Heroes & Villains

It was an unusual homecoming. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, supported on the arm of his wife Grace, strolling across the tarmac of Harare airport last Thursday, spitting venom at the world’s media – which an aide had said was “driving an imperialist agenda” – after his 10th trip in 16 months to
Singapore for cancer treatment.

Mugabe, 88, was supposed to have returned on Monday, but then said he would not be back until at least Thursday, triggering excited rumours in Harare.

The news editor of the Zimbabwe Mail was so overcome that his paper led with a story Mugabe was dead. He has been sacked. No doubt this frenzied speculation – and the effect it has within Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF party – led to a further change of plan, with the President hurrying home much earlier.

The latest private opinion polls show Mugabe’s support down to just 5 per cent in the towns and 15 per cent in the countryside.

Support for Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, is at 65 per cent.

Once Mugabe’s Zanu-PF loses power, the remnants are likely to rapidlycollapse and there will be wholesale regime change, with a far more pro-Western government under Tsvangirai that could thrive on foreign aid and investment. Until last year, Mugabe’s two rivals for the succession had been Emmerson Mnangagwa, the former head of the secret police who was responsible for the thousands of deaths in Matabeleland, and former guerilla leader Solomon Mujuru.

However, Mujuru and his mistress were burnt to death in a mysterious fire last August. Many believe Mugabe has designated Mnangagwa, known as “Crocodile”, as his successor.

Mugabe has been desperately pressing for an early election so he can run for a final time as President – he is certainly the best candidate Zanu-PF has, although he has had to rely on violence and intimidation to win the previous two times.

However, Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s President who heads the Southern African Development Community, has shown surprising backbone in holding Mugabe to his promise of constitutional reform, insisting that no election can be held till those reforms are in place. That means no election until next year -
and creating a nation of presidential health-watchers. Mugabe was shocked by the fall of ally Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and insists there is a NATO plot to overthrow him. Last month, several Zimbabweans facing charges of treason escaped with fines and community service for screening videos of the Arab Spring.

While Mugabe has shown skill and cunning in prolonging his mastery, he has now reached a point where his exits are blocked. The two certainties are death and taxes – Mugabe has dodged taxes, but there are limits to what even he can manage.

Source: The Sunday Times

A fully packed Mathangwane Kgotla came to a standstill last week when an elderly man, Uwe Hubona, pointed an accusing finger at the President Ian Khama and his government for unlawfully usurping his grandfather’s land.

While other village elders stood up to raise their concerns, ask questions and compliment the President Hubona took a different line. While the villagers listened attentively he confronted the President and accused him of taking his grandfather’s land; he wanted to be compensated.

“You, President of Botswana, Paramount Chief of Bangwato, you are a cheater and a populist who is criticizes Robert Mugabe’s leadership while you do the same.

“Just like Mugabe who took the land from white people, you took Mafungo land and gave it to Marobela people; so I regard you just like President Mugabe,” lamented the old man.

According to Hubona his grandfather, Hubona Nshakashogwe, was compensated with land in 1960 after he was assaulted by a group of men sent by Kgosi Khama the third.

“When my grandfather died, since that land was for the Hubona family, we built a village and selected our elder brother, Omphile Hubona, to lead it, but we were surprised when the government brought Marobela people to establish a village here,” he complained.

The old man told the President that the Hubona family was supposed to be appointed chiefs of the village, which has now changed its name to Mafungo-Hubona.

“This is a great injustice because the government has nationalized our land without consulting us and appointed Tendani Manyika as chief.

“So if one of the Hubona family is not appointed chief, we want to be compensated,” charged Hubona.


President Robert Mugabe moved around in a golf cart during the Thursday summit of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) troika on peace and security, sparking fresh speculation about the 87-year-old ruler’s health.

Travelling with a large entourage that included six medical people, Mugabe had difficulties disembarking from the Air Zimbabwe chartered flight at Livingstone International Airport.

With one bodyguard in front and one on the left, Mugabe walked slowly to the dais where he was again assisted to climb up for the singing of the national anthems.

During the summit at Zambezi Sun Hotel in the resort town in southern Zambia, Mugabe moved around in a golf cart.

Even disembarking from the golf cart required his optimum concentration and holding of supporting metal bars while his counterparts walked freely.

Last month, Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba, in what should be a first in the former guerilla leader’s presidency, announced that his boss had undergone a surgical operation to remove cataracts in his eyes in Singapore.

The announcement followed intense speculation during Mugabe’s annual leave that he was suffering from prostate cancer and had visited a hospital in the Far East.

ZANU PF has chosen Zimbabwe’s only ruler since independence to represent it in presidential elections expected later this year.

