On the Pulse 200209

Lance Guma and Brilliant Pongo serve up the latest music and news from the Zimbabwean scene. Tracks from Winky D (Roketion), Latty na Pedzi (VIP), Flavour P (Mini Mini) and Jusa (Gogogoi) make up the show. Brilliant throws up a debate over whether Oliver Mtukudzi was a worthy winner at this years National Arts Merit Awards (NAMA), or did sentimentality kick in to influence the win?

Heart of the Matter 190209

Tanonoka recaps his concerns over the GNU, and why the MDC should have only agreed to a transitional government. He says that the cases of Roy Bennett, and the still incarcerated detainees are proof of ZANU PFs lack of sincerity, and while all these shenanigans are taking place SADC is once again silent in it’s criticism of Mugabe’s ever-shifting goal posts.

Callback 190209

Leonard believes the MDC should never have gone into the unity deal without first consulting the people of Zimbabwe. He says the deal is a fake; Chaka complains about the exorbitant utility bills that everyone is receiving this month, as the utility companies try to recoup their losses through overcharging their subscribers. Alfred believes the main reason why Gono introduced the ‘dollarised’ economy was to raise foreign currency so Mugabe and Grace could invest and do their shopping in Malaysia.

Behind the Headlines 190209

Clever Bere, President of the Zimbabwe National Students Union speaks to Lance Guma. What is the reaction of the student body to the coalition government and what do they expect from the new administration? Bere says as far as they are concerned this is a transitional government which should create conditions for free and fair elections later on. He also talks about how the continued detention of political prisoners will hamper efforts to secure much needed humanitarian aid and financial assistance for the country.

Newreel 190209

Deputy Ministers and Ministers of State sworn in at State House

Robert Mugabe on Thursday swore in 24 Deputy Ministers and Ministers of State, at a ceremony in Harare that also marked the completion of the formation of a unity government. The position for the Deputy Minister of Agriculture was left open, as MDC nominee Roy Bennett is in jail in Mutare, on trumped up charges of plotting an insurgency. Bennett would have been the 25th person sworn in Thursday.

Also sworn in on Thursday was the MDC’s Giles Mutsekwa, co-minister of Home Affairs, who was absent during last Friday’s ceremony. Mutsekwa shares the hotly-disputed portfolio that controls the police with ZANU PF’s Kembo Mohadi. Among the Ministers of State sworn in were John Nkomo from ZANU PF, Gibson Sibanda from MDC-M and MDC-T’s Sekai Holland.
Thursday’s additions bring to 61 the number of ministers, ministers of state and deputy ministers, in the bloated new administration – the largest since the country gained independence from Britain in 1980.

The increased number of ministers is not in the 15th September Global Peace Agreement and has expanded the cabinet from the initial agreed 31 ministers to 38. The GPA that paved the way for the government’s formation said there should only have been 31 ministers and 15 deputy ministers, making 46 altogether. But the new developments mean an extra 15 posts have been created, although confusion still surrounds who got what.

Article 20 of the GPA explains that there should be 31 ministers, with 15 coming from ZANU PF, 13 MDC-T and three MDC-M. Of the 31, three (one for each party) may be appointed from outside the Members of Parliament. The three ministers so appointed would become members of the House of Assembly and have the right to sit, speak and debate in Parliament, but would not be entitled to vote.

One deputy minister suggested it was an agreement by the party principals when they met on Wednesday, specifically to deal with Mugabe’s request to accommodate more of his allies in the new government.

‘I guess they came to a compromise that if he (Mugabe) wanted more positions in government, he should also allow Tsvangirai and Mutambara to add more ministers from their respective parties,’ a source said.

Zimbabwean detainees granted bail, which was immediately reversed.

Four of the seven political detainees accused of organising a series of bombings of police stations and railway lines, were granted bail by High Court Judge Justice Yunus Omerjee, on Thursday. Chinoto Zulu, Zachariah Nkomo, Mapfumo Garutsa and Regis Mujeyi were granted bail, but that order was immediately suspended after the Attorney General’s Office invoked a section of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act. The State said it was not happy with the granting of bail and would appeal in the Supreme Court. This means the ‘bailed’ accused persons remain in custody, pending this appeal.

