Thursday, March 20, 2008

Defiant Makoni Hits Back At Mugabe; Woos Crowds

Morgenster Mission, Zimbabwe - The villagers assembled under a large tree near this Dutch Reformed Church mission station in southern Zimbabwe showed little sign of anxiety.

Watched by two uniformed policemen, presidential candidate Simba Makoni was telling them that members of President Robert Mugabe's politburo, having destroyed Zimbabwe's once-model education system, were now sending their children to school in Australia and the United States.

Enraged, a middle-aged matron shouted out, 'I want to vote now!' Even two months ago, a scene like that would not have been possible in this rural area that has been under the control of Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party since independence 28 years ago, said Victor Zvibwiti, a former schoolteacher from the area.

'These people would not have dared turn up for an opposition meeting. They would have had their heads bashed in. This has only happened since Makoni declared his challenge to Mugabe.'

Makoni, Mugabe's former finance minister and a member of Zanu-PF's politburo, the party's formal inner circle, stunned his erstwhile leader and his followers on February 5 when he declared the country's state of economic and social chaos was a result of the 'failure of leadership' of the
84-year-old leader, and that he would be standing against him for the presidency in elections on March 29.

The announcement appears to have thrown the ruling party into confusion, with thousands of middle-ranking officials deserting to join Makoni's campaign. So far, though, only one senior figure, Dumiso Dabengwa, the head of military intelligence of one of the two guerrilla movements fighting the country's white minority government in the 1972-1979 guerilla war, has openly joined Makoni.

Mugabe's propaganda machine describes the two men's desertions as 'a non-event,' while at the same time filling the official press, radio and television with condemnations of their 'betrayal.' Mugabe declared that Makoni was 'like a prostitute.'

It was obviously a case of 'methinks she does protest too much,' remarked a Western diplomat.

But with 10 days to go before the presidential election ­ held simultaneously with parliamentary and local council elections ­ Makoni appears to have a long way to go.

An opinion poll by the respected local Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI) published last week, gave former national labour head Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the major faction of the divided Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), 28 per cent of the vote, Mugabe 20 per cent and Makoni only 9 per cent.

The poll was skewed by a heavy 24 per cent of people refusing to divulge their choice, and MPOI head Eldred Masungure said the poll showed that there was no clear winner.

'Makoni has a lot of latent support,' he said. 'The trick is converting it into manifest support. Those in the shadows, particular the senior figures who are being talked about, need to gather their courage before election day and declare themselves.'

Voters are attracted to among others, the absence of any corruption or violence in Makoni's background, compared with other senior officials, analysts said. He is also the only long-term close associate of Mugabe who was not involved in the guerrilla war, analysts point out.

Simbarashe Herbert Stanley Makoni was born in the eastern districts of what was then Rhodesia on March 22, 1950, and went to mission schools for his secondary education where he first became politically active.

He was a science undergraduate at the University of Rhodesia in 1973 when he was expelled for taking part in a rowdy anti-government demonstration, and left for Britain.

There he enrolled at the University of Leeds and graduated in chemistry and zoology, while in his spare time he became a leading exiled activist for Mugabe's party. In 1978 he received his doctorate in pharmaceutical chemistry at Leicester Polytechnic College.

He returned to Zimbabwe at independence in 1980, and became Mugabe's youngest minister, aged 30. After about four years ­ following a disastrous handling of a national fuel crisis ­ he left the government to become the executive secretary of the Southern African Development Coordination
Conference, a regional body trying to break away from economic dependence on then apartheid-ruled South Africa.

After 10 years, he returned home to be appointed chief executive of the state-owned newspaper company, but left to join the private sector after he rebuked one of his editors for racist attacks on whites, and Mugabe backed the editor.

After a few years in the private sector, he returned to government as an MP in 2000, and was appointed finance minister. He resigned after Mugabe refused his advice to devalue the currency. Mugabe then denounced him as an 'economic saboteur.'

Makoni and his wife, Chipo, had four sons, one of whom was killed in a motor accident in South Africa while a student there.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Mugabe orders police back into polling stations

Harare - Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has amended electoral laws to allow policemen into polling stations later this month to "assist"illiterate people to vote, state radio said on Tuesday.

The amendment, which was published as a presidential proclamation on Monday,comes less than two weeks ahead of make-or-break polls on March 29. The amendment appears to back track on changes agreed at recently during South African-brokered talks that restricted police from doubling up as election officers.

Under the electoral laws, police were not to be allowed within 100 metres of a polling station to avoid intimidating voters. "Section 59 of the act has also been amended and will allow two electoral officers and a police officer on duty to assist semi- literate voters," the radio quoted part of the presidential proclamation as saying.

