Sunday, June 22, 2008

Zimbabwe News Bulletin: VP Mujuru Calls for Agricultural Reform; Maize Imports Increased; Al-Jazeera Relocates to RSA

‘Share agric equipment’

From Bindura Bureau
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail

VICE-PRESIDENT Cde Joice Mujuru has urged Zimbabweans to be socially responsible and share the agricultural equipment which Government allocated to farmers under different programmes.

Cde Mujuru made the remarks after she separately handed over equipment including four tractors, several boom-sprayers, planters, ox-drawn ploughs, knapsack sprayers and cultivators to A1 farmers and two irrigation schemes in Mt Darwin West constituency on Friday.

She was accompanied by Mashonaland Central Governor and Resident Minister Cde Ephraim Masawi and the Mt Darwin West, North and South senator Cde Alice Chimbudzi.

Chibhuli and Dotito irrigation schemes both got generators, transformers, two tractors each, boom sprayers and planters to boost production.

Farmers at Riveira Farm were given ox-drawn ploughs, cultivators, chains and knapsack sprayers.

Cde Mujuru said the Government was aware that the agricultural equipment being given to farmers under the Farm Mechanisation Programme was not enough for every individual farmer. This equipment would be adequate if shared between beneficiaries and their surrounding communities.

She said it was President Mugabe’s wish to see Zimbabweans empowered and self-sufficient.

"This (empowerment) is what Cde Mugabe is fighting for. Of course, the equipment may not be enough for us to give each one of us but the assumption is that you share among yourselves," she said.

Turning to the forthcoming presidential election run-off, Cde Mujuru said she was proud of the Mt Darwin people as they had always rallied behind the ruling Zanu-PF party candidate, Cde Mugabe She urged them to continue supporting the ruling party saying the opposition MDC-T did not have the people at heart.

"Isu hatidonhedze chiri muhapwa nekuda kusveerera. Cde Mugabe was our father during the liberation struggle and he kept on encouraging us to soldier on in times of difficulties," said Cde Mujuru.

She said Cde Mugabe had promised that Zimbabweans would get back their land and be able to farm cash crops like tobacco and cotton, just like what the white farmers were doing.

"Even today, he is still fighting for empowerment through land ownership. You must therefore all support him during the presidential run-off," she said.

Cde Mujuru recalled how some entire families were destroyed during the war, saying anyone in his/her right mind would not give away the country back to the colonialists.

"Our ancestral spirits are worried. If you voted for the MDC-T during the last harmonised elections, you should make corrections and vote for the ruling party," she said.

Cde Mujuru promised to work hard and ensure that Dotito Growth Point attains town status.

Cde Mujuru also handed over food packs donated by the Dynamics World Ministries to needy families.

Maize imports upped

Zimbabwe Sunday Mail Reporters

THE Government has purchased over 500 000 tonnes of maize from external sources while work is underway to establish people’s shops throughout Zimbabwe’s provinces, President Mugabe has said.

Addressing thousands of Zanu-PF supporters at rallies at Gwindingwi High School in Bikita and Dewure High School in Gutu, Masvingo province yesterday, Cde Mugabe said the grain consignment would improve food supplies in the interim while the people’s shops would unlock affordable basic commodities to the masses.

Government has also re-affirmed its commitment to the farm mechanisation programme with President Mugabe yesterday re-assuring Zimbabweans that the programme was not an election gimmick and would continue until the country's agricultural sector was fully mechanised.

Addressing another rally at Sarahuru Secondary School in Mwenezi, Masvingo, yesterday, the President appealed to some people who have not benefited from the farm mechanisation programme not to lose heart as government would continue to equip farmers as procurement of more implements was going on.

The President called on chiefs to play an active role in the distribution of the equipment in future, as traditional leaders were more exposed to the different challenges faced by people in their communities.

Speaking at Devure High School in Gutu, he said Government had already begun moving the grain from South Africa into the country.

He revealed that food supplies were expected to soon increase as the transportation of the consignment has been accelerated.

"This maize has already been paid for . . . We have now sourced a substantial amount of foreign currency. Initially, we relied on train coaches to move the grain, but this was slow as the coaches had to be directed towards other purposes," said Cde Mugabe.

"I then requested (Reserve Bank governor) Dr Gideon Gono and the Minister of Finance (Dr Samuel Mumbengegwi) to get trucks that would collect the maize. So some of the trucks are already doing this, you will begin to see mealie-meal supply improving.

