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  • Christine Chumbler
    Zimbabwe is like communist China Shoneez Bulbulia | Johannesburg 11 March 2003 08:06 Zimbabwean Archbishop Pius Ncube said the situation in his country was
    Message 1 of 57 , Mar 12, 2003
      'Zimbabwe is like communist China'
      Shoneez Bulbulia | Johannesburg
      11 March
      2003 08:06

      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

      11 March
      2003 11:45

      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
      his marriage.

      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
      Menashe's testimony
      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
      undesirable policies.

      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

      12 March
      2003 09:02

      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
      Robert Mugabe.

      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
      if convicted.

      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
      election, which
      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
      Montreal offices.

      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

      12 March
      2003 12:46

      Zambian police on Wednesday barred supporters of
      former president
      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,"
      said Muntemba.

      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
      organisers, 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
    • Christine Chumbler
      Voting doesn t fill the belly Justin Pearce 12 December 2004 23:59 Mozambique s ruling party, Frelimo, surged ahead last week in unofficial results from the
      Message 57 of 57 , Dec 14, 2004
        'Voting doesn't fill the belly'

        Justin Pearce

        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

        Harare, Zimbabwe

        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
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