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Tuesday, 15 May 2007

The RBZ owes US$15m to gold mining companies!

                President Mugabe and Emmerson Munangagwa
By Our Correspondent
HARARE, May 15, 2007 -The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe's (RBZ) debt to gold mining companies now stands at over US$15 million, the president of the Zimbabwe Chamber of mines, Jack Murehwa said yesterday.
The central bank's failure to pay firms for gold deliveries has resulted in the closure of some mines in a sector that has been hit by viability problems. "The amount stands at more than US15 million. It would be good for the sector if it is paid," Murehwa said.
In a previous interview, the chamber of mines president said companies were now relying on borrowing, and the RBZ had not given any explanation over the non-payment.
In a circular sent to members last month, the chamber of mines said: "Since October last year, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has been experiencing severe difficulties in paying gold producers for gold lodged with Fidelity Printers and Refiners.
"As of the beginning of April, most gold producers were not paid for gold lodged in January. The delays have impacted negatively on production."
In his recent monetary statement RBZ chief Gideon Gono raised the gold support price by 2 178 percent from Z$16 000 per gramme to Z$350 000 per gramme, but reduced producers' foreign currency retention levels from 67,5 percent to 60 percent. Gono said gold stood as the country's asset of last resort but that has since changed.
"The combined effects of viability constraints and rampant smuggling of the precious minerals have put an unfavourable dent on what traditionally stood as the country's reserve asset of last resort," Gono said.
Recently, the government-deployed police from the gold squad and the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) on suspicion that falling gold production was as a result of rampant smuggling.
When the RBZ upped the support price, mining firms said the increase would not be of much consequence because of the debt. Some firms have suspended operations due to shortage of foreign currency to import cyanide, a chemical required for gold processing.
Late last month Gono said the RBZ took note of the unpaid money and promised that it would be released soon. He did not give a date or timeframe. "The RBZ takes serious note of the gold sector's [unintended] restricted access to foreign currency for the importation of critical inputs, over the last few months" Gono said.
"This unfortunate phenomenon almost brought the sector to a standstill and could have seriously undermined investors' and other stake- holders' confidence in the sector."
Statistics show that gold production for January and February 2007 went down by 18 percent. Last year only 10,9 tonnes were delivered, down from 13 tonnes in 2005 in a country were production stands at over 20 tonnes a year. Last month Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group (ZABG) said in its second quarter economic outlook report government must come up with policies that stimulate growth, rather than suppress it.
"This state of affairs . . . clearly shows that the authorities should come up with policies that stimulate production, not policies that hinder the growth of the sector."
On May 10 the state- owned Herald newspaper reported that Ian Macmillan, nicknamed the "Gold Lord", who allegedly has strong links with Rural Housing Minister and presidential aspirant Emmerson Mnangagwa, had been arrested after he was found with a kilogramme of gold valued at $350 million in his possession.
The paper added that Macmillan, suspected of being one of the biggest gold smugglers in Zimbabwe, had other gold smuggling charges dropped in 2004 because the State failed to provide a trial date.
After, his latest arrest, a Harare magistrate denied him bail. "Last night there was pandemonium in the market as sellers sought to establish if the "Gold Lord" had indeed been arrested, fearing for their own safety," the Herald reported.
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 15 May 2007 )


Sunday, 13 May 2007


Zimbabwe reluctant to allow Pan African mission
By Our Correspondent
HARARE, May 12, 2007 -The Pan African Parliament has resolved to send a delegation to Zimbabwe to investigate allegations of serious human rights abuses as well as reports of the Zimbabwean government's disregard of the rule of law.
The resolution follows the parliament's meeting held in Johannesburg yesterday to discuss issues of peace and security affecting member states.  The Zimbabwean situation was included on the agenda despite efforts by the government ministers and officials to have the discussion removed from the agenda.
However, the government of Zimbabwe immediately indicated its reluctance to allow the fact-finding mission into the country.
According to the motion, moved by South Africa's Suzanne Vos, an MP, and seconded by Botswana's Boyce Sebetela, the fact-finding mission will be tasked with investigating allegations of human rights abuses and disregard for the rule of law abuses, arrests, detention and torture of opposition activists and journalists, intimidation of political activists, and the restriction of the freedom of speech, among other things.
Read the motion in part: "… This Honourable House also agrees to send a fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe to investigate any other matters in relation to human and people's rights, good governance, transparency and the rule of law pertinent to the mandate of the Pan African Parliament in terms of the Constitutive Act of the African Union and the functions and Powers of the African Parliament."
The delegation has been asked to give feedback to the parliament at the next seating.
In her motion, Vos said while the appointment of South African President Thabo Mbeki as mediator to the Zimbabwean crisis by SADC should be accepted, it was incumbent upon the parliament to act in support of Mbeki in seeking a redress to the Zimbabwean socio- political problems.
Said Vos: "In this regard, I believe we must first applaud SADC in recently appointing the President of the Republic of South Africa to attempt to find solutions to the various crises in Zimbabwe and we must offer him support.
"…We cannot use the huge responsibility placed on the shoulders of one man as an excuse to avoid our own obligations and responsibilities to the people of Zimbabwe. We cannot allow the very crisis in Zimbabwe to be solely relegated to what could be alleged by some to be "friends of the family, (that is) SADC."
She said the parliament should make it clear to all concerned parties in Zimbabwe that the mission should have unfettered access to all the areas and people it has been mandated to meet, saying this was an urgent matter that needed to be afforded special attention.
Vos also highlighted that a new approach encompassing all the relevant bodies, the African Union, SADC, and the Pan African Parliament, needed to be mooted to show the world that the Zimbabwean crisis was indeed a regional crisis which required a concerted effort to solve.
However, government of Zimbabwe has already dismissed the motion, and indicated it would descend heavily on anyone who dared visit Zimbabwe under the banner of the Pan African Parliament intending to investigate the allegations.
Information and Publicity minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu was quoted assaying the Pan African Parliament was courting trouble as Zimbabwe would deal with them decisively.
In a veiled statement, Ndlovu said government would not entertain anyone who dares breach the laws "of a sovereign state."
He questioned the Pan African Parliament's decision to send a delegation to Zimbabwe, saying the regional parliamentary assembly did not have anybody's mandate to visit Zimbabwe.
Said Ndlovu: "The guiding principle is that we are a sovereign state and no one can invite themselves to another country like that. It remains to be seen whether they have that mandate. The fact is that they have to follow procedure and if they breach our laws then you know what will happen, but I don't want to speculate on that."
MDC spokesperson, Nelson Chamisa said yesterday: "This is a positive move that the downtrodden and buttered people of Zimbabwe have been calling for against the government of Zimbabwe. It is one of the best things ever to be done as Africans show solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe.
"We welcome this move so that the delegation can come and see what we experienced at the hands of the brutal regime. There should be no iron on the government's part because of suspicion that the mission has ulterior motives. They are here to assess a situation and make the necessary recommendations on the way forward," said Chamisa.


