Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"Don't vote for Tsvangirai" - Police chief warns officers

MUTARE – Voting for Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition MDC in a presidential run –off election expected in three weeks’ time is tantamount to plunging the country into a civil war, a high ranking police officer has warned.
The warning was issued by Senior Assistant Commissioner Musarashana Godwin Mabunda during a meeting with police officers here on Tuesday.
Mabunda is a top lieutenant and confidante to Augustine Chihuri, the police chief.
He is on a countrywide tour – meeting officers of all ranks and warning them of the dangers of voting for Tsvangirai in a run off election which is expected to be held any time from May 24 this year.
Mabunda vowed during a meeting with the police officers drawn from all the province’s eight districts that President Mugabe will never be ousted by Tsvangirai. Should that happen, Mabunda reportedly said a civil war will immediately break out.
The meeting was held at the police Main Camp on the edge of the city’s central business district.
Officers who attended the meeting said the environment a tense. “We were told in no uncertain terms that voting for Tsvangirai is just like voting for war,” said one officer, a constable based at Mutare Central police station.
Most junior and middle ranking police officers are believed to have voted for the MDC during the March 29 poll. The ruling party got fewer votes than the opposition at polling stations which also included police residences.
“Mabunda told us that anyone who will dare continue supporting or sympathizing with the MDC will be in serious problems,’ said another officer.
The warning by a top police officer coincides with reports of escalating violence targeted at MDC supporters in both the urban and rural areas.
The violence is widely blamed on state security agents, war veterans and Zanu F militants.
Thousands of opposition supporters have been displaced while about 200 have been badly assaulted.
On Saturday the MDC provincial youth leader, Knowledge Nyamhoka, was abducted by security agents at midnight from his Sakubva home and taken to a secluded area where he was badly beaten and left for dead.
He was rescued by passersby who found him lying unconscious and taken to a private hospital, the Seventh Avenue Surgical Unit, where he is recuperating.
Two other youth activists from Nyanga were also rushed to the same hospital after meeting the same fate as their leader.
The MDC chairman in Manicaland, Patrick Chitaka, said what the situation was degenerating very fast and urgent measures should be put in place to avert“genocide” from occurring in Zimbabwe. ends

Few teachers report for duty

MUTARE - Schools re-opened in Zimbabwe for the second term calendar with very few teachers reporting for duty.
In the urban centers most teachers refused to report for duty saying they were working for nothing. The lowest paid teacher earn as little as ZW$2 billion (US$20) a month.
At Mutare Girls' High School, an elite all girls' school, pupils were loitering in the school yard.
"Teachers are not there," said one Form Three pupil. "We are not doing anything at all."
One teacher from Dangamvura High School in Dangamvura high density suburb in Mutare said until they have been awarded a reasonable salary increase then they will go to work.
"Personally I will not go to work until I am given a better salary," a Form Four teacher said.
Reasons given by teachers in the urban centers were different from those from the rural areas who didn’t report for duty fearing for their lives.
Teachers working in the rural areas are blamed by Zanu PF and its leadership for the popular support the opposition got in those areas.
Most teachers were engaged by the Zimbabwe Elections Commission (ZEC) which is largely blamed for President Mugabe's poor showing in his traditional strongholds in the countryside.
Several teachers fled their stations soon after the government embarked on a wave of arrests of ZEC officials accusing them of "stealing" votes from President Mugabe.
An official from the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) said almost the entire teaching force in the rural areas have not reported for duty.
Those that were not engaged by ZEC are equally culpable because they are accused of campaigning for the opposition in their respective areas. Teachers are generally respected in the communities they work from in the rural areas.
"About 9000 teachers who are based in the rural areas are afraid of reporting to duty," said a PTUZ official based in this eastern border city. "They fear that they may be attacked because they sided with the opposition."
There are about 14 000 teachers in Manicaland Province.
The opening of schools also coincides with the setting up of bases by Zanu PF activists, army officers and other security agents in areas where President Mugabe performed dismally.
One such base at the Odzi Country Club, about 30 km north of Mutare, was on Monday burnt by angry villagers. Several ruling party activists were operating from there - hunting down MDC supporters and rounding them up at the base where they were beaten up and tortured.
Odzi Country Club is a community social centre where farmers used to patronise for alcoholic beverages, sporting activities and family gatherings such as parties and weddings. But it has now been converted into a base by ruling party militants.
Politically motivated violence is also escalating in the province with reports that MDC supporters were now retaliating and beating up ruling party activists and burning their houses. Such incidents were reported in Mayo in Headlands, 70km north of Mutare. In Sakubva high density suburb in Mutare supporters of both the MDC and Zanu PF were engaged in running battles amid reports two houses had been razed down. Police confirmed the incident saying investigations were in progress

Monday, April 28, 2008

Trial of former ZBC bureau chief postponed

MUTARE -The trial of former Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation’s (ZBC) Manicaland bureau chief Andrew Neshamba accused of contravening the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act was on 23 April 2008 postponed to 2 June 2008.

