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Zimbabwe: The plotting thickens

Andrew Harding | 08:57 UK time, Tuesday, 25 January 2011

So he's back, and fighting fit, and never went near a hospital.
"We were just resting," said President Robert Mugabe on his return from Singapore.

Robert Mugabe (in December 2010)

The speculation - rampant in Harare and backed up by several well-placed sources - was that the 86-year-old had rushed back to Asia for a prostate operation, prompting a frenzy of succession plotting among the feuding factions of Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF.

"Nocturnal meetings, wheeler dealings - real fun and games. It's a very unstable land," one senior political insider told me.

Of course this sort of death-bed conjecture is probably as pointless as it is morbid.
Depending on whom you ask, Mr Mugabe is either in perfect health, "declining steadily," or "unlikely to bounce back."

The only diagnoses that almost everyone agrees on are that the president takes fastidious care of himself, and that he will cling to power until his last breath.

And yet the plotting appears to be real. The lack of a clear successor to Mr Mugabe is a major headache for Zanu-PF.

The man to beat is Emmerson Mnangagwa - a hardliner with plenty of clout. Vice-President Joyce Mujuru is also well placed.

Then there are maybe half a dozen others, including Saviour Kasukuwere - "the second scariest man in Zimbabwe", according to one of his most prominent rivals.

Intriguingly, although some western diplomats worry that the rules of succession may be murky enough to fuel instability or at least give plotters some extra wiggle-room. It looks as though the former opposition MDC may actually end up playing kingmaker in a parliamentary electoral college charged with finding a Zanu-PF replacement to complete Mr Mugabe's term.

In that case, a senior MDC source tells me, Joyce Mujuru would probably end up with the presidency on the basis that she is "the better of the devils."

Not that the MDC is relishing the idea of President Mugabe's abrupt exit. There are real fears that it could trigger a new clampdown by Zanu-PF hardliners, forcing the party's leadership to bolt to neighbouring Botswana "like lightning" - at least in the short-term.

And there are other - probably more pressing - reasons for the MDC to be worried. The movement's secretary general, Tendai Biti has issued a warning on the elections.

So was the former opposition party right to cut a power-sharing deal with Zanu-PF back in 2008 in the first place?

The optimists point to Zimbabwe's economic recovery, and to the possibility that free and fair elections can still be held.

The realists argue that at least the MDC has had a chance to catch its breath, lick its wounds, and get some hands-on experience of government.

But the pessimists - and in Zimbabwe that's a big group - fear that Zanu-PF is many years away from even countenancing the possibility of relinquishing power, with or without Mr Mugabe at the helm.

They worry about the MDC's ability to withstand another onslaught from the security forces, especially given that Prime Minister Tsvangirai appears, according to some, to be dwindling into little more than a golf-playing figurehead for the movement.

So... after a surprisingly long lull, it looks like this may be a busy, dangerous year for Zimbabwe. Could these reports about a new phase of property seizures be an early sign of things to come?


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  • 1. At 12:07pm on 25 Jan 2011, BobRocket wrote:

    'the 86-year-old had rushed back to Asia for a prostate operation'

    Robert Mugabe has been in power for 30 years and the health care system has improved so much under his regime that he has to fly to Asia to get a routine operation.

    I could express an opinion about the man here but it wouldn't make it past the mods.

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  • 2. At 12:32pm on 25 Jan 2011, KINGSLY wrote:

    Yes at that chanjure,everybody independence

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  • 3. At 1:57pm on 25 Jan 2011, Mze-djimba wrote:

    I really like the desperations and strength of English media presenters. You guys really loves your English and do everything you can to get your ways. I just hope our leaders or so-call intellectuals can learn something from you and that is how to be loyal to their people like how you are to yours. Sometimes i use to feel useless asking you to love us while we don’t even love ourselves. I saw a headline for a conference going to take place in one of the UK University on the 27th under the title “the removal of Mugabe” by George Cassidy.

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  • 4. At 3:44pm on 25 Jan 2011, Batanai M wrote:

    Your Headline is rather confusing, Andrew! The western media has been propagating a lie over the past week about Mugabe's health.
    When the truth comes out, should not the plot then THIN, rather than "thicken"?

