Monday, June 30, 2008

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa Has Suffered a Stroke at the AU Summit in Egypt

Zambia president 'suffers stroke'

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa is being treated for a mild stroke in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Zambia's vice-president has said.

Mr Mwanawasa's condition was described as stable.

The president, 59, was rushed to hospital on Sunday with sharp chest pains ahead of an African Union summit.

The summit was expected to address Zimbabwe's disputed election. Mr Mwanawasa has taken a tough line against Robert Mugabe's regime.

"I wish to inform the nation that the president had suffered a stroke," Zambian Vice-President Rupiah Banda said in a statement.

"However, upon being attended to by doctors his condition has been described as stable."

Mr Mwanawasa, the current chairman of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc), said he sympathised with Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai when he withdrew from the presidential election because of political violence against his supporters.

"Elections held in such an environment will... bring embarrassment to the Sadc region and the entire continent of Africa," he said then.

He has compared the economic situation in Zimbabwe to "a sinking Titanic".

The Zambian president had been due to sit next to Mr Mugabe at the AU summit, where seating is arranged alphabetically.

Egypt's state news agency Mena reported that the Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit was monitoring Mr Mwanawasa's treatment in Sharm el-Sheikh, and that President Hosni Mubarak had visited him in hospital.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/06/30 12:35:21 GMT

The Food Chain: Hoarding Nations Drive Food Costs Ever Higher

June 30, 2008

The Food Chain: Hoarding Nations Drive Food Costs Ever Higher

New York Times

BANGKOK — At least 29 countries have sharply curbed food exports in recent months, to ensure that their own people have enough to eat, at affordable prices.

When it comes to rice, India, Vietnam, China and 11 other countries have limited or banned exports. Fifteen countries, including Pakistan and Bolivia, have capped or halted wheat exports. More than a dozen have limited corn exports. Kazakhstan has restricted exports of sunflower seeds.

The restrictions are making it harder for impoverished importing countries to afford the food they need. The export limits are forcing some of the most vulnerable people, those who rely on relief agencies, to go hungry.

“It’s obvious that these export restrictions fuel the fire of price increases,” said Pascal Lamy, the director general of the World Trade Organization.

And by increasing perceptions of shortages, the restrictions have led to hoarding around the world, by farmers, traders and consumers.

“People are in a panic, so they are buying more and more — at least, those who have money are buying,” said Conching Vasquez, a 56-year-old rice vendor who sat one recent morning among piles of rice at her large stall in Los Baños, in the Philippines, the world’s largest rice importer. Her customers buy 8,000 pounds of rice a day, up from 5,500 pounds a year ago.

The new restrictions are just an acute symptom of a chronic condition. Since 1980, even as trade in services and in manufactured goods has tripled, adjusting for inflation, trade in food has barely increased. Instead, for decades, food has been a convoluted tangle of restrictive rules, in the form of tariffs, quotas and subsidies.

Now, with Australia’s farm sector crippled by drought and Argentina suffering a series of strikes and other disruptions, the world is increasingly dependent on a handful of countries like Thailand, Brazil, Canada and the United States that are still exporting large quantities of food.

On a recent morning here in Bangkok, sweaty and heavily tattooed dock workers took turns grabbing 120-pound sacks of rice from a conveyor belt and carrying them on their heads to cranes that whisked the sacks deep into the hold of a freighter bound for the Philippines. Most of the one million tons of rice that leaves the dock here each year follows the same spine-crushing routine.

“I’ve been here 28 years,” said the assistant port manager, Suchart Wuthiwaropas. “This is the busiest ever.”

Powerful lobbies in affluent countries across the northern hemisphere, from Japan to Western Europe to the United States, have long protected farmers in ways factory workers in Detroit could only dream of.

The Japanese protect their rice industry by making it nearly impossible for imported rice to compete. The European Union severely limits beef and poultry imports, and Poland goes further, barring soybean imports as well.

Negotiators have been working for years to free trade in farm goods, but today’s crisis actually makes that more difficult for them. Food protests in places like Haiti and Indonesia that rely heavily on imported food have convinced many nations that it is more important than ever that they grow, and keep, the food their citizens need.

“Every country must first ensure its own food security,” said Kamal Nath, the minister of commerce and industry in India, which has barred exports of vegetable oils and all but the most expensive grades of rice.

But as the United States trade representative, Susan C. Schwab, noted in a telephone interview, “One country’s act to promote food security is another country’s food insecurity.”

International relief groups are trying to help people who can no longer afford food at today’s higher prices, but it is not easy. “We’re having trouble buying the stocks we need for emergency operations,” said Josette Sheeran, executive director of the World Food Program in Rome.

Restrictions have delayed efforts to ramp up feeding programs in Somalia and Afghanistan. The food program had long purchased grain from Pakistani traders or national stocks. When Pakistan imposed a ban on most wheat exports this spring, the food program was forced to find a new supplier, creating months-long delays.

“We had to slow down the scale-up of our operation as a result of having to redesign our supply lines,” said Ramiro Lopes da Silva, director of transport and procurement. “That means on the ground there were beneficiaries that went without rations or went without full rations for a portion of time. In the case of Afghanistan, some didn’t get into the program.”

The current dispute over food exports highlights choices that nations have confronted for centuries.

One relates directly to trade: Is it best to specialize in whatever food grows best in a country’s soil, and trade it for all other food needs — or even, perhaps, specialize in services or manufacturing, and trade those for food?

Or is it best to seek self-sufficiency in every type of food that will, weather permitting, grow within a country’s borders?

The usual answer from economists, and the United States’ position for decades, is that the world benefits most if every country specializes in growing (or servicing or making) what it can most efficiently, and trading for the rest.

Rainfall and other limits make it prohibitively difficult for some countries to grow all their own food. “If Egypt had to be self-sufficient in food, there would be no water left in the Nile,” Mr. Lamy said in a telephone interview.

“If every country in the world decided it wanted to produce its own food for consumption,” Ms. Schwab said, “there would be less food in the world, and more people would be hungry.”

But relying on food imports becomes much dicier if other countries are prepared to shut off the tap.

An obscure rule of the World Trade Organization requires members to notify the agency when they restrict food exports. But there are no penalties for ignoring the rule, and not one of the countries that has imposed restrictions in the past year has complied, according to the W.T.O.

Japan and Switzerland are leading a group of food-importing nations so alarmed by restrictions that they are seeking an international agreement preventing countries from unilaterally limiting food exports. The agreement would be part of the current, already-rocky Doha round of trade talks, named for the city in Qatar where negotiations began.

But the proposal ran into a procedural snag right off: food export restrictions are such a new issue that they are only tangentially mentioned as part of the Doha round agenda, which is not easily modified.

In some of the nations concerned about shortages now, past policies have discouraged farming. From Indonesia to West Africa to the Caribbean and Central America, poor countries have frequently cut farm assistance programs and lowered tariffs to balance budgets and avoid charging high prices to urban consumers. But they have found that their farmers cannot compete with imports from rich countries — imports that are heavily subsidized.

As a result, steps that could have taken place decades ago, resulting in more food for the world today, were abandoned. These included changes like irrigation schemes and new crop varieties.

“The subsidies given by developed countries to their farmers have led to lack of investment in agriculture in developing countries” in Africa and elsewhere, Mr. Nath said.

To make matters worse, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund frequently pressured poor countries in the 1980s and 1990s to lower tariffs and to cut farm support programs, mostly to reduce budget deficits.

Indeed, the World Bank concluded in 2006 that not enough attention had been paid to the negative effects of its policy prescriptions on farmers in developing countries.

The current export restrictions, which mainly help urban consumers in poor countries, are the latest blow to farmers in the developing world.

Arfa Tantaway Mohamed, who grows rice on three-quarters of an acre outside the bustling town of Aga in northern Egypt, is frustrated at Egypt’s export ban, which is suppressing rice prices.

“For sure it has a negative impact,” said Mr. Mohamed, 50, as he smoked a Cleopatra brand cigarette during a break from working his fields, while 18 members of his extended family labored nearby.

Some countries reject the notion that restricting exports has pushed up prices on the world market, and point instead to higher prices for fertilizer, diesel and other farm expenses. India takes that position, but so does Thailand, in defending sharp markups in prices set by its Rice Exporters Association.

“The main cause of rising rice prices is the rising cost of rice planting,” said Surapong Suebwonglee, the finance minister of Thailand, the world’s largest rice exporter.

India and other countries, as well as some nonprofit groups, are quick to point out that economic arguments — that countries specialize in the production of whatever they can make most efficiently — are unconvincing, as long as rich countries heavily subsidize their farmers.

In fact, negotiators have a rough framework for a possible compromise on agriculture in the Doha round talks, including deep cuts in farm subsidies.

One possible compromise not being discussed in the Doha round may be for countries to continue relying on trade for most food imports, but hold bigger reserves in case of crises. World rice reserves, for example, have plunged to 9 weeks’ worth of consumption, from 19 as recently as 2001.

But United Nations officials are wary.

“I would not object to building up reserves,” said Supachai Panitchpakdi, the secretary general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. “But like foreign exchange reserves, some countries go to huge extremes.”

Keith Bradsher reported from Thailand and the Philippines and Andrew Martin from Italy and Egypt.

Stop the Prosecution of the San Francisco 8

Stop the Prosecution of the San Francisco 8


Below please find a copy of an Open Letter to Attorney General
Jerry Brown, the person who has the power to stop the prosecution of the SF 8.

The Open Letter references the International Call, initiated by Desmond Tutu, and I am attaching a copy of the International Call, as well. You will also find this on the SF 8 website.

This is what we are asking:

1. Please ask influential or leaders you may have access to or
other progressive people that you know to sign on to the letter.
2. Please do NOT send the letter to Jerry Brown.
3. Please DO send the names of the people who wish to sign to me to compile for the committee. (
4. Please include the name and title or descriptive phrase by which the person wishes to be identified.

July and August are the critical months for this project. We want to be prepared to deliver and publicize the results of this support for the onset of the Preliminary Hearing in the beginning of September.

Open Letter to Attorney General Jerry Brown:
Drop the Charges Against the SF 8!

I am writing to join with the Nobel Peace Laureates Desmond Tutu and Mairead Corrigan Maguire, as well as Cynthia McKinney, Danny Glover, Cindy Sheehan and others in an international call to drop the charges against the SF 8.

The eight are elders and activists formerly associated with the Black Panther Party who have devoted their lives to serving their communities. Four are local to California. Richard Brown and Richard O’Neal are from San Francisco and have been known and deeply respected in social service circles for over 20 years. Hank Jones and Ray Boudreaux are well known and loved community activists in the Los Angeles area.

