Saturday, August 30, 2008

Zimbabwe News Update: MDC-T Makes Fresh Demands; Let's Produce More Says President Mugabe

MDC-T makes fresh demands

By Takunda Maodza
Zimbabwe Herald

MDC-T, which pressured South African President Thabo Mbeki to reconvene talks, has demanded that Cabinet be co-chaired by President Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, open fresh negotiations on all issues that had been discussed and agreed to and complained about Tuesday’s official opening of Parliament.

Zanu-PF has, however, made it clear that it would not engage in such useless discussions, a source close to the proceedings has revealed.

The negotiating teams flew to South Africa on Thursday with the Zanu-PF delegation of Cde Patrick Chinamasa, Cde Nicholas Goche joined by Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was on a private visit to South Africa.

Elton Mangoma led the MDC-T delegation after its secretary-general, Tendai Biti, failed to show up despite pressing President Mbeki to convene the talks while Welshman Ncube and Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga represented the Arthur Mutambara-led MDC formation.

According to the source, the negotiating teams met Presi-dent Mbeki separately yesterday.

"Each group met the facilitator separately and the import of those meetings was for President Mbeki to gauge feelings and thereafter decide on a way forward.

"It is understood Mangoma brought back issues that had been discussed and disposed of way in the past," the source said.

Mangoma talked about going back to an arrangement of having three Vice-Presidents, a proposal made by MDC-T at the beginning of the inter-party talks which was thrown out as not feasible.

It is also not the mandate of the negotiating teams to discuss such issues, but the principals.

The source said Mangoma also rehashed the issue of the draft constitution, demanding that it be enacted into law without reference to the people although the issue was discussed and dismissed a long time ago.

"The only new but nonetheless absurd suggestion from the MDC-T was that Cabinet be co-chaired by President

Mugabe and Tsvangirai. Zanu-PF dismissed that, not just as insolent, but also stunning ignorance on how Government works," added the source.

The ruling party’s negotiating team said it was up to the MDC-T to append its signature to the document.

"Zanu-PF was very categorical that it was not prepared to indulge the MDC-T with such useless suggestions. It said from its perspective all that remained was for the MDC-T to append its signature to the document, or withhold it for as long as it likes, knowing fully well that the process of forming a Government would proceed unhindered," the source said.

The MDC-T is said to have complained about the appointment of governors and the opening of the Seventh Parliament saying it should not have taken place.

In saying so, the Tsvangirai group has taken a stance against a decision of the Sadc summit that met in South Africa this month and gave President Mugabe the green light to reconvene the House.

"The MDC-T is conveniently forgetting that it not only endorsed the opening of the Parliament through its participation, but actually gained Speakership as a result of the process. Are they ready to let go the Speakership?" asked the source.

Since the official opening of Parliament by President Mugabe on Tuesday, the MDC-T has been pleading for dialogue with Mr Biti publicly urging President Mbeki to reconvene the talks.

Efforts to resume the talks on the sidelines of the Sadc summit hit a snag after Tsvangirai refused to sign the document and was later quoted by the New York Times saying it was "better to have no deal than to have a bad deal".

Let’s produce more: President

Herald Reporter

GOVERNMENT has embarked on a policy framework designed to create an enabling environment for enhanced agricultural production, President Mugabe has said.

Officially opening the 98th Harare Agricultural Show yesterday, Presi-dent Mugabe said the process would take place against a backdrop of Government’s adoption of the Millennium Development Goals, the first of which seeks to "eradicate extreme poverty and hunger" by 2015.

"Cognisant of the need to create an enabling environment for farmers and other players in the agricultural industry, Government has embarked on a policy review and formulation process to come up with an Agricultural Policy Framework for the next 20 years," he said.

President Mugabe said there is need for Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector to strategise on practical ways of achieving maximum productivity for food sustenance.

Government has empowered thousands of Zimbabweans by giving them access to the means of production.

"There, however, still remains the need to mobilise, promote and support our farmers for them to produce volumes that are commensurate with the needs of the nation," he said.

The objective of the land reform programme, President Mugabe said, remains the economic empowerment of the people while widening the production base and harvesting more from the land.