The trial was postponed because the trial magistrate was not feeling well.

Neshamba has pleaded not guilty to a charge of contravening Section 174(1) (a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Criminal Abuse of Duty as Public Officers).

Allegations against Neshamba are that on 4 February 2007 he and William Gumbo facilitated the entry of Peter Moyo, a South African based E-TV unaccredited journalist into Chiadzwa diamond fields in Marange and took video footage of the mine fields.

Moyo was convicted on his own plea for contravening Section 83 (1) of AIPPA which deals with practicing journalism without accreditation.

Moyo was arrested together with ZBC cameraperson William Gumbo in the eastern border town of Mutare after they were found in possession of filming equipment which they were accused of using to cover illegal diamond mining activities in Marange Village in Manicaland Province .

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bush condems violence in Zimbabwe

The Bush administration has condemned forces loyal to Zimbabwe's government for using violence against opposition supporters, and U.S. officials also criticized Zimbabwe's electoral authorities for their plan to recount the March 29 presidential vote.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said members of Zimbabwe's security forces and supporters of President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party have been using violence and intimidation in the wake of Zimbabwe's March 29 presidential and parliamentary elections.
"These incidents appear to target individuals who voted against ZANU-PF candidates during the elections," McCormack said in a statement released in Harare on Wednesday.
Calling on President Mugabe's government to stop perpetrating such incidents immediately and to show restraint and respect for human rights, McCormack said there is "no place for violence or intimidation in a democratic society."
The State Department also updated its travel alert to American citizens in Zimbabwe, saying that some military and police forces, as well as war veterans, are "creating a climate of intimidation and fear across the country."
The travel alert said Americans should be aware that these forces have been especially active in rural areas and high-density suburbs. "There have been attacks on opposition supporters, renewed farm invasions, and arrests of election officials accused of vote tampering. There is a continued risk of arbitrary detention or arrest," the travel alert said.
President Bush telephoned U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on April 15 to discuss the situation in Zimbabwe, according to White House national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe. According to Johndroe, Bush told Ban it is "important for the situation in Zimbabwe to be resolved peacefully and soon. It's gone on too long."
In remarks to reporters April 15, McCormack said Zimbabwe "is in a crisis," both politically, because the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has refused to announce the results of the March 29 presidential contest, and economically, because of long-standing government policies that have led to hyperinflation, food shortages and mass unemployment.
Despite never having released the presidential ballot results, the commission, which is made up of individuals appointed by Mugabe's government, now is calling for a recount of the vote.
McCormack criticized the idea, saying "there has not been a good chain-of-custody regime in place" for the ballots and ballot boxes since the March 29 vote. "Anything could have happened between election day and when a recount takes place, and that's a cause of deep concern not only for the United States but other countries around the globe," he said.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Calm as people ignore MDC call for stayaway

MUTARE:The situation in this eastern border city is calm as residents go about their normal business despite a call by the opposition to stay at their homes.

Businesses were operating as usual but there was a heavy police presence in the city centre and in all the high density suburbs.

The police are armed with AK rifles, teargas canisters and baton sticks. Water cannons were being driven throughout the suburbs.

There were no incidents of violence as of mid morning. However, there was a surprise presence of Chinese soldiers armed with revolvers in the city. The Chinese, together with about 70 Zimbabwean senior army officers are staying at the Holiday Inn, in the city's central business district.

There are about 10 Chinese soldiers. "We were shocked to see Chinese soldiers in their full military regalia and armed with pistols checking at the hotel," said one worker. "When they signed checking in forms they did not indicate the nature of business that they are doing and even their addresses."

Violence on MDC supporters escalating in Manicaland

MUTARE - Violence targeted at opposition supporters is escalating in Manicaland Province as the MDC announced it was in desperate need for tents and food to assist hundreds of displaced people in the rural areas.

Patrick Chitaka, the MDC chairman in Manicaland Province, said the party needed, as a matter of urgency thousands of tents, food packs and medicines to assist thousands of MDC supporters who have been displaced in the province's rural areas.

According to the MDC about 200 people have been beaten up while about 1000 have been displaced by the violence.

