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A new culture of fearlessness has developed in the ruling party and this may signal the end of a tight grip on power by party's gerontocracy.
Delegates to the ruling party's annual conference held in Mutare last week showed the party's top hierarchy that gone are the days when the rest of the party leadership could be used to rubber-stamp the decisions of the politburo, no matter how unpopular they might be with the majority of the people.
True to tradition, Vice President Muzenda who is also the ruling party's vice president kicked off the meeting with a speech meant to intimidate members of parliament who normally raise dissenting voices. He warned that dissenting MPs elected on the party's ticket had no place in ZANU PF, which has ruled the country since independence in 1980.
Rumbled Muzenda: "Members of Parliament who are elected on the party ticket should be committed to the principles of the party. The party has a known position on most major issues and if there is any criticism that has to be done, it has to be in-house and not in public.
Doing otherwise is doing disservice to the party. We may indeed be forced, as we were forced during the liberation struggle, to discard some members of our party because they are not committed to the party."
Emphasising the need for "true members" to toe the party line, Muzenda said party members may have many positive qualities such as intelligence, bravery and riches but if they are not loyal to the party, then they are of little value to it.
However, when Mugabe took to the podium to address the conference, there was an uproar when he mentioned that the party had decided to impose a five percent levy on individuals and companies to raise money for paying gratuities to ex-combatants. In a rare display of defiance, the delegates shouted "Hatidi" (We don't want).
Realising the mood of the delegates and the unanimity with which they opposed the levy, Mugabe responded that he had understood what the delegates had said and he immediately ordered his Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa to find other means of raising the Z$4 billion required to pay ex-combatants.
The MPs said they were not opposed to the payment of gratuities to ex-combatants, but they could not allow the already suffering masses to be further burdened. The rebellious mood of the delegates was a rude awakening for the ruling party leadership which has become used to the politics of patronage. It clearly sent the message that the top leadership could no longer bulldoze its way as has been the case since independence nearly 18 years ago.
Following Mugabe's response, Moses Mvenge, MP for Mutare Central stood up and openly challenged Vice President Muzenda who had earlier challenged dissenting voices with expulsion, asking if he had heard Mugabe's response on the war veterans levy.
"This is a victory for parliamentarians who would have faced the wrath of their constituencies if this levy had passed. These are signs of changing times," Mvenge said.
Lazarus Nzirayebani, the MP for Mutare South said it was sometimes necessary for the leadership to learn things the hard way. "We told them from the beginning that the issue of the levy was a non-starter, and true to our predictions, the delegates have shown they do not want it," he said in reference to earlier attempts by Parliamentarians to stop the passing of the levy in Parliament which were ignored by the government.
Besides the issue of the war veterans, the ruling party leadership was also criticised over why members to its politburo, the party's supreme organ, were not elected but appointed by Mugabe. Mashonaland Central governor Border Gezi was greeted with applause when he questioned why members of the politburo were appointed by the president when all other party posts were filled through elections.
"Comrade President, elections are held at all party levels, from cell to province. Why can't the Politburo be elected by the people as well?" Gezi asked. He also asked why no audited statements of accounts of ZANU PF-run companies had been presented to the conferences for delegates to assess the party's financial position.
"It is puzzling to note that the party is always broke yet it has huge investments in several big companies. Where is the money going," Gezi asked but received no response. Ruling party chairman Joseph Msika tried to stop Gezi talking, saying his time was up, but delegates instead shouted Msika down and said Gezi should continue talking.
"Leave those who tell the truth continue talking. We are tired of thieves and liars in the party," shouted one delegate at the top of his voice.
At the rate at which things are going, the writing might be on the wall for the party's hierarchy that it must change its ways or risk a revolution within the party. If nothing is done to address the issue of democracy within the party, natural forces will take their toll and some people who since independence have been treated like untouchables may fall with a thud from the grace into oblivion.
However, none of the delegates was brave enough to raise the issue of president's term. Both the ZANU PF constitution and that of the country are silent on how someone can serve as president and Mugabe has been at the helm since independence in 1980.
There is reasonable fear among some Zimbabweans that Mugabe may seek yet another term when his present term expires in three years time. This fear arises from the fact that Mugabe whose first wife, Sally died in 1991, recently married a young woman, Grace who is 40 years younger than him and may wish to remain the country's first years for several more years from now.
1.Government bows down to workers' pressure
Zimbabwean Parliamentarians last week stood firm by the electorate's demands and forced the government to scrap the recently imposed increase in fuel duty and electricity levy, but only with effect from the end of the year.
However the increase in sales tax from 15 to 17,5 percent remains. The government which on Tuesday scrapped the five percent War Veterans Levy following country-wide protests by workers had said the increases in fuel duty, sales tax and electricity levy would remain, but Parliamentarians yesterday warned the government of serious consequences if it continued to ignore the wishes of the long-suffering masses.
The announcement in Parliament by Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa followed an impromptu caucus meeting of the ruling ZANU PF party. On Tuesday Parliamentarians blocked an attempt by a cabinet minister to adjourn Parliament until the end of January next year.They insisted that Parliament could only adjourn after the issue of the five percent levy and other taxes had been resolved.
On Tuesday last week, property worth millions of dollars was destroyed when thousands of people took to the streets to demonstrate against the five percent levy. Demonstrators turned violent after riot police who were trying to break up the peaceful demonstrations fired teargas at the demonstrators.
