- 'Zimbabwe is like communist China'
Shoneez Bulbulia | Johannesburg
Zimbabwean Archbishop Pius Ncube said the situation
in his country was
worsening each day and had become "very much like
communist China with
everything totally controlled by the State".
Speaking to Sapa on Monday night, the Catholic
Archbishop, who is in
South Africa on private business, said hundreds of
people were detained on
a daily basis for various incidents.
"More than 300 people were arrested over the
weekend during Women's Day
celebrations and marches and some detained for five
days. A 15-year-old
boy was beaten up and shocked and then taken to a
police camp after he
apparently protested at a cricket match, while one
woman was beaten
"The government has become so harsh that they don't
care about their
people who are starving and suffering."
Ncube said poverty was one of the major problem
areas in Zimbabwe. There
is not much harvest due to the crippling drought
and no input in the fields.
There will not be much of a crop this year.
"Zimbabweans are in a very difficult position and
there is not much the
people can do because of the government's trickery
and deceit. They make
it very difficult for people, and those who are
outspoken and protest suffer
the most. "They are followed and intimidated with
death while their
telephones are tapped and constantly checked.
"Mugabe has an army of some 40 000 soldiers whom he
could just call to
shoot people. The county has become much like
communist China, with
everything totally controlled by the state."
Ncube said the crisis had become so severe that
professionals were moving
abroad while the poor were coming to South Africa
and Botswana to find
jobs. - Sapa
Trial wrecked my marriage, says Ben
Defence lawyers in the treason trial of Zimbabwe
opposition leader Morgan
Tsvangirai finished on Monday their
cross-examination of the key state
witness, who told the court the trial had wrecked
The defence said they would apply to recall the
witness, Ari Ben Menashe,
after he is re-examined by the state lawyer. They
accuse him of witholding
"We will submit that the witness has witheld
important information," chief
defence lawyer George Bizos told the court.
Ben Menashe, a Canadian-based political consultant
who also claims to be
a decorated former member of Israeli military
intelligence, has alleged that
Tsvangirai requested his help in eliminating
President Robert Mugabe ahead
of presidential elections last year.
But last week the witness applied to be dismissed
from the trial after he
claimed both defence and state counsels were
abusing him by prolonging
his stint in the witness stand.
The application was turned down on the basis that
both counsels would be
finished with him by the middle of this week. Ben
hinges on a video tape he secretly made of a
meeting with Tsvangirai at his
firm, Dickens and Madson, in Montreal in December
Bizos said the information witheld by the witness
included the true identity
of one Edward Simms, who attended the Montreal
meeting and is recorded
on the video. Ben Menashe claims Simms is a member
of the US Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Earlier on Monday, Ben Menashe told the court that
the marathon treason
trial, now in its fifth week, had taken a
significant toll on his personal life.
"I am in the middle of a very, very nasty divorce
case that has been created
partly because of this case," he said. He claimed
his wife had received
intimidating calls from members of Tsvangirai's
Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC), saying she
and her child would be in danger if her husband
testified in Zimbabwe.
The consultant said his wife fled to the United
States, taking their child, and
he consequently had her arrested on kidnapping
charges. In revenge, Ben
Menashe said, his wife and mother-in-law filed
assault charges against him.
During re-examination by state lawyer Bharat Patel,
the court heard that
Ben Menashe signed a contract with the opposition
that included "the
elimination of policies unfavourable to" the MDC.
Ben Menashe admitted that "eliminate" and "kill"
are two interchangeable
terms in the "political language in North America"
and refer to getting rid of
Defence counsel have been at pains to show that not
once during the
four-hour long video did Tsvangirai utter
incriminatory words such as "kill",
"murder" or "assassinate".
While Tsvangirai is heard to use the word
"eliminate" on the tape this could
have been in relation to its meaning in the
language of the contract, the
defence has argued.
The MDC deny wanting to kill Mugabe. They say they
were lured by Ben
Menashe's promise to raise at least two million US
dollars for their party
from the Jewish community in the United States, if
the opposition first paid
him $500 000.
