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Kirsty Coventry under pressure to resign



Kirsty Coventry

Kirsty Coventry is allegedly under pressure from some close family members and citizens to resign from President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration.

This follows the brutalisation of people during this week’s three-day stay away and subsequent protest action. Social media was awash with rumours on Thursday of Coventry’s resignation from government. However, there has been no official comment by the government regarding these rumours.

There was also no independent verification of comments attributed to her in a widely circulated post, claiming she was leaving government because she “doesn’t want blood money on my hands”.

A former Zimbabwean cabinet member and close friend of Coventry’s, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the rumours weren’t true.

Also on Thursday, Zimbabwe’s information minister, Energy Mutodi, tweeted: “The Honorable Minister of Youths, Arts & Sports and famous Olympian Champion Kirsty Coventry has not resigned from the government of President Mnangagwa. Social media news on her resignation are false.”

Zimbabweans took to the streets from Monday to Wednesday protesting a 150% fuel increase announced by Mnangagwa last Saturday, a day before he departed for a five-nation visit to Europe. He is expected to attend this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The protests, according to human rights organisations, left at least 10 people dead and hundreds injured in state-sponsored violence as the Zanu-PF government sought to contain the protests which had by Wednesday spread around the country.

With reports from human rights organisations indicating casualties could be far more than is being reported in the state media, sources in Harare claimed pressure was piling on Coventry, a former swimming sensation and Olympic gold medalist – and the only white person in Mnangagwa’s government – to throw in the towel.

Fueling the speculation is the fact that she has changed her Twitter handle and removed the title of Zimbabwe sports minister from her profile.

Kirsty Coventry was not immediately available to comment as her mobile phone was off, while the partial internet block made it difficult to reach her on her social media platforms.

But human rights defenders are adamant Kirsty Coventry is in a tight spot and reconsidering her position, claiming she did not support the Harare crackdown.

A human rights lawyer close to Kirsty Coventry, who spoke anonymously due to the sensitivity of the matter, told TimesLIVE that the former Olympian was now in a very difficult position.

“Her international credibility will be waning by the second,” the lawyer said.

Political analyst and human rights defender Ernest Mudzengi said the entire administration should admit failure and quit.

“I think the pressure should not be addressed on one individual, but the entire government because it seems not to have a clue of how to salvage the citizenry from the present economic morass.”

Zimbabwe has, since the ousting of former president Robert Mugabe, experienced chronic shortages of various products, ranging from fuel, to cash, to electricity and to potable water.

But it is the latest brutalisation of citizens which has again shone the spotlight on Mnangagwa’s administration, barely six months after soldiers in Harare shot dead civilians after a disputed presidential outcome.

Meanwhile, Nkululeko Sibanda, the spokesperson for MDC president Nelson Chamisa, put the blame on Mnangagwa and his deputy, Constantino Chiwenga, for the violence which erupted across the country over the last three days.

“Credible reports show that the state carefully organised Zanu-PF youths, who would infiltrate the mass stayaways and loot a few shops for their personal benefit. These were not paid and were told that the loot would be their salary,” said Sibanda in a statement.

“SADC must intervene and investigate these serious circumstances in which grave crimes against humanity were committed. Mnangagwa and General Chiwenga are adversely affecting the image of the region and bring SADC into disrepute over and over again.”

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Zimbabwe agrees to pay $3.5 billion compensation to white farmers



Zimbabwe White Farmers

Zimbabwe agreed on Wednesday to pay $3.5 billion in compensation to Zimbabwe white farmers whose land was expropriated by the government to resettle black families, moving a step closer to resolving one the most divisive policies of the Robert Mugabe era.

But the southern African nation does not have the money and will issue long term bonds and jointly approach international donors with the farmers to raise funding, according to the compensation agreement.

Two decades ago Mugabe’s government carried out at times violent evictions of 4,500 Zimbabwe white farmers and redistributed the land to around 300,000 Black families, arguing it was redressing colonial land imbalances.

The agreement signed at President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s State House offices in Harare showed white farmers would be compensated for infrastructure on the farms and not the land itself, as per the national constitution.