Nkomo and Zulu are currently in hospital after they were taken to the Avenues Clinic on Monday by prison officials when their condition deteriorated in jail.

The bail applications of the remaining three in this group – Chris Dhlamini, Ghandi Mudzingwa and freelance photojournalist Anderson Shadreck Manyere, were denied by the High Court. Mudzingwa is currently ‘detained’ in hospital together with civic leader Jestina Mukoko, and 72 year old Fidelis Chiramba.

All the other political detainees are still locked up at the notorious and filthy Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.

It was a week ago when the new Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said in an impassioned speech at his inauguration that: “It hurts that as we celebrate here today there are some who are in prison. I can assure you that they are not going to remain in those dungeons any day or any week longer.”

But a week later they are all still in jail, including the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Roy Bennett. Due to this illegal incarceration Bennett could not be sworn in with the other Deputy Ministers on Thursday.

The Mugabe regime continues to violate the Global Political Agreement, despite the parties agreeing to “strive to create an environment of tolerance and respect among Zimbabweans and that all citizens are treated with dignity and decency irrespective of age, gender, race, ethnicity, place of origin or political affiliation.”

The MDC is coming under increasing pressure to act on its word. Tendai Biti, the party’s Secretary General and the new Finance Minister, told a South African broadcaster on Tuesday that the MDC would take ‘unspecified action’ if Bennett was not released immediately. That was the day that the MDC official was formally charged in the courts and the following day, he was remanded in custody to face trial in March.

Bennett’s lawyers were in Harare making an urgent bail application in the High Court on Thursday and lawyer Trust Maanda said the matter would be heard next week.

But no action, unspecified or otherwise, has been taken by the MDC.

Meanwhile, human rights lawyers complain that the State is continuing to play games and using delaying tactics over the political detainees. Their lawyer Alex Muchadehama blasted the Attorney General’s office saying: “It was apparent to me that the State was not appealing on legal grounds. It was a vindictive and malicious appeal by the AG’s office.”

The lawyer said from the very beginning the AG’s office has been blocking bail and opposing requests to allow all the detainees to receive much needed medical treatment, without giving any good reasons for denying the accused their rights.

The victims were all abducted from their homes and only found in various police cells in Harare several weeks later. Many of them disappeared in October last year, while a smaller group, including Mukoko, were abducted in December. The individuals have submitted harrowing affidavits detailing how they were tortured into admitting plots to overthrow the Mugabe regime. Bennett is also facing terrorism charges.

All these treason and sabotage charges are continuing, despite the formation of an inclusive government.

Furthermore, the much vaunted Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC), which was set up earlier this month to keep an eye on the progress of the Global Political Agreement, is reportedly ‘struggling to hold meetings because of a lack of money.’

JOMIC co-chairperson Elton Mangoma told a news agency that they were hampered by cash shortages, did not have a permanent office to hold meetings and had no administrative staff or travel expenses. He said some of the JOMIC members, who lived in Bulawayo and Mutare, had failed to attend meetings in Harare because of the travel costs.

Charges against WOZA activists dropped, but harassment continues

The charges against four activists from the pressure group Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), were finally dropped on Thursday after a prosecutor at the Bulawayo Magistrates Court refused to entertain the fresh charges of criminal nuisance that were brought against them this week.

The four, who were arrested last Saturday, were finally brought to court on Thursday after several delaying tactics by police, including changing the charges laid against the group at the last minute on Wednesday. The group had been released from custody on Tuesday night after their refusal to pay ‘admission of guilt’ fines, and were told to present themselves to the Bulawayo Central Police Station on Wednesday morning to be taken to court. But on Wednesday they were informed by the investigating officer, Constable Masawi, that the charges against them were being changed and so the paperwork would need to be “prepared from the beginning.”

The four had already spent four days in deplorable conditions behind bars at the police station, after being arrested along with another 6 members during a WOZA march in the city on Valentines Day last Saturday. The detained activists were all denied access to their lawyers earlier this week but on Tuesday six of the arrested group were released after paying the ‘admission of guilt’ fines. The remaining four were finally released on Tuesday night in what WOZA called a ‘surprising twist’ after the group had refused to bow to intimidation to pay the fines.

