Friday, March 31, 2006

Weekend Reading

I know I haven't given you a more recent appraisal on just how bad life has become in Zimbabwe for ordinary people. This weekend, I encourage you to read We all Fall Down, an article by Mary Ndlovhu over at Pambazuka. Mary, a Zimbabwean activist, scintillatingly captures the harsh reality of life in Zimbabwe and astutely observes that:
Most governments confronted with such a situation, whether of their own making or otherwise, would either resign or scramble frantically to find solutions, but the Zimbabwean government is doing nothing of the kind. While blaming everyone from white farmers to the British Prime Minister and crowing constantly about the “turn-around” of the economy, our current band of ministers are fully occupied by two major activities:

1. Amassing wealth. This is done simply by pursuing purely private interests while in government offices, or more obviously, using their government contacts and positions to secure for themselves contracts, housing and land to which they arrange access. Price controlled goods in short supply offer welcome opportunities to make black-market fortunes.

2. Staying in power. ZANU PF must stay in power for two reasons: one is clearly to continue appropriating the little remaining wealth of the country for their own personal use. The other is to avoid the inevitable unpleasant consequences of their past and present illegal activities, should another government take power.
Read the whole article here.

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  • Thursday, March 30, 2006

    Changara a National Hero

    Former Mugabe aide de camp, Winston Changara, who died under murky circumstances against an even murkier background has been declared a national hero.

    How about this addition from Zimdaily:
    In an apparent attempt to cover up their tracks, the ruling Zanu PF party has declared President Mugabe's top bodyguard Winston Changara national hero status following a request by the ruling party's Mashonaland province. Changara died under mysterious circumstances on Monday on what has been suspected to be food poisoning. Zimdaily heard that the ruling party was frantically trying to block a post mortem demanded by the family by fast tracking his funeral.
    Curious circumstances or plain coincidence? You decide.

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  • ZANU-PF's Voice Defunct

    ZANU-PF's official party newspaper The Voice, failed to print this week due to crippling debt and rampant theft at the publishing house. Never a popular read, at least not for me or anyone I know, The Voice has been straddled by poor choices in management, and low sales for the longest time. Some of their management's worst faux passe include using a recent 10 billion dollar loan from the Reserve Bank to buy a printing press that prints notebooks, not newsprint. See this.

    Don't worry Mugabe & Co. still have a stranglehold over at the Zimpapers stable so they'll still be able to get their propaganda. There's also the national broadcaster, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings, who continue enjoy their 26 year old monopoly in radio and television production. ZBH has proved to be a valuable asset for ZANU--when there is electricity.

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  • Wednesday, March 29, 2006

    Moyo: "We Must Confront ZANU-PF"

    Fallen star, Jonathan Moyo, Zimbabwe's most cruel information minister came out of the woodwork bluntly telling all Zimbabweans that there is no way of getting beyond ZANU-PF. The former information minister who claims to have ousted himself from ZANU-PF is now the lone independent MP representing his home district of Tsholotsho. Speaking to SW Radio's award winning Violet Gonda yesterday, Moyo intimated that Zimbabwe cannot avoid dealing with ZANU into perpetuity because the party is too closely wound up in the nation's history.

    The turncoat politician infamous for crafting AIPPA Zimbabwe's draconian access to information law, was still incorrigible for the havoc he brought down on journalism in Zimbabwe saying, "there are some elements in the media I did not agree with then that I still do not agree with now." And when Gonda asked him why he had agreed to her interview request when he refused to talk to her numerous times during his tenure in government, Moyo proudly shotback telling Gonda it was her who continued to seek him out not the other way around.

    The whole interview is really infuriating, hear for yourself here (Windows Media Player.)

    Read this, this, and this for more on Moyo.

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  • Tuesday, March 28, 2006

    Changara's Death; I Smell Something Fishy

    Controversial Mugabe aide de camp, Winston Changara is no more. The long serving presidential guard was reported dead late yesterday in a story first broken by Zimonline. A cause of death as yet to emerge even though all the reports that have been published seem to speculate that Changara succumbed after a long illness.

    I am very uncomfortable with the reality of Changara's death. It reeks of yet another life brutally snuffed out by Mugabe. In his early fifties, Changara was too young to die. There no reports yet that back up my suspicions yet, but as Jonathan Moyo will tell you, "let posterity be the judge."

    I'm not much of a conspiracy theorist, but it doesn't take much intuition to stir up unease over the murky background surrounding Changara's death. Mr. Changara, a long serving bodyguard to Mugabe, was demoted to the shameful commisioner's pool last October after Zimbabwe's second first lady refused to go on an Asian trip if he was going. The unpopular first lady levied accusations of sexual overtures against Changara adn claimed that she didn't feel safe travelling with him.

    Spurned by several weeks spent doing menial tasks often under the supervision of junior office, Changara a former Senior Assistant Commisioner in the police force, hit back. He claimed that the real reason Grace wanted him ousted was because he was aware of her infidelity and had threatened to spill the beans to her brutally jealous husband.
    "He plainly told them that he was being fixed by the First Lady because he had threatened to spill the beans and let the President know of her affairs.

    Changara said Grace wanted him removed from near Mugabe because this was the only way to make sure he would never be close enough to her husband to tell him that she was seeing other men.
    Shortly thereafter, Changara, who was reported to be very bitter and contemplating quiting the force altogether was surprisingly reinstated to his former glory just weeks ago. Rumors of his intentions to quit the force even persisted after he had been given back post. Now he is dead.

    Need I mention that Mugabe is accused of killing many of his most trusted henchmen upon the faintest suspicions that they were becoming a threat to his domain? Nor shall I bring up the fact that Harare has long been rife with rumors that Mugabe killed Peter Pamire a dazzing businessman in the nineties because of being Mugabe's only competitor for Grace's love. There have also been numerous speculations that fugitive businessman James Makamba was recently hounded out of Zimbabwe by Mugabe after the latter caught wind of a longstanding affair between Makamba and Grace. Hear ye lustful Zimbabwean men; Mugabe is a fierce lover!

    It seems clear to me, the empire is crumbling from within.

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  • Monday, March 27, 2006

    Eddie Cross: "Self Destruction"

    We have had the Commonwealth games on TV all this past week. It would appear that Australia has again shown itself to be capable of hosting these large events and the athletes have put on a great show for the rest of us. Just this time Zimbabwe is not there - another example of our growing political and diplomatic isolation. Botswana and all our other neighbors were there and added to the color and ceremony of the occasion. South Africa made quite an impact.

    It is sad when we see global events like this where our own sportsmen and women could compete and show the world what we are made of and we are denied the privilege because our government is an international polecat. Kirsty Coventry was in Harare this weekend at a national swimming gala -signing autographs for the kids participating - she almost certainly would have made gold in Australia.

    It does not stop there - only two sectors of the Zimbabwe economy seem to have survived Zanu PF - the mining and financial services sectors. In the mining industry once you have made an investment in a hole in the ground, you are locked in - nothing much you can do about it except keep on digging or close it down to come back later at huge expense or simply walk away.

    An Australian firm saw the massive potential of the platinum reserves in
    Zimbabwe (we have a very large proportion of global reserves along the Great Dyke) and sunk US$600 million into a hole near Chegutu. They built a complete town of houses for staff and a huge processing complex, roads were opened up and hundreds of staff recruited. Three years later - they walked away and a small group of local investors bought the whole bang shoot for a small payment - taking over what debts remained.

