Zimbabwe News Roundup

Mujuru inquest confusion

Tension is swelling within Zanu (PF) as preliminary confessions in the inquest into the death of retired General Solomon Mujuru make up a confused script into exactly how the leader of the guerrilla war died. On Monday forensic expects ruled out the use of explosives in the fire that reduced the hardened fighter to cinder.

Members of his faction who include his wife Vice President Joyce Mujuru want answers and fast. “I am sure the truth will come out. It was a good beginning. It was a good start but in between the period of inquest I was called by his Excellency (President Robert Mugabe) since I am at work and then I came back later therefore some of the witnesses had finished their business,” Mujuru said outside court without revealing why she had been called by President Mugabe for a meeting.

Inside the court members of Zanu (PF) sang the accusing song Ndimi makauraya (you are the ones who murdered) during the first day of the hearing. A police detail at the farm told him that Mujuru was alone when he arrived at his Alamein Farm. But a guard had said the general, who died on August 16 last year, was accompanied by an unidentified male colleague.

Duty hikes push prices

Prices of basic commodities are set to increase following the duty hikes by the local revenue authority ZIMRA.

A 25 percent surtax will be charged on a wide range of imported items, ranging from food items to cars, as of the first of this month. Items include fresh vegetables, meat and dairy, flour, pasta, bread and cakes, alcohol and cigarettes, cosmetics, footwear, candles and even soap.

The new surtax charges are said to be part of government’s efforts to protect local industry from imports – despite the fact that the local manufacturing industry is still performing well below what is needed to supply the market. – Staff reporter

Anglicans persecuted

The persecution of the Anglican Church has entered 2012 with renewed vigour from suspected members of the Central Intelligence Organisation and the police. Suspected CIO operatives last week stopped an Anglican Church women’s retreat on the outskirts of Harare. Retired Reverend Chad Gandiya wrote to the police last week complaining on the continued interference and questioning whether freedom of worship has withered in the country.

“The Zimbabwean constitution allows for freedom of religion. Why are we being harassed like this? Are we second class citizens in the land of our birth? Like any other citizen of this country we expect equal protection by the law enforcement agents of our Republic,” said Gandiya.

Last year the Anglican Church wrote to Mugabe asking for his intervention to stop the persecution, but Mugabe himself a Catholic is yet to respond and the police in the eyes of the Anglicans are on the side of Kunonga, the persecution continues. – Staff reporter

Award for Zim farmer

George Campbell-Johnson, the founder and Chairman of Zimbabwe Farmers Trust, was awarded the MBE in the British New Year’s Honours List for ‘Services to Zimbabwe Farmers’. His work included financial and practical support to numerous displaced farmers following the land invasions begun in 2000. Commentators said the award indicated that the British Government acknowledged the need to help these farmers. – Staff reporter

Vets invade COPAC

Self-styled war veterans last week continued their disruption of the constitution-making process as they invaded a COPAC press conference in Harare a few days after chasing COPAC officials in the resort town of Vumba. Zanu (PF) collaborators and war veterans accuse drafters of cooking up people’s views and are threatening to go to court to have the process stopped. – Staff reporter

MPs get $15 000

Members of Parliament are all smiles after getting their $15 000 outstanding allowances in a month that is traditionally a difficult one after heavy spending during the holidays. A total of $3 million was paid to the law makers who have been accused by the public of selfishness as they have threatened to stall government initiatives over the outstanding arrears. Civil servants are threatening to strike as they continue to earn way below the poverty datum line currently estimated at $540. They accuse the government of delaying salary negotiations and of being insincere especially after agreeing to pay the MPs. – Staff reporter

Children learn in cattle pens

Children at Beza Primary school near Masvingo are being forced to share classrooms with cattle after acting District Administrator James Murapa turned the classrooms into pens for his livestock. The school is on a farm formerly owned by Benly Mitchell. Murapa who grabbed the farm is justifying using the classrooms saying the buildings are now his property. – Staff reporter

Litmus test for ZMC

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai last week put the Zimbabwe Media Commission to the test after he took a case of complaint to the media regulatory board for a story that was published by the state-owned Herald newspaper. The Herald recently published a story saying Tsvangirai had bribed editors from the private media to write positively about him. The case will be a test case for ZMC as it has in the past always warned private newspapers against writing “falsehoods”, although the commission had no evidence to back its threats against private papers. Tsvangirai alleges that the Herald in its story breached journalistic standards. – Staff reporter

Macdom lawsuit

The long-standing dispute between Chisumbanje villagers and Green Fuel’s Macdom Investments (Pvt) Limited has taken a new twist after the latter sued Platform for Youth Development Director, Claris Madhuku, for $100 000 on defamation charges. The company’s lawyers, Ahmed and Ziyambi, sued Madhuku on charges that “he caused the publication of defamatory articles about the plaintiff (Macdom Investments),” read the summons.

