Letter from Zimbabwe 130209

Cathy Buckle describes how ‘suddenly we are seeing the very people who persecuted a population, looted the country’s assets and brought starvation and disease to the land appearing on television saying: “we must be tolerant of our differences and work together”.’

Newsreel 120209

Mukoko, Mudzingwa, Chiramba seen by doctors but sent back to jail

Three of the most seriously ill political detainees were finally given proper unrestricted access to medical doctors on Thursday, but were forced back to prison. Civic leader Jestina Mukoko, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s former aide Ghandi Mudzingwa, and 72-year old MDC activist Fidelis Chiramba were taken to the Avenues Clinic, where they were seen by two doctors – from the state, and the private sector.

But despite both doctors agreeing that the three should be hospitalised, they were still sent back to Chikurubi Maximum Prison early Thursday evening.

Irene Petras from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), who was at the Avenues clinic, said both the state and the private doctor had recommended that the detainees needed to stay in hospital but there were ‘instructions’ that the three should be returned to jail.

She said the victims have suffered many injuries, from the time they were abducted and while being held incommunicado in detention. Their condition had deteriorated because they had not received adequate medical treatment while in jail.

She said recorded affidavits by the victims showed they suffered physical and psychological torture after they were subjected to numerous assaults on their bodies and under their feet, ‘all in an effort to extract false confessions from them.’

Charamba, the 72-year old activist, was forced into a freezer, stripped naked and had his genitals burned with hot water.

Mudzingwa was beaten severely all over his body, had his feet smashed with bricks, and was then subjected to simulated drowning.

In papers filed at the Harare High Court Mukoko said: “I was tortured. At first I was assaulted on the soles of my feet with a hard rubber object while I was sitting on the floor. Later, I was told to raise my feet to a table, and then everyone in the room started assaulting me.”

“They took a break for a while then started beating me again. And beatings continued every few hours. The men were always visibly drunk, many of them with bottles of liquor in their hands.”

She said at one point she was told to kneel on gravel and was beaten thoroughly.
Scores of civic and political detainees gave similar horrifying testimonies. They are all still in jail despite assurances by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Wednesday ‘that they are not going to remain in those dungeons any day, or any week longer.’

The new Prime Minister has come under fire for making demands and promises concerning the release of the detainees, but then failing to follow up on them.

Gugulethu Moyo from the International Bar Association (IBA) said it was disappointing that Mr Tsvangirai went into government in the first place, without making sure that the detainees had been released. She said this was an important negotiating point, ‘simply because many of those people were detained unlawfully.’ Some of the activists are still unaccounted for.

Critics say the MDC leader should have stuck to his principles, and many are now waiting to see how he intends to exert any influence in the inclusive government.

Meanwhile, two lawyers from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and eight activists from the Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) were released on bail on Thursday after spending two days in police custody. They were charged with participating in an unlawful demonstration and disorderly conduct. The 10 are expected to appear in court in March for the commencement of the trial.

However, the pressure group said the demonstration was peaceful and the ZLHR says the arrests were indiscriminate. It also denies that their lawyers were participating in the WOZA demonstration.

Moyo said it is clear that the MDC has not yet persuaded ZANU PF to change it’s ways.

She said: “I do think given the bold statements and commitment that Mr Tsvangirai was making in his inaugural speech, and also Mr. Mugabe’s own statements, that he was committed to making those arrangements work. I think that the direction for change surely should be coming through and filtering through to people – the sense that things should be done differently.”

The IBA official added: “I don’t think people should wait for long and I don’t think they should be patient with this new government.”

Questions raised over Tsvangirai’s vow to pay forex wages

The day after Morgan Tsvangirai vowed to pay the country’s civil servants in foreign currency, doubt was being cast over how the new Prime Minister can keep his word, in a country where the local economy has completely collapsed and foreign investment is all but non existent.

Tsvangirai made the promise while speaking at the rally in the Glamis Arena in Harare on Wednesday, shortly after his inauguration as Prime Minister. To thundering applause and cheers Tsvangirai announced that by the end of February “our professionals in the civil service, every health worker, teacher, solider and policeman will receive their pay in foreign currency until we are able to stabilise the economy.” In return, Tsvangirai urged Zimbabwe’s civil servants to return to work by Monday, in an obvious bid to end the growing number of strikes across the country over forex wages.

Teachers, nurses and doctors have been on strike since last year, demanding salaries in foreign cash and better working conditions. But since the total collapse and almost total dollarisation of the economy the demand for forex wages has grown and so have the number of strikes. Health workers were until Wednesday the only civil servants that had been guaranteed a forex wage by the old ZANU PF government after a bail-out package for teachers was rejected. The majority of schools have since stayed shut while teachers remain on strike, and even once government-loyal soldiers have taken to the streets demanding foreign currency salaries.