All those released have spoken of the horrific conditions they endured, and explained that the cells were filthy with overflowing toilets and on the first night, they were severely overcrowded. The women were also subjected to invasive strip searches every day, while one woman on anti-retroviral treatment had to fight for access to her tablets every day as police tried to deny her access to her life-saving medication – on one occasion, she was actually denied her ARVs. Two of the women have had to seek medical treatment for bad rashes developed from the filthy conditions.

The harassment of WOZA members by police has continued this week, and even while the charges against the four detained activists were being dropped in court, police interrupted a closed meeting of WOZA members on Thursday. Officers from the Law and Order unit refused to leave the meeting that had been called to discuss the state of education in the country, forcing those present to end the meeting, saying their “freedoms of assembly and speech would be curtailed by the presence of police officers.”

WOZA leader Jenni Williams on Thursday told SW Radio Africa other forms of harassment have also continued, including so far unexplained police presences at both Williams and co-leader Magodonga Mahlangu’s homes in recent days. Williams explained that more details about the harassment would be released on Friday. Meanwhile, Williams said the group’s lawyers have compiled papers to pursue legal action against the police, and the individual officers, responsible for the arrest and wrongful detention of their members after Saturday’s march.

MDC celebratory rally in Gweru set to draw thousands of supporters

MDC supporters are set to gather in great numbers in Gweru this weekend, for a celebratory rally led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, as the party prepares to celebrate its 10 year anniversary in September.

The rally, which will be held at the Mkoba stadium, will mark the first of a series of countrywide celebrations expected to be held every month until a grand celebration in Bulawayo on September 11 – the day the party was formed in 1999.

The rallies will also serve as long overdue celebrations for the MDC’s victories in the parliamentary and presidential elections last year – victories that were swiftly undermined by the outbreak of politically motivated and violent attacks against MDC supporters. The iron grip with which ZANU PF and Robert Mugabe have clung to power in the country, through whatever means possible, has seen the MDC agree to form a power-share government with its rival party, in what MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa has called a ‘painful compromise’.

The MDC is expecting thousands of supporters to gather for this weekend’s rally to celebrate under the theme: “Together to the end; celebrating the people’s victory.” Tsvangirai is set to deliver a key-note address at the rally and spokesperson Chamisa said it is a time “for the party to take stock of its achievements and mourn its fallen heroes.”

“As we celebrate our 10th anniversary this year, we know our national obligations and responsibilities. We have no doubt that the people’s project is firmly on course. We shall forever walk together,” Chamisa said.

Zim youths in SA demo over political detainees

Over 150 youths from the Revolutionary Youth Movement of Zimbabwe demonstrated outside South Africa’s Union Buildings Thursday, demanding the release of political prisoners held in Zimbabwe. The youths arrived in two hired buses and immediately broke into song and dance. A petition addressed to President Kgalema Motlanthe, who is also head of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), called on him to intervene and have the likes of Deputy Agriculture Minister Roy Bennett and former TV presenter Jestina Mukoko and 30 others released. The youths want an end to ongoing abductions and unlawful detention of activists in Zimbabwe.

An official from Motlanthe’s office came to receive the petition and he is said to have conveyed a message from the President that he will look into their concerns within the next 2 weeks. In the petition the movement expressed alarm that ‘the abduction and unlawful detention of activists in Zimbabwe continues, despite the implementation of the Global Political Agreement which was signed by all parties. Conditions of the GPA have been continuously violated by Zanu PF, notably senior ministers, as well as state agents, notably the CIO, army and police.’

The youths have also reminded President Motlanthe that SADC pressurised the MDC into the coalition government, despite the fact that political prisoners had not been released. The MDC for months raised the issue of the prisoners and the youths feel SADC is not taking the matter seriously. Under the deal SADC and the African Union acted as guarantors of its implementation. So far the two bodies have been invisible, if not complicit, in helping Mugabe avoid censure.

One of the youths, John Vincent Chikwari, told Newsreel that Tsvangirai pledged all prisoners would be released before he was sworn in, and they are looking to him to deliver on that promise, even though he went ahead and joined the government.