    The tone of this article suggests that BBC prefers a Zimbabwe ruled by the MDC. Its therefore suprising that Harding quotes "optimists" hoping for a "free and fair" election. Because, as is abundantly clear to most Zimbabweans (though unclear to most non-Zimbabweans), a free and fair election results in an MDC loss and ZANU-PF consolidation.

    The British and American governments know this, which is why they have suddenly changed tune, from trying to disband the Unity government for over 18 months and then suddenly changing their minds 6 months ago and starting to look for any manner of argument to extend the GNU life!

    6 months ago, these governments realized that as long as there is no crisis in Zimbabwe, nobody care for the MDC. Its a party that thrives on misery, no food on shelves, no medicines, no foreign currency; these are the things that make Zimbabweans abandon Mugabe. As misery subsided after Mr Chinamasa abandoned the zim$, most Zimbabweans came back to their political home, ZANU-PF.

    The West realised this when a constitutional change they thought would advantage MDC became an embarassing rout, with over 90% of the constitutional positions advocated by the people belonging to ZANU! From then on, instead of hurrying Zimbabwe back to elections as the West had been doing since February 2008, they suddenly wanted the GNU extended for as long as possible!

    Suddenly, its the West now advocating for a Mugabe life-presidency, even as he seeks elections to legitimse this! It seems the West would rather prefer a Mugabe life-presidency they can deligitimise because of the March 2008 elections rather than an election in 2011 that will wipeoff an MDC presence in parliament and bring legitimacy to Mugabe's presidency!

    Good luck with that! Mugabe has proven to be a much smarter political operator than ALL his western enemies combined over the last 10 years!

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  • 5. At 7:57pm on 25 Jan 2011, janhoy wrote:

    I see now that the BBC has added 'property seizures' to it's lexicon of anti-Mugabe rhetoric instead of the standard 'land grab' or 'stolen land'.
    For you the history of Zimbabwean land begins in the year 2000, for us it began thousands of years ago. What year did we sell it you? Where are the two hundred year old deeds? The UK, EU and the US are hell-bent on destroying Zimbabwe because one man stood up to your thuggery. You have done everything short of an Iraqi style invasion to destroy Zimbabwe. It is a good thing were not an enemy of Israel or foreign troops would be in the capital and President Mugabe would be swinging from a tree.
    Since 1948 European Jews have been claiming land in Palestine at the expense of the Palestinians yet neither the UK,US or the EU have condemned or vilified the Israeli leadership nor heaped sanctions on them. Why is that? What is the glaring difference between them and us? Pray tell.
    p.s. the mods will not print this.

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  • 6. At 10:39pm on 25 Jan 2011, Revenimus wrote:

    There is nothing new here except an extreme reach based on speculation and rumors started by the western media. This is a lie that Andrew is propagating to create a political 'crisis' in Zimbabwe. The rumors of Mugabe on his death bed and the seemingly unending number of clandestine meetings to determine a succesor are more than a decade old. Seems Andrew is pushing the 'western myth' of an impending regime change in Zimbabwe.

    "Nocturnal meetings, wheeler dealings - real fun and games. It's a very unstable land," Is this well-placed political insider an MDC operative suffering the same delusions of grandeur as that irrelevant golf playing political poseur. The fact of it is that the MDC has been operating on a "Mugabe must go" platform which has been rendered redundant when the two MDCs joined the government. The MDCs need to articulate alternative policies to those being profferedby ZANU (PF).

    Zimbabwe has become relatively stable and that scares the west. There is enough crises is West, East and North Africa. That, somehow, doesn't rattle the west's cage because they do not have an eloquent rabble rouser like Mugabe.Let Zimbabwe enjoy its relative peace and increasing political maturity. There is hope yet and let Zimbabwe enjoy its burgeoning democracy.

