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 PFâ€™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: â€œTo tell you the truth I am scared because I donâ€™t know what faces me on the other side.â€ But Bennett felt he wanted to be part of this important occasion and also â€˜test the sincerity and genuineness of the Mugabe regime.â€
And early Friday morning the MDCâ€™s National Treasurer passed through airport security without any hassle, with one of the security officers merely saying to him: â€œOh, it’s you Mr Bennett.â€
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: â€œI 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.â€ 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
Zimbabweâ€™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 Mugabeâ€™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, Mugabeâ€™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 magistrateâ€™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 itâ€™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 itâ€™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 NGOâ€™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 countryâ€™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 partiesâ€™ 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 â€˜hardâ€™ 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 Zimbabweâ€™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 Zimbabweâ€™s suffering people â€“ 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 Africanâ€™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 Mandelaâ€™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 Mugabeâ€™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 â€˜noted Zinwaâ€™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,â€™ 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 Harareâ€™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 Zinwaâ€™s inefficiency to deal with the water crisis.
Where the millions of US dollars are supposed to come from is anybodyâ€™s guess.
Mixed reaction as MDC backs Tsvangirai joining unity government
The MDC national executive on Friday backed party leader Morgan Tsvangiraiâ€™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 countryâ€™s remaining population are in desperate need of food aid and the country is literally starving to death. The majority of the countryâ€™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 countryâ€™s collapse. Many also believe that the MDC has effectively â€˜sold-outâ€™ 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 yearâ€™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 Mugabeâ€™s government, has left many with a bitter taste in their mouths.
SW Radio Africaâ€™s Harare correspondent Simon Muchemwa explained on Friday that the MDCâ€™s decision to join the ZANU PF government has been met with mixed feeling on the ground, saying that many Zimbabweans â€œare questioning what will happen next now that the MDC has joined hands with the devil.â€ 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.
â€œMany people believed the MDC was going to hold out until their demands were met, but they didnâ€™t and have proven to be inconsistent,â€ Muchemwa said.
Fridayâ€™s decision by the MDC national executive was taken in â€˜full unanimityâ€™, 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 Africaâ€™s Director General in the countryâ€™s Presidency this week shed some light on how the decision will be made. Rev Frank Chikane, while lauding the â€˜successâ€™ of the SADC summit on Monday, rather worryingly said Zimbabweâ€™s leaders should â€˜toss a coinâ€™.
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 â€˜Mugabe to be shown the doorâ€™, explaining that if the dictator â€œneeds a golden handshake, letâ€™s assure him of a golden handshake.â€ At the same time, Odingaâ€™s sentiments were echoed by Senegalâ€™s President, Abdoulaye Wade, who said an impasse had been reached in Zimbabwe. He said: â€œIf Mugabe does leave power… he could come to Senegal. We need to provide a smooth exit for him.â€