Details of how much money each farmer, or their descendants, given the time elapsed since the farms were seized, was likely to get were not yet clear, but the government has said it would prioritise the elderly when making the settlements.

Farmers would receive 50% of the compensation after a year and the balance within five years. Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube and acting Agriculture Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri signed on behalf of the government, while farmers unions and a foreign consortium that undertook valuations also penned the agreement.

“As Zimbabweans, we have chosen to resolve this long-outstanding issue,” said Andrew Pascoe, head of the Commercial Farmers Union representing  Zimbabwe white farmers.

The land seizures were one of Mugabe’s signature policies that soured ties with the West. Mugabe, who was ousted in a coup in 2017 and died last year, accused the West of imposing sanctions on his government as punishment.

The programme still divides public opinion in Zimbabwe as opponents see it as a partisan process that left the country struggling to feed itself. But its supporters say it has empowered landless Black people. Mnangagwa said the land reform could not be reversed but paying of compensation was key to mending ties with the West. Reuters

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Chinamasa calls U.S. ambassador ‘thug’ as anti-government protests loom




Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party on Monday called the United States ambassador a “thug” and accused him of funding the opposition ahead of this week’s planned anti-government protests that authorities say are meant to overthrow the government.

Without providing evidence, ZANU-PF spokesman Patrick Chinamasa told reporters that U.S. ambassador to Harare, Brian Nichols, was involved in subversive activities to topple President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.

Chinamasa’s comments echo the Robert Mugabe era, where the ZANU-PF government regularly accused the United States and Britain of seeking to dislodge it from power.

“He (Nichols) continues to engage in acts of undermining this republic and if he does so, if he continues engaging in acts of mobilising and funding disturbances, coordinating violence and training insurgents, our leadership will not hesitate to give him marching orders,” Chinamasa said.
“Diplomats should not behave like thugs, and Brian Nichols is a thug.”

The U.S. embassy in Harare did not immediately respond to Chinamasa’s comments. Political tensions are rising fast in the southern African nation after activists called for demonstrations on July 31 against government corruption, which they blame for deepening the worst economic crisis in more than a decade.

Last month, the government summoned Nichols after a senior White House official said Zimbabwe was among “foreign adversaries” using the civil unrest in the United States following the death of George Floyd to interfere in U.S. affairs.

The U.S., Britain, E.U. embassies and the United Nations have all criticised Zimbabwe for the arrest of journalists and political challengers.
Relations between Zimbabwe and the West were promising when Mnangagwa replaced Mugabe after a coup in 2017, but have soured over the government’s human rights record.

Patrick Chinamasa urged party supporters to defend themselves from protesters and avoid a repeat of the deadly violence that followed post-election demonstrations in August 2018 and the January 2019 protests over a steep fuel price hike.“No, this time no. Use any means at your disposal to defend yourselves,” Chinamasa said. Organisers say this week’s protests will be peaceful. Reuters

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Perence Shiri, Zimbabwe Agriculture Minister Dies




Zimbabwe’s agriculture minister Perence Shiri, a retired general who helped plot the ouster of Robert Mugabe in a 2017 coup, has died, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Wednesday.

Perence Shiri, who commanded the air force for 25 years until he joined the government in 2017, was admitted to hospital on Tuesday, two government sources said. He died in the early hours of Wednesday.

“Shiri was a true patriot, who devoted his life to the liberation, independence and service of his country,” Mnangagwa said in a statement. He did not say how Shiri died.

But domestic media said Shiri, 65, succumbed to complications from the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, which has infected 2,817 and killed 40 in Zimbabwe.

A liberation war veteran,Perrence Shiri had a chequered past. He commanded the army’s Fifth Brigade unit that carried out the 1980s massacres of thousands of civilians in western Zimbabwe as the government sought to quell an insurgency.

The army massacres, known as ‘Gukurahundi’, a Shona term meaning the ‘early rain that washes away the chaff’, remain a sore point for the people of the Matabeleland region, many of whom demand justice and reparations.

The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change accused Perence Shiri of being among the security chiefs who organised violence against its members after Mugabe lost the first round of the presidential vote in 2008.Reuters

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