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Tanonoka asks, “Are we really in the same blanket with Robert Mugabe and ZANU PF…a cause for concern. What are we doing here?” He warns that the MDC ‘carries too much of the people’s hopes and trust and its association with ZANU PF only gives people political heartburn.” He shares his thoughts on this situation and offers some advice to the MDC.

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Oliver Kubikwa fromthe Zimbabwe Political Victims Association in South Africa says that most Zimbabweans there have adopted a ‘wait and see’ attitude towards going home, and there are still huge numbers of people crossing the border into South Africa. He says the policy that the SA government has adopted of denying Zimbabweans legal status and sending them home is ‘premature,’ and he criticises the government for failing to tackle the rising xenophobic attacks. Chisango says that it appears a lot of schools have now opened and he hopes that this year children will get the education they have been denied.

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Willy and Dominic are joined by Poison as they discuss Mugabe’s 85th birthday celebration, where he was lauded with praises and likened to a ‘mighty crocodile.’ How can he celebrate so lavishly year after year within a backdrop of such suffering and deprivation, and what will he remembered for in the future? Will he forever be known as the man who took Zimbabwe so firmly down the road away from democracy?

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After the formation of the inclusive government last week, people expected Mugabe to ditch his go-it-alone policy of making unilateral appointments of key personnel. But on Tuesday the ZANU PF leader did it again, when he appointed permanent secretaries without consulting his partners Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara. The MDC MP for Makoni central, John Nyamande, said this farcical one-man show by Mugabe has to come to an end. He promised his party will use it’s majority in parliament to force changes in the way this executive authority is being abused.

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Shamuyarira’s nephew orders farmers off their land

John Worsley-Worswick, head of Justice for Agriculture, said ZANU PF spokesperson Nathan Shamuyarira’s nephew gave farmers Ben Freeth and Mike Campbell a 5pm Wednesday deadline to get off their Mount Carmel farm in Mashonaland West. This is a farm protected by a SADC tribunal ruling.

There are dozens of white commercial farmers who have had their farms invaded by Mugabe cronies this month alone, in total disregard of the regional ruling.

Worsley-Worswick said the farm being targeted by Shamuyarira’s nephew, Peter Chamada, is in the Chegutu/Chinhoyi area. The farm boasts tourist lodges and is a huge exporter of mangoes. It’s reported that Chamada visited the farmers Wednesday morning and told them if they were not out by 5pm they would be removed by force. Mike and his wife Angela have left the farm, as Mike is still weak from the beatings and torture he was subjected to during their abduction on Sunday 28 June, the day after the June 27 Presidential run-off election.

The JAG official said there has been a huge escalation of farm invasions in the last few weeks in this particular area, as it is at the heart of the SADC tribunal challenge. The applicants who took the regime to court in Namibia should be totally protected by SADC who ruled in their favour, but he said a directive was issued by ZANU PF saying the SADC farmers should be specifically targeted.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai told a press conference in Harare that the disruptions of farming operations is undermining the revival of the agricultural sector and undermining investor confidence. He said he has “tasked the Ministers of Home Affairs, Giles Mutsekwa and Kembo Mohadi, to bring the full weight of the law down on the perpetrators who continue to act within a culture of impunity and entitlement. No person in Zimbabwe is above the law.”

UK Archbishops warn Zim crisis will not end if Mugabe remains

Two of the UK’s most respected religious leaders on Wednesday strongly condemned Robert Mugabe’s continued rule in Zimbabwe, warning that the country’s combined crises will never be resolved if the ageing dictator remains in power.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams and the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, made the scathing comments in a joint article published in the UK The Times newspaper. They announced a joint appeal for aid, to ease the suffering endured by Zimbabwe’s people, writing that “we know that there will be no serious solution as long as Robert Mugabe remains in power and refuses to accept the verdict of his people in last year’s election.” Dr Williams also criticised the precedent that has been set in Africa, where regimes such as those in Zimbabwe and Kenya have been allowed to hold onto power through violence. He said that in Zimbabwe’s case, Mugabe has destroyed the hopes of people throughout Africa by destroying Zimbabwe – once the breadbasket of the continent.

“The continent can’t afford more failed states, mass hunger, contempt for the rule of law. And how much more painful it is when a country has been held up as a sign of promise,” Dr Williams said.

The Archbishops on Wednesday called for a day of fasting and prayer for Zimbabwe to highlight the country’s desperate humanitarian crisis, which is believed to be claiming more than 3000 lives a week. More than 75% of the population is in desperate need of food aid because of countrywide food shortages and reports are growing of people succumbing to the effects of starvation. At the same time, the cholera epidemic continues, with more than 80 000 reported cases and almost 4000 official deaths, while the collapse of the health system means thousands more are dying from other treatable diseases.