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Friday, 11 May 2007


Prisoners in Zimbabwe routinely dying from starvation, illness / Zimbabwe's starving border jumpers

Two new features:
Two former inmates have described to IRIN the horrendous conditions prevailing in Zimbabwe's prison system, where prisoners routinely die from illness and starvation, and are urging human-rights organisations to make an independent assessment of the country's jails.

Zimbabwe has roughly 35,000 people incarcerated in 42 jails, but this is well over their intended capacity of about 17,000 inmates.

The country is in the [...] midst of an economic meltdown, in which the plight of prisoners seems all but forgotten: inflation is running at 2,200 percent, unemployment is above 80 percent, and shortages of electricity, fuel and food are commonplace.

Moreover, as a consequence of drought and the disruptions to agriculture caused by President Robert Mugabe's fast-track land reform programme, which redistributed white-owned farmland to landless blacks, the staple food, maize, is also in short supply.

John, a recently released inmate who declined to be identified, told IRIN that there were often food shortages. "In the morning, prisoners drink a very watery broth made from maizemeal, water and salt; in the afternoon, they are fed plain green vegetables with 'sadza' [maizemeal porridge], which is repeated in the evenings."

He said [that] there were times when they had to make do with a single meal per day, and the food was often so badly prepared that some inmates had stopped eating.

In the capital, Harare, a medical orderly employed by the health department and working in prison services, told IRIN that more than one hundred inmates had died of pellagra at Harare Central and Chikurubi Maximum prisons since the beginning of the year.

Pellagra is caused by a deficiency of vitamin B3 and trypophan, an essential amino acid found in meat, poultry, fish and eggs, all foodstuffs that are no longer available in the canteens of the Zimbabwe Prison Services, or to employees of the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Zimbabwe National Army. The security forces are now served sadza and brown beans, because the government has insufficient funds to provide other foodstuffs.

The symptoms of pellagra include high sensitivity to sunlight, aggression, insomnia, weakness and mental confusion, followed by dementia and, eventually, death.

"There is a disaster waiting to happen, if it is not already happening - every day, dead bodies are recovered, especially at Chikurubi Maximum Prison, where as many as 10 deaths can be recorded in one day. Health conditions are also terrible, as the Zimbabwe Prison Services has no money to treat the inmates," the medical orderly, who asked to remain anonymous, told IRIN.

Tendai, another former inmate of Chikurubi prison, told IRIN that the prison authorities were also no longer able to provide them with toiletries. "If your relatives do not bring you some soap then you will go on and develop skin diseases. In addition, the government is no longer able to provide inmates with prison garb, leaving many to depend on relatives to supply them with clothes, or be forced to go naked."

In the past three months, there was no clean drinking water available at Chikurubi, Tendai said, because the Zimbabwe National Water Authority, a parastatal company, did not have the necessary capacity to supply water to the high-security complex. Water bowsers had been brought to the prisons, but the water quality was inadequate for drinking.

A recent visit by a delegation of parliamentarians to Chikurubi found that toilets had not been flushed for weeks, because there was no running water, and [that] pages torn from Bibles were being used as toilet paper. The unsanitary conditions have made diarrhoea and skin diseases a permanent feature of prison life.

In response to the rapidly deteriorating conditions in the prison system, justice minister Patrick Chinamasa said [that] the government was working on formulating an open prison system, in which offenders would serve part of their jail terms at their homes to help decongest the prisons.
How far would you go to put food on the table?
Would you take your life in your hands - wading through crocodile-infested waters, and walking unprotected through land where leopards roam?
That is what Monica has just done, for the sake of her three-year-old daughter.
She has joined the exodus of Zimbabweans crossing illegally into South Africa - the so-called "border jumpers".
They travel in the dead of night, guided by traffickers. The going rate is 200 rand (£14 or $28).
We met Monica shortly after dawn, as she emerged from the bush about 6km (3.7 miles) inside South Africa.
She was on foot with four other women - their faces showing the strain.
Monica told us [that] they had been travelling for four days with traffickers who abandoned them when their money ran out.
"They called us baboons," she said. "They told us, [']if you have no money, we will leave you here and call the police to come and arrest you.[']
"We have nowhere to go right now. We have no money and the police are all over. We don't know what to do."
Monica was driven out of her homeland by poverty, hunger, and concern for her little girl.
"The situation is very bad," she said. "We will try by all means to get jobs. We can't go back. We are starving in Zimbabwe."
Mary, one of her travelling companions, is a mother of four. She also talked of starvation.
"We've got no jobs," she said. "We can't do anything in Zimbabwe. We are suffering."
After resting for a few moments the women picked up the few belongings [that] they were carrying, and began walking towards the highway.
With no money and no place to go, their ordeal may be just beginning.
A short distance away, a group of taxi drivers were waiting at a favourite rendezvous point - under a baobab tree.
They are part of a highly organised and lucrative trafficking network.
The taxi drivers have spotters with mobile phones, who warn if the police or army are near.
A ride to Johannesburg costs a fortune for a Zimbabwean - 1300 rand (£92 or $184).
No-one knows for sure how many border jumpers arrive every day, but the estimate from the taxi drivers is more than a thousand.
"Even pregnant women or women with a baby on their backs are jumping a 2-[meter]-high razor-wire fence," one driver said. "Some are carrying newborns. It's bad."
The taxis leave with their human cargo within three to five minutes.
"We phone the guy at the corner," he says. "If he says [that] the place is safe, we take everyone. If not, we offload them quickly."
For some, the journey involves jumping fences, or cutting holes in them to crawl underneath. But there are easier places to cross the border, if you know where to look.
We found an area protected by only a single fence. There is no need to cut a hole, because there is an unlocked gate.
Once through the gate, the Limpopo River is just ahead, and beyond it, Zimbabwe.
Risking everything
The Limpopo is low now, but border jumpers have drowned when the river is in flood.
Just downriver, another group was making their crossing, holding their valuables above their heads.
They arrived safely on dry land, but there was a reception committee of local thugs.
They often lie in wait to rob or rape the new arrivals, sometimes tipped off by the traffickers.
The border jumpers spotted them in the distance. There was panic as they rushed to squeeze back through the fence, and return to the river.
They got away this time, but the thieves are a constant threat.
Zimbabwe is haemorrhaging some of its brightest and best.
In Johannesburg these days, you find doctors, lawyers and head masters from Harare ready to work as cleaners.
Plenty of illegal migrants are arrested and sent home. So far this year, 57,600 have been deported to Zimbabwe, according to the International Organisation for Migration.
But many attempt the crossing again and again, unable to survive in a country with 80% unemployment and the world's highest inflation rate - now 2,200%.
The price of corn, the staple food in Zimbabwe, has just risen by a staggering 680%. That may drive many more desperate men and women into the arms of the traffickers.
Along the border between Zimbabwe and South Africa, a tragedy is unfolding - though its victims usually pass unseen.
They are women like Monica and Mary - mothers risking everything for a chance to feed their

