Friday, June 06, 2008

Zimbabwe News Update: Govt. to Continue Promoting Economic Independence; African Economic Summit in Cape Town, etc.

‘Govt to continue promoting political, economic independence’

Chinhoyi Bureau
Courtesy of the Zimbabwe Herald

GOVERNMENT will continue to pursue policies that ensure wholesome political and economic independence affirmed by empowerment and indigenisation of the means of production and natural resources, a government official has said.

Addressing members of the Mashonaland West Zanu-PF provincial executive, party candidates in the March 29 elections and district co-ordinating committees from the province, among others, Deputy Minister of Information and Publicity Cde Bright Matonga said Zimbabweans do not need piecemeal independence.

"Our independence should not be in pieces and that is why Government and the ruling party are talking of 100 percent independence and empowerment.

"As a government we will continue to pursue policies that lead to the realisation of that goal," he said.

President Mugabe recently signed into law the Indigenisation and Empowerment Bill which provides the operational framework for the transfer of the means of production from foreigners to locals through at least 51:49 percent shareholding ratio in all economic spheres.

Speaking at the same meeting in Chinhoyi on Wednesday, Minister of Local Government, Public Works and Urban Development Dr Ignatius Chombo urged people to vote for Zanu-PF candidate President Mugabe as he has presided over some of the major achievements realised in Africa – especially in health, education and training.

"The policies that Cde Mugabe has pursued, particularly in education, have made our people the envy of not only Africa but the world as shown by the number of skilled and marketable labour that we have and continue to export," he said.

He said the computerisation drive by the President was unprecedented in Africa and was setting the pace for other nations.

Dr Chombo said the opposition MDC-T and its Western allies posed the greatest threat to the empowerment drive spearheaded by President Mugabe and party leaders should rally people to ensure a resounding victory that sends a clear message that Zimbabweans are together with their leader.

He scoffed at claims by MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai that Government was planning to assassinate him, saying he has been in the country and nothing has happened to him.

"This man has no programme or policy to implement to improve livelihoods for the people except calling for the removal of President Mugabe.

"He thinks being in opposition means you oppose everything done by Government even if it is good for the people. He would be campaigning if he had one," he said.

Senate President Cde Edna Madzongwe, Mashonaland West Governor Cde Nelson Samkange, Zanu-PF provincial chairman Cde John Mafa and secretary for administration Cde Ray Kapesa also attended the meeting.

World Economic Forum on Africa opens

From Victoria Ruzvidzo in CAPE TOWN, South Africa

THE World Economic Forum on Africa began here yesterday with African leaders registering optimism that the continent was on a sustainable growth path despite challenges such as the global food crisis, climate change, power and energy shortages.

Speaking during the opening session, South African President Thabo Mbeki said Africa was moving in the right direction, with efforts to bring about peace and stability yielding positive results across the continent.

"As Africans, we have the capacity to confront our challenges and I am convinced that the continent is moving in the right direction. The process of bringing peace to the continent is irreversible," he said.

His sentiments were echoed by Ghanaian President John Kufuor, who said Africa should tap into its natural resources such as mineral resources, fertile lands and human resources to improve people’s lives. The discovery of more oil deposits would augur well for the continent.

"Africa may actually hold more oil reserves than any other continent," he said.

Mr Kufuor challenged Africans to put into perspective the challenges left behind by the colonial system, saying no meaningful progress would be achieved without taking into account the effects of colonialism.

"We need leaders who use history to look ahead. Our former masters will continue to divide and rule us if we are not careful," he said to much applause. "If we are not going to tackle our problems without doing an in-depth analysis of colonialism, then we will not go anywhere."

Also present at the opening plenary was Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika, who said Africa was not a poor continent but that it was its people who were poor, a condition that could be transformed through investment in agriculture. With the right policies, Africa had the capacity to supply the rest of the world with food.

"Let us turn things around. It will be Africans who will save the rest of the world from the food crisis. Virtually every crop can grow in this country," he said.

Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza also emphasised the need for sustainable peace as a basis for socio-economic development.

"If we do not have peace it is not possible to develop our continent," he said.

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who differed with other leaders on the effects of colonialism on the African landscape, challenged African leaders to pursue effective solutions to the challenges bedevilling the continent.

He said instead of aid, Africa needed to attract more foreign direct investment.

More than 800 delegates are attending the forum, whose theme is "Capitalising on Opportunity".

The meeting seeks to address the challenges that Africa must address if it is to become a global force.

Its agenda is built around five pillars which are re-engineering growth, unfinished business, innovate or perish, partnership without borders and licence to lead.

"Building on the tremendous progress Africa has made over recent years, opportunities abound despite existing obstacles. During our meeting in Cape Town, leaders will, therefore, focus on how to capitalise on these unparalleled opportunities in order to overcome the continent’s seemingly complex challenges," said World Economic Forum managing director Mr Borge Brende.

