Sunday, October 18, 2009

Zimbabwe News Update: US Pushes For Fresh Elections; Bennett Trial Date Reviewed

US pushes for fresh Zim elections

By Mabasa Sasa
Zimbabwe Herald

THE United States government is funding a parallel constitution-making and electoral reform agenda in Zimbabwe in preparation for fresh elections, a senior Usaid official has admitted.

In his testimony before the Senate Sub-Committee on African Affairs on September 30, Usaid acting assistant administrator for Africa Earl Gast said they were also funding "democratic political parties" to rebuild their structures after some of their key members were co-opted into the inclusive Government.

Observers have said the revelations should be read within the context of the indication last week by MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai that their party was virtually preparing for fresh elections.

Speaking on Usaid’s interventions following the formation of the inclusive Government earlier this year, Gast said: "To help prepare for new elections, Usaid will help civil society pursue electoral law reform and provide training on parallel vote tabulation . . .

"Furthermore, Usaid will help democratic political parties rebuild their structures after the movement of many key members into Govern-ment service and further losses as a result of inter-election violence.

"If possible, assistance will also be extended to support the development and reform of electoral systems."

The Usaid official said all financial and technical assistance was being directed towards selected people in Government and non-governmental organisations.

Gast said donors were holding weekly meetings where they strategised on how best to advance their agenda through their allies in the inclusive Government and in civil society ahead of the elections.

He indicated that "humanitarian assistance" was a tool being used to advance Washington’s political interests.

"The consultation process includes all major donors present in Zimbabwe who meet on a weekly basis to review the operating environment, assess progress, discuss challenges, and modify a collective approach to providing assistance ensuring consistency between donor programmes.

"Consistent with the strongly unified position on the concept of ‘humanitarian plus’ of the donor community, Usaid’s programmes are centred around safeguarding the Zimbabwean people, supporting the transitional government’s ability to meet its commitments under the GPA and to respond to the needs of the people, and enhancing the likelihood of free and fair elections within two years."

He said the US, the United Kingdom, the European Commission, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Australia, Germany, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands formed the core of the group of countries working in close co-ordination to influence political developments in Zimbabwe.

Gast indicated that in the event of the collapse of the inclusive Government, Usaid would "rapidly scale back our programmes to only support reformists outside the Government".

His presentation came soon after US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson told the same committee that the State Department was funding the operations of the Prime Minister’s Office.

Carson said Washington was funding Mr Tsvangirai’s activities as well as those of private media houses and civil society.

This has fuelled speculation that MDC-T’s announcement of a "partial disengagement" from the inclusive Government last week could be related to the US-led push for elections in Zimbabwe.

Admitting that he was ‘‘causing’’ a constitutional crisis — ostensibly over party treasurer Roy Bennett’s indictment on terror-related charges — Mr Tsvangirai on Friday indicated that they were ready for polls, even in the absence of the new constitution that they agitated for over the past decade.

He said: "Naturally should this constitutional crisis escalate, then the self-evident solution would be the holding of a free and fair election to be conducted by Sadc and the AU and under UN supervision."

Observers yesterday said the revelations by the US government officials should be read in line with the apparent slant by Mr Tsvangirai for a fresh poll eight months into the inclusive Government.

The US has not hidden the fact that it is opposed to MDC-T’s participation in the inclusive Government and has been angling for President Mugabe’s ouster whether by electoral or other means.

Under the GPA given the nod by Mr Tsvangirai and MDC leader Professor Arthur Mutambara, President Mugabe is the Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.

Court to review Bennett’s trial date

By Zvamaida Murwira

MDC-T national treasurer Roy Bennett’s trial, due to start today, could be deferred after lawyers representing him challenged the manner in which he was indicted last week at the Mutare Magistrates’ Courts.

High Court judge Justice Lavender Makoni heard the application at the weekend in which the lawyers argued that Bennett was unprocedurally indicted.

The court upheld the defence contention after the State conceded that insufficient notice was given.

Bennett’s trial was due to open today in Mutare before High Court judge Justice Joseph Musakwa, who is on circuit in the eastern border city.