Thursday, 10 May 2007


Zimbabwe: Zim Opposition Intolerant

SOMETIMES one wonders what people living under a polarised political environment stand to either benefit or lose as many adopt a callous culture of intolerance where they feel they can only read or listen to what they want to hear.
Winston Churchill talked of jaws and not wars when he was confronted with the complexity of international conflict in the early 1940s. The international, or geopolitical, system is one of diversity where ideologically one has to live up to the fact that capitalism, socialism and communism are ideological realities which won't go away simply because one says they can't stand them.
Africa 2007
Politically, democracies differ in models: from representative democracy, as seen in many parliamentary democracies; mass democracy, as Hugo Chavez is implementing with his 21st century socialism; corporate democracy, as is found in the United States, where corporate power determines who is in government more than the people; all the way to guided democracy, as is the case in some Islamic states like Libya and Iran.
Power politics or real politik dictates that some countries are more powerful than others and that the power within countries can be used in different ways and targeted at different strategic points. It is always crystal-clear that aspects of the geopolitical processes, such as human rights, liberties and international law, are always viewed from various perspectives as motivated by cultural values, political views, religion, age and social interaction.
While ethnocentrism would have some believing that the whole world should see the world from their own ethnic point of view, the real situation is always that cultures differ the way sub-communities, families and individuals will always differ.
This, inevitably, entails that conflict can only be solved by communication; either at individual, cross-cultural or inter-group levels.
This is not a socio-political lecture, but a reality based on the intolerance being exhibited by some of our Zimbabwean citizens, especially those in the so-called Diaspora community. The political process in Zimbabwe is divided, as is the situation in many countries. At the moment that division centres mainly between the ruling Zanu-PF party and the opposition MDC.
Generally, the MDC is a protest movement with a default support base of disgruntled former Zanu-PF supporters as well as discontented workers and urban families that cannot stand the declining economy since the collapse of the deceptive International Monetary Funded-prescribed Economic Structural Adjust-ment Programme in the second half of the 1990s as well as the ruinous sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the US, the European Union, Australia, Canada and New Zealand after the land reform programme was launched in 2000.
On the other hand, Zanu-PF is a political party with a liberation legacy, the majority rule philosophy and grassroots policies, such as the land reform programme.
Pro-opposition opinion pieces in the media portray Zanu-PF as a party of murderous thugs at the command of a ruthless dictator, that despite the fact that President Mugabe holds massive star rallies across the country at least twice every six years, the last being in the 2005 general election.
This is the analysis that some people cannot stand. They can't fight it by reason. Rather, they resort to such buffoonish grandstanding as is seen in the foolishness of advocating that those residing or studying in the West must necessarily support all Western policies as well as endorsing the MDC as a bona fide democratic movement before they swear themselves in as avowed critics of President Mugabe and his Government.
One wonders if it ever occurs to some people that much as they are of the conviction that Zanu-PF is a dictator's party, there are many out there who are more than convinced that the MDC is not only a protest party, but one led by hopeless puppets only good at outlining the country's problems with no clue on how such problems can be solved outside handing the problems together with the country to their "democratic masters" in the West.
While Zanu-PF has a lot of planning and implementation to do as the ruling party, those in the MDC should know that they have a lot of policy explaining to do; far more than the protesting they are bent on pursuing.
That way it is jaws and not wars.
The MDC has representatives in both chambers of Parliament -- the House of Assembly and the Senate -- and one of the factions has its headquarters strategically located in the central business district, while the other has its own base just five kilometres from the city centre, in Hillside. However, one gets the impression that the MDC is similar to Ugandan rebel Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army that is headquartered in the middle of the jungles of Uganda without any semblance of legal existence or tolerance.
The MDC has held countless political rallies across the country, some successful some abortive; but they only care to tell the world of those rallies they attempted to turn into mass protests and were accordingly thwarted.
When one speaks like this, our intolerant fellow countrymen residing in the Western Diaspora see red and become combative, physically that is. They want some form of emotional or physical pain inflicted on whoever allows their minds to see the MDC as a party lacking in one aspect or the other.
They want to set the Western authorities on such individuals in the hope that some kind of punishment may be meted out on their perceived nemesis.
Surely one would expect those posturing as champions of free speech and expression would also not want to be seen as the masters of brutality against divergent opinion. This writer thinks what has happened in Zimbabwe in the past seven years is clear testimony that wielding Western threats to achieve some political end is but a futile exercise.
The media in Zimbabwe is full of political opinions from both sides of the political divide and those who want to be part of the political process should aspire to engage themselves at this level of debate instead of pursuing primitive and laughable strategies as is portrayed in the so-called Fair Deal campaign on the rabid website going by the name Zimdaily.com.
There, some of the Zimbabweans in the Diaspora are of the opinion that they can silence opinion by wielding threats of a Western nature or even fooling themselves into believing that they can whip all Zimbabweans in the Diaspora into following the MDC line simply because the MDC has sympathy with the ruling elite of some Western countries.
This writer believes some of the people holding such opinions need to be reminded that there is a lot of company in anti-capitalist politics in the West and that some in the West do not see the MDC as an alternative solution to the challenges in Zimbabwe.
Rational debate on the political processes in Zimbabwe, Africa and the world is not going to be aborted because there are some Zimbabweans who use lies about or hate for President Mugabe as an excuse for living in Western countries do not want it.
That is simply not possible.
 Reason Wafawarova is a post- graduate student reading for a Master's degree in International Relations at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.


