Thursday, December 14, 2006

Zimbabwe News Update: Mengistu to Remain; Nharara Declared Hero; Ruling Party Conference Planned

Mengistu 'to remain in Zimbabwe'

Mengistu Haile Mariam has lived in exile in Zimbabwe for 15 years

Ethiopia's Marxist ex-ruler Mengistu Haile Mariam will not be extradited from exile in Zimbabwe to face justice, Zimbabwe's government has said.

Mengistu was found guilty in absentia on Tuesday of genocide after a 12-year trial in the capital, Addis Ababa.

"Mengistu applied for asylum and we granted him... the position remains the same," Zimbabwean Information Minister Paul Mangwana told Reuters news agency.

Mengistu and dozens of his officials could face the death penalty.

Under his rule, thousands of suspected opponents to the regime were rounded up and executed and their bodies tossed on the streets - a campaign known as the Red Terror.


After being ousted in 1991, the former leader fled to Zimbabwe, where his friend President Robert Mugabe gave him sanctuary.
1937: Born in Walayitta
1974: Emperor Haile Selassie overthrown
1977-78: Thousands killed during Red Terror
1994: Genocide trial in Ethiopia begins
2006: Found guilty of genocide

Mr Mugabe has always refused requests to extradite Mengistu to Ethiopia.

"We have no control over the judiciary process in other countries but we are also a sovereign state and as I am talking now that position we made has not changed," Mr Mangwana said.

He said that if there was a change in Zimbabwe's position it would be announced.

"As of now he remains our guest and we will continue to accommodate him," he said.

All bar one of the other 72 officials also on trial were found guilty of genocide at the trial in Addis Ababa.

Thirty-four people were in court, 14 others have died during the lengthy process and 25, including Mengistu, were tried in absentia.

Sentencing is expected on 28 December.

Mengistu himself refuses to recognise the legal basis of the trial, accusing those who overthrew him of being mercenaries and colonisers.

Nharara declared provincial hero

Herald Reporter

FORMER Senator and Zanu-PF member of the National Consultative Assembly, Cde Alex Nharara, who died on Sunday has been declared a provincial hero and will be buried today at the Chinhoyi Provincial Heroes Acre.

Cde Nharara died at Parirenyatwa Hospital where he was receiving treatment after being injured in an accident at his farm in Chinhoyi.

He sustained a broken leg and multiple head injuries.

Zanu-PF secretary for information and publicity Dr Nathan Shamuyarira described Cde Nharara as a dedicated cadre of the liberation struggle and the party.

"Cde Nharara lived a simple and exemplary life in Chinhoyi, motivated by his total commitment to the freedom of the people of this country.

"He was a pillar of strength for the party in the Hurungwe and Makonde districts in Mashonaland West Province," said Dr Shamuyarira.

Born on September 13, 1927 in Hurungwe, Cde Nharara joined the National Democratic Party in 1960 and mobilised support for the party.

He fought tirelessly against the giving of 15 seats to blacks during the Zapu era.

After the formation of Zanu in 1963, Cde Nharara and others were sent to Chirundu, Guruve and Chiweshe to mobilise support for the party.

Cde Nharara was at one time put into solitary confinement for six months before being transferred to Sikombela where he met President Mugabe, Cde Enos Nkala and the late Cdes Eddison Zvobgo, Eddison Sithole and Leopold Takawira.

He was also incarcerated for five years at Sikombela and upon his release, he was restricted to Chinhoyi.

Cde Nharara was appointed Mashonaland West organising secretary after the Geneva Conference.

He was later arrested and imprisoned until after the Lancaster House Conference.

Cde Nharara was also a member of the Zimbabwe Ex-Political Prisoners, Ex-Detainees and Ex-Restrictees Association.

He leaves behind his wife, Merina, and four children.

President backs calls for election harmonisation

Features and Political Editor

PRESIDENT Mugabe has thrown his weight behind the harmonisation of presidential and parliamentary elections, saying it was his suggestion that the presidential term be reduced from six to five years on account of its length.

The President said this in an exclusive interview, still to be aired, that he had with Omni Television of Canada.

His announcement comes in the wake of the decision by eight of Zanu-PF’s 10 administrative provinces to endorse proposals to attune the polls due to the prohibitive costs involved in running separate polls.

