News Briefs – 31 March 2006

Tough new anti-terrorism law

HARARE - The Zimbabwe gov

ernment has gazetted a tough anti-terrorism law imposing life imprisonment for people found guilty of participating or aiding international terrorism. The Suppression of Foreign and International Terrorism Bill published in the Government Gazette last Friday also makes it an offence punishable by up to 10 years in jail for anyone knowingly harbouring foreign terrorists.

Failure to report the presence of foreign terrorists within 72 hours of becoming aware of their presence on Zimbabwean soil will attract a five-year jail sentence, according to the proposed new law.

The draft law reads in part: “Any person who, whether or not he or she is a member of a foreign and international terrorist organisation, engages or participates in any foreign or international terrorist activity, shall be guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for life.

“(It is an offence to) knowingly harbour or conceal a foreign or international terrorist or fail to report such terrorist within 72 hours of becoming aware of his or her presence in Zimbabwe.

“The maximum penalties for these offences will be a fine of level 14 or 10 years imprisonment or both, in the case of harbouring or concealing a foreign or international terrorist and a fine of level 10 or five years’ imprisonment or both for failing to report one or failing to disclose such a terrorist’s presence upon being questioned by an official.”

The Anti-terrorism Bill will now be tabled in Parliament for debate and if passed will be forwarded to President Robert Mugabe for his signature before it becomes effective legislation.

Zimbabweans will also be jailed for life if found guilty of having trained as an international terrorist or helped recruit people for such training. – ZimOnline

Students fight expulsions

BULAWAYO – The Students Solidarity Trust reports that authorities at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) have suspended 28 students pending a hearing later this week.

The 28 include Beloved Chiweshe, SRC President, Mzwandile Ndlovhu, SRC S.G., and Iasac Chimutashu, former SRC President, Benjamin Nyandoro, former SRC president and Lawrence Mashungu – National Vice Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Students Christian Movement, among others.

They are charged with an assortment of charges, including conduct harmful to the interests of the university, by demonizing and castigating government and the Vice Chancellor, and malicious injury to property

Students have been in perpetual protest at NUST since the semester started, at the massive fee increments by government which students have termed “Operation Murambashasha”.

Meanwhile following the expulsion of four student leaders, SRC President H Mavuma, SEC members Collin Chibango, Mfundo Mlilo and Wellington Mahohoma, the University of Zimbabwe has also suspended a former student leader and SST fellow, Wellington Zindove on similar charges.

The Students Executive Council has resolved to fight the expulsions both legally and politically. – Own correspondent

Op Garikai houses lack basic amenities

BULAWAYO – More than Z$500 billion is needed for the installation of water and sewerage reticulation services to houses built under the government housing reconstruction programme in Cowdray Park.

The houses built under Operation Garikai/Hlalani are intended for victims of the unpopular government clean up exercise that left close to 700,000 families homeless after government pulled down their houses.

A total of 450 two-roomed houses have been completed in Cowdray Park while 220 are at various stages. However, the houses lack water and sewerage reticulation services.

The government ignored council advice when it was warned that it would be impossible to install the services as the houses were built on bedrock.

The government has indicated that it fails to get the finances, it would build ventilated pit latrines. But health experts and the local authorities have warned that their erection would pose a serious health hazard.

Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle has been marred by chaos since it started. Recent reports note that government officials have grabbed the houses intended for those left

Homeless. – CAJ News

A time to heal – ZCC


LONDON “We have killed and torn down enough; it now must be a time to heal and rebuild.” – One of the quotes from a hard-hitting Pastoral Letter to the Nation, on

the crisis in the country, by the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC).

The letter, the strongest statement so far from the ZCC, calls for the regime of Robert Mugabe to be accountable and urges all Zimbabweans to take responsibility for their situation.

Analysts have welcomed this latest stance by the churches who have generally been less vocal about the crisis. With the exception of some church leaders like Pius Ncube, the Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, Zimbabwean churches have in the past been criticised for being silent and not speaking out against the atrocities perpetrated by the regime.

Reverend Graham Shaw of the Methodist Church said although he hasn’t seen the pastoral letter, he is “pleasantly surprised if the ZCC is now beginning to fulfil its divine mandate to speak prophetically about the situation. Because in recent months and years they have been remarkably quiet in the face of massive humanitarian disaster and the most gross human rights abuses.”