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Welcome to CHRA News Service, provided by the Combined Harare Residents Association; to subscribe, please send an email written in the subject Subscribe, to unsubscribe, write the word unsubscribe in the subject line.
COMMENT:   ZINWA now a liability to residents of Harare          9 May 2007
THE Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) has definitely become a liability to the residents of Harare since the government directed the water authority to takeover all water administration, treatment and billing from the City of Harare and other towns.
Pronouncements by ZINWA that they seek a government clearance to hike water rates in order to sufficiently fund its operations are misplaced and unjustified.  ZINWA currently charge residents $180 per cubic metre.  Residents are concerned with the continued rise in the cost of water and will be unable to pay up their rates if ZINWA continues to increase its rates without taking cognisance of the economic environment.
CHRA has raised legitimate concerns about the takeover of our water to ZINWA but the government has not listened. The Association has made submissions to the Portfolio Committee on Local Government on the takeover of water and sewerage reticulation by ZINWA arguing that ZINWA lacked both the mandate and the capacity to be in charge of water administration, supply, treatment, billing and sewerage reticulation.
The Harare Municipality lost a monthly revenue base of 40 % and over a hundred vehicles to ZINWA during the takeover. CHRA insists that the takeover was politically motivated. 
The Parliament of Zimbabwe and Senate have both adopted a recommendation by the Portfolio Committee on Local Government that Cabinet must reconsider its decision allowing ZINWA to takeover water administration and sewerage reticulation from local authorities citing ZINWA's incapacity and the obligation of local authorities to provide these services to citizens (Herald 31 March and 5 April 2007).
Since ZINWA's takeover of water infrastructure, supply, administration and billing in Harare, northern suburbs and other parts of Harare have experienced severe water shortages which ZINWA has failed to explain and remedy the situation. 
CHRA reiterates its calls to other urban councils to reject ZINWA and demand to retain their constitutional responsibility to provide water and sewerage services to residents within their local jurisdictions.
Below are some key articles that appeared in the media:
Explore alternative building materials, Herald 30 April --------------------------------------------------Page 2
Local languages vital for environmental issues, Sunday Mail 6 May 2007 --------------------- ------ Page 3
No joy for starving workers as another May Day passes, Financial Gazette 3 May 2007-------------Page 6
Threats won't give Commission legitimacy, letter Financial Gazette 3 May 2007 --------------------Page 7
Anger over new NGO registration procedure, Zimbabwe Independent 4 May 2007 ------------------Page 8
Police detain lawyers, The Standard 6 May 2007   ---------------------------------------------------------Page 9
Clinic closes down as economic crises deepen, The Standard 6 May 2007    - -------------------------Page 11
Health time bomb waits to explode, Sunday Mail 6 May 2007 -------------------------------------------Page 12
Housing scheme to benefit 480 families, Sunday Mail 6 May 2007 -------------------------------------Page 12
Explore alternative building materials, Herald 30 April 2007 
WITH so many Zimbabweans paying exorbitant rents for just one or two rooms, a major home-building programme is urgently required.
Some of the previous constraints have already been removed, and some are now being removed.
Land reform has meant that cities, towns and the new proto-towns in most rural areas no longer have to negotiate with avaricious landowners to expand.
The Government is able and willing to grant free land to urban areas, both old and new, both large and small, so long as this land is going to be used.
The second constraint is financial. It costs a lot of money to turn farmland into serviced urban land, putting in the water mains, sewers, roads and electricity grid.
This is something that has to be done by a local authority or major developer. It cannot be done by individual homeowners, although there is nothing to stop a large group of potential homeowners doing it as a group.
Somewhere along the line, though, some entity has to mobilise the cash for this work. The recent changes in reserve levels for building societies make these an obvious choice.
In recent years, building societies have often forgotten their reason to exist. They were not founded as banks to make profits for their owners, as most seem to have become. They were founded by groups of people wanting to buy a home and were looking for a way of pooling their savings to do this.
We think it is time they returned to these historic roots. New circumstances, and especially the present hyperinflation, make the traditional mortgage system difficult or impossible to implement. Either depositors have to be cheated with low interest rates or property buyers have to be priced out of the market with high interest rates.
But, even in times of hyperinflation, it should be possible for building societies to be a major conduit of financing the development of new suburbs. Their depositors would benefit by being given first refusal when the new stands went on the market.
The reason why we stress the provision of serviced stands so strongly is that evidence suggests that many families, given access to serviced land, are quite capable to building their own homes, often in stages over several years, with little extra help.
Just getting those families who can build their own homes out of the rented housing market would help stabilise rents, with fewer people needing to rent and more families able to rent out a room or two, the situation would drift from a sellers' market to a buyers' market.
But the ideal would be to open home-ownership options to all.
With the upper-income group catered for by private developers, the middle-income families coping through building society schemes, the very poor could be helped with special State-aided schemes.
To make housing affordable for all, there is need to tell people of alternative building materials.
There is a fallacy among many homeowners that a house has to built of machine-made bricks, Portland cement and be covered by an expensive and heavy tile roof.
A quick glance around city centres and older suburbs will expose that error. There are now quite a few houses more than 100 years old that were built with hand-moulded bricks (farm bricks in modern parlance) and lime mortar, or a lime and cement mix for mortar, with lightweight sheet roofs.
These grand old houses are usually very expensive, not because of their construction, but because of the land they sit on. But no one can claim that they are not durable.
Similarly, there are quite a large number of pise houses in Bulawayo built with packed earth walls. That city, unlike Harare, allowed these houses built in the 1940s and 1950s to remain with just modest upgrades and they are still standing strong more than 50 years after being constructed.
Admittedly, builders need to be taught how to use these older materials and older techniques. But such homes can be built for significantly less than a similar-sized "modern" house, but be just as good-looking, just as durable and just as comfortable.
The old later-colonial attitudes to what a house or suburb should look like seem to have become the norm. Yet earlier houses, built with simpler and cheaper materials, seem to have weathered better.
No one wants sub-standard homes built that will need to be replaced in a decade or two. No one, at least inside this country, wants to house Zimbabweans in sheds.
