Newsreel 300109

Exiled Roy Bennett returns to Zimbabwe

Three years ago in March, Roy Bennett left Zimbabwe under cover of darkness, after he was accused of plotting to overthrow Robert Mugabe. In 2004 he had also spent eight months in jail for pushing ZANU PF’s Patrick Chinamasa in parliament. But on Friday Bennett flew into Zimbabwe from South Africa for the crucial meeting of the MDC National Council, which made the decision to finally form a unity government with ZANU PF and the second MDC formation.

Speaking on the eve of his departure Bennett told SW Radio Africa he was very apprehensive. He said: “To tell you the truth I am scared because I don’t know what faces me on the other side.” But Bennett felt he wanted to be part of this important occasion and also ‘test the sincerity and genuineness of the Mugabe regime.”

And early Friday morning the MDC’s National Treasurer passed through airport security without any hassle, with one of the security officers merely saying to him: “Oh, it’s you Mr Bennett.”

He went straight to the meeting where the National Council committed itself to the unity government. It is believed this decision came after serious pressure from SADC, which had said it would guarantee and deliver the process, with the government formed by mid February.

Bennett, who was a commercial farmer before he was violently driven off his land in Chimanimani, said: “I find it as difficult as the next person to even begin to trust these processes, but there has to be a starting point of moving this forward on the basis that people are suffering and on the basis that SADC has guaranteed this process.” He added that within SADC the MDC has friends, who believe a power sharing government can be delivered.

Mukoko bail hearing postponed again, as legal games continue

Zimbabwe’s political rivals agreed to a unity government on Friday, but for abducted and detained activist Jestina Mukoko nothing changed for her as Justice Anne-Marie Gowora postponed her bail hearing. The former ZBC newsreader faces extremely dubious accusations that she attempted to recruit MDC insurgents to train in neighbouring Botswana.

The claims have been widely discredited and dismissed by everyone as nothing more than an attempt to justify a crackdown on any opposition to the regime. But with ZANU PF and the MDC going into a power sharing deal it had been expected the lame charges against Mukoko and over 30 other activists would at the very least be dropped in a sign of goodwill.

The legal technicalities thrown up in all the cases have ensured the state succeeds in holding the activists in custody for as long as possible. On Friday Justice Gowora said the defence had to file a written response to the issues raised by state in opposing bail for Mukoko. Almost 3 months into her abduction and detention the Zimbabwe Peace Project Director is still to be charged for the offences Mugabe’s regime claims she committed. In a cruel twist of events the state is claiming that a bail application cannot be heard because Mukoko has not been charged yet. Defence lawyer Harrison Nkomo said they would file the requested written response on the same Friday. The case will now be heard on Monday.

With over 30 MDC and civil society activists facing a range of charges, Mugabe’s regime has ensured a messy legal game with applications and counter-applications at the magistrates, High and Supreme Courts. Last Friday the prison service failed to produce Chris Dhlamini and 6 others, for a remand hearing at the magistrate’s court. Defence lawyers said they were given no explanation for the no show. Dhlamini, the MDC director of Security, and Ghandi Mudzingwa, a former aide to Morgan Tsvangirai, also face dubious allegations of bombing trains and police stations.

Pascal Gonzo who worked with fellow abductee, Jestina Mukoko at the Zimbabwe Peace Project, is facing allegations of assisting some activists to evade arrest by the police.

UN to cut aid to Zimbabwe as cash dries up

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is set to cut it’s maize rations to Zimbabwe by about halve, in a move that will affect over 7 million people or almost 70 percent of the population requiring food aid. The number of people dependent on food aid keeps rising while the WFP is battling a shortfall in donations. The UN body requires about US$65 million just to feed Zimbabweans until the end of March this year. Reports suggest donors are unwilling to put money into the country and the little that is getting in is being diverted to address the devastating cholera epidemic that has claimed more that 3000 lives and infected over 60 000.

Now WFP has said it will reduce it’s core maize ration from 10 kg to 5kg a month in February, despite the recommended ration being 12kg a month to keep an adult alive. The new rations will mean many of the beneficiaries will be lucky to eat a meal once a day. Richard Lee a spokesman for the WFP said although boosted rations of beans and vegetable oil could be used to improve the diet and calorie count in the food, those relying on this aid would have to source additional supplies elsewhere in order to stay alive.

The failure of the WFP to secure donations will have a knock-on effect on the operations of several other NGO’s that rely on them for food. For example Oxfam, which is feeding over 253 000 people in the Midlands province, relies on the food that comes from the WFP. Many families are now selling anything they have left, including livestock and household items, just to buy food. Those who have already sold everything they own are stuck with no other option but to live on wild fruits. Oxfam reports that some adults are skipping meals, in order to increase the amount of food available for their children.

Harvests in Zimbabwe are only expected in April and so the months of February and March are always considered the hungriest. Experts say even when those who planted agricultural produce get to harvest in April, the produce will only meet a quarter of the country’s requirements.

Committee set up to monitor power-sharing pact

ZANU PF and the two MDC formations on Friday set up a body which will monitor the parties’ compliance with the Global Political Agreement, signed on 15th September last year.

Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, the deputy secretary general for the MDC-M, told us the committee was inaugurated at a ceremony at the South African High Commission in Harare.

Misihairabwi-Mushonga said the Joint Monitoring Implementation Committee (JOMIC) would deal with issues of compliance and monitoring of the GPA, as well as grievances and concerns relating to the unity deal.

JOMIC has 12 members, four from each of the three parties. It will be co-chaired by all the parties.

On the committee will be:
MDC-T: Chairman, Elton Mangoma. Plus; Elias Mudzuri, Tabitha Khumalo and Innocent Chagonda.
MDC-M: Chairman, Welshman Ncube. Plus; Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, Frank Chamunorwa and Edward Mkhosi.
ZANU PF: Chairman, Nicholas Goche. Plus; Emmerson Mnangagwa, Patrick Chinamasa and Oppah Muchinguri.
Speaking at the launch of the committee, Sydney Mufamadi, a member of the South African mediation team that pushed

the unity deal forward, said the formation of JOMIC demonstrated the commitment of the parties to ensure that what

they agreed to does come to pass.
But observers have expressed much concern at the ‘hard’ men representing ZANU PF on the committee, particularly Emmerson Mnangagwa. The United Nations issued a report in 2001 that showed that Mnangagwa was the architect of commercial activities for ZANU PF, controlling the illegal plunder of the DRC. One veteran of Zimbabwe’s independence war also said: “He’s a very cruel man, very cruel.”

Thousands to fast Sunday, in solidarity with Zimbabwe

As African leaders meet on Sunday for the 12th African Union summit taking place in Ethiopia, thousands of people from across the world will be joined together in solidarity with Zimbabwe’s suffering people – by fasting for the day.

The global fast campaign has seen more than 26 000 people from 179 countries across the world commit themselves to fasting on Sunday, including people from 27 countries across the African continent and in countries as far away as Argentina, Burma and Papua New Guinea. The campaign has been organised as part of the Save Zimbabwe Now campaign that was launched to mobilise change in crisis weary Zimbabwe. The campaign, which comprises a coalition of human rights organisations and individual activists, has already seen several high profile South African’s pledge to a series of rolling hunger strikes.

Former anti-apartheid activist and honorary President of the World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Kumi Naidoo,
is almost two weeks into his 21 day hunger strike, which he took over from Pastor Raymond Motsi from the Bulawayo Baptist Church. Pastor Motsi swore off food earlier this year for 21 days in personal solidarity with Zimbabweans, a move which prompted this wider action. Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela’s wife, Graca Machel, have also sworn to hold off food one day a week, and on Sunday will be joined by thousands of people in the planned global action.

Naidoo is expected to travel to Ethiopia this weekend to address the African leaders congregating there for the AU summit, about the Zimbabwe crisis. Naidoo and other member of the Save Zimbabwe Now campaign, have vowed to continue the series of hunger strikes until tangible change is witnessed in Zimbabwe, and have been putting pressure on African leaders to be responsible for such change.

Water management reverts back to local councils

Robert Mugabe’s regime decided Thursday to restore management of water supplies to local authorities from next month, after the disastrous period in which the government parastatal, Zinwa, failed to supply clean water to many cities and towns resulting in the worst cholera outbreak in Africa for 15 years.

In a speech to parliament during presentation of the Budget in Harare, acting Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said the government had ‘noted Zinwa’s incapacity to deal with the water crisis.

It was in 2005 that the government decided to hand over water management to Zinwa.

‘Zinwa and local authorities should begin the process of smooth handover and takeover transfers. Given that water reticulation infrastructure in some major urban centres has become obsolete, government will be working with the respective local authorities in mobilising resources for the rehabilitation of such infrastructure,’ Chinamasa is quoted as saying.

In his budget Chinamasa said that in order to address the water and sewage challenges, government will set aside US$31,2 million in both urban and rural authorities. He said US$12, 9 million would go to Harare’s City Council.

There were also proposals to allocate US$4, 3 million to cater for upgrades at Morton Jaffray Water Works, as well as US$1 million for pipe replacement. A further US$135 000 would be allocated to the Bulawayo City Council for the rehabilitation of boreholes and upgrading of the treatment works.

The government U-turn to give water management back to city councils will come as a huge relief to millions of urban residents who have long been critical of Zinwa’s inefficiency to deal with the water crisis.

Where the millions of US dollars are supposed to come from is anybody’s guess.

Mixed reaction as MDC backs Tsvangirai joining unity government

The MDC national executive on Friday backed party leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s decision to join a unity government with Robert Mugabe, in a move that has already prompted a flurry of opposing responses.

The power sharing agreement that was signed last year between the MDC and ZANU PF has been argued by some as the best possible solution to the devastating crises ravaging the country. The economy has completely collapsed under the weight of hyperinflation and the local dollar has been dropped in favour of foreign currency. At the same time,

critical infrastructure has collapsed and basic services have disappeared, leaving diseases such as the cholera epidemic to rampage across the country unchecked. Officially more than 3000 people have died from the disease alone, but with the collapse of the health system, tens of thousands more people have died from other ailments, usually treatable in a functioning society.