Prosecution of the case against these men is now over 37 years old. Although this is a California state and not a county prosecution, the cost of the case, which is in the millions, is being borne by the City of San Francisco at the precise moment when vital services are in jeopardy due to lack of funds.

Previous attempts to prosecute these men in the 1970’s were dismissed when it was revealed that so-called “confessions” were the product of torture by the New Orleans police department.

The SF Board of Supervisors has already gone on record as opposing torture. I call on all officials to do so as well, to reject prosecution based on the results of torture, and to do everything in your power to re-establish the priority of serving the needs of the communities of San Francisco and the State of California.

People in the Bay Area have a proud history of defending human rights and social justice. I urge Attorney General Jerry Brown to drop the case against the SF 8 now.

Please support these brothers by sending a donation. Make checks payable to CDHR/Agape and mail to the address below or donate on line:

Donate to Free the SF8

Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR)
PO Box 90221
Pasadena, CA 91109
(415) 226-1120

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Zimbabwe Elections Bulletin: It's a Landslide for Mugabe; President Sworn In and Leaves for African Union Summit in Egypt

It’s a landslide!

Herald Reporter

ZANU-PF candidate in the presidential election run-off President Mugabe yesterday romped to a landslide victory against MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Cde Mugabe won 2 150 269 votes against Tsvangirai’s paltry 233 000 votes, earning himself another mandate to lead the nation for the next five years.

Announcing the results yesterday, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chief elections officer Mr Lovemore Sekeramayi said there were 131 481 spoiled papers.

Mr Sekeramayi declared Cde Mugabe the duly elected President of the Republic of Zimbabwe for the next five years.

Last Friday’s run-off percentage was 42,37 compared to 42,7 percent in the March 29 harmonised elections.

Commenting on voter turnout, ZEC deputy chief elections officer (operations) Mr Utloile Silaigwana said the percentage was almost identical to the one for the harmonised polls.

"We realise that almost the same number of voters who cast their votes in March voted in this election,’’ he said.

In the March election, President Mugabe received 1 079 730 votes (43,2 percent of the valid votes) compared to Tsvangirai’s 1 195 562 votes (47,9 percent of the valid vote).

The ruling party also triumphed in two of the three House of Assembly by-elections, Zanu-PF won Redcliff and Gwanda South constituencies while MDC-T took Pelandaba-Mpopoma.

In the Gwanda South by-election, Zanu-PF’s candidate Cde Orders Mlilo won with 7 860 votes against MDC-T’s Mr Nephat Mdlongwa who garnered 1 198 votes with the MDC candidate, Ms Evelyn Ndlovu, polling 676 votes. A total of 204 ballot papers were spoiled while the percentage poll was 40,67 percent.

Zanu-PF also won in Redcliff with its candidate Cde Sheunesu Muza garnering 6 661 votes against MDC-T’s Aaron Chinhara’s 3 189 and MDC candidate — a Mr Pezuru — polling 210 votes. There were 235 spoilt ballot papers while the percentage poll was 41,18 percent.

MDC-T candidate Mr Samuel Khumalo won Pelandaba-Mpopoma constituency, garnering 3 795 votes while Dr Sikhanyiso Ndlovu of Zanu-PF and Mr Dhumani Gwetu of the MDC got 1 565 and 646 respectively with the United People’s Party and PUMA getting 60 and 16 votes.

Three independents also contested the by-election in the constituency in which 104 ballot papers were spoiled while the percentage poll was 22,38 percent.

President sworn in, appeals for unity

Herald Reporter

PRESIDENT Mugabe was yesterday sworn in as Head of State following his massive victory in last Friday’s presidential election run-off.

Speaking after taking the Oath of Office and Loyalty at State House, President Mugabe said it was now imperative for the nation to look forward to the future with a sense of unity and reiterated his call for comprehensive inter-party dialogue.

"The elections have come and gone. Our challenge today and in the years ahead is to move forward in unity, regardless of our diverse political affiliations, united by the sense of a common vision and destiny for a prosperous Zimbabwe.

"Indeed, it is my hope that sooner rather than later, we shall, as diverse political parties, hold consultations towards such serious dialogue as will minimise our differences and enhance the area of unity and co-operation," Cde Mugabe said after being sworn in by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku.

The latest call for unity comes amid reports from well-placed insiders that opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was yesterday trying to seek audience with President Mugabe before the latter left for an African Union summit in Egypt.

In his victory speech, President Mugabe paid tribute to his South African counterpart, Mr Thabo Mbeki, for the role he played in the inter-party dialogue that led to the harmonised elections and the run-off.

"We are grateful to Sadc, and the role of statesmanship played by President Thabo Mbeki, the Sadc-appointed mediator of the inter-party dialogue between Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations. Zimbabwe is indebted to his untiring efforts to promote harmony and peace.

"Indeed, this last election saw certain constitutional amendments he facilitated in the inter-party dialogue getting their first application.

"I also wish to acknowledge the support we received from many African states, members of the Non-Aligned Movement, allies and friends in the United Nations Security Council and other progressive movements and thank them for their unwavering solidarity with us as we continue to face the vicious onslaught by Britain and its allies," he said.

"Today, we are able to say all constitutional requirements with regard to the elections have been fulfilled. Thus, we are delighted to celebrate this day, delighted also that we stuck to the letter of our Constitution and electoral laws.

"On behalf of my party, Zanu-PF, and all progressive Zimbabweans; on behalf of my family and, indeed, on my own behalf, I am honoured and humbled by the faith and confidence our people have, once more, reposed in me.

"I am, indeed, grateful to the people of our great country for their brave and unyielding stand in defence of their sovereignty, their resources and destiny."

President Mugabe said the outcome of the poll had shamed the country’s detractors and had dealt a huge blow to "incorrigible racism".

He thanked the millions who supported him throughout the campaign and expressed his sorrow that some had lost their lives and property prior to the elections despite the best efforts of law enforcement authorities who managed to preserve peace during voting.

"Finally, I wish to assure our people that, as Government, we shall remain very much people-oriented and, thus, proceed to fully empower them across the board, and sector by sector, as it takes effective measures to improve the economy and living standards.

"We shall remain cognisant of the bidding that comes from our conscience, that Zimbabwe shall never be a colony. Long live Zimbabwe," he said.

Government and party officials, service chiefs, traditional chiefs, members of the diplomatic corps and religious leaders thronged State House to witness the inauguration.

The swearing-in ceremony started with a 21-gun salute followed by a convocation by Anglican Bishop Nolbert Kunonga in which he praised President Mugabe for his steadfast defence of the country’s heritage.

The Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, General Constantine Chiwenga, Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and Commissioner of Prisons

Paradzayi Zimondi pledged their loyalty to the Head of State and the country afterwards.

A Presidential Guard of Honour, as is the norm, promised to defend the country with their own blood.

In an interview with The Herald after the ceremony, Mr Gabriel Chaibva, the spokesperson for the Arthur Mutambara-led MDC formation, said it was time to put aside differences and work for the good of the people.

"I know there will be criticism because I attended this ceremony. But in times like this it is crucial to put the past behind us and show the spirit of constructive engagement and dialogue as the only way forward. Victory is sweet and defeat is bitter, but as leaders we must learn to accept both and work for the good of the people.

"So in a small way, we are sending our message that it is time for a new spirit to govern the manner in which we engage each other," he said.

President leaves for African Union summit

Herald Reporter

PRESIDENT Mugabe left Harare last night for Sharm El Sheikh Resort of Egypt to attend the African Union summit that begins today.

At his last campaign rally in Chitungwiza last Thursday, Cde Mugabe said he was prepared to face any of his AU counterparts disparaging Zimbabwe’s electoral conduct because some of their countries had worse elections record.

Some AU foreign ministers, preparing for the summit, tried to discuss the Zimbabwe issue on Friday but AU Commission chairperson Mr Jean Ping said the matter was best left to the heads of state.

The theme of the summit is "Meeting the Millennium Development Goals on Water and Sanitation".

According to a draft agenda on the AU website, the summit will consider a report of the first meeting of the committee of 12 leaders on the proposed AU government.

The meeting will also discuss the status of implementation of regional and continental integration.

Adoption of the single legal instrument on the merger of the Court of Justice and the African Court on Human and People’s Rights of the African Union will also come under discussion.

The summit will deliberate on the appointment of the Members of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and appointment of the judges of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Briefing journalists on the agenda of the summit, Mr Ping highlighted the issues of peace and security, human rights, governance and free, fair and democratic elections, which, he said, were imperative in enhancing the socio-economic and political integration of Africa.

Other issues include the integration of Nepad into the structures of the AU, Sino-African relations, Afro-Arab co-operation, consolidation and reinforcement of partnerships with the external world and shared values.

Mr Ping further emphasised the need to reinforce the AU Commission by improving on its financial and human resources to enable the institution to attain its goals.

Independent media betraying us

EDITOR — I really feel betrayed by the actions of the so-called independent media in our country.

In a way I also feel sorry for them, for they do not know the extent to which their actions have helped to advance the cause of Zimbabwe’s enemies.

They easily and readily expose themselves by misinforming lies, which they regurgitate from the international media, the Internet included.

At the rate at which they misinform the Zimbabwean public with the hope of using their reports as launch pads for the international community to intervene in Zimbabwe, they have risked losing credibility and relevance on a fast changing political landscape.

They have already been overtaken by events in the post-June 27 presidential poll where they decided to align with the Western media and the MDC-T leader’s careless remarks that the election was a one-man race and that it was a sham and that there was low turnout.

As a registered voter who exercised my democratic right to choose my next leader in a responsible manner, I did so without coercion from anyone.

I also voted in a free and peaceful environment.

I voted because I know that my vote is important for democracy to work.

The polling officers at the polling station I used were not only friendly but very helpful.

By casting my vote on June 27, I was also obeying the laws of the land because I don’t want to get into the trap of criticising when I would not have participated.

I did my part, and leave the rest to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission as they are in charge of the management of elections.

By voting, I can also proudly say that I am operating under a government of the people, for the people, and by the people.

In fact, I come from an area in Harare where throughout the campaign period, there was an atmosphere of tranquility with people moving freely, and associating normally.

People went to church including all night prayers.

Revellers in nightclubs enjoyed themselves till late.

Just like the March 29 election, the post-election environment has so far been very peaceful and normal.

Why then does the independent media agitate for an atmosphere of chaos and violence? Why do they thrive on finding fault, vilifying the Government, and in the end doing the same to the people?

They want a chaotic situation where people continue to suffer while they continue to feast on people’s misery.

Or is it now a question of sour grapes?

Where is their conscience, and where is their shame?

Godfrey Rukweza.