"When the maize comes, some may ask: how can we buy it when we do not have the money? We have heard of food for work, but this time, we will give you money as payment so you can decide what to buy."

He said Government was committed to its people. He also thanked Zimbabweans for remaining resilient in the face of economic challenges. Cde Mugabe reassured the nation that Government was continually strategising to resolve the problems afflicting it.

"We are suffering; yes, and many of us may not have basic goods. We know you are facing these problems, but that does not mean we are not with you. We have problems, but we are working on strategies to overcome them," he said.

"Vanababa, let us not say to our families, because of the hardships, let us join the opposition MDC, thereby abandoning the revolution. We say we have not yet finished empowering our people."

The President said people’s shops would be established in the country’s provinces to ensure consumers access affordable goods. Products would readily be at hand to stock the shops. Cde Mugabe said Government would also continue to empower Zimbabweans through various initiatives. He pointed out that the land resettlement exercise would continue as many prospective beneficiaries were waiting on the wings. Emphasis is also on consolidating the ground covered under this exercise by way of Government’s Agricultural Mechanisation Programme. Cde Mugabe said this and other initiatives would continue after Friday’s presidential election run-off.

The president stressed he would continue defending the country’s legacy. "I hear voices of the fallen heroes bidding me to carry on with the work. I cannot abandon the work at hand," he said.

In Bikita, President Mugabe applauded the Masvingo provincial chairman Cde Alex Mudavanhu for mobilising over 15 000 supporters who attended the rally saying:

"You could have lost some seats in the recent elections but I want to applaud you for the massive mobilisation of our supporters for this rally. You are all aware of the battles that were fought in these mountains during the war for liberation. And I wonder what went wrong as you voted for Tsvangirai in the last elections.

"You let us down on that one and remember you belong to the land and the land belongs to you wherever you are for as long as you are in Zimbabwe. Don’t be deceived by the British who have managed to deceive Tsvangirai who initially had wanted to join the liberation struggle only for him to backtrack. If only he had backtracked from the war to go to school. Alas, he went and worked serving white people tea," said President Mugabe.

He reminded the party supporters that the nation’s heroes had died while liberating the country and that it would be a mockery and betrayal of their death if the opposition won, as they are British stooges.

"Soon after the March elections, war veterans approached me and said they would take up arms if Tsvangirai won the elections in order to protect their farms and the nation’s sovereignty. You saw what happened soon after the March elections when the British thought their stooge had won the election. They came back claiming your farms. War veterans have vowed to take up arms whether I like it or not. A ballpoint pen cannot argue with a bazooka. They will not allow that," he said. He warned businesspeople who continue to hike prices for goods and services that the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act would take effect soon after Friday’s run-off election.

"The businesses do not belong to our people. Most are British-owned and we will ensure that the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act is effected in these businesses. We will do the same in the mining sector. They keep increasing their prices at the slightest chance after we increase civil servants’ salaries. The British talk of democracy. What democracy, when we had to fight their suppression and repression in order to get democracy? We brought this democracy not these stupid British people," he said to wild applause from the party supporters.

He said Government was aware of the challenges being faced by the people and was working out solutions.

"We know the country is facing starvation and we have purchased 500 000 tonnes, enough to last about six months and we continue to import more maize. We will soon be distributing generators for your electricity. The generators are still being used by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission who will soon hand them over after the elections. Fertilisers are being manufactured and more have been imported," said President Mugabe. He said the country’s currency would be sorted out after the election.

"In the coming agricultural season we are going to give you more tractors and ploughs under the farm mechanisation programme but zvino VaMugabe (referring to President) naVaMudavanhu (Zanu-PF Masvingo provincial chairman Cde Alex) vapihwa tractor maneighbours oti ndivo vega vapihwa tractor isu hatina kupihwa. Ndizvo zvichemo zvenyu izvozvo zvamuinazvo asizve zvinhu hazviuyi zvese pamwechete zvinokwana munhu wese.

"Programme yekupa matractors nezvimwe zvekurimisa haisi kumira musi wa 27 June (day of the presidential run-off) but it will continue, inoramba ichienderera mberi kusvikira taona kuti vanhu vedu vave nemapadza ekurimisa. Zvino kana zvauya zvimwe tinotarisira kuti madzishe abatsire mukugoverwa kwazvo," said the President amid applause.