The appeal for funds is also being supported by Cape Town’s Archbishop, Thabo Makgoba, who on Wednesday also declared a day of fasting and prayer for Zimbabwe. The Archbishop explained to SW Radio Africa on Wednesday that foreign governments and African governments must heed Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s plea for funds, arguing that condemnation of Mugabe and critical aid “are not mutually exclusive.”
The Archbishop, who has strongly criticised Mugabe in the past, argued that while he still believes Mugabe must step down from power, the unity government is “the only hope which the people of Zimbabwe have, and we must do all we can to make it work.”

The UK Archbishops, too, in their appeal for funds, have said a wait-and-see approach to donating aid would exacerbate the humanitarian crisis, arguing that through the church, donations could be properly distributed. Dr Sentamu argued that “there’ll be more and more graves” if the appeal is ignored, while Dr Williams voiced the grim prediction that people will continue to die.

“They’ll die quickly, unpleasantly, and children and young people will bear the brunt of it,” he said.

Madhuku says the power share government is a mess

The outrageous infringements of the power sharing deal by the Mugabe regime were clearly exposed on Wednesday when human rights defenders were arrested and beaten, threats to farmers continued and Mugabe announced a list of permanent secretaries, all from ZANU PF.

The outspoken chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) Dr Lovemore Madhuku, described the inclusive government as a ‘circus’ and said the power sharing deal was an inappropriate way of dealing with the complex Zimbabwe crises. He said Mugabe does not know how to share power and it is impossible to achieve the kind of real change that Zimbabweans yearn for, in this kind of arrangement.

Madhuku said not only is Mugabe treating Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai like a junior partner but the human rights abuses are continuing as if nothing has changed.

Police on Wednesday violently broke up a WOZA demonstration beating protesters and arresting 10. And despite a SADC ruling barring ZANU PF officials from grabbing protected farms, Nathan Shamuyarira’s nephew gave farmer Mike Campbell until 5pm to vacate his farm.

Prime Minister Tsvangirai held a press conference on Wednseday and said the rule of law continues to be flouted in Zimbabwe, where farm invasions continue unabated and in contravention of the Memorandum of Understanding. He said this was now “undermining our ability to revive our agricultural sector and restore investor confidence.”

Tsvangirai also said despite the Principals agreeing “that all political detainees who have been formally charged with a crime should be released on bail and those that have not been charged should be released unconditionally. This has not yet happened.”

Some of the political prisoners are in leg irons and shackled at the Avenues Clinic, the other group is incarcerated in filthy cells at Chikurubi. Rights lawyers say at least 10 others are still missing after they were abducted by state agents from their homes several months ago.

Furthermore, despite the fact that the MDC has not accepted his appointment, the controversial Attorney General, Johannes Tomana continues to play a significant role in interfering and abusing the detainees’ quest for freedom.

Tsvangirai said: “As long as these matters remain unresolved, it will be impossible for the transitional government to move forward with the reforms that this country so desperately needs.”

However Dr Madhuku was highly critical of the new Prime Minister’s statement. He said; “The fact that he held a press conference to complain shows that he has no power, because if had any power he would have been sitting somewhere and actually exercising that power and we would see things changing.”

The NCA Chairman said if Mugabe was interested in real change and Tsvangirai had power, political detainees would have been released, new faces would be seen as permanent secretaries and police officers would start behaving differently and not abuse ordinary citizens.

“But you cannot say you are in power if all you do is to go and have a press conference and tell us the problems that everyone knows,” said the outspoken critic.

As the game of politics continues to be played in Zimbabwe, questions are being asked about the role of the regional body – the guarantors of this controversial Zimbabwean deal. Where is SADC in all this and who can pressure SADC and South Africa, to force compliance?

Police beat and arrest WOZA activists

5 WOZA members have been detained at Harare Central while 9 are being treated for injuries, after being severely beaten by police on Wednesday. The group were waiting to present a petition to David Coltart, the new Education Minister, when they were set upon by riot police. WOZA leader Jennie Williams said the pressure group had an official appointment to meet Coltart and had been gathering peacefully waiting for him.

She said 450 activists marched to the government building but were violently dispersed by the riot police “who were banging their shields and singing, “today we are going to beat you” as they descended on the group and viciously began to do so. They later changed their song to why are your husbands allowing you to demonstrate?”

As the women were driven off to Harare Central police station they were heard singing “we want education for our children.”

WOZA has embarked on a campaign to have the non-operational education sector declared a ‘national disaster’ and to allow children who were disadvantaged by the education crisis last year an opportunity to repeat, at no cost.

They had wanted to hand a petition with 25,000 signatures to the Education Minister, who criticized the manner in which the police handled the situation.

The Minister, who is proving to be more tolerant than his predecessors, promised WOZA that he would do everything in his power to ensure that every child goes back to school.

But the so-called inclusive government is facing many challenges since its formation two week ago. The police continue to use unnecessary force to deal with peaceful protestors, the political detainees are still in custody in gross violation of the global political agreement and Robert Mugabe continues to making important government decisions without consulting his partners in the power share government. This was best illustrated this week when Mugabe announced the appointment of permanent secretaries – all from his party.