    Anglo American - one of the largest mining companies in the world and at one stage holding nearly half of all the counters on the stock market, has quietly disinvested over the past 15 years. At one stage they were into everything - chrome, steel, coal, nickel and a wide swathe of industry and agro industrial firms. Now they operate out of a house in Harare and havea handful of investments and retain only their platinum mining assets -still in their embryonic state. They sold everything else - to whoever would buy the assets for a reasonable price.

    The South African mining giant Implats eventually bought the Chegutu operation from our local investors (who made a fortune on the deal) and announced a massive investment programme. Another South African mining company (a company with black empowerment links) bought into the gold industry. Now they are all wondering why they did such a dumb thing - Zanu PF has moved to do what they have done to all other sectors, get involved and destroy what is there.

    After years of deliberation the Ministry of Mines made it known they were
    going to take a 25 per cent stake in all major mining companies - without compensation. In addition the same companies had to sell another 26 per
    cent on the never never to either the State or a local black empowerment group (read Zanu PF company in effect). Thus at one stroke they take over a controlling interest in all major mining companies. This goes well beyond anything being done in South Africa and it violates clear, solid legal agreements entered into with companies prior to their entry to the industry - especially in the platinum sector.

    The industry has reacted with fury. At a meeting this week with the Minister they spelled out what would happen - they would freeze all new investment and all major maintenance. Output would start to decline in a short while and thereafter would decline rapidly with mine closures being inevitable. They also pointed out that as the principle stakeholder - the State or its local partners would have to find the resources for any major investment and if these involved hard currency, they would find it very difficult to do so.

    The other sector that has survived (battered and bruised, but still operating) is the financial services industry. We have a good national network of banks and other financial institutions that are basically well run and sound. Now the state has imposed huge statutory reserve requirements on the remaining commercial banks - six have gone to the wall in the past 4 years. But to compound the problem, the new reserves have to be paid to the Reserve Bank in US dollars!

    In addition the overnight accommodation rates have been raised to the inflation rate (nearly 800 per cent), so that if a bank needs some help to cover its obligations (a normal money market operation) it has to pay a punitive rate to the Reserve Bank for the facility. The smaller banks -all owned and operated by local investors, will all struggle with these new requirements. Already money is moving out of these institutions into those that are perceived as being "safe". Money is also moving back into the stock market where returns are still good and the funds secure (for a
    while - but stay out of mining counters for a bit).

    With agriculture and tourism down to 20 or 30 per cent of what they were 5 years ago, industry down to about 40 per cent, the action taken this past two weeks will undermine what is left of the economy. As it is, most informed observers are predicting a further decline in national economic output this year - the 7th consecutive year of negative growth.

    A local colleague of mine now estimates inflation at 3000 per cent per annum - and rising. Certainly this week the increase in prices has been scary. In this environment, if you do not watch what you are doing very carefully, you simply go bust. One thing that we do know is that Zanu PF and the collection of clowns that run the country, simply do not know what to do - from the evidence of their action in the past week, they are now committed to a process of self-destruction. Well, as far as I am concerned, it cannot come soon enough.

    Thank you to all of you who sent funds to us in time for the Congress - we were able to help quite significantly. Now we are into the next phase - action on the streets to bring about change and we will need lots of support - if you are outside the country there is only one way you can help - send some money. Every dollar helps. If you want a receipt or to direct your funds to a particular activity or group - just let us know by these means.

    Eddie Cross
    Bulawayo, 24th March 2006.

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  • Friday, March 24, 2006

    Desperate Measures for Desperate Times

    It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out just how bad things are in Zimbabwe, but since it's taken them that long to figure it out, here's a sampling of how ZANU-PF is adjusting to this imposing reality. First up is the government which authored and presided over the worst agricultural adjustment project probably in the history of history.

    They've now decided to go global with their realization that we need food aid in Zimbabwe despite above average rains this season. Oh, did I mention that this agricultural season is riding high on the back of end of the land resetlement program? All this while triple-portfolio minister, Didymus Mutasa continues his tyrades against any and all opposition. ZANU-PF is calling for charges against Tsvangirai for his calls for civic resistance over the weekend. So let's see, they realize they've led the nation into crisis, but refuse to be contrite, and remain as vindictive as they have ever been? Good propects for the future huh?

    How about this: the same Mutasa who has too much government in his hands is also taking the law into his hands.
    ZIMBABWE'S National Security Minister Didymus Mutasa on Thursday dramatically halted the trial of the editor of Zanu PF's mouthpiece, The Voice.

    Lovemore Mataire was facing charges of stealing $6 million from his employers, Jongwe Printers, by ordering the newspaper's street vendors to deposit money from sales into his personal bank account.

    But in a dramatic development, Mutasa, who is Zanu PF's secretary for administration, intervened and withdrew all charges before plea.

    He gave no reason for withdrawing the charges, and would not say if the charges had been proved to be false or not.

    Mutasa filed a withdrawal affidavit, read out Thursday, stating: “I Cde D N E Mutasa do hereby solemnly and sincerely swear/declare the following: in my capacity as the Secretary for Administration for Zanu (PF) Party and one of my responsibilities is to supervise and co-ordinate the efficient administration of the party…which was represented by Cde Nathan Shamuyarira as a complainant in a case involving Cde Lovemore Mataire of theft by conversion have decided to withdraw all charges against him unconditionally with immediate effect and all current court processes should thus fall away."
    These are desperate time that require desperate measures, I guess.

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  • Thursday, March 23, 2006

    Mutambara Takes Aim at Mugabe over Gukurahunde

    With Morgan Tsvangirai bent on drumming up civil disobedience (which has been known to turn uncivil in the past), Mugabe & Co now have to deal with the "X" factor in opposition politics--Arthur G. O. Mutambara. Mutambara, the new leader of the "prosenate faction" of the MDC has been known to cause ZANU-PF sleepless nights in the past.

    I don't have to rehash the details of his days "pachikomo" (shona slang for 'at the university'). Shades of that Mutambara of old seems to be coming back. Just as he did in the past he isn't mincing his words anymore; he wants compensation for the mass killings of Ndebele's Mugabe ordered soon after independence. Mutambara places fully blames the Mugabe regime for the killings.

    Knowing his nostalgic legacy both at the university and across the nation, ZANU-PF bigwigs must ascertain Mutambara is returning to his vintage form. If he is, that spells doom for many of them. As a student, the tough talking Mutambara would back down at nothing when wanted to air his angst about something. Don't forget, he is the first person to galvanise the student movement to violently oppose Mugabe's repressive police.

    Someone somewhere deep within the bowels of ZANU-PF is watching AGO wondering if he back to terrorize them again. For if he is, there's a real chance that might be able to incite mutinty especially if he keeps on playing to the long maligned Ndebele minority.

    Or is this a farce? Could Arther's long overdue sensitivity to the Ndebele plight be a calculated political ploy meant to garner support among the volatile but potentially unclaimed Ndebele base? After all, anyone who knows the stimy details of Arthur's road to prominence at the university remembers that he led a faction of the student union that was Shona dominated and because of that was unsympathetic to the Ndebele student base. Where were his sympathies then?