The two articles referred to in the summons were published in September 2011 under the headlines, “Chisumbanje Villagers furious over lack of consultation for ethanol project” and The Chisumbanje land dispute,” Madhuku, represented by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, has indicated he will defend the charges. – Staff reporter

Govt owes Harare $70m

Harare City Council, fined $15 000 by the Environmental Management Agency last week for violating environmental legislation, says it is keen to provide a better service to its residents, but is hamstrung by unpaid bills. Acting Town Clerk and Director of Health Services, Dr Prosper Chonzi, said government owed the council $70m in charges and fees.

The council is also owed $200m by residents. Chonzi also pleaded with EMA not to impose a monetary fine as it would exacerbate the situation. He also said council had done reasonably well in view of the collapse of all water and sewage systems under the Zimbabwe National Water Authority. A World Bank technical team is working on rehabilitation of outstanding works, expected to be completed in 2014. More funding is expected from the Multi-Donor Trust Fund in 2012. – Wallace Mawire

Presidential scheme halted

The controversial Presidential scheme was halted at the Karoi Grain Marketing Board depot last Friday amid accusations of looting by senior Zanu (PF) officials, forcing desperate farmers to go home empty-handed.

The depot was virtually deserted after it was announced that rural councillors would assist in vetting and verifying deserving farmers. Some Zanu (PF) officials and MPs are accused of hijacking the credit facility claiming it is a campaign tool by President Robert Mugabe ahead of possible elections this year. This has brought divisions within the former ruling party where Zanu (PF) Hurungwe East MP Sarah Mahoka is accused of looting nearly 50 tons of inputs.

She defended her move saying the maize was for her constituency. GMB workers supported her: “Mahoka is one of the few Zanu (PF) officials who is consistent in delivering maize. You cannot compare her with youths who do not have even a single voucher for nearly eight years. It is political.” – Radio VOP

Freedom Moyo dies

Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation Current Affairs manager, Freedom Moyo, died in the early hours of Tuesday. He was involved in a car accident on Saturday morning. The Voluntary Media Council said Moyo was an outstanding senior journalist who was very popular among his peers and had a very successful career in journalism. Funeral arrangements had not been announced at the time of going to press. – Staff reporter

Women back in court

WOZA leaders Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu returned to court this week to hear the magistrate’s ruling on their application to dismiss their case without being put on their defence. After a fortnight of waiting, WOZA expected the magistrate, Goodluck Sangweni, to rule in their favour as the state had presented no evidence that could support the charges of kidnap and theft. But Sangweni said he believed the aims of justice would be served by putting the accused on their defence.

Defence lawyer Kossam Ncube asked for the magistrate to give his reasons for this unexpected decision. Explaining that there is no appeal process, Ncube advised that he would seek to apply to the High Court to review the magistrate’s decision and needed a written copy of reasons for dismissal of the application. The magistrate agreed to present his reasons in writing on Friday, January 20. – WOZA

No space for graves

Masvingo is fast running out of burial space and the lack of a master plan has resulted in difficulties in getting new land. “The space for graves in Mucheke is all but filled up. We are going to open a new site along Mutare road. Any inconvenience caused is greatly regretted,” said city clerk Adolf Gusha.

The council has already put adverts in local newspapers notifying the residents about the lack of space for cemeteries.

Residents said it was very unfortunate for them since they are likely to fork out a lot of money in order to bury their loved ones. – Radio VOP

Bulawayo needs rain

Bulawayo residents face another round of water shortages as the local authority is going to decommission one of its five supply dams, Umzingwane, next month due to low water levels. Two more dams, Upper Ncema and Inyankuni will be decommissioned in the coming months unless significant rain is received.

They are less than 30% full – at 17% and 21.3% full respectively. If the three dams are decommissioned, Bulawayo will be left with Lower Ncema and Insiza which are presently at 56% and 87.2% full respectively. The city has faced perennial water problems. The Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project, to tap water from the Zambezi River through the construction of a 450km pipeline, was mooted way back in 1912.Costs have since ballooned to about $600 million, way beyond what the cash-strapped Zimbabwe government can afford. – Radio VOP

Break of Dawn

New Dawn Mining said Monday operations had resumed at its Turk and Angelus mine, about a week after work was halted by underground workers. The company, which has five mines in Zimbabwe, said the disruption had caused little impact on gold production. It now aims to produce 60 000 oz/y of gold by the end of 2012. – Agencies

Dogs maul gold panners

At least two gold panners were mauled by police dogs as thousands of desperate fortune seekers flocked to the Sherwood Block outside Kwekwe in the hope of striking it rich.

Small scale miners desperate to get their hands on gold deposits have come face-to-face with the might of President Robert Mugabe’s security services. The military-headed Joint Operations Command says mining can legally begin there on Monday, but syndicates will be forced to sell their gold to the state. – Agencies

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