But we need to be more imaginative in financing and creating the sort of house a family can live in with pride.
Local languages vital for environmental issues, Sunday Mail 6 May 2007
ENVIRONMENTAL reporting in indigenous languages still faces numerous obstacles when it comes to interpreting processes of environmental change and development in a simple way that can be understood by the majority of the people.
How can environmental experts and journalists engage people without speaking to them in their language?
This is just one among other questions that generated animated debate at a media workshop on environment convened by Environment Africa last week.
Journalists from both the print and electronic media bemoaned the lack of interest by environmental experts and Government officials to articulate pressing environmental issues in Shona, Ndebele, Kalanga, Tonga, Venda or Shangani, among other languages spoken in Zimbabwe.
Robert Tapfumaneyi, a producer and presenter on the national languages desk at the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings, said most environment experts cannot express themselves in local languages.
"It's a big challenge. We have experts on environmental matters who cannot comment or give a talk in local languages that we can use when communicating to the people on radio and television.
"They simply cannot express themselves in their own indigenous languages. In the end we drop the stories not because we want to but because there is no one to articulate the issues in our languages."
Covering environmental issues in local languages is not easy.
Nqobile Malinga, a ZBH presenter who does programmes in Shona, Ndebele and Kalanga, said lack of a glossary of terms on environment in indigenous languages makes work for environmental reporters even more difficult.
"There is no material on environment in local languages. Even if you get it, the standard is quite mediocre. Journalists, environmental experts and NGOs must hold seminars to devise new indigenous terminology to explain emerging environmental issues," he said.
He added that academics, linguists, NGOs and officials in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism must come together and agree on new indigenous terminology to help communicate environmental issues to the majority of the people who have no easy access to television, newspapers, magazine and the Internet.
"Most people listen to the radio and communicating in indigenous languages makes it possible for them to know about the need to protect the environment," Malinga said. "Indigenous languages are not static, they are developing and assuming new terminology."
Environmental concepts are very broad and journalists said explaining concepts such as climate change, bio-diversity, pollution, ozone depletion, GMOs and other environmental issues is a major problem when communicating with the grassroots people.
In Shona, "Zvakatikomberedza" is the commonest translation of the word "environment".
The literal translation of this term is "what surrounds us". So this translation immediately expands the idea of "environment" to cover water, air, flora and fauna.
Malinga said indigenous languages are developing and assuming new terminology and to say there are no terms for particular environmental issues should not be an excuse.
"For gold panners, we are now using the term 'makorokoza' in Shona and 'amakorokoza' in Ndebele, 'ngoda' for diamonds and 'injiva' for Zimbabweans working in South Africa. These are new terms and there is scope to develop other new terminology to explain environmental issues," he argued.
"The bottom line is that we should communicate to the grassroots. When we decided to use the word 'injiva' there was some resistance, but now people accept it to mean Zimbabweans working in South Africa," Malinga said.
In a paper titled "Methods and Approaches Language and Grassroots Environment Indicators", Frederick Mwesigye said communities all over the world have developed their own knowledge and practices for observing, measuring and predicting environmental quality and change, which are embedded in their indigenous languages and cultural beliefs.
"There is little doubt that people at the 'grassroots' have knowledge of their environment that transcends conventional social, economic and biological indicators," he wrote.
Mwesigye said indigenous languages have remained outside the conventional understanding of the environment.
"This understanding thus fails to transcend social, economic and biological barriers to reach a point of understanding the grassroots wisdom has already reached."
His paper attempts to trace the limitations of the conventional wisdom about the environment, by means of examples from indigenous languages to interpret the meaning of environment indicators.
The management of the environment and individual natural resources like soil, water, air, flora and fauna, has become an issue of unprecedented global concern, Mwesigye said.
"There is also the need to study and act on these concerns across the various cultural, social, economic and even political boundaries otherwise knowledge and practice become two worlds apart," he suggested.
"The knowledge of the people at the 'grassroots' has tended to be presented by outside observers.
"But these observers represent their own professions and disciplines. None of these professionals are people from the grassroots, and therefore grassroots knowledge is interpreted as 'other', and by insinuation, understood to be 'primitive' or 'unscientific'," Mwesigye said.
Professional knowledge, he said, is therefore said to have the task of "educating" and "modernising" local people. "What can we learn from this stand-off? Is professional knowledge wrong and grassroots knowledge correct? Or is it the other way round? Neither seems likely," Mwesigye said as he interrogated the communication approaches to environmental issues.
Isiah Mhizha, the editor of Kwayedza, a weekly Shona newspaper, said conducting interviews in indigenous languages is a big challenge.
"Interviews are done in English and when the reporter comes back, he then has to interpret the issues in Shona using 'duramazwi' (dictionary) with assistance from the editors," he said.
"It's time-consuming and we have to make every effort to use the language people use everyday. If we use the so-called 'deep Shona' young people will not understand what we are getting at."
He said most of the time they use literal translations; for example, the word "signature" is "siginecha" when derived and translated from English to Shona.
"People love the language they use in their day-to-day life. At times we explain it in Shona and put the English version in brackets to help people understand," Mhizha said.
He said the University of Zimbabwe Shona Language Committee that regularly meets to address new language terminology was crucial in helping journalists to report on environmental issues in indigenous languages.
"I attend the meetings regularly and academics assist us greatly when it comes to the most appropriate terms for use when tackling new terms," he said.
In Zimbabwe, linguists say there are up to 16 languages or dialects of which Shona and Ndebele are the dominant ones.
There are up to 14 minority dialects that include Kalanga, Hwesa, Sotho, Shangani, Chitoko-tonga, Venda, Tonga, Tshwawo, Barwe, Nambya and Xhosa, among others.
Despite the existence of these languages, it is still worrying that the bulk of environmental information churned out by the Government, NGOs, electronic and print media is in English.
The widespread use of English environmental terms is pushing most indigenous terms out of common usage leading to the extinction of some local languages.
Language is a major instrument for transmitting knowledge.
Linguists say without a language, which is clearly understood by the grassroots people, there is a risk of losing original solutions derived from local indigenous knowledge systems.