Chamisa & Shamu clash over roles in Information Ministries

Nelson Chamisa, the Minister of Information and Communications Technology, has accused ZANU PF’s Webster Shamu, the Information and Publicity Minister, of ‘over-chewing’ into his mandate and trying to usurp his responsibilities. Chamisa’s ministry primarily oversees the posts and telecommunications sector, while Shamu runs the publicity arm of government, including broadcaster ZBC and the state owned newspapers.

Shortly after the MDC Minister held a meeting with officials from mobile phone provider NetOne, fixed line operator TelOne and the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe, about the high tariff charges affecting consumers, Shamu proceeded to have another meeting with the same group.

On Wednesday Chamisa told Newsreel the role of his ministry was to provide the ‘microphone and other gadgets’ while Shamu was responsible for the ‘content and voice.’ He said instead of the two ministries complementing each other it was ‘regrettable that some force behind’ was trying to undermine the coalition government. It’s also suspected ZANU PF wants to block Chamisa from making inquiries into the interception of phones and other communications, controversially done under repressive snooping legislation.

Asked whether ZANU PF was trying to take advantage of perceived MDC inexperience in government, Chamisa said, ‘we read widely and understand issues better than them. I have a task to educate Shamu from a communication point of view and to unlock the value of his own ministry.’ He said it was now up to the Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to reign in Shamu. Chamisa said it was the role of the Prime Minister to supervise the ministers and formulate the parameters under which they work. He however warned that there ‘will be a train smash if he (Shamu) continues to interfere. ‘Lack of sincerity will continue to haunt this deal,’ Chamisa added. On Wednesday Tsvangirai clarified the matter by insisting Chamisa was in charge of the telecommunications sector and not Shamu.

Tsvangirai rejects Mugabe appointment of permanent secretaries

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Wednesday held a joint press conference with his Deputy, Arthur Mutambara, at which both men rejected the unilateral appointment of ministerial Permanent Secretaries by Mugabe on Tuesday. Tsvangirai said these were, ‘in contravention of both the Global Political Agreement and the Constitution of Zimbabwe, which is very clear with regard to senior government appointments.’ Under the deal only the leadership of the President, his two deputies and the Prime Minister with his two deputies, will consult and agree on such appointments. Tsvangirai said Mugabe’s announcement therefore had no force in law. It’s expected Tsvangirai and Mutambara will meet Mugabe later in the week to try to resolve the impasse.

According to a statement issued by Tsvangirai after the press conference, ‘the Permanent Secretaries who were in position as of September 15th will remain in post in an acting capacity until the matter is resolved. This government will not allow a parallel force within its structures or any unconstitutional or unilateral actions which serve to impede progress.’ He also explained that several issues remained unresolved, such as the appointment of ambassadors, Reserve Bank Governor, Attorney General, provincial governors and the continued flouting of the rule of law by ZANU PF. ‘In particular, a new wave of disruptions of farming operations, in contravention of the Memorandum of Understanding, is undermining our ability to revive our agricultural sector and restore investor confidence,’ he said.

Tsvangirai revealed that all the principals in the deal, himself, Mutambara and Mugabe, agreed last week that, ‘all political detainees who have been formally charged with a crime should be released on bail and those that have not been charged should be released unconditionally. This has not yet happened.’ He said the Attorney General’s office is willfully obstructing the release of all detainees by abusing the appeal process. Despite Tsvangirai’s objections Mugabe is making it clear he is in charge by refusing to release the detainees, some of whom have spent almost 5 months in custody. Insiders say ZANU PF will only release them in return for blanket immunity for security chiefs, who supervised the murder of over 200 innocent civilians in the run up to last years June one-man presidential run-off.

Mudzuri says US$1 billion needed to revamp energy sector

On Wednesday Energy and Power Development Minister, engineer Elias Mudzuri, said US$1 billion is needed for the next 12 months to fix the country’s battered energy sector.

‘There is a lot of work to be done in the coming year. US$600 million will help but a billion dollars will be appropriate for the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority,’ Mudzuri said.

The Minister said there are plans to promote renewable sources so that they account for a big percent of overall power consumption in years to come.

‘We have worked on a document that we presented to the Finance Minister, detailing our strategy to revamp the energy sector. This is an ongoing exercise but for now we need a lot of energy to get the industry and commerce sectors back on their feet,’ Mudzuri said.
The cash strapped ZESA is broke and cannot meet its operational costs. The country’s power utility company has been unable to procure crucial equipment to connect new residential areas, a development that has forced it to ask customers to purchase their own overhead cables.

Like most of the infrastructure in Zimbabwe, ZESA’s power stations and transmission grid are crumbling due to under-funding and neglect, as the country grapples it’s severe economic meltdown, described by the World Bank last year as the worst in the world, outside a war zone.

Many areas have at times gone for months without electricity because of breakdowns at ZESA’s archaic power stations, while failure by the state energy utility to pay for coal has seen some of its thermal power stations having to operate below capacity.

