Sunday, November 23, 2008

Zimbabwe News Update: Mbeki to Set Talks Dates; Anan Should Go to US; China Farm Methods Studied, etc.

Mbeki to set talks dates

Bulawayo Bureau-Herald Reporter

FORMER South African president Cde Thabo Mbeki is expected to announce new dates for a meeting between Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations to discuss the draft Constitution of Zimbabwe Amend-ment (No. 19) Bill.

Cde Mbeki had to cancel a meeting, which was scheduled to take place in South Africa last Wednesday, after learning that MDC-T’s chief negotiator, Mr Tendai Biti, was in the United States.

The rescheduled meeting was expected today in South Africa, but all the three parties involved said they had not yet been informed of the new dates by late yesterday.

Zanu-PF negotiator Cde Patrick Chinamasa said he did not know when they were going to travel to South Africa for the talks.

"I do not know anything. I have just disembarked from a plane and there is nothing I can tell you about the talks," he said.

MDC-T spokesman Mr Nelson Chamisa was equally in the dark.

"We are having a meeting this evening and I am sure that we are going to touch on this issue," he said.

MDC negotiator Professor Welsh-man Ncube said his party had been ready since last week for the talks and was only waiting for new dates from the facilitator.

"We are ready to go. We do not know the exact dates now, but I am hoping that we will be informed tomorrow. We have since learnt that the Tsvangirai people who caused the postponement of the meeting last week will be ready this week," he said.

Constitutional Amendment (No. 19) Bill will, if it gets the required approval in Parliament, formalise the new posts of Prime Minister and two deputies and spell out their duties and responsibilities, among other things.

The Government finished the draft last week and submitted it to Cde Mbeki, who then convened a meeting of the three parties to discuss the contents.

Zanu-PF’s Politburo has already urged President Mugabe to form a new Government with immediate effect.

This is in compliance with a resolution of the Extraordinary Sadc Summit held at the Sandton Convention Centre in South Africa on November 9.

In their communiqué, Sadc leaders resolved that an "inclusive Govern-ment should be formed immediately in Zimbabwe’’ and that the Ministry of Home Affairs — which ostensibly has been stalling the implementation of the power-sharing agreement signed on September 15 — be "co-managed by Zanu-PF and MDC-T".

Sadc also resolved that the "efficacy of the arrangement referred to (co-sharing of the Ministry of Home Affairs) be reviewed after six months by the parties with the assistance of the guarantors (of the power-sharing agreement) — Sadc, the African Union and Cde Mbeki.

The three parties signed a landmark agreement on September 15, but the envisaged inclusive Government has been stalled by MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangi-rai’s flip-flopping.

Analysts have blamed Mr Tsvangirai for continuing to prevaricate on the formation of an inclusive Government at a time when the nation is facing challenges such as food and cash shortages as well as water problems, mostly caused by illegal Western sanctions which his party campaigned for. –— Bulawayo Bureau-Herald Reporter.

Annan aborts Zim visit

Sunday Mail Reporter

THE Zimbabwe Government has not barred former United Nations Secretary-General Mr Kofi Annan and his team of "Elders" from visiting Zimbabwe, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cde Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, said last night.

Addressing a Press conference in Harare, Cde Mumbengegwi said authorities postponed the visit because Mr Annan had not made prior consultations with Government on the "timing and programme" of his proposed visit.

He said it would have been difficult for the team to carry out a meaningful assessment given that Government had already conducted a thorough humanitarian audit together with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the local United Nations Country Team.

"It is most unfortunate that the former (UN) secretary-general has, for reasons best known to himself, misrepresented the position of the Government of Zimbabwe. The allegations he has made are not supported by facts," said Cde Mumbengegwi.

"We take strong exception to any suggestions that there are those out there who care more about the welfare of our people than we do. Mr Annan is a man of great experience.

"He knows the importance of prior consultations and preparation for high-level visits such as the one he was proposing. We expect someone of his level to observe the correct procedure and practice."

The Elders told the media in South Africa yesterday that they had failed to travel to Harare because they had been denied visas by the Zimbabwean Government.