    Whether he's being genuine or not, it goes without saying he's sentiments find resonance the world over. Most importantly, he's part of a new wave of pressures tightening an already noose around ZANU-PF throat.

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  • Tuesday, March 21, 2006

    Eddie Cross: Seeing the Wood in the Trees

    A political Party is very similar in structure and function to a tree. The soil in which it is planted is the people of the country and its roots are the structures it establishes to represent the interests of the communities among which it functions. The stem of the tree is its leadership and the branches represent the roots of the Party in the public eye - the Congress, its main decision making organs and Executive.

    There are a number of things about trees that we must bear in mind - they can be killed by any number of things - termites getting at the roots, storm damage, drought and simply old age. Pruning also often stimulates them - many only bear fruit if they are pruned on a regular basis. But they all need water, good soil and heat to thrive.

    It’s like that in Zimbabwe. Our political trees have grown up and thrived for a while and then died. The political structures that dominated in the Rhodesian era - the long period of government under the tutelage of Godfrey Huggins, then the Rhodesian Front under Ian Smith. Zapu and then its offshoot - Zanu and more recently the emergence and decline of Zanu PF.

    My son has a huge Erythrina abyssinica in his garden that has suddenly died. It showed no real sign of distress until a huge part of the tree suddenly died and had to be cut down and then the whole tree followed. Zanu PF is in the process of dying - its roots are shrinking, it is unable to get its membership to renew their pledges of loyalty and the people have withdrawn their support. You can fight this sort of thing, but the reality is that there is not much you can do about it and when it happens - the final fall is fast and total. Look at the fate of the Rhodesian Front and Zapu, look at the fate of the old Nationalist Party in South Africa; they virtually no longer exist yet at one time they were giants in the forest, towering above the others.

    In the case of the MDC we have had some storm damage. A wind blew up from South Africa and ripped a large branch out of the side of the main stem of the MDC tree. It has left an ugly scar and will take a long time to heal. In fact it will probably affect the long-term shape of the tree and its appearance. But the issue that confronts us in Zimbabwe and especially those of us, who are in the opposition, is which section of the tree retained its links with the roots of the MDC.

    Well, both sections have had their Congress’s and I think we have the right now to say that the main stem of the Party and 95 per cent of its root structure, were left standing with Morgan Tsvangirai. The branch that broke ranks with Morgan over the Senate issue are in reality simply a broken branch that now lies on the ground without sufficient root structure to sustain its mass or deliver any fruit to its members. It will either die or become firewood - like Zanu PF or it will simply lie there on the forest floor a crippled and broken branch of the original MDC.

    The MDC Congress this past weekend attracted nearly 20 000 delegates and others who tried to secure accreditation to attend on Saturday and Sunday. In the end, 15 000 delegates were accredited and when proceeding opened on time on Saturday - the Chairman got up to speak at exactly 10.00 hours, the stadium was packed to the roof and the doors with an enthusiastic crowd from every corner of the country. The 12 Provincial delegations sat in blocks and it was an impressive sight to see the response when each was asked to identify themselves.

    They came on foot, by train and by bus and mini taxi. The great majority were simple rural farmers and urban workers. Their over riding concerns were to be there to show their continued support for the MDC and its leadership under Morgan Tsvangirai. I was not invited to the Congress of the break away faction (even though I was technically a member of their National Executive and Council) but I played a small role in the Congress held in Harare. What I saw and felt there was the spirit of the MDC - vibrant, energetic and democratic - almost to a fault.

    In an amazing way we were able to pay for Congress, we rented the Stadium, brought in professional caterers (at Morgan’s insistence) and were able to accommodate people all over the City. On Sunday we got all the Provincial Treasurers together and asked them how much money they needed to get home - we then went to a location in the City where we had what money was available and we were able to pay out 95 per cent of what was asked for - astonishing when you know that we had no support from any major donors and our State funding was arbitrarily handed over to the break away group in time for their Congress.

    We adopted the reports tabled at Congress - also a much-revised constitution for the Party - an outstanding job done by a team under Tendi Biti. We also adopted a revised policy statement and the report of the disciplinary committee. The leaders of the break away group were expelled from the MDC with Morgan saying that this was a great loss as these were some of the key players in the formation of the Party and its many achievements.

    On Sunday we carried out another accreditation process and then voted for our leadership. The outcome was as follows: M Tsvangirai; President, T Khupe; Vice President, I Matongo; Chairman, L Moyo; Vice Chairperson, Secretary General; T Biti, Deputy; T Mashakada, Organising Secretary; E Mudzuri, Deputy; D Komiche, Party Spokesperson; N Chamisa, Treasurer General; R Bennett.

    This is a strong team - disappointing that there is only one woman in the line up - an ongoing problem in the MDC. We will try to correct that in the rest of the Executive and National Council. But there are three Matabeleland representatives - both the Chairpersons of Matabeleland South and North were elected to national posts.

    The President called for a winter of discontent and dissidence leading to a new Constitution for the country and a new democratic beginning. The Congress was the start of that process and we are now into the implementation phase. I expect real action this time and there is, for the first time, going to be a confrontation. I wish it were otherwise but we no longer have any choice. Perhaps when we get to start pushing that old tree called Zanu PF, we will find that it is so rotten underground that it just falls over - we just have to watch out for collateral damage.

    Eddie Cross
    Bulawayo, 20th March 2006

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  • Monday, March 20, 2006

    MDC Congress a Success

    The anti-senate faction of the MDC held their congress just outside the business district in Harare over the weekend. Most reports have been waxing about how much bigger this congress was compared to the other faction's congress. The anti-senate congress attracted over 14,000 delegates from across the country evincing Tsvangirai's sustained popularity despite the turbulant times he's endured lately.

    Tsvangirai was reelected unopposed as the MDC leader of the party's National Standing Committe. Seizing on the opportunity, Tsvangirai returned to his vintage form posturing as civic leader in his speech,
    "I call upon you once again to heed the calls coming from your leadership for a sustained cold season of peaceful democratic resistance. The phase that we have entered calls upon every one of us to endure the pain and resolutely fight for freedom. In summary, our experience shows us that while we managed to shake the regime with action in March 2003 and in June 2003, we did not move sufficiently to cause meaningful democratic change in our society. The options open to us are very clear: we need a short, sharp programme of action to free ourselves.
    Elections at the congress have been criticized for regressing the party's gender and tribal balance. From NewZimbabwe;
    Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the fractured Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) retained his position unchallenged. He heads the party's National Standing Committee which only has one woman.

    The committee has no representative from the minority Ndebele population in a substantive position, save for Thokozani Khupe and Lovemore Moyo who were only elected as deputies to Tsvangirai and Isaac Matongo (national chairman) respectively.
    Meanwhile Arthur Mutambara addressed a rally in Bulawayo over the weekend where he accused Tsvangirai of dictatorship. With 4,000 people turning out for the Mutambara rally, it is clear the two factions will have to battle it out to the end because they can both claim some support from the people. Both factions seem to have no intentions to mend the rift.

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  • Friday, March 17, 2006

    Internet is Mugabe's Next Target

    The Independent is reporting that Mugabe & Co. are bullrushing legislation that will allow them to spy on internet and telephony activity initiated within the country. From this article,
    The proposed law, the Interception of Communications Bill, 2006, should be gazetted today and is set to be fast-tracked through parliament.