Last month the country’s budget proposal all but officially declared the local dollar worthless, with all new budget figures set in US dollar value. Basic costs of food and even amenities have all been pegged in forex and for the small percentage of Zimbabweans still drawing a monthly salary, local currency payouts have proved critically insufficient and unrealistic in the current economic climate. The country’s 150 000 strong civil service make up the majority of what is left of the country’s workforce, and the news that they’ll now be earning forex has, understandably, been well received, but many questions are now being raised over how the prime minister plans to keep his word.

Political commentator Bekithemba Mhlanga argued on Thursday that Tvsangirai “must have done his homework” before making such an ambitious promise, saying the promise “can be fulfilled.” He explained that financial support is ‘out there’, citing the teachers bail-out package that was turned down by government earlier this year, but he acknowledged that crucial foreign investment would likely wait until Western governments were satisfied with the success of the new unity government.

Meanwhile, the cost of the country’s new cabinet has been billed at an estimated US$1 million a month – this as more than half the population is in need of critical food aid. The 46-member cabinet, set to be the largest and most expensive in Zimbabwe’s history, will be sworn in on Friday. The ministerial posts are reportedly worth at least US$1000 a month, with deputy ministers earning less, but the relatively modest salaries are reportedly far outweighed by the allowance and perks afforded each cabinet member.

The salaries alone cost the Zimbabwean taxpayer an estimated US$400 000 and with allowances, the cabinet bill inflates to the roughly one million a month. Cabinet ministers and their deputies will likely get a minimum of five security personnel, plus a few new cars. The inclusive government is also inheriting a US$4.7 billion external debt owed to bilateral, multilateral and commercial creditors. The figure will seem a slap in the face to ordinary Zimbabweans fighting a daily battle to survive, in the midst of the worst humanitarian crises in the country’s history.

MDC reversed fraudulent ZANU PF alterations to Security Bill

An attempt by ZANU PF chief negotiator Patrick Chinamasa to alter sections of the National Security Council Bill without the knowledge of the MDC who drafted it, were reversed this week in Parliament. The original bill was crafted in an effort to tame the unrestrained behaviour of the country’s security forces by putting them under the control of a national security council, set up by an act of Parliament. When ZANU PF and MDC negotiators met in South Africa last week they agreed on the draft bill. Chinamasa as Justice Minister however went on to gazette an altered version of the bill before it was taken to parliament on Tuesday this week.

MDC parliamentary Chief Whip and Mutare MP Innocent Gonese told Newsreel the changes were uncovered in Parliament and immediately reversed with the parties going back to the agreed version of the bill. Under the MDC bill the Security Council would have had 11 members, whereas Chinamasa’s version increased the membership to 21. The changes have already been dismissed as a brazen attempt to smuggle several ZANU PF sympathisers onto the council. Chinamasa also sought to reduce the recommended fortnightly meetings of the council to just once a month. In other changes the Vice President would chair meetings in the absence of the President, a move seen as trying to sideline the Prime Minister.

It’s the second time Chinamasa has unilaterally changed an agreement behind the backs of the MDC. In September last year he altered the text of the power-sharing deal between the time of agreement and the actual signing ceremony. His latest attempt puts into doubt the sincerity of ZANU PF in implementing a genuine power sharing deal with the MDC. Tendai Biti one of the negotiators from the Tsvangirai MDC told the Zimbabwean newspaper, ‘On what basis does he (Chinamasa) change what we agreed on? He has no right to do that, it’s mendacious, it’s insanity.’

Biti explained that the new body would not replicate the notorious Joint Operations Command (JOC) and was supposed to be a new start. Under JOC over 180 opposition activists were murdered in political attacks last year. Confronted with accusation he altered the text of the Security Bill Chinamasa told The Zimbabwean newspaper he would speak directly to the MDC and not negotiate with them via the media. What is clear however is that he sought through the alterations to reduce the powers of the newly created Security Council from directing operations, to merely reviewing policies and making recommendations on the operations of the security forces.

World leaders remain cautious, despite Tsvangirai taking oath

World leaders have called for sweeping reforms in Zimbabwe before they can release badly needed aid money to resuscitate the economy.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was on the forefront of this call when he said his country cannot treat Zimbabwe as an ‘ordinary country’ until it puts in place a series of reforms.

Testifying to a Parliamentary committee in London on Thursday, Brown made it clear Morgan Tsvangirai’s appointment as Prime Minister would not lead to an immediate change in relations with Zimbabwe, or open the way to large-scale aid to help rebuild the ravaged economy.

Tsvangirai was sworn in on Wednesday by Robert Mugabe following months of disagreements after the signing of the power-sharing deal in September last year.

Brown said he had told Tsvangirai in a telephone call on Tuesday, Britain did want to see humanitarian aid getting to people in need, such as those affected by the cholera outbreak. Brown has always been one of the fiercest critics of Mugabe, accusing him of destroying the economy and using militias to suppress opposition.