"The violence has now throughout the province. It's a disaster, that's how the Darfur crisis started," Chitaka said.

"We have reports of systematic violence against our supporters. Apart from beating up people they are now burning houses. We are going to have thousands of internally displaced people if the situation is not contained fast."

Chitaka spoke as ZimRights, a human rights watchdog, also raised their concern over the spreading violence which is targeted as MDC supporters.

Reverend Stephen Maengamhuru, the ZimRights' regional officer, told a post election workshop held in this eastern border city on Monday that hundreds of MDC supporters were sleeping in the open in Chipinge and Mutare South because they fear spending the night at their houses.

The MDC and human rights organisations blame the violence on security agents and members of the military who were angered by the loss of President Mugabe to the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.

"We now have a situation where people sleep out in the open because they fear spending the night at their homes," Rev Maengamhuru said.

The MDC, on the other hand, said violence has now spread to Chipinge, Nyanga, Marange and the farming communities of Burma Valley, Mutasa South and Chimanimani.

The MDC chairman, Chitaka, said the most disturbing aspect was that MDC supporters were the ones being arrested by the police instead of being protected.

He said the violence would soon target MDC candidates who won the just ended elections. Chitaka, himself, won the senatorial seat for Nyanga on an MDC ticket.

About 50 huts belonging to MDC supporters had been burned at a farm about 20 km west of the city forcing 103 people to flee into the forest.

The MDC supporters fled from EnVant Farm after a war veteran identified as Muniya set their huts alight around 4 pm yesterday (Monday).

The majority of the affected people have been staying at the farm for about 30 years. The farm was then allocated to Muniya, the war veteran during the chaotic land reform programme in 2000. However, he allowed the people he found already staying there not to move out. But after learning that the majority of the people had voted for the MDC the new farmer decided to take matters into his own hands.

"There is a humanitarian disaster," said MP elect for Mutasa South, Misheck Kagurabadza. "Children and elderly people are sleeping in the open. We need blankets urgently and a place where hey can stay for now."

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Headmaster in court for stealing Mugabe's votes

MUTARE - A school headmaster at a primary school in Mutasa South constituency, who was a election presiding officer, appeared in court today facing charges that he prejudiced President Mugabe of 10 votes.
Shadreck Mufute, 47, of Hartzel Primary School, about 20 km north-west of Mutare, is alleged to have swooped ballots which were in favour of Mugabe with those of Morgan Tsvangirai.
State prosecutor Arnold Chiwara alleged Mugabe polled 40 votes at Five Streams polling station while Tsvangirai got 30 votes.
Mufute is alleged to have swooped the votes that Mugabe is said to have won with those of Tsvangirai thereby prejuding Mugabe of 10 votes.
Magistrate Chipadze asked Mufute to pay bail of ZW$600 million with conditions that he satys at the school where he works and that he reports once every Friday to a police station near his place of residence. He was remanded to 23 April 2008.
Mufute, who denies the charges, was represented by human rights lawyers Trust Maanda and Akisayi Dhliwayo.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Zanu PF supporters on retribution exercise

MUTARE -Ruling Zanu PF activists have gone on a retribution exercise beating up and harassing supporters of the opposition MDC in Mutasa South constituency.
About 60 families in the constituency have been displaced as a result of the campaign which is directed towards perceived opposition supporters and sympathisers.
White commercial farmers in the constituency have also not been spared. War veterans have circulated letters directing the farmers to vacate their properties within 10 hours or face dire consequences.
One such letter in possession of this journalist reads in part: “If you are celebrating the outcome of the harmonized elections partial results in unison with your brethren before the outcome of the final polls be advised you risk vacating that location unceremoniously forthwith within 10 hours from this moment.”
The letters are signed by war veterans in Manicaland Province.
Much of the violence is directed at MDC supporters in areas such as EN Avant Farm and Grange.
“People are being beaten for supporting the MDC,” said Misheck Kagurabadza, who won the constituency on an MDC ticket.
Kagurabadza has sourced blankets which he is distributing to displaced families. However, he is now appealing for food and medicine for he victims of the retribution exercise.
The MP elect said a report has already been made at Penhalonga Police Station, 20 km north of Mutare. The Reports Received Book (RRB) number is 0068705. Inspector Machipisa is handling the matter.
One of the affected MDC activists is John Saramu, 39, an election agent during the just ended polls. Saramu was assaulted and suffered serious injuries. He lost ZW$5 billion, a radio and MDC regalia were confisticated by the war veterans that attacked him.
However, Kagurabadza said the MDC has positively identified those instigating the violence.
He said the have been identified as Fabion Gume and Cassim Nasho.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Mocambicans don't like Tsvangirai