Voters who are "physically incapacitated" will also be assisted to vote by two electoral officials and a policeman, the report said. The radio did not say why the laws had been changed.

Source: SAPA

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Zim golden goose goes on trial

Falcon Gold Zimbabwe, one of the country's leading gold producers, and two of its employees, will soon go on trial in Bulawayo on allegations of contravening sections of the Gold Trade Act.

The trial follows the arrest last year of Andrew Battie, the MD of Falcon Gold Zimbabwe, and Peter Mark Johnstone, a metallurgical engineer employed by the company.

According to the State counsel's outline, the two will face charges of dealing in or illegally possessing 22, 28 kg of gold, which was recovered by detectives during a search of Battie's his office at Falgold's Old Nic mine, near Bulawayo. The mines will be charged for failing to maintain a register of its gold transactions.

It is the State's case that, on January 8, 2007, detectives received information about "rampant leakages" of gold at Old Nic and, on arriving at the mine, discovered that Johnstone had already signed for 8, 84 kg of gold which belonged to Golden Valley mine, of Kadoma.

An additional 14, 44 kg of gold was allegedly recovered during a search of Johnstone's office in Bulawayo, but he failed to produce a gold dealer licence.

The State argues that Beatie authorised Johnstone to collect gold from Golden Valley mine, an independent mine with which Falgold has no agreement that covers gold handling or dealing or storage pending delivery to Fidelity Printers & Refiners, a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

It also notes that the only contract between the two mines covers the provision of engineering consultancy work. The State also seeks to prove that Falcon Gold Zimbabwe and its sister company, Olympus Gold Mines, failed to maintain a register of the recovered gold.

Court documents show that the trial date will be subject to an agreement between the State counsel and Advocate Tim Cherry, who isrepresenting Johnstone, Beatie and Falcon Gold Zimbabwe.

This is the first high-profile Gold Trade Act-related case which involves a mining entity and its employees. In the past, individuals who were charged with illegal gold dealings have been acquitted owing to insufficient evidence to warrant a prosecution.


Zim security arms to vet foreign journalists

Zimbabwe's government has threatened to arrest western journalists - a Guardian reporter among them - whom it accuses of spying on behalf of "hostile" countries ahead of next week's presidential election.

President Robert Mugabe's spokesman, George Chiramba, told the state-run press the government would "flush out" reporters he described as "agitators embedded in journalism".

The statement appeared to be a move to justify barring journalists from Britain and other countries during the March 29 election after a blanket ban on election monitors from western nations, including all EU countries and the US.

Chiramba specifically threatened reporters who have entered the country without prior press accreditation after this was refused under draconian media laws used to shut down opposition newspapers and detain reporters critical of the government.

"We are also aware of journalists from western countries who have sneaked into the country, for example one from the British Guardian newspaper, and our security personnel are on the spoor.

"Let me warn those news organisations who choose to sneak in that they are prejudicing their applications that are already with us and are exposing their personnel to arrest," he said.

Chiramba is also the author of a column in the Herald newspaper, under the pen name Nathaniel Manheru, that accused the Guardian's Africa correspondent, Chris McGreal, of spying, and warned that he faced arrest.

"What is Chris McGreal of the British Guardian up to? Does he for once think that he has got the better of the system? He is a British establishment man and allows us some insight into its mind," the column said.

"Do they have to deploy spies masquerading as journalists and tourists in such industrial quantities?"

Reporters entering Zimbabwe without prior consent from the state Media and Information Commission have faced up to two years in prison. Journalists from a number of media organisations, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Financial Times - and the Zimbabwean government's pet hate, the BBC, have periodically defied the ban after almost all reporters from western countries were refused accreditation over the past seven years.

Lawyers say the ban may no longer be legal after parliament abolished the commission last month under an agreement brokered by South Africa's president, Thabo Mbeki, in order to relax controls ahead of the election. The body meant to replace it has yet to be established.

But the government continues to insist that foreign journalists apply for permission to report on the election and pay about £850 for accreditation. However, Chiramba indicated that many applications, including one from McGreal, would be refused.

"We have a team drawn from information, foreign affairs and the security arms that are examining each and every application," he said. Chiramba said a number of the applications had come from journalists who worked in Iraq and Kenya during the recent post-election violence, which claimed about 1,500 lives.

"It is as if Zimbabwe is a war about to start. There is an expectation of blood in the streets, which explains the deployment of war correspondents and cameramen. It's a way to psych the world against the results to justify the continuation of sanctions," he said.

