Thursday, September 27, 2007

Zimbabwe Update: VP Mujuru Speaks to Traditional Leaders; Mugabe Meets UN Chief, Sanctions Impact

Pray for eradication of social ills during biras: VP Mujuru

Zimbabwe Herald Reporter

ACTING President Joice Mujuru has urged traditional leaders to include an appeal for eradication of social ills that has gripped the nation during the traditional biras that are taking place across the country until October 1.

She made the remarks while addressing representatives of chiefs who had called on her to present this year’s programme of biras.

This year marks the third consecutive year that Zimbabweans have taken part in the traditional biras, umthethelo.

The idea was muted by traditional leaders after realising that no formal ritual ceremony was conducted to appease the spirits after the Second Chimurenga which brought independence and freedom to this country.

Chiefs delegation was led by the Minister of Local Government, Public works and Urban Development Cde Ignatius Chombo, President of Chiefs Council Chief Fortune Charumbira, who said chiefs were delighted that the situation in the country was progressing in the right direction as shown by the recent outcome from the House of Assembly when both the Zanu-PF and MDC unanimously agreed to pass the Constitution Amendment Bill no.18.

In response, Cde Mujuru lamented the loss of cultural norms in the country and urged the chiefs to appeal for eradication of social ills such as raping of minors and murderers.

She said if the economy would be revived if the country receives good rains.

She said the recent demonstration of unity of purpose by Zanu-PF and MDC, the country’s harmonised elections are expected to be peaceful.

Cde Mujuru made a donation of $80 million to be distributed among the eight provinces that will be taking part in the traditional rainmaking ceremonies that are now an annual event.

Different areas across the country have their own way of conducting ceremonies hence individual chiefs and spirit mediums will lead rituals in areas under their jurisdiction.

Traditional leaders have hailed the biras, saying they are part of African culture that should not be lost as it is rooted in history a spiritual belief of the people.

President meets UN boss

From Caesar Zvayi at the UNITED NATIONS, New York

‘Don’t allow the West to abuse your office’ PRESIDENT Mugabe yesterday met United Nations Secretary General Mr Ban Ki-moon at the UN headquarters here to apprise him of the situation in Zimbabwe, and took the opportunity to warn him not to let Western powers abuse his office.

The President’s warning came in the wake of recent machinations by Britain and the United States to pressure the UN to send a humanitarian envoy to Harare to justify their claims that the country had become a "humanitarian disaster" warranting foreign intervention.

Two weeks ago the British government used the offices of the Archbishop of York, Ugandan-born John Sentamu, to test the waters ahead of the current session of the General Assembly.

Dr Sentamu was widely quoted in the Western media saying Zimbabwe had become a humanitarian disaster, whose situation was so bad that only foreign intervention could salvage it.

Presidential spokesman Cde George Charamba, who attended yesterday’s meeting with the Secretary General, told The Herald here that the meeting was held to apprise Mr Ban, who is new on the job, of the situation in Zimbabwe.

"The President and the Secretary General discussed the situation in Zimbabwe and also had an opportunity to discuss the selfish demands by the British to send a humanitarian envoy to Zimbabwe.

"The President told the Secretary General that the situation in Zimbabwe was not as dire as portrayed by the British and the Americans who have always had a fight with Zimbabwe," Cde Charamba said.

Over the past few months the Western media has been awash with reports that Zimbabweans were fleeing their country in droves to seek refuge in neighbouring countries to escape what they termed "increasing poverty and repression".

And in his address to the General Assembly here on Monday, US President George W. Bush regurgitated the same rhetoric as he alleged that there was increasing violence and political repression in Zimbabwe, yet the two main parties — Zanu-PF and the MDC — have just reached a ground-breaking agreement, in the spirit of the Sadc initiative on dialogue, to amend sections of the Constitution as the first step towards political congruency.

Cde Charamba said the President told the Secretary General that if there was a dire situation in Zimbabwe, Harare would have made it known to the UN, but had not done so because it has national and regional institutions to use to address its problems.