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  • 7. At 11:21pm on 25 Jan 2011, janhoy wrote:

    I see now that the BBC has added 'property seizures' to it's lexicon of anti-Mugabe rhetoric instead of the standard 'land grab' or 'stolen land'.
    For the West the history of Zimbabwean land begins in the year 2000, for us it began thousands of years ago. What year did we sell it you? Where are the two hundred year old deeds? The UK, EU and the US are hell-bent on destroying Zimbabwe because one man stood up to your thuggery. You have done everything short of an Iraqi style invasion to destroy Zimbabwe.
    Since 1948 European Jews have been claiming land in Palestine at the expense of the Palestinians yet neither the UK, US or the EU have condemned or vilified the Israeli leadership nor heaped sanctions on them. Why is that? What is the glaring difference between them and us? Pray tell.

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  • 8. At 06:18am on 26 Jan 2011, Nyadegu71 wrote:

    I was one of those Zimbos against Unity government.It gave Zanu PF a chance to regroup.The main problem that Zimbabwe faces right now is a divisive political landscape.So many small political parties are propping up and it shall be difficult to dislodge Zanu PF.These budding parties forget that politics is a game of numbers, without enough grassroot support you are insignificant. I wish all these political parties could bury their differences and form a United Front against Zanu Pf.
    As for MDC Tsvangirai, it is disheartening that they are not doing enough to protect their support base from violence.Their supporters are sick and tired of MDC-T's ritual statements that their party condemn violence. I personally believe that fire should be treated with fire.They should appoint a no-nonsense youth leader to counter Zanu-PF violence. Lastly, if Mugabe dies today, we would not know it until after a year or so because he is believed to be sacred by those around him.

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  • 9. At 08:44am on 26 Jan 2011, thunder07 wrote:

    As a nobody in the political angle. Following the world news. It looks like Mugabe is the most organised Head of State. He does not change like a chamelion. In other countries who believed their governance are the finest, they are now the worst by untipping the whole food basket for the country to start a new beggining.

    He proved his good leadership by keepping the the former Primister of Rhodesia safe, happy in his farm and also had an oppotunity to say out his words until his death. Mugabe did not do any harm apart from taking back what is rightfully for Zimbabwe.

    His governance did not change, people are sufferring under that one unchanged governance.

    There is no need for opposition in Zimbabwe, because if someone thinks he has got better ideas, the doors are open and waiting for people to contribute not to oppose.
    It needs only a minute to reflect what life was like before Mugabe took over.

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  • 10. At 4:37pm on 26 Jan 2011, Nyadegu71 wrote:

    After reading some of the comments, they made me sick.Most of the comments are from Zanu PF's booty-lickers without critical minds.They still blame the West for everything and run away from their bad policies.We shall not move forward as Zimbabweans for as long we do not admit the areas that we went wrong.How can we correct a mistake without admitting it? Two things that I find interesting that is coming from Zanu-Pf of late are that they still insist on not accepting defeat from MDC come elections.Why then waste all the money needed for health and education systems going into an election that you will not accept its outcome? Secondly, villagers are being told that there shall be war if Zanu loses the election. A war is between groups that both have weapons, you can not have war with defenseless civilians. That's genocide dummies!Tell the villagers that there will be GENOCIDE if Zanu loses election not war.

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  • 11. At 5:44pm on 26 Jan 2011, newmujibha wrote:

    Uhmmmmmm..... What the west needs is to stop propagating propaganda. Also what Zimbabwe needs is new blood... I mean, all the young people in the diaspora and within Zim need to band together and relearn Zimbabwe, and take it to a new direction. Zimbabwe needs new breed of mujibhas and chmbwido's, after all this is our legacy. What memories are we going to have of Zimbabwe.... I definitely do not want to remember the last 10 years. We need to do our parents a favor and let them retire with dignity by showing leadership. YOUNG ZIMBABWEANS NEED to stop being SCAREDY CATS!!! Where is the University of Zimbabwe when the country needs them. I thought there would be more of the likes of Aurthur Mutambara's out there(not the part where he does not sit pretty in the GOVT)

    VIVA ZIMBABWE!!! WE HAVE A LEGACY TO SAFEGURAD, thanks ZANU-PF for having started the battle, but I think its time new blood takes over...of course not Tsvangirai....