They said they had planned to spend two days in the country, but had to cancel the trip after failing to secure visas. Media reports said the Elders ended up meeting MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, who was in Johannesburg after a trip to Europe last week.

Confirming the meeting with Mr Tsvangirai, the Elders’ spokesperson, Katy Cronin, said: "He (Mr Tsvangirai) met them earlier today. Unfortunately, I’m not in a position to disclose what was discussed."

But according to Minister Mumbengegwi, Mr Annan wrote to Government stating his intention to visit Zimbabwe between yesterday and today. The purpose of the said mission was to "make a first-hand assessment of what is needed to more effectively respond to the humanitarian situation in your country".

However, Government promptly advised him that the proposed visit be postponed to a mutually agreed date, as no prior consultations had been made. Still, if such consultations had been made, Mr Annan would have been drawn to the comprehensive assessment that the country has already conducted.

The assessment, which culminated in the formulation of a Consolidated Appeal, details areas of the country that require the humanitarian community’s immediate attention. It also takes into account Government’s resource mobilisation level and identifies the gap that the humanitarian community needs to fill.

Cde Mumbengegwi said the Government and the WFP last week signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the supply and distribution of 350 000 tonnes of food assistance. He said the international humanitarian community was also responding to the Consolidated Appeal by way of interventions in health, water and sanitation.

"The Government of Zimbabwe is fully aware of the humanitarian challenges facing the country and is determined to address these challenges, which are spelt out in detail in the Consolidated Appeal document," he said.

"The Government is ready and willing to engage all those of goodwill in an effort to meet the goals and objectives of the Consolidated Appeal."

The Consolidated Appeal summarises a country’s requirements.

Meanwhile, a local political commentator has described the Elders group, comprising former US president Mr Jimmy Carter, Mr Annan and Ms Graca Machel, who is now married to former South African leader Mr Nelson Mandela, as a group of "humanitarian tourists" whose mission to Zimbabwe was to "certify the death of Zimbabwe".

He said the country’s enemies anticipated a currency crash following illegal dealings in the banking sector and stock market.

The commentator alleged that the visit by the Elders was supposed to come immediately after the currency crash so that the group would issue a damning report on Zimbabwe calling for the immediate intervention of the UN.

It is understood that the US Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mr James McGee — the architect of the plan — made frantic efforts to persuade President Mugabe to allow the Elders into the country.

"After September 15, when the inter-party deal was signed, the British and American governments thought it would collapse in 90 days, but this has not happened. Following developments in the financial sector over the past few weeks, the focus shifted to the collapse of the currency, which was supposed to happen this week.

"Soon after the collapse of the currency, the Elders were supposed to arrive and announce that Zimbabwe is now a UN case," said the political commentator.

The commentator said just by looking at the itinerary proposed by the group, one was convinced that this was not a humanitarian mission at all.

Upon arrival in Zimbabwe, the Elders were supposed to head straight to meet President Mugabe, then later meet the leaders of the two MDC formations. After that they were supposed to have dinner with heads of political organisations and civic rights groups where they were to discuss issues relating to, among other things, the media and elections.

The next day, they were supposed to have breakfast with heads of women’s organisations and later meet with humanitarian and trade union groups. After that, they would hold a Press conference and issue a report. Lastly, they would meet EU and African ambassadors in Zimbabwe.

"This is not an itinerary of people coming to assess the humanitarian situation. You can’t have a first-hand assessment of the humanitarian situation in a country through a whistle-stop for 24 hours.

"These are people who had the final document in their briefcase who just wanted to make public their pre-conceived thoughts about Zimbabwe at a Press conference in Harare," said the commentator.

He asked why the Elders did not want to visit remote areas like Zhombe or Honde Valley to assess the humanitarian situation on their own.

He added: "This was a political mission and not a humanitarian mission. By taking corrective measures to clean up the banking and stock exchange, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Dr Gideon Gono, thwarted the plan to collapse the country’s currency. The Elders were coming with the death certificate to celebrate this collapse."

