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Posts tagged ‘Diamond Land of Zimbabwe’

Zimbabwean talk about who will follow Mugabe gets murkier

October 06, 2017

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — He was viewed as a likely successor to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, a longtime ally whose close association with the 93-year-old leader dates to the struggle against white minority rule, Now Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa appears to be falling out of favor, deepening the mystery over who will take over from a man who has ruled since independence in 1980.

Mugabe has led attacks on his old friend, reflecting turmoil within the ruling ZANU-PF party in a country where political uncertainty has fueled problems in a deteriorating economy and increased hardship for many Zimbabweans. The criticism of the vice president, one of two presidential deputies, comes ahead of Mugabe’s re-election bid next year and amid a rise in prominence of Defense Minister Sydney Sekeramayi, whose name is popping up more often as a possible successor.

On Thursday, Mnangagwa pledged his “unflinching loyalty” to Mugabe following accusations from Mugabe’s wife, Grace Mugabe, and others that he had misled the country by saying recently that he fell ill because he was poisoned.

The fractured opposition, meanwhile, has been unable to channel national discontent into a strong play for power. The main opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has health problems and recently received treatment in neighboring South Africa.

“Mugabe survives on pitting one faction against the other. He elevates one faction, discards it when it begins to feel comfortable and props up another one,” said Gabriel Shumba, a Zimbabwean political analyst and human rights lawyer based in South Africa.

The machinations are eerily similar to those that augured the 2014 dismissal of Vice President Joice Mujuru, another former ally of Mugabe who is now an opposition figure. A dominant figure in the ouster of Mujuru who has now set her sights on Mnangagwa is Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe, whose calls for the appointment of a female vice president intensified talk that she eventually wants to take over the top spot from her husband.

So Mnangagwa has dutifully sat through political rallies where the Mugabe couple accused him of leading a faction that seeks power and has endured humiliating barbs from his boss. President Mugabe, for example, told a crowd about allegations that the vice president once left a rival for a woman’s affections paralyzed after forcing him to jump from a multi-story building.

“He was told to make a choice between sitting on a hot stove or jump out of the window. He chose to jump and now he is disabled. He could have refused both options but I guess he was afraid,” Mugabe said at a rally in Bindura town on Sept. 9.

During the remarks, Mnangagwa and his wife sat stone-faced on the dais. And that wasn’t all. Grace Mugabe then piled on, warning Mnangagwa that he might face a similar fate to that of Mujuru, who was also accused of plotting to oust the president.

“I am begging the VP to stop this. I once warned Mujuru and she thought I was joking. Where is she now?” the first lady thundered. The other vice president, Phelekezela Mphoko, has joined in criticism of his colleague, even though he is not considered a front-runner to succeed Mugabe because he lacks a strong political base.

Zimbabwe’s constitution says that if the president dies, resigns or is removed from office, the vice president who last stood in as acting president takes over for 90 days, following which the ruling party must appoint a person who takes over until the expiry of the former president’s term. Mnangagwa was acting president during Mugabe’s trip to the United Nations last month, while Mphoko has previously assumed the role.

Some analysts point to Sekeramayi, the low-key defense minister, as a possible successor. A medical doctor, Sekeramayi appears acceptable to those wary of Mnangagwa, who was in charge of state security when Mugabe unleashed a North Korean-trained brigade to crush dissent in western Zimbabwe in the 1980s. Sekeremayi’s name was first brought to the fore by Jonathan Moyo, an ally of Grace Mugabe and a critic of a faction associated with Mnangagwa.

At the Bindura rally, Mugabe said he invited Mnangagwa and Sekeremayi to join the independence war at around the same time, making neither of them senior to the other. His wife said Mugabe summoned Sekeremayi when he suffered diarrhea and thought he was dying; she didn’t say when that happened.

“The first family is using the rallies to reconstruct Mnangagwa’s image from a war hero to a careless, cruel and divisive individual, unfit to take over. At the same time, he is painting Sekeremayi as equal to Mnangagwa in terms of seniority in the party,” said Alex Rusero, an analyst based in Harare, the Zimbabwean capital. He speculated: “All this is to cast Sekeremayi as the chosen one.”

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Zimbabwe’s Mugabe turns 93, says he will stand in 2018 polls

February 21, 2017

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who turned 93 years old on Tuesday, described his wife Grace, an increasingly political figure, as “fireworks” because of her feisty remarks in his defense.