He pointed out that government would continue to assist communal farmers with equipment while specialised farmers like those allocated land under the model A2 scheme would have to formally apply for assistance from the government.

He said government was currently investigating how sugar was in short supply in the country yet Zimbabwe ends up importing locally produced sugar from some companies in the Sadc region.

"We need sugar but the commodity is in short supply as it is being diverted out of the country. This year as a country we may produce about 450 000 tonnes of sugar and we may need about 200 000 tonnes for our own consumption.

"Ko nguva yese iyi sugar yacho yanga ichienda kupi? Tave kuhodha sugar kunyika dzine marenje? Dzimwe nyika mashamwari edu dzakazoti zvamunotenga sugar kwatiri ko inga inobva kunyika kwenyu ikoko wane. Saka we are in the process of investigating how such situations are obtaining," said the President.

Al Jazeera to relocate

Sunday Mail Reporter

AL JAZEERA English, one of several international media organisations licensed to operate in Zimbabwe, plans to close its Harare bureau and move it to Johannesburg ahead of Friday’s presidential run-off as part of a wider scheme by the organisation’s British news bosses to project Zimbabwe as media unfriendly.

This is also reportedly being done to justify an anti-government editorial line that the organisation intends to embark on.

Informed sources at Al Jazeera’s offices in Johannesburg and Nairobi confirmed to The Sunday Mail that there was a desperate desire by Al Jazeera to report from the border "just like everyone else".

The sources say the new editorial stance is being vigorously pursued by a clique of British nationals, some with close links to the British establishment, as part of a big agenda to discredit Zimbabwe.

Al Jazeera’s bureau in Harare is manned by producer Cyrus Nhara, correspondent Supa Mandiwanzira and cameraman Austin Gundani. Another Zimbabwean, Haru Mutasa, was brought in from Nairobi to boost the bureau ahead of the first round of elections on March 29.

"The plan is to close down or suspend operations in Zimbabwe until after the run-off. Two things inform this decision, the expectation by some in the Al Jazeera news machinery that an MDC government will be in power soon and in order to save face — they must be seen to be victims of alleged media stifling by the Zimbabwe Government.

"But the second and most important reason is that Al Jazeera English’s news agenda is driven by British nationals who are so sympathetic to the British government’s stance on Zimbabwe. This group is so keen to push a BBC-like news agenda on Zimbabwe," said a source in Nairobi.

The departure of Steve Clark, the former director of news at Al Jazeera English, is said to have given the anti-Zimbabwe scribes in Doha, Qatar, Nairobi and Johannesburg impetus to draw out their daggers as far as news coverage on Zimbabwe is concerned. Clark, who partly grew up in Zimbabwe and has strong local connections, has for a long time insisted on a balanced approach to Zimbabwe news coverage.

But his successor — Al Anstey, with the support of head of output John Pullman, head of input Nick Walsh and planning head Gaven Morris and producer Zina Unis, who are all British — favour an anti-Zimbabwe editorial stance.

To ratchet up this agenda — Al Jazeera Africa Bureau chief Andrew Simmons has been drawn in to ensure Al Jazeera English’s Zimbabwe coverage is along the same lines as the BBC, if not worse.

"Andrew is seen as belonging to the past, he has always been perceived as very close to Nick Clark and many want him to leave. But he has been thrown a lifeline if he drives a radical anti- Zimbabwe news agenda and he is happily doing so," another source in Johannesburg said.

Simmons has now drawn up an elaborate anti-Zimbabwe news agenda on Zimbabwe. A British national — Benard Smith — has been appointed to head the Johannesburg office from where Al Jazeera’s coverage on Zimbabwe will be directed.

In addition, Simmons — who is normally based in Nairobi — will be relocating to Johannesburg to "personally direct reporters on how they should cover Zimbabwe in the run-up, during and after the run-off".

It was not clear by the time of going to print which day the Harare bureau will be moved to Johannesburg as the plan was yet to be approved by Al Jazeera director general Wadah Khanfa.

"The director-general has been put under immense pressure to see things the same way as the British nationals who are running the newsroom. But he has been very cautious and that is why the bureau has stayed open up to now." a source said.

Two weeks ago, the entire Harare bureau was summoned to Nairobi to meet Andrew Simmons, Katie Turner, and Benard Smith (all British) where they were told in no uncertain terms that they needed to take a very negative stance against the Zimbabwe Government and Zanu-PF ahead of the run-off.