Zimbabwe Elections Bulletin: President Mugabe Wins Landslide Victory Over Western-backed Opposition Party

Mugabe wins Zimbabwe's run-off elections

Zimbabwe's one-man election has been branded a farce by many

Robert Mugabe has won Zimbabwe's presidential run-off election, in which he was the only candidate.

Zimbabwe's electoral commission announced the results of the largely discredited poll on Sunday.

The results also showed a large number of spoiled ballots.

Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since its independence in 1980, is now set to be inaugurated for a sixth term as president.

The vetran leader invited Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader who pulled out of the election, to attend his inauguration, in what the government said was a gesture of "political engagement".

"This has been done in the spirit of the president's wish to reach out, a spirit to engage with the opposition as he has already indicated," George Charamba, a government spokesman, said.

"It is a major step towards political engagement."

Tsvangirai rejected the invitation.

"I'm told they phoned him [Tsvangirai] but he will obviously not attend," Nelson Chamisa, chief spokesman for Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change party, said.

"How can the party give its blessing to something it has rejected?"

One-man election

Tsvangirai won the first round of Zimbabwe's election on March 29, falling just short of the 50 per cent threshold needed to avoid a run-off.

But Mugabe stood unopposed in the second round run-off which took place Friday after Tsvangirai boycotted the poll complaining of violence and intimidation towards his supporters.

Zimbabwe's one-man presidential election was branded a farce by many and prompted calls for the African Union to shun Mugabe at its meeting on Monday.

In Egypt, the African Union's Peace and Security Council (PSC) was set to discuss the situation in Zimbabwe in a closed-door session prior to Monday's AU summit.

El-Ghassim Wane, the AU commission spokesman, said Zimbabwe was not on the agenda of the PSC meeting but that it would certainly be raised.

"The agenda includes an opportunity for each member state to put forward a subject they are interested in for discussion, so you can imagine that Zimbabwe will be mentioned," he said.

Mugabe criticised

International criticism of Mugabe has grown since the election and African nations have also begun to condemn the Zimbabwean leader.

A group of African politicians who observed the election called the atmosphere in Zimbabwe during Friday's vote as "tense, hostile and volatile" and called for a new round of polling.

Human Rights Watch said it had documented numerous incidents of voters being coerced into taking part in the run-off election and of others being attacked after polling was completed.

The US-based group also called on African leaders to impose sanctions against Zimbabwe's government and refuse to recognise the legitimacy of Mugabe's victory.

The United States and a number of European powers pushed for a UN security council resolution that would have stated the results "could have no credibility or legitimacy", but South Africa blocked the move, arguing the Security Council was not in the business of certifying elections.

The council instead merely issued an oral statement expressing "deep regret" that the election went ahead after widespread calls for it to be shelved.

Afterwards Tsvangirai accused of Thabo Mbeki, the South African president and Zimbabwe mediator, of lobbying for Mugabe to be recognised as a legitimate head of state.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Mugabe claims 'sweeping victory'

Robert Mugabe has said he is heading for a "sweeping victory" in Zimbabwe's unopposed run-off presidential poll.

Officials have scheduled his inauguration for 1300 GMT on Sunday, even though official results are yet to be published.

He was the only candidate after the opposition boycotted the vote amid reports of violence and intimidation.

African observers of the poll have called for fresh elections to be held, saying the vote was not free or fair.

Crucial reaction

"The returns show that we are winning convincingly, that we have won in all the 26 constituencies in Harare, an MDC stronghold where we won in only one constituency in March. That is the trend," Mr Mugabe said in footage broadcast on state television.

Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), announced he was pulling out of the election last Sunday.

But his name remained on ballot papers after Zimbabwe's electoral authorities refused to accept his decision.

Mr Mugabe had invited Mr Tsvangirai to witness his inauguration in a gesture of "engagement", Mr Mugabe's spokesman was quoted by Reuters as saying.

But Mr Tsvangirai rejected the invitation and described the inauguration as "meaningless", the news agency reported.

The BBC's Peter Biles, in Johannesburg, says that having attempted to consolidate his position with the ceremony, Mr Mugabe is expected to fly to Egypt to attend an African Union summit which opens on Monday.

The reaction of Zimbabwe's neighbours in southern Africa will be crucial, our correspondent says.

An observer team from the Pan-African Parliament on Sunday called on regional grouping Sadc and the African Union to facilitate talks between the government and opposition.

International outrage

Earlier, the former Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu, urged the international community to intervene in Zimbabwe - by force if necessary.

He said he would support the deployment of a UN force to restore peace in the country.

Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr programme, Archbishop Tutu also said that African Union leaders should refuse to recognise Robert Mugabe as legitimate president of Zimbabwe.

"If you were to have a unanimous voice, saying quite clearly to Mr Mugabe... you are illegitimate and we will not recognise your administration in any shape or form - I think that would be a very, very powerful signal and would really strengthen the hand of the international community."

There has also been international outrage at events in Zimbabwe.

US President George Bush on Saturday instructed US officials to come up with new sanctions against Zimbabwe, and said the US would press for strong action by the UN.

'Tents set up for ceremony'

Mr Mugabe was said to have won by a wide margin, but international observers have reported many spoilt ballots, which in some areas could outnumber votes cast.

Earlier, officials said the count was complete, but later reports said results from rural areas were still trickling in.

The state-owned Sunday Mail newspaper in Harare said President Mugabe was "a man on an assignment" and that "assignment is yet to be completed; hence his continued stay in office".

Reports said tents had already been erected in his State House residence for the ceremony to confirm his sixth term of office.

Systematic violence

In interviews published in British newspapers on Sunday, Mr Tsvangirai said he would push for negotiations with Mr Mugabe on a new constitution and fresh elections.

"We have the power to control parliament, and that is recognised even by Mugabe's Zanu-PF... We must force a transitional agreement for a set time-frame and work towards a new constitution for Zimbabwe," he told the Mail on Sunday.

"I am confident we can achieve that if international pressure keeps up," he added.

In a separate interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Tsvangirai said it was possible that Mr Mugabe could remain as a ceremonial head of state.

"I don't think it's inconceivable for such an arrangement to include him, depending, of course, on the details of what is being proposed and what are the arrangements," he said.

Mr Mugabe came second to Mr Tsvangirai in the first round of the presidential vote in March.

Since then, the MDC says some 86 of its supporters have been killed and 200,000 forced from their homes by militias loyal to Zanu-PF.

The government blames the MDC for the violence.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/06/29 12:25:51 GMT

President pays tribute to voters

From Roselyne Sachiti in CHIKOMBA
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail

PRESIDENT Mugabe yesterday paid tribute to Zimbabweans who voted for Zanu-PF in the just ended presidential election run-off saying he was pleased to note that most people from opposition MDC strongholds had turned against the British sponsored party.

He was speaking at the burial of the First Lady's grandmother, Mbuya Elina Ranga, who died at the Prison Staff Clinic in Dune village, Chikomba on Wednesday.

Cde Mugabe said he was particularly happy that the ruling party had reclaimed a large number of votes in Budiriro and Epworth suburbs in Harare, which were regarded as opposition strongholds.

"Mavhoti ese amakaita arikubuda shudhu, Harare yose tainge takadyiwa 25 out of 26 kunze kwe Harare South yava Nyanhongo. Today I was looking at votes from Budiriro and it has become number one for voting for Zanu-PF."

He said indications from observers that he had met yesterday were that the election had been conducted in a peaceful manner.

The President said the manner in which people voted on Friday was a clear indication of their commitment to Zanu-PF.

"It all came from your commitment. You knew you did not want to fight the opposition using your fist but wanted to vote for your party, which is Zanu- PF," he told mourners.

He said besides availing buses for easy and affordable movement of people, the Government was also setting up people's shops to ensure that communities would afford to buy basic goods.

He explained that the shops would be set up at most growth points around the country.

He said he was now happy to rest after a hectic work schedule during the past three and half weeks when he travelled around the country on his campaign trail.

"While going around we were looking at whether we are still united after some people turned their backs on us and voted for a party whose origins we do not know.

"Vanosimbirira kuti isu tikapinda tinodzosa nyika , ndicho chaunoti chinangwa changu che MDC," he said.

The President explained that some people could have been bribed to vote for the opposition during the March 29 harmonised elections while others might have done so because of food shortages and price hikes.

"Asi zvingabva zvakurwadza kusvika iwe pakuti ndasiya musha wangu ndoenda kune uyo andipa shuga, munhu wemurume ukarwadziwa woti ndoenda kuna avo vandipa shuga wototitorai mukadzi wangu.

"Ndinotenda kuti imi hamuna kutendeuka makamira nesu," said the President.

Speaking on the life of Mbuya Ranga, Cde Mugabe expressed gratitude to her saying she was a pillar in the family who brought up her children well.

"You should be thankful if your grandmother lasts long like Gogo Ranga because you will be given someone who binds your life and that's where you get your life history," explained the President.

Mbuya Ranga had eight children, 41 grandchildren, 55 great grand children and two great great grand children.

The First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe also took time to donate groceries worth trillions of dollars saying it was in memory of her grandmother who had a gift of giving.

She also donated ploughs, harrows and Zanu-PF party regalia to supporters who had thronged the homestead to mourn.

Voice of Zim reaches global audience

Sunday Mail Reporter

VOICE of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe's world radio station, appears to be reaching all parts of the globe judging by the correspondence it is receiving from countries as far apart as Brazil and India.

The station, which broadcasts on shortwave in the 60 metre (evenings) and 49 metre (daytime) bands, is also providing Zimbabweans in Binga and other outlying areas that cannot receive FM broadcasts, with a radio service.

Voice of Zimbabwe station manager Shadreck Mupeni last week said letters have been received from as far afield as Brazil, Japan, India, Australia, Poland and Greece.

Many of them are from listeners who have expressed an interest in visiting Zimbabwe, with some of them asking the station to broadcast programmes and advertisements about the country's tourist attractions.

"Many of them have indicated that they would like to visit Zimbabwe in 2010, when World Cup soccer comes to South Africa and have asked to be put in touch with local tourism contacts," said Mupeni.

"The letters received recently have all been positive. They have confirmed the signal quality is good.

"Some have requested programming details and made suggestions for programmes the writers would like to hear, particularly in relation to tourism, Zimbabwean culture and the main activities that take place in Zimbabwe."

Mupeni said letters had also been received from people in Binga and Mutoko, making suggestions on some of the music they would like to hear on the station during the day.

Voice of Zimbabwe began broadcasting to the world from Gweru on May 25 2007.

It is Zimbabwe's first international broadcast station and currently broadcasts news and news analysis programmes from 6pm to 9pm. From June 30, it will be broadcasting a repeat of these programmes from 6am to 9am.

During the rest of the day and evening the station broadcasts local music, which has turned out to be a boon for Zimbabweans not only in Binga and Mutoko but anywhere else, if they have a radio that receives shortwave transmissions.