MANICA, Mozambique – Mozambicans appear skeptical of Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition MDC leader, who defeated Zimbabwe’s long-time leader, President Robert Mugabe in polls whose results are yet to be made public.
Most Mozambicans appear to have fallen victim to the Zanu PF propaganda that labels Tsvangirai and his political party as “fronts” of Western imperialists “who are seeking to re-colonize through the backdoor”.
In separate interviews Mozambican nationals said by voting for Tsvangirai and his MDC party, Zimbabweans had betrayed the liberation struggle. They said thousands of Zimbabweans whose bodies were buried inside Mozambique would have been betrayed.
“What are you going to do with all those people buried here?” asked a foreign currency dealer who identified himself as Maya. “You people from Zimbabwe are not clever. You have sold your country because you wan margarine and bread.”
Moses Macapa, a vendor, said he was surprised the majority of Zimbabwean voters had voted for Tsvangirai instead of Mugabe.
“Bob has done a lot of good things to all of us,” Macapa said, “he must be left to rule Zimbabwe.” Mugabe is widely referred to as Bob by admirers and supporters.
Dominic Machande, a civil servant, weighed in saying Mugabe should not step down for Tsvangirai whom he said was a “front of the Whiteman”.
Mozambicans widely credits Mugabe for helping bring about peace in Mozambique after years of civil war which pitted government forces and Renamo then an armed rebel group.
Several other Mozambicans expressed similar sentiments.
However, most Zimbabwean national staying in Mozambique, sad they were happy that Mugabe was now going.
“I will come back home as soon as Mugabe steps down,” said Thomas Matongo, an informal trader at a market in Manica Town, about 60 km east of Mutare. “That man has destroyed our country.”
Matongo’s views were shared by many other Zimbabweans staying in this shanty town.

Polls unite voters from unique Makoni West

By Clemence Manyukwe

RUSAPE, MANICALAND — Two rivers divide Makoni West voters, but last Saturday, one major thing united them.
As Tatenda Makono crossed Mucheke River, heading for a polling station at Chinyadza Primary School, at the other end of the same constituency, Albert Chirasasa was also crossing Rusape River to cast his vote at Tsanzaguru School.
Both had the same thing on their minds.
They both believed the presidential race was more important than the contest for Parliament.
Makoni West is a unique constituency, as it binds urban and rural voters together. Chinyadza lies in a rural area, while Tsanzaguru is in the urban.
I saw Makono being turned away just after 2pm at the polling station at Chinyadza School.
He voted at the same venue at the last election in 2005, but this time his name could not be found on the voters’ roll.
All he wanted was to vote in the Presidential election.
Asked why he believed the Presidential poll mattered the most, he chronicled the constituency’s woes, which he said could never be solved by any Member of Parliament (MP).
President Robert Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, faced opposition from his former finance minister Simba Makoni, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai and little know Langton Towungana, in the elections held last Saturday.
Makoni constituency had three senatorial candidates, namely Stanley Sakupwanya of ZANU-PF, Ethel Mtangadura of the MDC faction led by Tsvangirai, and Matilda Mutigwa of the other MDC faction led by Arthur Mutambara.
Makoni West had five House of Assembly contestants, outgoing agriculture mechinisation minister Joseph Made, who was being challenged by another ZANU-PF member, Nation Madongorere, Webber Chinyadza of the MDC faction led by Tsvangirai, Collias Madechiwe of ZURD and Justin Kawonza an independent candidate.
Many voters here had been early to the polls, eager to avoid queues.
But there were no queues in this rural area. A polling station we visited at midday was empty, with nearly 500 people already having voted.
Unlike in previous years, Makono reported that chiefs and headman had not shepherded people to polling stations, allowing voters to go to the polls in peace.
At the last election, politicians had plied villagers with promises of income-generating projects. But many of these folded quickly as the economic crisis worsened.
The heaps of money poured into the projects had failed to sway voters.
“We had projects sponsored by the Ministry of Youth and Gender, mainly selling paraffin and poultry projects.
“All the paraffin projects collapsed, but a few poultry projects are still viable,” he said.
Most of the poultry projects here are run by women.
“At Dewedzo government hospital and at St Theresa Rural Mission Hospital, there is no life. Everything here is collapsing,” Makono added.
Both hospitals have no resident doctors, forcing residents and villagers to travel hundreds of kilometres for specialist treatment.
Makono would not say who he voted for, but anybody except President Mugabe would do, he said.
At Tsanzaguru, Makono’s fellow Makoni West constituent, Chirasasa, said although ZANU-PF boasts of achievements in education, residents in his area thought less of the ruling party due to years of empty promises.
“There is no school offering A’Level here. I wanted to go for A’Level, but my parents could not afford to send me outside our area.
“If we had a school nearby, I could have had much better prospects in my life,” Chirasasa said.
It appeared that the concerns are the same for a voter casting his or her ballot at Tsanzaguru, a high-density suburb, and for the voter at Chinyadza primary school, in a rural area, both want to respond to ZANU-PF’s failure to improve their daily lives.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Civic Society groups petition SADC heads of state