Zimbabwe needs 1400 megawatts of electricity a day, but Hwange power station currently supplies the nation with only 400 megawatts of power per day, while Kariba power station generates 750 megawatts, leaving a deficit of 250 mw everyday.

Hwange should generate 920 megawatts, when it is operating at full capacity.

‘If we can manage to make Hwange fully operational within a year, that will be excellent. In Kariba we need to add two more generators to increase the power capacity. We will also be working on other smaller power stations and all this work will take up to two years to complete,’ Mudzuri added.

Asked to comment on the outcry from consumers about the astronomical energy bills, Mudzuri was quick to agree the bills were ridiculous and pointed a finger of blame at people ‘who do business without consulting.’

‘These are people firing from the dark. We’ve said no to this and we will be engaging all stakeholders so that people come up with commercially viable options,’ he said.

Speaking about the fuel situation, Mudzuri said he was optimistic that lines of credit will be extended soon to the government and private players, to allow an improved supply of fuel and also to increase competition among players.

The National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (NOCZIM) will play a leading role in transforming this sector; though Mudzuri warned he would strictly monitor its operations to curb the corruption tendencies linked with some of the executives involved with the company.

‘We will adopt a clear and transparent policy that will allow the government to open up the market and allow new players to source fuel and supply locally,’ the minister said.

UN chief calls for political detainees to be released

United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday called for the release of all Zimbabwe’s political prisoners, after talks with South African President Kgalema Motlanthe in South Africa.

The UN chief repeated his support for the power share government that has been formed between ZANU PF and the MDC, but called on Robert Mugabe to prove his commitment to the deal by releasing the detained activists, including the MDC’s Treasurer General Roy Bennett.

“Mugabe should promote national reconciliation. The international community will only support this government if there are efforts from Mugabe to make it work,” the UN leader told reporters after his meeting with Motlanthe.

He also called the economic situation in Zimbabwe ‘very dire’ with world-record inflation figures and at least 94 percent unemployment.

“Mugabe should implement the (unity) deal to his sincerest and meet the expectations of the international community and the people of Zimbabwe,” he added.

The comments came as finance ministers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) met in South Africa on Wednesday to discuss an aid package for Zimbabwe – an aid package that SADC officials have said will be hampered by the global economic crisis.

“When (finance) ministers consider any support to Zimbabwe they have to take into consideration what is going on (globally), so for sure it is a challenge,” SADC Executive Secretary Tomaz Salomao told Reuters news agency on Wednesday.

“But they will support Zimbabwe,” Salomao said.

The finance ministers meeting on Wednesday preempts a SADC council of ministers meeting set to take place in Cape Town on Thursday, where Zimbabwe will once again top the agenda.

The regional body, as guarantors of the unity deal in Zimbabwe, has been harshly criticised for failing to act or even comment on the ongoing violations of the agreement, which are still being committed in Zimbabwe, and critics have argued the deal is doomed to fail if SADC refuses to intervene.

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Bennett granted bail, but remains in jail after State opposed

High Court Judge Tedious Karwi granted jailed MDC politician Roy Bennett bail on Tuesday, but the Deputy Agriculture Minister designate will remain in police custody after the State opposed bail. Bennett had been granted bail of US$2 000, told to surrender his travel documents and report twice a week to Harare Central police Law and Order section.

However the Attorney General’s office invoked a section of the Criminal, Procedure and Evidence Act, which allows them seven days to appeal the ruling. This means the MDC official will remain in a Mutare prison until the State’s appeal. Just last week the same thing happened to one of the groups of political detainees.

Bennett’s lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, said the State is invoking the clause for improper reasons and she wants the matter challenged in the Constitution Court.

She said the State is involved in nothing more than delaying tactics, as often they never do bother to appeal the bail ruling, but by their actions the person stays inside for another 7 days. “We feel that we have reached a stage where the invoking of that section ought to be tested in the Constitutional Court because it is quite obvious that is being abused clearly for non legal reasons but for political reasons,” Mtetwa added.

Meanwhile, the MDC issued a statement saying: “This is provocation of the highest order. It is time the inclusive government salvaged itself. The inclusive government is failing Roy Bennett, Jestina Mukoko and all other political hostages, and in essence, is committing gross violations of people’s human rights.”

Bennett is charged with possessing firearms for insurgency, banditry, sabotage or terrorism, while the other political prisoners detained in Harare are facing similar acts of banditry against the Mugabe regime.

During Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s official visit to South Africa last week he spoke to President Kgalema Motlanthe on the issue of the political detainees and it’s believed that pressure was put on Mugabe to release the prisoners.

But the day before Bennett’s bail hearing Mugabe had told a visiting United Nations delegation that it is up to the courts to decide the detainees’ fate. The Herald newspaper reported that Mugabe said he would consider pardoning anyone convicted and jailed, in the spirit of unity.