His foreign secretary David Milliband sounded fairly conciliatory when he heralded Tsvangirai’s inauguration as a ‘step forward’, but voiced concern that Mugabe remained as President. Milliband added that the international community stood ready to offer additional aid to Zimbabwe but it all depended on the actions of the new government.

The Obama administration meanwhile extended its congratulations to Tsvangirai for becoming the country’s Prime Minister, but said it is waiting to see evidence of true power-sharing and effective governance before offering additional development assistance, or easing its targeted sanctions against Mugabe and his key supporters.

Acting State Department spokesman Robert Wood said that the United States is reserving judgment on the new government. He said they need to see evidence of good governance and particularly ‘real, true power-sharing on the part of Mugabe’ before they were prepared to make any kind of commitment.

Economist Luke Zunga said the reasons why the western world remained sceptical was because nothing is on the ground yet to show there is change.

“Remember many of the agreements faltered right after the parties signed them. It’s the implementation process that has been a problem in this power-sharing deal,” Zunga said.

He added; “If there is progress, then the western countries will review the situation but as it is, who doesn’t forget that Mugabe has been insulting the same people left right and centre. The question is, what has he done now to suddenly deserve aid from the same countries?” asked Zunga.

Meanwhile, some leaders like South Africa’s President Kgalema Motlanthe have expressed very different views from their western counterparts. Motlanthe said Tsvangirai’s swearing-in was ‘a vindication that our approach to the crisis of Zimbabwe, all along has been correct, despite scepticism in certain quarters.’ But he called on the international community to lift sanctions on Zimbabwe and turn its attention to the country’s humanitarian crisis.

France also welcomed Wednesday’s appointment of Tsvangirai but cautioned that Zimbabwe has much to do to rescue the country from the crisis.

“This government’s task is immense,” French Foreign Ministry spokesman Frederic Desagneaux told reporters at a briefing. “Priority must be given to improving the daily life of the population.”

“We are in particular, very concerned about the humanitarian situation and the spread of cholera, which has now infected 70 000 people and taken 3 400 victims,” he added. “We also call on the new authorities to rapidly restore the rule of law, and to ensure the respect of human rights and democratic principles. In this regard we repeat our call for jailed rights activists to be freed.”

China on Thursday welcomed Tsvangirai’s swearing-in, and
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a press conference, the new government was of ‘great significance’ in helping to solve the Zimbabwean crisis.

Jiang Yu said her government hoped that all parties in Zimbabwe would continue working together to achieve a smooth establishment of the new government, which she said, will lead the Zimbabwean people away from the current difficulties and back on the track of ‘stability and development.’

Cholera cases rise beyond 70 000

The infection rate from the country’s deadly cholera epidemic has gone beyond the 70 000 mark this week, with at least 2000 new cases reported since Monday.

According to new figures released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday, more than 71 000 cases have been reported since the outbreak of the disease last year. The figure is a dramatic indication of the true nature of the epidemic that has swept through all ten provinces in the country, and officially has left more than 3 500 people dead. The infection rate itself has soared far beyond the ‘worst case scenario’ of 60 000 cases, and WHO predictions suggest the worst is yet to come.

There are fears the infection rate will double in the coming months, with at least 50 000 new cases expected by May, and as crucial foreign aid begins to dry up, the country is looking to the new government to take action to prevent more deaths. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Wednesday vowed to tackle the cholera crisis as a main priority of the new unity government that is being formed with ZANU PF. He was speaking during a rally at Glamis Stadium in Harare shortly after his inauguration, and said the government will, ‘urgently reduce both the number of outbreaks and the unacceptably high mortality level by tackling the causes of the epidemic.’

The cholera outbreak has flourished in the country with no functioning essential infrastructure, and Tsvangirai will need to tackle the crisis on a number of levels. The critical lack of clean water, medical supplies, medical staff and even food has made fighting the disease almost impossible. And with aid groups such as the Red Cross warning that their efforts will have to cease soon due to lack of funding, the crisis is set to worsen before the new Prime Minister’s actions can make a positive impact.

Tsvangirai’s mother urges Zimbabweans to support unity government

Lydia Tsvangirai, the 75 year-old mother of the newly appointed Prime Minister of Zimbabwe has urged all Zimbabweans to back the inclusive government.

“For us we see it as an end to misery. People have suffered a lot and for us in the rural areas it was even tougher. We went through rough times,” said Ambuya Tsvangirai.

She added, “Personally, I am very happy that my eldest son has managed to live his dreams, that of bringing change to this country. This is only the beginning, but if we all give him the support, he will deliver as he always does.”

Speaking from her son’s home in Avondale on Thursday, a jovial Ambuya Tsvangirai told us she was a regular listener of SW Radio Africa. “I listen to your station religiously and there are a number of people you talk to that I know personally.”