More than half of the country’s remaining population are in desperate need of food aid and the country is literally starving to death. The majority of the country’s remaining workforce, believed to be only 6% of the population, are still being paid in the worthless local dollar, meaning basic living expenses are unattainable, and even school has become an unaffordable luxury for most students.

The combined crises have sparked outrage from many observers that Mugabe has been allowed to cling to power in this unity government, despite being at the centre of the country’s collapse. Many also believe that the MDC has effectively ‘sold-out’ by joining a government which has the blood of so many Zimbabweans on its hands, and there have been renewed cries from civil society for SADC leaders to respect the outcome of last year’s March presidential elections, which the MDC won.

Analysts have argued that allowing the losing party, namely ZANU PF, to cling to power despite the ongoing human rights atrocities still being committed in the country, is setting a bad and worrying precedent for the rest of Africa. For this reason, the decision by the MDC to join Mugabe’s government, has left many with a bitter taste in their mouths.

SW Radio Africa’s Harare correspondent Simon Muchemwa explained on Friday that the MDC’s decision to join the ZANU PF government has been met with mixed feeling on the ground, saying that many Zimbabweans “are questioning what will happen next now that the MDC has joined hands with the devil.” Muchemwa said that in some cases, hopes have been raised that an end to the crisis is in sight, but he also argued that faith in the MDC has been shaken.

“Many people believed the MDC was going to hold out until their demands were met, but they didn’t and have proven to be inconsistent,” Muchemwa said.

Friday’s decision by the MDC national executive was taken in ‘full unanimity’, according to party spokesman Nelson Chamisa. The party has however cited three conditions to be met by the time Tsvangirai is sworn in as Prime Minister on February 11th. These include the release of all political detainees, a review of the distribution of posts of provincial governors and the drafting of legislation to revamp national security. As it stands, ZANU PF will control 13 ministries and share the Home Affairs ministry with the MDC-T, who will control 14 ministries. The remaining three ministries will go to the splinter MDC formation, led by Arthur Mutambara,

How Home Affairs will be shared has yet to be decided, although South Africa’s Director General in the country’s Presidency this week shed some light on how the decision will be made. Rev Frank Chikane, while lauding the ‘success’ of the SADC summit on Monday, rather worryingly said Zimbabwe’s leaders should ‘toss a coin’.

Meanwhile, leaders in Kenya and Senegal on Friday expressed doubt over whether a unity government will work in Zimbabwe, saying Mugabe must step down from power. Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, said it is time for ‘Mugabe to be shown the door’, explaining that if the dictator “needs a golden handshake, let’s assure him of a golden handshake.” At the same time, Odinga’s sentiments were echoed by Senegal’s President, Abdoulaye Wade, who said an impasse had been reached in Zimbabwe. He said: “If Mugabe does leave power… he could come to Senegal. We need to provide a smooth exit for him.”

Heart of the Matter 290109

Tanonoka focuses on the recent SADC summit in South Africa as he criticises SADC and says they should be ‘brought before the International Court of Justice for human rights violations against the Zimbabwean people,’ and their name should rather be ‘Murder Incorporated.’ He says that despite Mugabe losing the March 29th election and refusing to adhere to SADC’s own guidelines, they have seen fit to continue to shield and protect him. Through the decision they pushed through in Pretoria they have effectively ‘stolen democracy’ from the people by forcing Zimbabweans to accept the man they rejected in March.

Newsreel 290109

MDC expected to endorse decision to join unity government

The decision making body of the MDC, the National Council, is widely expected to agree in favour of joining a unity government, as outlined by Monday’s SADC summit on Zimbabwe.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has reportedly agreed in principle to join the inclusive government, subject to the resolution of outstanding issues that he described as ‘work in progress.’ Negotiators from the three parties were expected to meet late Thursday to resolve some of these issues.

Briefing party supporters and journalists soon after arrival at the Harare International Airport yesterday, Tsvangirai said: ‘It’s a historic decision and I hope the party will be united in ensuring that we respond to the needs on the ground and people’s expectations,’ he said. Newsreel spoke to several MDC MPs who all confirmed Friday’s meeting of the 124-member body was just a formality, as Tsvangirai was expected to receive the full backing of the national council.

‘We met last week and said we will only join when some of our demands are met. Look, Mugabe gave concessions to three out of five of our demands. In any negotiation, you win some and lose some,’ an MDC MP said.

Another MP added; ‘Remember this is the same body that has many members who have always advocated joining the unity government. If the issue was to be decided by a vote, an outright majority will say yes, let’s join, but I don’t think it will go that far. Putting it to a vote will mean the party is divided over the issue.’

Analysts though remained sceptical. Glen Mpani, a Cape Town based analyst said Tsvangirai’s decision to agree to join a unity government could have been based on many things.

‘There is a humanitarian crisis in the country now, so he could have been motivated by the level of suffering to such alarming proportions he decided to take a chance based on trust,’ Mpani said.

Mpani added that Tsvangirai has ‘put his feet in the river’ in the hope that he won’t be swept away because in the back of his mind he knows he’s dealing with a rogue party.