‘We didn’t arrest Tsvangirai’

Herald Reporter

POLICE have dismissed as false claims by MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai that he was arrested and detained by security agents in Matabeleland North on Wednesday afternoon.

The opposition leader reportedly told the Western media that he had been detained by police for about nine hours and was only released after ‘‘signing an official police caution", with his party claiming the ‘‘arrest’’ was a Government attempt to paralyse his run-off campaign.

Tsvangirai’s ‘‘detention’’ was roundly condemned by the United States, Britain, Germany and Amnesty International.

However, chief police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena yesterday said Tsvangirai’s convoy was stopped at a routine roadblock in Lupane where it was found that one of the vehicles did not have proper registration.

He said the vehicle in question was South African-registered and the driver failed to produce the relevant papers to show that the car was in Zimbabwe legally.

The driver was asked to accompany the police officers to the nearest police station whereupon Tsvangirai’s entire convoy, which had been cleared to proceed, decided to follow the driver.

"He (the driver) produced photocopies of documents, yet the legal requirement is to produce original documents.

"The driver was subsequently asked to accompany the police to the nearest police station and the whole convoy decided to escort him.

"The driver was interviewed at the station after which the car was impounded and everyone left the police station. No one was ever arrested or detained.

"We are keeping the vehicle until we can verify how and where it entered the country," Asst Comm Bvudzijena said.

The chief police spokesperson added: "There is this insinuation that the force is stopping certain people from carrying out their political activities and campaigns. I want to reiterate that the police have nothing to do with this.

"However, where there is reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed, we are obliged to investigate and that is what we do as per our constitutional mandate."

MDC-T spokesperson Nelson Chamisa had earlier told some sections of the media that the opposition leader had been arrested.

Asst Comm Bvudzijena said on Wednesday, routine searches at police roadblocks resulted in the arrest of three suspected MDC-T supporters in Matabeleland who were carrying weapons suspected to have been used or destined for use in acts of political violence.

"We have set up security roadblocks across the whole country and on Wednesday we arrested three suspected MDC-T supporters in Matabeleland who were in possession of sjamboks, catapults and knobkerries. As you are aware, these are weapons that are predominantly used for political violence," he said.

He said investigations were in progress and police would continue to arrest perpetrators of political violence.

Meanwhile, British and United States diplomats were yesterday questioned and released by police at a roadblock in Mazowe after a high-speed chase from Bindura where they had strayed beyond the stipulated travel radius.

Asst Comm Bvudzijena said the officials, travelling in three vehicles with diplomatic registration number plates, had driven off at high speed when police approached them while parked in Chipadze suburb.

He said police had received information that a group of about 10 people were in the suburb area around 10am and went to investigate.

Asst Comm Bvudzijena said when the police arrived at the scene, they discovered the vehicles that had diplomatic registration number plates and they asked the occupants to identify themselves.

"Instead of identifying themselves, the occupants in two of the vehicles decided to drive off towards Trojan Mine while the third vehicle drove off along the Harare-Bindura Road," he said.

The third vehicle was stopped at a roadblock in Mazowe.

Asst Comm Bvudzijena said the speeding vehicle almost ran over some police officers manning the roadblock.

The vehicle, he said, bumped into another car when the driver was reversing in a bid to flee.

He said the police approached the car and asked the occupants to identify themselves.

Instead of co-operating, Asst Comm Bvudzijena said the occupants shut all the windows and locked the doors, prompting the officers to deflate the tyres.

One of the vehicles that had taken the Trojan Mine direction arrived at the roadblock a few minutes later where it was stopped and the Police questioned the occupants before releasing them.

"The situation was amicably resolved and they were allowed to go," he said adding that the purpose of the diplomats’ visit to Bindura was still unknown by last night.

Asst Comm Bvudzijena said there were a number of roadblocks countrywide meant to curtail the movement of weapons being used in political violence.

"We are surprised that the diplomats fled from Chipadze when they were asked to identify themselves by the police. In essence, they were reducing themselves to common criminals because if they had identified themselves there would have been no problems," he said.

Asst Comm Bvudzijena urged people to co-operate with the police.

"Being in a vehicle with a CD registration number plate does not necessarily give an identification of the individual in the vehicle," he said.

The incident comes barely a month after US Ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee’s escapade in Mashonaland Central where he led a group of other diplomats.

McGee also went beyond the 40km radius from his station without notifying the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as stipulated by the Vienna Convention.

A day earlier, McGee had written a letter to the media, making unsubstantiated claims that Zanu-PF was torturing MDC-T supporters and threatening the State with violence should the opposition form the next government.

McGee had also made politically charged and inflammatory remarks when he visited alleged victims at the Avenues Clinic in Harare on May 9.

