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Zimbabwe buries its post-election dead

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Post election violence Zimbabwe
The funeral of one of the six people killed during the clashes on Wednesday in Harare

The four children of a fruit-seller gunned down by Zimbabwean soldiers in post-election violence wept uncontrollably at the sight of their father lying in a casket under a baking sun.

Ishmail Kumire, 41, was one of the six victims of Wednesday’s bloody chaos, sparked when troops fired on opposition activists protesting alleged electoral fraud.

The father of four, known as “Shuz”, was buried on Saturday in the village of Chinamhora, 45km northeast of Harare, watched by 200 mourners.

His fellow vendors swept into the yard of his home, packed into a minibus emblazoned with the words “I am blessed”, alighting drumming and dancing.

Women hunched over large cooking pots balanced on fires, preparing food for the mourners.

Kumire’s death carries a bitter irony. According to his brother Steven Matope, the fruit-seller was not among the opposition protesters angrily claiming that the ruling Zanu-PF had stolen the election.

Instead, he was caught up in the violence because he had stayed at the scene of the protest to protect his fruit.

“Ishmail was a vendor, he wasn’t a political activist,” Matope said.

“He supported the ruling party – but then, it’s the same ruling party that has killed him.”

His funeral came a day after Zanu-PF’s president Emmerson Mnangagwa was declared the winner of Zimbabwe’s historic elections, the first since veteran autocrat Robert Mugabe was ousted by the military last year.

Mnangagwa had hailed the polls as a chance to consign to the past Mugabe’s repressive 37-year rule, but Wednesday’s crackdown was a brutal reminder of the violence of his era.

‘Killing for no reason’

“If the ruling party is killing the people it is supposed to govern, I don’t know who it is going to rule. That’s very painful,” Matope added.

“He was just selling his tomatoes,” he said of his brother.

Kumire’s brother-in-law Ignatious Neshava, who witnessed the shooting, told AFP how soldiers swooped on them as they stood guard over his wares, fearing that $700-worth of freshly-purchased produce would be looted amid the chaos.

“He was standing five metres from me and suddenly I heard gunshots. I thought the Zimbabwean soldiers were firing rubber bullets,” said Neshava.

“I turned around and saw Ishmail on the ground, face-down. I saw a cartridge next to him and then, as I tried to turn his body, a soldier came and pointed a gun at my head.

“By that time, Ishmail was bleeding profusely.”

Neshava was sure he was going to be killed too.

“How can they deploy Zimbabwean soldiers in town, killing people for no apparent reason?” he asked, as the wooden casket was lowered into the ground.

Praying for Zimbabwe

Local leader Backshow Matope was also in Harare when the violence flared.

“I saw one woman being shot dead along Samora Machel Avenue,” the 62-year-old said.

“It is very painful that this happens shortly after we voted – what’s the point of voting if as soon as you finish voting, your relative is killed?”

Kumire’s widow Suspicious Ziyambe, 35, described her husband as a doting father.

“I have nothing that I’m able to do, I’m unemployed. He didn’t want me to work, saying he was able to take care of his family,” she said, sobbing.

“I can’t even take over his job. How am I going to look after these children? Tell me, how? He used to do everything for his children .”

Kumire’s brother Douglas said civilians in Zimbabwe were “like animals in a game park”.

“We are not protected,” the 54-year-old said.

‘There is a crisis in Zimbabwe’

“The same Zimbabwean soldiers who removed Mugabe and we celebrated are now being sent to kill people after we voted.”

As opposition leader Nelson Chamisa pressed on with his claim that the election was rigged, Bishop Guide Makore of the Christian Marching Church prayed for divine intervention.

“There is a crisis in Zimbabwe. Lord hear our situation, speak to Zimbabwe, speak to the executive, to the judiciary,” said the clergyman.

“We are appealing to the African Union, to the Southern African Development Community, to the Commonwealth to help come to our rescue.”

In Harare, Jinty Rubenstein was mourning her brother Gavin Charles, who leaves behind a 13-year-old daughter.

“My brother was shot twice, in the arm and in the pelvis – he was shot like a dog,” she said.

“He wouldn’t hurt a fly. My family fought for this country and they shoot my brother like a dog”
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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