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Schools in Matabeleland will be closed tomorrow to pave way for President Robert Mugabe’s 93rd birthday celebrations in Matobo the following day, a senior government official confirmed yesterday.
BY SILAS NKALA
Primary and Secondary Education ministry secretary, Sylvia Utete-Masango, said schools would be closed tomorrow only after earlier reports suggested it would be for two days, starting today.
“No schools will be closed on Thursday, but will be closed on Friday because of preparations that are taking place in Bulawayo,” she said.
“We are told by the provincial education officer that there will be a carnival on Friday, so that is why we have ordered that the schools be closed on Friday.
“It will only be for eight hours and those hours will be compensated for.”
Mugabe’s birthday bash will be held at Rhodes Estate Preparatory School (Reps) amid strong disapproval in the region.
Activists are not happy the celebrations are being organised in an area that bore the brunt of the 1980s Gukurahundi atrocities and is littered with mass graves.
Yesterday’s shock decision to close schools is likely to add fuel to a raging fire.
A local pressure group, Tajamuka/Sesijikile, condemned the move, saying the celebrations were pointless.
“No to celebrating and eating cake amid poverty and hunger,” tweeted Tajamuka/Sesijikile.
A Bulawayo resident, who declined to be named, said: “This is a sad development for Matabeleland.
“They (government) have never closed schools in other provinces, where these cerebrations were held. Why do they start doing it to us? They are always after destroying this region at all costs.”
Teachers’ unions, opposition parties and civil society groups have accused the Zanu PF government of coercing teachers, schools and parastatals to make financial contributions to the annual jamboree, organised by the ruling party’s 21st February Movement, in honour of the veteran politician.
However, last night, Primary and Secondary Education minister Lazarus Dokora was quoted saying schools will not be closed as announced.
EMBATTLED Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF) leader, Joice Mujuru, yesterday suffered yet another setback in her fight to control the opposition party after war veterans rallied behind “expelled” founding members, Rugare Gumbo and Didymus Mutasa (pictured), and appeared to endorse them as the bona fide leaders.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
Top executives of the Christopher Mutsvangwa-led Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association, Victor Matemadanda (secretary-general) and Douglas Mahiya (spokesperson), were part of a ZimPF steering committee meeting called by Gumbo and Mutasa in Harare to announce a new party leadership following their break-up with Mujuru last week.
Addressing journalists at the ZimPF headquarters yesterday, Gumbo said he would, for now, co-lead the party with Mutasa until a substantive president has been selected at an elective convention to be held “in due course”.
“Party elders, founding members and the steering committee will in due course meet to choose an interim president, who will lead the party pending an elective convention,” he said.
“Meanwhile, the steering committee, together with Mutasa and Gumbo, are the caretaker leaders of ZimPF.
“We are going to consult extensively from the members of the steering committee and the founders of the party to find what their opinion is regarding leadership.
“So, we cannot give a definite date, but we are saying, any time after the end of February, we should be able to have an answer.”
Matemadanda said they were attending the meeting in solidarity with their fellow liberation war comrades.
“We didn’t come here as members of People First, but we came here as comrades, who received information that other comrades are meeting here,” he said.
“Our membership and mobilisation will support a candidate, who has respect for our founding principles. We are not here to seek for membership or anything, except that, as comrades, there will be a time when we are going to meet as the veterans of the struggle.
“We will count each other, those who are with us and those that are not with us. We will ask what is meant by getting lost, because we were taught that the majority is the superior to the minority. When the minority remains with the other side (Zanu PF) and the majority is outside, what do you call that?”
Mahiya accused President Robert Mugabe of manipulating war veterans by using them for campaign purposes and dumping them afterwards.
“There is no one who can say I was not used at Shake-Shake (Zanu PF headquarters). We were all used at different levels and doing different things, but we couldn’t realise it,” he said.
“I have never seen an army general, who will go to war and later fire his troops soon after winning the war to accommodate nonentities like (Zanu PF commissar, Saviour) Kasukuwere. This is manipulative.”
Mutsvangwa, Matemadanda, Mahiya and others were fired from Zanu PF last year on allegations of indiscipline after they openly called for Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa to take over from Mugabe.
Norton’s independent legislator, Temba Mliswa, also attended the meeting in solidarity with the ZimPF elders.