"Because local knowledge comes from an oral culture, and remains codified in rituals, ceremonies, and even metaphor, useful practices become highly ritualised. Given this character of grassroots expression, its potential becomes lost because of inadequate translation and interpretation," Mwesigye said.
This reality calls for research into the various linguistic cultures of communities for a comprehensive understanding of their environmental information needs as well as the problems they face.
"Communities become more environmentally conscious through full dissemination of knowledge. No such dissemination of knowledge can take place except through their own day-to-day language," Mwesigye argued.
Using indigenous languages in various media will not only help to preserve African languages but ensure that the majority of people appreciate the importance of protecting the environment and using natural resources in a sustainable way.
No joy for starving workers as another May Day passes, Financial Gazette 3 May 2007
THE Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) marked May Day this week with calls for yet another nationwide strike to press for a $1.5 million minimum wage, but for most workers, Tuesday was just one more day in the struggle for survival.
For Farai Jere, a 41-year old farm worker, the day was just like any other — with nothing worth celebrating.
Holding a plastic bag containing what could be mistaken for groceries, Jere looks worn out and tired. On closer examination the plastic bag contains a dirty, torn work suit and a pair of worn out safety shoes.
He narrates the details of his destitution as a farm worker in Mazowe, and his meagre salary, which can no longer feed his family.
Says Jere: "I started working on the farm when I left school in 1986. I took up the job at the farm because I had failed Ordinary Level exams and no company would offer me a job.
"At the time a salary was not a serious issue because the farm owners would give us some of the basic commodities we required to supplement the little money they paid us."
But now, with inflation at about 2200 percent, his miserable life has only worsened. With a monthly salary of $78 000 Jere earns more than other farm workers, but the money is still far short of what he needs to cater for his family's basic needs, such as sending his two children to school. In fact, his salary is not even sufficient to buy a 50kg bag of mealie-meal at this week's prices.
He is however one of a lucky few to benefit from the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM), a government welfare scheme to help deprived children through school.
"I am married and we have two kids.
The eldest, a girl, Zvikomborero, is studying Ordinary Level. The other is in Grade 5 at one of the farm schools. It has been a nightmare seeing them through school," he says.
To make ends meet, Jere has had to do different menial jobs on surrounding farms. However, even with this extra hard work, he cannot guarantee his family a decent meal.
"Life has become so difficult that I shed tears when I try to imagine what the future of my children will be. I curse myself for having brought these kids into the world when I cannot look after them properly."
Asked whether he has anything to celebrate on May Day, Jere frowns: "I have been narrating to you the sorry life that I have lived, and looking at me now, you can see that my skin does not match my age. Each time I meet my school mates, they say I look much older than my age.
"There will only be something to celebrate when the people who represent us (the General Agriculture and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe) manage to convince our employers to increase our salaries. For now, I am in no mood to celebrate," he said.
Jere is not alone. Most Zimbabwean workers spent May Day wondering where their next meal was going to come from, and hoping for a time when the holiday would once again be cause for celebration.
The only thing that attracts workers to May Day ceremonies are free soccer matches at various venues around the country.
Nothing attracts them to the events, where labour leaders' speeches are no more than glory-seeking blame games, and finger-pointing without suggesting any alternative solutions to ease the workers' plight.
With labour unions divided, there is little hope that workers' grievances will be heard.
Two rival bodies currently claim to be the genuine representatives of the workers, — the opposition-leaning ZCTU, and the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions (ZFTU), which is aligned with ZANU PF.
Listening to the presidents of the two unions, Lovemore Matombo and Alfred Makwarimba address the workers, one found that the issues confronting their members are the same. These have to do with poverty datum line (PDL)-linked salaries, poor working conditions, HIV and AIDS, and the rising cost of basic commodities.
Said Matombo: "The ZCTU demands that workers be paid a living wage above the PDL. As the economy continues to slide, so are disposable incomes. Today's aggregated wages are lower than those paid in 1965, thereby creating a sense of despondency, helplessness, and hopelessness."
He believes that the implementation of the Price and Incomes Stabilisation Protocol will cushion workers against the impact of inflation.
On the other hand, Makwarimba's ZFTU pins its hopes on the Tripartite Negotiation Forum to bring about a change in the fortunes of workers.
But Matombo's latest strike threat shows how desperate the labour leaders are for real solutions.
Addressing workers gathered at Gwanzura stadium to mark this year's May Day celebrations on Tuesday, Matombo said there would be another strike if workers' conditions of service and salaries were not improved.
He said the ZCTU would continue to call for job boycotts despite government's continued crackdown against trade unionists.
Threats won't give Commission legitimacy, letter Financial Gazette 3 May 2007 
EDITOR — The Combined Harare Residents' Association (CHRA) is saddened by the approach of the City of Harare towards finding a lasting solution to the crisis of city governance. The association is concerned over the continued refusal by those in charge at Town House to accept that they no longer have the mandate to continue running the affairs of the city.
Reports reaching CHRA indicate that the City of Harare has been sending out letters of demand from their debt collectors, threatening to seize peoples' properties if they do not pay up their outstanding rates within a given time.
CHRA urges all residents who have received these letters to bring them to our offices or take them to the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights for immediate litigation.
The association rejects the continued stay of the Commission and all its actions thereof because of the reasons given below:
  • The High Court in the case between Nomutsa Chideya vs. City of Harare, the eight Commissioners including Sekesai Makwavarara, the Chairperson of the Commission running Harare, and the four-man probe team that recommended Chideya's dismissal ruled that the Commission was illegal and has no mandate to act on behalf of the City of Harare.
  • The 2007 City of Harare budget was formulated, approved and is being implemented by a Commission declared illegal by the High Court on 2 March 2007.
  • The principles of democratic governance require that elections must be held regularly. In the case of Harare and other local authorities, after every four years, as enshrined in the Urban Councils' Act (Chapter 29:15). The last election in Harare was held in March 2002 when Engineer Elias Mudzuri was elected the first executive mayor.