To this end, Cde Charamba said, Mr Ban would consult the region, starting with South African President Thabo Mbeki, on how the UN can work with Zimbabwe.

"The President also told the Secretary General not to let his office be abused by the British and Americans who have a history of trying to drag Zimbabwe to the United Nations Security Council," Cde Charamba said.

Since the stand-off between Harare and London flared at the turn of the millennium, London and Washington have always tried to use their leverage as permanent members of the Security Council to have Zimbabwe on the agenda of the world body to warrant external intervention as a prelude to illegal regime change.

The President also apprised the Secretary General of the bilateral nature of the dispute with London, which the British government tried to internationalise, and the history of the land question at the core of the differences with London.

"The President also told the Secretary General about Zimbabwe’s election schedule and the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 18) Bill as clear benchmarks that we have the capacity to resolve our own problems," Cde Charamba said.

On September 18, MDC legislators across the divide concurred with their Zanu-PF counterparts not to oppose the passing of the Bill which seeks to, among other things, harmonise presidential, parliamentary, senate and local government elections; reduce the length of the presidential term from six open-ended terms to two five-year terms; set up a Human Rights Commission; and restructure the membership of the Senate and House of Assembly.

The Bill now awaits Presidential assent after sailing through the Upper House this week.

Organisation calls for lifting of sanctions

By Mabasa Sasa

THE Centre for Peace Initiatives in Africa has added its voice to the growing chorus of those calling on the West to lift the illegal sanctions slapped on Zimbabwe as this would contribute to the establishment of an environment conducive to the staging of free and fair elections next year.

Following two days of deliberations, participants in a CPIA-organised conference to review the gains so far achieved in the inter-party talks between-Zanu PF and the two factions of the MDC came to the conclusion that the maintenance of the sanctions regime served to undermine democratic processes in the country.

Part of the final communiqué read, "The Conference believes that the current spirit of dialogue should extend to and manifest itself in the creation of an environment conducive to peaceful and credible elections.

"This calls for: all political parties and all other stakeholders to renounce violence and refrain from provocative behaviour, government to ensure that all citizens are safe and secure at all times . . . the lifting of sanctions."

There had been attempts by a minority of the participants to delete the issue of the lifting of sanctions from the final communiqué but this was met with resistance as several people pointed out that regardless of personal views, the fact remained that there were sanctions in place against Zimbabwe.

CPIA executive director Dr Leonard Kapungu had, however, already set the anti-sanctions tone of the conference when in his opening remarks he made it clear that the embargo had to be done away with as a matter of urgency.

"We are saying the European Union should immediately lift economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe. In its statement on May 13 2007, the EU said it was going to review its position on Zimbabwe if there was positive progress and when the country takes appropriate steps.

"Now there is positive progress in the country and we feel the EU should now take those appropriate steps. This is just the beginning because there are so many positive agreements to come between the opposition MDC and Zanu-PF. We know it is going to be a long walk, but we are going to continue with it," Dr Kapungu said.

South Africa was mandated by Sadc to mediate talks between Zanu-PF and both MDC factions and the negotiating parties recently announced they had made significant progress.

Soon after, they unanimously supported the passage of Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (Number 18) Bill through the House of Assembly and the Senate.

The conference, held in Mutare, coincided with various activities in the city to mark the International Day of Peace, Cease-fire and Non-violence.

Ambassadors and other senior diplomats from Zambia, Tanzania, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Sweden, Norway and Canada among others attended the conference while most political parties and a number of civic bodies, war veterans and farmer organisations were also represented.

Earlier on Swedish Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Sten Rylander had indicated that the international donor community was impressed with the progress seen in the inter-party talks.

Cde Stephen Chidawanyika, the director of information in the ruling Zanu-PF said it was imperative that all Zimbabweans capitalised on the unique opportunity accorded by agreement over the Constitutional Amendment Bill.

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