/ 12 May 2009

Zimbabwe unity govt nears 100 days

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai addresses Zimbabwe’s Parliament on Tuesday as the unity government nears 100 days in power, with analysts saying little has changed in the daily lives of citizens.

Tsvangirai took office alongside long-ruling President Robert Mugabe on February 11 in a power-sharing pact tasked with steering Zimbabwe back to stability after disputed elections last year plunged the country into crisis.

Under the fledgling government’s watch, multimillion-dollar credit lines have been secured to rebuild the shattered economy and the International Monetary Fund has said it will resume technical assistance to Harare.

Having ditched the hyperinflation-battered Zimbabwe dollar, the country has this year seen basic necessities return to stores and prices — now tagged in US dollars — slowly improving.

But, analysts say, there has not been significant change since the political rivals signed a power-sharing pact three months ago.

”The only new thing is that unlike in the past we don’t see the rivalry openly. There is slow movement in every other area,” said Lovemore Madhuku, a law lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe.

The political parties in the unity pact have yet to resolve provincial governor posts amid continuing reports of farm invasions and last week’s renewed detention of rights activists who were later released on bail.

Harare-based political analyst Takura Zhangazha said the new government should be lauded for bringing together former rivals but still has much to do to prove its worth.

”They have not achieved as much as they should,” Zhangazha said.

”Restrictions to freedom of expression are still in place and that is a worrying thing.”

On Monday, two editors of an independent newspaper were arrested while the Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU) says more than 100 farmers have experienced disturbances on their farms or were facing prosecution.

”Three months since the government was formed we are still experiencing disruptions taking place on the farms,” said Hendrick Olivier, chief executive of the predominantly white union.

”We are calling on a moratorium on all farm disruptions and prosecutions. We are not saying we want to reverse the land reforms. All we want is to be able to farm and provide food for the nation.”

The unity government, which Tsvangirai has declared broke and will mark 100 days in power on May 22, is only able to pay workers a $100 allowance regardless of rank.

Schools and public hospitals have re-opened but the latter still do not have sufficient drugs. Teacher unions have also threatened to strike again over demands for salaries that would enable them to pay school fees for their own children.

Businessman Tafadzwa Goliati said proof of the new government’s work was yet to be seen.

”The majority of the people are still suffering,” Goliati said.

”There is an abundance of stocks in the shops but most people don’t have money to buy the goods. A visit to the industrial areas will show you there is little activity. We cannot give the new government credit when three quarters of what we consume is coming from outside.”

Newsmen jailed
Meanwhile, Vincent Kahiya, editor of the Zimbabwe Independent, and news editor Constantine Chimakure were arrested on Monday and jailed overnight after publishing the names of secret agents involved in the abduction of opposition and civic activists.

The pair were interrogated much of the day before being taken to police cells at Harare central police station, said a senior colleague who asked not to be named.

”I spoke to them late this afternoon, and they said they were going to spend the night inside,” the colleague said. ”Then their cellphones were switched off.”

Monday’s arrests are seen by observers as confirming fears that the old regime is determined not to cede any influence, and to reinforce the refusal of Western nations to provide desperately needed finance for the bankrupt Harare government while Mugabe still calls the shots.

It came on the day that the MDC had set as a deadline for a series of its long outstanding demands for reforms to be met, which include media freedom and the release of political prisoners, as well as the revocation of numerous unilateral appointments by Mugabe loyalists of his party to top positions in the new power-sharing administration. – AFP, Sapa-DPA