Mujuru last week announced the expulsion of seven ZimPF founders, accusing them of being Zanu PF agents, but they have remained defiant, saying they could not be fired from a party they founded.
Mliswa described Mujuru as unelectable, while urging people to stop idolising political leaders.
“Mujuru was handpicked to be Vice-President. This is why I always ask you why you believe somebody who was handpicked can win elections,” he said.
“That is the danger of Zanu PF today. Mnangagwa was handpicked and (Vice-President Phelekezela) Mphoko was handpicked, so was Mujuru. So you cannot go and get votes out there without winning internal elections. It’s suicidal to have such a person as a substantive president.”
Margaret Dongo, who was also fired alongside Gumbo and Mutasa, took a swipe at Mujuru’s “dictatorial tendencies”, saying ZimPF structures were behind their group.
Gumbo also raised a litany of allegations against Mujuru, including running the party like a personal business, going on foreign trips without briefing her executive, failure to account for party finances, blatant disregard of the constitution, and backbiting, among others.
He also said it was a lie that they were against a coalition with other opposition political parties.
“There has been a deliberate distortion of the position of elders regarding the coalition of opposition forces,” Gumbo said.
“We want to unambiguously state our position regarding the question of coalition.
“We agree with the coalition of all opposition parties. We are for the unity of our people. Faced with a regime that knows no bounds in its quest to remain in power forever, we cannot and should not accept the luxury of being divided.”
He said Mujuru always shunned advice from the party elders, alleging she started plotting to expel them last year, but was blocked by some members of the national executive council.
“Mujuru always wanted the elders removed because they have the courage to speak out whenever she vacillates or goes astray,” Gumbo said.
The Health and Child Care ministry has said abortions among young women and girls are now the main cause of maternal deaths.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
Appearing before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care, the ministry’s secretary, Gerald Gwinji, said 20% of maternal deaths were due to abortion.
On average, Zimbabwe record between 500 000 and 700 000 pregnancies per year, and in 2016, 514 women died while giving birth.
Although this was a reduction from 656 maternal deaths in 2014, and 575 in 2015, maternal mortality rates were reportedly still very high at 651 per 100 000 births.
“Our 2015 study showed that almost 20% of maternal deaths were due to abortions and they were mainly happening in young girls below the age of 24. They die because of septic infections, haemorrhage through bleeding of a fractured uterus, septic abortions, and hypertension in pregnancy,” he said.
Gwinji said results of an adolescent fertility study would be out in two weeks.
The ministry was also experiencing blood shortages, as only 10 000 units per year were being provided to hospitals by donors.
“Harare and Mpilo hospitals need a lot of blood and at the end of the month they usually run out. Our expected pregnancy numbers per year are on average 500 000 and if one woman is to get two units of blood, it means it is only enough for 5 000 women per year,” Gwinji said.
The government is also grappling to fight infant mortality rates that stand at 60 deaths per 1 000 babies for under-fives, compared to 27 deaths per 1 000 babies in 1988.
The ministry is also saddled with a huge debt of over $80 million, which it owes to hospitals, in terms of reimbursements of user fees charged to people over 65 years and under-fives, as well as those that are supposed to be supported through social welfare, and maternal fees that are supposed to be free.
It is also saddled with another $50 million debt to suppliers of goods and services.
“In 2016, Parirenyatwa Hospital billed $8, 2 million for services rendered to people over 65 years old and $10,3 million for under-fives, as well as $5,7 million for social welfare patients, and the total bill owed to Parirenyatwa Hospital over the years by the ministry is now $61 490 000. Mpilo Central Hospital in Bulawayo is owed $4 million for under-fives, $3 million for over 65-year-olds, and for patients under social welfare $3,5 million. The total debt owed to Mpilo is $20 983 000,” Gwinji said.
ZIMPF leader Joice Mujuru’s bid to challenge President Robert Mugabe’s powers to introduce bond notes yesterday hit a snag after the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) struck the matter off the roll.
BY CHARLES LAITON
This followed an application by Mugabe’s representative that the former VP’s application had not been properly brought before the court.
Mujuru had challenged the legality of a Presidential pronouncement that provided the legal framework for the introduction of bond notes as legal tender.