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  • 12. At 10:28am on 27 Jan 2011, WurzelJ wrote:

    Do please spare us your disgusting Marxist slogans. It is an indisputable fact that Mugabe and his rotten regime murdered 20,000 during the Gukhurakhundi atrocities in Matabeleland, that he has squandered a fortune on a ludicrously opulent palace and on overseas shopping trips for his greedy wife, that he has done very nicely out of diamond mining and profiteering from the Congo war, that he has presided over the demise of the agricultural sector by seizing commercial farms from owners who legitimately purchased them under the laws of Zimbabwe since after independence - only to hand them over to corrupt, incompetent cronies with no idea of farming, that he has contempt for the rule of law, human rights and the independence of the judiciary, that he allows the Police to savagely beat up his political opponents, and that the health service has gone back to the stone age with ox-drawn carts rather than ambulances. Then there is the hyperinflation and collapse of the Zimbabwe dollar. So get real instead of jumping up and down chanting Viva and Mujibas. One good thing that ought to come back and haunt Mugabe is that there are millions of articulate, well-educated Zimbabweans in the diaspora who could help to restore the country - but only when the tyrant and the ruling party are history. Have faith. people of Zimbabwe. Ceasescu went, Pinochet went, Apartheid went, Franco went, Amin went - very soon, Bob will go too.

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  • 13. At 1:15pm on 27 Jan 2011, Sizwe M wrote:

    @#12 newmujibha - one can only hope you're being sarcastic.The legacy that Zanu-PF has left in Zimbabwe will take a lot longer to recover from than the youth there will have patience for. I volunteered to help some of the Zimbabweans in South Africa sort out their immigration paperwork last month and they certainly were not optimistic about the future of what once was a beautiful country.

    With the current issues around freedom of the press in South African media, one can only hope that some public uproar will stave off a similar disaster in SA.

    Sizwe (South African blogger)

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  • 14. At 2:10pm on 27 Jan 2011, Wildlife_Encounters wrote:

    It is interesting that some people still support Mugabe. The comment saying 'who could have done better' is amazing.
    From the breadbasket of the world to one of the most disastrous economies in the world is surely not a legacy to be proud of let alone the human rights atrocities.

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  • 15. At 2:49pm on 27 Jan 2011, Smiffie wrote:

    Funny that all the people supporting Mugabe have no posting history, even funnier that they think that all the eyes of the world are on them, still, from inside Zimbabwe the world must seem like a pretty small place.

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  • 16. At 5:17pm on 27 Jan 2011, nnamdi wrote:

    my pain is all africa country are fools how can france and america tells us what to do how can we kill how felow country broda because of france and america has france or america done there election and africa interupt on it we are they fooling us let us think twice look at liberia and serria leone after how manys years of war and we are trying to say no to war again in west africa the devils country call america and france say no that africa must not grow the worst again the nigeria president goodluck is a big fool there is problem in nigeria bomb blast in jos and abuja how many times have he sent sodier there eben in is own state bayesa they have militant disturbing the goverment how many sodiers has he sent there now they fool hime to sent to abijan and confuse him that nigeria is geint of africa that they should sent sodier there and he is happy we africa let us arise from our blindnes of our colone master let us say no to them and rebeuid africa let us say no to war

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  • 17. At 6:18pm on 27 Jan 2011, ZimPatriot wrote:

    Its all about Zim's land and mineral wealth.

    The idea that those million dollar farms are now in the hands of blacks, Chiadzwa is fully owned by Blacks,the Great Dyke and its massive platinum deposits are owned by Blacks,Zim's massive gold fields,chrome, nickel, uranium, coal and natural gas(which both indicate a good chance for oil too)and even that mighty waterfall...all these are and forever owned by Blacks in Zim and not caucasions.That is painfull for the West.How many gold mines are in Britain?

    Remember that Mugabe was their favorite African leader until he started giving these resources to his own black people.

    What self respecting Black Zimbabwean would vote for that uncle Tom Tsvangirai. What is needed is to reorganise ZANU for the next generation and then add on to what Zim's finest generation (our fathers and grandfathers) have built since the First Chimurenga.