    The Bill reverses a Supreme Court ruling in 2004 which declared unconstitutional Sections 98 and 103 of the Posts and Telecommunications (PTC) Act because they violated Section 20 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe...

    ...However, the Bill restores the provisions that were ruled unconstitutional. It seeks to empower the chief of defence intelligence, the director-general of the Central Intelligence Organisation, the Commissioner of Police and the Commissioner General of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority to intercept telephonic messages passed through fixed lines, cellular phones and the Internet.

    ...It authorises the Minister of Transport and Communications to issue a warrant to state functionaries to order the interception of information if there are “reasonable grounds for the minister to think that an offence has been committed or that there is a threat to safety or national security of the country”

    If passed into law, government will use it to set up a telecommunications agency called the Monitoring (and) Interception of Communications Centre from where spy units will operate facilities to pry into messages from both fixed and mobile phones. Sources yesterday said government had already ordered equipment to be installed at monitoring centres in Harare and Bulawayo.
    This spells even tougher time for Zimbabwe's long suffering citizens. But I think it's going to hurt the country more economically than it will socially or democratically.

    For starters, truth be told not very many people are using the web as a source for information in Zimbabwe. The simple reason is that the technology and infrastucture just hasn't become the mainstay of communication yet. I say it's going to hurt the economy because it will hurt the informal traders the most.

    Informal traders are the web holding Zimbabwe's economy together. This new bill means that they have to employ a new kind of genious to get around the surveilance to complete web and phone based international transactions. One of the hottest informal markets is the trade for foreign currency which is responsible for the booming real estate and the illicit oil market which are no small contributors to the economy.

    In the words of Jonathan Moyo, "The economy is ZANU-PF's worst opponent."

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  • Thursday, March 16, 2006

    Stakes High for Second MDC Congoress

    Just over two weeks after their rivals held their own congress, the anti-senate faction of the MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai is set to hold their congress this weekend. Interestingly, the faction have extended invitations to Welshman Ncube and Gibson Sibanda the main architects of the pro-senate group.
    The spokesman for Tsvangirai's faction of the MDC, Nelson Chamisa, told ZimOnline that they had written to Ncube, Sibanda and other officials of their faction inviting them to attend the congress scheduled to take place from March 18 to 19.

    He said: "We have written to Sibanda and Ncube advising them that the congress of the MDC they were instrumental in forming takes place at the weekend . . . it will give them the opportunity to express any complaints they have with other members of the party. So we expect them to attend just like any other invited delegate."

    But it is highly unlikely that Sibanda and Ncube, who together with Tsvangirai grew the MDC over six years into the most vibrant Zimbabwean opposition party ever, will take up the invitations, which their spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi yesterday described as "nothing serious".
    No one has commented on the invitations as a concession by the Tsvangirai group yet. I don't see the move as that either, it is just diplomatic gesture. Of course I expect neither of the two to show up this weekend.

    The success of this weekend is another subject on which there hasn't been much speculation. However, if ZANU-PF's actions in the runup to the congress are anything to go by, this weekend is going to be a major pain in the side for them. Over the the last two weeks, ZANU-PF has stepped their verbal and physical abuse of the MDC. More than a dozen influential MDC members were arrested at some point this week. Many if not all were held without charges, tortured, and then released with no word on their immediate future.

    For their part, Tsvangirai & Co. have remained tight lipped about what developements they intend to discuss at their congress. My prediction is that much of the time will be spent working on the details of invigorating the party's fragile structures and mobilizing the grassroots base. MDC is going through an identity crisis of sorts right now. Not only are they stuck with senate issue (which really is more a question of electoral participation), but they must also tackle the major issue of deciding where their strongest base is going to be. The MDC had carved a nice niche for themselves as an "urban party." They've won virtually every election in most of the country's major urban areas in the party's six year lifespan.

    Now neither of the party's factions have a decisive claim on the all too important urban electoral base. In fact ZANU-PF just won back the Chegutu mayoral races two weeks ago in a foreboding indication that the voting public is beginning to be enticed by the ZANU-PF message.

    As if that is not enough already, Tsvangirai and friends must also confront perennial headaches that have dogged them through the years. One such issue is that of connecting their message to that of the lay people's needs. MDC has long been criticized of being an elitist party with separatist tendencies for not engaging the laity more intentionally. So they need to invent a new message which will ultimately evoke great resonance among the people. While they have plenty of fodder to choose from, the decisions they make in this area are of pivotal importance to the survival of the party on Zimbabwe's political landscape.

    So now we wait to see how the weekend will unfold.

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  • Wednesday, March 15, 2006

    Keeping Track of Emerging Sites

    A conversation I had has prompted me to update my links. As I am working on that, I am realizing it long was time for that. There a lot new Zimbabwean news sources onthe web, many of them are coming to my links section soon. Some of the newer sites I will be adding include:

    -ZimCanada, a news based community of Zimbabweans in Canada

    -Zimbabwejournalists, the network of Zimbabwe's displaced journilists

    -Zimdaily, self proclaimed "Best Zimbabwean daily on the web"

    -HIVAIDSZimbabwe, an intellectual forum dedicated to discussing all facets of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, a network of Zimbabweans in the diaspora, a site dedicated to racial equality in Zimbabwe

    All of these sites carry a lot interesting information about Zimbabwe. If you know of more Zimbo sites, please let me know.

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  • Tuesday, March 14, 2006

    Arm Cache a Political Faux Pas

    Yet another conspiracy theory conjured up the Harare government is falling apart as Zimbabwe's police released one of the eight arrested late last week on suspicion of plotting to kill Mugabe. The MDC's Brian James, a treasurer for the party's Manicaland structure was released yesterday, but gagged from spewing details about how porous the investigation still is.

    James' release comes after the prosecution suffered a debilitating blow to their case over the weekend. The Standard revealed that Peter Hitschmann, the central suspect is in fact, a licensed arms dealer, which would make it legal for him to bear and store arms.

    As their main case has flaundered, the paranoid investigators have thrown in an extra spin to their case alleging that the suspects planned to pour oil on the highway connecting Harare and Mutare shortly before Mugabe was to drive on the road on his way his Birthday celebration in the Eastern town. This would, the cops allege, cause the presidential motorcade to slip which would kill the president.

    The only problem with this is that most people in Zimbabwe know Mugabe does not drive long distances, he flies. If the motorcade is there, it is merely a facade. In these days of dire fuel shortages, I doubt the mile long motorcade was rolled out all the way to Mutare at all.

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  • Monday, March 13, 2006

    Eddie Cross: "Directions, Please"

    My wife and I went to a dinner party the other night - nothing unusual about that except it was 300 kilometers from home and we had to contend with a river in flood. To get there we had to go quite far south of the usual turnoff to the farm, which meant that we could use a low level bridge to cross the river. The normal road was closed because of the water level.

    To get to the farm we needed good directions and the farmer told me that his turn off was about 12 kilometers after a certain junction and just "after two big muddy puddles". Anyway we got lost in thick Mopani veld and with the help of another local farmer eventually found the turn off and arrived - a bit late, but still in time for a very pleasant evening. The key was those "two muddy puddles"!

    Another young couple from two farms away drove through the short cut and then waded the river. She changed at the house and he sat through the meal in damp trousers. It was a superb evening - we all sat in the garden, light came from a clear moon in a star-studded sky and we did not even need jerseys.

