported that he is still off duty, nursing his injured arm after allegedly being shot by an unknown assailant.
The Prime Minister and Robert Mugabe sat side by side on Saturday, at a state funeral that was seen by many as a symbolic step for their parties’ month-old coalition. Tsvangirai did not speak at the occasion but could be seen time to time engaging Mugabe in discussion.
Mugabe, who has frequently criticized Tsvangirai for his links with Western governments, told mourners the new coalition was ‘between us, brother to brother.’
‘Zimbabwe belongs to us. Let’s walk the road that says no to the British and no to sanctions,’ Mugabe said. ‘Those who want to be our friends and partners are welcome’.
The fragile coalition government, brokered by South Africa and regional leaders, has appealed for US$2 billion in regional and international funding to kickstart the shattered economy. But no funding package has been agreed by regional leaders or the African Development Bank after talks in neighboring South Africa.
Meanwhile, ministers from South Africa and Zimbabwe are meeting in Victoria Falls under the SA-Zimbabwe Joint Permanent Commission for Co-operation (JPCC) which will be chaired by Foreign Ministers from the two countries.
The South African delegation is led by Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and includes a senior ministerial delegation. The Zimbabwean delegation is led by Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, the Foreign Affairs Minister.

The JPCC meeting will review existing bilateral political, economic and trade relations between the two countries. Issues to be discussed will include social and humanitarian matters in the health field, public service administration; migration matters; agriculture, trade, finance and investment.
Economic Planning Minister, Elton Mangoma, said he hoped the talks will help put the country’s economy back on its feet. Armed with a new economic recovery plan Mangoma told journalists on Sunday they were using the gathering to lobby for more financial support from South Africa.
‘When we conclude discussions with our South African counterparts — there will be agreements signed and it is really the signing of those deals that we look forward to,’ Mangoma said.


17 detained MDC activists denied bail in Buhera
By Violet Gonda
16 March 2008

17 members from the MDC who were arrested last week in Buhera were denied bail by a Murambinda magistrate on Monday. The MDC activists were arrested Wednesday after violence broke out in Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s rural home area. This happened at the time of the funeral of Susan Tsvangirai.

Mutare deputy mayor Admire Mukorera was also arrested at 3am on Saturday, in connection with the violence and was released without charge the following day.

The MDC spokesman for Manicaland province and MP for Makoni South, Pishai Muchauraya, accuses the police of unfairly arresting the victims and not the perpetrators. He said last Wednesday ZANU PF supporters went on a rampage and burnt houses belonging to MDC supporters. The MP alleges the perpetrators then went and made ‘false’ reports to the police.

“That resulted in the police making random arrests of known MDC supporters regardless of whatever investigations they were carrying. They were arresting people on the basis that they are MDC officials and as of now we have 17 MDC supporters who were arrested since Friday last week.”

The 17 were remanded in custody to 30th March. They are being held at Rusape Remand Prison.

Last week we reported that a house belonging to Robert Jack Saunyama, the MDC’s provincial security officer, was burnt to the ground in the Zimunya area, while another 10 houses were burnt down in Ward 5 in Buhera West.

A statement by the Youth Forum on Monday said: “The Youth Forum condemns in the strongest terms the violence which prevailed during the funeral of Mrs. Susan Tsvangirai which saw ten homesteads being burnt to ashes, livestock being burnt alive and women and children being harassed on behalf of the targeted people.”

Some who went to the funeral allege that a number of MDC supporters, raw with emotion, retaliated upon hearing that their colleagues’ homes were destroyed by ZANU PF attackers.

The Youth Forum says: “This is a clear testimony that the June 27 (the Presidential election) wounds and scars, a culmination of massive political violence which prevailed during this period, are still fresh, hence the need for a thorough national healing process.”

“It is naïve and indeed myopic to assume that speeches at rallies and burials condemning violence and preaching peace will cascade down to the grassroots to avert hatred and hurt between the erstwhile political rivals,” the pressure group added.