"Above all, our farmers should neither be just providers of raw materials nor mere receptacles of finished products, but also be capacitated to produce goods for export so that the country can increase its foreign currency earnings."

Cde Mugabe said Government was continuing to pursue irrigation development as a long-term strategy to enhance food security.

"While efforts are being put in place to ensure the timely availability of inputs to farmers, it was essential that farmers are paid competitive prices for their produce to ensure viability and encourage focus on the right crops.

"One cannot over-emphasise the growing and compelling need for us to boost our agricultural output in order to attain food self-sufficiency and produce a surplus for both our local industry and export markets.

"Thus the theme for this year’s show (‘Let Us Unite the Nation: Grow Food with Determination’) is very pertinent considering that the increases in global food prices underline the pressing need to produce food locally and avoid the present heavy reliance on imports," he said.

Govt lifts ban on NGOs

Herald Reporter

GOVERNMENT has, with immediate effect, lifted the ban on field operations of non-governmental organisations and private voluntary organisations.

Under the Memorandum of Understa-nding signed between the country’s main political parties — Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations — last month, it was agreed that Government should look urgently into the operations of NGOs with a view to restoring their operations.

Secretary for Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Mr Lancaster Museka said in a statement yesterday that the lifting of the ban covered NGOs and PVOs operating in humanitarian assistance, food aid, relief, recovery and development; family, child care and protection; care and protection of older persons; rights and empowerment of people with disabilities as well as HIV and Aids treatment, care and related support services.

"The lifting of the suspension only applies to NGOs and PVOs duly registered in terms of the PVO Act Chapter 17:05," the statement said.

In June, the Government suspended operations of all NGOs to vet their activities amid suspicion that most of them were dabbling in politics, promising to lift the blanket ban after completing investigations.

Some of the organisations were allegedly telling people in rural areas prior to the March 29 harmonised elections and the June 27 presidential run-off poll that they would stop food distribution in the event of a Zanu-PF victory.

The NGOs were also accused of asking unsuspecting villagers to surrender their national identity cards before the March elections, but did not return them, effectively depriving them of their right to vote.

The Government, however, lifted the ban on NGOs involved in supplementary feeding schemes and HIV and Aids-related issues in June.

The ban did not affect the operations of church-related organisations which have been conducting their duties as usual.

Underprivileged communities who rely on handouts from the organisations, particularly those involved in humanitarian assistance, welcomed the lifting of the ban.

More women turn to farming

Herald Reporter

DEMAND for land and interest in agriculture as a business venture among women has increased over the years with more inquiring on how to access land under the Land Reform Programme, the president of the Women Farmers’ Association has said.

In an interview at the Harare Agricultural Show yesterday, Ms Phides Mazhawidza said her organisation has been referring such inquiries to the relevant Government departments in the provinces and districts.

"The number of women asking about the land has increased tremendously over the years. This growing interest is not only from older women but also the young who have seen the benefits of the Land Reform Programme.

"Our main focus is on helping female farmers to effectively use and manage land, access inputs and mobilise resources as well as capacity building.

"As we are not directly involved in land allocation, we help prospective women farmers to get information from the Ministry of National Security, Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement, which is mandated with land redistribution," she said.

Ms Mazhawidza said her organisation was failing to meet demand for access to inputs and resources from female farmers and was appealing to Government to increase funding to women in the sector.

"The organisation has been overwhelmed by demand for inputs such as maize seed and fertilizer. As a result, we are recommending female farmers to venture into production of small grains to reduce demand for maize and other large grain crops.

"While inputs and resource mobilisation has seen greater demand, it has been difficult to lure women into capacity building programmes as they do not see the immediate benefits of non-agriculture management training. As a result, we have intensified capacity building to improve production on the farms," she said.

A non-profit making organisation, WFA was formed with the specific objective of catering for the interests of female farmers, facilitate access to agriculture-related resources and policy advocacy.

It draws its membership from among commercial and non-commercial farmers.

It also seeks to bring about equitable access to land and agricultural resources in addition to encouraging its members to use land productively.

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