Tsvangirai’s wife Susan was full of praise for her husband, saying the past 10 years have been an ‘endurance test’ for him and his party colleagues.

“I was overwhelmed with emotion yesterday (Wednesday) during the swearing-in ceremony. It was a precious day for us as a family, and my children were also there to witness this special day for us,” she said.

However, the Prime Minister’s wife was quick to point out that the day would not have come if it had not been for the courage displayed by the millions of Zimbabweans who supported the MDC.

“We have millions of heroes out there. People went through hell but they stuck to their ideals to seek change through democratic means. This was a struggle that we endured with MDC cadres, activists, supporters and peace loving Zimbabweans. To them I say thank you so much for the support they gave the MDC to reach this momentous period,” she added.


The Heart of the Matter 120209

Tanonoka wonders what is in store for Zimbabweans. He says it’s premature to celebrate the new Unity Government, and he remains pessimistic that it is doomed to fail as ZANU PF is not prepared to compromise on issues. He says that the MDC has maneuvered itself into a position of weakness, and that SADC and ZANU PF have taken advantage of their constant ‘flip-flopping.’

Newsreel 110209

Tsvangirai sworn in at State House as Prime Minister

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai was on Wednesday sworn in as the country’s Prime Minister in the grounds of State House, defying past ‘vows’ from Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace, that he would never set foot in State House.

The ceremony in Harare marked the beginning of an extraordinary new government which will bring bitter enemies together in an uneasy coalition. A new cabinet will be formed of Tsvangirai’s MDC, Mugabe’s ZANU PF and Arthur Mutambara’s MDC formation, in a coalition without precedent in the country’s history.

The bitter rivals had looked relaxed before the ceremony as they sat on a stage beneath a white tent on the lawns of State House. But their frosty relationship was clear as Mugabe swore Tsvangirai into office, with the new Prime Minister saying: ‘I, Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Zimbabwe and observe the laws of Zimbabwe, so help me God.’

Mugabe then congratulated the new Prime Minister and shook his hand after he signed the pledge, but there were no smiles. Soon after, Thokozani Khupe and Arthur Mutambara were sworn in as first and second deputy Prime Ministers.

The ceremony was witnessed by King Mswati 111 of Swaziland, President Amarndo Guebuza of Mozambique, SADC facilitator Thabo Mbeki, who apparently hugged Tsvangirai on the podium. South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Angolan Foreign Minister Dos Anjos, SADC Executive Secretary Tomas Augusto Salamao and members of the diplomatic community were among the guests.

After the ceremony the new leaders of the government retreated inside State House for tea with Mugabe, an unimaginable scenario until now.

Before the swearing in ceremony, Tsvangirai and his wife Susan had attended a church service at the Methodist church along Sherwood Avenue in Mabelreign.

Later in the day the new Prime Minister addressed a rally at the Harare showgrounds’ Glamis arena, which was attended by thousands of people. In his speech he called for an immediate end to the country’s violent political polarization.

‘For too long, our people’s hopes for a bright and prosperous future have been betrayed. Instead of hope, their days have been filled with starvation, disease and fear. A culture of entitlement and impunity has brought our nation to the brink of a dark abyss. This must end today,’ said the Prime Minister to thunderous applause from the crowd. Tsvangirai kept referring to the new government as a ‘transitional one.’

He noted the economic collapse that had forced millions of Zimbabweans to flee the country seeking menial jobs, for which they are often overqualified and underpaid. Tsvangirai also outlined his new vision by vowing that he will create a society ‘where our values are stronger than the threat of violence, where our children’s future and happiness is more important than present political goals and where a person is free to express an opinion, loudly, openly and publicly without fear of reprisal or repression.’

To achieve this vision, he said the new government must implement the democratization process without delay.

‘Through parliament, the people’s representatives in the MDC and ZANU PF, will pass legislation to restore the people’s freedoms, create the mechanism through which a people’s constitution can be created, reestablish the rule of law and promote independent media. Our liberation war was fought to provide political freedoms to all Zimbabweans and we intend to restore them as a matter of urgency,’ the Prime Minister said.

Political prisoners remain in jail, despite Tsvangirai demands

Zimbabwe’s new Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai vowed on Wednesday to secure the release of more than 30 prisoners of conscience who have been in jail for months.

Speaking to thousands of supporters at Glamis Stadium after his official swearing in, the Prime Minister said: “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.”

On Tuesday Tsvangirai declared that political prisoners must be released before he was sworn in, although he did not say what he would do if this didn’t happen.

Analysts say that Tsvangirai’s inauguration speech Wednesday was generally optimistic, inspiring and envisaged a new chapter for Zimbabwe, but it remains to be seen how the issue of human rights violations and impunity will be dealt with – in a country that has endured a violent political polarisation.