Many observers have noted that a truth, justice and reconciliation commission urgently needs to be formed, if the fragile coalition government is to have any hope of success.


Company who own Tsvangirai ‘killer’ truck suspend administrator
By Lance Guma
16 March 2009

The company who own the truck involved in the crash which killed Susan Tsvangirai, has suspended one of its administrators, after it turned out the vehicle was not driven by one of their drivers. The truck was carrying AIDS drugs for a project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

A report by the weekly Standard newspaper says John Snow International (JSI) is the contractor for this AIDS project and they issued a confidential memo 3 days after the accident, stating that although the truck belonged to them it was not driven by a JSI driver on the day. The new revelation will no doubt raise further questions over whether the crash which claimed the life of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s wife, was an accident or an assassination attempt on his life.

According to the newspaper the JSI memo says; ‘As you may have heard, there was a tragic car accident on Friday (March 6) in Zimbabwe in which the Prime Minister (Morgan Tsvangirai) was injured and his wife was killed. The vehicle involved in this accident was registered to USAid/Deliver (a JSI Project) although not driven by a JSI driver, as far as we know. At this point, further details about the accident are unknown. Understandably, this tragedy has generated a lot of media interest. If you receive any inquiries from the media, we ask that you please direct them to Penelope Riseborough, WEI/JSI Director of Communication in Boston.’

The focus has now shifted to how the suspended administrator, a woman in charge of the delivery trucks and known only as N. Dube, could have dispatched the vehicle without a JSI driver. She is now the centre of an internal investigation by the company. A source who spoke to the Standard newspaper said; ‘The administrator has been quizzed on how the truck was released laden with SCMC (Supply Chain Management System) drugs but with an unofficial driver. If it was coming from delivery in Masvingo it should have been empty,’ they said. So far JSI have said; ‘We cannot at this time make any comment on the detail of the accident but we are co-operating fully with the authorities to ensure the investigation is open and transparent.’
Last week the United States Embassy in Harare issued a statement clarifying the ownership of the truck saying it ‘was purchased with USAID funds by a contractor and belonged to the contractor.’ Many in the ZANU PF regime, including independent MP Jonathan Moyo, immediately seized on the opportunity to demand ‘an international investigation into the activities of USAID in Zimbabwe’.
USAID have provided US$260 million for emergency programs since October 2007, in addition to food, health care, safe water, and HIV/AIDS programs. It would seem highly unlikely that they would have an interest in eliminating the one man people hope will lead Zimbabwe out of the many crises created by ZANU PF.
Tsvangirai himself has insisted the crash was an accident, but his assurances have not stopped the speculation.
Newsreel last week spoke to the Chris Mhike, the lawyer of the driver of the truck. He said his client hit a hump and lost control of the truck before hitting Tsvangirai’s Land Cruiser. But our correspondent Simon Muchemwa, who has since visited the scene of the crash, insists there are no humps on that stretch of road. His comments are corroborated by Deputy Mines Minister and MDC legislator Murisi Zwizwayi, who also visited the crash scene, and who also said there are no potholes or humps. ‘It’s just a clear road,’ he remarked.
At Mrs. Tsvangirai’s funeral last week some of the songs sang by the mourners blamed Mugabe and his party for the crash. In the absence of a thorough investigation, questions will continue to be raised.


SA Bishop defends care of Zimbabwean refugees
By Alex Bell
16 March 2009

A South African church leader who has been instrumental in protecting thousands of stranded Zimbabwean refugees in Johannesburg, has defended his work, days after a South African government Minister condemned his efforts.

Bishop Paul Verryn opened up his Central Methodist Church in the city as a safe haven for refugees, and over the past two years the facility has become increasingly busy, to the point of overflowing. Additionally more than 2000 refugees are now believed to be living on the streets surrounding the church, which has seen local business owners and government officials lash out at Bishop Verryn.