"Our news-based discussion programmes are popular among our listeners, judging by the feedback we have been receiving. Particularly popular is a programme called "Let's Talk About It". We would like to offer our listeners more such programmes," Mupeni said.

The station targets a world audience to provide those living outside the country with factual information and informed discussions to counter some of the propaganda that they are subjected to by major English language foreign broadcasters.

Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation acting chief executive Happison Muchechetere, who spearheaded the launch of the station, said: "The news analysis offered on Voice of Zimbabwe, although aimed at an international audience, may interest local people as well.

"Voice of Zimbabwe gives Zimbabweans living abroad and anyone abroad with an interest in Zimbabwe the opportunity to hear what is really happening in Zimbabwe and to listen to news analyses from a Zimbabwean perspective.

"There is so much distortion of news on Zimbabwe, misinformation and downright propaganda that it is easy not only for foreigners but Zimbabweans living abroad as well to develop a completely unreal perception of what really is happening in Zimbabwe."

Anti-Zim western media hysterical

Deputy News Editor

AS Zimbabweans exercised their sovereign right to vote, the anti-Zimbabwe Western media heightened its frenzy.

Threats and condemnations were issued. First with the threats was MDC leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai who gave a 24-hour ultimatum that he would not agree to talks if the run-off went ahead. The run off went ahead. And yesterday he was still pressing for talks.

Ironically, while still holed up in the Dutch embassy on claims that his life is under threat, Mr Tsvangirai twice managed to "sneak" out of his hideout to his Strathaven home and hold Press conferences and also left the embassy several times to hold other meetings.

Even former South African president, Mr Nelson Mandela, had to be dragged from his retirement to London just to say something in condemnation of Zimbabwe.

The "little man" (to borrow from President Robert's description of the man), again from South Africa Archbishop Desmond Tutu weighed in with his call for an international peace-keeping force to prevent bloodshed.

Speaking to Australian television, Archbishop Tutu said the force would comprise Africans with non-Africans providing logistical support.

Ironically the "little man" never called for an international peace keeping force when South Africa was plunged into bloodshed by xenophobia in May.

When it became apparent that the run-off election was going ahead, the despair became apparent. The threats were then extended to western businesses in Zimbabwe.

They too, would not budge. Barclays maintained that they would continue doing business here. Anglo-American who are heavily investing in platinum mining in Shurugwi also stood their ground.

Every little stone has been used to build the western case. Then it became the German Foreign Affairs Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier's turn when he spoke on behalf of the G8 foreign affairs ministers.

He said further sanctions against Zimbabwe would be discussed through the United Nations Security Council next week.

And all along the rich western nations have denied that they had imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe that are causing untold suffering among the common people.

The German statement further linked with the US announcement that further sanctions were being mooted.

"This was linked with an announcement by the United States, who are currently presiding over the Security Council, that starting next week, this coming Monday, further sanctions will be discussed there," Steinmeier told reporters in Kyoto Japan.

As the western media's frustration deepened after South African President Thabo Mbeki failed to condemn President Mugabe, archival documents were quickly dusted and resurrected.

A discussion document purportedly penned by President Mbeki in 2001 was leaked to the Mail and Guardian to fit in snugly with the agenda of condemnation.

In it, President Mbeki is said to have criticised President Mugabe for the land reforms and that he could not afford quarrels with white businesses.

The Africa Union foreign affairs ministers in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt preparing for the heads of states have not been spared from whipping up emotions against the sovereign state of Zimbabwe.

Fortunately level heads exist in the AU and the African Union Commission chairman Mr Jean Ping blocked any discussion of Zimbabwe until the heads of states meet tomorrow.

The western media even claimed there was violence on the election date with people being forced to vote.

As Housing Bill Evolves, Crisis Grows Deeper

June 29, 2008

As Housing Bill Evolves, Crisis Grows Deeper

New York Times

When Congress started fashioning a sweeping rescue package for struggling homeowners earlier this year, 2.6 million loans were in trouble. But the problem has grown considerably in just six months and is continuing to worsen.

More than three million borrowers are in distress, and analysts are forecasting a couple of million more will fall behind on their payments in the coming year as home prices fall further and the economy weakens.

Those stark numbers not only illustrate the challenges for the lawmakers trying to provide some relief to their constituents but also hint at what the next administration will be facing after the election. While the proposed program would help some homeowners, analysts say it would touch only a small fraction of those in trouble — the Congressional Budget Office estimates it would be used by 400,000 borrowers — and would do little to bolster the housing market.

“It’s not enough, even in the best of circumstances,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s The number of people who will be helped “is going to be overwhelmed by the three million that are headed toward default.”

Last week, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to advance the bill, and the House passed a version last month. Because of procedural delays in ironing out differences between the two houses, the Senate is not expected to pass the bill until after the Fourth of July recess.

The bill would let lenders and borrowers refinance troubled mortgages into more affordable 30-year fixed-rate loans that are backed by the government. Democratic leaders say Congress could send something to the president next month.

The White House, which initially threatened to veto the measure, has indicated that it is open to supporting the bill if certain provisions are removed.

“The Congress needs to come together and pass responsible housing legislation to help more Americans keep their homes,” President Bush said on Thursday.

Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts and a central force behind the legislation, said on Friday that recent reports about falling home prices have rallied support for the plan. But he acknowledged that the plan may not do enough to help homeowners or the housing market. Mr. Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said that even after a bill like this, “you may need more.”

Other proposals that have been floated in Washington include expanding the current plan to make it mandatory instead of voluntary for certain home loans; having the government buy loans outright from lenders; and providing some way and some incentives to let homeowners become renters in their own homes.

But not everyone supports government interventions. Some Republicans, like Senators Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Jim Bunning of Kentucky, say the proposal would use government subsidies to bail out reckless lenders and borrowers. They suggest that the housing market will correct itself more quickly if Congress does not intervene.

The biggest impediment to helping homeowners is the weak economy. In addition to falling home prices and risky loans, homeowners are now confronting a tough job market. The unemployment rate has risen to 5.5 percent, up from 4.9 percent in January.

Mortgage rates have also been climbing. An estimated nine million homeowners owe more than their homes are worth and could find themselves with few options if they lose their jobs or if their mortgage bills rise substantially.

To take part in the proposed program, lenders would have to lower each debt obligation to 85 percent of the home’s current value. Borrowers would stay in their homes but would have to pay a 1.5 percent annual insurance premium. If homes’ values grow and borrowers sell or refinance, they would have to share the gain with the government.

The program would be managed by the Federal Housing Administration and paid for by the insurance premium, as well as a 3 percent fee paid by lenders and a tax on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored buyers of mortgages. (The refinance proposal is part of a broader housing bill that would also overhaul laws relating to the two companies and the F.H.A.)

To qualify, borrowers would have to be in enough trouble that they could not afford their current mortgage payments but financially strong enough to make payments on their new loans.

“No matter how you fiddle with terms of their present situation, it’s not going to save the day” for many borrowers, said Bert Ely, a housing finance consultant based in Washington. “They are not in a good financial situation because they have lost their jobs and they are overburdened with credit cards and home equity loans.”

The effectiveness of the bill will depend to some extent on how it is handled by the F.H.A., an agency created during the Great Depression to insure home loans. It will have several challenges: persuading the lenders who made second mortgages and home equity loans to cooperate; screening loans to make sure borrowers have a good shot at keeping their homes after refinancing; and weeding out those trying to take advantage of the system.

Second mortgages and home equity loans were popular during the housing boom and often allowed Americans to buy a home with little or no money down or let them take out cash against their homes as prices rose. Now, home values have fallen so much that there is little or nothing left to pay off these loans when homes are sold or repossessed. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that about 40 percent of riskier mortgages made in recent years are coupled with such secondary loans.

Under the Congressional plan, these loans would have to be eliminated before homes could be refinanced. People who negotiate loan modifications say holders of second loans have been reluctant to take losses, and lenders with first loans are often unwilling to give them enough money to secure their cooperation. Under the Senate version of the plan, the F.H.A. would have some leeway in negotiating with borrowers who have second loans.

Another challenge for the F.H.A. would be selecting borrowers who have the best chance of paying off new loans. The agency would have to make sure lenders are not unloading only their worst loans, and lenders and the F.H.A. would have to guard against borrowers who can pay their current loans but would like a cheaper, government-backed loan.

Even if the agency insures hundreds of thousands of new mortgages, analysts do not expect the tide of foreclosures to ebb until the economy improves markedly. Mr. Zandi and others forecast that two million to three million mortgages will default — beyond the three million in trouble now — and economists at Lehman Brothers say home prices nationally may drop 15 percent by the end of 2009. That may force policy makers to consider further interventions.

“In this rush to legislate and with the lack of discussion of a lot of issues, people will look at this bill in the winter and say we shouldn’t have done this, we shouldn’t have done that,” said Mr. Ely, who closely followed the savings and loan debacle. “The politics are going to be so different come next year. There will be another administration, and who knows what the makeup of the House and Senate will be.”

There is a precedent for such government endeavors, but not since the New Deal. In the 1930s, the government created the Home Owners Loan Corporation to buy mortgages and modify them. In three years, it bought a fifth of the country’s home loans, said Alex J. Pollock, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

“We won’t need to do anything of that magnitude here,” he said.

An official for the Mortgage Bankers Association, a trade group in Washington, acknowledged that the proposal may not help the majority of troubled borrowers, but said it would be a good start and would help restore confidence in the financial markets and the economy.

“There is no silver bullet,” said the official, Steve O’Connor, a senior vice president of the association. “There is no single solution to the housing crisis. It will take multiple tools to turn the housing market around, and it’s going to take time.”

David M. Herszenhorn contributed reporting.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Zimbabwe Elections Bulletin: Run-off Ends Peacefully

Run-off ends peacefully

Herald Reporters/Ziana

THE presidential run-off poll contested by President Robert Mugabe of Zanu-PF and Morgan Tsvangirai of MDC-T closed peacefully yesterday evening with massive voter turnout recorded in most parts of the country.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission started counting the votes when polling closed and said results would be released as they come.

"We will announce the results as they come at constituency level and we hope to start tomorrow (today)," ZEC deputy chief elections officer (operations) Mr Utloile Silaigwana said.

Police confirmed that peace and tranquillity prevailed throughout the country with chief spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena urging the electorate to remain calm.

"We did not get any negative reports and the situation was calm," Asst Comm Bvudzijena said.

He, however, urged the voters to return home after casting their ballots and wait for the announcement of the results by ZEC.

In Harare South constituency, hundreds of voters had by 5am queued at various polling stations, with the biggest number at Ushewokunze Housing Co-operative where more than 550 people were waiting to cast their votes around mid-day.