  • The term of the Commission running Harare has been illegally extended by the Minister of Local Government, Ignatius Chombo, in total violation of Section 80 (5) of the Urban Councils' Act (Chapter 29:15). The Judiciary has ruled on five occasions that the principle of re-appointing commissions is illegal.
Anger over new NGO registration procedure, Zimbabwe Independent 4 May 2007  
GOVERNMENT, in a bid to tighten its grip on the operations of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), has gazetted new regulations to re-register all NGOs in the country.
The tough regulations gazetted last Friday — termed the "Code of Procedures for the Registration of Non-Governmental Organisations in Zimbabwe" — have sparked anger within the NGO community as technically the organisations have been deregistered and will have to re-apply.
The gazetting of the new regulations followed a statement by Information minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu two weeks ago that government was deregistering all organisations. Under the new regulations, all organisations will now have to seek registrations under a tighter legal regime.
Under the regulations, the Registrar of Private Voluntary Organisations "registers all private voluntary organisations to enable both the supervision of the developmental impact of programmes under implementation and the monitoring of organisations' corporate governance".
For international organisations wanting to register, they are now required to sign a memorandum of understanding with government defining their operational parameters. Geographic areas to be covered by the originations should also be clearly stated in the MoU.
Principal officers of the NGO applying for registration are now required to get Interpol clearance if they are foreigners and Zimbabwe Republic Police clearance in the case of locals.
Fambai Ngirande, the spokesman for the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations, said it is highly likely that state agents will be used to conduct the monitoring of NGOs.
"The new regulations say that the monitoring of organisations involves field visits by social services officers to project areas, and the analysis of submitted annual narrative reports and audited financial statements which are a mandatory requirement in terms of the Act and it is likely that state agents will be the ones used for the monitoring process," said Ngirande.
Nango said the recently gazetted regulations are attempts by the government to instil fear in NGOs like they did just before the 2005 parliamentary elections with the NGO Bill.
"The pronouncements could also be interpreted in the context of the 2008 elections in which the government wants to reincarnate the paranoia they instilled in civil society organisations in 2005 over the NGO Bill," said Ngirande.
"The monitoring of the pre-election conditions and civic awareness raising programmes by civil society will be curtailed," he said.
According to Nango, the tough regulations will mean that democratic space and citizens' participation in political and decision-making processes will be further constricted and the watchdog function of civil society would be removed.
"At present civil society records and documents human rights violations which are mainly perpetrated by the state security agents and Zanu PF supporters," said Nango.
The regulations say NGOs are required to operate within the confines of the provisions of the Act, and relevant policy guideline for particular programmes.
The registrar of NGOs, in consultation with the Private Voluntary Organisations Board, may cancel the registration certificate and deregister any organisation that fails to comply with its conditions of registration.
It has also been reported that some of the NGOs involved in food distribution have suspended their operations while waiting for clarification from government over their deregistering.
Last week the European Union, which is the biggest humanitarian support donor to Zimbabwe, passed a resolution during a parliamentary plenary session deploring the renewed declaration of intent by the Zimbabwe government "to harass and close down NGOs it deems to be supporting opposition and political change and sees this threat as a serious indication of bad faith from the government in relation to finding a way forward for the country".
Police detain lawyers, The Standard 6 May 2007  
THE legal fraternity has been rocked to its roots after the arrest of two top human rights lawyers outside the High Court in Harare on Friday, where they had submitted papers fiercely opposing an attempt by the State to bar the courts from granting bail to opposition activists accused of petrol bombings.
The lawyers, Alec Muchadehama and partner Andrew Makoni, representing the arrested MDC activists accused of petrol bombing, were arrested at the court around 5PM.
Muchadehama was thrown into the notorious Matapi police station cells, condemned by the Supreme Court as unfit for human habitation, while Makoni was detained at Stodart police station cells. They were both denied legal representation.
Their arrest came after they had submitted papers in the High Court challenging the validity of a Ministerial Certificate that barred the courts from granting bail to members of the opposition MDC accused of the petrol bombings.
Yesterday, fellow lawyers lodged an urgent chamber application seeking their release.
High Court Judge Justice Tedias Karwi was quick to order their release.
In the judgement Justice Karwi ordered that the arrest and detention of the applicants (Muchadehama and Makoni) were unlawful.
"It is hereby ordered by consent that the arrest and detention of the applicants be and is hereby declared unlawful. The respondents be and are hereby directed to release the applicants forthwith or upon service of this order," said the order.
Advocate Eric Matinenga represented the two lawyers while Richard Chikosha from the Attorney General's office appeared for the police.
The order came after counsel for the two lawyers made an urgent chamber application against Assistant Commissioner Mabunda, detective inspector Rangwani, the police Commissioner and the Minister of Home Affairs in order to have the two released.
In the founding affidavit, lawyer Harrison Nkomo of Mtetwa and Nyambirai said they tried unsuccessfully to gain access to the detained lawyers.
"We attempted to explain the reason of our visit and also tried to inquire as to the nature of the allegations that the applicants are facing, and also indicated to him that we wanted to get instructions from the applicants.
"The first respondent (Assistant Commissioner Mabunda) who was reluctant to entertain us just indicated that the applicants were facing charges of obstructing the course of justice. He barred us from taking any instructions from the applicants," wrote Nkomo.
He added that Mabunda threatened to assault and detain Dzimbabwe Chimbga, one of the lawyers who had gone to see Muchadehama and Makoni, forcing them to leave the police station.
The president of the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) Lawyers' Association Sternford Moyo said they were very concerned at the arrest and detention of lawyers while on duty.
"The police and the government of Zimbabwe have an obligation, arising from both domestic and international law, to ensure that lawyers are allowed to discharge their functions without hindrances from public officials or any other person," said Moyo.
The right to legal representation was a cornerstone of an effective administration of justice, he said.
"Where that right is not observed or is not guaranteed, the administration of justice is rendered ineffective and the right to protection of the law is reduced to a pious declaration," he said.
Meanwhile, an MDC official Pishai Muchauraya yesterday described a harrowing experience at the hands of police officers after he was arrested and detained on accusations of masterminding petrol bombings in the country.