On Monday, US State Department spokesman Mr Sean McCormack said his government was "going to continue to speak out . . . to be a voice and beacon for freedom" in Zimbabwe ahead of the June 27 presidential run-off.

Mr McCormack, who was speaking at the department’s daily Press briefing in US, had been asked if the United States had a contingency plan to monitor conditions inside Zimbabwe if government made "good on its threats to throw US Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr James D. McGee out of the country".

"We have a whole embassy of people who are focused either in whole or in part on issues in this election. We are going to continue to speak out. We are going to continue to be a voice and beacon for freedom," Mr McCormack said.

President Mugabe recently warned McGee that he is one wrong step away from expulsion if he continues meddling in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs.

The President, who was speaking at the launch of his run-off campaign at Zanu-PF headquarters on May 25, said McGee should learn from other ambassadors, including Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Washington, Cde Machivenyika Mapuranga, who abided by and respected the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic Relations and the laws of the host nation.

Foreign Affairs Minister Cde Simbarashe Mumbengegwi summoned and read McGee the riot act on May 14 over his continued dabbling in opposition politics.

Zimbabwe suspends aid groups

By Nelson Banya

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe indefinitely suspended all work by aid groups on Thursday and police held a group of U.S. and British diplomats for several hours after they visited victims of political violence ahead of a presidential vote.

The United States blamed the seven diplomats' detention firmly on President Robert Mugabe's government, which Washington accuses of trying to intimidate opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai's supporters ahead of the June 27 run-off election.

"This is outrageous behaviour in the treatment of diplomats," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said.

Aid work was suspended nearly a week after Mugabe's government banned some aid groups from distributing food, accusing them of campaigning for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in elections held on March 29.

U.S. ambassador James McGee said police stopped the diplomats' vehicles at a roadblock and slashed their tyres. Mugabe supporters threatened to set the vehicles ablaze unless the diplomats went with police to a nearby station, he said.

"It's an effort to intimidate us so that we won't go out to the rural areas and then the government can continue to beat the citizens and the supporters of the MDC," Jendayi Frazer, the top U.S. diplomat for Africa, said in Cape Town.

The diplomats, also accused by the government of distributing campaign literature for Tsvangirai, were released after several hours.

Authorities accused aid agencies of irregularities.

"A number of NGOs involved in humanitarian operations are breaching the terms and conditions of their registration ...

"I hereby instruct all PVOs (Private Voluntary Organisations)/NGOs to suspend all field operations until further notice," said Nicholas Goche, Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.

Goche refused to comment when contacted by Reuters.


Zimbabwe's Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga accused the U.S. and British diplomats of distributing campaign material for Tsvangirai's MDC and said they refused to disembark at a roadblock when ordered by police.

"The police simply wanted to get to the bottom of the issue. No force or violence was used," Matonga said.

The U.S. embassy said the attack on the diplomatic convoy took place in Bindura, 80 km (50 miles) north of Harare.

Washington had protested to Zimbabwe over the arrest of the five U.S. and two British diplomats, Rice said.

At the United Nations, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, political counsellor at the U.S. mission, said the Security Council discussed the issue and "expressed concern" over the incident.

"I certainly hope that this time the Security Council does not consider the mistreatment of diplomats to be an internal matter for Zimbabwe," Rice said.

Britain's Foreign Office summoned Zimbabwe's ambassador.

"This gives us a window into the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans because this sort of intimidation is something that is suffered daily, especially by those who are working in opposition groups," Foreign Secretary David Miliband said.

Former colonial power Britain, human rights groups and Zimbabwe's opposition accuse Mugabe of a campaign of violence to try to keep his 28-year hold on power. Tsvangirai says 65 people have been killed.

Mugabe blames his opponents for the violence and sanctions imposed by Western countries for the collapse of the once prosperous economy. The opposition says he ruined Zimbabwe.

In an indicator of Zimbabwe's rapid economic decline, its dollar currency plunged to a new low of between 995 million and 1.45 billion to the dollar on Thursday.

Tsvangirai defeated Mugabe in the March 29 vote but failed to win enough votes to avoid a second round. He was detained for nine hours on Wednesday but continued his campaign on Thursday.

Simba Makoni, the ruling party defector who came third in the first round called for the run-off to be scrapped to prevent further bloodshed. Makoni won more than 8 percent and those who voted for him could be crucial in deciding the contest.

In an unusually harsh attack by an African leader, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga branded Mugabe a dictator and said in Cape Town that Zimbabwe's run-off campaign was an embarrassment to the continent's efforts to promote democracy.

It is rare for African leaders to publicly attack Mugabe, who is still seen as a hero by millions on the continent for fighting to end British rule in Zimbabwe in 1980 and for supporting other anti-colonial struggles.

(Additional reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe in Harare, Wendell Roelf in Cape Town; Luke Baker in London and Paul Simao in Johannesburg; Writing by Peter Millership)

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