On Friday the Gauteng province’s minister for local government, Qedani Dorothy Mahlangu, announced that the refugees should not be allowed to stay at the church, and accused Verryn of “exposing them to more danger.” Mahlangu said the government was negotiating with NGOs to provide accommodation for the thousands living in the church and on the streets nearby. Mahlangu has also said plans for the refugees would be finalised sometime this week.

But Bishop Verryn on Monday called Mahlangu’s statements ‘absurd’ and argued that his efforts to help the refugees are far more than what has been done by the government, which has previously and repeatedly come under fire for not protecting the millions of Zimbabwean exiles now living in South Africa.

“Certainly the conditions at the present moment are not ideal because of the huge overcrowding,” Verryn said. “But with due respect we have tried and spoken and asked for help from Government certainly, and there has been very little.”
Speaking earlier an angry Bishop Verryn said; “We’re not sitting with 2 000 boxes in this place, which ultimately will be moved to another box. Some of these people are so vulnerable and fractured, it’s very alarming. We have mothers in our building who have crossed the Limpopo River, where groups of criminals have taken their babies off their backs and thrown them into the river. The children drown.
Last Thursday, Mahlangu’s department had also moved to deflect blame for the crisis away from the government and lashed out at the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), saying it had ‘created’ the refugee crisis in Johannesburg. Since February the UNHCR has been providing transport for thousands of Zimbabwean refugees at the Musina showgrounds to come to Johannesburg in search of work, reportedly without first informing local authorities.

The Central Methodist Church meanwhile is fighting a High Court application filed by local businesses, who are seeking to have the refugees moved elsewhere. Business owners have argued that there are serious sanitation, hygiene and safety scares as a result of the numbers of exiles living on the streets outside the church, and many have a demanded that a fence be erected to cordon off the exiles from the rest of the city. Bishop Verryn is now facing a court action from two companies which are adjacent to the church on Pritchard Street. They want the church to remove the 20 mobile toilets which are a stone’s throw from one business, which is a restaurant, and to find an alternative place for the refugees.

Last Wednesday an emergency meeting between business leaders and City of Johannesburg officials was convened to find an urgent solution to the refugee crisis. City officials have now made steps to resolve the crisis, asking for a joint task team to be formed with all the relevant parties, to deal with the worsening hygienic conditions.

Different Points of View 170309

Today, Duane commends Bishop Sebastian Bakare and the Anglicans in Zimbabwe. In a time of illegal takeovers it is great to see a righteous take-back . There is a great need for people at all levels to push the boundaries and reclaim their rights and freedoms.

Diaspora Diaries 170309

Alex Bell speaks to Bishop Paul Verryn from South Africa’s Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg, about the latest plight facing thousands of Zimbabwean exiles sheltering in and around the church premises. Bishop Verryn has been drawn into a legal battle with local business owners who want the refugees removed to a different facility. Bishop Verryn argues that while new premises to house the refugees would be welcome, there is more to be done than merely “moving them around like boxes.” He also argues that issues of xenophobia need to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

Callback 170309

Bvunzawabaya says that noone seems to care about retirees and pensioners who like him worked for many years and now have nothing to show for it; Virus is keen for the inclusive government to work but he thinks that there has to be a process of truth and reconciliation, like in South Africa. He says this is unlikely to happen because the guilty parties are still in government. And, Mashayamombe says the GNU is a fake, MDC was bribed into taking part, and he says the industries aren’t likely to open soon so people will remain jobless.

Reporters’ Forum 160309

Lance Guma speaks to SW Radio Africa correspondents Lionel Saungweme and Simon Muchemwa, who both attended the funeral of Susan Tsvangirai last Wednesday in Buhera. Saungweme says although it was a sad day in the sense of burying a loved one, the organizers managed to turn it into a celebration of Mrs. Tsvangirai’s life.

Letter from America 160903

Dr. Stan Mukasa analyses the conditions for the resumption of western aid, loans and investments to Zimbabwe.

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