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Tendai Biti arrested at Zambian border

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TENDAI BITI

MDC Alliance principal Tendai Biti was arrested as he tried to flee to neighbouring Zambia to seek asylum on Wednesday, his lawyer said, allegedly on charges of inciting violence over the disputed election result.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Robert Mugabe’s former ally, narrowly retained power in last week’s landmark vote, but the opposition MDC party has accused the electoral authority of rigging the result.

Supporters of the MDC took to the streets on August 1 to protest against the alleged fraud, triggering a brutal response from the military which opened fire on the demonstrators, leaving six people dead.

The day before the protests — and before the final presidential results were announced — Biti held a press conference at the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) headquarters in Harare, claiming victory for the party.

Tendai Biti is a senior figure in the MDC alliance and was the respected finance minister in Zimbabwe’s troubled 2009-13 power-sharing government.

“He was arrested at the Zambian border,” Biti’s lawyer Nqobizitha Mlilo told AFP, adding by text message that he was trying to seek asylum.

The police were not immediately available for comment.

Tendai Biti was among nine suspects sought for inciting the protests at which the army opening fire.

Police detective Portia Chinho told the paper they were wanted for “participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence”.

The European Union and the United States have condemned violent attacks targeting the opposition since the elections, with the government accused of overseeing a brutal crackdown.

Human Rights Watch reported several cases of beatings and harassment in Harare’s suburbs as soldiers in groups of four to 10 attacked opposition supporters in bars and restaurants.

The MDC has accused security forces of abducting and beating scores of activists and their families since the election result was declared early Friday.

The poll, the first since Mugabe was ousted last year after nearly four decades in power, was meant to relaunch Zimbabwe on the international stage and attract foreign aid and investment.

“I’ve just finished going thru the evidence…We WON this election emphatically,” MDC leader Nelson Chamisa tweeted Tuesday, again alleging election authorities used falsified figures to ensure Mnangagwa retained power.

Mnangagwa says any fraud allegations should be raised through the courts and has vowed to protect rights as he promises a “new Zimbabwe” after the repression of the Mugabe era.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told Mnangagwa during a telephone conversation that he must rein in his security forces, a UN spokesman said.

Guterres also spoke by phone with Chamisa to urge him to turn to the courts — and not the streets — if he challenges Mnangagwa’s victory.

The MDC is expected to soon launch a legal challenge over the election result, in which Mnangagwa won 50.8 per cent of the vote, just scraping in above the 50 per cent run-off threshold.
AFP

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BUSINESS

Zimbabwe agrees to pay $3.5 billion compensation to white farmers

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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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NEWS

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

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Chinamasa

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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HEALTH

Perence Shiri, Zimbabwe Agriculture Minister Dies

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Perrence-Shiri-Dead

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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