Newsreel 030309

Teachers fail to return to work

Many teachers have yet to return to work after the academic year was finally set to get underway on Monday, because of the fact that a number of them were unable to cash government vouchers that were issued to bring the teachers strike to an end.

Teachers were set to resume their duties after striking an informal deal with the new education ministry, which now has Senator David Coltart at its helm. An almost year-long strike by teachers over salaries and working conditions has contributed to the collapse of the education system, to such an extent that the start of the 2009 academic year has been repeatedly postponed. Teachers had been holding out for monthly salaries of US$2000 but after the Finance Ministry agreed to pacify civil servants with redeemable vouchers worth US$100 each, teachers unions informally agreed to end the strike.

The ministry was forced to make the concession to civil servants following an undeliverable promise by Morgan Tsvangirai to pay all civil servants in foreign cash by the end of February. The Prime Minister made the promise during his inauguration speech last month and pressure had been building for the government to make good on the vow. But the plan to provide redeemable vouchers has proved problematic, with many teachers not being able to cash vouchers at participating banks and shops.

The demand for foreign cash has grown significantly after the total collapse and subsequent dollarisation of the economy saw the local dollar become completely worthless. The agreement to give civil servants redeemable vouchers, on top of their usual local-currency salaries, had been greeted with caution and concern and there have since been some hitches in the program. Banks are reportedly running out of cash to honor the vouchers, while at the same time many civil servants, including teachers working in the country’s rural areas, have also had trouble reaching financial institutions to cash the vouchers, which are said to be good for cash and goods.

The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe said about half of its members, mostly in schools in cities and towns, reported for duty on Monday, whereas many in rural areas stayed home as they did not have money for transport costs. At the same time the Zimbabwe Teachers Association has said most of his members have not been able to cash the vouchers and have stayed home.

Tsvangirai takes oath as leader of government in Parliament

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was on Tuesday sworn in as a Member of Parliament, effectively making him the leader of government business in the House of Assembly.

The hour long swearing in ceremony was celebrated with much pomp and fanfare by parliamentarians from opposing sides. Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara and Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Gorden Moyo, were also sworn in at a ceremony presided over by the speaker of Parliament, Lovemore Moyo.

This was the last of the ceremonies under the Global Political Agreement that cements Tsvangirai’s position in the inclusive government. The first was his swearing in as the Prime Minister two weeks ago.

According to the agreement those appointed to the posts of Vice President, Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, and are not MP’s, become ex-officio members of the House of Assembly.

A statement released by the Prime Minister’s office said Tsvangirai would deliver his maiden speech in Parliament on Wednesday. It’s expected he will use this opportunity to outline government plans for the coming year. MDC MP for Makoni central John Nyamande, told us there was euphoria and excitement in the House of Assembly as the MDC President took the oath of parliament.

Interestingly, Johannes Tomana, the ZANU PF appointed attorney general was also sworn as an ex-officio member of parliament. The swearing in of Tomana also buttresses his position in the government following several protests from the MDC that his appointment was done against the spirit of the GPA. The MDC want his appointment reversed, together with that of Gideon Gono, the Reserve Bank Governor.

‘Tomana had a day to forget in parliament. MPs from ZANU PF just gave him a cold shoulder while those from the MDC jeered and booed when he took his oath. You could see he was uncomfortable during the ceremony while Tsvangirai and Mutambara were upbeat,’ according to Nyamande.
Tomana is apparently very unpopular in ZANU PF and government circles.

High court grants bail to eight MDC activists from Mbare

A High court judge in Harare has granted bail to eight of the 13 MDC activists arrested two weeks ago in Mbare, following disturbances involving ZANU PF supporters.

Piniel Denga, the MDC MP for Mbare, told us five of their activists including Friday Muleya, their ward 4 councillor, still remain in police custody. The eight released on Tuesday were granted Z$1000 bail each.