    You need to know that life goes on in Zimbabwe - sure we have inflation at record levels, we have two million internally displaced people (a UN euphemism for homeless internal refugees), we have very little food and hundreds of thousands of people are dying. This morning I heard of one estimate that ten per cent of the IDP's have died since Murambatsvina - that is 200 000 people, most from malnutrition and exposure.

    There is growing anger in the country; I hear it on the street, at dinner parties and in business. Anger that the economic collapse is now threatening everyone. Anger that the authorities, despite the fact that they have been in power for 25 years seem not to even understand what is happening - let alone find solutions. Anger that food aid is still being managed so as to make the population subservient to the regime. Anger that the UN is such a hopeless organisation - unable even to find the courage to call a halt to the genocide we see every day.

    Anger that the world seems to take it for granted that they can do little about tin pot regimes like ours that have defied globally accepted norms of governance and all human rights for years. I saw an analysis today that put Zimbabwe at the bottom of a table listing the degree of freedom enjoyed by its population.

    This past week bread has hit nearly Z$100 000 a loaf, the US dollar is trading at 220 000 to one and official inflation approaches 800 per cent --27 per cent in February alone. The real rate of inflation must be double this but the impact is severe whatever figure you adopt. Gideon Gono and Herbert Murewa went off on a futile trip to Washington to talk to the IMF --I suspect they hardly got past the doorman.

    They were told politely that despite paying Z$209 million (Z$46 trillion) to the Fund (equal to 42 per cent of our 2006 budget), they would continueto suspend our voting rights and access to the Fund - as I said two weeks ago, they will not even reopen their office in Harare. However what I found particularly disgraceful was that they suggested that if we paid the balance of our arrears (nearly another US$100 million) they might reconsider. Reconsider what? There is absolutely no chance that we will ever get access to IMF resources (or any other significant assistance for that matter) until we get our democracy back on its feet and start
    behaving like human beings.

    There was no mention of the suffering caused here by these payments --the forced shortages of all basics. No mention of asthmatics unable to get their medical supplies, no mention of the hardship of students who must now pay up to Z$100 million a semester for a college education. No mention of hospitals without food and disinfectant. No mention of the tens of thousands who must cross the Limpopo every week now to seek refuge in South Africa.

    The cry on our streets and in the villages is show us the way, give us directions, what do we have to do to get rid of this collection of goons who have so totally messed up our country? What is the road map back to sanity?

    The Mbeki, Zanu, Mutambara road map would have us accept that all we have to do is ditch Mugabe, allow Zanu PF to form a national unity government and then institute the required reforms to get the international community to let us get on with our lives and start rebuilding the country. The problem with that sort of road map is that it leaves the thieves in charge of the cash box. It puts the criminals in charge of the legal system and the law courts; it does nothing to restore our fundamental rights and freedoms. It simply whitewashes the tombstones and allows Mbeki et al to bury the evidence.

    The alternative is the MDC road map - force Zanu PF to concede they have failed and must come back to the negotiating table where they lost their way. Ask at an all stakeholders' conference representing all sectors of Zimbabwean society what we must do to get back to the right road and how to get there. We are lost and must find our way back to the road and the only way to do that is to agree on a new constitution and a transitional mechanism to get us there in the next 12 months or so. Then, once we get to our destination we can hold elections under international supervision
    and whoever wins that election can form a new government and start the country on the road to recovery and eventual prosperity.

    It's clean, legal, democratic and free and fair. I know who would win that election and so do you, and so do Zanu PF and Mbeki. That is why the invitation to this particular dinner party must be accompanied by some considerable persuasion. I think we are about ready for just that eventuality and if you could see the armed police on street corners you would know that those currently in charge are as nervous as you can be and still be standing and not sitting on the nearest loo!

    They know the Army is restive, the Police dissatisfied and the people angry. What they do not know is how to get out of the mess they are in and it is time we told them and told them in clear unequivocal terms that their day is done. The arms cache charges against the MDC are so obviously fabricated that they are laughable. What is no laughing matter is what they are doing to the lives of those they target in their desperation to find their own way out of the Mopani they are in.

    Eddie Cross
    Bulawayo 11 March 2006

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  • Friday, March 10, 2006

    New Blog Spotlight!

    There's a new Zimbo blog that you'll see added to my Zimbabwean blog roll. Accoustic Motorbike, is a real and raw collage of some of the most post painful realities of life in Zimbabwe. Starting just over two weeks ago, the "ggernst" has delivered potent punches against the status quo particularly as it relates to gender inequality in Zimbabwe. On display is her authentic passion backed by captivating narrative style. Here's an excerpt from a no holds barred post titled,"One Kilometer. Six Incidents,"
    I took myself for a coffee today. In a country of gripping poverty and staggering unemployment I know this simple statement indicates the privilege within which I live. I have a bicycle—free access to transport any time of day. I have discretionary income to spend as I please. And I live independently, free of any expectations or obligations to account for my time or my whereabouts to anyone.

    And yet, despite all this privilege, I am reminded every day that as a woman, I am not free. I went for my coffee at spot maybe a kilometer away. And in the ten or so minutes that it took me to cycle there, I counted six separate incidents of gratuitous male predation:

    1) The vendors on the corner hissing at me as I cycled past
    2) “Hesi chimoko” from the men in the back of the bakkie that drove passed me
    3) “Hello baby” from the man standing idly on the side of the road
    4) “Howzzit sweetie” from another man on the side of another road
    5) Vulgar kissing noises from a knot of men sitting on the corner
    6) “Hesi murungu” from the hwindi of a combie that went past

    Zimbabwe is in its 26th year of independence. International Women’s Day is in a few days time. But freedom of movement, freedom from harassment, freedom to go about our daily lives are a long way off for the women here. Do men realise the unfreedom their behaviour creates for women? Is it intentional? Or is it just a side-effect of the arrogance and presumptuousness with which they live their lives? Do they set out to make the streets, the shops, the work places and even the homes feel unsafe to women? Or are they just too wrapped up in their egotistical behaviour to notice the impact their actions have?
    Want more of this? Go to

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  • Thursday, March 09, 2006

    "Arms Cache" or Political Gimmickry?

    So Zimbabwe's government has discovered an "arms cache" in Manicaland province, or at least that's what they are alleging. And just like Ian D. Smith and his repressive government did in during the run up to liberation struggle that led to Zimbabwe's independence, this government immediately tied the "discovery" to "the extralegal tendencies" of the opposition MDC. Said the Herald,
    "TOP MDC officials — including Mutare North MP Giles Mutsekwa and former Chimanimani MP Roy Bennett — were arrested yesterday over the arms cache found in Mutare.
    I would love to laugh this charade of top tier intelligence work by the highly inept CIO and say it's ok because the suspects will vindicated by the truth. But it's not ok. Of course all suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty under Zimbabwean law, but if you are associated with the opposition you are not entitled to such an assumption. Second, "questioning," or "interrogation" or however nicely they might put it is by no means a life preserving process. These purveyors of fear and paranoia are infamous for their brutal torture of "suspects." So I worry, epecially for this man because of all he has endured.

    Question: what else could have led to the "discovery" of the cache besides the suspects culpability?