State counsel, represented by Chief Law Officer in the Attorney-General’s Office Mr Michael Mugabe, had argued before the magistrates’ court that the mere fact of the State indicting Bennett to appear before the High Court was a notice in itself.

In an interview yesterday, one of the lawyers, Ms Beatrice Mtetwa of Mtetwa and Nyambirai Associates, said today’s proceedings at the High Court in Mutare will determine when the trial should open.

"The trial will, therefore, not kick off tomorrow (Monday) but the court will determine the dates convenient to both parties. The State had proposed that we start the trial on October 27, 2009 but I already have other cases that have been set down for that day, so I will not be able to make it," Ms Mtetwa said.

She said it was pertinent to give sufficient notice to an accused person in terms of the law especially when charges are potentially capital.

"Anybody who is facing allegations needs to be given sufficient notice and in particular a case that potentially has the death sentence should be given enough time to prepare a defence," she said.

Ms Mtetwa said the State should have first written to the magistrate informing her of its intention to indict their client.

"All we are saying is that the State should follow the law which requires that an accused should be given no less than 10 days’ notice," she said.

Ms Mtetwa said the defence had no problem with Bennett being tried in the High Court in Harare if there was no circuit sitting in Mutare on the dates agreed with the State today.

"There is nothing that stops the record from being brought to Harare, that is where most of the parties reside," said Mtetwa.

Bennett was indicted by a Mutare provincial magistrate, Mrs Lucy Mungwari, to stand trial today in the High Court.

High Court judge Justice Charles Hungwe freed Bennett on bail last Friday, restoring the bail conditions granted by the Supreme Court in March.

He is facing charges of allegedly giving Mr Peter Hitschmann money between 2002 and March 2006 to buy 26 grenades, two schermuly signal smoke hand flares, 12 rifles and other weapons. After that, the State alleges, Bennett is accused of inciting Mr Hitschmann to use the weapons to knock down a microwave link situated at a kopje along Melfort-Bromley Loop Road. It is alleged Mr Hitschmann used cellphone disabling devices to block cellphone signals and to detonate anti-riot water cannon trucks used by police.

But Mr Hitschmann has already faced trial and been acquitted.

According to the indictment papers, 12 witnesses are expected to be called to give evidence for the State.

Bennett was arrested in February this year upon his return from South Africa where he sought asylum in 2007.

2 more vie for VP post

Bulawayo Bureau-Herald Reporter

THE race for the post of Zanu-PF Vice-President and Second Secre-tary, who automatically becomes assured of the nation’s vice-presidency, has been thrown wide open with Deputy Senate President Cde Naison Khutshwekhaya Ndlovu, expressing his interest saying he is the most senior surviving member of the former PF-Zapu.

Cde Ndlovu — who made the declaration at the Zanu-PF Matabeleland South provincial joint council meeting in Gwanda last Friday — becomes the second former PF-Zapu heavyweight to throw his hat into the ring after former Zipra chief of staff Retired Brigadier-General Ambrose Mutinhiri who wrote to Matabeleland provinces seeking support for nomination to the post.

All along it appeared Zanu-PF national chairman Cde John Nkomo would land the post unopposed.

It is understood that during the meeting that was attended by leaders from the province’s main wing, the Women’s League and the youth, provincial chairman Cde Andrew Langa apologised for the statement he made last week that Matabeleland South was behind Cde John Nkomo.

In an interview yesterday, Cde Ndlovu confirmed that he was available for nomination.

"Yes, I can confirm that I am available for nomination for the party’s vice-presidency as long as the province says so," said Cde Ndlovu, who was PF-Zapu’s national chairman.

"The Unity Accord is very clear on the nomination process for this post.

"According to the Unity Accord the position should go to the most senior surviving member of the party and in this case I am the most senior surviving member of PF-Zapu. I chaired PF-Zapu’s last conference in 1987 at the City Sports Centre in Harare."

Contacted for comment, Cde Langa confirmed that Cde Ndlovu advised the province that he was available for nomination.

"NK (Cde Ndlovu) approached the province and declared that he is available for nomination for the VP’s post. Since NK comes from Matabeleland South then as the provincial leadership we are bound to support him," said Cde Langa.

Pressed on reports that he had apologised for declaring that Matabeleland South supported Cde John Nkomo, Cde Langa declined to comment.