‘Five of our activists were denied bail but another date has been set for another bail hearing. That date has been set for the 9th March,’ Denga said.

The MDC supporters were arrested after violence erupted between them and ZANU PF supporters, when they attempted to reclaim homes and property taken from them during last year’s turbulent election period.
Denga explained that the MDC supporters had gone back to their homes to confront the new occupants and had attempted to reclaim what was rightfully theirs.

He said that at the height of the volatile electioneering period last year, scores of known MDC supporters were evicted from municipal accommodation. The houses were then given to ZANU PF supporters.

Following the disturbances several people, including some from ZANU PF were arrested. Denga however complained that almost all known ZANU PF supporters were bailed out, leaving only MDC supporters in custody.

The MDC MP reiterated that the case should be seen as a test of the country’s judicial reform, following the formation of the inclusive government. He repeated his accusation that law officers and magistrates were dealing harshly with MDC supporters, while treating ZANU PF supporters with kid gloves.

89 MDC supporters still in custody in Nyanga

150 MDC supporters were rounded up during a door to door raid in ward 2 -Avilla village, in Nyanga on Friday. Pishai Muchauraya, the MDC MP for Makoni South and spokesperson for Manicaland province, said they were arrested after they had gone to reclaim their livestock, taken during the one-man Presidential run off in June last year.

Some of the arrested were immediately released because of poor health, or because they were elderly or young children. However 89 people have spent five days in police custody. They were due to appear in court on Tuesday.

Muchauraya said the irony of the arrests is that the police have so far done nothing to help the people who had their properties destroyed or looted by ZANU PF supporters during the controversial election. The victims are now arrested for trying to reclaim their belongings.

What is happening in Nyanga is what happened in Mbare two weeks ago, where clashes broke out between MDC and ZANU PF supporters. 13 MDC supporters were arrested when they attempted to reclaim homes and property taken from them during the election period. Five people are still in custody.

An observer said this is an example of the lawlessness created by Robert Mugabe. People cannot turn to the police for assistance and they have no alternative access to justice. For the supporters of Zanu PF it is still a free for all but for MDC supporters there is no redress. If they try and take back what is theirs, they are arrested.

WOZA activists released on bail

Five WOZA activists who were arrested last week were finally released on bail on Monday, after spending six days in police custody. WOZA released a statement saying the individuals were released on US$50 bail each and remanded out of custody to March 19th.

They were arrested last Wednesday in Harare during a peaceful march to the government buildings for an official meeting with David Coltart, the new Education Minister.

The pressure group’s statement said: “WOZA would like to salute the courage and determination of these parents in enduring beatings, arrest and detention in horrific conditions to ensure that their concerns about their children’s education were brought to the attention of the Minister of Education.”

“The extended and unlawful detention, the extortionate bail demanded and the reporting conditions imposed, also show that the inception of a unity government has done nothing to change the way democracy and social justice activists are treated by a hostile and repressive state.”

Zimbabwe court orders release of Bennett

High Court Judge Tedious Karwi has thrown out the State’s application for leave to appeal and ordered the immediate release of MDC official Roy Bennett. This may now happen on Wednesday.

Last Tuesday the judge granted Bennett bail of US$2 000, told him to surrender his travel documents and report twice a week to Harare Central police’s Law and Order section, but the State opposed this.

The State was given seven days to lodge an application for leave to appeal and that matter was heard on Tuesday. Defence Lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said the State came back arguing for more stringent bail condition.

She told SW Radio Africa: “They were proposing that instead of US$2 000, it should be US$5 000. Instead of reporting twice a week, he should be reporting everyday and that there should be a 40km radius condition imposed.” Mtetwa said the Attorney General’s office also had a problem with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai standing as surety for Bennett’s bail application.

However the judge dismissed the State’s bid to appeal and said the conditions he imposed last Tuesday were fair.