    The MDC--the Tsvangirai led faction--thinks the government is trying to derail plans for their congress, which is coming up shortly. In an email statement sent out yesterday, Nelson Chamisa the party's spokesman said,
    Our experience shows that the dictatorship has targeted the MDC for vilification and demonisation. The destabilization project started in 1999 and has taken various twists and turns, without success. The dictatorship often revises its destabilization strategy each time there is evidence of a strong and organized MDC under the leadership of Morgan Tsvangirai. We recall that in 2000, one Nkomo, who worked for the police force bombed our party offices.

    We wish to place it on record that the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) does not have any links with the ZRP special constabulary, Mr. Hitschmann, the so-called Zimbabwe Freedom Movement or any person or group that seeks to effect a regime change through the barrel of the gun, an armed struggle, violence and unconstitutional means.

    We wish to state categorically that while we believe Zimbabweans have lost faith and confidence in the electoral process and in elections, our desire to effect democratic change shall be realized through peaceful democratic resistance.

    We have a people’s congress set down for the weekend 17 – 19 March. With 13 000 delegates expected to converge in Harare, this congress shall decide Zimbabwe’s future. The dictatorship is disturbed by this event, given that earlier attempts to destroy the party over the Senate election failed dismally. The Senate debacle saw the emergence of a splinter unit in the MDC. But all indications are that Zanu PF’s attempt to split the party has embarrassed the dictatorship, even after the regime supported the MDC rebels with billions of tax-payer dollars.
    The UN's IRIN caught up with reknowned University of Zimbabwe political science professor John Makumbe whom they report in unimpressed by arms cache fiasco:
    John Makumbe, a senior political science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, described the alleged plot as a "work of fiction" and an attempt to discredit the opposition. "It is also an attempt to divert attention from the country's problems," he commented, adding that it was not unusual to unearth arms caches dating back to Rhodesian days.
    There's clearly more to this than meets than meets the eye, especially if one is reading from the Herald.

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  • Wednesday, March 08, 2006

    International Women's Day: Honoring African Women

    One of my favorite childhood memories is that of a commercial for Geisha a popular bath soap in Zimbabwe. The spot was based on portraits of different scenes from a day in the life of a Zimbabwean mother. It showed her jubilantly waking her kids, preparing them for school, and sending them off on their way in the morning. Then as the day progressed the mother was shown going to the shops to pick up groceries for the evening meal and going to the well to replenish the family's water supply. As the day came to a close, the children are seen coming back home followed by their father. And like the dutiful mother she is, the mother serves a sumptous meal to her appreciative family. All this while the mother's face is brightened by a smile stretching from ear to ear. The commercial ended with a voice over done by a man saying, "Geisha, it lasts and lasts like a mothers smile."

    In my older years as I've remnisced on this commercial and the many fond memories I have of my mother from my childhood, the mother's smile has taken on a special meaning to me. It has become a symbol of the Zimbabwean mother's unmatched and joyful commitment to her family. There are no better mothers than Zimbabwean women who will gladly do anything they can to provide the best for their families often at steep costs to themselves.

    Growing up at a mission hospital in the outskirts of the country, I have watched many women chart their way through their own miraculous odysseys in my short life time. I think of stories like that of Ambuya vaSekai (Sekai's Grandma), an old lady in her sixties whom I met well past her prime but with a heart and resolve bigger than the realities of her fragile body.

    Ambuya vaSekai, or "Gogo" as she's affectionately known, had her children a long time ago. So it was no small surprise when I discovered not one, not two, but five young children grappling for Gogo's attention when I arrived at her humble homestead several days ago. Of the five, Sekai, the oldest was only six. That's the oldest! One can be forgiven for thinking Gogo lived with at least two other people to take care of her and the young children I she apparently lived with. Alas, I learned there was no such thing; this homestead consisted of one grandma and her five grandchildren. That's it. With her husband long dead, this elderly woman is performing extraordinarily well at the task of raising her grandchildren.

    Like you, I too wondered what became of the children's parents or Gogo's children.
    "Mzukuru (grandson)," ambuya intoned, her voice breaking up as the emotion welled up inside of her, "upenyu hwakaoma (life is hard). Vaurikuona ava ndivo vatova vana vangu (the infants you're looking at now my children). Vangu vekuzvara vasopera kare, amai vaChipo kadikidiki aka karimumaoko angu takavaviga pasina kana negore rese (All my offspring have long since died, you see Chipo over here, we buried her mom less than a year ago)."
    Chipo was no more than ten months old and Gogo was all the mother she seemed to recognize. Sure enough, twice during the four hours I sat there listening to Gogo recounting to me how all her children had succumbed to AIDS leaving her with the mammoth task of becoming an infant parent again, she suckled Chipo on her long dry breast. It seemed to work, the little girl seemed to be content at to have this close an imitation of her mother's milk.

    I asked Gogo if it was hard for to go back to washing nappies (daipers) and she answered in the affirmative. When I queried whether she ever was bitter about having to raise two sets of children, she quickly cut me off proclaiming, "Nzou hairemerwi nenyanga dzayo (an elephant is burdened by it's own tusks)." She was more than happy to do it.

    Then there's twelve year old Stella one of the youngest among the ranks of the Zimbabwe's many heroic women. Stella has had to grow up much faster than most of her agemates around the world. Both her parents were died of AIDS leaving behind Stella and her two sibblings. With Zimbabwe's economy failing as it has for most of Stella's life, none of her parents relatives have been keen on takingthe responsibility of providing a home for Stella and her two brothers. Left with no other choice but to either grow up or perish, Stella has become the head of her reconstituted family. Wrong as it maybe, she's doing it happily.

    I could tell countless stories of many Zimbabwean women who have been the backbones of their families often staying at home in the rural areas to raise the children and manage the family's subsitence farming while the men go off to the cities to seek employment. It's not easy to juggle the tasks of being a part time single parent, part time household head, full time mother, and on demand lover.

    Worst of all is how many of these loyal hardworking heroines are paid back by the very same men who are supposed to protecting and nurting them: infidelity, beatings, sexual abuse and many an infection with the deadly HIV virus.

    On this day as the world takes time to commemorate invaluable virtue and contributions of women to humanity I just want to publicly salute my Zimbabwean and African grandmothers, mothers, aunts, and sisters. Without your patient, steadfast and unending love, I don't know where we would be as a nation and a people.

    Thank you all. Here's hoping someone lets you know how much they appreciate all you do on this Women's Day.

    To all fellow men now is the time to rally by our women. In the words of Jonah K. Gokova the founder and chairperson of Padare Zimbabwe's men's forum on gender equality:

    Men of Quality are Not Afraid of Equality! — Real Men Do Not Abuse Women!
    **Other bloggers honoring African Women today include: AfroMusing; Uaridi ; Rombo ; Mshairi ; Harare Diary; This is Zimbabwe; 007 in Africa; Adefunke ; Pilgrimage to Self; Ore ; Soul on Ice; ET! Weichegud; Black Looks; Au Lait; Nyakehu; Sisioge; Guessaurus; Feminist African Sisters; and Jangbalajugbu Homeland Stories.**

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  • Tuesday, March 07, 2006

    ZANU-PF: "Mutambara's a FED!"