Some of the voters who had been queuing for long hours said ZEC should have put more polling stations at Ushewokunze to speed up the process.

At Gazaland Technology Centre, Shirichena Primary School, Western Triangle Bus Terminus and Canaan Bus Terminus in Highfield, long queues had formed as early as 7am.

The situation was the same at Zuva Rabuda Primary School in Glen Norah and in Mbare’s Number Five and Seven grounds, where a heavy presence of police officers was evident.

Voting started peacefully but on a slow note in Kambuzuma, Warren Park, Kuwadzana and Norton with scores of people trickling in throughout the day.

At Kuwadzana Community Centre, a queue of about 30 metres had formed by mid-afternoon while in Norton a large number of people voted in the morning.

The presiding officer at Nyamunda polling station in Katanga said they were busy in the morning as a large number of people turned up to vote but the number decreased as the day progressed.

In Kuwadzana, Warren Park and Kambuzuma, few voters trickled in to cast their ballots by the close of polling station at 7pm.

Voters in Goromonzi North, South and West had as early as 7am formed long queues which could still be seen at mid-day.

The biggest turnout was at Chinamhora Hall in Goromonzi West where about 400 voters had cast their ballots by noon.

A small number was turned away at Arcturus, Goromonzi and Ruwa as well as at Groombridge and Hellenic primary schools in Harare East for lack of proper documentation or because they were aliens.

Some of those turned away had brought drivers’ licences or photocopies of national identity cards that were not recognised in the presidential run-off.

Others were turned away after it emerged they had already cast their votes through postal ballot or did not appear on the voters’ roll.

In Mt Pleasant and Harare East, voters had queued as early as 6.30am.

In Seke and Chitungwiza, most polling stations had received more than 100 voters by 10.00am in a peaceful atmosphere.

A ZEC official at St Eden’s Primary School polling station in Chitungwiza described the process as slow in comparison to the March 29 harmonised election where people had queued as early as 2am.

By end of day, more than 470 people had cast their votes at Chigunguru makeshift polling station in Zengeza West compared to about 3 000 in the March poll.

In Wedza, where turnout was low, groups of villagers were seen at polling stations waiting patiently to cast their votes as the process progressed smoothly.

However, some villagers who had travelled all the way from Harare to cast their votes failed to do so when their names were not found on the voters’ roll.

The voter turnout in Bindura was described by presiding officers as "just slightly lower than that recorded in the March harmonised elections" while others said there was no difference.

Mr Frank Nyama, an election officer at Chipadze Primary School polling station, said the numbers were almost the same as those recorded in March.

He said a total of 210 people had cast their votes by 10am.

At another polling station in the town centre, 370 people had cast their vote by 4.30pm while at other stations the figures varied between 75 and 120.

"Voting has been moving on well," said Mr Grasian Zviazia, a polling officer at Chipindura High School.

Vice President Joice Mujuru cast her vote at Madzivanzira Open Space polling station in Dotito, Mt Darwin, around 1.30pm.

Cde Mujuru said the presidential run-off was very vital in the history of Zimbabwe because it showed the nation’s commitment to defending the land.

She encouraged Zimbabweans to remain steadfast and support President Mugabe who had remained steadfast in preserving the country’s independence and sovereignty.

One ailing voter had to be ferried in a wheelbarrow to Chihoko polling station while at Kandeya Business Centre and Chihoko polling stations 109 and 172 people had cast their votes by 9.30am.

More than 200 people braved the cold weather in Marondera to cast their ballots at Dombotombo Hall polling station where they had queued as early 6am.

Mr Jorum Tapfuma, the presiding officer at the polling station, said they had started late because they were processing postal ballots.

The processing, Mr Tapfuma said, involved crossing out from the voters’ roll people who had voted by postal ballot.

But voting at Rugare Street Market polling station and Ruware Primary School, where about 50 people had cast their ballots within an hour of the opening of the polling station, commenced as scheduled at 7am.

Ms Eunice Ndoro, a presiding officer at Mbuya Nehanda Hall, said voting proceeded without any hiccups.

A team of Sadc observers kept a presence in Marondera Central constituency that had 30 polling stations.

A representative of the team said they had observed proceedings at 10 polling stations between 7am and 8am and had witnessed no incidents of violence.

By noon, officials said 700 people had cast their votes at three polling stations while 176 had been turned away because they did not have the required documents.

A presiding officer at Rimuka Light Industrial polling station, Mr Isaac Denhere, said that by 11.05am, 226 people had cast their votes.

At Rimuka Hall in ward 7, presiding officer Mr Emmanuel Kwenda said 217 people had voted by 11.15am.

A slightly higher figure of 245 people had cast their ballots before noon at Lady Tait Primary School in ward 12.

No incidents of violence were reported in and around Kadoma where police had been deployed in large numbers.

There was a slow start in Chegutu where a presiding officer at Mutowa polling station said 64 people had cast their votes by 9.30am.

The polling officer, however, said high turnout was expected in the afternoon.

Eight people whose names were not on the voters’ roll were turned away at Mutowa polling station.

Ms Joyce Mhondiwa, the presiding officer at another polling station in Chegutu, said no one had been turned away but she declined to say how many people had voted by mid-morning at the centre.

Three-hundred people had voted in Mhangura at Doma Primary School by 2pm while 70 had been turned away.

About 140 people had turned up to vote at Muchiedza Primary School in Mande by 10am while 34 people had been assisted to vote.

At close of business, more than 500 people had voted at Charles Clark Primary School in Magunje.

Presiding officer Mr Julius Homera said 100 people were turned away.

In Ngezi, more than 400 people had voted by 3.30pm while 90 had been turned away for lack of required identity documents or their names were not on the voters’ roll.

Rusape witnessed a smooth start with the presiding officer at Kature Business Centre, Mr Sitshengiso Manyenya, saying 312 of 1 692 registered voters having cast their ballots by mid-day.

Polling stations at Vhengere and St Luke’s primary schools recorded a high voter turnout in the morning with a handful coming in the afternoon.

Mr Charles Mazambani, who presided at St Luke’s, said 376 people out of 2 709 registered voters in the constituency had visited the polling station by 2 pm.

Most polling centres in Masvingo Rural had long queues as early as 6am while in urban areas the turnout was low as seen at Mucheke High School and Yeukai Crèche in the sprawling Mucheke suburb.

A record turnout was at Sikato Primary School in Nemanwa just outside Masvingo town and another bumper crowd was at Chirichoga Secondary School in Masvingo Central.

At Chirichoga Secondary School, people complained of waiting for too long in queues because of the slow voting process as a result of the high turnout.

That was the same scenario at Vuranda Business Centre in Madamombe communal lands in Chivi where scores of people waited for long hours before having their turn to vote.

Another huge turnout was at Bvute Primary School where Chivi-Mwenezi Senator-elect and former Masvingo Governor Cde Josaya Hungwe cast his vote.

Cde Hungwe — buoyed by the huge crowd — declared that the high turnout in the run-off was a victory for the people of Zimbabwe.

"This is a clear victory for Zanu-PF and the people of Zimbabwe. The people have spoken and their will should be respected," said Cde Hungwe soon after casting his vote.

In Gutu, Bikita and Zaka, the voting process was smooth and thousands of people turned up to cast their ballots in a peaceful atmosphere.

Acting officer commanding police in Masvingo Assistant Commissioner Mekia Tanyanyiwa said there had not been any incidents of violence.

The police were, however, on high alert in case the situation went changed.

Beitbridge town polling stations opened with small queues forming outside while rural Beitbridge recorded a relatively high turnout.

Rural areas visited had by noon seen an average of 400 voters with a number of people turned away because their names did not appear on the voters’ roll while some had gone to wrong wards.

In Malala, Tongwe, Chicago, Tshapfuche, Makhakhavhule, Shabwe, Lutumba and Dumba, people came in small groups of about six and by 10am 168 people had voted at Beitbridge Mission Primary School.

Some election officers said they expected the numbers to peak by the end of the day.

Traffic was also low at the border post as very few traveLlers were coming into the country.

The polling stations at Nkayi Centre and other surrounding areas opened at 7am with more than 700 people casting their ballot by 9am.

Presiding officer Mrs Grace Ngwenya said 15 people had been turned away for various reasons, including not having proper identification documents and having come to a wrong ward.

Long queues were the order of the day at Nkayi with most of the voters saying they could not wait to exercise their votes to choose a president of their choice.

In Kwekwe, the biggest turnout was at Chana Primary School polling station in Mbizo ward 16 where about 500 people had cast their ballots by 2pm while in Amaveni ward 8, 600 voters had been processed by 3pm.

Although the turnout in Gweru, Shurugwi and Lower Gweru was low, Tongogara Growth Point in Shurugwi recorded a higher turnout with voters in Mkoba trickling in throughout the day while the polling station at the District Administrator’s office in the city centre was deserted.

Mberengwa, Zvishavane and Insiza district in neighbouring Matabeleland South Province saw a huge number of people casting their votes.

At Nyaradzayi Hall in Maglas Township, Zvishavane, there was 50-metre-long queue while at Oasis Business Centre another long, winding queue of voters had formed as early as 6am.

High figures were also recorded at Gwatemba, Amazon and Wanezi polling stations in Insiza and at Gwarenyama, Msume, Marirazhombe and Chizungu in Mberengwa. — Herald Reporters/Ziana.

AU resists attempts to lambast Zim over polls

Herald Reporter/AFP.

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt. The African Union yesterday resisted attempts by some members to lambast Zimbabwe saying it would wait for the outcome of the presidential run-off and was confident a solution will be found to the Zimbabwean issue.

Reports from Egypt said AU foreign ministers bickered behind closed doors yesterday over how to handle Zimbabwe but AU commission chairman Jean Ping urged the ministers to leave the issue to heads of state and governments who begin meeting on Monday.

"On the Zimbabwe problem, I am convinced a credible solution will be found. Give us the time to talk with our heads of state, with the Sadc," the Southern African Development Community, Ping told a news conference.

"I firmly believe there is a way out and that our credibility will be maintained," he added.

On Thursday President Mugabe warned that no country including those in the AU and Sadc could dictate to Zimbabwe how to hold its elections.

Winding up his campaign, Cde Mugabe said he would challenge his AU colleagues at the summit about their elections because they could not accuse Zimbabwe of poorly running its elections.

He said some African countries have had worse elections marred by worse levels of violence than those in Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwean delegation asked to be able to address the meeting without any subsequent debate, but other AU members insisted they wanted a full discussion.

"We are waiting for the summit for the heads of state to make important declarations on Zimbabwe," Ping told the opening session in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in his only direct reference to Zimbabwe.