But Ralph Black, the MDC’s deputy representative in the USA, said: “The principle of mercy, only after the legal process is complete, should be applied to the perpetrators of human rights abuses, who in most cases are known ZPF operatives and officials. Roy Bennett’s alleged crime is victimless.”

The defence team insists the Attorney General Johannes Tomana, through his prosecutor Chris Mutangadura, has no case and is using the same old tricks to deny the accused their rights.

In Bennett’s case Mtetwa said: “It was the usual nonsense that he will not stand trial, he will abscond, and he will interfere with witnesses. But we said this is a man who came back voluntarily to Zimbabwe knowing that there was this case. That is not someone who is going to abscond.”

The prosecutor also said Bennett would interfere with witness Peter Hitschmann. But the defence team argued that there was no way that the MDC official could interfere with Hitschmann, who has been in jail for the past three years. “The State’s case is so weak that no reasonable person would want to run away when it is quite clear they will be acquitted.”

During Bennett’s bail hearing Mtetwa told the High Court that Prime Minister Tsvangirai would stand as surety for Bennett’s bail application. However the State interpreted this as political interference by the Prime Minister’s office.

But Mtetwa disagreed, saying bail rules said that a person applying for bail can give names of any person of substance who is prepared to stand as surety for his appearance in court. She said the PM’s office did not go behind anyone’s back but did it in terms of the law.

White-owned farm invasions on the rise

Allies of Robert Mugabe appear to be doing everything in their power to remove what is left of Zimbabwe’s white farming community, despite the formation of the power share government with the MDC.

This is according to the UK’s Telegraph newspaper that reportedly has seen details of a ‘secret plan’ that makes it clear a coordinated campaign against at least 100 farmers is already underway, including more than 77 farms that have been invaded in the last few weeks.

According to the Commercial Farmers Union, the eviction campaign is accelerating, despite the formation of the unity overnment with the MDC. £70 million-worth of crops are in the ground on the targeted farms. The MDC, which started work in the coalition government last week, has promised not only a land audit, but also that the farm seizures will stop. But under Mugabe’s allocation of ministries between the parties, both the justice and lands portfolios remain in the hands of ZANU PF.

Sources say the current mad-dash for land is an attempt by Mugabe loyalists to seize as much land as possible before the MDC can begin to take control in a government that critics have already judged as doomed to fail.

According to the Telegraph, a set of notes from a secret meeting between officials from the justice and lands ministries, as well as the police and a group of magistrates, revealed that its purpose was to “find ways that could enhance quicker prosecution of former commercial farmers.”

It’s alleged that at a meeting in Chegutu Johannes Tomana, the attorney-general who was himself allocated a seized farm, reportedly said there had been “unnecessary delays” in farmers’ trials as a result of their legal teams challenging the “constitutionality” of the land grabs. At the same time, Harare’s chief magistrate, Herbert Mandeya, said that a ruling by a tribunal of the Southern African Development Community that the farmers’ rights had been violated “must be disregarded as it does not form part of our law.”

The meeting decided that “lands officers together with law enforcement agencies must do everything in their power to assist in the eviction of former commercial farmers,” according to the notes obtained by the Telegraph. The newspaper says another similar gathering was held a few days later in Mutare, south-east of Harare.

Swedish ambassador denies story on US$600 million donor funding

Sweden’s ambassador to Zimbabwe, Sten Rylander, has denied reports in the state owned media alleging that he told a civil society meeting that the donor community would assist Zimbabwe with US$600 million over the next 6 months. On Monday the Chronicle ran a story headlined ‘Donors pledge swift aid’ in which they quoted the ambassador making the pledge. But Rylander spoke with Newsreel Tuesday and said the Chronicle article contains ‘completely fabricated’ statements.

Despite a press statement clarifying his position and that of Sweden, the Chronicle on Tuesday said it stood by its story. The paper’s editor, Brezhnev Malaba said; ‘We stand by our story. Is the good ambassador claiming that we just dreamt up the amounts and timeframes stated in that story?’ Ambassador Rylander however told us; ‘There have been no decisions or commitments at all on behalf of the donor community when it comes to the expressed need of US$ 600 million for the next six months.’

The ambassador also told us the donors had a meeting with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in which they made it clear they needed to see a ‘policy change and concrete action relating to good governance before re-engagement can take place in terms of normal development cooperation.’ In the meantime he said the donors will continue to provide ‘massive’ humanitarian assistance.

Asked why the Chronicle would lie about his comments Rylander, a long standing target for state media criticism, said; ‘I am totally amazed at this fabrication. Maybe they want this to happen (providing donor money), but I am sorry we cannot do that at the present time. They are abusing my integrity and they have done that before. Now they are trying to twist it from another angle.’

Meanwhile the IRIN news agency reports that medical professionals are finally returning to hospitals after NGO’s chipped in to pay them top-up financial incentives in forex, to supplement their government salaries. Doctors, nurses and other support staff such as teachers have been on strike for much of last year and this year. But the financial intervention from groups like the United Nations Children’s Fund has not solved the problem. Most staff are believed to be unhappy at the allowances and although present at work are simply on a sit-in, ‘basking in the sun’ while leaving junior staff to attend to patients.