‘Tsvangirai could be asking himself, will these people throw away their 28 year-old culture of flouting the rule of law, of abusing human rights or disregarding the constitution,’

Basildon Peta, a Zimbabwean journalist based in South Africa, told us Tsvangirai said the three issues on which Mugabe had conceded ground were the appointments of provincial governors, national security legislation and passage of constitutional amendment 19, giving legal effect to the September 15 unity agreement. There are reports the appointments that have already been made of the Reserve Bank Governor and the Attorney General will be reversed, and then dealt with by the inclusive government after its formation.

Critically however, observers point out that Mugabe has not given in to the contentious issue of letting go of the Home Affairs ministry, insisting that it be co-shared with the MDC. The other important demand that he failed to address was the continuous detention of civil and political

Once the inclusive government is in place, work will start on restructuring the civil service and this will involve the appointments of permanent secretaries and ambassadors, after consultations between Tsvangirai and Robert Mugabe.
The SADC summit enforced a timeline to ensure the full implementation of the Global Political Agreement. Regional leaders asked all parties to work towards ensuring that parliament pass the Constitutional Amendment 19 by the 5th February.

That will be followed six days later by the swearing in of the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Ministers on the 11th. Ministers and Deputy Ministers shall be sworn in on two days later, concluding the process of the formation of the inclusive government.

The Joint-Monitoring Implementation Committee (JOMIC), provided for in the Global Political Agreement, was activated soon after the summit in Pretoria. A source told us the first meeting of JOMIC is expected to be convened by Thabo Mbeki in Harare on Friday, to elect the chairpersons.

JOMIC will be composed of four senior members of ZANU PF and four members from each of the two MDC formations. SADC envisages that the committee will be co-chaired by persons from the parties and will assess the implementation of the GPA from time to time and consider steps which might need to be taken to ensure the speedy and full implementation of the agreement in its entirety.

Local dollar redundant as budget allows multiple currency trading

The government has for the first time acknowledged that the Zimbabwe dollar has no value, after acting Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, on Thursday detailed the country’s budget proposal in the US greenback.

The proposal, which will officially pave the way for the disappearance of the local currency in trading, will make dealing in multiple currencies legal for all Zimbabweans, in theory to curb hyperinflation. The inflation rate is the highest in the world and has seen the local dollar crumble to its current worthless position. The economy has for weeks been informally ‘dollarised’ with almost all sectors trading in US dollars, and the new budget proposal has made the move official.

Analysts from South Africa’s Standard Bank had said the official dollarisation of the Zimbabwean economy would be confirmed if taxes and duties were charged in forex – an action that has now been drafted in the new budget proposal.

SW Radio Africa’s Harare correspondent, Simon Muchemwa, explained on Thursday that US$1.9 billion has been proposed for ministerial allocation, with the majority of the money being set aside for the education and health ministries. Muchemwa said that while not specifically stated, salaries and wages are included in the funds allocation. However, it’s understood that civil servants will still not be paid the foreign cash they have demanded, and it’s widely believed payment will remain in the worthless dollar. Reports suggest they may get a small forex ‘allowance.’

Muchemwa detailed the key points of the proposal, including the move that tax, VAT and excise duty would be charged in forex. Muchemwa also explained that the government is “trying to get as much money in as possible” by extending its tax branch, with the budget proposing that “high earning accounts in the informal trading sector” will be hit with 40% tax charges, although it is yet unclear how this will come into effect.

The budget speech was reportedly met with laughs and jeers from the MDC parliamentarians and the party has yet to submit its own ideas for the proposal. The mere fact that the budget was drafted without the inclusion of the MDC has once again emphasised the hollow nature of the unity deal that will somehow be implemented in the coming weeks,

ZCTU slam unity deal, reiterate demand for transitional authority

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has expressed deep concern at the failure of the recent SADC summit to ensure that a government with a democratic mandate is put in place. On Thursday Secretary General Wellington Chibhebhe was speaking in South Africa at COSATU House, the headquarters of the Congress of South African Trade Unions in Johannesburg. Responding to the expected formation of a unity government between the MDC and ZANU PF, the ZCTU reiterated its demand for a neutral transitional authority, whose sole mandate will be to organise free and fair elections under international supervision.

During the joint ZCTU and COSATU press conference the labour unions said ‘any unity government that rewards those who lost an election is setting a very dangerous precedent.’ They argued that the agreement seeks to make the loser of the elections a winner, and the winner a loser. The two unions have agreed to support the ‘principle’ of a unity government only as an interim measure, that will ensure that conditions for a free and fair poll are eventually created.

A detailed statement said; ‘SADC and AU leaders have yet again failed the people, by continuing to treat Mugabe as a legitimate head of state, despite being rejected by the majority of his citizens in the 29 March 2008 elections. SADC even allow him to remain in the summit meeting after Morgan Tsvangirai had been asked to leave, so that he could be a judge in his own case.’ The unions are worried that Mugabe wants to use the MDC and it’s leader Morgan Tsvangirai as window dressing to attract international recognition. They pointed out that another problem with the agreement is that it relies too much on trusting Mugabe to honour the spirit of the deal.