But analysts doubt that he would be fit enough to see through the usually vigorous election campaign.

His major rival would be the 59-year-old Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai who beat Mugabe in the first round of the 2008 presidential elections but failed to garner the majority required to claim the presidency.


First Lady Grace Mugabe has been fingered as one of the biggest beneficiaries from the diamonds from the controversial Chiadzwa fields after it emerged she is a shareholder in Mbada Diamonds.

Mbada Diamonds is one of the companies that were clandestinely awarded mining rights at Chiadzwa by President Robert Mugabe’s government.

Government sources revealed the First Lady had a substantial interest in Mbada Diamonds together with little known South African company, Grandwell Holdings and the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation.

“The First Lady is one of the shareholders in Mbada Diamonds,” said an official from the ministry of mines.

The official said eyebrows were raised after the First Lady was constantly meeting Robert Mhlanga, Mbada Diamonds’ chairperson.

Mhlanga, a retired Zimbabwe Airforce Vice Marshall, is a close confidante to the First Family dating to the days of the Congo war when he was still in active service and as President Mugabe’s personal helicopter pilot.

Mbada Diamonds caused a furor last year after it clandestinely flew over 300 000 carats of diamonds to Harare International Airport from Chiadzwa without police supervision.

The company wanted to auction the gems but the sale was stopped at the eleventh hour.

It was feared that the non-transparent manner in which the diamonds were transported, could have created room for corruption with some loads being diverted to other destinations before they reached Harare.

They were also worries that the government had no presence at the fields mined by Mbada Diamonds. With no representative on the ground, government had no idea how much Mbada was mining.

Human rights groups have in the past accused President Mugabe’s government of plundering the precious resource in Chiazdwa.

A human rights activist based in Mutare, Farai Maguwu burnt his fingers after he attempted to expose human rights violations and the looting of the gems by senior officials in government.

Maguwu was arrested and detained for five weeks on charges of spreading falsehoods prejudicial to the state.

He is out on stringent bail conditions. Police arrested Maguwu again on Monday and charged him with possession of a stolen vehicle.ends


President Robert Mugabe’s younger sister, Sabina, has died. She was 75 years old.

Sabina, the mother of Leo Mugabe, Patrick and Robert Zhuwao, passed on at around 4am on today at Harare’s Avenues Clinic where she had been admitted since last Friday after allegedly complaining of stomach pains.

Sabina, who quit active politics two year’s ago, had been in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) as doctors unsuccessfully battled to save her life.

An official announcement of the death is expected later today and would be broadcast on national radio and television.

Born on October 14, 1934, Sabina bowed down from active politics due to ill health before the 2008 harmonised elections, with unconfirmed reports at the time suggesting her retirement was due to ill health.

Sabina, who was nearly 10 years junior to Mugabe, 86, served as a Member of Parliament (MP) for Makonde East in 1985 and later became the legislator for Zvimba South constituency between 1990 and 2008.

She was also a member of the ZANU PF women’s league serving as its national secretary for production and labour.

During her time in active politics Sabina was part of what seemed to be the Mugabe political dynasty with President Mugabe ruling the country while she served in parliament with her two sons and their cousin, prominent business Philip Chiyangwa.


President Mugabe briefly returned from his annual leave to bury the widow of veteran nationalist Leopold Takawira who was declared a national hero and interred at the national shrine in Harare yesterday.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai made his second official appearance at the Heroes Acre and was accompanied by his two deputies, Arthur Mutambara and Thokozani Khupe. Mugabe’s two deputies, Joyce Mujuru and John Nkomo also attended to complete a rare public appearance of the country’s entire top executive.

Mugabe, who made an unusual departure from his traditional attack of Britain and the West, took most of his speech to recall the works of the late Amai Sunny Ntombiyelanga Takawira and to relive the life of her husband, the legendary Takawira who died in prison in colonial Rhodesia.

His speech would however have been incomplete without mention of the ‘white outsiders’ and Zimbabwe’s sovereignty.

Mugabe said ‘outsiders’ were welcome in Zimbabwe only if they were coming to partner Zimbabweans in the exploitation of the country’s resources for the benefit of Zimbabweans.

“The destiny of our country is in our own hands. Outsiders, yes we need, but only to the extent that they want to partner us in exploiting the country’s resources for the development of Zimbabwe and its people.

“Our country’s interests come first and Zimbabweans must be prepared to defend those interests. The country’s sovereignty is non-negotiable, and the unity of our people remains paramount in all our endeavours.

Ministers and officials from Tsvangirai and Mutambara’s parties made conspicuous appearance leaving analysts wondering if Mugabe and his two protagonists had finally agreed on the contentious criteria for choosing national heroes.