The commentator said last Tuesday, the Government had shown willingness to address the humanitarian situation in the country through signing a MoU with the WFP that will see the organisation assisting the country with grain worth US$500 million.

"Of course, there is a humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe because first there are sanctions that are wreaking havoc to the economy and, secondly, due to the divisive tactics by the West, the country has gone for almost a year without a government," said the commentator.

The commentator said "it is sad that some respectable Africans have become instruments of destabilisation".

"If the Elders are tough, why are they not going to Goma in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), and why haven’t they achieved anything in Sudan?"

He concluded: "Through the September 15 agreement, Zimbabweans committed to work together and the best this shadow group can do is to support that agreement. They are coming to divide a country that is trying to unite. Even Tsvangirai is now saying sanctions should be lifted in the spirit of the agreement."

‘Elders’ meet reclusive Khama in SA

AFP-Herald Reporter

FORMER UN secretary-general Kofi Annan and his group of ‘‘Elders’’, who claimed they were barred from visiting Zimbabwe, yesterday met reclusive Botswana president, Seretse Khama Ian Khama in South Africa to discuss Zimbabwe.

‘‘Elders’’ spokeswoman Katy Cronin yesterday told AFP that the ‘‘Elders’’ were discussing Zimbabwe with the Botswana president in Johannesburg.

‘‘The leaders will be discussing a number of issues regarding the Zimbabwe situation," she said.

Ms Cronin could, however, not be drawn into revealing details of the discussions.

The meeting raised eyebrows given that the Botswana leader has boycotted all Sadc forums convened to facilitate talks between Zimba-bwe’s parliamentary parties.

This prompted observers to question Khama’s readiness to discuss Zimbabwe outside Sadc forums, more so with people linked to London or Washington, outposts of regime change that have not made their contempt of Zimbabwe a secret.

‘‘The Elders have a right to associate with anyone anywhere and discuss any subject under the sun, but Zimbabwe is a sovereign country, they do not have a right to discuss how the country should run its affairs,’’ said one African envoy speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Botswana leader recently caused a diplomatic furore after calling for fresh elections in Zimbabwe amid reports that his country was hosting MDC-T militias under the stewardship of British military trainers.

Sadc has since endorsed an investigation of the militias.

The ‘‘Elders’’ group; made up of Annan, former US president Jimmy Carter and Ms Graca Machel, wife of former South African president Mr Nelson Mandela; had earlier met MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, who was in Johannesburg after his sojourn to Europe last week.

Ms Cronin, again, refused to divulge details of the
‘‘Tsvangirai/Elders’’ meeting.

Foreign Affairs Minister Cde Simbarashe Mumbengegwi has since rapped Annan for misrepresenting the Government’s position by claiming that his group had been barred from visiting when the Government had postponed the proposed visit because the group had not made prior consultations on the "timing and programme" of the visit.

Cde Mumbengegwi told The Sunday Mail that it would have been difficult for the ‘‘Elders’’ to carry out a meaningful assessment of Zimbabwe’s humanitarian needs given that Government had already conducted a thorough humanitarian audit together with the United Nations World Food Programme and the local United Nations Country Team.

The assessment, which culminated in the formulation of a Consolidated Appeal, details areas of the country that require the humanitarian community’s immediate attention.

It also takes into account Government’s resource mobilisation level and identifies the gap that the humanitarian community needs to fill.

The Government and the WFP last week signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the supply and distribution of 350 000 tonnes of food assistance.

Efforts to get comment from the Government or Embassy of Botswana were fruitless last night. — AFP-Herald Reporter.

Annan must visit Washington instead

Zimbabwe Herald

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is an amazing man. This is the same man who did not honour a Government invitation to see for himself how wrong his British-sanctioned envoy Anna Kaju-mulo Tibaijuka was over Operation Murambatsvi-na in 2005, yet he now froths at the mouth over visiting Zimbabwe without an invite.

Whose errand is he running this time around since he has put himself at the beck and call of the white West from the time his uneventful tenure at the helm of the UN ended on December 31, 2006?