Meanwhile, civic leader Jestina Mukoko and scores of MDC activists were remanded in custody again, on the very day of Tsvangirai’s inauguration. One of their lawyers, Andrew Makoni, said the victims were not even brought to court, with the prison officials using the same excuse, that they had no fuel. The court deferred the matter to Friday.

Makoni also said the court ordered the State to allow some of the detainees to be taken to hospital. Those cited as needing urgent medical attention are MDC activist Fidelis Chiramba (in his 70s) and Mukoko. Both are said to be in a serious condition and the court said they should be taken to hospital immediately. This is the fourth order given by the courts for the activists to be taken to hospital, but ignored by the authorities.

A second group of detained activists are supposed to appear in court next Monday.

Furthermore eight protestors and two lawyers remain in police custody, a day after they were arrested in Harare during a peaceful demonstration by the Women of Zimbabwe Arise.

This latest group of activists spending time in filthy police cells are Roselyn Hanzi and Tawanda Zhuwarara from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights; plus Nelia Hambarume, Clara Bongwe, Auxilia Tarumbwa, Gracy Mutambachirimo, Linda Moyo, Keure Chikomo, Edina Saidi and Kundai Mupfukudzwa from WOZA.

They are being charged with allegedly provoking a breach of the peace under the draconian Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

Meanwhile the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition expressed deep concern that the MDC went ahead with the inauguration, without a clear ultimatum demanding the freeing of the activists, despite clear evidence of the Mugabe regime’s insincerity.

The groups said: “The Forum is deeply concerned and condemns the failure by the political parties to ensure the release of Jestina Mukoko, the Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, Frank Muchirahondo and Daniel Mlenga, both USAID employees, and many other prisoners of conscience from Chikurubi Prison and other places of detention.”

“We strongly believe that they are being held on frivolous, trumped up political charges, which have no substance at law. Further it is becoming increasingly evident that political prisoners were used as mere pawns by the political protagonists for political leverage.”

Ambitious promises mark Tsvangirai’s speech as unity gov takes shape

Morgan Tsvangirai took his first steps as the co-leader of the country’s government on Wednesday, with a rousing and determined speech at the Glamis Arena in Harare – a speech that made much needed promises in a country ravaged by almost 29 years of misrule.

The newly inaugurated Prime Minister prioritised national healing, ending the humanitarian crisis and stabilising the economy in order to rebuild the country – ambitious promises that have highlighted the challenges facing the new government that still has Robert Mugabe at its helm. The cheers that greeted the Prime Minister’s speech, as he listed what are direct failings of the Mugabe regime, also served as an indictment of the dictator’s iron fisted rule of the country. Tsvangirai also repeatedly referred to the new government as a ‘transitional’ government, a sign perhaps that the Prime Minister has a plan to implement real, welcome change. But with Tsvangirai set to share power with Mugabe in the new unity government mandated by SADC, questions are being raised over whether such ‘unity’ can in fact be achieved.

There are no clear divisions of power between Tsvangirai and Mugabe in the government that will be in place by the weekend. ZANU PF retains a large measure of control over the security service and the two parties are locked in a bizarre compromise that will see them jointly run the hotly disputed Home Affairs Ministry, which controls the police. How the government will function in practice is yet to be explained and demonstrated. A new cabinet, in which ZANU PF will have 15 ministries and the MDC-T 13 portfolios, is expected to take office on Friday when the new ministers are sworn in. A small rival MDC faction, led by one of two new deputy prime ministers, Arthur Mutumbara, will take three positions. The newly formed government will then start the process of joint governing as of Monday.

But there are concerns that Tsvangirai, who has vowed to fight the Mugabe regime ‘from inside’ the government, has walked into a trap by joining forces with a man known to be the master of political game-play. Skeptics have argued that the MDC is likely to be swallowed up by ZANU PF, much like Joshua Nkomo’s ZAPU party was when it was forced into a merger in 1987. And while such skepticism has been condemned in the face of a new political era that many believe is the start of much needed change in Zimbabwe, there are valid reasons for this concern. Mugabe has always treated the country as personal property, even blatantly declaring in December that “Zimbabwe is mine,” and many say that genuine power-sharing by Mugabe seems highly unlikely.

The challenges facing Tsvangirai to heal the damage Mugabe’s rule has inflicted are vast, and there are some promises that might unintentionally raise false hope. For example, Tsvangirai’s promise to have all civil servants paid in foreign currency by the end of February has raised the eyebrows of many observers, as no detail has been given as to where such a cash boost will come from. In his speech Tsvangirai said such salaries “will enable people to work, to feed their families and to survive until such time that we can begin to sustain ourselves as a country.” Teachers, among other civil servants, have been demanding a monthly salary of US$2000 to cover their costs in a country where at least US$600 dollars is needed to buy food for an average family. But such quantities of foreign cash are unlikely to be injected straight into Zimbabwe, given most Western powers have adopted a ‘wait-and-see’ policy before parting with funds.

