- Tsvangirai's trial drags on
07 July 2003 12:59
An application by Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and two
senior party officials to have treason charges against them dropped has
been postponed to next week, a newspaper reported on Monday.
The government-run Herald reported state lawyer Joseph Musakwa as
saying the court would not be sitting on Monday as scheduled as they
were still preparing their response to the defence's application.
Last month the state closed its case against Tsvangirai and two senior
officials charged with plotting to "eliminate" President Robert Mugabe
ahead of the 2002 presidential poll, which Mugabe won.
The three deny the charges, which carry a death sentence on
At the close of the state's case Tsvangirai's lawyers announced that
they would make an application for the court to drop the charges against
the MDC trio because it said the state had not proved a case against
The marathon trial started in February and has continued almost
The evidence against Tsvangirai hinges on an unclear and partly
inaudible videotape made in late 2001, in which he allegedly requests
the assistance of Canada-based political consultant Ari Ben Menashe to
Tsvangirai and his co-accused say they were set up.
Meanwhile Zimbabwe police arrested the opposition mayor of Harare on
at his offices in the capital, a residents' association official said.
It was not immediately clear on what charges Mayor Elias Mudzuri was
arrested, but he had gone back to work on Monday after several weeks'
leave despite having been suspending from his duties by the government.
"He [Mudzuri] has been arrested. We're not sure on what charges," said
Mike Davies, the chair of the Combined Harare Residents Association.
Mudzuri was suspended in April by Local Minister Ignatius Chombo for
alleged misconduct and supporting two anti-government strikes.-
Mugabe gets pay rise
Zimbabwe has raised the salaries of President Robert Mugabe and senior
government officials by nearly 600%.
The rises - almost double the inflation rate - were first reported by
the official Herald newspaper on Saturday.
The paper said Mr Mugabe's salary would go up to Z$20.2m a year (about
$25,250 at official rates) from Z$3m.
Vice Presidents Joseph Msika and Simon Muzenda will now be paid Z$18.4m
(21,800 dollars) each, up from Z$2.7.
In addition, President Mugabe will receive more than $2m in allowances.
"The president would get a cabinet allowance of Z$1.4m per annum, up
from Z$1m, and a general allowance of Z$840,000, up from Z$672,000 per
year," the Herald said, citing a notice in a government gazette
published on Friday.
Cabinet ministers salaries will rise to Z$16.5m from Z$2.4m.
Zimbabwe has seen a series of strikes for higher pay - the most recent
by junior doctors - in the face of surging inflation - currently ranking
among the highest rates in the world at 300%.
But struggling companies have failed to increase wages to match rising
Zimbabwe is in the grips of a severe economic crisis, with 80% of the
country's 11.6 million people estimated to be living in poverty.
Critics say Mr Mugabe has ruined the economy through 23 years of
mismanagement, leading to chronic food and foreign currency shortages.
More than 70% of Zimbabwe's workforce is unemployed.
President Mugabe denies responsibility for the country's economic
problems - which he blames on domestic opponents and foreign sanctions
over allegations of vote rigging in the 2002 elections.
Mugabe tells Bush: Don't interfere
President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has warned US President George W
Bush not to interfere in his country's affairs during a visit to Africa
Mr Mugabe told supporters that if Mr Bush told African countries how to
run their affairs, he would be spurned.
The American president is due in South Africa on Tuesday as part of a
tour of several African countries, including Botswana, Uganda, Nigeria
Last week George Bush called on South Africa President's Thabo Mbeki to
insist on fresh elections in Zimbabwe and "insist that the conditions
necessary for that country to become prosperous again are in place".
Commentators say Mr Bush wants to demonstrate that the US is not
neglecting the welfare of the world's poor while waging its war on
Mr Mugabe told supporters at a rally in southern Zimbabwe that "any
dictating to us will never be heeded by any of us in this region".
"If he is coming to dictate to us to how we should run our countries,
then we will say Go back. Go home Yankee," he said.
Mr Mugabe has said he is not worried about pressure from the US. He has
told members of his ruling Zanu party, President Bush would not dare do
to Zimbabwe what he has done to Iraq.
"We don't have oil or weapons of mass destruction" he said in a
The US and Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
rejected Mr Mugabe's victory in presidential elections last year, saying
the poll was rigged and marred by violence.
The opposition party says it will send a team to lobby American
officials during Mr Bush's visit.
Waiting for change
They blame Mr Mugabe's government for the country's economic turmoil
which has led to food and fuel shortages and 80% of the country's 11.6
million people estimated to be living in poverty.
