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Vote-rigging fears grow in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe's ruling party edged ahead of the main opposition on Tuesday with over half of parliamentary election results released as concerns grew that President Robert Mugabe was trying to rig the vote. Riot police in armoured carriers patrolled two of Harare's opposition strongholds overnight and residents were told to stay off the normally bustling streets.

Makoni’s bold hope

Presidential candidate Simba Makoni used the word “renewal” a total of 13 times during an exclusive interview with the Mail & Guardian, saying Zimbabwe needed fresh leadership to “heal the wounds” of 28 years of President Robert Mugabe's rule. Makoni, who declared his candidacy recently, predicts a landslide win against Mugabe.

Proof that money can’t buy you happiness

Zimbabwe has been placed last for the second year running in a league table ranking 178 countries by how happy and long-lived their citizens are. But South Africa is not far ahead, at 156th. The European Happy Planet Index used carbon efficiency, life satisfaction and life expectancy to rate the countries.

First-aid for aid

While the developed world has not yet lived up to its commitment to give 1% of its GDP to the developing South, aid flows have increased since 2000, when the pledge was renewed at the <i>United Nations Millennium Summit. A Southern Africa Trust policy brief, Aid Effectiveness: Trends and Impacts of Shifting Financial Flows to Civil Society Organisations in Southern Africa</i>.

Reign of ‘inflation police’

Even amid Zimbabwe's increasing instability, life in suburban Harare has remained more or less predictable. Which is why Sunday morning shoppers at a suburban shopping mall, popular with young professionals and the well-heeled, stood stunned as they watched the store manager of a branch of one of the country's largest retail chains being dragged out of his store by the back of his collar.

Zanu-PF rift sidelines talks

Zimbabwe's opposition leaders returned to their supporters eager to report some progress after their first direct talks with the ruling Zanu-PF recently, but found fresh evidence of widespread concern that infighting in the ruling party poses a threat to dialogue. The first round of formal talks has been overshadowed by the story of how four travel agents planned a military coup to overthrow President Robert Mugabe.

Mugabe’s game-plan puts paid to Mbeki’s mediation

What is President Robert Mugabe up to? Two events in the past fortnight lay bare the wily octogenarian's strategy. On Monday he attempted to play the statesman. In an act of showmanship, he tried to give opposition leaders tractors and other equipment. In the same week his Cabinet authorised a raft of constitutional changes, which point to a far more sinister strategy.

Union says injury to one is injury to all

South African trade unions have launched one of the biggest national strikes of the post-apartheid era in a move widely seen as spearheading the left's challenge to win control of the ruling African National Congress ahead of next year's presidential election. Public-service unions seem determined not to back down on their demands.

What social contract?

Zimbabwe's government this week said it had signed a "social contract" with business and labour unions, a deal it says will effectively bring an end to years of political and economic crisis within the next six months. But one of the key partners denies ever agreeing to any such deal, while a 50% increase in electricity charges by the state power utility just days after the announcement means industry will find it impossible to keep its pledge to freeze prices.

The next big asset grab

Zimbabwe's remaining foreign investors, who have chosen to ride out the world's fastest economic decline, could see their patience rewarded with the seizure of at least half their assets if radicals in President Robert Mugabe's government have their way. Empowerment Minister Paul Mangwana is set to push a new law through Parliament whose ''various measures will accelerate the implementation of the indigenisation''.

Mann overboard

A Zimbabwean magistrate's court ruled this week that suspected mercenary Simon Mann, who is serving a four-year jail term for purchasing arms without a valid certificate, can be extradited to Equatorial Guinea to face trial on charges of plotting to overthrow the government there.

UDM threatens State of Nation boycott

The United Democratic Party (UDM) will not be participating in this year's State of the Nation debate unless it is allocated reasonable time to raise its supporters' issues, the party's leader, Bantu Holomisa, said on Monday. According to the UDM leader, Parliament on Monday informed him that his party has been given only one minute to participate in the debate scheduled to take place on Friday.

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