Soldiers and police lead invasion of Mazoe Estates

As the new unity government between the MDC and ZANU PF continued to take shape this week, it has emerged that one of the country's biggest commercial farms has been taken over by soldiers and police.


The company that owns Mazoe Estates outside Harare, Interfresh, this
week said in a statement to shareholders that an invading group, led by
uniformed soldiers and police, moved onto the farm last week and
declared themselves owners of various plots on the estate. Last
Saturday, a group of individuals accompanied by ZRP policeman and a
uniformed ZNA military policeman claimed ownership of plots comprising
Yarrowdale Farm, the crops section of Mazoe Citrus Estates. According
to a ZimOnline report, the farm invaders ordered its employees to
vacate the estate by Friday – ironically the same day the process to
form the unity government was completed.

Interfresh said in its statement to shareholders: The financial impact on

the company, loss of employment and loss of food production in the event of

total loss of this farm would be very significant.

The news highlights the many problems facing the new Prime Minister
Morgan Tsvangirai in a government with Robert Mugabe – whose notorious
land invasions have set a worrying precedent among his loyal militia
and armed forces.  Analysts have said the unity government offers
Zimbabwe its best chance in a decade to end its crisis' and put the
country on the road to sustainable economic and social recovery. But
many say major differences between Mugabe and Tsvangirai over
fundamental issues such as the highly contentious issue of land reform
could yet derail the unity government. And Mugabe is still in the seat
of power.

Tsvangirai has called for an audit to establish who owns what land in

Zimbabwe, but Mugabe has in the past repeatedly accused the new Prime
Minister of wishing to return land to former white owners in his role
as a puppet of the West.

Roy Bennett arrested on day of swearing in of senior ministers

On the day the controversial power sharing government was supposed to
be sworn in, Roy Bennett, the MDC Treasurer General and Deputy Minister
of Agriculture designate, was arrested. Not a good start to the new
government.

Furthermore the Mugabe regime did this under the full gaze of SADC, as
the SADC chairman and South African President Kgalema Motlanthe was in
Harare when the MDC official was arrested.

The MDC Secretary of Welfare, Kerry Kay, said Bennett was arrested at
the Charles Prince Airport, just outside Harare. Kay said he was on his
way to South Africa to visit his family and was due to return next week
in time for the swearing in of Deputy Ministers.

Additionally she said a warrant of arrest had been issued for her
husband, Ian Kay, who is the MDC MP for Marondera, plus another one for
election expert Topper Whitehead. It is not clear why these individuals
are being sought by police or why police picked up Bennett, although
his arrest may be in connection with allegations made in 2006 of
plotting to assassinate Robert Mugabe.

Bennett, who completely denies this charge, was forced to flee to South
Africa in 2006 and had lived in exile there until his recent return to
Zimbabwe at the beginning of February, to join the inclusive government
as Deputy Minister of Agriculture.

Bennett is a former commercial farmer and popular MDC MP for
Chimanimani, who lost both his farm and parliamentary seat as a result
of serious harassment by ZANU PF. The workers on his farm were beaten
and tortured by state agents and at least two died in politically
motivated attacks. The MDC official also spent nearly a year in jail in
2004 for pushing Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa in parliament,
after being verbally abused.

Meanwhile the MDC have been criticised for going ahead with the
swearing in ceremony of the cabinet, without securing the release of
their own Deputy Minister designate and scores of civic and political
activists, still  incarcerated at Chikurubi Maximum  prison, after
extreme torture. 

By late afternoon Bennett had been moved from Harare to Goromonzi, then
to Marondera police station and finally to Mutare police station.

More evidence of power sharing deal heading for collapse

There was ample evidence Friday that the shaky power sharing deal
signed between ZANU PF and the MDC is headed for collapse. On the day a
new cabinet was sworn in, chaos was the order of the day. Analysts say
hardliners within ZANU PF are determined to torpedo the deal and the
arrest of the newly appointed Deputy Agriculture Minister Roy Bennet
was part of those moves.

Mugabe showed the internal pressure he is facing from within his own
party by trying to increase his allocation of ministers. The subsequent
heated debates delayed the swearing in ceremony by about 5 hours,
begging the question of how the political parties will ever work
together.

More chaos is also being reported on farms countrywide, as leading
army, police and ZANU PF officials loot and plunder what is left of the
few remaining and thriving farms. The question on everyone's lips is,
what has Tsvangirai got himself into? Under the power share deal ZANU
PF secured the key ministries of defence, state security and
information, while the MDC are saddled with the more complex finance,
health and social service ministries. There can be no doubting the good
intentions of the MDC in making life better for the people, but a
growing number of their supporters are increasingly frustrated by the
bullying tactics of ZANU PF.

The failure to release political prisoners, some whom have spent over 3
months in custody, is also not helping matters. Although the new Prime
Minister visited the prisoners on his first day at work on Thursday,
many had wanted the prisoners release to be a pre-condition before
joining Mugabe in a government.

Tsvangirai meanwhile has been forced to re-shuffle his cabinet, two
days after announcing it. Apparently his appointment of Nkayi North MP
Abednico Bhebhe, from the Mutambara MDC as Water Resources Minister,
violated the political agreement between the parties. According to
Welshman Ncube, from Bhebhe's party, the MP would have had to resign
his seat in parliament if he was to take up the appointment. Tsvangirai
has now replaced Bhebhe with his own MP, Joel Gabbuza from Binga.

More pressure was heaped on Tsvangirai after constituents in
Matabeleland felt he had marginalized them in the cabinet appointments.
The recently appointed Minister of State Enterprise and Parastatals,
Eddie Cross, was sacrificed in the changes made to appease them. Former
Daily News Chief Executive Samuel Sipepa Nkomo replaced Cross. The MDC
simply said Cross had been re-assigned' but some felt it was sad that
tribal considerations were given more prominence than perhaps the
abilities of the people chosen into government.