Source: The Guardian, UK

Friday, March 14, 2008

Mugabe must go - says DD

VETERAN politician Dumiso Dabengwa has for the first time spoken openly about the simmering succession crisis in the ruling party which forced Simba Makoni and himself to quit after President Robert Mugabe "rigged" his way back to the top at a special congress in December.

Dabengwa's remarks to journalists in Harare on Wednesday gave a new insight into the deepening power struggle within Zanu PF which has now left the party facing a real prospect of disintegration unless they force out Mugabe at the upcoming elections Mugabe himself has expressed fears Zanu PF would break up if he left, while his rivals say the party would fragment if he clung to power.

Dabengwa, who has not yet been formally expelled from Zanu PF, said there were heightened manoeuvres since last year to ensure Mugabe was replaced at the party's extraordinary congress. He said most senior Zanu PF members were "disappointed" after Mugabe was retained as leader.

Zanu PF was supposed to hold an annual conference in December but Dabengwa and others pushed for a congress hoping Mugabe would be replaced. Opposition to Mugabe had mounted since the December 2006 conference at which he was blocked from extending his term of office to 2010 without an election.

Dabengwa and others also resisted Mugabe's efforts at the crucial central committee meeting in March last year to endorse him as the presidential election candidate. Mugabe had declared in February he wanted to seek re-election despite promising to resign this year.

After that events gathered momentum in Zanu PF. Dabengwa and his allies set the agenda, forcing a congress against Mugabe's will in the hope a new leadership would be elected there. Dabengwa said everything appeared on course for a new leader to take over from Mugabe at congress until the eleventh hour when the constitution and procedures were blatantly manipulated to thwart the expected change of leadership.

He confirmed what was widely reported in the Zimbabwe Independent at the time that provisions of conference were fraudulently used at congress to ensure Mugabe was retained at the helm. The fraud was challenged by Dabengwa at a politburo meeting on November 28 last year but Zanu PF Legal Affairs secretary Emmerson Mnangagwa, who backed Mugabe's bid to stay on, defended

Dabengwa and others such as Vice-President Joseph Msika and Women's League head Oppah Muchinguri in that politburo meeting challenged the proposal to endorse Mugabe instead of using normal congress procedures of opening nominations for leadership. At that heated meeting Zanu PF was divided down the middle into two camps: one pro-Mugabe and the other anti-Mugabe.

Dabengwa and retired army commander General Solomon Mujuru's faction opposed Mugabe's endorsement, while Mnangagwa and his camp backed it. That situation still remains.

Dabengwa said there were several candidates gunning to replace Mugabe at congress, but refused to mention their names. He said it appeared that there would be changes at congress in the four top positions in Zanu PF until Mugabe's loyalists blocked that by manipulating party procedures.

"Everything seemed to be going on well until the last few weeks when we were told we were going to endorse Mugabe at congress which is what happened and we were disappointed," Dabengwa said. Makoni also said he was disappointed when Mugabe was retained.

"Afterwards we then said no, something needs to be done. Let's have a rescue mission," Dabengwa said. "When you are in a ship and you can all see the captain steering it towards a rock and it will crash, you launch a rescue operation. This is a rescue operation to prevent Zimbabwe fromsinking into deeper waters."

Dabengwa's revelations confirm that the Makoni initiative is an extension of the Zanu PF succession fight which Mugabe has failed to manage. It is said the architects of the initiative include Dabengwa, Mujuru and retired army commander General Vitalis Zvinavashe.

Mugabe said Mujuru told him this week he was not involved, but insiders insist he was not only
involved but he is actually the schemer. When Makoni met Mugabe in January he also said he was not involved only to emerge as the public face of the plan.

Dabengwa said his allies in Zanu PF - who are known to be Mujuru and his camp - and himself sent Makoni to challenge Mugabe and they said would stand by him. He said 60% of Zanu PF's politburo and central committee supported Makoni.

This, he said, was motivated by the desire for a "leadership change, not regime change" to save the country from collapse and preserve "gains of the struggle". "All we are saying to Mugabe is it's time for you to retire. You played your part, let a new leader take over and move the country
forward," he said.

Dabengwa said he would not vote for Mugabe because his conscience would not allow him to do so. "If my conscience can't allow me to vote for him how then do I convince another person to do so," he said.

Dabengwa, who said he joined and worked with the ruling party under protest up to date, noted Zanu PF misrule, including Mugabe's "failure to prevent, if not command, massacres in the region" were responsible for his defeat by the opposition MDC in Bulawayo in 2000.