The session was preceded by a "breakfast meeting among member states of the Southern African Development Community under Angolan chairmanship." Angola chairs the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security.

After the opening session, Ping held a 15-minute separate meeting with the Zimbabwean delegation.

During a closed-door session Zimbabwean Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi then asked to be allowed to make a statement without being followed by any debate, drawing strong opposition from other members including Liberia, Senegal and Sierra Leone, a delegate said.

"After a discussion lasting more than an hour and a half, these governments insisted that they wanted to hold a debate and to hear from Sadc," the delegate said. — Herald Reporter/AFP.

Tsvangirai confirms US, UK’s regime change agenda

Herald Reporter

MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday confirmed some African leaders were working with his party, Britain and the United States to effect illegal regime change in Zimbabwe.

He made the confirmation hardly a day after President Mugabe warned some African countries not to be used by Britain and its Western allies in the regime change agenda in Zimbabwe.

President Mugabe said some African countries, including those in Sadc were issuing reckless statements to discredit yesterday’s presidential election run-off saying other countries’ elections were held in worse conditions than in Zimbabwe.

"I am heartened by the fact that some African leaders are now working with the MDC towards finding a lasting solution to the Zimbabwe crisis," Tsvangirai told journalists, observers and diplomats after emerging from his hideout at the Dutch embassy for the second time in two days.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been putting pressure on some African leaders, notably Zambian president Levy Mwanawasa, to put their foot down on Zimbabwe.

Mwanawasa recently admitted to succumbing to such pressure when he announced a Sadc summit through the western media to discuss Zimbabwe’s elections, which had still not been concluded.

The presidential election run-off went ahead yesterday after the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission ruled that Tsvangirai’s purported withdrawal had among other reasons, been filed out of time.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Uncertain Political Future for Bolivia in Wake of Autonomy Votes

Uncertain political future for Bolivia in wake of autonomy votes

By Franz Chávez

Jun. 23- The political future in Bolivia is unpredictable following the autonomy referendums in the provinces of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija, whose governors interpret the triumph of the pro-autonomy position as a vote of confidence and a victory over President Evo Morales.

The June 22 vote in the southern province of Tarija was virtually a repeat of the referendums held earlier this year in the other three provinces, with 80 percent of voters coming out in favor of an autonomy statute adopted by the provincial government, according to the exit polls.

But as in the three earlier referendums, held on May 4 in Santa Cruz in the east and Jun. 1 in Beni and Pando in the north, the abstention rate stood at between 30 and 40 percent.

There were only a few incidents in rural towns, where supporters of Morales set fire to ballot boxes and kept people from voting.

The challenge to the government of Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president, mounted by the country's wealthier northern, eastern and southeastern provinces, which are rich in natural gas and other resources, was further strengthened by the approval of the autonomy statute in Tarija.

The autonomy referendums, which run counter to the Bolivian constitution, have been criticized as an attempt at separatism.

The four right-wing governors -- known as prefects in Bolivia -- are seeking decentralization and greater control over the revenues from the natural gas and other resources in their provinces by means of the creation of provincial assemblies and local tax collection mechanisms.

Bolivia's natural gas reserves, the second-largest in South America after Venezuela's, bring in 1.2 billion dollars a year in taxes and royalties, and are the country's main source of foreign exchange.

The country's biggest oil and gas deposits are in Tarija and Santa Cruz.

The main support base of the leftist Morales and his Movement to Socialism (MAS) are the country's indigenous majority, based in Bolivia's impoverished western highlands.

Another factor of uncertainty is the Aug. 10 recall referendum for the president, vice president, and eight of the country's nine governors that was suggested by the right-wing PODEMOS movement and approved by the legislature. (The governor of Chuquisaca is up for election on Jun. 29, because the MAS governor resigned).

The Morales administration and the right-wing governors have expressed a willingness to engage in talks on the two big issues in dispute: the four autonomy statutes approved in provincial referendums, and the new constitution to be ratified in a national referendum, the draft of which was approved in December by the MAS majority in the constituent assembly in a vote that was boycotted by the opposition.

But on June 22, Deputy Minister of Justice Wilfredo Chávez reiterated that the autonomy votes were illegal, and the opposition has begun to talk about avoiding the recall referendum and beginning to build the autonomy process, based on the strong support expressed in the provincial referendums.

The distancing of the two sides from the possibility of dialog comes at a critical moment for the government, which is facing difficulties in guaranteeing domestic fuel supplies and preventing the contraband of fuel to neighboring countries, where prices are much higher.

Compounding these problems are the rise in food prices and pressure from public transport associations to raise bus ticket prices.

Morales is also facing a strike and roadblocks on routes leading to the province of Potosí, organized by small-scale miners who refuse to pay taxes on their production, despite the current boom in the price of tin.

In spite of the adverse political climate faced by the Morales administration, the popular movements that support the government continue to stand strong behind their demands for empowerment of the country's indigenous people, who have long suffered discrimination, and the profound democratic and cultural changes promised by the indigenous president.

On Saturday, Morales launched his campaign in search of ratification of support for his government's achievements, while Vice President Álvaro García Linera came out to defend the administration from accusations of poor economic performance.

García Linera noted, for example, that the current annualized inflation rate of 12 percent is no higher than the rates seen during the right-wing administrations that governed Bolivia from 1986 to 1997.

Morales is confident that he will achieve the 53.7 percent of the votes that he took in December 2005, when he was elected president. Morales, the vice president and the governors will have to take as many or more votes as they won when they were elected, in order to stay in office.

But several of the six opposition governors are worried that they will fail to gain the proportion of votes that they took in December 2005, in the first popular elections for provincial governors (until then, the prefects were presidential appointees).

Governors Rubén Costas of Santa Cruz and Ernesto Suárez of Beni are confident that they will be ratified in their posts in the recall referendum, but Tarija governor Mario Cossío is facing accusations of embezzlement and heavy opposition in rural areas, which endanger his hold on power.

In Pando, right-wing governor Leopoldo Fernández has failed to win support in rural areas and poor neighborhoods on the outskirts of the provincial capital, Cobija.

Also worried is retired captain Manfred Reyes Villa, who heads the government of the central province of Cochabamba, where coca growers and other followers of Morales are opposed to his support for provincial autonomy.

In the province of La Paz, a MAS stronghold, opposition governor José Luis Paredes stands to lose the recall referendum, according to analysts.

Source: Inter Press Service

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Zimbabwe Elections Bulletin: ZANU-PF Gears For Victory; Massive Voter Turnout Expected; Knighthood Withdrawal a 'Blessing'; Land Has Been Core Issue

Zanu-PF gears for victory

By Sydney Kawadza

NO country in the world, including those in the African Union and Sadc, can dictate how Zimbabwe should conduct its elections, President Mugabe has said.

He said irresponsible and reckless statements by some Sadc leaders could lead to the breaking up of the regional grouping.

Addressing a rally at Chitungwiza Town Centre yesterday, President Mugabe said the Zimbabwean situation was not as bad as that which obtained in the other countries during elections.

"Some African countries have done worse things and when I go to the AU meeting next week (in Egypt), I am going to challenge some leaders to point out when we have had worse elections.

"I would like some African leaders who are making these statements to point at me and we would see if those fingers would be cleaner than mine," he said.

Cde Mugabe said while any country was free to discuss with Zimbabwe possible solutions to the country’s challenges, this has to be done with respect.

"We remain open to discussions, and proposals that come in good spirit would be listened to (but) not because these have been dictated to us from outside.

"There are countries that have had elections in worse conditions in Africa and we have never interfered."

Cde Mugabe said Zimbabwe would not be forced to violate its laws and cancel the presidential run-off by some African countries.

"For any country to say stop the elections, to tell us to violate our laws would not only be unfair, but completely lawless to us. We reject such moves, it does not matter where these are coming from but such suggestions are completely unacceptable," he said.

"We hold our elections within the precincts of our laws. Yes, advice can be given but not to be dictated to us. No one should be deluded into believing that they are so and so and what they say would be listened to."

He said while some Sadc countries could also help in solving the challenges facing the country, other leaders were saying negative things after being pressurised by the British to condemn Zimbabwe.

"We are surprised by what some Sadc leaders are saying. Some are even calling for (South African) President (Thabo) Mbeki to stop current mediation efforts while others want him to be replaced.

"These reckless statements being made by some Sadc leaders could lead to the breaking up of Sadc. When we formed the regional bloc, it was agreed that members of the bloc would quietly intervene in areas that face problems and we have done that in some countries although we had to use military intervention in the DRC.

"There are, however, some countries wanting to be better Sadc members from others and Zimbabwe would never accept it."

Sadc chairman and Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa in March admitted being pressured by Washington and London to call a summit to discuss Zimbabwe’s elections even before the results of the elections had been announced.

On Wednesday, Tanzania and Swaziland succumbed to Western pressure to call an emergency meeting of the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security which resolved to call on Zimbabwe to cancel the run-off.

However, Angola, which chairs the organ, and South Africa, the mediator in the Zimbabwe issue, snubbed the summit.

Analysts said the summit ended up being a bilateral meeting between Tanzania and Swaziland and its resolution would have no effect on Sadc, let alone Zimbabwe.

President Mugabe said despite the isolated cases of politically motivated violence, Zimbabwe still remained a peaceful country.

"We are a peaceful country. Although there have been incidents of violence, the country has remained quiet and calm.

"The incidents of violence by the MDC and in some cases by Zanu-PF supporters, in retribution after having their houses burnt, does not make the situation insecure in terms of law and order.

"I have been everywhere around the country, there is peace and some statistics telling blatant lies are naturally offending. I would rather have the world leave us alone. They can impose sanctions on us, but we have the capacity to work for ourselves because we have the land, resources and the capacity to work for the country.

"There are, however, some African countries that are content with budgets that have been made by others, they have weaknesses that leave them subjecting to their donors."

Cde Mugabe called on Britain to stop meddling in Zimbabwean affairs and stop lying to the world about the bilateral dispute between it and Harare.

"The British should stop their devious, deceitful, insidious and deceptive activities on Zimbabwe. They should keep quiet about us, they should stop telling lies about our bilateral dispute which is over the land issue.

"The land issue has been the case even during the Lancaster Conference where they (British) promised to pay compensation for the land we would take from their sons.

"While we have always been prepared to talk about the issue, they have refused during the (Tony) Blair era and even now with the nonsensical (Gordon) Brown who is much more idiotic. We, however, feel pity for (George) Bush for supporting the British."

He said the British should openly admit that they were wrong on the land issue.

"They should come out and say we did wrong on the land issue. We will never go back on the land issue. Never, never, never. Win or lose, we will not go back on the land issue and that is where we differ with our colleagues in the MDC who think they would give the land back to the whites and that would be calling for war."