ZCTU urges civil servants to return to work in support of new govt

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has echoed the new Prime
Minister's call for civil servants to return to their duties – saying
workers must give the new unity government a chance to work.

The call came after Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai met with the
labour union on Thursday, the day after he vowed to pay all civil
servants in foreign currency at the end of this month. ZCTU President
Lovemore Matombo told a press briefing held at the union's offices in
Harare, that they support the unity government, but only on a
transitional basis, and therefore urged all workers to return to work
and give the government a chance. The country's 150 000 strong civil
workforce has been up in arms over the government's continued refusal
to adjust state salaries to reflect the almost total dollarisation of
the economy, and a growing number of strikes has seen the civil sector
grind to a halt.

Doctors and nurses last year downed tools after fighting a losing
battle to keep health services afloat in the collapsed economy. The
resulting closure of most hospitals and clinics contributed to the
rapid spread of the cholera outbreak, that to date has officially
claimed more than 3500 lives since August. At the same time, mounting
tension has been brewing among the ranks of Robert Mugabe's once loyal
armed forces, with rogue soldiers repeatedly taking to the streets in
protest over their wages, raising fears of an armed mutiny.

Meanwhile teachers, who have demanded monthly wages of up to US$2000,
have also been on strike since last year, resulting in the majority of
state schools remaining shut in the new year. President of the
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) Takavafira Zhou told SW
Radio Africa on Friday that it is impossible' for civil servants to
return to work, explaining they can't transform their meagre earnings
into transport money and food and medicine to be fit to return to
work. Zhou argued that teachers in particular are still facing a
myriad of problems', explaining that the 2009 academic year should not
begin until all the issues have been addressed.

There are no books, no proper sanitation, no way to stop cholera if
there is an outbreak in the schools, Zhou explained. We need to be
able to give parents proper reassurances before we open the schools
doors again.

Tsvangirai's vow to pay all civil servants, including the army and
police, in forex has naturally been well received by the potential
recipients, although questions have been raised over how the Prime
Minister will keep his word in the current economic climate.

According to the Herald newspaper, acting Finance Minister Patrick
Chinamasa on Thursday told media that civil servants would receive
US$100 in vouchers, redeemable for goods and cash at registered'
shops. Chinamasa said the government has put in place adequate
allowances in foreign currency in the form of vouchers over and above
their regular salaries, and added that shop owners were obliged to
accept them – although it is yet to be explained which shops will face
such obligations and how they will be compensated by the state.
Chinamasa also said that civil servants would eventually be paid in
hard currency, when the government's foreign currency tax revenue
increases.

With 94% unemployment, it could be a long wait.

Swearing in delayed as Mugabe tries to increase number of ministers

The swearing in ceremony of cabinet ministers to the inclusive
government was delayed by almost five hours on Friday in Harare, after
Robert Mugabe attempted to increase the number of ministers from his
ZANU PF party.

According to the Global Political Agreement, signed by all parties in
September last year, ZANU PF was to have 15 cabinet portfolios, MDC-T
13 and the MDC three, to reflect the distribution of the popular vote
in last year's elections.

But when the ceremony eventually took place an extra minister for ZANU
PF was sworn in. Mugabe had initially tried to have 22 sworn in. 13
from MDC-T were also sworn in along with three from MDC-M. The
co-sharing Home Affairs Minister from MDC-T, Giles Mutsekwa, will be
sworn in next week when he gets back home from a business trip outside
Zimbabwe. 15 deputy ministers will be sworn in next week, eight from
ZANU PF, six from MDC-T and one from MDC-M

MDC spokesman, Nelson Chamisa explained that ZANU PF got an extra
minister of state, in return for the MDC getting 5 governorships, to
ZANU PF's 4. The GPA agreement was modified by the appointment of one
minister each from ZANU PF and MDC-T, to share the running of the
Ministry of Home Affairs. In addition, each party was expected to
appoint a minister of state.

The cabinet list released by ZANU PF on Thursday night contained 22
names, giving Mugabe an extra six ministers. This was when the trouble
began. An MDC MP who was present at the ceremony on Friday.said the
process was completely disorganized and that guests were kept waiting
for hours without being told what was happening.

Joseph Mugnai, Morgan Tsvangirai spokesman, said Mugabe arrived for
Friday’s ceremony with plans to swear-in seven ZANU-PF members as
junior ministers, surprising his partners.

Eventually it was agreed that Mugabe drop five ministers from the list.
Those dropped included David Parirenyatwa, former Health minister,
Sylvester Nguni, Paul Mangwana, Flora Bhuka and John Nkomo.

The MDC-M had brought four nominees but only three; Welshman Ncube,
David Coltart and Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga were sworn in.
Deputy party president Gibson Sibanda was not sworn in. No one could
explain why.

Another MP told us the situation reflected what was to be expected in the new government, mistrust and confusion.'

We sat there for hours and we sensed there were disagreements because
officials kept coming and going outside the offices of the State House.
This is a bad start to this government, I pray it works because from
what I saw today, I see disaster ahead,' the MP said.

A report received late in the day said South African President Kgalema
Motlanthe had to get involved and was the one who suggested the
compromise which allowed Mugabe to swear in an extra minister of state.

Professor Welshman Ncube said: "President Motlanthe suggested that the
three parties should use the weekend to resolve the dispute and reach a
compromise before Monday when the deputy ministers are sworn in. The
expectation is that the Ministers of State who were not sworn in today
will be sworn in together with the deputy ministers.

SWRadio Africa

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