Cde Ndlovu becomes the second former senior PF-Zapu member to openly express interest in occupying the position that fell vacant after the death of fearless founding nationalist, national hero Cde Joseph Msika, in August.

Bulawayo Province has already endorsed Cde Nkomo as the candidate to fill the VP’s post.

Matabeleland North Province has not yet stated its position amid speculation that a senior member from the province is also interested in the position.

Last week, Zanu-PF national secretary for administration Cde Didymus Mutasa gave the three Matabeleland provinces a deadline, which lapsed on Wednesday, to nominate a candidate to succeed Cde Msika.

However, Politburo and Central Committee members from the three provinces met in Bulawayo on October 9 and agreed that all the party’s 10 provinces must select Cde Msika’s successor. — Bulawayo Bureau-Herald Reporter.

MDC-T sowing seeds of disunity

EDITOR — Shakespeare once famously said, ". . . these violent delights have violent ends and in their triumph die like fire and powder, which as they kiss consume . . . therefore love moderately-too swift arrives as tardy as too slow".

That the majority of urban Zimbabwe has been in a violently delightful marriage with the MDC is quite evident. What with strangulating sanctions which wrought rolling blackouts and erratic fuel supply.

But we should have loved MDC-T moderately, leaving room for human error, lest we were hopelessly disappointed when they failed to deliver the elusive regime change for which they were created. We have allowed the MDC-T leadership to oscillate from policy position to policy position without as much as batting an eyelid.

But two events in recent weeks cannot be treated as the usual intellectual oversight that characterises the MDC-T leadership but a more chilling forbearing of sinister things to come should we ever find ourselves under the leadership of this ruinous bunch.

The Government-sponsored Presidential scholarship programme has been running for well over a decade now.

Many a time, we heard our erstwhile opposition colleagues crying foul that the scholarship programme had been politicised. Quite telling, though, is the fact that these opposition spin doctors could never produce any evidence of this politicisation. There is not a single branch or cell of Zanu-PF on the many institutions in South Africa that are playing host to students on the Presidential scholarship.

Hardly a year since joining the inclusive Government, the MDC-T has seen it fit to do exactly what they accused Zanu-PF of doing — politicising the scholarship programme by setting up party structures at the University of Fort Hare’s Alice and East London campuses in South Africa.

The contracts that these students have with the State clearly stipulate that no student is to be involved in active politics — even the university’s management have attested to this fact. Why the MDC-T has chosen to flagrantly flout this undertaking and divide a student body that has been united by being Zimbabwean all these years we might never know. What we do know though is that the MDC-T has succeeded in politicising a programme that has been manifestly apolitical since inception.

For the MDC-T to use people like Tonderai Kunyanye, who conveniently secure sponsorships to other countries after leading a whole horde of students to flout the conditions of their contracts is downright evil and callous.

We urgently call upon the relevant authorities in the inclusive Government to look into this abuse of a State-sponsored programme by a political party in the same Government.

Secondly, we learn, not surprisingly to those who have followed developments in the MDC-T from inception, that MDC-T now does not have term limits for its president and deputy president. All of this has taken place outside of their congress which has the democratic mandate to amend the party’s constitution. We do not deny that to supporters of Mr Tsvangirai he is a demi-god who has been fighting a ‘‘ruthless and evil regime’’ for the past 10 years and therefore deserves to be declared supreme leader of the MDC-T for life. What is worrying is the fact that the MDC-T has been misleading Zimbabweans for so long with lofty statements of democratic governance and respect of the rule of law. It is time that we, the people of Zimbabwe, put an end to this charade and demand to be respected by these green politicians. The idea that anything said or done by Mr Tsvangirai and his so-called kitchen cabinet is sacrosanct must be debunked immediately as it poses a serious danger to the hopes and aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe is at crossroads and needs serious leaders.

The time for political comedy is over.

MDC-T should never forget that not only the people of Zimbabwe but the people of Africa view them with serious trepidation given their Westminster links.

This inclusive Government offers them an opportunity to sanitise themselves if they wish to be taken seriously as a political party. Tick, tock, tick, tock . . .

Tobaiwa Tigere.

via e-mail.

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