Civic society groups in Zimbabwe have petitioned SADC heads of State to exert pressure on President Mugabe not to manipulate results of the March 29 polls.
The groups includes the National Constitutional Assemby, ZimRights, Zimbabwe Elections Support Network, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and the International Commission of Jurists.
The groups said they were concerned about the delay in announcing results of the poll. Results have been released by ZEC in bits and pieces angering Zimbabweans who are earger to know the future of their country.
The groups said President Mugabe and his government should allow results to be released immediately without being tampered with.
They said SADC leaders should exert pressure on President Mugabe not to declare a state of emergency. The groups also implored on SADC leaders to apply pressure on President Mugabe's millitary and intelligence agents not to manipulate results and to accept the people's verdict in the elections.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Anxiety and Confusion as Mutare residents wait for poll results

MUTARE - Anxiety and confusion has gripped residents here as they impatiently wait for the outcome of the presidential poll.
The city is quiet with little activity in the city's central business district. In the Chikanga high density surbub police broke up a group of MDC supporters who had begun celebrating. In Sakubva and Dangamvura high density surbubs the situaton was calm. Armed police are patrolling the streets.
Official results so far show that seven Cabinet Ministers in Mugabe's government have lost to MDC candidates.
These are Joseph Made (agriculture), Chris Mushowe (transport),Munacho Mutezo (Water), Patrick Chinamasa (justice), Samuel Undenge (economic affairs), Oppah Muchinguri (women affairs) and Mike Nyambuya (energy).
The ruling party has so far won five of the 26 seats in the province. Independent presidential hopeful, Simba Makoni, perfomed badly in his home province.

Soldiers Intimidate voters in Chikanga

MUTARE- Voting remained peaceful here although the MDC has complained there were attempts by some soldiers to intimidate people at a polling station in Chikanga high density suburb.
Some MDC candidates said they were also “shocked” by the high number of people who have been turned away at polling stations either because their names do not appear on the voters’ roll or they were in the wrong ward.
They were no queues at most polling stations in the city’s high-density suburbs although in the afternoon.
At most polling stations there were more polling agents and police details than the number of people queuing to vote.
But there were reports of high voter turn out in constituencies in Chipinge, 190 km south of Mutare. In one constituency, Musikavanhu, there was a high turn out at Chisumbanje Primary School.. Voting was peaceful in the constituency, according to Learnmore Madhuku, an MDC youth activist.
The MDC candidate for senate in Mutare, Keresenzia Chabuka said some soldiers based at Three Brigade were intimidating voters at a polling station at the Manicaland Agricultural Showground’s. The showground’s are next the army barracks.
Misheck Kagurabadza, the MDC candidate for Mutasa South, said he was “shocked” by the high number of people being turned away at the polling stations. He said at one polling station about 20 people were turned away in just two hours. Ends
Zanu PF election agents said there were satisfied with the voting process.

Voting kicked off peacefully in Mutare

MUTARE- Voting kicked off peacefully here with fewer voters than expected queuing to cast their ballots in these crucial elections.
The verve that characterized the pre-election period was a far cry from the voter turn – out. In Sakubva, the most populous high density suburb, there were very short queues at most polling stations. In Dangamvura, the second populous high-density suburb, the situation was the same.
I n the city center, the queues were short. At one time, this reporter counted about 40 people lining up to vote.
Only in the new high-density suburb of Hobhouse there were long queues. One voter, Obvious Zengeya, who cast his ballot in Hobhouse said he was confident of a change of government in Zimbabwe. “I made sure my vote is counted,” Zengeya said. “My vote will contribute towards change to a better Zimbabwe.”
Voters were expected to flood voting stations in the afternoon, an official manning a polling booth in Sakubva said.
There were no incidents of violence reported anywhere as of mid day in Manicaland Province.
The pre – election hype that characterized the campaign period has not yet matched the number of people going to the polling stations.