The former opposition leaders had always complained about Mugabe using his party’s supreme governing body, the politburo, to unilaterally decide on who was to be declared a national hero.

This had been presented as one of the reasons why Tsvangirai’s attendance at the national shrine was not always guaranteed.


Tony Blair believes that Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe should be overthrown, a German magazine quoted the former British prime minister as saying in an interview published on Wednesday.

“I think if you can get rid of Mugabe, get rid of him. The guy has destroyed his country. There are many people in his country who have died who should not have died, because of what he has done,” Blair told the Stern weekly.

“If you can, you should, but you obviously have to operate in careful limits,” he said.

Blair also rejected criticism that his closeness to the United States and Israel made him unsuitable for his current job as envoy for the Middle East Quartet, mediating between the Jewish state and the Palestinians.

“I can honestly say that not once in all the time that I have been dealing with the Palestinians has the issue of my close relationship with the US or Israel ever been a problem. On the contrary, it is an advantage,” Blair said.

“I remember president (Mahmud) Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, when I had my first conversation with him. I said it might be a disadvantage because of my closeness to America and my strong view on Israel, and he said: ‘That is why you are useful.’”

Blair, who stepped down as British premier in 2007, was former US president George W. Bush’s closest ally in the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and drew criticism for his support of Israel‘s bombardment of southern Lebanon in 2006.

The 56-year-old also reiterated that he had no regrets about toppling Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein despite the fact that no weapons of mass destruction — his main argument for the invasion — were found.

“I always say to people the question is very simple in the end: would the region be better off if Saddam was still in power,” he told Stern. “Do I regret having removed him, Saddam Hussein? The answer is frankly, no.”


Vice-Prseident Joseph Msika is reportedly on the verge of quitting due to deteriorating health and resurfacing power struggles in ZANU PF involving two rival factions and his restive former ZAPU colleagues. This came as ZANU PF finally set in motion a formal process to manage President Robert Mugabe’s controversial succession.

ZANU PF spokesman Ephraim Masawi last night confirmed his party’s extraordinary politburo meeting yesterday set up a committee chaired by party chairman John Nkomo (pictured) to deal with the succession problem.

The committee also includes rival faction leaders and stalwarts Solomon Mujuru and Emmerson Mnangagwa, Didymus Mutasa, Nicholas Goche, Oppah Muchinguri and Sydney Sekeremayi.

As revealed in the Independent last week, there is a fierce debate going on in ZANU PF over Mugabe’s succession.

In 2003 a ZANU PF succession committee headed by Nkomo was disbanded after it fuelled infighting over who was to take over from Mugabe. Masawi also said the party had set up four other committees to deal with party issues. Mutasa will head a research and ideology committee, Mnangagwa constitutional reform, David Karimanzira finance and economic development and Angeline Masuku mobilisation and media strategy.

The move by Msika to retire, coupled with problems buffeting co-vice-president Joice Mujuru in the party, might leave Mugabe exposed in his party’s intensifying battle over his succession. Msika particularly has been a stabilising factor in ZANU PF which is riddled with divisions, factionalism and infighting.

Sources said Msika who is not attending cabinet and ZANU PF meetings, including politburo ones has told close family and senior party officials that he wants to step down. Msika is battling with health problems and has been in and out of the country for treatment.

However, Mugabe is said to be reluctant to let Msika retire, preferring to keep him in office for life as happened with Joshua Nkomo and Simon Muzenda.

Nkomo and Muzenda died in office due to ill-heath.

“Msika wants to quit because he is not feeling well and the situation has of late been further deteriorating,” a source said. “Close family and party members are aware of this and there are moves to manage his departure well to avoid the usual infighting over his position.”

After’s Nkomo death in 1999 ahead of the party’s congress in December that year there was a battle between Msika and former ZANU PF Women’s League chairperson Thenjiwe Lesabe to succeed him.

Four years later when Muzenda died in 2003, a scramble for his position erupted between Mnangagwa and Mujuru ahead of the party’s congress in December 2004. Mujuru beat Mnangagwa, but the issue continues to fuel power struggles in the party.

Sources said Msika’s decision to leave has triggered a new fight to succeed him. The race is between ZANU PF chair John Nkomo, politburo member Obert Mpofu and Bulawayo governor Cain Mathema. Nkomo is seen as the frontrunner as Mpofu and Mathema are relative lightweights.

Sources said Nkomo, Mpofu and Mathema have been hectically lobbying party stalwarts and ex-combatants to support them in their succession bids.

“There is serious campaigning going on because it is now well known in the party that Msika wants to quit,” a senior ZANU PF official said. “A number of people are interested in his position.”