Tsvangirai is standing trial along with two senior
MDC officials. They deny
the charges, which carry the death penalty on
The trial is expected to last at least another two
months, with 10 more
witnesses due to appear for the state. - Sapa-AFP
Tsvangirai tape played up during key
A state witness in the treason trial of Zimbabwe's
opposition leader testified
on Tuesday a tape recorder hidden in her purse
malfunctioned during a key
portion of a London meeting about what she said was
a plot to kill President
Other parts of the meeting were also inaudible,
said Tara Thomas, an
assistant of Ari Ben Menashe, the Canadian-based
political consultant who
claims opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai sought
his help to assassinate
the Zimbabwean president.
Thomas (32) told the Harare High Court she
concealed a tape recorder in
her purse during a meeting between Ben Menashe and
Tsvangirai and aides
at a London club in late 2001. She said she heard
Tsvangirai say the killing
of Mugabe must be made to look like an accident or
death from natural
"He said if it didn't look like an accident, the
army would step in and there
would not be a transitional arrangement," in which
he would become
Zimbabwe president, she said.
The tape, however, revealed no such comments.
Thomas told state
prosecutor Bharat Patel she left the room to check
the tape recorder and
was shocked to discover it was not recording.
However, after the batteries
were replaced, and the machine functioned properly,
much of the rest of the
tape was still unintelligible, she said.
Ben Menashe has accused Tsvangirai and two other
opposition leaders of
hiring him to help them kill Mugabe. The opposition
officials deny the
charges, saying Ben Menashe was secretly on the
government payroll and
framed them. The three could face the death penalty
Tsvangirai was charged with treason two weeks
before he ran against
Mugabe in presidential elections last year. Mugabe,
who has been president
since Zimbabwe won independence in 1980, won the
international observers said was
swayed by rigging and political intimidation.
Ben Menashe, who spent over four weeks on the stand
-- the longest single
testimony in Zimbabwe's judicial history --
testified Tsvangirai sought help at
the London meeting to assassinate Mugabe.
Because that audio recording failed, another
meeting held December 4 2001
was secretly video taped at the consultancy firm's
That video became the main state evidence in the
trial. Ben Menashe said
he recorded the meeting to gather evidence on the
assassination plot so he
could hand it over to Canadian, US and Zimbabwean
authorities. He insisted
he was not working with the government to entrap
the opposition. He has
testified he received $200 000 from the government
two weeks after he gave
the secretly recorded video to Zimbabwe agents.
Defence lawyers for Tsvangirai have argued the
video, also of poor quality,
does not contain incriminating evidence.
Defence lawyer George Bizos has said he will
demonstrate during the trial
that Ben Menashe, whom he described as "an
unmitigated liar," has
meddled in other foreign elections and used his
political consultancy as a
front for fraud, lies, and conspiracy.
In his court testimony Ben Menashe alleged agents
acting for the Zimbabwe
opposition attacked and injured Thomas in Montreal
and threatened his own
wife and six-year-old daughter, leading to the
breakdown of his marriage.
Thomas appeared in the Zimbabwe court limping and
leaning on a chrome
and rubber-tipped orthopedic walking aid. Bizos
said information made
available to the defence showed she was injured in
a bicycling accident. -
Zambian police bar demo against
Zambian police on Wednesday barred supporters of
Frederick Chiluba from holding a protest against
his successor, President
Levy Mwanawasa, whom they accuse of bias in his
fight against corruption.
Chiluba and several of his former ministers and
officials have been arrested
and charged with corruption, theft and abuse of
office by Mwanawasa's
government, which has made the fight against
corruption a priority.
Police representative Brenda Muntemba said on
Wednesday the organisers
of the protest had not met the conditions required
by police to hold a
"The planned demonstration is, therefore, unlawful
and it will not go ahead,"
But Alfred Zulu, head of a non-governmental
organisation that has openly
supported Chiluba, vowed that the protest would go
ahead. "We will go
ahead with the demonstration even if the police
refuse to grant us a permit
to march," he said.