Mtetwa said this means that if the State does not interfere and frustrate the process, Bennett would be a free man on Wednesday, after he appears in the magistrates’ court in Mutare. She said the release of a person in custody is an involved process in terms of paperwork. But she hoped the paperwork would be worked on and brought before the magistrate’s court on Wednesday morning.

However the defence team representing the jailed MDC Treasurer General and Deputy Minister of Agriculture designate, have expressed concern that State authorities are already trying to complicate and frustrate their client’s release.

Mtetwa said: “We have been told that they are thinking of ensuring that the policeman who has his passport becomes unavailable so that the passport is not lodged with the clerk of court, which will result in him not being released.”

The MDC official was arrested two weeks ago at Charles Prince airport, on his way to South Africa where he had been living in exile since 2006. He is being charged with the illegal possession of firearms for purposes of committing banditry, terrorism, insurgency and sabotage.

The MDC says: “It remains our well considered view that the charges against Roy Bennett are scandalous, frivolous and vexatious at law, in that they are driven by a vindictive and malicious political vendetta against Roy Bennett.”

Meanwhile, the incarceration of the MDC Treasurer General has exposed the alarming and shocking prison conditions facing all inmates in Mutare remand Prison. Mutare Mayor Brian James, who has been visiting Bennett regularly, said the prison is not fit for human habitation and that more than a dozen inmates have died since Bennett was thrown into jail two weeks ago.

The Mayor visited him on Tuesday and said the body of a fellow prisoner who died on Saturday is still lying in the laundry room at the prison.

Prisoners are not getting medical attention and starvation is widespread. Like all prisons countrywide it is extremely overcrowded. It has a capacity of about 160 inmates, but is currently holding at least 300.
MDC officials have said Bennett is being held in the D-Class section of the jail that houses dangerous criminals. But Bennett is said to be in good spirits and has become quite popular with inmates, helping to raise awareness about conditions within the prisons.

One prisoner in particular has much to thank the MDC official for. Elvis Nodangala, a South African, was arrested on October 3rd last year and had yet to be charged or appear in court. The MDC information department said: “At the time of his arrest, he had a broken arm. For the five months or so he has been in prison, he has not received medical attention, and his fellow inmate, Roy Bennett is worried that gangrene may have set in.”

It’s reported Bennett has raised the plight of the South African with the prison authorities and there is indication Nodangala may also be released on Wednesday.

SA willing to consider credit lines for Zimbabwe

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe on Monday said his country was considering the possibility of availing credit lines to Zimbabwe, following an appeal by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. Despite a troublesome start to the new coalition government Motlanthe responded favourably to Tsvangirai’s plea for US$2 billion to rescue the shattered economy. Speaking on the sidelines of a conference in Cape Town Motlanthe said, ‘What they are really asking for are credit lines, and of course as South Africa we have to consider that favourably because it means their traders, their business people in terms of economic recovery will be buying whatever they need from South Africa.’

Last week Finance Ministers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) met and agreed that a full summit of the group should consider a financial aid package for Zimbabwe. That summit might be Zimbabwe’s only hope, given the wait and see approach of the West towards the coalition government. Several violations of the power sharing deal have not helped assure skeptical donors and countries that genuine reforms are going to be made. Mugabe also didn’t help by using his lavish birthday party over the weekend to boast that he was still in charge and that white farmers had no place in the country. Critics have warned that the continued lack of respect for property rights is hardly going to get investors flocking into the country.

Prominent banker Dr Julius Makoni, who left Zimbabwe for the United Kingdom several years ago, told Newsreel on Monday that ‘unless there is rule of law and respect for property rights you will not get investment, period. It’s as simple as that.’ He also said the global financial crisis affecting most western countries would mean Zimbabwe will be at the end of the queue in terms of countries that will get financial help. Commenting on SADC plans to bail out Zimbabwe he said governments should ‘not be in the business of lending money and should instead focus on creating an enabling environment and everything else will fall in place.’ He argued that such transactions should be driven by economic rationale and not politics.