Sources said one of the reasons Msika wants to leave, apart from ill-health, is the attempt by former ZANU PF politburo member Dumiso Dabengwa and colleagues to revive ZAPU. Msika is said to be in sympathy with Dabengwa and has refused to castigate him in public while many other former ZAPU leaders have been doing so to distance themselves from the initiative that has angered Mugabe.

“Msika supports Dabengwa in principle because he believes he has legitimate grievances, but he does not agree with the approach,” a source close to ZANU PF said. “Even when the issue came up last year he did not confirm or deny he was part of it.”

Former ZAPU leaders, a number of them who are still in the politburo and government, feel Mugabe has only used the merger of the parties to entrench himself and his regional clique, not push a national agenda.

Mugabe has accused Dabengwa of being a tribalist because he wants to resuscitate ZAPU, but Dabengwa’s supporters have rejected this, saying it is Mugabe himself who is a “notorious tribalist”. Dabengwa last year said he left because “I was never Zanu anyway”, prompting Mugabe’s angry attacks.

Dabengwa’s ZAPU held a congress in Bulawayo on May 17. The event was attended by about 3 000 party members from around Zimbabwe and South Africa, as well as ex-combatants from the region. Dabengwa was elected party leader and his deputy is his former ZAPU colleague Canciwell Nziramasanga.

Dabengwa, a close friend and ally of South African President Jacob Zuma, is reportedly being funded by liberation struggle comrades in South Africa, Botswana and Zambia.


Zimbabwe‘s central bank took hundreds of millions of euros from private bank accounts, including 300,000 euros from a bank account belonging to Hivos, a Dutch development organisation. Corina Straatsma, director of Hivos’ regional office in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, says 90,000 euros is still missing although the rest has been paid back.

Dr Gideon Gono, governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), released a statement on Monday admitting that the bank took hundreds of millions in foreign currency from private accounts without either the permission or the knowledge of the account holders. According to the statement, the government needed the money in order to fund loans to state-owned companies and buy grain and energy supplies. According to Mr Gono, “The unorthodox measures helped keep the country afloat”.

Hivos pressuring MDC

Hivos, which is largely dependent on subsidies from the Dutch foreign affairs ministry, is pressuring contacts within the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to try and get its money back. Last February, the MDC joined a unity government with President Robert Mugabe’s long-governing ZANU-PF party. According to Ms Straatsma,

“The MDC is aware that Zimbabwe needs foreign aid and knows that this situation cannot continue indefinitely”. Mr Gono promised that the RBZ will repay the money – estimated at 1.5 billion euros – it took from private bank accounts but he did not say when it would actually be repaid. Most of the plundered accounts belong to private companies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as Hivos. Last year, the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria said 5.64 million euros was missing from its bank account in Zimbabwe. The money has since been returned.

The Zimbabwean government will have to repay almost one billion euros to the RBZ before the central bank can itself repay the money ‘borrowed’. However, the government does not yet have that money.

Local NGOs also affected

Apart from Hivos, Dutch aid organisation SNV also has an office in Zimbabwe. Although SNV’s bank account was not raided, local manager Rik Overmars says numerous local NGOs had their bank accounts plundered. SNV is almost completely dependent on Dutch government subsidies.

Ms Straatsma has confirmed that many of Hivos’ local partner organisations had money taken from their bank accounts. Hivos, in co-operation with the United Nations development fund, is attempting to get the money back. Ms Straatsma says the central bank’s ‘move’ has not jeopardised Hivos’ activities. The aid organisation opened a new bank account in neighbouring Botswana, and Dutch government subsidy money was paid into that account.

Governor under pressure

Analysts say Mr Gono’s admission is an attempt to hold on to his job. In September 2008, just before a coalition accord was agreed with the MDC, President Robert Mugabe reappointed Mr Gono to a second five-year term as central bank governor. However, since Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC joined the unity government in February, there has been considerable pressure on Mr Gono to resign.

The central bank governor is one of the Mr Mugabe’s close allies and his policies have been blamed for the severe economic turmoil in the country. There have been severe food, fuel and cash shortages as well as hyperinflation. The health, education and agriculture system has collapsed and the Zimbabwean dollar became next to worthless. The recent introduction of the US dollar as legal tender has helped bring prices down and there are some goods in the shops again.

South Africa‘s finance ministry is investigating the possibility of allowing Zimbabwe to use its currency, the rand, and allowing Harare to join the South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho monetary union.

Just this week, the new Zimbabwean government called on foreign companies, and in particular South African companies, to invest in Zimbabwe. A government spokesman said, “It’s an investment well worth risking”.




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