According to newspaper advertisements by the
demonstration was to have been against the alleged
bias by Mwanawasa's
government in prosecuting people accused of
corruption, theft and abuse of
office during Chiluba's 10-year reign.
Information Minister Newstead Zimba has told state
television that the
organisers of the protest planned to cause
disturbances in the country with
the intention of bringing down Mwanawasa's
government. - Sapa-AFP
- 'Voting doesn't fill the belly'
12 December 2004 23:59
Mozambique's ruling party, Frelimo, surged ahead last week in unofficial results from the country's recent election, puzzling analysts who had expected a neck-and-neck finish with the opposition Renamo. At the same time, evidence of ballot-stuffing in some remote districts cast a shadow over the clean bill of health that international observers gave the elections.
Projections suggest that Frelimo's presidential candidate, Armando Guebuza, will get 60% of the vote, as compared with 35% for Renamo's Afonso Dhlakama, who in 1999 collected nearly 48% of the vote. These projections are based on results posted by individual polling stations and collected by Radio Mozambique correspondents around the country.
The sharp drop in Renamo support was accompanied by an equally dramatic fall in voter turnout, with numbers expected to be between three million and 3,5-million: less than half of the eligible voters. Turnout in the 1994 and 1999 general elections was 5,4-million and 4,9-million respectively.
Analysts agreed that abstention had been highest among Renamo's traditional supporters in the largely agricultural centre and north of the country, who felt that the government had let them down, and the opposition had failed to provide a viable alternative.
"People chose to stay in the fields -- voting doesn't fill the belly," said independent journalist Marcelo Mosse.
"In the cities, the absence might have been a criticism not only of [outgoing president Joaquim] Chissano, but also of Guebuza -- he is not someone who inspires support."
The political weekly Savana described the low turnout as "a red card to the political class", which it accused of being out of touch with voters' interests.
Reports of irregularities were concentrated in Tete province in western Mozambique.
"In Tete there was clearly fraud, though not enough to affect the final result," said Luís de Brito of the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (Eisa).
He said two voting stations in the province's Changara district had reported turnout of close to 100%, with most of these votes going to Frelimo. De Brito said the high turnout for the province as a whole gave reason for suspicion.
"In Tete, we have an average of 400 voters turning out at each voting table, compared with fewer than 300 per table in all the other provinces."
De Brito said Renamo activists had been forced to leave certain areas of Tete province early in the election campaign, which had prevented them from sending monitors to polling in those areas. Elsewhere in the country, the presence of party representatives during voting and counting was hailed as Mozambique's best safeguards against fraud.
The Mozambican Political Process Bulletin -- an independent newsletter with a wide network of correspondents -- also cited evidence of ballot-stuffing in Tsangano district of Tete province, as well as in Chicono in northern Niassa province. In the latter, 996 out of 1 000 voters registered at one station appeared to have voted, with Guebuza gaining more than 900 of the votes.
Such reports contradicted the positive assessment of international observation teams, who praised Mozambique's strong legal framework for elections, the professionalism of polling station staff, and balanced coverage both in state and private media. Asked why the international teams had not picked up the incidents of fraud cited by Eisa, De Brito said these incidents had occurred mostly at remote and inaccessible polling stations.
The international teams, including Southern African Development Community parliamentarians and representatives of the Commonwealth, the Carter Center and the European Union, were however concerned at the low electoral turnout. Several of the observer teams also mentioned the mistrust that had been created by the party-political structure of the National Electoral Commission, where Frelimo is able to force through decisions by majority vote.
Elderly pay the price for raising Aids orphans
14 December 2004 08:21
Until a week ago, elderly Hannah Dube and her five grandchildren living in the dusty village of Kezi in soutwestern Zimbabwe had been surviving on small portions of dried white melon.
Then Zimbabwe's social services stepped in, handing the 75-year-old Dube emergency aid of the staple corn grain to feed her family, caught in the grip of an HIV/Aids pandemic and a crippling drought.