He said even though he had a "nasty time" while in detention in Chikurubi on false treason charges at the height of Gukurahundi, he was not bitter but he would not forget. Dabengwa said human rights abuses were reprehensible, but he would oppose any bid to punish Mugabe for violations, including Gukurahundi, because there was forgiveness at the Zanu PF and PF Zapu leadership levels.

Source: Zimbabwe Independent

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Moyo predicts massive poll chaos

A LEADING Zimbabwean political commentator has predicted "unprecedented chaos" in elections scheduled for March 29, as European Union foreign ministers on Monday pushed President Robert Mugabe to ensure the electoral process is "free and fair".

Political scientist and independent MP for Tsholotsho Professor Jonathan Moyo said Zimbabwe was going into an election it could not afford after a constitutional amendment passed last year brought forward council, senate, parliamentary and presidential elections to be held on the same day.

Moyo, a respected academic and former information minister, said the Zanu PF government had no capacity to run such a mammoth election. He said the chaos that characterised the sitting of the nomination courts around the country on February 15 was a clear indicator that the government was ill-prepared for the synchronised polls.

He said the nomination process was marred by inadequate manpower, a shambolic voters' roll, power-cuts, and the unavailability of a delimitation report to guide candidates on constituency boundaries.

Moyo said: "You will witness unprecedented chaos from 7AM to 7PM on March 29 not because of any political mischief by Zanu PF, but purely on technical grounds. The state is going to be stretched to the limit."

Speaking to journalists at a press club in Harare last Wednesday, Moyo said the Zanu PF government did not have the budget as well as the technical capacity to successfully run the harmonised elections - a sure recipe for disaster.

He said: "This election is going to be very, very expensive. I agree with those who say democracy is very expensive and if you look at the government budget, you will realise that we are going to have an election we cannot afford."

Moyo said it was also going to be difficult to recruit enough and reliable manpower to run the polls given that a lot of teachers who have worked as polling officers in past elections have left the country while the remaining ones are on strike.

Moyo said: "We do not have enough human resources to run this election. There are no teachers for example. The teachers who used to be recruited as polling officers are just not there. They have left the country."

The former university lecturer said he got surprised to hear that there was a teachers' strike going on at schools. He said: "I wonder who is on strike because the teachers are not there. They have left. And I can tell you disaster is very easy to predict in such a scenario as ours."

Teachers went on strike last month demanding a review of their monthly pay after soldiers got a salary windfall which excluded all other government workers. Moyo blasted Mugabe -- his former boss -- for calling "needless, synchronised elections", saying only the presidential poll was due since only the state president's term of office had expired.

He explained: "We did not need to have elections for local government councils and the House of Assembly. It's only the president's tenure that had expired and the country's constitution only required that elections be held to elect a president not all of us."

Mugabe's strategists, Moyo said, had come up with the idea of the joint elections as a way of allowing the ageing leader to be assisted by aspiring councillors and legislators in his controversial re-election bid.

He observed: "Mugabe's strategy here was very simple. If you want every Zanu PF politician to support the candidature of the president then you must create a risk for them as well. To create the risk, you dissolve parliament and call for fresh elections even before the MPs' terms have expired."

The European Union on Monday urged President Mugabe to ensure a free and fair poll, although EU ministers said they were increasingly worried the Southern African nation's dire political and economic state will endanger a vote that would meet international standards.

"The voice of the people of Zimbabwe needs to be heard in free elections, in which they cast their votes done without ... fear," British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said.

"We want to see elections that are properly free and fair. That's very difficult when you have got 3 to 4 million refugees outside the country."

Moyo said he feared many voters could fail to cast their ballots because of the redrawing of constituency boundaries and new voting procedures. He added: "Very few people know that these elections will be ward-based. That knowledge is hardly known by the electorate. For example my constituency Tsholotsho was divided into two and new wards were created.
People out there don't know where they will vote from."

Moyo has predicted a second round of voting in the presidential race, saying it would be impossible for either President Mugabe, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai or former finance minister Simba Makoni, running as an independent, to get a majority 51 percent share of the votes on March 29 as required by the constitution.

He said: "There is going to be a run-off between Mugabe and Tsvangirai or between Mugabe and Makoni. But there won't be the same scenario between Makoni and Tsvangirai."


Monday, March 3, 2008

First Zanu PF Heavyweight, Dabengwa Defects

...Joins the Simba Makoni's ambitious 'Mavambo' project, amid reports more party bigwigs will ditch Mugabe follow suit.

DUMISO Dabengwa, a high ranking member of President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party addressed a joint rally with presidential challenger Simba Makoni on Saturday – effectively expelling himself from the party.