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  • 18. At 11:20pm on 27 Jan 2011, Disaster for Scotland wrote:


    Why do you bother? Do you like the abuse? I think you must, because apparently, everything is your fault. I thought you were a journalist, not the British PM?

    It's always hilarious reading the replies that you get. How everything is the fault of the big, bad white man (but most especially you, as we established earlier!). Perhaps if Africans removed the blinkers, and saw things from the outside, they'd realise that it's their own leaders that are helping themselves to their money and keeping them down. As one of your posters pointed out, the vast majority of Zimbabwe's natural resources are now in black hands, and yet, inexplicably, THERE'S STILL MASSIVE POVERTY IN THE COUNTRY!!!! Hang on, that can't be right. Do the big bad ex-colonial masters still get the blame for that?!?

    It seems that any African leader worth his salt will blame the west for all their country's woes, whilst sat a-top a huge pile of money embezzled from his own people, and the longer that Africans continue to put up with that, the longer that they'll be kept in poverty.

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  • 19. At 12:00pm on 28 Jan 2011, JohnsonTheGreat wrote:

    Disaster for Scotland - A few inaccuracies that need pointing.
    1. If you know anything about the BBC and media objectivity then you will know that the BBC ALWAYS reports with a certain bias. These jornalists understand that in order for them to get that promotion or keep that job, they sing the establishment's song. I can give you a hundred examples, for instance the lack of objectivity in BBC reporting in the run up to the Iraq war- where are the weapons of mass destruction?? Check out Pilger's latest documentary for more on that. So the posters know that Andy is only taking the establishment's anti Mugabe bias. The same Mugabe who was knighted by the queen in 1994 when he was playing "the goood african" i.e. doesnt challenge his colonial master's views.
    2. You should educate yourself on western contributions to African poverty. Start by reading Walter Rodney's How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Also, for free on youtube you can watch The confessions of an economic hitman. After that we can have a discussion about "the bad white man" as you say.
    3. Zimbabwe has complete ownership of the diamonds recently discovered there but cant actually sell them because Australia,USA and Canada (urged by you know who)are blocking Zimbabwe's right to have the Kimberley certification required in order to sell the diamonds, so clearly they may own the resources but they are currently not allowed to boost their revenues by selling them because IMO no European firm has a piece of the pie. Even the MDC members of Zimbabwe's coalition gvt have called for the removal of these restrictions.

    Mugabe is no angel, but I think those of us in the west who love demonizing him ought to really look at the issues of colonialism and neo colonialism and the superiority complex that our leaders have when dealing with Africa.

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  • 20. At 1:56pm on 28 Jan 2011, nichman wrote:

    "Disaster for Scotland" has captured my thoughts exactly, Andrew certainly gets a lot of abuse, and certainly seems personally responsible for a lot of world history!
    As a counter to these people,
    firstly we need to point out that throughout colonial history, the British were far more classist than racist. The rich treated the poor like scum no matter where they were from. People should look up other countried history, like Ireland, or the Scottish Highlands.

    Secondly in the 20th Century the west has supported the most vile dictators as friends as long as they were not communists. This is quite a stain on our record, but for development, Asian countried like Korea still developed under this yoke.

    Thirdly, if you ARE looking for international help for your problems, and find no luck at the Western Door, you could try your neighbours?

    but to go back to the original blog...

    As much as Mugabe looks like he never ages, the man simply cannot live forever. But he has been in power so long, I expect 75%+, no Zimbabwe has a shockingly young population, 90%+ of the population have known nothing but him, this leaves little room for anyone within reach of power either not being assosciated with him or oppressed by him.

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  • 21. At 01:06am on 29 Jan 2011, newmujibha wrote:

    @ 13 Sizwe, sarcasm aside. You may have met a handful of Zimbabweans in SA, of course saddened and lacking any rays of hope for Zimbabwe. A lot of us feell that way. Zanu PF may not have left a good trail behind but, the reason Zimbabwe went to war still stands, land and power and in as much as I dislike Mugabe and his cronies, driving the Zimbabwean stimela, they have never changed the reason why the came into power. I will give them credit for being consistent, in terms of what they believe in. They want to give back/ return what was taken away from munhu, ngabantu, the rightful heirs of Nehanda and Kaguvi if you are familiar with Zim history. Fair enough the young generation is not going to rectify the damages caused by:

    1)colonialism- The UK
    2) Mugabe's regime
    3) The west in general
    4) lack of willingness to stand by the current masses...