Nonetheless the beginning of hope has been created in a population ground down by a decade of oppression and misery. And without hope, nothing can be achieved.

Targeted sanctions likely to remain, despite SA pressure

A call by the South African government for targeted sanctions on Zimbabwean officials and companies to be lifted, is likely to fall on deaf ears. On Tuesday South African President Kgalema Motlanthe and the Director General in the Foreign Affairs Department, Ayanda Ntsaluba, both said the ‘sanctions’ had to be lifted in order to allow the unity government a chance to succeed. ‘People in Zimbabwe will also more likely support the peace process if they can see a number of positive spin-offs happening,’ Ntsaluba said. Analysts however said this position was highly misleading given the sanctions targeted only specific individuals and companies shoring up Mugabe’s regime.

It has been a deliberate and constant tactic of Mugabe’s government to portray the targeted sanctions as the reason for the economic collapse in the country. Several African countries, including South Africa, have knowingly or unknowingly played into this argument. Ntsaluba for example said the lifting of the ‘sanctions’ would allow for the inflow of much needed humanitarian aid into the country. This is despite the fact that the western countries that put the targeted sanctions in place, still finance humanitarian aid into Zimbabwe. The US State Department’s Robert Wood said although they would wait to see evidence of genuine power sharing, they will continue to provide humanitarian assistance.

Britain’s Africa Minister, Lord Malloch Brown, last month said his country would maintain pressure on Mugabe and his inner-circle via the targeted sanctions. ‘There is a misunderstanding of what these sanctions are. They are aimed at the individuals, and the companies supporting these individuals, around Mr. Mugabe. They are not aimed at the country of Zimbabwe or it’s people. To keep the squeeze on these people, to make sure they do really share power and perform properly in this new government we need to keep this lever for a while,’ he said. Britain also said it needed to see real progress and results from the unity deal, before reviewing these measures.

Hardly a week after the opposition committed itself to joining the unity government last month Mugabe’s regime went on a major offensive to convince western countries to remove the measures. This triggered accusations they were only interested in using the MDC as window dressing to earn legitimacy and gain international acceptance, and that there was absolutely no intention of really sharing power.

Newsreel 100209

Parliament passes National Security Council Bill

On Tuesday parliament passed the National Security Council Bill which the MDC hopes will tame the excesses of the country’s security forces. The opposition party proposed a council that will supervise the operations of the army, police and central intelligence agencies, following the murderous reign of the Joint Operations Command (JOC) last year. The JOC, which was chaired by Emerson Mnangagwa, oversaw the violent re-election of Mugabe by deploying hundreds of senior army personnel in all the country’s provinces. These were then used to coordinate violent attacks and assassinations of opposition figures.

The new National Security Council Bill (NSCB) sailed through parliament as part of concessions agreed to by both the MDC and ZANUPF. Last week the two parties combined to rubber stamp constitutional amendment 19 in parliament. That amendment created the post of Prime Minister and his 2 deputies, among other things.

MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa told Newsreel they hoped the NSCB will ensure the security forces comply with the constitution, in the way they carry out their business. The new council will receive and consider national security reports and give direction on how the country’s security forces work.

Chamisa explained that they were trying to avoid a scenario where an ‘informal’ group such as JOC acted with complete impunity. Under JOC over 130 MDC supporters lost their lives in well-orchestrated political violence and abductions. He said they were pursuing the accountability of state institutions via a law that governed their operations.

Under bill the composition of the National Security Council will be comprised of the Minister of State, the Chief Secretary to the President, Chief Secretary to the Prime Minister, Prime Minister, 2 Deputy Prime Ministers and the Finance Minister. In addition each of the three political parties will nominate a Minister. The army, police, prison and CIO commanders already on JOC will become committee members on the new NSC but will have no voting powers.

Tsvangirai demands release of detainees before Wednesday

MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai has insisted that the release of all the political prisoners at Chikurubi Maximum Prison remains a vital issue. He told a news conference in Harare on Tuesday that the detainees, many of them in custody for more than 3 months, should be freed before he is sworn in as Prime Minister on Wednesday.

However, journalist Angus Shaw said the MDC leader would not commit himself to what he would do, in the event this did not happen.

The journalist said it was doubtful that Tsvangirai would not go ahead with being sworn in as Prime Minister, as he was in too deep and all the arrangements for the inauguration have already been made. Tsvangirai is expected to be formally appointed in a private ceremony in the morning and then address thousands of supporters at the Glamis Stadium in Harare around midday. The swearing in of the 31 ministerial government is expected Friday.

Meanwhile a group of civil and MDC activists, including Jestina Mukoko, are expected to appear in court for a remand hearing on the day of the inauguration. A second group, including the MDC director of security Chris Dhlamini, are expected to appear in court next Monday.