While Tsvangirai is busy working to raise funds to rebuild the country, questions are being asked about the bloated 71 member government that Mugabe has imposed on Zimbabwe. Newsreel understands some of the new ministers still do not have their own offices and are squatting in various buildings. The amount of money needed to accommodate over 61 ministers and their support staff, in addition to a further 10 governors who are yet to be appointed, is staggering. Each of these individuals is expected to receive a luxury car, driver, bodyguard, office space, furniture and other perks.

Such extravagance is going to make it very difficult for Tsvangirai to find real financial help for the nation.

Different Points of View 030309

Today Duane follows up on an earlier program with Dr. Maxwell Shumba, Chairman of the MDC-USA to explore the history of the organization and its ongoing relationship with the MDC in Zimbabwe.

Diaspora Diaries 030309

Alex Bell is joined by the coordinator of the Global Zimbabwe Forum, Daniel Molokele, to discuss the exclusion of the Diaspora in the mechanisms set up to monitor the new government in Zimbabwe. An independent Civil Society Monitoring Mechanism was established last week that is set to engage with the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee – which has so far proved ineffective in holding Zimbabwe’s political parties accountable to the inter-party political agreement. Molokele argues that support groups and representatives within the Diaspora also need to be included in such mechanisms to ensure conditions are met for the safe return of the millions now living outside the country.

Callback 030309

There are many heartbreaking tales emerging from Zimbabwe nowadays and Nyembezi talks about her recent traumatic experience with medical staff at Mpilo Hospital that sadly lead to the tragic death of her young child. Jeffrey says that efforts to control cholera in Norton won’t come to much as long as residents don’t have access to clean running water.

Reporters’ Forum 020309

Lance Guma chats to SW Radio Africa correspondents Lionel Saungweme and Simon Muchemwa. The panel looks at remarks made by Mugabe at his 85th birthday. He boasted that he was firmly in charge and that white farmers had no place in the country. Muchemwa also spent the day with Jestina Mukoko’s lawyer Monday and tells us what happened before she was released. Saungweme tells about the arrest, and subsequent release, of Bulawayo MP Thabitha Khumalo.

Newsreel 020309

NCA spokesman Madock Chivasa & 5 activists released on bail

Madock Chivasa, the Youth Forum board chairperson and National Constitutional Assembly spokesperson, was released on free bail on Saturday, after spending two days in police cells.

Chivasa and five other Youth Forum activists were arrested Thursday last week, following a meeting he addressed in Masvingo. Police accused Chivasa of using his presentation to incite violence among the 300 strong youths who attended the meeting.

Soon after the presentation police officers swooped on Chivasa and arrested him in front of the crowd. This sparked a mass brawl involving the police and youth members.

Wellington Zindove, a Youth Forum coordinator, told us the police action was unjustified and was responsible for the outbreak of the disturbances.
He said the five youth members were picked up for allegedly blocking the police from arresting Chivasa, who was charged with resisting arrest.

‘Between Thursday and the day he was released police kept changing the charges against Chivasa. They first charged him with public violence, then changed it to obstructing the course of justice and finally settled with resisting lawful arrest,’ Zindove said.

After a series of consultations between the police and Chivasa’s lawyer, Phillip Shumba, the authorities decided to release the six on free bail.

‘If police want to press any charges or make a follow up they will do so by way of summons. Otherwise there is no case against our members who were targeted for taking a stance against brutal tendencies by the state,’ Zindove said.

Elderly farm couple severely beaten as farm invasions continue

An elderly couple are being treated for serious injuries after they were attacked by a gang of thugs who invaded their smallholding outside Harare on Saturday night – this is according to the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) who has expressed fears about the continued onslaught against the country’s remaining white farmers.