Annan claims to lead a group of ‘‘Elders’’ on a mission to assess ‘‘first-hand’’ the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe yet his itinerary, that included the who is who of opposition politics in Zimbabwe, showed that the proposed visit was as humanitarian as Hitler’s holocaust was humane.

Annan was UN secretary-general when the Anglo-Saxon alliance unilaterally imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe outside the purview of the UN system over the past eight years.

As UN chief, it was within Annan’s power to condemn the sanctions yet to this day, he is still to summon the courage to tell the British, Americans and their allies that the sanctions are illegal as they were imposed outside the purview of the UN system.

Annan is well aware that at international law, only the UN is supposed to impose sanctions and anyone willing to do so unilaterally must first prove to the UN what measures will be put in place to protect the innocent and vulnerable.

The British, Americans, and their allies did not do that which is why our economy is in free-fall today.

The illegal sanctions precipitated the problems Annan claims he wants to assess which is why even slavish Morgan Tsvangirai recently found his voice over the sanctions.

Who is Annan afraid of offending?

We advise this man to look in the mirror. He never did anything for Africa let alone Zimbabwe in his 10 years at the helm of the UN, and we are under no illusions that he can do anything now?

Rather than visit Zimbabwe, we urge this Western errand boy to retrace his steps to London and Washington and tell his handlers to remove their ruinous sanctions and leave us alone.

The Non Aligned Movement, Comesa and Sadc have since spoken out against the sanctions, in case Annan wants to know how it’s done.

In fact, we remember his pledge; on the sidelines of the AU summit held in Banjul, The Gambia in July 2006; to use his office to get the EU and US to scrap the sanctions, but he left office six months later without doing anything.

He has not done anything since.

In fact, the man has been consistently found echoing Western sentiments on Zimbabwe.

For instance, only this year, as xenophobia swept across South Africa’s poor ghettos, Annan appeared on BBC claiming the barbaric attacks were caused ‘‘by the meltdown in Zimbabwe’’ yet South African police statistics indicated that of the 50 confirmed fatalities, only three were Zimbabwean immigrants.

We urge our Ghanaian brother, who appears allergic to history, to familiarise with our history and struggle so that he knows from whose corner he should swing.

Better still, he should read his own country’s history to learn why and how Ghana’s iconic founding president, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, was deposed.

Maybe, just maybe, he will begin to understand the contestation in Zimbabwe.

‘Take a leaf from China’s farming development’

Herald Reporter

TOBACCO farmers who returned from a week-long tour of China, which was sponsored by a Chinese tobacco company, have urged Zimbabweans to tap into the vast developments in farming, infrastructure and technology development in the rising Asian giant.

Addressing journalists on arrival at the Harare International Airport yesterday morning, the five top tobacco farmers who were sponsored by Tian Ze, a Chinese tobacco company that supports tobacco farming in Zimbabwe, were unanimous that Zimbabwe could immensely benefit from China’s development.

"We discovered that China is a nation that is highly developed. China is growing fast in road network, construction industry, farming and new technologies.

"So Zimbabwe can draw lessons from China and develop the country," one of the farmers Mr Morris Ndenga of Beatrice said.

Another farmer from Concession Mr Louis Greyling said China was among the fastest growing economies in the world and Zimbabwe could capitalise on this.

"We have much to learn from China. It’s good Zimbabwe and China have good relations and are working together, we can grow and develop our tobacco industry," he said.

Mr Greyling said Zimbabwe has a lot of potential and if outstanding tobacco farmers were allocated more land, they could produce more tobacco and earn the country the much-needed foreign currency.

Mr Tineyi Manatsa said Zimbabwe could use China’s technology here in Zimbabwe and export processed tobacco.

The delegation left Harare on November 14 led by Tian Ze production manager Mr Young-Tang.

The farmers visited Yuxi, Anhui and Yunnan provinces, some of the best tobacco producing provinces in China.

In January this year, another delegation of farmers visited China on a similar visit to exchange views and ideas with their counterparts in the Asian country.

The farmers also had an opportunity to tour cigarette manufacturers and got hands on experience on the quality of tobacco they wanted.

Tian Ze Tobacco Company seeks to support farmers to improve quality and production.

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