Shaw said Tsvangirai did state that negotiations for the release of the political detainees were at an advanced stage. The Prime Minister designate implied at the press conference that ZANU PF no longer had complete and absolute control.

The MDC is concerned that the Joint Operations Command is not happy with the power sharing deal and intends to continue with intimidation of its supporters. In a recent incident, detainees were not produced after the prisons commissioner, Major-General Paradzai Zimondi, refused to hand them over. As a member of JOC Zimondi helped organise the terror campaign during the elections last year and also recently broke up a hearing on the release of some of the detainees by disrupting the court session.

At his press conference Tsvangirai also introduced his nominees for the cabinet. He confirmed the MDC will co-chair the contentious Home Affairs Ministry and appointed retired army major Giles Mutsekwa as the MDC Minister for this ministry that controls Zimbabwe’s unruly police force. Tsvangirai also announced the MDC will deputise in six key ministries that will be headed by ZANU PF ministers.

The party was given critical deputy minister-ship in the Agriculture, Defence, Justice, Foreign Affairs, Women’s Affairs and Local Government Ministries.

Meanwhile Human rights groups have called on the new inclusive government to prioritise human rights and the humanitarian crisis.

Amnesty International issued a five point plan urging the new government to put human rights on top of the agenda and for the politicians to demonstrate a commitment to human rights in their first 100 days in power.

Simeon Mawanza, Amnesty International’s Zimbabwe expert, said: “The deteriorating economic and social conditions must also be a priority for this government. The people of Zimbabwe urgently need food, housing, essential health care, safe drinking water, sanitation and education.”

“If the government is unable to deliver these basic necessities, it will have to seek international cooperation and assistance and remove unnecessary restrictions,” Mawanza said in a statement.

More than half the population relies on food aid and the humanitarian crisis has been made worse by a deadly cholera epidemic that has killed well over 3 000 people and infected more than 69,000 people.

Oxfam has also issued a statement urging instant attention to the desperate needs of the population. “We hope the government of national unity can prioritise the humanitarian crisis and mobilize all the resources it can to make swift recovery possible while working to bring broader stability to the country”, said Oxfam’s country director in Zimbabwe, Peter Mutoredzanwa. They also urged the new government to create space for the active engagement of civil society in partnership to rebuild Zimbabwe.

Lawyers and WOZA activists arrested Tuesday

It became clear on Tuesday that the unity government is not going to be easy, when lawyers and activists were arrested just one day before Morgan Tsvangirai is sworn in as Prime Minister.

Eight members of the group Women of Zimbabwe Arise were arrested on Tuesday during a demonstration to commemorate Valentines Day, which is held on the 14th. Two lawyers, Rose Hanzi and Tawanda Zhuwarara from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, were also arrested.

WOZA said about 600 activists marched peacefully to the parliament building while apparently the riot police just looked on. But after the activists dispersed it emerged that 10 people had been arrested.

It’s understood they are being held at Harare Central police station and that lawyers are being denied access to their clients, therefore the circumstances of their arrest and details of what charges they are facing are unknown.

A WOZA statement said: “Their arrest and arbitrary detention one day before the swearing in of a new unity government in Zimbabwe clearly shows that ZANU PF has no intention of changing its repressive way of operating.”

Another pressure group, the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said the WOZA protests were also testing ‘the genuineness of the government in awarding activists democratic space following the signing of the GPA and the passing of Amendment 19.’

Tsvangirai names his cabinet team

MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai on Tuesday named his cabinet team that will join Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF party in a unity government.

The MDC leader who is due to be sworn in on Wednesday as Prime Minister made the announcement at a press conference in Harare. His deputy, Thokozani Khupe and Arthur Mutambara, leader of the MDC formation, will also be sworn in Wednesday.
Tendai Biti, the party’s secretary general and chief negotiator, was named Finance Minister. The contentious Home Affairs portfolio that will be co-shared by ZANU PF has been given to Dangamvura and Chikanga MP in Mutare, Giles Mutsekwa. Tsvangirai told journalists that the Home Affairs Ministry required ‘a strong individual to ensure that it enhances the freedoms of Zimbabweans and proper administration of the citizen’s charter.
Our Harare correspondent Simon Muchemwa, said the MDC leader described the new team of cabinet members from his party as ‘men and women chosen for their vision of healing the nation.’ Tsvangirai said ‘the team will not only bring the spirit of hope to the people of Zimbabwe but also their significant technical skills in the challenging task of restoring political freedoms.’

‘This team will be tasked with beginning the process of rebuilding our country during the transition period,’ Tsvangirai added.

Pro-democracy lawyer Advocate Eric Matingenga was named the Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, while firebrand party spokesman Nelson Chamisa will head the Information and Communications Technology Ministry.

Professor Elphas Mukonoweshuro will head the Public Service Ministry, while his former University of Zimbabwe counterpart, Professor Henry Dzinotyiwei, is the new Minister for Science and Technology Development.