Cholera crisis continues to worsen as case numbers rise

The cholera epidemic has continued its deadly spread across the country, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) reporting on Tuesday that the inflection rate has climbed to more than 83 000 cases.

The number is a jump of more than 2000 cases since the WHO’s last report on Saturday, which showed more than 81 000 cases. The official death toll too has continued to climb and is fast approaching the 4000 mark, with more than 3800 reported deaths. The official figures are still widely believed to be a small percentage of the true extent of the disease, and untold thousands are feared to be dying in their homes because of a lack of accessible treatment in the country.

The new figures come as a five-member UN delegation is in the country to assess the humanitarian crisis that sources have explained is claiming more than 3000 lives across the country each week. According to medical charity Doctors Without Borders, the cholera crisis is merely the most visible indication of the true extent of the whole crisis, which includes the complete collapse of the health system and a crippling country-wide food shortage.

The UN assessment team held talks on Monday with both Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, on ways to combat the cholera epidemic and food crisis. Catherine Bragg, the UN assistant secretary general for Humanitarian Affairs, is leading the team that includes officials from the WHO, the World Food Program and the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF. According to media reports Bragg has said that Monday’s talks with Mugabe were ‘positive’.

The team’s visit was only made possible following talks between Mugabe and the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, on the sidelines of the African Summit in Ethiopia last month. It is the first humanitarian fact-finding team that has been given the official green-light to enter the country by Mugabe, whose regime has previously tried to keep extent of the crisis hidden.

9 MDC activists arrested in Mbare

Nine MDC supporters are being held in police custody after weekend violence when they attempted to reclaim homes and property taken from them during last year’s turbulent election period.

Piniel Denga, the MDC legislator for Mbare, 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.

‘They simply wanted their properties back. So there was resistence and this sparked running battles between the old and new occupants of the properties. This is an issue that needs to be looked at by the inclusive government, because tensions will remain high if the problem is not resolved politically,’ Denga said.

The MP 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 have been bailed out, leaving nine MDC supporters remanded in custody.

‘After they were arrested on Sunday, they were cautioned and asked to come back to court on Monday. When they came back Monday, they were taken in and sent to remand until 9 March. There is no justification for their incarceration. These people were actually set free and asked to return, which they did voluntarily,’ Denga said.

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

‘How else can you explain a situation were two sets of supporters clash, but you only find one group rotting in prison when the other group is allowed to be bailed out. There is a lot happening in the judiciary that makes us suspicious,’ Denga said.

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Duane views the unity government as a tale of two governments. One seems swallowed up by the other. Through the courage of the new Prime Minister, we hope it becomes new life emerging as the old crumbles.

Diaspora Diaries 240209

Alex Bell is joined by Steve Faulkner from South Africa’s ‘Coalition Against Xenophobia’, which has launched a campaign against police xenophobia and the continued harassment of immigrants in South Africa. Last year more than 60 foreigners were killed in an outbreak of violence targeting foreign nationals, and in recent weeks, incidents of similar violence have been reported, including the deaths of seven Zimbabweans this week. Faulkner says there are deep-seated xenophobic feelings in South Africa, that have not been addressed.

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Maphosa say price controls should be introduced because people are charging ridiculous prices for basic commodities; journalist Jan Raath tells how the 85-year old Mugabe is reported to be succumbing to vanity and resorting to having painful cosmetic Botox injections in his face, earning him the nickname ‘Botox Bob.’ Then, Moyo say Zimbabweans in Botswana are sceptical of the GNU and are still not prepared to risk going home.

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KweKwe factory blast kills one, injures nine

A huge explosion, apparently accidental, ripped through a chemical fertilizer plant in KweKwe on Saturday, reportedly causing one death and leaving nine other workers injured, two of them seriously. Windows were knocked out across the plant.

Sources told us a group of artisans were working on an electrolyte unit at Sables chemicals plant, when it exploded.

Witnesses heard an immense explosion. The explosion was so powerful, it rocked the entire plant. Those who attended to the victims describe seeing a scene of carnage and horror.

Three people were admitted at Popomasi Clinic in Kwekwe and six were ferried to Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare. A source told us two of the three admitted in KweKwe were discharged on Monday.

There were plans to airlift those admitted in Harare to South Africa for specialist treatment. Two of the six were described to be suffering from life threatening injuries after receiving 90 and 60 percent burns to their bodies.

‘The two suffered terrible injuries. Authorities at the plant are making frantic efforts to transfer them to a specialist burns unit in Johannesburg. Everyone is just praying for the guys,’ our source said.

A senior company executive, Misheck Kachere, promised to give a detailed report to the media as soon as a preliminary report was ready. There have been concerns in the last few years that the plant was losing experienced staff, required to operate the sophisticated machinery at the company, because of the economic crisis.