Only two provinces — Harare and Mashonaland East, the host of this year’s conference of the ruling party — have not yet pronounced themselves on the issue, either because of internal divisions or indecision in their ranks.

Responding to a question on his feelings on plans to harmonise presidential and parliamentary elections, the President said it was better to have simultaneous elections.

"Well, well, actually the suggestion came from me earlier on. I said the six-year term for the President was far too long, and then, of course, it produced the disparity and imbalance, and the discord between the parliamentary and presidential elections . . .

"I think it is better to have the two together. What it means is that, we remove one year from the six and get five years for the President, and five years for the Parliament, and we synchronise the system of elections. Then there is harmony, and that’s what we want," he said.

Zimbabwe first, and last, held simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections in 1990, but the disparities in the length of the terms — six years for the President and five for legislators — saw the lag time between the polls increasing by a year with each successive poll.

From one-year in 1996, two years in 2002, to be three years in 2008, it was to be four years thereafter and so on.

Sometime last year, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Cde Patrick Chinamasa submitted proposals to harmonise the polls based on one of four scenarios:

--Cutting short the current parliamentary term from 2010 to 2008 so that both presidential and parliamentary elections could be held in 2008;

--Having a President elected by Parliament in 2008 to serve for only two years, from 2008 to 2010;

--Holding presidential elections in 2008, with the winner serving a seven-year term up to 2015 so that the harmonisation takes place from 2015 onwards; or

--Extending the current presidential term to 2010.

With the support of eight out of 10 provinces, the resolution is set to sail through conference without any hassles.

Turning to his retirement plans, the President said he would retire when his party felt the time was right for him to do so.

"I will retire, of course, someday, but it all depends on the circumstances. I can’t retire if my party is going to be in shambles. But any day we feel we are ready for that retirement, that is we as a party feel we are ready for it, sure."

The President, who has encouraged open debate on his succession, recently took a swipe at party members whose jockeying for the President and First Secretary’s post was affecting party operations.

He encouraged all aspirants to follow proper procedures to get the support of the people.

Politburo discusses conference agenda

Herald Reporter

THE Zanu-PF Politburo met in Harare yesterday to discuss the agenda of the Ninth Annual People’s Conference as some delegates started arriving at Goromonzi High School, the venue for the meeting.

The ruling party’s Central Committee is expected to convene today to consider for possible adoption the conference’s agenda.

Zanu-PF secretary for administration Cde Didymus Mutasa said the Politburo held a preparatory meeting at the Zanu-PF Headquarters. "The Politburo met today and basically we discussed about the conference, preparations and arrangements that need to be put in place and the agenda. The Central Committee will be meeting tomorrow (today) to consider the agenda and adopt it," said Cde Mutasa, who is also the Minister of State for National Security, Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement.

Accreditation of delegates, observers and the media — which began on Monday — continued yesterday at both the venue of the conference and at the party headquarters.

There was a hive of activity at Goromonzi High School in Mashonaland East Province as preparatory work went into its final stages.

Tents have already been erected, Zesa electricians have installed boosted power supplies to the venue while roads leading to the venue have been tarred and buildings renovated.

Some exhibitors who participated at the recent Import Substitution and Value Addition Expo have brought their products for showcasing at the meeting.

Zanu-PF Mashonaland East provincial secretary for transport and welfare Cde David Chapfika, who was inspecting the venue yesterday, said the province was fully prepared for the conference.

"As a province, we are excited to host this important event, more importantly during these challenging times and when the land reform programme is not only taking shape, but taking root. Of significance is that the land reform programme was spearheaded here in the province by people in Chief Svosve’s area," said Cde Chapfika, who is also Deputy Minister of Finance.

People in the province gave the event overwhelming support in terms of material and financial support, he said.

"We have prepared virtually everything in terms of food and beverages and we will be surprised if anything is to come from outside this province because we made adequate preparations. We have mobilised resources to feed everyone as a province," said Cde Chapfika, the Mutoko North MP. "At national level, we will be getting logistical support like transport for delegates.

"The conference is being held at a time when it is raining and we take it as a good omen and we hope that people of Zimbabwe will be proud to be associated with the province."

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