The same source said there was a desperate effort to take Harare correspondent Mandiwanzira off air in favour of Mutasa as the British clique running the Al Jazeera news agenda felt Mandiwanzira was not pliable to their new tactics. They said several news bosses had openly expressed their concern about Mandiwanzira’s coverage, which they felt was not anti-Government enough.

"The hope is Mandiwanzira will not agree to leave for Johannesburg and therefore will automatically leave the channel," the source said.

Contacted for comment last night, Mandiwanzira professed ignorance at the plans.

"My contract with Al Jazeera expires at the end of November this year. Everything else you are saying is news to me. But if you are serious that you are writing an article, I suggest you speak to Andrew Simmons in Nairobi — he is my immediate boss," he said before refusing to take further questions saying he was about to board a plane.

Nhara and Mutasa were unreachable last night.

Tsvangirai, Bennett deal exposed

Political Editor Munyaradzi Huni

MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai had earmarked his party’s treasurer, Mr Roy Bennett, who is in self-imposed exile in South Africa, to become his Minister of Agriculture.

It is understood that Mr Tsvangirai had succumbed to pressure from former white farmers who think Mr Bennett should be rewarded for standing firm in support of the opposition during times when many people had deserted the party.

Other former Rhodies think he should be rewarded for sourcing campaign funds for the party from whites in South Africa, Canada and Australia.

A highly placed source in the MDC-T, who spoke to The Sunday Mail on condition of anonymity, said Mr Tsvangirai also planned to give the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Finance to some "experts" outside the elected Members of Parliament.

"As you are aware, the president has the prerogative to appoint five un-elected Senators and so Mr Tsvangirai wanted to appoint Mr Bennett as a Senator so that he would make him the Minister of Agriculture.

"We were not aware of this development until we recently went to South Africa where some of our members at the Johannesburg branch briefed us. This has caused a lot of tension in the party because we thought such a decision can only be taken following thorough consultations.

"Later we discovered that Mr Tsvangirai had also earmarked the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Finance to what he is calling experts outside the elected Members of Parliament. This revelation came when we spoke to our friends in the Professor Arthur Mutambara camp who during discussion to unite the party were told that the Ministries of Agriculture, Finance and Defence had already been taken up," said the source. However, the spokesperson for the MDC-T, Mr Nelson Chamisa, yesterday said he was not aware of this development, adding that ministerial appointments were a prerogative of Mr Tsvangirai.

"He has not announced his cabinet. I am not aware of that. You seem to be closer to where the cabinet is being constituted than myself. Anyway it’s the prerogative of the president to make sure that he has a competent cabinet," said Mr Chamisa.

The MDC-T source added that in earmarking Mr Bennett for the Agriculture Ministry, Mr Tsvangirai was succumbing to pressure from some former Rhodies who think that the treasurer should be rewarded for a "job well done" in sourcing funds for the party.

"We don’t dispute that Mr Bennett has done well in sourcing funds for the party from our friends in South Africa, Canada and Australia and that he stood for the party during times when many thought the party was on its death-bed, but the majority view is that our leader should have consulted us before reaching such a decision," said the source.

Mr Bennett, a fugitive from law, was granted asylum in South Africa after running away from Zimbabwe. He claimed that he was being persecuted before fleeing to South Africa in March 2006.

He fled Zimbabwe as police were closing in on him in connection with the arms cache which was discovered in Mutare at the home of a former Rhodesian soldier, Mike Peter Hitschmann. Political analysts yesterday said by planning to appoint Mr Bennett as his Minister of Agriculture, Mr Tsvangirai was clearly showing his intentions on the land redistribution exercise.

"We are picking the same story that he had earmarked Mr Bennett for the agriculture ministry, but I think this goes to show that the MDC leader plans to reverse the land reform exercise. How can he appoint Bennett to such a ministry because, as you know, Bennett was a farmer in Chimanimani and once appointed, he would settle old scores?" said a lecturer in political science at the University of Zimbabwe.

Another political commentator said while there are claims that President Mugabe is "talking war" these days, there is nothing that provokes former freedom fighters more than Mr Bennett’s appointment as Minister of Agriculture.

"Some people in the opposition are saying President Mugabe is getting into war talk, but the appointment of Bennett as Minister of Agriculture will provoke all former freedom fighters dead or alive," said the commentator. Mr Tsvangirai is on record as saying once he gets into power "we will see how we can compensate and reintegrate former white farmers".

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