The plant manufactures ammonium nitrate fertilizer and produces for both export and the domestic market. It employs over 520 workers.

Foreign Affairs Minister calls for targeted sanctions to be lifted

Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, has called on countries that imposed targeted sanctions on Zimbabwe to lift them without further delay, saying this was necessary ‘to allow the country to embark on its developmental path’.

Mumbengegwi said that all political parties in the country were inagreement that sanctions should be lifted, a position that has also been emphasized by SADC and the African Union.

But Driden Kunaka, the MDC representative in New Zealand, said it was too early to consider lifting sanctions placed on individuals in ZANU PF. He said the unity government needs to introduce a lot of reforms if the western world was to revisit the issue of targeted sanctions.

‘You still have a lot of officials in the government who are failing to embrace the inclusive government. This is a fresh start, people should drop their old habits, but it’s not the case yet with some in ZANU PF. With due respect to Mumbengegwi, he should be calling for political prisoners to be released before transcending the borders to ask for sanctions to be removed,’ Kunaka said.

The government in New Zealand, just as in the UK, has taken a cautious approach, waiting to see if the new government will bring about real change.

The New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, last week said he was prepared to order their cricket team not to tour Zimbabwe in July on safety and health grounds, despite a plea from Education and Sports Minister David Coltart not to cancel their tour. ‘My call to the New Zealanders is clear and unequivocal. People have to give this coalition government a chance, and that applies to all levels, cricket included. I would like to see the New Zealand team touring Zimbabwe. If need be I will go to New Zealand to persuade them to come’.

But Kunaka said what Coltart needed to do was to persuade Robert Mugabe to release all political detainees first, before traveling on this mission.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown recently said they were ready to lift targeted sanctions on Zimbabwe, if the new unity government releases political prisoners and pushes through economic reforms. Observers say the inclusive government needs to be judged by its actions and its deeds, which will act as the basis for the international community to engage.

‘At the moment there is no encouragement from the government that anything has changed. The hardliners haven’t changed their behaviour, despite all the leaders embracing the unity government. I can safely say, there is still no rule of law and there is not democracy yet in the country,’ Kunaka added.

A political commentator explained that the hardliners are prepared to go down fighting. ‘Fighting, it must be pointed out, to safeguard their wealth and privileges and not for any cause or principle beneficial to the people of Zimbabwe as a whole. It must be this group that is responsible for the former ruling party’s ruthless ways of dealing with opponents,’ said the commentator, referring to the arrest of the MDC’s prospective deputy agriculture minister, Roy Bennett, on the eve of his swearing-in.

The British government last year indicated that it was working with the United States, EU, World Bank and International Monetary Fund on a financial recovery plan for Zimbabwe, but it all depended on whether the government reformed or not. Evidence on the ground shows nothing has changed so far.

UN team in Zimbabwe for fact finding mission

A United Nations humanitarian team arrived in the country on Saturday, on fact finding mission to assess the effects of the devastating cholera and food crises.

John Nyaga, spokesman for the UN, said the five member team, led by Catherine Bragg, the UN assistant secretary general for humanitarian affairs, will hold talks with Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai this week.

Nyaga said the other four members of the team are from the World Health Organisation, World Food Program and the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF. During the five-day visit, the UN officials will visit humanitarian projects in Zimbabwe, mostly in the capital Harare.

The team’s visit was made possible following talks between Mugabe and the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, on the sidelines of the African Summit in Ethiopia last month. The UN team would not be able to visit Zimbabwe without Mugabe’s ‘permission’.

Ban told journalists in Addis Ababa the humanitarian situation had been a source of deep concern for the international community and for the United Nations.

US$438million needed to overhaul Zimbabwe education sector

Senator David Coltart, the new Minister of Education, Sport, Art and Culture has said a whopping US$438 is initially needed to stabilise the education sector. The new minister, who has inherited a totally defunct education ministry, says a lot of work and a lot of money is needed.

Speaking to SW Radio Africa on Monday Coltart said: “The ideal amount of money we need is US$438million, and that is just for the first six months. Now in the current economic climate and in the context of world recession that is a completely unattainable figure. So we have to cut it. So we are hoping to raise US$80million.”

On Monday Coltart had a marathon meeting with representatives of teachers unions, to discuss issues concerning teachers who have been on strike for much of last year. They have finally agreed to go back to work but were still finalising the details of their grievances with the Education Minister.

The teachers had been demanding wages of US$2300 a month but have had to scale down dramatically after the new inclusive government said it had no money, but was prepared to offer a US$100 starter pack.

By late afternoon on Monday, Coltart said no final agreement had been reached, but he was hopeful schools would open on 2nd March.

Raymond Majongwe, Secretary General of the militant Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), said Friday that teachers had finally agreed to return to work after an initial meeting, and had been given some assurances by the new Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and new Minister of Education – who were both accommodative and willing to listen to their grievances. Majongwe said this was unlike former education Minister Aeneas Chigwedere, who would not engage with them.