The unions warned that ‘history is full of examples that show that anyone who trusts that Mugabe can keep the spirit and letter of any agreement does so at his/her own peril.’ They listed as examples how Mugabe duped ZAPU into a deal in 1980 after independence, before reneging on every single promise he made. ZAPU leader Joshua Nkomo was fired as Home Affairs Minister 2 years into the deal, ZAPU properties were confiscated and over 20 000 people slaughtered during the Gukurahundi Massacres in the Midlands and Matabeleland. There remains no guarantee that Mugabe will not do the same and fire Tsvangirai as Prime Minister under the agreement.

COSATU meanwhile said it will be intensifying it’s solidarity campaigns and has already planned a Southern African civil society conference, demonstrations and pickets on Zimbabwe.

Pressure for change, despite unity agreement

The pressure on African leaders who have so far allowed Robert Mugabe to cling to power, appears set to remain firm, despite Morgan Tsvangirai apparently agreeing to form a unity government with the ageing dictator by mid-February.

The weeks leading up to Monday’s SADC summit in South Africa saw pressure continue to build, with human rights groups, high profile activists and international leaders declaring their outrage about the ongoing rights abuses still taking place in Zimbabwe. This week the European Union strengthened its list of targeted sanctions against the Mugabe regime and even newly inaugurated US President Barack Obama was reportedly planning tougher action against Mugabe and his cronies.

At the same time, South African activists and Zimbabwean solidarity groups in that country pledged their commitment to a rolling hunger strike, in solidarity with the Zimbabwean people to protest inaction over the crisis. The coalition of groups and individuals, under the banner of the Save Zimbabwe Now campaign, took to the streets outside the venue of the summit on Monday to air their grievances and hand a petition to SADC leaders. But the action ended in violence when South African police used force and a spray of rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. The delegation set to deliver the petition was also forced into police vans and taken away from the talks venue.

Included in a list of demands stipulated by the Save Zimbabwe Now campaign was the formation of a unity government, but the group’s action is set to continue, despite the outcome of the talks. A new branch of the campaign is being launched in South Africa’s KwaZulu Natal province on Friday and the Honorary President of the World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Kumi Naidoo, is now set to take the appeal for change in Zimbabwe further. Naidoo, who is more than a week into his 21 day hunger strike, will be addressing leaders at the AU summit on Sunday about Zimbabwe’s crisis. Members of the international public are now also being urged to pledge to a one day fast on Sunday to give power to Naidoo’s words.

The pledge, which is also being supported by, a global campaigning organisation, has already seen more than 16 000 people commit to the one day fast.

State opposes bail for MDC MP Meke Makuyana

State prosecutors this week opposed bail granted to the MDC MP for Chipinge South, Meke Makuyana, when he appeared before a magistrate facing terrorism charges.

The 44 year-old MP is being accused of engaging in activities bent on destabilizing peace and stability in the country. These accusations stem from alleged incidents of violence last year during the election period.

A Chipinge magistrate granted Makuyana Z$20 billion bail when he appeared in court on Tuesday, but state prosecutors immediately opposed it. The MDC spokesman for Manicaland, Pishai Muchauraya, told us reasons given by the state for opposing the bail was that the legislator was facing serious allegations.

‘Makuyana will be back in court next week Tuesday to fight for his freedom, which he deserves because these are trumped up charges, we know it, ZANU PF knows it, and so does the state,’ Muchauraya said.

The MP was picked up from his home in Chiredzi by the police on 14th January. Since he defeated Enock Porusingazi, the notorious former ZANU PF MP in last year’s elections, Makuyana has been detained, tortured and harassed by state security agents. He has never lived in peace since he defeated Porusingazi, whose name is synonymous with terror and violence. At one time during the campaign period last year, Porusingazi and his thugs kidnapped Makuyana and held him incommunicado for several days, where he was tortured by Porusingazi.

Meanwhile High court Judge Justice Anne-Mary Gowora will on Friday make a ruling on another bail application for civic leader Jestina Mukoko and other MDC activists, including Concillia Chinanzvavana.

Mukoko is part of a group of 32 activists abducted by the regime last year on flimsy charges of recruiting people to train as terrorists and destabilise Zimbabwe. The abductees have been kept in custody ever since and have been beaten and tortured. They have made several failed attempts to apply for bail.

SADC decision on Zimbabwe was not ‘unanimous’

On Monday South African President Kgalema Motlanthe made it seem that leaders from Southern Africa were in total agreement with the formation of a unity agreement between Zimbabwe’s rival parties. But it has now emerged that there was no unanimous agreement, with some Heads of State even calling for fresh elections as a solution to the crisis in Zimbabwe.

The news website, Zimonline, reported Thursday that the vote was not unanimous, with Botswana, Zambia and Tanzania voting against the unity deal. Zimonline said; “There was heated debate during a closed session of the leaders, with Botswana President Ian Khama pushing for a process that would lead to fresh free and fair elections to allow Zimbabweans to choose who, between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, they wanted as their leader. He said there was no point in forcing a deal that does not work and would collapse in a matter of months.”

It’s reported that President Rupiah Banda from Zambia and AU Chairman, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, were also in favour of a new election. But they were outnumbered after a strong campaign by South Africa, which lobbied for the formation of a power sharing government.