However, when the matter started and just before it could be heard on merits, Mugabe’s representative, Fortunate Chimbaru, raised a preliminary point, saying the constitutionality of the Presidential Powers Act was a question of interpretation.
Chimbaru said Mujuru ought to have first approached the High Court and made an application in terms of section 85 of the Constitution seeking to have the Act declared unconstitutional before approaching the ConCourt.
The full ConCourt bench, led by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, thereafter, disposed of the matter on a technicality and struck it off the roll, saying the reasons for its decision would follow in due course.
Justice Chidyausiku also said Mujuru was putting the cart before the horse, pointing out she should not have rushed to the ConCourt without exhausting all the available remedies.
“The problem that we would get by getting into the merits of this case is drawing the line between what Parliament can delegate and what it cannot,” Justice Chidyausiku said.
In the application, Mujuru had cited Mugabe, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya and Attorney-General Prince Machaya as respondents.
FIRST Lady Grace Mugabe is on Friday set to resume her countrywide rallies, making her first stop over in Buhera North, as she rolls out the roadmap for her husband President Robert Mugabe and the ruling party’s election campaign ahead of next year’s general elections.
BY KENNETH NYANGANI
Zanu PF Manicaland provincial chairperson, Samuel Undenge yesterday told provincial co-ordinating committee members in Mutare that Grace would be in Buhera, MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai’s home area, on Friday.
“We are here to discuss a number of issues and one of them is that our First Lady Grace Mugabe will be in Buhera on the 17th of this month,” he said.
“I think our Provincial Affairs minister (Mandiitawepi Chimene) can give us a briefing on our First Lady’s visit to the province since the letter came through her office.”
Chimene confirmed the visit, but could not give details, claiming that she was still on leave.
Provincial women’s league secretary for administration, Letina Undenge, said she was expecting a bumper crowd at the rally.
“We love our mother, we are supporting her and we did this at our recently-held conference,” she said.
“This is more like the rally we held at Mutambara in Chimanimani. She is energetic and very keen to empower women.
“She empowered women, including youths, the last time she came to Chimanimani. This is going to be a roadmap going to the elections, come 2018.
“We are preparing to come in numbers. We are delighted because we are also going to celebrate the birthday of our President.”
The sharp-tongued Zanu PF women’s league boss normally uses such platforms to rail against her rivals in the ruling party, and in this particular instance her target could be Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is reportedly eyeing succeeding Mugabe.
Grace, who is believed to be the leader of the G40 faction comprising of the ruling party’s Young Turks, is reportedly also eyeing Mugabe’s seat.
On the other hand, Mnangagwa and his Team Lacoste faction, are believed to have the backing of war veterans and the security sector.
Grace marked her grand entry into mainstream Zanu PF politics in 2014 with a string of campaign rallies that spilled into 2015, culminating in the axing of Vice-President Joice Mujuru and several other former ruling party bigwigs on allegations of plotting Mugabe’s downfall.
Mujuru and her team, which at the time included former Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa and ex-Zanu PF spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo, later regrouped and formed the opposition Zimbabwe People First before their spectacular break up last week.
SOCIAL movement, Tajamuka/Sesijikile is organising a massive demonstration to protest against the holding of President Robert Mugabe’s 93rd birthday bash in Matobo district, an area that bore the brunt of the Gukurahundi mass killings.
By NQOBANI NDLOVU
Happyson Ncube, who co-ordinates Tajamuka/Sesijikile activities in Bulawayo, said the social movement was not happy with the holding of the celebrations in Matobo district, adding they were organising a protest on the day of the bash to show their anger and displeasure.
“It is up to us to define the Zimbabwe we want as a generation,” he said.
“We will do all what it takes to die for a better, free and just Zimbabwe. We know all demonstrations have been banned, but we will find ways. It is high time all citizens participated in this walk to freedom, unarmed struggle to build a peaceful Zimbabwe.”
Ncube described Mugabe’s bash, to be held on February 25, as an “unholy celebration”, which ought to be stopped.
“We say the unholy celebration will be met by a demonstration,” he said.
“We call upon all social movements to come together and collectively fight this regime on the day. The Gambia elections must build confidence in us as citizens.”
Tajamuka and other groupings have led numerous demonstrations against the government, prompting authorities to gazette a statutory instrument banning protests last year.