Dabengwa, a liberation war hero who commanded Zipra guerrilla fighters during the country’s liberation war before being jailed without trial by Mugabe in post-independent Zimbabwe, said he was throwing his weight behind Makoni, another former Mugabe ally.

The former Home Affairs minister told 7 000 cheering supporters at Bulawayo’s White City Stadium that Makoni was on a “rescue mission” to haul the country back from a deepening economic crisis marked by record inflation of over 100 000 percent.

Dabengwa said he had been joined by other unnamed senior Zanu PF officials in persuading Makoni to challenge Mugabe after the 84-year-old leader subverted Zanu PF’s constitution last December to avoid a leadership challenge.

Dabengwa said: “We have come a long way with Makoni. We were in the politburo of the ruling party. We tried by all means to bring change from within by criticising bad leadership. We did not want regime change but leadership change.

“President Mugabe himself last year asked us to start discussing leadership change and suggest possible successors and we did that. When we went to congress we hoped that the congress would bring new leadership, hayi sadlalwa itsabatsaba (but were played games).

“Instead of nominating leaders, we were told we were just supposed to endorse Mugabe as presidential candidate. We voiced against that and Makoni and others supported me but we failed.

“After congress we sat down and said ‘gentlemen, do we want to see what happened to UNIP in Zambia, who fought for the country and failed to manage change until little Chiluba emerged and swept to power?’ Things became worse during Chiluba. That is what we feared would happen here… some Chiluba will emerge.

“We said to Makoni ‘we will support you through-and-through’. We hope Makoni’s leadership will bring economic stability and normalcy. What we are doing is called a rescue operation in military terms. Those of us who were guerrillas did such operations when our comrades were trapped during a battle.

“This is a rescue operation to remove Zimbabwe from this difficult situation.”

Makoni, who is running as an independent in the March 29 elections, will challenge Mugabe alongside Morgan Tsvangirai, his long time nemesis who nearly pushed him out of power in the 2002 presidential elections.

Makoni has insisted that he has a lot of support from senior Zanu PF officials, and Dabengwa is the first-high profile figure to go public. Also at Saturday’s rally was former Speaker of Parliament, Cyril Ndebele.

Dabengwa said: “Hayi baba Mugabe, siyakuhlonipha jah’elidala. Usebenzile, siyakubonga konke osenzele khona eZimbabwe.

“Okwanamhlanje mhlaka 29 March sithi hayi akumeceleni ukuphumule. Nanti ijaha esesithe lizathatha amanyathela akho liwagqoke. (We respect you Mugabe, you have played your part, step aside and rest. Here is the youngman (Makoni) who will step into your shoes).”

Mugabe, celebrating his birthday last week, labelled Makoni a “prostitute” and “witch”. Dabengwa said it was normal for old people like Mugabe to resort to name-calling, but they would not answer back.

Dabengwa said: “Makoni has been called a prostitute. I am likely to get worse from the old man’s mouth. In our African culture, we were taught not to insult back to elders. We will respect our leaders. We will consult them when Makoni becomes president, old as they are. We are not fighting our leaders, all we are saying is that their time is up and they can’t cope with the present situation. It needs people of Makoni’s age.”

An inspired Makoni told the cheering crowd that he was confident of victory.

“Soon after I announced my candidature, thousands of people flocked to register to vote. We have given people confidence that change is possible after failures by opposition parties, and we will deliver,” he said.

Makoni said people were free to choose council, senate and House of Assembly candidates of their choice, and he would select the most capable individuals for cabinet posts, irregardless of party affiliation under an envisaged ‘National Authority’.

He acknowledged the support given to him by a faction of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by former NASA rocket scientist, Arthur Mutambara.

Makoni and Dabengwa, who earlier Saturday addressed business leaders at the Large City Hall in Bulawayo’s town centre, had a torrid time leaving the venue of the rally as people mobbed them.

Meanwhile, agents from Mugabe’s spy agency, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), were making frantic efforts to ascertain the whereabouts of Retire Army Generals Solomon Mujuru and Vitalis Zvinavashe, amid speculation that they were in Bulawayo making final consultations with Makoni’s team for another rally in Harare on Sunday.

Speculation has been mounting that Mujuru and Zvinavashe will announce their defection to Makoni’s side and introduce him at the rally on Sunday.

Security agents in Bulawayo approached several journalists asking them to for information about the two former army chiefs’ whereabouts.

“They approached me and I told them I have no idea where the two were,” said one journalist. It is believed Mujuru left Harare on Friday under the pretext that he was going to Bulawayo to persuade Dabengwa against backing Makoni, when he was in fact going there for final consultations with the Makoni team, intelligence officials believe.

Source: New Zimbabwe