A large celebration is scheduled for Saturday in tribute to Mugabe, who has ruled since independence from white minority rule in 1980. Grace Mugabe has defended her husband against critics who say it is time for him to step down, saying the ruling party should field him as a corpse if he dies before elections next year.

In an interview marking his birthday that was shown late Monday on state broadcaster ZBC, Mugabe noted that his wife’s remarks were shown on television. “Fireworks, isn’t it?” he said, laughing. Grace Mugabe’s political rise has been a source of consternation for opposition figures as well as some officials within the ruling ZANU-PF party who suspect she is positioning herself for a more powerful role in the government. The president described her as “very much accepted by the people” and said the women’s wing of the ruling party had chosen his wife as its head because of her political ambitions.

He described her as “well-seasoned” and “a very strong character.” Mugabe also repeated his pledge to stand in elections in 2018 despite calls from some Zimbabweans for him to quit amid economic turmoil in the once-prosperous country and numerous allegations about human rights and election irregularities. The president said he was still popular and nobody is qualified to replace him.

“The volume of wishes for the president to stand, the number of people who will be disappointed is galore and I don’t want to disappoint them,” he said. During the interview, Mugabe often gestured to emphasize points. He spoke slowly and was slumped into a leather armchair most of the time.

Zimbabwe issues new currency, bond notes

November 28, 2016

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe has issued its own currency for the first time since 2009 to try to ease biting shortages of the U.S dollar. Banks started issuing the new currency, called bond notes, Monday. Previously the U.S currency had been Zimbabwe’s main medium of trade.

The new bond notes sparked a mix of hope and apprehension among a population desperate for a solution to the cash crisis but also skeptical of the ability of President Robert Mugabe’s government to manage a currency.

In 2008 and 2009 the state’s central bank printed so much of its currency, the Zimbabwe dollar, that the country experienced mind-boggling hyperinflation that reached 500 billion percent, according to the International Monetary Fund. People’s savings and pensions were wiped out. The inflation was only brought under control when the government abandoned the Zimbabwe currency and began using the U.S. dollar and several other foreign currencies as legal tender.

But this year the government has not had enough U.S. dollars to make timely payment of the salaries of civil servants, police and army. Banks have been so short of the U.S. currency that people have slept outside branches in the hope of getting a few dollars. Monday the banks began issuing people with bond notes.

“I am happy that I have finally got some cash after days of sleeping in a bank queue,” said Tenson Tigere, a Harare man who received a combination of bond notes and U.S. dollars from his bank. “At the same time I am not sure that these bond notes are the solution. They might soon become worthless just like the Zimdollar,” he said outside a major bank in Harare after he was given $40 in bond notes and $10 in greenbacks.

The central bank, The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, said the new notes will come in $2 and $5 denominations, although only $2 notes are being issued Monday. The Reserve Bank has also introduced $1 bond coins.

The currency is pegged at par with the U.S. dollar and is backed by a $200 million bond facility with Afreximbank, said the Reserve Bank in a statement Saturday. Some vendors readily accepted the new currency but said they are cautious and will stop if the notes begin to lose value.

Harare-based economic consultant John Robertson said the introduction of bond notes could lead to shortages of commodities and price hikes. “Anyone who needs foreign currency for imports will have to go to the black market. Inevitably the bond notes will lose their value,” he said. “It is back to the Zimbabwe dollar scenario.”

In Zimbabwe, government and protesters get more defiant

September 07, 2016

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — For many in Zimbabwe, enough is enough. The words are spelled out in anti-government graffiti in the capital, Harare, one of several new declarations of defiance that authorities have trouble scrubbing away.

Over the weekend, President Robert Mugabe also declared “enough is enough” of the growing protests that reflect nationwide anger over a plummeting economy and alleged state corruption. Protesters have clashed with police wielding tear gas, water cannons and batons. Hundreds have been arrested.

Both sides of the political divide are increasingly fed up, an ominous sign in this country whose 92-year-old leader is showing signs of advanced age but makes no move of wanting to quit. Mugabe has been in power since independence from white minority rule in 1980, meaning any political transition will be a leap into the unknown for most people in a nation with a record of disputed and sometimes violent elections.

