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August 2008

Sunday, 31 August 2008

A new by-election - and the terror begins again

Zanu-PF gear up for another fearsome campaign

Units of Mugabe's shock troops are moving into the Matobo constituency in Zimbabwe's Matabeleland South this week, threatening a new wave of intimidation, beating and death. The reason - the by-election caused by the election of the sitting MDC member as Speaker in parliament.

Last week when parliament was recalled, the Movement for Democratic Change MP Lovemore Moyo was surprisingly elected to the Speaker's chair. This meant his legislative seat became vacant, and while no date has yet been set for a new poll, and no new candidates named, Zanu-PF are wasting no time.

Party youth groups and so-called "war veterans" began moving into the area only 24 hours after the parliament vote, and by yesterday, Sunday, the area, which is some 50km from our second city of Bulawayo, was virtually sealed off.

Continue reading "A new by-election - and the terror begins again" »

Friday, 29 August 2008

Vengeance is ours, says Mugabe's man

Zanu-PF threatens retribution for MDC 'harassment'

Zimbabwe security minister Didymus Mutasa stood outside the Harare headquarters of Zanu-PF yesterday, Thursday, and threatened violent revenge for the humiliation that President Mugabe endured both inside and outside parliament this week.

Referring to those Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters who heckled the President when he arrived to open parliament, and to the MPs who jeered during his speech, Mutasa said: "They know what we are capable of doing, and they should not cry foul when we deliver that blow as symbolised by the party's symbol of a fist."

His open call for revenge is an indication of how deeply Mugabe and his Zanu-PF colleagues were hurt by the unprecedented scenes in parliament, when for the first time the President faced open ridicule, and the entire episode was broadcast on national television.

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Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Watch out for the backlash!

As old as he is, Mugabe is taking nothing lying down

If anyone thinks that a surprise triumph in the election for Speacher, plus a few boos and jeers and rude songs, in what is laughingly called our parliament, will change anything, they are mistaken. That much became clear this week, as Mugabe's thugs went back into action.

Members and supporters of the MDC in Harare's urban areas, particularly Glenview and Mabvuku, who were unwise enough to begin celebrating parliamentary events on Monday and Tuesday, soon found themselves under attack. A gang of members of the National Youth Service, otherwise known as the Green Bombers, went into their familiar action with batons and fists.

I myself was in Glenview, and witnessed a man I know, Takura Moyo, an MDC supporter wearing a party t-shirt who was unwise enough not to flee, catch the full force of the thugs. He is now in hospital in a critical condition.

Continue reading "Watch out for the backlash!" »

Monday, 25 August 2008

Our Speaker today!

How the MDC took the top job in Parliament

To the surprise and delight of the Opposition, an MDC MP was yesterday elected Speaker of the Zimbabwe Parliament. Party chairman Lovemore Moyo was carried shoulder-high by cheering fellow members after he won with 110 votes to 98. He thus becomes the first Opposition speaker since the country gained independence in 1980.

Observers believe that the Moyo election was the result of a crafty but ultimately disastrous Zanu-PF plan. Mugabe's party had declined to field a candidate as Speaker, but instead backed a member of the tiny MDC splinter faction. But Paul Themba Nyathi came up 12 votes short - a result indicating that, in the secret ballot, at least one Zanu-PF MP voted for Moyo.

MDC members also loudly celebrated a second victory when, as the largest party in Parliament, they were able to occupy the government benches. Laughing MPs shouted at Zanu-PF members: "You sit on that side. You are the opposition now."

But police harassment of the MDC continues. When MDC MPs arrived for the swearing-in ceremony, two of their number were arrested. One was released almost immediately, but the other is still detained.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai continues to oppose the recall of Parliament, saying it will tend to jeopardise the power sharing talks, which are currently stalled. However, President Mugabe is still expected to officially open Parliament today, Tuesday.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Rubbish money!

Why scores of hopefuls are digging for cash in the trash

Marko Taruwona is sweating. It's running off him in buckets. But that's not stopping him as he stands in the middle of the Harare dumpsite in Glen Norah and flails away with his shovel. There's money amongst the rubbish, and Marko is determined to find it.

We're not talking re-cycling here. This is actual currency that Marko and dozens like him were this week searching for amongst the city's trash. To be precise, he and his fellow-diggers are looking for $1,000 notes - and finding them.

Once these notes were useless. Now they may not be. Just like the coins that we once discarded as valueless due to our rampant inflation, the old thousand-dollar bill, once thrown away by the stack as so much waste paper, may suddenly be worth spending again.

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Thursday, 21 August 2008

Is Mutambara making a fatal move?