In the ensuing violence more than 31 shops were broken into and looted in Harare, while more than twenty cars and buses were destroyed.
Meanwhile members of the public and many civic and human rights organisations have condemned the police for provoking the violence, with some calling for the resignation of the Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri.
2.Reserve Bank warns government
Zimbabwe's central bank, The Reserve Bank, has warned government to live within its means otherwise measures taken last month to support the country's beleaguered currency would fail.
In its latest monthly bulletin the Reserve Bank also stressed the need for government to win back foreign donor aid frozen two years ago as a result of government's failure to show commitment to fiscal discipline. The bank said if the money is released, it would help restore business confidence in an economy which analysts say is showing signs of recession.
The bank said the measures it took to stabilise the Zimdollar needed to be supported by a sound macro-economic framework. Although the bank did not specify what steps the government should take to improve the economic climate, economists suggest government should trim its ministries so as to balance its Z$64 billion budget which is expected to incur a deficit of more than Z$15 billion up to December 1998.
3.McDonald's going to Zimbabwe
American fast food giant, McDonald's is looking for a Zimbabwean partner with which to start business in the country within two years.
McDonald's is also searching for a partner in Botswana where it also wants to establish business. According to a story carried by the Financial Gazette, McDonalds, which is already in South Africa, wants to expand its operations in Southern Africa.
4.Mining industry to lay off workers
Zimbabwe's mining industry, hard-pressed by plummeting metal prices, has retrenched more than 2 000 workers this year and many more jobs might be lost next year if prices remain depressed.
Poor prices, particularly of gold, nickel, copper and ferrochrome have strained operations, forcing many mining companies to retrench. The president of the Chambers of Mines, John Nixon said in an interview the market was unlikely to recover quickly and this would result more problems for mining companies.
The price of gold has fallen to a record low in 12 years.
5.Bill to do away with monopolies
A communications bill which seeks to repeal current legislation which gives the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) and Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (PTC) monopolies over broadcasting and telecommunications, respectively has been drafted and is now being considered by government.
This was said by the Minister of Information, Posts and Telecommunications, Chen Chimutengwende when he addressed a seminar on deregulation and privatisation organised by the PTC Workers Union.
Civil society has for long been calling on the government to scrap monopolies in communications which people argue are contrary to the principles of democracy.
6.Zimbabwe to help DRC police
Eight senior police officers from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) arrived in Zimbabwe early last week to receive training from the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) as part of Zimbabwe's efforts to help the DRC rebuild its police force.
The DRC delegation is led by Mr Pascal Baruku Alimasi who is the deputy director general of the DRC National Police. Zimbabwe's Minister of Home Affairs Dumiso Dabengwa on receiving the delegation said the DRC needed all the help it could get because it inherited a country destroyed by the previous regime.
The DRC delegation was due to remain in the country for five days during which time they would receive detailed briefs and explanations on ZRP training procedures. The government of Zimbabwe and that of the DRC have very close relations, with Zimbabwe having been one of the countries which supplied Laurent Kabila with arms he used to topple former Zairean dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.
7.Opposition leader found guilty of conspiracy to kill Mugabe
The leader of the opposition ZANU Ndonga, Rev Ndabaningi Sithole has been found guilty on all three charges of committing acts of terrorism, illegal possession of arms and conspiring to assassinate President Mugabe.
He was convicted by High Court Judge Justice Chatikobo sitting with two assessors. He denied the charges and is going to appeal against the conviction. Sithole who is 76 was remanded to December 17 this year for sentence. He faces a possible 15-year jail term.
8.Union leader assaulted
The leader of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) Morgan Tsvangirayi has been assaulted and injured by unknown assailants at his office in Harare.
According to news broadcast by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, an unknown number of assailants attacked Tsvangirayi hitting him in the face and causing serious injury to one of his eyes.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Republic Police said it was investigating the incident but no one had been arrested by 3pm Thursday last week.
Tsvangirayi is the secretary general of the ZCTU which organised nation-wide demonstrations which forced the government to scrap a five percent levy and other taxes meant to raise money for ex-combatants.
9.University students suspended for theft
Six University of Zimbabwe (UZ) students have been suspended from the institution after they were convicted by the courts for theft of towels from the university.
The students pleaded guilty and were fined. A UZ spokesman said the vice chancellor Professor Graham Hill had recommended the suspension pending hearings on the thefts.
10.Zimbabwe rugby team beats US
The Zimbabwe rugby team last weekend beat the United States 19-17 to clinch the Emirates Plate at the Dubai Rugby Sevens Tournament in the United Arab Emirates.
Zimbabwe had earlier thumped the north American side, Morocco 21-7 in the quarter finals and edged Korea 10-7 in the semi-finals.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Under 20 soccer team failed to get to the top of Group A in the Confederation of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) when they were held to a 2-2 draw by Namibia.
In another sporting event, Zimbabwe's Nick Price on Sunday last week won US$1 million, the biggest prize on offer in a single golf tournament, after winning the Million Dollar Challenge in Sun City South Africa. A week earlier Price had won the Zimbabwe Open and walked away with more than Z$200 000.
**************************** From: AfricaNN@inform-bbs.dk (Africa_news Network) Date: Mon, 15 Dec 1997 10:32:50 +0100 Subject: Fwd: ZIMBABWE NEWS ONLINE #12 Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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