After spending four horrendous days in custody he was released on Friday after being told he faced the lesser crime of disorderly conduct at Mutare MDC offices.
He was fined $2 500.
Muchauraya, the MDC information and publicity secretary for Manicaland Province, said he was heavily assaulted for four days while in custody at Harare central police station by officers from the police law and order section.
Clinic closes down as economic crises deepens, The Standard 6 May 2007   
GWERU — After more than 50 years of serving the community, Rockford Clinic in Gweru, in Zimbabwe's central province of Midlands, shut down two months ago when the last trained nurse quit — a symptom of the wider crisis facing rural health services.
"Many people, including a substantial number of people who now hold high positions in government, were born in and treated at Rockford Clinic, but the (health) ministry had to close it down after it went for a long time with only one qualified nurse and assistants picked from the nearby villages," said Amos Magenga (65), who lives close to the clinic, about 90km south-east of Gweru.
The operational woes faced by the clinic are all too familiar in Zimbabwe: a shortage of nursing staff and drugs, dilapidated buildings and equipment, and even clean water in short supply — the inevitable result of a record inflation rate of 2 200% and a crippling shortage of foreign exchange.
"These days it's virtually useless to seek help from these health centres, they can't even provide painkillers that one can easily obtain over the counter in a shop," Topona Mangwende, 60, said.
"Health delivery inevitably suffers when the economy deteriorates to the extent that we are seeing in this country," said Innocent Makwiramiti, an economist and past chief executive of the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce. "The government is so preoccupied with finding solutions to the economic meltdown that social services like health are now almost forgotten."
According to the United Nations Population Fund, "Women and children continue to be particularly at risk as the situation continues to worsen. Maternal and neonatal mortality has spiked in recent years as access to basic health services and critical obstetric care has declined."
Rural communities are hardest hit because they are the least developed and poorest regions of the country, Makwiramiti said.
A consequence of the crisis is that traditional medicine is enjoying resurgence among Zimbabweans unable to afford orthodox treatment. "Because of the poor state of clinics and hospitals we are being forced to adopt desperate measures to save our lives when we fall sick," said Mangwende.
When his stomach began to "mysteriously" swell a year ago, he turned to a traditional healer who claimed he had been bewitched and needed to have the evil spirits exorcised — a treatment option that failed.
Gordon Chavhunduka, president of the Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association, acknowledged the problem of fake healers, but said members of his association were playing a vital role in solving Zimbabwe's medical crisis. Around 80% of Zimbabweans are believed to use traditional medicine.
"More and more people in both rural and urban areas are turning to traditional healers because they cannot get much help from hospitals and clinics," Chavhunduka said. "We hold regular meetings and workshops with the people to educate them on the advantages of using traditional medicine, and what also makes us popular is that we are more affordable."
The country's political and economic crises, and one of the world's highest rates of HIV infection, has seen Zimbabwe tumble to a ranking of 151 out of 177 countries in the United Nation's Development Programme Human Development Index. — IRIN.
Health time bomb waits to explode, Sunday Mail 6 May 2007
A HEALTH time bomb is waiting to explode following revelations that some Chitungwiza residents have been living without water and sanitary facilities for the past four years after the municipality failed to upgrade their stands.
The residents from the town's Zengeza 4 Extension area popularly known as "Pagomba" are living in the murky area after council failed to upgrade their stands.
Four years after they bought the stands for about $3,5 million, the homeseekers went on to erect permanent structures in the area where there is neither water nor sanitary facilities.
Chitungwiza municipality availed some residential stands in the area in 2002 and promised to upgrade the stands.
According to an official from the local authority, a construction company, Forit, was engaged to upgrade the land and install sewer pipes but left the job incomplete after the municipality failed to pay it for services.
Two years later, the beneficiaries went on to erect structures in the area with the blessing of the council, but were not allowed to reside in the houses.
The Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) has since inherited the sewer and water management from Chitungwiza municipality and it is not yet clear whether the problem will be resolved.
Most of the residents are using Blair toilets to relieve themselves while others use ablution facilities at a nearby shopping centre.
"We used to draw our water from the council's head offices, but we have since been stopped and we are now drilling some boreholes," said Amos Matungire, one of the residents. Surprisingly, Zinwa has been billing the residents for non-existent water supplies.
Meanwhile, sanitary facilities at the town's Unit G flats are now obsolete and in bad state.
Chitungwiza health department officials recently toured the hostels and recommended that dwellers be relocated as the state of their toilets poses a health hazard to them.
"Unit G hostels are not worthy for people to live in and they (residents) should be moved before a serious disease breaks out," said a report by the health department.
The report stated that the hostels' piping system was designed for a smaller number of dwellers as compared to the present day population.
"The toilets at the hostels need to be destroyed and new ones constructed," reads the report.
Housing scheme to benefit 480 families, Sunday Mail 6 May 2007
PROGRESS on construction of Tafara flats, which had been halted because of lack of funding, has resumed with reports that installation of the water reticulation system has reached an advanced stage.
The Government-aided project, which was initiated in 1994, commenced after the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and Urban Development availed some funds that have since been channelled towards drilling of a borehole and the subsequent installation of a water tank, which will be connected to the hostels.
The Government embarked on the ambitious project 13 years ago and had since abandoned it after some logistical problems. Some of the problems that led to the halting of the project include water problems during the whole construction process, funding and the installation of electricity. Harare Metropolitan Province Governor and Resident Minister Cde David Karimanzira last week confirmed that development of the flats had resumed adding that occupation would be expected soon.
"$40 million that was availed by the Government for the drilling of borehole and construction of a water tank has been put to full use.
"We are now awaiting connection of water from the borehole to the tank as well as from the tank to the flats," said Cde Karimanzira.
He said the water would also be used for the completion of construction of the remaining flats. "The flats have been given a stand number to pave way for the installation of electricity and money has since been provided to Zesa for the power installation," he said. About 480 families are expected to benefit from the housing scheme which has 29 blocks on four floors.
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