Shockingly, but not surprising, the MDC said Mugabe sat through the voting although Morgan Tsvangirai was not in the room.

“When it came to the vote, the South African position carried the day leaving Botswana, Zambia and Tanzania isolated in one camp. Mugabe sat through the closed session but was apparently quiet for most of the time. Tsvangirai did not attend the session and when he was eventually summoned and presented with the majority vote, he was unaware of the sharp divisions during debate,” reported Zimonline. The publication said it appears Tsvangirai was made to believe the decision was unanimous.

But after SADC issued the Communiqué and announced a unity government would be formed in Zimbabwe by mid February, Botswana – Mugabe’s harshest critic in the region – issued a statement the following day welcoming the outcome of the SADC summit as a way to resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe. However those who saw Khama on television on his return back to his country say the President looked dejected. Journalist Tanonoka Whande said Ian Khama had over the months put up a spirited fight calling for fresh elections for Zimbabwe but looked upset when he returned from the summit.
Despite the official statement by Botswana, Foreign Minister Phandu Skelemani on Thursday reiterated his country’s earlier position saying a unity government is not the solution for Zimbabwe. Speaking from Ethiopia where ministers were meeting ahead of the African Union summit, Skelemani was quoted by the Herald Tribune saying: “This government of national unity is not the best solution.” Skelemani said new elections are a better choice than the coalition proposal.

Nonetheless there are strong indications that a unity government will be formed, although it is still not quite clear what the logic of the MDC is in joining, considering that their main demands have not yet been met by Robert Mugabe. There is still no clarity on the equal distribution of key ministries and at least 30 civic and political activists are still in prison, in gross violation of the Global Political Agreement.

Meanwhile, the MDC leader said he had agreed in principle to join the deal with Robert Mugabe although he will await to get the official nod from his National Council, which will sit on Friday. However an MDC source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “This will be a mere formality. Tsvangirai wants to join and he has majority support in the Council.”

There is no doubt that SADC wants this government to be formed as soon as possible and on Friday the Joint Monitoring Implementation Committee (JOMIC) will be established. This will be composed of four senior members from ZANU-PF and four senior members from each of the two MDC Formations. JOMIC will be expected to adjudicate complaints of violations of agreement, but critics have said given the violations that have been unanswered by SADC so far, it’s doubtful that this body will do anything, unless it has very strong people on it.

Callback 290109

Mai Katsairo says they are starving in the rural areas, and they are not getting any food aid; Mike in Chivhu describes how women and young girls are resorting to prostitution to get forex to buy food, and on the day that the unemployment rate is reported to be a record 94%, Mugazi says it’s pointless working because their salaries can’t even buy them a loaf of bread.

Behind the Headlines 290109

Lance Guma’s guest on Behind the Headlines is Joy Mabenge, an associate fellow at the Institute for a Democratic Alternative for Zimbabwe, based in South Africa. Mabenge argues that whether a unity government is formed between ZANU PF and the MDC or not, civil society groups in the country still have to mobilize on issues like the enactment of a people driven constitution. Mabenge was at the recent SADC summit and gives Lance a flavour of what transpired during the closed door sessions.

Newsreel 280109

Zimbabwean negotiators to meet Thurs to iron out outstanding differences

It’s been widely reported that Tsvangirai is likely to agree to the unity deal, as presented by SADC after their summit. But Zimbabweans still wait a final decision as the MDC maintains it is awaiting a mandate from its National Council which meets on Friday.

After a day of confusion and conflicting statements the MDC President was quoted on Wednesday saying he had agreed in principle, and was optimistic that his party would agree to join.

Southern African leaders issued a communiqué on Tuesday stating a unity government will be formed next month, and even the MDC’s closest ally in the region, Botswana, welcomed the outcome of the SADC Summit.

Despite being the Mugabe regime’s harshest critic in the region, Botswana issued a statement on Wednesday saying it hoped the developments would “move forward the process of resolving the crisis of legitimacy in Zimbabwe and put an end to the suffering and difficult challenges facing people of that country.”

Frank Chikane, the Director General in the office of the South African Presidency told journalists in South Africa, also on Wednesday: “It has been tough, but we are there.”
Despite the fact that the MDC is only going to decide on joining a unity government on Friday, the SADC Communique said the implementation of the agreement is starting this week on Friday with the establishment of a Joint Monitoring Implementation Committee (JOMIC). This will be followed by other processes to lead to the formation of a government by mid February.

Furthermore the negotiators from all three main political parties are expected to meet on Thursday to discuss the remaining differences. These include consideration of the National Security Bill and a formula for the distribution of provincial governors.

Political analyst Professor Brian Raftopoulos said it’s clear SADC will not change its position and the real question is now on what the MDC will do.

While it’s been reported that Robert Mugabe did make some concessions a statement from the MDC said Tsvangirai did not entirely agree with the position of SADC and “outstanding issues were not treated with the justice and fairness that we expected.”

The MDC said: “Notable among the outstanding issues is Zanu PF’s yawning sincerity deficit, fairness and equity in the allocation of ministerial portfolios and the extra-legal abductions and detentions of innocent civic and party activists.”