Former Harare Mayor Engineer Elias Mudzuri will lead the Energy and Power Development Ministry, while Bulawayo businessman and MP Eddie Cross will take charge of the State Enterprise and Parastatals Ministry.

Kwekwe medical practitioner Dr Henry Madzorera has been tasked with reviving the Health Ministry. The MDC women’s assembly chairperson Theresa Makone will head the Public Works Ministry while another female MP, Paurine Mpariwa, will lead the Social Welfare Ministry.
Abednigo Bhebhe from the MDC-M was surprisingly nominated by Tsvangirai to take charge of Water Resources Development. Elton Mangoma, another party negotiator to the talks, will be the Economic Planning and Investment Minister.

The popular treasurer general of the party, Roy Bennett, who recently returned to Zimbabwe after three years in exile in South Africa, was named Deputy Minister of Agriculture. Dr Tichaona Mudzingwa, a former Zimbabwe National Army surgeon, will be the Deputy Minister of Defence, while Harare lawyer Jessie Majome will be the Deputy Minister of Justice. The other three Deputy Ministers to fill the Foreign Affairs, Local government and Women’s Affairs portfolios will be announced after further consultations between Tsvangirai and Mugabe.

The two leaders were due to meet this afternoon to finalise the list of provincial governors and the new structure of the country’s security institutions. Mugabe was locked for most parts of the morning in a marathon meeting with his service chiefs.

MP’s set to face disciplinary action over farm inputs scandal

Even before a unity government has been formed the specter of corruption looms large on the horizon after 9 members of parliament were accused of abusing a government scheme meant to support new farmers. A total of 7 MP’s from the Tsvangirai MDC and another 2 from ZANU PF were named by Brigadier-General Douglas Nyikayaramba as having abused the scheme. Nyikayaramba is the chairman of the National Resource Mobilisation and Utilisation Committee.

He claimed that MDC MP’s Evelyn Masaiti, Ramsome Makamure (Gutu East), Edmore Mudavanhu (Zaka North), Hega Shoko (Bikita West), Edmore Marima (Bikita East), Tichaona Maradza (Masvingo West), Hamandishe Maramwidze (Gutu North) and ZANU PF’s Chivi South MP Ivene Dzingirayi and Seke-Chikomba Senator Gladys Mabhiza, all received 20 tonnes of Compound D fertilizer and 1 tonne of maize seed. One of the legislators apparently had an extra tonne of seed and diesel, while two others received an additional 10 tonnes of Ammonium Nitrate fertilizer.

Tsvangirai MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said the party would come down hard on any of their MP’s found guilty of abusing the scheme. ‘We would want the legislators to come forward and explain themselves so that we act decisively on anyone found guilty of misappropriating government inputs. We have no sacred cows in terms of corruption in our party and no matter how senior you are in the party, we will deal with you accordingly,’ he said. The National Food Security Programme was set up to help farmers newly resettled under the controversial and often violent land reform exercise.

It remained unclear how the MP’s had been able to abuse the scheme given they did not qualify under its criteria.

Hidden Story 110209

The inuguration of Morgan Tsvangirai on Wednesday as the new Prime Minister has been hailed as historic by his supporters. But others such as human rights lawyer Gabriel Shumba say Tsvangirai faces a daunting task in his new job, as he tackles a host of legal minefields in order to try to reverse the partisan laws that contributed to the collapse of the country.

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Callback 110209

Sifelani has very mixed feelings as he shares his thoughts on the swearing-in of Morgan Tsvangirai as Zimbabwe’s new Prime Minister because of the many ‘outstanding issues.’ He says some of these issues are: the release of abductees; the role of JOC; denials of freedom of association and speech, and multiple ownership of appropriated farms by ZANU PF bigwigs. He hopes that what happened to ZAPU in the ‘80s is not going to be repeated. Mdala says one of the things that the new government should do immediately is to stop the use of forex, and bring back a stronger Zimbabwe dollar.

Democracy 101 110209

Willy and Dominic are joined by Lameck as they ask if the unity government will be ‘old wine in new bottles?’ They compare the way the state dealt with the treason charges against new Finance Minister Tendai Biti, and how similar charges were handled against the late Ndabaningi Sithole, and they look at whether in a democratic society the constitution should be continually subjected to amendments. Is that the correct procedure or should we go back to the drawing board and draft a new constitution.

Diaspora Diaries 100209

Alex Bell is joined by the former political editor of the Daily News and founder of The Zimbabwean, Wilf Mbanga and Sandra Nyaira – both exiled Zimbabwean journalists based in the UK. Alex and her guests discuss the future of Zimbabwe’s exiled media now, that a unity government has been agreed. Mbanga and Nyaira agree that the fate of exiled journalists and the media needs to be high on the agenda of the new government and Mbanga argues that without a free media, the new government cannot take root.

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