News Briefs


e: 10.0pt”> – Over 500 000 sanitary products to help desperate women forced to use newspapers and rags as substitutes are on their way to Zimbabwe this week.

They were collected by “Dignity, Period”, founded by Thabitha Khumalo, a member of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), in association with the British-based non-governmental organisation Action for Southern Africa (Actsa).

The NGO raised money in the UK to help fund the campaign. “The response the campaign has been getting has been incredible. The idea has really caught the imagination even among men, who have come out in support,” said Euan Wilmshurst, director of Actsa.

Actsa is now negotiations with manufacturers on how to keep the campaign sustainable. Khumalo said the products would be distributed among women in rural areas, where the ZCTU would also hold public meetings to inform women of the dangers of using unhygienic rags.

ZCTU spokesperson Bright Chibvuri said the Zimbabwean government had agreed, in principle, to waive the duty payable on the products. “But we don’t know what will happen when the trucks reach the border,” he said. – Own correspondent

Looming crisis resolved

HARARE – The MDC (pro-Senate) management committee met early this week to review this weekend’s congress preparations and resolve a looming crisis over the nomination of presidential candidates.

The committee agreed that all members of the party could present themselves for election to any post within the party.

This follows the announcement by the group’s deputy secretary general, Gift Chimanikire of his intention to stand, which was initially shot down by senior executives who wanted Professor Arthur Mutambara to assume the post.

It is an open secret that senior officials regarded it as something of a coup that they had managed to persuade Mutambara, managing director of the Johannesburg-based Africa Technology and Business Institute, to accept the presidential nomination and presumed his election would be a foregone conclusion.

Chimanikire is said to be preparing to wage a huge battle for the post and regards Mutambara as a latecomer. Priscilla Misihairabwi Mushonga has reportedly also expressed interest in the position.

Mutambara himself issued a statement from South Africa this week saying he considered it “the civic duty and obligation of Zimbabweans to develop political and economic solutions to the country’s current problems”.

“Zimbabweans have witnessed with distress the split in the main opposition party MDC. For the past four months, the party’s top leadership has failed to unite the ranks of the movement. As the party goes towards two separate congresses, the infusion of new leadership, untainted by current disagreements, is imperative to facilitate the reunification process,” said Mutambara.

Mengistu behind Zim clean-up?

HARARE – Exiled Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam was the brains behind last year’s brutal clean-up campaign in Zimbabwe that left nearly a million people homeless, ZimOnline has established.

Authoritative sources within Zimbabwe’s feared state security Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) said Mengistu, who fled to Harare in 1991 and now acts as President Robert Mugabe’s security adviser, warned the Zimbabwean leader that the swelling slum and backyard population was creating a fertile ground for a mass uprising.

With the Zimbabwean economic situation ever deteriorating and a discontented population growing in numbers, Mengistu advised Mugabe that the only way to pre-empt a mass revolt in Zimbabwe or any other form of mass action was by depopulating the cities via the brutal slum clearance exercise.

According to the intelligence official, who spoke on condition he was not named, the former Ethiopian dictator was of the view that spontaneous riots, worse than food riots that erupted in Harare and other cities in 1998, could happen anytime because of the deteriorating economic situation in Zimbabwe. Urgent pre-emptive action was necessary, he told Mugabe.

State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa vehemently denied the allegations. “Mengistu had absolutely nothing to do with the operation and I think it is unfair to make that kind of allegation against him. He is a guest in our country. He is here in exile and is simply resting. He does not interfere at all with the affairs of our country. We also do not allow him to interfere with his country (Ethiopia) from Zimbabwe.” – Mengistu lives in the lap of luxury in the plush Gunhill suburb with 24-hour security from the Police VIP Protection Unit and the CIO at the Zimbabwean taxpayer’s expense. The regime has allocated him two large farms, one in Mazowe and another in Norton. He owns a separate home in Bluffhill. – ZimOnline

‘Mend bridges’ Mugabe tells Pocock

HARARE – President Robert Mugabe has urged Britain’s new ambassador, Dr Andrew Pocock, to report “true facts” on Zimbabwe to help mend bridges with the former colonial ruler.

Relations between Mugabe’s government and that of Prime Minister Tony Blair has been at an all time low since 2000 charges that the Zanu (PF) regime violated human rights and rigged polls.

Mugabe has taken a personal dislike to Blair and used every possible public opportunity to denounce him using the most intemperate and un-diplomatic government. For example, he has accused Blair ‘and his gay gangsters’ of interfering in the land reform programme and of imposing economic sanctions. The British government has responded to these rantings during the past six years with marked restraint.

The state-controlled Herald reported what would appear to be a remarkable turnaround on Mugabe’s behalf last Friday, when it quoted him as saying to Pocock:

“We want you here to help construct formidable bridges. We need a bridge with the British. We politicians come and go, but the people are there at all times.”

“You are not punishing Zimbabwe, but you are also punishing your own people, your own economy,” the Herald quoted Mugabe as saying to Pocock, alluding to the scores of British-owned companies that still operate in the African country. – Own correspondent

Skin disease rife in prisons

HARARE – There has been a skin disease outbreak at Harare’s Central and Remand Prisons and it is understood the government has been silent on the matter while frantic efforts to curb the spread of the ailment have failed.

Most of the patients affected by this so-far unnamed disease are allegedly being kept at the prison hospital but some are being treated in their prison cells due to a shortage of beds at the hospital.

SW Radio Africa’s correspondent, Simon Muchemwa, spoke with a prison officer from Harare Remand who said the prisoners were complaining of hardened and itchy skin that spreads all over the body through scratching. Within two or three days the itching spots crack and bleeding starts.

Muchemwa said another officer’s explanation was that “This type of disease is not common among inmates. Things are worse this year due to the hiring of prisoners to work at ministers’ farms. They bring lorries to ferry them to their farms and pay about ZW$3 000 per prisoner. They expose these people to extreme conditions out there and when they come back sick, the ailment spreads throughout the whole prison.”

The number of those affected has not been disclosed so far, and information is hard to come by as senior prison officials are refusing to take the sick to hospital, fearing publicity. – SW Radio Africa

Bizos worried about Zim


JOHANNESBURG – Zimbabwe’s judiciary is under severe threat from continued interference by the Zanu (PF) regime said renowned human rights and anti-apartheid lawyer, George Bizos in an interview with The Zimbabwean.

“The judges are under tremendous pressure from the government to make political judgements. Most of them have left the bench after being victimised and the few remaining can not raise their heads to defend their independence,” said Bizos, adding that he was worried about South Africa’s continuing silence on the Zimbabwe crisis.

Bizos, who represented former President Nelson Mandela and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai at their respective treason trials, said Mugabe was trying to cling to power using all tactics and judges had been cowed to make judgements in his favour.

“They can’t do anything because he has all apparatus to deal with them,” he said.

Chiwoniso makes ISC finals

HARAREZimbabwe’s mbira princess, Chiwoniso, has made it to the finals of the International songwriting competition – the world’s biggest music creation competition.

Her song ‘Rebel woman’ was entered without her knowledge by a friend and colleague Keith Farquharson.

The song is now eligible for the People’s Voice – an online voting contest that allows the public to listen to all the finalists’ songs and vote for their favourite. People’s Voice is separate from, and in addition to, the winners selected by ISC’s panel of judges. The winner of People’s Voice will receive $1,500 in merchandise and services.

Voting will take place from February 1 through February 28, 2006 and a delighted Chiwoniso has appealed to all her friends and fans around the world to vote for her.

Start voting now at

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