And while it’s widely reported there will be a deal soon, Zimbabweans are still clueless as to what the deal actually entails. Raftopoulos believes if the MDC National Council does not vote in favour of the deal, Tsvangirai risks isolating his party from this regional group. He said: “This will also mean that if there is any pressure, it will be coming from the West. In that situation it will be pressure from the West versus that decision of the Africans. And that is a decision that, I think, the MDC wants to avoid.”

The analyst believes Tsvangirai has no choice but to join, as Mugabe is likely to form a government on his own since he has already been endorsed by SADC. Raftopoulos said the alternative is that the regime will continue to inflict violence on the MDC structures and the deterioration in the country will continue.

The MDC President stated on numerous occasions that he would join if and when the scores of political detainees are freed. But SADC remained mum on this issue while the Mugabe regime continues to hold the detainees illegally. On Wednesday six of the activists appeared in court and were further remanded in custody.

Death, one of the “few remaining growth markets left”

As the world’s attention has once again been focused on the ongoing political battle in Zimbabwe, little attention is being paid to the single fact that the man at the centre of the power struggle is the same man at the centre of Zimbabwe’s collapse.

The country is daily sinking deeper into the rubble of it’s own destruction, and while talks and summits aimed at forming a unity government have continued, severe and violent human rights abuses are still taking place, including torture and assault. In one of the few detailed reports about Zimbabwe’s desperate humanitarian disaster to make international news, ITV’s Martin Geissler in the UK, this week described the true nature of Zimbabwe’s devastation, explaining that death “is one of the few remaining growth markets left in Zimbabwe.” His report showed visual proof of living skeletons in Zimbabwe’s jails and children in villages across the country with clear signs of severe malnutrition.

Experts on genocide recently declared that Robert Mugabe was guilty of genocide ‘by attrition’, a label concretely backed up by the genocidal numbers of people dead and dying in Zimbabwe. As a result of the cholera epidemic alone, more than 3000 deaths have officially been reported, but the figures are feared to be dramatically higher in a country that has no medical system to speak of. New figures released on Wednesday by the World Health Organisation show a dramatic rise of more than 1000 reported deaths in the last fifteen days, and the ‘worst-case-scenario’ of 60 000 cholera cases predicted, recently appears to be days away.

The organisation’s spokesperson this week said the cholera crisis was “out of control, and will remain so for the near future.” With the infection rate continuing to climb, there are fears the worst is yet to come, and that the worst will reach unprecedented numbers of the country’s remaining people.

Meanwhile, with no medical supplies, limited staff and a handful of functioning clinics operating across the country, untold numbers are dying from other illnesses that could be treated in a functioning society. At the same time starvation is stalking at least 5 million people – well over half the population in the country – with reports of families going days without food, and there has been a dramatic increase in the number of hunger related illnesses reported across the country. Last year the government cut off international aid under the guise of a ‘political motive’ by the MDC, and despite lifting the ban months later, the trickle of food aid entering the country is still reaching only tiny minorities of the country’s most desperate.

The nature of the crisis has seen millions of people fleeing the country, and there is increasing concern that there will be no one left to rebuild, when the political nightmare one day comes to and end.

Barack Obama plans increased pressure on Mugabe

Newly elected US President Barack Obama is in discussion with his top African advisers on adopting a fresh and robust approach towards restoring democracy in Zimbabwe. According to a Times Newspaper report Obama, and his newly appointed UN Ambassador Susan Rice, want the crisis in Zimbabwe to be taken to the UN Security Council, to get tough targeted sanctions approved. The new administration is advocating a series of measures, that will include a ban on arms sales and foreign investment to Zimbabwe and to increase the number of Zanu PF officials, businesspersons and companies blacklisted for being aligned to the regime.

The new moves will be complimented by a diplomatic charm offensive on China and Russia, which have traditionally blocked any moves against Zimbabwe in the United Nations. The Americans are said to be eager to get concessions from the two countries and want them, at the very least, to abstain from voting when the issue is raised at the UN. The new strategy is also strengthened by the fact that South Africa, which has defended Mugabe throughout the crisis and blocked any UN resolutions on the situation, is no longer one of the UN Security Council’s permanent members and so is not in a position to directly influence China and Russia.

President Obama is said to be heavily opposed to the unity government, arguing it would merely dilute the influence of the opposition while allowing Mugabe, who lost the elections, an upper hand.

But with no clear position from the MDC on whether they will join the unity government or not, the American plan might fall flat on its face. The MDC, which won the elections in March last year, meet on Friday to decide whether to join Mugabe’s government, despite their pre-conditions not being met. When SADC met on Monday they put pressure on Morgan Tsvangirai to cave in to Mugabe, instead of pressuring Mugabe, who has violated the spirit of the agreement by abducting opposition and civil society activists.

The Times newspaper report quotes a senior US administration official saying the United States UN ambassador Susan Rice, ‘is extremely aware of what is going on in Zimbabwe and she feels very strongly that there is a tremendous miscarriage of justice in that country and that it has to end. Once she has her feet on the ground she is going to turn her attention to this issue.’