Chikwari believes the return to the rule of law in Zimbabwe should not be treated as a ‘process’ but rather an ‘event’ and should happen immediately. ‘The future of the inclusive government is in jeopardy because Mugabe and Zanu PF have, through their actions, demonstrated that they are not operating in good faith or honouring the agreement,’ he said

Newsreel 180209

Magistrate rules Bennett can face trial for terrorism

MDC Treasurer General and Deputy Minister of Agriculture designate Roy Bennett was remanded in custody until 4th March, when he appeared at the Mutare Magistrate’s court on Wednesday. His defence team is expected to make an urgent bail application in the High Court on Thursday.

The MDC official had been slapped with treason charges, including illegal arms possession and of trying to leave the country illegally, the previous day.

Magistrate Livingstone Chipadze ruled that there is enough evidence on the first charge of banditry and terrorism to face trial, but cleared him on the immigration offence because the State had no evidence.

But the MDC said this was a political judgement and the charges are not sustainable, especially when several MDC officials, including the new Home Affairs Minister Giles Mutsekwa, were acquitted of the same charges when the allegations against Bennett were first made in 2006.

At that time Bennett’s other co-accused Peter Hitschmann, was acquitted of the same charges of terrorism. However he was found guilty and jailed for three years for possessing unregistered firearms

Meanwhile about 200 supporters continued with their vigil in solidarity with the MDC official, at the court house on Wednesday. Soldiers are patrolling the streets of Mutare and tension in the city is said to be high.

The MDC has on numerous occasions called for the immediate release of Bennett and the other political detainees saying “there is no basis at law for charging and incarcerating any of the political prisoners.”

Courts postpone ruling on political detainees

The ZANU PF game on the issue of political detainees continued on Wednesday. Three activists, including Zimbabwe Peace Project Director, Jestina Mukoko, have been at the Avenues Clinic since last Friday and a further two were hospitalised on Monday. But on Wednesday the High Court and the Magistrates court postponed hearings on some of the activists mainly because a police report on torture allegations was not brought to the courts on time.

Lawyer Charles Kwaramba said Zacharia Nkomo and Chiroto Zulu had to be taken to hospital by prison officials when their condition deteriorated in jail. They join Mukoko, MDC activists Ghandi Mudzingwa and 72 year old Fidelis Chiramba, who are under armed guard by prison officers at the hospital.

Several other civic and political activists are still incarcerated at the notorious Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison. They are all accused of charges relating to a plot to overthrow the Mugabe regime.

One of the groups arrested, which includes Mudzingwa, Nkomo and Zulu, had two court hearings on Wednesday – one in the High Court for a bail application and then a remand hearing at the Magistrates’ court. The three did not appear because they are in hospital but four others in the group did. They were Chris Dhlamini, Mapfumo Garutsa, Regis Mujeyi and freelance photojournalist Anderson Shadreck Manyere.

The last time they appeared in court the Magistrate had requested a report from the police on their torture complaints. But on Wednesday the report was not made available at the time of the hearing, so the Magistrate postponed the matter to Friday. Their lawyers said this also affected their bail application hearing in the High Court, which led to the matter being deferred to Thursday.

Their lawyer said the police did finally make the report available, but only after the court appearances. Not surprisingly the report exonerated the police of any wrongdoing. Kwaramba said this shows how wrong the Zimbabwe criminal justice system is “because these police are the same perpetrators of the torture but what the court is basically doing is that it is ordering the same people to investigate themselves and expect them to bring a credible report to court. It doesn’t make sense at all.”

The human rights lawyer said a parliamentary committee should have been set up to investigate the allegations. The inclusive government did set up a Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) to look into complaints and violations of the global political agreement. But Kwaramba said lawyers have not been given an opportunity to make presentations. “It is a preserve of politicians unfortunately,” he said.

Meanwhile, the pressure group the Restoration of Human Rights Zimbabwe (ROHR) held a peaceful demonstration in Harare on Wednesday, protesting against the continued detention of the prisoners of conscience at Chikurubi and other places of detention. ROHR Information Director Edgar Chikuvire said police came soon after the demonstration at the Rotten Row courts, and the group was still trying to investigate if anyone was arrested.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions sent out a solidarity message on Wednesday on behalf of the political detainees, saying: “Their arrest and detention prove that Robert Mugabe is doing everything he can to destroy the Government of National Unity. It demonstrates the correctness of the joint COSATU/ZCTU statement of 29 January 2009 which pointed out then that “the police are still under the control of ZANU-PF, abducting, detaining and torturing political opponents of the ruling elite.”
“As the federations warned, the GNU will never work while one party – ZANU-PF – has sole control over the police and judiciary, and uses that control to frustrate the whole GNU project and retain power in the hands of the party who lost the elections on 29 March 2009.”