    Remember this? Turns out Mugabe & Co. don't think so highly of Mutambara after all especially after he's confirmed that he's back for real. Over the weekend Didymus Mutasa, a higher up in ZANU-PF and minister with a trifactor of portfolios, lashed out against Mutambara's claims of patriotism in a show of ZANU-PF's uncanny detection of unpatriotism in anyone who opposes them.

    Said Mutasa at a belated Mugabe birthday bash in Tengwe over the weekend,
    “Musatyisidzirwe kuti tine maProfessor aiwa (Do not be intimidated by the composition of the MDC faction which has two professors (Prof Welshman Ncube and Mutambara),” Mutasa said. “Hutungamiriri hauna mhosva nema Professor.

    Tine mutungamiriri wedu anoshamisa asiri Professor. (You don’t have to be a Professor to lead a political party. We have our own astute leader [Robert Mugabe] but he is not a Professor.”

    “Akakusvika sei kuNASA munhu mutema iko kusingasvikwe nemabhunu? Hakusi kudzidza kwete. Ndeumwe wevatungamiriri akati asvika ikoko akaiswa mupoto dzekubikwa nanaBush. Vanobikwa neCIA kana vaibva vonzi dzokerai kumusha kwenyu munotungamirira. Zvino unonga uchitungamirira vanhu vako here kana kuti vaBush? (How did he work for NASA? A black Zimbabwean! There are highly qualified whites that can work there! He was working under the CIA and they have indoctrinated him and now they have asked him to return to his country to act as a front for the US.”
    Apparently Mutambara is not that great after all.

    It's clear now that if you happen to oppose ZANU-PF you better not have been abroad especially in West, they'll brainwash and fix you there right? Except for one thing; Mugabe and really all his cronies including Mutambara had garnered a notorious reputation for globetrotting and spending millions in Europe's finest malls. That was all put to an end by the targeted sanctions. Not to mention that most of Zimbabwe's gentry have their children educated in the West, mainly the US and England. Did I mention that that most of the Ph.D's flaunted by Zimbabwe's ministers were earned at American and British schools?

    So what was wrong with Mutambara's education and work experience in the west? And even though he didn't have a western education, Tsvangirai has still earned the "western traitor" label.

    These people will tell whatever shameless lies it takes to stay in power.

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  • Monday, March 06, 2006

    Cross posted at GVO

    This roundup at Global Voices Online should is up.

    Zimbabwe: Last weekend Zimbabwean politics were rocked by the flamboyant reentry of former student activist turned rocket scientist turned businessman Arthur Mutambara. Mutambara, who captivated the nation's imagination with his radical and sometimes violent opposition to Mugabe over a decade ago, emerged as the uncontested new leader of the MDC's pros-enate faction.

    The response from Zimbabwe's bloggers has been a cautioned skepticism. Said This is Zimbabwe,
    Like most people, I’ve been miserable over the impact that a shattered opposition party has had on the struggle for human rights and freedom that everyone in our country deserves. So I’m not making any judgements now, simply saying that I’ll be keeping a close eye on Arthur G.O. Mutambara, a name that will no doubt start appearing in the media. Will his arrival on the political scene make a difference to the struggle for democracy in Zimbabwe? With the way things are now, we can only hope so … but experience says that only time will tell.
    Zimpundit is less optimistic and feels Mutambara already sounds a lot like Mugabe.

    In another shocker, Zimbabwe endured an earthquake measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale. Zimbabwe is not prone to earthquakes so when one does occur, it shakes everything to the core, not just the buildings. This was the experience as recorded by blogger Accoustic Motorbike,
    From a long way off, I hear a dull roar. Of a lorry on Lomagundi Rd, perhaps, or an aeroplane echoing off the low clouds. There’s been lightning flashing the whole night. Perhaps the thunder is finally catching up.

    But the roar turns into a rattle and I swear I can feel my bed shaking. I stand up, thinking maybe its just me. But the windows are jerking and the door is banging. The whole house is moving. Something triggers deep in the recesses of my reptilian brain and I know Something Is Not Right. Im squatting on my bedroom floor in my night shirt trying to remember the Earthquake Emergency Procedure.

    --Stop Drop and Roll? No, that’s for if you’ve found yourself on fire.
    --Storm Cellar? No, I think that’s for tornadoes.
    --Earthquakes! Go to the ground floor and sit under a door frame. Or a table. Or something.

    But instead I just stand there. Thinking, surely, this is not really happening. I’m in Zimbabwe. We don’t do earthquakes.

    Burundi: Agathon Rwasa has a report in which Human Rights Watch called for donors to press for the end of human rights violations.

    D.R.C: Congogirl feels culpable of "comparing apples to oranges" for this dissection of the amount of UN funding going towards staving of a financial crisis in Palestine as opposed to the amount they are putting into putting and to the crisis in the DRC.

    She also announces that the DRC has a new constitution and new flag.

    Malawi: Mike of Hacktivate is thrilled that Soyapi, a Malawian proggramer, found the solution for a problem Mike had put a "bounty" for. Curious? Read this for an explanation. Soyapi blogs about it here too.

    Mike is also excited about the possibility of low cost broadband in Africa.

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  • Friday, March 03, 2006

    Eddie Cross: "The African Storm"

    With This is Zimbabwe wondering when the time for the revolution will come, I thought this might be a good time to share Eddie's thought's from a week ago

    For those of you who have not lived in Africa, an African storm is a fearsome thing. The day will be hot and breathless and about mid afternoon you will hear a low rumble in the distance. In a short while the wind comes up and the black clouds tower into the skies above us and then they roll over us in majestic order.

    Suddenly lighting splits the sky and the clouds seem to be cut in half as the air rushes into the space created by the heat of "gods fire". Then comes the rain falling in vast wet sheets across the open veld. In seconds the gullies are full and flowing and in minutes the streams are rising out of their banks and when the storm passes we are left with the roar of nearby rivers as they rush down to the lowlands.

    Some fear and hate the storms - my wife's mother had to retreat into an enclosed space until given the all clear by the family. I just love the spectacle - not just because it is so magnificent and grand, but because of the fact that it is the only way to bring life to the parched soil and to carry us through another long dry season.

    Each of the seasons of Africa has their own special character. Of them all I appreciate the late summer and early winter - it is still green and lush, the rivers are running and yet it is cool and dry, often with zero humidity. The early mornings are just superb, the early light from the rising sun, cool and crisp atmosphere and the joy of the birdsong. The late evenings, iridescent greens and fantastic skies with the glow of the setting sun. The early night sky, clear as crystal with millions of stars and a translucent moon, the night sounds, a roar of crickets, the rasping grunts of frogs, the soft cry of a nightjar.

    As I write this, a storm approaches - I am nervous for the computer and my modem, but the news of the day compels me to write again of the storm over Zimbabwe.
    Today the President has held his birthday celebrations - no one else to do it for him so he throws his own bash. No such thing as concern for those in his country who are homeless and hungry, or of the massive impact of his prolific spending on the majority. Just a desire to have a good time at our expense and to wallow in the praises of his entourage.

    At a cost of Z$10 thousand million dollars he has held a birthday party in Mutare - a City close to the epicenter of the earthquake that hit us on Friday morning. He arrived; I am told, in a 150-vehicle convoy with his own ambulance, a contingent of the Presidential guard and dozens of Ministers (we have 58 at last count) all of whom would have been accommodated in local hotels and lodges at even more expense.