Newsreel spoke to Dr Derek Fleming, a Zimbabwean national stripped of his citizenship rights several years ago. He is now an elected local government representative in South Africa. Dr Fleming traveled to Washington in the middle of December last year, with other activists, to meet the Obama transition team and discuss the crisis in Zimbabwe and suggest options for action.

He said it was ‘immensely reassuring’ that the Obama Administration had taken on board all of their suggestions for action. He argued that the Mugabe regime needed to be ‘de-constructed and it’s ability to oppress people removed, via an arms embargo.’ Fleming’s delegation also told the Obama team that South Africa needed to be removed as ‘point man’ in attempts to a get a resolution of the crisis, because they had clearly shown their support for Mugabe. Dr Fleming says the Americans have listened and are now adopting a direct approach, without conferring with South Africa.

Asked if targeted sanctions were working as a strategy Dr Fleming said the collapse of the Rhodesian regime under Ian Smith was a good example. ‘What got to Smith was the scale of the sanctions,’ he said adding that sanctioning only hundreds of Mugabe people was merely a slap on the wrist and that hundreds of thousands of people were involved in propping up the regime and they all needed to be targeted, to bring the system down.

Meanwhile commentators have said the MDC have a tough decision to make on Friday when their National Council meets to decide whether to join the government. Should they decide against this, and because of the SADC decision, any appeals to the African Union might fail to find support.

The AU Chairman Jean Ping has already said that if SADC fails, then the AU would have no choice but to force a settlement. How they would do that is not clear, as they are unlikely to force Mugabe to do anything.

The United Nations could end up being the final destination for this long running Zimbabwean saga.

Zim students urge deportation of Mugabe’s daughter from China

As Zimbabwe’s academic year got off to a rocky start on Tuesday, a campaign was launched to bring back Robert Mugabe’s daughter Bona from Hong Kong, where she has controversially been enrolled at a university, under an alias.

Bona’s place at the University of Hong Kong, which is being bankrolled by the suffering Zimbabwean people, has caused a public outcry with an MP in the country calling for her deportation. Zimbabwe’s National Students Union (ZINASU) has since echoed the call, explaining in a petition sent to the Chinese Embassy in Harare that “the state of the education system is so deplorable that the President has seen it fit to trust the Chinese for the education of his daughter whilst ordinary students are failing to get decent education.”

The Union has said the return of Bona would help increase pressure on her father to resuscitate the failed education system that has seen the country’s literacy rate drop from 86% ten years ago to an estimated 40% in recent years. The 2008 academic year saw school and university attendance drop to an all time low of less than 30%, and it is widely believed that this figure will drop even lower this year.

School and university doors reopened on Tuesday after a two week forced postponement by government, but aside from a handful of private institutions, the majority of students were sent home. The ongoing teachers strike over the payment of foreign currency wages means almost no teachers have returned to work, and there are doubts the academic year will get properly under way at all. At the same time, many parents have not sent their children back to class because they have been unable to pay the fees, which in many cases are being charged in forex.

SW Radio Africa’s Bulawayo correspondent Lionel Saungweme explained on Wednesday that many university students have refused to pay their ‘exorbitant’ forex-fees, until the government “sets a realistic and flexible fee structure for the country’s learners.” Saungweme explained that, despite not being given the mandate to do so, the Midlands State University, as well as the National University of Science and Technology, have both pegged fees of more than US$800 per semester. Saungweme said the move is unrealistic because the majority of wage earners are being paid in the worthless local dollar, and students are feeling deliberately ostracised.

Callback 280109

Simba describes the recent summit as ‘daylight robbery of the people’s will and power’ by Mugabe with the aid of SADC, who he describes as a ‘gang of gangsters.’ Tapfumaneyi echoes his sentiments and adds that SADC can’t see sense or logic, and is bent on shielding Mugabe while forcing the MDC to bow down. Finally Muchandibaya says that people are doomed because clearly the Zimbabwean government does not care about them.

Democracy 101 280109

Willy and Dominic are again joined by Tichaona as they debate the recent SADC summit on Zimbabwe which they say was just a ‘high-sounding nothing.’ They describe SADC as a ‘collection of dictators’ with nothing but their own interests at heart and certainly no concern for the people of Zimbabwe, with one glaring example being their repeated failure to address the serious issue of the state orchestrated abductions and violence.

Callback 270109

Dzinganisayi comments on the recent SADC led summit and calls them a ‘collective of vampires.’ He says they are all Mugabe’s cronies so any decisions that they push through will of course be in his favour. This summit was just another opportunity for them to get together and ‘drink champagne.’ Meanwhile, Edward is a police officer who describes the reality for Zimbabweans on the ground and the impossible circumstances that they are living under.

Diaspora Diaries 270109

Richard Smith from the Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum in South Africa joins Alex Bell to talk about Monday’s solidarity protests held outside the venue of the SADC summit in Pretoria. The protests were violently disrupted by armed police, who opened fire with rubber bullets on the peaceful crowd, injuring seven. Smith, who was part of the mass action, explains that the violence was unacceptable and reminiscent of the “darker side of South Africa’s history”. Smith also explains that the result of the SADC summit was not a surprise, and argues that SADC is trying to “push people into a deal that is clearly not implement-able.” Hear the discussion on Diaspora Diaries.

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