“We are mobilising all Zimbabweans and we know people have been forced to make donations,” Ncube continued.
“It is clear that people from Matabeleland do not welcome this celebration, they are victims of Gukurahundi and they need answers.”
But Zanu PF youth league secretary, Kudzi Chipanga told the protesters “to go hang” and find other things to do.
“If they don’t have anything to do, let them come and approach our offices so that they can be given agricultural inputs and go to the fields, since the nation has been graced with lots of rains from the Almighty,” he quipped.
“With that energy, I believe they will do us proud this coming winter wheat season.”
Mugabe is yet to apologise for the killings of an estimated 20 000 civilians in Midlands and Matabeleland by the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade during a period the veteran leader later described as a “moment of madness”.
Opposition parties and civic society groups had all rallied against plans to hold Mugabe’s birthday bash in Matopos National Park, a few kilometres from the Gukurahundi mass graves at Bhalagwe.
The protests saw Zanu PF changing the venue to Rhodes Estate Preparatory School, infuriating teachers’ organisations like the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe that said schools were for learning and not for parties.
ZIMBABWE People First (ZimPF) leader, Joice Mujuru’s woes continued to mount yesterday with three close allies dumping her, a day after she summarily expelled seven founding members of her party, accusing them of spying for the ruling party, Zanu PF.
BY EVERSON MUSHAVA/OBEY MANAYITI/STEPHEN CHADENGA
Mujuru’s long-time ally Sylvester Nguni, war veteran Agrippa Mutambara and ZimPF secretariat member, Cougan Matanhire were among several party members who dumped Mujuru yesterday and threw their lot with their expelled colleagues, who insist they still belong to the opposition party.
“Zimbabwe People First, led by Joice Mujuru, has got its feet firmly lodged in sand, quicksand,” Mutambara wrote in a letter, announcing he was severing ties with the former Vice-President.
“The more it struggles, the more it sinks into it.
“As a decent human being, I have got great respect for Mujuru. But as a leader of a promising political party that aims to dislodge Zanu PF’s 37-year grip on power, I find her indecisive and clueless.
“The party is directionless and cruising on autopilot.”
Mutambara said he would announce his future political plans soon.
Mujuru’s spokesperson, Gift Nyandoro, confirmed receiving the trio’s resignation letters, as the fallout between Mujuru and the party’s founding members has all but torn ZimPF apart.
This happened as Mujuru addressed an emergency meeting in the capital, with the party’s nine provincial co-ordinators, who pledged to back her, as Midlands co-ordinator, Wilson Svova, stayed away, citing irreconcilable differences with the former Vice-President.
ZimPF provincial co-ordinators, who attended the meeting were William Zivenge (Masvingo), James Kaunye (Manicaland), Marian Chombo (Mashonaland West), Taurai Pasirayi (Mashonaland East), Cecil Mathambo (Matabeleland North), Esnath Bulayani (Bulawayo), Bekezela Fuzwayo Maduma (Matabeleland South), Munyaradzi Banda (Harare) and Godfrey Mamombe (Mashonaland Central).
Elliot Kasu also attended the meeting representing war veterans.
ZimPF spokesperson, Jealousy Mawarire, insisted that Mujuru was justified to expel the seven without consulting other stakeholders.
“There were the process that triggered the decision and we are taking measures to ratify it,” he said.
“Even this national executive meeting had been triggered by the developments. People sometimes have to take drastic measures and ratify the decision later.”
On the other hand, some executives from various provinces gathered at the party offices in the capital, where they denounced Mujuru as a “daft” politician with nothing to offer in Zimbabwean politics.
Most members of ZimPF in Midlands and Mashonaland East provincial executives said they would stand by the fired seven.
On Wednesday, Mujuru addressed a Press conference at her Chisipite home in Harare, where she announced the expulsion of members of the party’s elders’ advisory council – Rugare Gumbo, Didymus Mutasa, Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, Margaret Dongo, Munacho Mutezo, Cloudious Makova and youth leader, Luckson Kandemiri.
She accused them of stifling coalition talks with other opposition parties.
The group immediately struck back, saying they had instead fired Mujuru, accusing her of dictatorship and incompetence.
MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, yesterday drew daggers with Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko, accusing him of being a “drunkard high on some drugs” after the latter claimed the former Premier was a key actor during the Gukurahundi massacres in the 1980s and had shot at the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo’s car in an assassination attempt.
By VENERANDA LANGA/XOLISANI NCUBE
Mphoko stirred a hornet’s nest on Saturday when he told journalists in Bulawayo that Tsvangirai was part of a Zanu PF hit squad tasked with assassinating Nkomo in Masvingo during the emotive Gukurahundi era.
The Vice-President added that Tsvangirai was involved in the bombing of a police station in Tsholotsho, Matabeleland North province.
But, Tsvangirai hit back, accusing Mphoko of “making a sick joke out of a national tragedy”, still fresh on victims’ minds nearly three decades on.
“Here was a whole Vice-President, with neither shame nor compunction, grossly maligning and besmirching an innocent citizen and making a sick joke out of a national tragedy,” Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka said in a statement yesterday.
“He may indulge in anything he fancies, but he must never make himself a national spectacle, humiliating both [the] party and government by smearing an innocent citizen with blood in a desperate bid to make a murderer out of them.”
He said Mphoko could have done well with taking advice from his colleagues — ostensibly Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo — who had lost their parents during the massacres.
“He could have done better if he had sought the advice of some of his colleagues in the same [Zanu PF] faction, who lost their parents during the senseless Gukurahundi period,” Tamborinyoka continued.
“At least they could have sat him down to impress upon him that this was no laughing matter; that Gukurahundi was too grave a matter to clown about.”
An estimated 20 000 civilians were killed when President Robert Mugabe deployed the North Korean-trained Five Brigade in Matabeleland and Midlands regions in the 1980s.
Mugabe has not apologised for the mass killings, only describing them as a “moment of madness”.
The MDC-T leader also threatened to sue Mphoko over the remarks.
“Next time, Mphoko’s minders must assist him to resist the temptation to parade himself in front of television cameras,” Tamborinyoka said.
“He surely owes the nation an elaborate substantiation of his fanciful allegations that do not befit the high office he holds. He will surely have his day in court.
In 2014, Mphoko, who served as a diplomat and State security agent before his appointment as Vice-President, claimed that the Gukurahundi massacres were a Western conspiracy and exonerated Mugabe from the killings.
Attempts to seek a clarification from the VP proved fruitless as his mobile phone was continuously busy.
Meanwhile, Zanu PF politburo member, Moyo, who lost his father during the massacres, yesterday challenged Mphoko to reveal more details on the issue.
“I do subscribe to the doctrine that he who alleges has the burden to prove his or her allegation! I think this is a matter that does not require kneejerk or ideological reactions,” he wrote on Twitter.
“The disclosure should be empirically tested to verify it.”
ZANU PF youths in Manicaland province yesterday came out guns blazing accusing Information minister Christopher Mushohwe of doing little to defend President Robert Mugabe from a section of war veterans and party members calling on the veteran politician to step down.
BY KENNETH NYANGANI
Addressing journalists in Mutare yesterday, provincial youth chairperson, Mubuso Chinguno said Mushohwe’s key responsibility, as government spokesperson, was to defend Mugabe from the likes of war veterans secretary-general, Victor Matemadanda and Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s self-proclaimed ally, Energy Mutodi.
“We are also worried and concerned as youths league, but first we thank and we were impressed by the defence done by Mushohwe to our President Robert Mugabe after utterances by [South Africa opposition party Economic Freedom Fighters leader] Julius Malema. He came out clear
and he defended the President, which I thank him for. He even had one hour [on national television] defending the President,’’ he said,
“However, our concern and worry, just a week after Malema’s utterances, Energy Mutodi came out guns blazing attacking our President, but there was no word from our Minister of Information. Every week, Matemadanda and [war veterans spokesperson Douglas] Mahiya attack our President, and there is no single word from the minister.
“Why is he is quiet when Matemadanda is attacking the President? Where is he when Mutodi attacks the President? So, we demand that Mushohwe to defends the President with the same zeal he displayed in the Malema case.”
Mushohwe could not be reached for comment on his mobile phone.
Meanwhile, the ruling party youths said they were mobilising at least 10 000 members from Manicaland to attend Mugabe’s 93rd birthday bash in Matobo this month.