The couple are the latest victims in the renewed campaign to force farmers off their land, which has seen many of the remaining farmers being forced into hiding. The fresh wave of invasions has already seen almost 80 farms being seized and more than 100 farmers facing prosecution. At the same time at least 50 farms are confirmed to be under siege by lawless thugs – with the farm owners facing possible violent eviction. The threats by police have also continued with police officers ‘visiting’ at least two farms over the weekend, including the farm of Digby Nesbitt who is already ‘sharing’ a house with Bulawayo’s Deputy Police Chief Veterai.

The campaign against the farmers confirms that ethnic cleansing is underway, as the invasions are “the forcible removal of an ethnically defined population from a given territory.” The action meanwhile is not only violating the unity deal between the country’s political role players, but is also being openly supported by Robert Mugabe who over the weekend said the farm invasions would continue.

Mugabe, who addressed his supporters at a lavish celebration to mark his 85th birthday, called on the remaining farmers to leave, saying they were not welcome.

“Land distribution will continue. It will not stop,” Mugabe said. “The few
remaining white farmers should quickly vacate their farms as they have no
place there.”

Mugabe’s comments leave little doubt that the dictator is heading the campaign, despite reports that the action is being coordindated ZANU PF ‘hardliners’, bent on undermining the unity deal – which is daily being proved as worth very little. Mugabe’s disregard for rulings by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) meanwhile were also made clear during his birthday speech, with Mugabe saying SADC had no right to interfere on Zimbabwean land matters.

“Some farmers went to the SADC… but that’s nonsense, absolute nonsense, no-one will follow that,” Mugabe said. “We have courts here in this country, that can determine the rights of people. Our land issues are not subject to the SADC tribunal.”

In November last year the tribunal ruled that Zimbabwe’s plans to seize dozens of white-owned farms were illegal under international law and should be halted immediately.

Civil society groups to independently monitor unity deal

Civil society organizations met in Harare on 25th February and agreed to form an independent Civil Society Monitoring Mechanism which will look at the implementation of the unity deal that created the current coalition government. Concerns were raised that the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC), created under the September power sharing deal, is composed of politicians from the 3 political parties and has proved ineffective as a monitoring tool. The new independent body is expected to produce monthly monitoring reports and liaise with JOMIC and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union, who are guarantors of the deal.

In a press release issued after last weeks meeting, civil society groups said; ‘Ordinary voices and views of the people of Zimbabwe have not been heard or acknowledged in the Inter-party Political Agreement (IPA) and that ownership, monitoring and enforcement of the IPA is currently the exclusive reserve of political parties, state authorities and regional and international political organs who are not accountable to the people of Zimbabwe.’ The groups say they will not undermine the coalition government, but want to contribute to a new culture of transparency, scrutiny and accountability of all public processes taken on behalf of the people, by the political parties.

JOMIC has been widely ridiculed as toothless and its standing was not helped by reports there was no money budgeted for its work. Another criticism was that JOMIC focused mainly on the grievances coming from political parties while ordinary people were ignored. Despite several violations of the unity deal JOMIC’s visibility has been almost nil, save for a few reprimands it issued to the media on hate speech. SADC and the AU who guaranteed the deal have also been conspicuous by their lack of response to the violations.

Meanwhile Zimbabwe continues to struggle in its attempt to get a US$2 billion financial bail from SADC regional states. Although pledges were said to have been made, no cash was forthcoming. South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel said Zimbabwe needed half the money for tackling emergencies in the health, education and municipal sectors, while the other half would be directed at kick-starting other sectors. Commentators say SADC, who railroaded the deal that got the MDC and ZANU PF into a coalition, is failing to put its money where its mouth is.

Mukoko and 12 other political detainees granted bail

13 MDC and civic activists, who had been abducted between the months of October and December last year, have finally been granted bail. The bulk of the activists were granted bail last Friday, but Jestina Mukoko, the Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), was granted bail on Monday.