President Mugabe said a Zanu-PF victory would not mean the death of opposition politics in the country.

"A Zanu-PF win does not mean we would push opposition parties into oblivion. The MDC has won a considerable number of seats in Parliament, there is a role they would play in Parliament.

"We are not going to make a Kenya in Zimbabwe. Kenya is Kenya, Zimbabwe is Zimbabwe and nothing forbids us from doing what we want in our country.

"Victory by us does not mean the death of MDC or any other party that wants to participate in our electoral process," he said.

He reiterated Zanu-PF’s willingness to hold talks with both MDC factions in the interest of the nation.

"We want our brothers in the MDC to come to us to discuss our problems, but the MDC should be totally local, they should respect our sovereignty and tell us to work together as Zimbabweans."

He said some MDC-T leaders were committing treason by some of their utterances.

"It is treason to call for war in Zimbabwe. They should do away with such utterances and stop writing irresponsible documents. If they mean well, then we are open to discussion.

"We are not going to be arrogant, we would rather be magnanimous and they are free to talk to us as fellow Zimbabweans."

President Mugabe said the country was holding the presidential run-off today because there was no winner on March 29 during the first round held jointly with parliamentary and council polls.

"We held our elections in March and there was no winner. Although the MDC led in those elections, it did not get the required percentage poll of above 50 percent and in accordance to the laws of the country, the two leading candidates would go for a run-off.

"We decided as Zimbabwe to re-organise the second phase of the election, a presidential run-off. The MDC did not want the run-off. Sure, they (MDC-T) led in the March election, but our electoral laws have it that we hold the run-off."

President Mugabe called for peace during the run-off.

"There has been violence in the country after the March 29 elections and that violence from all parties must come to an end, no retribution and we must look to the future."

He said the elections were in the people’s hands, expressing hope that there would be jubilation for Zanu-PF after the election.

Massive voter turnout expected

Herald Reporters

A MASSIVE voter turnout is expected today for the presidential run-off that pits Zanu-PF’s President Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai of the opposition MDC-T party that has since confirmed its participation in the House of Assembly by-elections to be held today.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the Zimbabwe Republic Police have both said they are prepared for the polls while President Mugabe has promulgated regulations on how the illiterate and physically incapacitated can be assisted in casting their votes today during the presidential run-off and the three House of Assembly by-elections.

The by-elections, being held in Gwanda South, Pelandaba-Mpopoma and Redcliff, were postponed after the death of MDC candidates who had been duly nominated before the March 29 harmonised elections.

In an interview yesterday, ZEC deputy chief elections officer (operations) Mr Utloile Silaigwana confirmed that ZEC had finalised preparations for the elections.

"We have distributed all the polling material and deployed all our electoral officers. The citizens of this country who are registered voters will have the opportunity to choose their President," he said.

ZEC, Mr Silaigwana said, had set up constituency command centres throughout the country while the national command centre was at the Harare International Conference Centre.

He said the commission had accredited a substantial number of local and foreign observers as well as journalists.

President Mugabe has promulgated regulations on how the illiterate and physically incapacitated can be assisted in casting their ballots during the presidential run-off and the three House of Assembly by-elections today.

Under the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Amendment of Electoral Act) (No 3) Regulations 2008 gazetted in an Extraordinary Government Gazette on Wednesday, a presiding officer, in the presence of two polling officers and a police officer on duty, shall assist the illiterate or physically incapacitated voters to vote according to their wishes.

If the wishes of the voter as to the manner in which the vote is to be marked on the ballot paper is not sufficiently clear to enable the vote to be marked, the presiding officer may cause questions to the voter as, in his or her opinion, are necessary to clarify the voter’s wishes.

The presiding officer shall, after ascertaining from the voter his or her wishes as to the manner in which he or she intends to mark the ballot paper, permit a person accompanying the voter in the presence of the polling and police officers to assist the voter to mark the ballot paper in accordance with the voter’s wishes and place the ballot paper in the ballot box.

The police have also said adequate security measures have been put in place and voters had nothing to fear.

The force’s elections committee commander, Senior Assistant Commissioner Faustino Mazango, issued a strong warning to some MDC-T elements that the police were prepared to deal with all those who might wish to disrupt the election after it emerged that they were distributing flyers in Harare, discouraging voters from participating.

Briefing journalists on the preparations for the run-off and by-elections yesterday at the Police General Headquarters in Harare, Senior Asst Comm Mazango assured the nation that the police had deployed enough officers for the polls.

"We urge eligible voters to exercise their democratic right and vote in an orderly and peaceful manner as adequate security arrangements have been put in place for their safety," he said.

Snr Asst Comm Mazango said it was evident that MDC-T was planning to disrupt the elections after the arrest of five suspected MDC-T youth activists in Gweru yesterday who revealed the opposition party’s plans to disrupt the elections.

"The suspects confessed that an MDC-T elected official had told them that their party’s leadership had realised that they had no support and that they should disrupt the elections by burning down polling stations so that voters would have no place to cast their votes in," he said.

MDC-T, he said, was using the youths to commit crimes in its bid to disrupt and discredit the elections.

Snr Asst Comm Mazango said the youths were instructed to flee to Botswana after committing the criminal acts where they would be trained in as yet an undisclosed exercise.

"It is evident that the opposition MDC-T has plans to disrupt the elections. These counter-productive criminal activities would be met head-on and with the full force of the law.

"When arrests of those who commit such criminal acts are made, no one should cry foul as the law will only be following its course. Youths are discouraged from being used in such activities," he said.

Snr Asst Comm Mazango said Britain and America were planning to use MDC-T and civic organisations such as Women of Zimbabwe Arise, Zimbabwe Election Support Network, the Zimbabwe Lawyers NGO Forum and others to stage violent demonstrations in order to disrupt the presidential election run-off.

Police also appealed to Zimbabweans to vote peacefully and return home and wait patiently for the announcement of the results by ZEC.

"Any premature announcement of these results by anyone outside the constitutionally mandated body is a criminal offence. I need not remind you of others we have already arrested in connection with premature claims of victory," he said.

Snr Asst Comm Mazango said police were on the lookout for any attempts of fraud that marred the March 29 elections.

"The March 29 2008 elections, though conducted in a peaceful and orderly manner, were marred by widespread fraudulent activities by some ZEC officials. During the verification processes we came across undisputed evidence of manipulation of figures," he said.

He said some of the fraudulent activities included switching of figures between candidates, inflating and deflating of figures of some candidates, prejudicing some candidates, people being allowed to vote twice, allowing unregistered persons to vote, denial of registered voters to cast their vote and falsification of figures.

"All these are criminal acts and to date over 108 officials have been arrested and some have already been convicted in the courts countrywide," he said.

Snr Asst Comm Mazango said these fraudulent activities brought about a distorted result, thereby circumventing the will of the people.

"The distortion was a strategy by these who want to get into office by hook and crook, making the poll free but not fair. This time around any tampering with the voting process will result in immediate arrest and detention," he said.

Defend Zim’s sovereignty: Nkomo

Herald Reporter

ZIMBABWEANS should go in their numbers to vote today as the right to vote and the sovereignty they currently enjoy came through the liberation struggle and cannot be subverted, Zanu-PF National Chairman Cde John Nkomo has said.

In a statement televised on Wednesday night, Cde Nkomo said no one could overturn the sovereignty of the Zimbabwean people by dictating how and when they should vote.

He said events of the past few days had exposed the intimate links between the opposition and Western political establishments.

"Our statehood and our nationhood are under severe threat. The question before each and every one of us is whether, advertently or inadvertently, we will go down in the annals of history as defenders of our motherland or as traitors who unabashedly volunteered for servitude.

"They have jointly agitated for international punitive measures against Zimbabwe with a view to dislodging the progressive Government of President Mugabe. The ferocity of the anti-Zimbabwe campaign underscores what is at stake — our independence and future as a nation. Evidently this onslaught is being directed from London and Washington," he said.

Cde Nkomo said Zanu-PF has continuously reaffirmed its credentials as the people’s party since independence.

It was imperative, Cde Nkomo said, that as the electorate cast its vote it be imbued with a sense of history and destiny as June 27, 2008 was a direct result of April 18, 1980.

Cde Nkomo said it was travesty of natural justice for those who colonised Zimbabwe and denied its people basic human rights for centuries to suddenly change into champions of democracy.

"It is also disheartening to realise that fellow Zimbabweans, especially those who shunned the liberation struggle, are eager today to serve the interests of our sworn enemies.

"The domestic vote we take for granted today was earned through the blood, sweat and tears of the gallant sons and daughters of Zimbabwe. Zanu-PF Presidential candidate Cde Mugabe is the embodiment of our arduous struggle for the independence and liberty. He is a man of the moment and future," Cde Nkomo said.

The land reform programme, he said, which democratised property relations in the agricultural sector has brought economic empowerment to the indigenous people and made them masters of their own destiny.

"It is no coincidence that the 100 percent Empowerment and Total Independence are twin thrust of our electoral campaign. These underline our unflinching commitment to social and economic justice.

"We realise that the essence of governance also entails the total and full empowerment of our citizens. The economic challenges that we face today can only be resolved with the full participation of our citizenry," Cde Nkomo said.

He said Cde Mugabe’s revolutionary zeal and patriotism had attracted attention from those who had unfettered access to resources and have mobilised opposition both domestically and externally to scuttle the Zanu-PF empowerment agenda.

"We are all aware of the untold brutality and pain inflicted by the Rhodesian forces at home and in our liberation camps located in our neighbouring countries.

"It never crossed our minds to abandon the struggle and our people to seek sanctuary at foreign mission. It was a fight we had to fight to finish," Cde Nkomo said.

He said Cde Mugabe had stood by his word and has never shortchanged his people for the sake of filthy lucre.

Cde Nkomo scoffed at Tsvangirai’s theatrics that had seen him dash in and out of a foreign mission saying they reflected on his character.

‘Knighthood withdrawal on President a blessing’

Herald Reporter

QUEEN Elizabeth’s decision to withdraw an honorary knighthood bestowed on President Mugabe in 1994 is actually a blessing in disguise as it removes one of the last vestiges of colonial titles on an outstanding African statesman and revolutionary, analysts said yesterday.

While the rabid western media ranted and raved about the event because of their warped value system, progressive Zimbabweans saw it as signifying the further decolonisation of Africa.

A social commentator said Zimbabwe was independent and has its own value systems that protect African humanism, integrity and empowerment.

"The decolonisation process was a rejection of British value systems and so as Zimbabweans we simply see this as the removal of one of the last vestiges of colonialism. No one has ever referred to our President as ‘Sir’ Robert Mugabe. He is known as ‘Comrade’ Robert Mugabe and that says it all," he said.