The official mayor of Harare, Elias Mudzuri, suspended from his post by
the government because he is an MDC member, says Mr Mugabe's government
has a limited time left in power.
He told the BBC: "Definitely change will come - everything is in a
shambles right now.
"The government has demonstrated that there is nothing for the people
of Zimbabwe for the future. You can see from the present policies that
they have nothing.
Z$1 100 for a loaf of bread
07 July 2003 15:49
The price of bread in Zimbabwe quadrupled at the weekend to Z$1 000
(about $1,25) a loaf, bakers confirmed on Monday.
Five years ago, shortly before the country's inflation began to rise, a
loaf of white bread cost Z$5,10.
The official price of bread, however, remained at Z$250.
A shortage of wheat has made bread scarce, and until now it has been
selling on the black market for Z$350.
The latest bread price increase was at the end of a chain of price
hikes started when the government increased the price for which it buys
wheat from farmers. Last week the government increased its price for
wheat by 1 100%.
The Bakers' Association of Zimbabwe chair Armitage Chikwavira said that
since Friday, millers had put up the price of flour sold to bakers by
The bakers were passing the increase on to consumers.
However, the government had not responded to an appeal from the Bakers
Association for an increase in the price of bread, he said.
"In the absence of that response, bakers have resolved to effect the
Z$1 000 price."
If the government refused to increase the price, most bakeries would
close and thousands of workers would have to be retrenched.
"It's a life and death issue," he said.
Inflation was officially calculated at 300%at the end of May.
Economists said, however, that the figure was arrived at by using
official prices for basic items, and not the far higher black market
prices which was often the only way ordinary Zimbabweans could buy
Economists estimated that the current inflation rate in Zimbabwe was
A regime of rigorously policed price controls has failed to check
inflation, as manufacturers stopped producing goods at prices that are
not viable, and the black market took over the supply of most basic
In order to dodge price controls, bakers altered the baking process
--sometimes adding a few sesame seeds to the crust -- to make loaves
"fancy bread" which were not covered by price laws.
The new bread price was unlikely to make it any more available, as
supplies of locally grown winter wheat were forecast to be 85 000 tonnes
this year, a third down on last year's output.
Last week, President Robert Mugabe lamented that farmers had only
ploughed half of the 78 000ha for wheat growing expected by the
The seizure of many of the country's once thriving commercial farms had
been listed by the United Nations as a major factor in the famine
affecting about half of Zimbabwe's 14-million people.
Before the seizures the farmers regularly produced 400 000 tonnes of
wheat a year.
The government's failure to pay neighbouring countries for imports of
electricity was expected to worsen the already small winter wheat crop,
according to Kuda Ndoro, an economist for the Commercial Farmers'
Electricity supply by the state-run power utility was down to 30% of
capacity, he said.
"There is no power for irrigation on the farms," he said. "If nothing
is done to augment the supply, this will affect the performance of
winter cereals." - Sapa
Tanzania bans public smoking
By Premy Kibanga
BBC, Dar es Salaam
Smoking in public places has been banned in Tanzania under a new law
that came into effect on 1 July.
Under the Tobacco Products (regulation) Act 2003 it is illegal to smoke
inside public transport, hospitals, schools and many other public
Tobacco is a major foreign exchange earner and tobacco-growers have
condemned the law.
It is also an offence to sell tobacco products to persons under the age
The government has called for the setting up of special smoking areas
at places of work.
Tobacco advertising on radio, TV and in newspapers has also been
The government will issue guidelines on sites where tobacco advertising
can be placed.
A statement by the country's health ministry said the aim of the Act is
to reduce the use of tobacco products in the country in order to reduce
the occurrence of diseases that are brought about by smoking.
The new law will also protect non-smokers and educate smokers on the
importance of quitting smoking.
This, the government says, will help to "create an environment that
will help to make the society a non-smoking one".
From 1 July, cigarettes manufactured in and outside the country will
have to adhere to international standards and will have to carry a
warning in both English and Kiswahili on the negative effects of
The bill was passed by parliament in February.
President Benjamin Mkapa signed it into law in April.
MPs from the tobacco growing regions cautioned the government against
passing the law, expressing fears that the ruling party might lose votes
from tobacco farmers in the 2005 general election.
However, the Minister for Industry and Trade, Dr Juma Ngasongwa, says
the effects will only be temporary and that the country has to look at
the issue from all angles.
"After all the ban is a universal issue and people will get used to
"We are not worried at all," Dr Ngasongwa said.
- '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