How an MDC splinter group decision could betray the opposition

As the talks between Zimbabwe's rival parties teeter on the brink of total collapse, Mugabe's Zanu-PF is hatching a plan which, with the aid of the tiny MDC splinter group, could leave Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC opposition in disarray. It involves the convening of Parliament on Tuesday next week.

With the MDC split widening by the day, the faction leader Arthur Mutambara is said to be backing the move to convene the new Parliament. Tendai Biti, Secretary-General of the main MDC,  has declared that any such decision would break the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding, signed to such acclaim before the talks began.

"The MDC has not consented to the convening of Parliament," Biti is quoted as saying, adding that the move would ruin the talks, which have already missed two deadlines, and would widen the gap even further between Zanu-PF and the MDC

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Sunday, 17 August 2008

Why Tsvangirai still says 'No!'

The latest talks in South Africa have failed - and here's why

Morgan Tsvangirai's supporters were relieved yesterday, Sunday, when it became clear that the Johannesburg meeting of the regional summit of South African leaders had failed to produce a solution to the Zimbabwe crisis. Many had begun to fear that if the MDC leader signed up to the agreement on the table, he would have fallen into a Mugabe trap.

The apparent sticking point, at this meeting and at the previous talks in a Harare hotel, has been the exact balance of power which would exist between Robert Mugabe as Head of State and Morgan Tsvangirai as Prime Minister of a transitional government.

Mugabe tempted Tsvangirai with the offer of responsibility for finance, health, education, transport, etc. But the President himself, far from being just a figurehead, would retain control of the police, the judiciary and the armed forces. And it is in this detail that the devil lies.

Continue reading "Why Tsvangirai still says 'No!'" »

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

The agreement that never was

Hopes and fears of a controversial breakthrough come to nothing

There is no agreement between Mugabe's Zanu-PF and the MDC splinter group led by Arthur Mutumbara. After a night of rumours, statements and counter-statements, that much became clear here in Harare this morning, Wednesday. The talks on a future government for Zimbabwe remain deadlocked.

Earlier a statement by a Zanu-PF delegate claimed that the tiny MDC splinter group had agreed a separate deal with Mugabe, which would have excluded the main MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, from any incoming government of national unity.

But this was initially denied by Mutumbara's own spokesman, Welshman Ncube, and later also dismissed by the mediator at the Harare talks, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa.

Mbeki told reporters that the talks had paused to allow Tsvangirai to consider proposals that have been put to him. Tsvangirai himself was silent, but looked grave as he left the downtown Harare hotel where the talks are being held. There is no news of when they will resume.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Another day but still no deal

The struggle to find a solution to our problems grinds on

President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa spent all day yesterday, Sunday, in a Harare hotel, shuttling between our ageing yet persistent President, Robert Mugabe, and the formidable presence of the man already elected to take charge of the country, Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC. But as darkness came, no new agreement seemed likely.

Some observers have predicted an early end to the stalemate, with the parties sharing power in a transitional government. This is based on the theory that Mugabe would accept the post of ceremonial president, with few if any real powers, while Tsvangirai would become executive prime minister of a multi-party cabinet.

Others deride such hopes, pointing out that Mugabe will never agree to any real lessening of his powers, partly for the sake of his own pride, and partly because the military and police junta that is currently backing him would refuse to go along with such an arrangement.

On this point, some have suggested the creation of two posts of deputy prime minister, under Tsvangirai, one to be filled by a Zanu-PF member, and one by an MDC figure. The military would then remain under the control of Zanu-PF, while the MDC would have responsibility for the police.

Again, some see this as a dream solution; others as a recipe for civil war.

But the man most under pressure at this point is the mediator himself, Thabo Mbeki. Already the subject of much international criticism regarding Zimbabwe, he needs to produce some sort of outcome ahead of the mid-August summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADEC).

Thursday, 07 August 2008

It's official - our new currency is the petrol coupon

The government endorses a whole new way of paying for what we want

Roll up, roll up, for a grand auction here in Harare this coming Friday. Leading auctioneers Hammer and Tongues are putting cars and other valuable goods up for knock-down sale. And the official currency for the event is the petrol coupon.

This new purchasing phenomenon has the blessing of the government. It has been advertised on television here, with the slogans: "Homegrown solutions for Zimbabweans!" and "Now we are selling in litres, not dollars."

Under the system proposed by the auctioneers, potential purchasers will have to put down a deposit of 1,000 litres of fuel coupons before they can make their bids. At the current prices that amount of coupons is worth about $US1,500. The balance will be paid - again in coupons - when the sale goes through.

But that auction is not the only aspect of life in Zimbabwe which is being run on the barter system..

Continue reading "It's official - our new currency is the petrol coupon" »

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