Observers say pressure is now seriously mounting on the ruling party as more groups are speaking out with a united voice. Last week an all stakeholders conference organised in Mutare by Zimbabwe’s largest civic groups resolved to take action as a united front and push for a new constitution. The gathering included the labour movement, student and civic groups and the churches.

Reverend Shaw said such Pastoral Letters were significant as they indicated the seriousness which church leaders took the deteriorating situation in the country. He said, “They indicate to the church and the nation that the church leadership is feeling the pain, is hearing the cries of the people and is wanting to respond and give moral

spiritual leadership.”

It said on the issue of corruption; “As Churches in Zimbabwe we note with concern that even where the machinery exists to curb corruption, little is being done or has been done. We, therefore, feel obliged to speak out on this evil that is continuously bleeding an already crumbling economy and if this continues unchecked, recovery will be impossible.”

The churches described the shambolic land reform program as “unfinished business that has threatened the food security of Zimbabwe and led to massive unemployment.” – SW Radio Africa

Cuban doctors unhappy

MARONDERA – Cuban doctors, like everybody else, are finding it extremely difficult to manage on their salaries.

The doctors, who earn Z$11 million a month in allowances, are in Zimbabwe on a government-to-government agreement. Their salaries are paid from Cuba.

One of the doctors told the press that he still had to support his family back home. The Minister of Health and Child Welfare, David Parirenyatwa, said the government was aware of the doctors’ plight and was looking into it.

The doctors first came to Zimbabwe six years ago to help improve health care delivery in rural and district hospitals as most local doctors joined the exodus from tyranny and economic collapse. – Own correspondent

Judges’ pensions threatened

HARARE – Government has threatened to cut the pensions of retired Supreme and High Court judges if they refused to be recalled for duty.

According to a judges Pension Scheme notice gazetted last week, the pension office will withhold any benefits to retired judicial officers for the period they would have refused to serve.

“The fact that a full pensioner is engaged in some other employment or business shall not constitute a just cause for refusing to serve unless the nature of the employment or business render it inappropriate for him or her to undertake the service,” says the notice.

The government has been increasingly relying on retired judges to preside over cases in which local judges have been reluctant to preside over. A retired judge is currently presiding over a hearing in which some banks that have been placed under curatorship by the Reserve Bank are challenging the takeover of their assets.

Another retired judge, Justice Mtambanengwe, now a judge on the Namibian Supreme Court, presided over the trial of fugitive High Court judge, Justice Benjamin Paradza. Several senior judges have either quit or been forced out of office in recent years. – Own correspondent

Council borrows trillions

HARARE – The City Council, which is broke, is planning to borrow Z$1,45 trillion to buy 329 sedans and pick-up trucks for its managers and field staff.

Of this, Z$1,1 trillion would be used to buy 183 one-tonne trucks, at an average cost of Z$6 billion apiece, while another Z$42 billion would go towards the purchase of 90 sedans going for Z$3,6 billion each.

Other items in the huge capital lending budget were several “executive” desks, each one costing over Z$50 million, as well as chairs and refrigerators.

The borrowings will exacerbate the City’s massive debt and place an increasing burden on the ratepayers, already reeling under 800% inflation. – Own correspondent

Mugabe’s bodyguard dies

HARARE – President Robert Mugabe’s personal bodyguard, Senior Assistant Commissioner Winston Changara has died.

Changara, who was reinstated to his post two months ago after he had been suspended from his position sometime last year for allegedly indecently assaulting Mugabe’s wife, Grace, died in Harare yesterday after a short illness.

Changara was last October demoted and banished to the Police Commissioner’s pool, an internal police facility to punish and frustrate errant senior officers after Mugabe’s wife Grace complained.

But Changara told an internal team probing him that Grace had fabricated the charge in a bid to cover up her extra-marital affairs. The team found him not guilty. – ZimOnline

Knives out for Gono

HARARE – The knives are out for Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono with Energy Minister Mike Nyambuya the latest among a growing list

of senior government officials to criticise the reformist RBZ chief and to call for his wide-ranging powers to be clipped.