Lawyer Alex Muchadehama said a group of 16 people had been in police custody on allegations relating to plots of banditry and terrorism. 13 were granted bail and three are still appealing for bail in the High Court. Those three are MDC Security Officer Chris Dlamini, Morgan Tsvangirai’s former aide Gandhi Mudzingwa and photo-journalist Shadreck Anderson Manyere.
Muchadehama said of the 13 only seven have been able to meet the stringent bail conditions and are therefore free, while the remaining six are still in police custody as they have not been able to fulfill the bail conditions.
The lawyer said they were ordered to provide title deeds of US$20 000, surrender their passports, pay a bail fee of US$600 and report to the police twice a week.

So far only Mukoko, Broderick Takawira (also from the ZPP), Fidelis Chiramba and four others have been able to meet these bail conditions. He said the other six either don’t have travel documents or title deeds worth US$20 000.
Muchadehama said for the last few months the police have denied knowing the whereabouts of about 10 other missing persons. But they have now said they will release these missing persons if the defence team drops court applications asking police to release them. This makes no sense but is apparently what the police are insisting upon.

“If you withdraw applications seeking to identify where they are, they (police) were also prepared to release those people unconditionally. Without taking them to court, without charging them – notwithstanding whatever number they are, they said they are prepared to release them.” Muchadehama added.

He said the public prosecutor indicated to them that the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee and the President had directed the Attorney General to release the detainees. He said this is clear proof that there had never been any substance to the allegations of terrorism by the State but pure ‘political gamesmanship’. Muchadehama said: “This is not the rule of law, this is not justice. It’s politics taken to the wrong forum.”

Those granted bail on Friday were: Concillia Chinanzavana, Manuel Chinanzvavana, Fidelis Chiramba, Violet Mupfuranhewe, Colin Mutemagawu, Pieta Kaseke, Audrice Mbudzana, Broderick Takawira, Zacharia Nkomo, Chinoto Zulu, Regis Mujeyi and Mapfumo Gautsa, while Mukoko was granted bail on Monday.

Meanwhile the MDC Deputy Minister of Agriculture designate Roy Bennett remains in jail.

Tsvangirai, Mugabe & Mutambara meet to finalise appointments

Party principals to the Global Political Agreement met in Harare on Monday and agreed on a process that would see the appointments of permanent secretaries, provincial governors and ambassadors in the next two weeks.

Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara all agreed on a process that would see an equitable distribution of all senior government positions. That process is being overseen by the Prime Minister, with help from his deputies, Thokozani Khupe and Mutambara.

James Maridadi, the Prime Minister’s spokesman, confirmed the process of identifying potential candidates for all senior government posts has started. It is believed Tsvangirai will consult with Mugabe on the final list before the new appointments are made public.

In the spirit of the GPA, the principals agreed also to revisit the issue of the Reserve Bank Governor, Gideon Gono and Attorney General Johannes Tomana.

A source told us the Prime Minister requested from the public service commission all curriculum vitae’s of current permanent secretaries and those that were appointed last week, but whose appointments have now been nullified. Members from the MDC have also sent in their CV’s to be considered for the senior positions.

Another source told us a formula that is likely to be used by the principals is that where a minister is from ZANU PF, a permanent secretary will also be appointed from within ZANU PF ranks. If the minister is from the MDC, then the permanent secretary will also be MDC.
It is believed the Prime Minister has also requested information regarding the procedures used when appointing ambassadors and junior diplomatic postings.

Newsreel is reliably informed that the Prime Minister wrote a letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi last week, asking about the number of diplomats posted outside the country.

A source in the Foreign Affairs Ministry told us the minister was tasked to give a detailed report on how long each ambassador has been posted abroad, when they are due back home and how many times each diplomat had been posted outside since joining the ministry.

Callback 020309

Letter from America 020302

Dr. Stan Mukasa discusses MDC’s options in the aftermath of Mugabe’s flagrant violations of the Global Political Agreement.

Callback 280209

HealthBeat 280209

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