Soldiers and civil servants paid in foreign currency

Just a few days into his job as Finance Minister, Tendai Biti convened a press conference Wednesday to flesh out the new government’s proposal to pay soldiers and civil servants in foreign currency. An estimated 130 000 civil servants will now be paid US$100 a month in tax free allowances. When Morgan Tsvangirai was sworn in as Prime Minister last week, he pledged in his inauguration speech to pay all civil servants in forex by the end of February. On Tuesday soldiers received foreign currency vouchers that could be redeemed at selected banks. Teachers and other civil servants are expected to receive their salaries on Wednesday and Thursday.

Biti said; ‘With effect from March 2009 payment to civil servants will be done directly into their bank accounts and therefore the voucher payment scheme will cease. We want to promote a savings culture again, that is why we have included the bank.’ He said the new government had enough foreign currency reserves to pay February and March salaries, in what is seen as an attempt to get striking workers back to work. It’s estimated the government will need close to US$13 million a month to keep up the commitment. Asked by journalists who was in charge of the public funds, Biti said, ‘It is a constitutional provision that the Consolidated Revenue Fund is run by the Minister of Finance and kept at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.’

There has been speculation that Tsvangirai secured close to US$200 million from 4 unnamed donors, who are willing to support the initiative to get civil servants working again. Crown Financial (UK) Chief Executive Lance Mambondiani told Newsreel the measures by Biti were necessary as a ‘stimulus’ plan to kick start the economy, but warned this had to be a stop- gap measure only. He argued it would be problematic to pay all civil servants the same amount of money, irrespective of productivity. Mambondiani said the previous budget presented by then acting Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa had set aside US$482 million for salaries. According to Chinamasa’s budget the government also hoped to raise an ambitious US$1,9 billion from corporate tax, fuel and import duties, among other sources of revenue.
Biti also said the country will revert back to the Zimbabwe dollar in a few months, when the economy has stabilized, and the forex payments are a temporary measure. Efforts by Newsreel to get hold of him on Wednesday proved fruitless as both his phones were switched off.

Zimbabwe has already been classed as a failed state with broken down infrastructure and almost zero industrial production. It remains to be seen whether the government can rely on its traditional sources of income to sustain the ambitious plans of the new finance minister.

Meanwhile striking teachers have vowed not to return to work, saying US$100 fell far short of their demands. Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, Secretary General Raymond Majongwe said, ‘We have asked for US$2,000 and we are getting US$100. It’s ridiculous. We are still suffering. We will not go (back to work).” Teachers have been on strike for the best part of 2008 stretching into 2009 demanding better working conditions.

A much sterner test for the workability of the new government is the arrest of Deputy Agriculture Minister Roy Bennett. Reports say Tsvangirai used meetings with the Ministers of Home Affairs (Kembo Mohadi), Defence (Emerson Mnangagwa) and National Security (Sidney Sekeremayi) to demand a return to the rule of law. He is said to have called for a halting of all farm seizures and the release of political prisoners, some of whom have been in prison for nearly 4 months now. Based on the way the state has dealt with Bennett’s case, and the continued incarceration of Jestina Mukoko and 30 other political prisoners, Tsvangirai’s plea looks to be falling on deaf ears.

On Tuesday Mugabe chaired the first cabinet meeting of the new coalition government, but no details were given on the agenda items. Tsvangirai was reported to have held a separate meeting with Mugabe on that day, in which he raised concerns about the credibility of the new government and the need to allow freedom of expression.

Final push to remove white farmers

There is a well coordinated plan by elements in ZANU PF to push the remaining white farmers off their land, before this practice is outlawed by the inclusive government, Newsreel learnt on Wednesday.

Gerry Whitehead, a Chiredzi based farmer, told us police officers and district administrators have been visiting the remaining white farmers and serving them with eviction orders.

Whitehead explained that most of these farmers had long stopped farming operations, after losing their land during the invasions, but had remained stuck in their houses ‘as they had nowhere else to go’.