Many in Zimbabwe are waiting to see whether the fragmented opposition that recently joined forces can find enough momentum to force real change. The opposition has faltered in the past because of government crackdowns, internal divisions and other problems.

“Forming a coalition would present the opposition with the best chance to unseat Mugabe,” said Eldred Masunungure, a political analyst at the University of Zimbabwe. But he said the opposition likely would struggle with “state-sponsored election violence, intimidation and the involvement of the military in elections.”

Opposition leaders, including former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai and a former vice president, Joice Mujuru, have mentioned the possibility of contesting the next elections in 2018 as a single front.

Mugabe, the world’s oldest head of state, has vowed to run for office again. But the shrewd operator, who joked away the latest rumors of his death last weekend after an overseas absence, has struggled to curb divisions within his own party. He continues to say the growing unrest is manipulated by adversaries in the West like the United States.

“We cannot sit idly while our country is being torn apart by unruly foreign-sponsored agents,” Ignatius Chombo, the home affairs minister, said last month. Many demonstrations are now organized through social media, prompting the government to announce plans for a law that would tighten social media controls and target what it calls “cyberterrorists.”

Mugabe has criticized the courts for overruling an earlier police ban on demonstrations, saying the decision had endangered stability. Human Rights Watch has accused the president of interfering in the judiciary’s independence.

A two-week protest ban is currently in effect, but opposition groups plan another demonstration on Sept. 16 after it expires. Amid the uncertainty, many people in this country of 13 million people focus on daily survival, selling medicine, car parts or basic food staples on the street. They stand in long lines at banks because of shortages of the U.S. dollar, which replaced the local currency years ago because of hyperinflation.

The government has failed to pay its more than 500,000 employees, including the military, on time since June. Some Zimbabweans are joining Pentecostal churches that have been mushrooming across the country in hopes of a miracle. The churches are often led by couples calling themselves “prophet and prophetess” who sell things like rubber bracelets and “anointed” water to followers, promising miraculous riches.

“I want the ‘prophet’ to bless my business. Everything else has failed to work,” Mateo Sithole said while packing potatoes at his market stall in the eastern city of Mutare. “People have no money. They are not buying,”

In Harare, the anti-government graffiti on downtown buildings takes aim at the man in charge. “You are now a ghost,” one says. Another says: “Old Mugabe must go now.”

Zimbabwe police arrest 67 over anti-government protest

August 27, 2016

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — President Robert Mugabe warned against an Arab Spring type of revolution, as Zimbabwe police said they arrested 67 people following a violent protest that rocked the capital, Harare.

“What happened in the Arab world should not be tried here. We don’t want to be provoked. We are a peaceful people,” the state-run Herald newspaper quoted Mugabe as saying at a send-off for students awarded scholarships to study in China.

Police recovered some property looted during the protests, police spokesman Paul Nyathi said Saturday. Police used batons, tear gas and water cannons in running battles with anti-government demonstrators on Friday, despite a court order that the protest could take place.

“Security has been intensified. Anyone who engages in any acts of violence such as destruction of property, attacking security agencies and innocent civilians will be dealt with,” said Nyathi to reporters on Saturday.

Frustrations over Zimbabwe’s rapidly deteriorating economy are boiling over in this once prosperous but now economically struggling southern African country. Police have often used tear gas, water cannons and open violence to crush anti-government protests, which have become a near-daily occurrence.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, an NGO providing lawyers to demonstrators, said among those arrested are journalist and a pregnant woman.

Police battle rioters in Zimbabwe’s capital

July 04, 2016

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Police in Zimbabwe’s capital on Monday fired tear gas, water cannons and warning shots during riots by minibus drivers and others protesting alleged police harassment. The violence, in which 30 people were arrested, came amid a surge in protests in recent weeks because of increasing economic hardship and alleged mismanagement by the government of President Robert Mugabe.

An Associated Press journalist saw protesters severely beat two police officers with sticks, then take their uniforms and helmets and wear them. The protesters blocked roads leading into the center of Harare, forcing many people to walk up to 6 miles (10 kilometers) to get to work. Rioters threw stones at police and vehicles, and some children on their way to school were caught up in the chaos.

Outnumbered police later sought to negotiate with the crowds after failing to disperse thousands of protesters, who were concentrated in Harare’s eastern suburbs. Many rioters were young men who can’t find regular employment and make a living off drivers by charging a small fee to load passengers into minibuses.