Her face worn by grief and stress, the aging grandmother's plight in this remote and rural corner of Zimbabwe tells the story of the burden of many other pensioners in this southern African country where HIV/Aids has turned a million children into orphans.
The UN children's organisation Unicef estimates that more than one in five children will be orphaned in Zimbabwe by 2010, with more than 80% of those orphaned by HIV/Aids, which kills about 3 000 people per week on average.
Nine of her grandchildren are orphaned -- she is looking after five children between the ages of five and 13.
Three successive years of drought in this naturally dry region some 600km southwest of the capital, characterised by unproductive soils, and a political and economic crisis have exacerbated food shortages.
"We only eat one meal a day," said Dube, who lives in a hut next to a dusty road, where her cooking fire has long since gone out.
"We are used to it now and there is nothing unusual about it," she said.
While food is available in the shops, people like Dube and her family, who have no source of income whatsoever, cannot even dream of buying any.
Driving up to Dube's home along a narrow dust road, hundreds of people, dangling empty sacks, were seen walking back home, looking tired, hungry and dejected.
They are coming from the local business centre where they had gone to register their names for food aid to be handed out three days later.
"We were told [by an international aid organisation] to come and register our names for food coming next week. But now they say only those on the old list will be given food," Dube said.
The Zimbabwean government this year turned away foreign food aid, saying the country produced enough to feed its people.
But Harare has recently allowed the United Nations World Food Programme to undertake a one-off free food distribution to get rid of its stock left over from April when the government stopped general food aid.
Volunteer workers confirm the hunger in the area.
"It is depressing to go out there visiting the sick, handing out a few bars of soap, diapers, some antiseptic solutions -- but seeing that what is urgently needed is food," said volunteer Georgina Tshabalala.
Dube is not only struggling to provide food for her orphaned grandchildren, but also shelter.
She cleans up grass that fell while she was thatching the roof of her new mud and pole hut in this remote rural area of Zimbabwe.
With nobody to help her build or maintain their home, Dube has to risk climbing onto the roof to patch it up before the rains bring it down.
Inside, the fire has gone out.
Dube said besides the fact that their one meal has already been cooked, she could not afford to keep the fire going because she does not have the energy to regularly go to the bush to cut down firewood.
The elderly woman -- old and weak enough to be a dependent herself -- said she had no choice but to look after her some of her grandchildren.
Those who are not under her wing are probably involved in illegal gold mining, rife in the area.
"I don't really know how they are surviving, but no one helps me with anything. The chickens and the goats you see outside I sell to send these children to school," she said.
Despite the difficult living conditions and lack of food, one of her grandchildren, Dan, (7), passed his year-end school examinations with A grades. - Sapa-AFP
Improved Zim inflation still world's highest
14 December 2004 15:15
Zimbabwe's official inflation rate dropped to 149,3% last month, down from 209% in October, the state Central Statistical Office said on Tuesday. The new rate still leaves Zimbabwe with the highest inflation in the world.
The troubled Southern African country is in the midst of its worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1980, with inflation peaking at more than 600% last year.
With the local currency plummeting, sending a Christmas card to Europe by air mail now costs Z$40 000 (about R41) -- twice as much as a one-bedroom apartment did shortly after independence.
A dollar was equivalent to Z$2 at the time, compared with the current official rate of Z$5 600, or Z$8 000 on the black market.
The Reserve Bank attributes the recent drop to tighter fiscal policies aimed at reining in rampant profiteering and a lucrative black market in scarce commodities and hard currency.
However, the official inflation rate excludes prices on a wide range of services and imports that have continued to soar throughout the year.
The cost of medicines, vehicle repairs and health, agriculture and mining equipment has risen by more than 600%. The state telephone and postal companies have increased their fees by 1 000%.
The agriculture-based economy has collapsed in the four years since the government began seizing thousands of white-owned commercial farms for redistribution to black Zimbabweans.
The country routinely faces acute shortages of food, gasoline, hard currency and other imports. -- Sapa-AP