The Zimbabwe Times reported this week that least 140 commercial farmers face both prosecution and eviction from their land over the next two weeks, as government tries to grab the remaining farms.

It said Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) President Hendriek Olivier had told them that over one hundred commercial farmers had been summoned to various courts countrywide over the next two weeks, allegedly for defying government directives to vacate their land.

But it’s reported that most police officers tasked with carrying out the orders are reluctant to do so, now that there is a new unity government in place.

‘Now there is no atmosphere of fear, the farmers are not particularly worried about it because the police have shown reluctance to push them out of their houses. The police are actually telling the farmers they are being pushed by their people in Harare,’ Whitehead said.

He added; ‘It’s clear the orders are coming from the generals. They have enjoyed the gravy train for a long time and now they know it’s coming to an end. This is why they are throwing spanners in the works.’

The move to grab the few remaining farms follows recommendations of a
workshop convened in Chegutu more than two weeks ago and attended by officials from the Ministries of Lands, Justice and the police.

ZANU PF apologist, Themba Mliswa, addressed the gathering and ordered more farm evictions then, saying this wouldn’t be possible after the formation of an inclusive government.

On Tuesday Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai held a meeting with the country’s security ministers and demanded from them an immediate return to the rule of law. Tsvangirai also expressed concern about reports of fresh farm invasions.

But the ministers denied any knowledge of new farm invasions, suggesting rogue elements in ZANU PF are determined to derail the unity government, by going against the provisions of the Global Political Agreement that calls for an end to all farm invasions.

Meanwhile the sincerity of ZANU PF’ security ministers in the new government has once again come under test after three white farmers and a businessmen, accused of training bandits to topple Mugabe, were denied bail by the High Court in Harare.

John Vigo Naested, Bryan Michael Baxter and Angus John Thompson own three small adjourning plots in the Ruwa area, about 30km south of Harare. Police said they were using the area to recruit and train bandits, on Naested’s plot.

Naested, who actually runs the facility as an outdoor children’s adventure area, is now seriously ill after spending a month in Chikurubi prison, and is in the intensive care unit at the Avenues Clinic in Harare. Reports say he’s suffering from an undisclosed illness and was said to have been operated on Wednesday to save his life.

Court documents revealed a sinister plot by the key prosecution witness, Joseph Banda, who probably hatched the plan for the three to be arrested.

Since 1996 Banda had tried, but failed, to invade Baxter’s farm. But after Baxter’s arrest Banda did invade the plot. His workers are currently threatening Baxter’s wife to try and make her leave. Before the three were arrested, Baxter’s plot, which is opposite the training camp, had been raided five times by police, at the instigation of Banda.

No action has been taken against Banda by police because of his connections with top security structures.

UK government gives elderly Brits a life line out of Zim

As Zimbabwe’s future remains uncertain in the midst of the total economic collapse and the devastating health crisis, the British government has said it will offer to help its elderly and vulnerable citizens, living in Zimbabwe, to resettle in Britain.

The UK Foreign Office on Wednesday said the assistance will be offered to an estimated 3000 Britons in Zimbabwe over the next 18 months, and will be available to those who are either over the age of 70, suffer from medical conditions or have various care requirements. Letters outlining the offer of help were sent to elderly, vulnerable and infirm citizens ten days ago and have already drawn responses from people keen to take up the UK government on its offer. A ministry spokesperson said that while the British government recognised the power sharing government formed between the MDC and ZANU PF, “some British people have been badly affected by the collapse of Zimbabwean infrastructure and we cannot expect this to be put right overnight.”

The resettlement scheme will likely serve as a life line for many sick and elderly Britons who cannot afford or even find proper healthcare in Zimbabwe, where the health system has completely collapsed. The almost total dollarisation of the economy also means medicines and private treatment are completely out of financial reach for the elderly living on pensions and family charity.

Journalist Jan Raath told SW Radio Africa on Wednesday that the elderly Britons he had spoken to in Zimbabwe were reluctant to leave the country they have called home for so many years. But he explained that the health threats associated with old-age have left them with little choice but to consider the UK government’s offer. He also explained that the economic climate in particular has left few options for those trying to survive in a country where even foreign cash can buy very little.