    At the rally held by local Zanu PF "chefs" thousands are gathered - many are simply told to attend (school children) others are forced to attend by roaming Police and Army patrols. They arrived at 09.00 hrs and sat in the sun until 12.00 when the "great man" arrived to speak. He spoke for an hour and then without even a free cool drink, they are told to go home while the elite go off to a fabulous spread.

    Then the shocking news from an IMF press conference in Washington that our estimated budget deficit in 2005 was 60 per cent (yes, I said SIXTY per cent) of our GDP. In 2004 it was a "moderate 24 per cent). No wonder our currency is spiraling out of control and prices are rising so fast we cannot keep track any more. Remember it is regarded by most economists and Central Bankers that the deficit should be held below 3 per cent to be sustainable and to ensure growth with low inflation. In fact our Minister of Finance had claimed that the deficit was three per cent - he just lied.

    Since the end of last month our currency has slipped from 100 000 to 1 against the greenback to 200 000 to 1. Cooking oils have doubled in price and bread is now also reaching that level. Eggs are Z$30 000 each and milk is anything from Z$50 000 to Z$75 000 a litre. Given the shortages of maize meal - the basic staple food, this has also leapt in price reaching Z$60 000 a kilo in many markets. Liquid fuels have risen from Z$95 000 a litre to Z$200 000 a litre.

    Far from facing up to the crisis in the country, Parliament met for two days and then adjourned until mid April - not a mention of the crisis and no discussion of any solutions. In fact I think they have given up on finding a solution while Mugabe is in power and his henchmen rule the roost. It's not that they do not know what to do - they do. It's just that to take those steps would run the risk, which they dare not take, of letting the tiger loose. They are quite simply terrified of the consequences of their own misgovernance.

    So Zanu PF finds itself locked into a crisis situation of it's own making and to which they have no solutions, no exit. They are in a blind alley with the wall at the end of the road staring them in the face. I found it interesting that they did not bring forward expected constitutional changes designed to extend the term of office of the President to 2010 and to allow Zanu PF to appoint Mugabe's successor. This legislation was expected and has been drafted. I think it points to the fact that Mugabe does not want to step down at all - he wants to finish his term and he wants it to run to 2010. He wants four more years!

    There is simply no way that that is going to happen. I recall Clinton's famous line "It is the economy, stupid". With the Reserve Bank running the printing presses flat out we can expect inflation - already at 50 per cent a month - to continue it's upwards climb. My own graph of the numbers shows us already on a near vertical part of the graph. We are close to the point where industry and commerce will simply not be able to continue. It cannot be business as usual any more.

    So I predict a storm is coming - a real African storm, violent, spectacular and short and that this storm will wash away the debris we have accumulated in the past 25 years and signal a new beginning for Zimbabwe. We simply cannot continue like this and there is only one way out of the crisis. If you do not like or fear storms like this then it is time to get your closet ready. You might need it for a while, but when you come out hopefully you will find the country washed clean and the dry veld coming alive again.

    MDC - that is the real MDC, is clearing the decks for this final struggle to get Zimbabwe back onto the road to democracy and prosperity. We shortly meet the leaders of civil society and the Churches to chart the way forward and will then, for the first time, take the struggle direct to the regime.

    Eddie Cross
    Bulawayo 26th February 2006

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  • Thursday, March 02, 2006

    Mutambara Sounding a lot like Mugabe

    I've been and remain skeptical of Arthur Mutambara unfettered rise in the pro-senate faction of the MDC. So it was much to my chagrin to find that some in ZANU-PF don't seem the least bit bothered by his apparent arrival on the scene of Zimbabwean big time politics,
    Newly elected MDC pro-senate faction leader Arthur Mutambara’s acceptance speech received kudos from the ruling Zanu PF party that has apparently been pleasantly surprised with the new leader’s stance on land and foreign relations while the real opposition MDC has sneered at the speech, accusing the rocket scientist of being an appendage of the ruling party. Zanu PF youth secretary Absalom Sikhosana said he could not understand why Mutambara was in the opposition while he so articulately espoused Zanu PF policies and ideals.

    “Honestly speaking, I don’t understand why he is in the MDC,” Sikhosana said. “What he said is exactly what our leaders in Zanu PF have been saying. He must come back home (to Zanu PF). That’s where he belongs. I can’t understand why he is opposing Zanu PF while echoing Zanu PF policies.” In his acceptance speech, Mutambara said: “We are a Zimbabwean and an African political party. We are freedom fighters. We stand on the shoulders of the founding fathers of this nation; such as Nikita Mangena, Josiah Tongogara, Herbert Chitepo, Leopold Takawira, Joshua Nkomo, and Robert Mugabe.”
    Ok, lets see; not endorsed by the anti senate MDC faction, not trusted by his own faction, but liked nay, worshipped by some in ZANU-PF. How so I ask?

    Well, there might be answer from A.G.O himself. NewZimbabwe has an interesting article here in which Arthur airs his sentiments on the MDC;
    He says the party needs a makeover. He said Africa's perception, rightly or wrongly, was that the MDC was too close to western governments, such as the United States and Britain.

    "The MDC had a problem of image, a branding problem. They failed to effectively de-link themselves from interests or perceptions of imperialism. If you are perceived as a puppet, those perceptions become a reality. You have to actively disengage yourself from those that give you that terrible image," he said.

    "They gave the impression that the major driver of their policy was white farmer interest. Rightly or wrongly the impression was out there that these people were pursuing and pushing an agenda on land for white farmers. It was their job to clarify and make sure that thier position was unequivocal taht their desire was to have a land revolution meant for all Zimbabweans, white and black."
    Why must the MDC's well defined opposition stance be percieved as tantamount to a pro-European stance. Isn't it expected that when someone does something bad the whole world condems them? Mugabe & Co. are being very bad for the nation righ now. The MDC knows this, Zimbabweans know this, heck the whole world is aware of this. If so, why is it pertinent to Arthur that the MDC is percieved to be singing the same tune with western governments? Why isn't it just as repulsive to him that the MDC is joined by the majority of the country in it's anti-Mugabe stance? On the ground Arthur, people are much sicker of Mugabe than you think the MDC has branded themselves. The whole country is pregnant with dissdain for this regime which has now run the country into the ground.

    I'm not sure what he means by all this, but I can tell you this one thing: He sounds like Mugabe to me.

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  • Wednesday, March 01, 2006

    The Land of Ironies

    I think I've touched on this theme before. Zimbabwe is not only a hungry, poor, and repressed nation, we are apparently also a very confused nation.

    How else do you explain a propsed increase of up to 770% electricity cost even though most people in the country's urban areas cannot remember the last full week they went without enduring lengthy blackouts.

    How else do you explain the trial of the trustees of the country's would be only independent radio station while the board in charge of encouraging new players to get involved in broadcasting has just been summoned to face a parliamentary committee.

    How else do you explain the ruling ZANU-PF fundraising using diction like,
    "Let us invest in Zanu PF to day in order for our heritage to achieve success as a great nation in future."
    What? ZANU-PF talking about a "heritage" of "success" for the nation? When they have destroyed the country's hopes of a decent futures in so many ways?

    Finally, how else do you explain long lines for bread even after a 30% increase in the price of bread?

    These are the times we live in.

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