Nyambuya – clearly peeved at Gono after the governor blocked his proposals for huge increases in power tariffs – attacked Gono during a recent Cabinet meeting, accusing him of breaking “legal statutes” to usurp the powers of the Zimbabwe Electricity Regulatory Commission (ZERC).

The disclosure of Nyambuya’s criticism follows press reports that Gono – tasked by Mugabe to fix the limping economy – had also clashed with Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa.

Murerwa, who has overall responsibility over economic policy, is said to have accused Gono of acting without consulting him and of overstepping his role as

monetary policy chief to undertake quasi-fiscal activities.

Several other senior government officials are also said to have criticised Gono accusing him of behaving like a “Prime Minister”.

Gono has been praised for bringing discipline back to Zimbabwe’s banking sector and has won plaudits for saving the country from expulsion by the International

Monetary Fund by paying off outstanding debts. But his inflation fighting measures have been a huge flop with the key rate now officially at 800%. – ZimOnline

Residents urged to fight City

HARAREHarare residents whose water has been disconnected for any reason, including non-payment, must use their legal rights to get supplies restored or to block attempts by the City of Harare to cut them off, the Combined Harare Residents’ Association says.

CHRA urged residents to rally around this issue and set Harare free. “We have the power of numbers to change the system of local governance in Harare.”

Citing a judgement last year when the High Court ordered the City of Harare to pay Z$200 million compensation and reconnect the water of a Hatcliffe woman, Tracey Maponde, the CHRA said water is a birthright, adding: “Be brave and use the power in your hands.”

In the Maponde case (No. HC 5948/05), Judge Gowora ruled that it is illegal to disconnect water for failure to pay. Maponde had her water disconnected and her two-room cottage destroyed for non-payment of Z$3 million in rubble charges. She challenged the City of Harare in a case brought by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. Her water was immediately reconnected.

CHRA has received numerous reports of water disconnection for non-payment.

Here is the association’s to-do guide if a city official shows up to cut off the water:

· Demand to see their ID and the letter of disconnection from the District Officer, which must specify that you have failed to pay your WATER BILL. There should be written notices.

· Tell the person that their action is illegal and would be in contempt of court.

· Use the law and engage CHRA or your lawyer to stop the City of Harare abusing its authority.

If your water has been illegally disconnected:

Contact your District Officer quoting the High Court case and request immediate reconnection. If the water is not restored, tell the District Office that you and CHRA will take legal action. – Own Correspondent

Mother tongue section hailed

JOHANNESBURG – Zimbabweans from all walks of life have hailed the people’s paper, The Zimbabwean, for introducing Ndebele and Shona edition in its weekly paper.

“The majority of Zimbabwe’s rural folk still value their languages. This is a unique link for them,” said Mandla Mlotshwa of Jozi. “The Zimbabwean should go into the history books as the first independent newspaper to make an effort to deliver truthful news in our indigenous languages. At last rural people can talk of media freedom as they can now read real news in their own languages.”

“When we talk of news in our indigenous languages do not ever talk about Umthunywa, Kwayedza nor the ZBH Nhau/Indaba. Those are state mouth-pieces and their businesses have nothing to do with anything related to news. They have a place in the colonial era not in an independent Zimbabwe,” said one activist in Zimbabwe who declined to be named.

In a snap survey in Johannesburg, the Zimbabwe Political Victims Association (ZIPOVA) Secretary, Oliver Kubikwa, hailed the vernacular sections.

Echoing same sentiments was the ZIPOVA Welfare Officer, Joshua “Mambo” Rusere. “Previously there was no option except reading Kwayedza and Umthunywa, which are mostly government controlled. Now that we have a free voice, the people can make their well informed decisions about what is in the press,” he said.

Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) activist in Johannesburg, Gaya Moyo, said the introduction of the Ndebele and Shona versions would help neutralise the propaganda which was being channelled by Zanu (PF) to the majority of Zimbabweans.

“I remember when villagers from my home area were afraid of touching The Zimbabwean, because Zanu (PF) propaganda had told them it was Tony Blair’s “poisoned” newspaper. Now that the news is carried in our own vernacular languages, this will dispel the doom,” said Moyo. –CAJ News

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