“Many people were once able to survive on remittances from their families abroad,” Raath explained. “The US dollars and other cash could be traded on the black market for a good value, which isn’t the case anymore.”

The UK Foreign Office is now expecting that up to 750 households in Zimbabwe will want to take up their resettlement offer in the next 18 months. Under the programme, people returning from Zimbabwe will be offered houses, state benefits and support from the UK government, and UK ministers are said to be preparing to relax the rules on UK residency tests to allow people to claim housing and council tax benefits on arrival. Despite the offer however, the UK government has insisted it is not advising British citizens to leave the country, with the Foreign Office spokesperson saying on Wednesday that the British Embassy in Harare “continues to provide a range of consular services to those who remain.”

Millions of Zimbabwean residents have already fled the country, which has collapsed after years of misrule, and analysts have argued that much more will need to change before the exodus ends.

Hunger striker hospitalised in SA during 21 day fast

A South African civic leader and activist, fasting in solidarity with Zimbabwe’s starving citizens, has been admitted to a Johannesburg hospital after falling critically ill this week.

Nomboniso Gasa, who heads the Gender Equality Commission in the country, embarked on a 21 day hunger strike last week as part of the Save Zimbabwe Now campaign – a solidarity group launched to pressure African leaders to take action in Zimbabwe. The campaign is being highlighted by rolling hunger strikes and fasts by high profile activists, and Gasa’s fast came after Civicus leader Kumi Naidoo completed his 21 days of no food last week, without any health setbacks.

Gasa however fell ill six days into her planned hunger strike and on Tuesday was admitted to hospital with “alarmingly low levels of iron” in her body. According to a statement released by the solidarity campaign group, Gasa underwent “emergency medical intervention”, which included being on an intravenous drip for seven hours to bolster her body’s iron levels. The drip was administered so that Gasa did not break her hunger strike and the group has said she will continue only taking water during her treatment programme.

“Under strict medical supervision she will continue on the hunger strike for the full 21 days consuming only water,” the group’s statement read, and Gasa herself has remained committed to the fasting process.

Meanwhile, the group has said it will continue putting pressure on African leaders despite the formation of the power-share government between the MDC and ZANU PF. The coalition government was just one item on a list of demands made by the group, which includes an immediate response to the devastating humanitarian crisis. The group’s organisers this week said the next 21 day hunger strike will go ahead next month if the demands are not met. Dumisa Ntsebeza, head of the Investigative Unit within the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and current Advocate in South Africa’s High Court, is set to take the third leg of the relay hunger strike on March 4.

Callback 180209

Goredema says things are changing too slowly, and that it appears Mugabe is planning a safe exit via the GNU; Sewa says that people have very unrealistic expectations of the new Prime Minister, and that many are viewing him as a ‘messiah,’ and Pembere feels that Mugabe entered this deal in bad faith and that he fully intends to continue abusing his position.

Democracy 101 180209

Willy and Dominic are joined by Lameck as they focus on the early days of the new unity government. Already there are questions being raised; they question how Deputy Minister Roy Bennett was arrested, during the swearing in of the cabinet, and the other political detainees are yet to be released. Acts like this authenticate fears of a lack of transparency and integrity on the part of ZANU PF, so how are people supposed to hope that Zimbabwe is heading in the direction of true democracy? ?

Hidden Story 180209

Tichaona speaks to MDC senator Obert Gutu, the party’s chief whip in the Senate and chairman of the Parliamentary Legal Committee. Senator Gutu dismisses the notion that Robert Mugabe’s dependence on the generals means he is no longer in full control of the government, arguing that he still wields a lot of power and remains ‘a dangerous’ partner in the inclusive government.

Diaspora Diaries 170209

Alex Bell is joined by former apartheid activist and honorary president of CIVICUS, Kumi Naidoo, who last week finished his 21 day hunger strike in solidarity with Zimbabwe’s starving people. Naidoo’s fast formed part of a rolling hunger strike by the Save Zimbabwe Now campaign, launched in South Africa to pressure African leaders tobring an end to Zimbabwe’s crises. Naidoo argues that pressure must still increase, despite the unity government, saying the agreement has already been violated. Naidoo says Zimbabwe’s political role-players “cannot continue to play politics with human lives” and argues that SADC and the AU must take action to “reverse the passive genocide that has gone on for far too long.”

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