Some police were seen firing live ammunition into the air to ward off the crowds. They also brought in police dogs. The drivers’ grievances stem from anger over numerous roadblocks that police sometimes set up in city streets, which drivers allege are to demand bribes. Police said they had reduced the number of roadblocks after complaints from parliamentarians, tourism operators and others.

Thirty people were arrested for inciting the protests, police spokeswoman Charity Charamba said. “We have information and intelligence on the identities of some criminal elements who are behind the social unrest,” Charamba said at a news conference.

Such acts of defiance and clashes with the police are rare in Zimbabwe, although the government deployed the army against 1998 riots over soaring food prices. Mugabe, 92, has ruled the southern African country since independence from white minority rule in 1980, scoffing at frequent allegations of human rights violations.

Frustrations over rapidly deteriorating economic conditions in Zimbabwe, compounded by dissatisfaction over alleged government corruption and incompetence, have resulted in near-daily protests in recent weeks. On Friday, protesters burned a warehouse at Beitbridge, a busy border post between Zimbabwe and South Africa, over a Zimbabwean decision to ban a wide range of imports.

Seventeen people appeared in court on Sunday over the Beitbridge protests and were charged with public violence. Separately, state hospital doctors and other government workers said they will strike over the government’s failure to pay their June salaries on time.

Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has been pleading with Western countries to unlock financing for Zimbabwe in the form of loans that were halted close to two decades ago. The financing dried up due to failure to repay debts as well as international sanctions imposed because of concerns over democratic rights.

Some recent political protests have been notable for their brazenness. Police said they are looking for Lumumba William Matumanje, a former ruling party activist who used an obscenity to denigrate Mugabe while launching his own political party last week. People have often been sent to jail for such conduct in Zimbabwe.

Last month, video footage showed an anti-government protester shouting in the lobby of an upscale hotel in Harare and haranguing police until they move in and drag him away. The video shows a protest by activists angry at Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko’s alleged 18-month stay in a $400-a-night hotel suite in the capital, Harare.

Activist Sten Zvorwadza was charged with threats to commit malicious damage to property and was freed on $200 bail. The majority of Zimbabwe’s citizens survive on just a dollar a day, the official statistics agency says.

Despite challenges, Zimbabwe showcases artists in Venice

May 26, 2015

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Stone and wood carvings displayed by street vendors in Zimbabwe reflect a long tradition of sculpture, and despite economic and other challenges, the country’s artists are forging new paths and even have displays at one of the world’s most prestigious art fairs.

Zimbabwe has a national pavilion at the Venice Biennale for the third consecutive time, making it an African standout at the Italian event that Raphael Chikukwa, curator of the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, describes as “the Olympics of the visual arts.”

Chikukwa spoke in Harare last week to The Associated Press after returning from Venice, where the work of three Zimbabwean artists is displayed at the waterfront church of Santa Maria della Pieta. The artists include Chikonzero Chazunguza, who draws inspiration from 18th century local leaders who opposed British colonialists, and Masimba Hwati, who incorporates Twitter, Coca-Cola and other brand logos into his work. The third, Gareth Nyandoro, portrays Harare’s street vendors, whose large numbers reflect Zimbabwe’s high unemployment.

“Continuity in these international forums is key,” Chikukwa said in his gallery office. He praised state support and cited efforts to nurture young artists. The Harare gallery is currently displaying the work of “Born Frees,” artists born after Zimbabwe became independent in 1980. There is also an exhibition of portraits of prominent actors, academics, politicians and other local figures. A huge painting shows Robert Mugabe, the 91-year-old president who has ruled since the end of white minority rule.

The gallery opened in 1957 and the first exhibition, titled “From Rembrandt to Picasso,” showed original works by European artists. The Venice Biennale, which ends in November, features 89 national pavilions. Other African participants include Angola and South Africa. The fair curator is Nigerian Okwui Enwezor, the first African to hold the post.

Zimbabwe’s economic woes have left artists struggling for funding. Chikukwa also contrasted the big crowds at the Biennale’s opening week to the lack of strong interest in Zimbabwe for art exhibitions. He remains motivated, however, by his mission to have the artists’ work be seen.

“Giving voice to artists, it’s a very important element in any society,” he said.

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