Coltart said the assurances offered to teachers included fair salaries and amnesty for those who are concerned they will be victimised and dismissed for not going to work when schools were supposed to open on 27th January.

But Coltart said: “My single minded goal is to get the schools reopened and teachers back at work. I am very sympathetic to the fact that many of the teachers who didn’t report for duty simply couldn’t, because they didn’t even have enough money for bus fare.”

Zimbabwe used to have the highest literacy rate in Africa, but because of the political and economic crisis tens of thousands of qualified teachers have left the country.

Majongwe said in 2005/2006 there were about 115 000 teachers in the country but that number has dwindled to between 70 000 and 80 000. “At PTUZ we maintain that there are 70 000 teachers and of the 70 000, 40 000 teachers are non-qualified teachers. These are people who have been brought in as relief teachers, some of them as spies, and some of them just as gap fillers.”

A number of teachers were in recent years trained through the controversial and notorious Border Gezi youth training camps. These were the camps that created violent thugs who caused untoward suffering to opponents of the Mugabe regime.

The PTUZ leader said it will take several years to see positive changes “because we are talking of schools that don’t have teachers, that don’t have desks, that don’t have window panes, that don’t have doors. The doors were being taken off the walls by the war veterans, they were making coffins out of them, they were taking window panes and taking them to their houses and they were burning desks.”

“It is quite sad and my heart bleeds when I look back to say why did this destruction happen? Because somebody or the Minister of Education Chigwedere did not have the guts to stand up to the people who were moving around destroying our schools wantonly and in a barbaric manner what happened in the years from 2002.”

The challenges for the new education minister are many, with raising money being the major priority. Coltart said UNICEF was helping to put donor organisations and governments in contact with the Zimbabwean officials but it is yet unclear where the money might come from. The minister said teachers account for almost two thirds of all civil servants in Zimbabwe and paying teachers just US$100 will cost his ministry US$8million for just one month.

Global financial crisis will hamper Tsvangirai aid appeal

Efforts by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to get at least US$5 billion to re-build Zimbabwe’s shattered economy will prove very difficult to accomplish, experts predict. The worldwide banking and financial crisis that has fuelled massive job cuts and company closures has meant most western countries are tightening their purse strings and focusing on supporting their own economies. The funding of a reconstruction programme for a country still led by a murderous dictator will hardly be a priority. Predictably, Tsvangirai and new Finance Minister Tendai Biti were in South Africa last Friday for talks with President Kgalema Motlanthe and Biti’s counterpart, Trevor Manuel, to see how the regional powerhouse can help.

On Monday reports suggested Southern African Development Community (SADC) finance ministers will meet within a week to forge a rescue plan for Zimbabwe. Officials have declined to disclose any figures but it’s expected the ministers will ‘develop the detail’ once they meet. Manuel told journalists; ‘We have to work together. It is a process of identification and finding the appropriate measures. We should not put too much pressure on people; Tendai Biti has been finance minister for exactly one week. One can’t expect him to have every answer.’

On Sunday at a rally to celebrate the MDC’s 10th anniversary Tsvangirai told his supporters that a unity government was the only way out of the crisis for the country. Speaking at Mkoba Stadium in Gweru he called for national healing and reconciliation, if the country was to move forward. ‘This nation needs national healing. It has endured so much violence. Let’s forgive those who have transgressed against us. If there’s no national healing, there won’t be progress.’

Despite Tsvangirai’s best intentions the continued incarceration of Roy Bennet, Jestina Mukoko, Chris Dhlamini, Gandi Mudzingwa and over 30 other political prisoners continues to make a mockery of the coalition government.

Hong Kong police say enough evidence to charge Grace Mugabe

Police in Hong Kong believe they have enough evidence to have First Lady Grace Mugabe prosecuted for assaulting a photographer last month. Grace instructed her bodyguard to hold down UK Sunday Times photographer Richard Jones, while she assaulted him. A diamond encrusted ring she was wearing caused several bruises and cuts to his face and forehead. Mrs. Mugabe took exception to being photographed while she was on a shopping spree and spending lavishly, while her countrymen starved. The police report has already been sent to the Department of Justice, who will make a final decision on whether to proceed against her.

The new development comes after two vital witnesses, an Austrian tourist and a Hong Kong resident, were traced and later gave detailed statements to police about the assault. The only saving grace for Mrs. Mugabe could be the use of diplomatic immunity, which she could invoke to avoid the charges.

And this was not the only assault, courtesy of the Mugabe’s. Following reports that the Mugabe family had bought a plush mansion in Hong Kong two photographers were assaulted after trying to take pictures of the £4 million home. American Tim O’Rourke and Briton Colin Galloway were assaulted by three Zimbabweans guarding the property, two men and a woman.

The Zimbabwe National Students Union meanwhile continues to campaign for the deportation of Mugabe’s daughter Bona Mugabe, who is studying in Hong Kong. The students argue she must come back to Zimbabwe and see first hand the collapse of education and infrastructure, created by her father’s reign.

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