The analyst said the move should be seen as further proof of the British Empire’s brazen interference in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs, as if the country is still their colony.

Observers said it was shameful that the Queen still thinks the knighthood has more meaning to Zimbabweans than the 100 percent black empowerment programme that President Mugabe has embarked on.

The Deputy Minister of Information and Publicity, Cde Bright Matonga yesterday laughed off the development, saying the continued existence of the knighthood had given the British the mistaken impression that they still held some form of sway over the country.

"My President never used that knighthood. It meant nothing to him and it means nothing to us as Zimbabweans and this is why it was never talked about here.

"Zimbabwe is not a part of the British Empire and their titles and honoraria mean nothing to us unless they promote the values and virtues of our existence in the form on protection of our land rights and our right to exploit our resources.

"My President has nothing to benefit from being considered a subject of the British Queen. It is something we rejected and that is why Britain today is trying to meddle in our affairs. The same goes for the honorary degrees that various Western institutions gave him.

"Cde Mugabe is a very educated man with seven degrees of his own that he earned through his own sweat. You will not hear him talking about his honorary degrees and in fact, they can take them away along with the knighthood," Cde Matonga said.

The withdrawal of the knighthood comes at a time when Britain, America and their allies have upped pressure to divide Sadc by clandestinely engaging individual regional leaders to isolate Zimbabwe and effect regime change.

The Americans, which fully understand that the impasse between Harare and London is strictly from the failure by London to honour Lancaster House agreements over the land reform, has joined in the fight disguised as a democracy lecturer yet it is looking for soil to establish its military base for Africom in the region.

"The whole American story is that of trying to establish military base in Africa and President Mugabe is a threat because he would certainly reject such a move. The British story is a bilateral problem emanating from the historical colonial land issue.

"This knighthood is meaningless to land hungry black Zimbabweans. It should also assume the same meaningless form in the rest of Africa because Africans do not survive on knighthood but on their resources, such as land.

"Knighthood did not bring independence to Zimbabwe and to Africa. It was the war waged by comrades that brought independence to Zimbabwe and it is the land revolution that makes sense to President Mugabe’s supporters not knighthood.

"I am sure that given a choice between knighthood on one side and his country’s independence, sovereignty and 100 percent empowerment any reasonable Zimbabwean would never go for knighthood,’’ said a social commentator.

Social leader Bishop Trevor Manhanga, the chairman of the Heads of Christian Denominations in Zimbabwe, added to this saying the knighthood had no value whatsoever to President Mugabe and to Zimbabwe.

"It is totally of no significance. Of what value is a British knighthood to a Zimbabwean? I don’t think the majority of Zimbabweans even know or care what criteria is used to bestow these things," he laughed.

Interestingly, on the same day that Queen Elizabeth’s decision was made public, the British monarch was knighting Mr Salman Rushdie, an Indian-born writer who for 10 years was wanted in his homeland for blasphemy after authoring the novel, The Satanic Verses.

In 1989, the Supreme Leader of Islam Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini passed a death sentence on Mr Rushdie for desecrating the Moslem faith and the writer has since lived in the UK under the protection of British special agents.

Land has always been core issue

By Peter Mavunga

BRITAIN had the right to intervene in Rhodesia when, on November 11, 1965, Ian Smith defied the Crown and declared UDI. But it did not because the rebel was Ian Smith, a white man, and Harold Wilson, the then British prime minister, could not bring himself to fight against his kith and kin.

These were Dr Davis Gazi’s words on Wednesday night in a speech to an all-black audience in London where he was promoting his book, "Zimbabwe: Racism and the Land Question".

His words were relevant to those in the audience, some of whom had come from outside London to hear him speak. Britain and her allies are engaged in a flurry of activity to justify such intervention in Zimbabwe.

So Dr Gazi’s grasp of history and his willingness to share it was just the antidote to the daily diet of BBC propaganda his audience needed.

Indeed, a Jamaican young woman confided in me: "I am just fed up of the BBC. I have come to hear an African perspective of the story of Zimbabwe," she said before the meeting started.

Dr Gazi pointed to "a funny irony of history" that meant that the Conservative governments, rather than Labour, had done more for Africans than Labour.

He reminded his guests that it was Harold McMillan, a Tory prime minister well remembered in Africa for his "wind of change" speech, who had suggested buying land for Africans in Kenya.

This was a Conservative, said Dr Gazi, expressing disappointment in another paradox that the Democrats in America — who were supposed to be closer to black people than the Republicans — had on the whole been the slave owners and wanted slavery to continue as opposed to the Republican factory owners who preferred "these niggers" to work in their factories as free men.

He said the only time Britain had the right to intervene in Rhodesia was during UDI.

Today, no amount of posturing will justify Britain and her allies to intervene in the affairs of an independent country. Yet morals or ethics had never deterred Western countries from interfering in the affairs of other sovereign states.

In 1960, Patrice Lumumba, who had been elected by his own people, was removed from office by America, Belgium, Britain, France and others. Here is an example of the intervention by those who murdered Lumumba whereupon they went to defeat the notion of democracy in order to further their own ends.

And after they had murdered Lumumba, said Dr Gazi, they immersed his body in sulphuric acid to dissolve it. They were not going to tolerate seeing his grave turned into a shrine lest it might foster unity among the Africans.

Since this brutal intervention in the Congo by the West, more than five million people have died in the Congo. This is what intervention by the West means in reality. It is concerned with the violation of an African country’s sovereignty; it is about occupation; it is about murder and it is brutal.

In 1971, Milton Obote went to the Commonwealth conference in Singapore where he was going to object to the British selling arms to the South African navy. In doing this, the then president of Uganda was opposing the apartheid regime in South Africa. When he returned home, his country had been taken over by Idi Amin, who was supported by the British, the Americans and the Israelis.

Dr Gazi went on to speak about farms and farming in Zimbabwe. He inveighed against the idea often put forward by those who confuse land and one-man one-vote.

"Never did I hear my mother or father say we were fighting for one-man one-vote," he said. "They said we went to fight for our land, to get our land back."

He dismissed the notion often peddled by white supremacists that white farmers were responsible for more agricultural output in Zimbabwe. He also dismissed the idea that because of white farmers, Zimbabwe had been "the breadbasket" of Africa.

Dr Gazi, a scientist by training, said there was no evidence suggesting that white expertise was responsible for more agricultural output in Zimbabwe, particularly the production of staple food. What evidence there was, pointed to black people doing this.

Reflecting on life in Rhodesia where he grew up, Dr Gazi recalled that from primary school, black children were taught carpentry, agriculture and sometimes metalwork. There was not one, not one, he repeated for emphasis, school where white people went to learn agriculture. He himself started learning agriculture when he was 10.

He dismissed the idea that whites were responsible for feeding Africans as a myth. It was Africans who had the agricultural know-how, pointing out examples of Domboshawa, Chivero, Mlezu agricultural colleges and others where Africans learnt agriculture. And there were many able black farmers, said Dr Gazi.

He blamed the Government for the poor farming output which, he said, did not implement the right pricing policy. He thought the low price for staple food like maize was the only reason, apart from seasonal factors, why agricultural output went down.

"Agriculture was destroyed by the policy of cheap prices for maize and so on which meant that it was better for the farmer to go and buy cellular phones in South Africa and come back and sell them for profit than to farm," said Dr Gazi.

On whether President Mugabe had been in power "for too long", as is often said by those advocating change, Dr Gazi said this depended on the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

He pointed that President Mugabe had been in office since 1980 while Hosni Mubarak of Egypt had become president in 1981. While there was clamour for President Mugabe to be removed from office, no one was asking Mubarak to leave office.

He went on to say that no one was saying President Mugabe was still in office because he breached the Constitution of Zimbabwe. If that was the case, this would mean he had been in office for too long. But since he was in fact complying with the Constitution, Dr Gazi urged his audience to reflect on the reason why there was pressure on President Mugabe and not on Mubarak. He challenged his audience directly and asked them why, if they were concerned about starvation in Zimbabwe, they did not send a container load of food or medicines to the poor.

Dr Gazi was asked to comment on violence reported in the media. He said he had no view on this until he had the facts.

He said he would not excuse anybody who violated Africans. That included South Africa where people were beaten up simply because they were foreigners.

His view on this was that this was meant to frighten Zimbabweans in South Africa so that they could go back to Zimbabwe and vote or influence the outcome of the election. He was driven to this conclusion because of the timing of the violence. Why did it happen just as preparations for the run-off got underway?

As regards violence in Zimbabwe, he said he did not know who was committing the violence against who. He said we had to find out and urged his audience not to be misled by those who are quick to blame the Government. He referred anecdotally to a section in his own book in which he described how the MDC once claimed that one of its members had been murdered by Zanu-PF when, on closer examination, it turned out it was a member of Zanu-PF who had been murdered by the MDC. Reality and what is reported don’t always coincide, he said.

A South African woman in the audience asked Dr Gazi whether he would comment critically on her former president, Nelson Mandela, given what she saw as a man who was being used by white society?

Dr Gazi would not be drawn to do so, saying Mandela, who was apparently speaking about "failure of leadership in Zimbabwe" as Dr Gazi was delivering his own speech, was a black man. He said there was a danger of concentrating our criticism against our own people who have got it wrong when there were many white people to criticise for doing untold damage to our own people.

He went on to say he did not join those who criticised Morgan Tsvangirai for being "so stupid" for the simple reason that he (Tsvangirai) "is my brother" who, he went on, "did have the right not to rule Zimbabwe", he said to much laughter.

People here are confounded by Tsvangirai’s judgment following his decision to seek refuge in the Dutch embassy rather than one of the African missions. One man in the audience remarked, to the amusement of the audience, that he had to run past the Nigerian embassy to reach the Dutch embassy and our Nigerian brothers are very upset about this!

The most heated exchange came when Dr Gazi was challenged by a former member of Zipra who complained that he did not get the land that he went to fight for. He complained that the Government of Zimbabwe had been discriminating against those in Matabeleland.

That is when Dr Gazi came to life. He said this was not his experience and he said this with certainty "because I was there".

He explained in minute detail his own role in trying to persuade people in Matabeleland to accept land being offered to them by the Government. He rejected the idea that land was being given by Zanu-PF.

"I know because I took 60 forms myself from the Ministry in Bulawayo, trying to persuade people to take up land but only six were taken because people were wrongly advised to reject it on the grounds that ‘ngo kwe Zanu konoko’."

Dr Gazi was applauded for holding his own ground on this and for winning over his brothers who later agreed that a discussion about the rights and wrongs made by individual personalities like Robert Mugabe at this stage was, in fact, a distraction from the real issue facing us today.

The issue is that "we want our land and we want to keep it", said Dr Gazi.