    But I can assure you that the young generation is fed up, so fed up that they see the need to DO SOMETHING to uplift Zimbabwe, be it politically, economically, socially, even in entertaiment. So fed up that if you look closely, right there is a mass exodus back to Zimbabwe and no one is keeping track.... The youth of Zimbabwe needs to stand up, rise up and challenge both the current regime and the west.
    Mugabe may be blamed for the demise of Zimbabwe in the 21st century, but hey what did you expect. Of course the ousted colonialist/imperialistic minded national who previously ran the country made sure that if a black would come into power they would fight tooth and nail for their failure.
    Talk about a curse.. i surely don't believe in hocus pocus bull*(&(&*....

    That said. let the young people of Zimbabwe fight for whatever descent legacy left behind for their future. You would be totally idiotic to not have an understanding of the legacy I am referring to, that the current regime is fighting to keep. Everyone has become so blinded my Mugabe's woes and tyrannical ways that we do not see the bottom line.

    The TIME IS NOW FOR ZIMBABWE, to exonerate itself from the west and from the current regime... the question is WHAT TO DO

    ...... Handei vakomana nevasikana.... vanaChimbwido nana mujibha...

    Love for Zimbabwe.

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  • 22. At 09:14am on 29 Jan 2011, WurzelJ wrote:

    Why is it taking you so long to publish my perfectly reasonable and accurate post from 27 Jan ? It is neither abusive nor intentionally offensive.


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  • 23. At 7:02pm on 29 Jan 2011, Disaster for Scotland wrote:

    Johnson,So because the BBC publish a view different from your own then they aren't objective?

    'for instance the lack of objectivity in BBC reporting in the run up to the Iraq war- where are the weapons of mass destruction?? '

    Hmm, so that Panorama program that subsequently lead to Dr Kelly's death (whether by suicide or by security service.....), was that just a figment of my imagination?

    And as for the 'Good African' getting his knighthood, I presume that was because he was almost a mandela like figure, presiding over a racially mixed country that was a regional success story under his governance - before he started killing his own people for having the audacity to vote against him.

    ' Also, for free on youtube you can watch The confessions of an economic hitman. After that we can have a discussion about "the bad white man" as you say.'

    Please tell me that you're not using John Perkins (as in the widely discredited author of the book 'Confessions of an Economic Hitman') as proof of your viewpoint?!?(I assume you are, I haven't bothered searching you tube). I was a bit of a Michael Moore fan for a while, and read Perkin's book after his recommendation, and quite frankly, it's the biggest pile of rubbish that I've read in my life. There's massive holes in his supposed story, and that before we get to his burying it under mystical religious nonsense(the sequence where he has an 'experience' in the early 70's where he's told it's the war between capitalism and Islam that will decide things, not capitalism and communism is a particular low point.)

    Also, your point about diamonds, any chance that it's because it's part of the international sanctions against the Mugabe government, rather than any specific protectionist campaign? Or does that not make a good headline?

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  • 24. At 3:29pm on 30 Jan 2011, Mze-djimba wrote:

    @disaster for Scotland and Andrew: Let me present you a very small and clearer example, and if you don’t search this please don’t respond me without knowledge. 14 African countries calls the CFA zone countries are using currency owned and manage by France. These countries have no reserve banks. Since 1965 they were order to save 65% of their research in the French central bank in Paris.

    The CFA was created in 1945 by Gaullist officials in Paris. The “CFA franc” remains the currency of eight west African countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo (UMEAO) and six central African countries: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon (CEMAC). And the Comoros In west Africa, the Banque Centrale des Etats de l'Afrique de l'Ouest (BCEAO) issues the currency, while in central Africa, it is the Banque des Etats de l'Afrique Centrale (BEAC).

    Mr/Ms disaster for Scotland & Andrew harding for over six decades these African countries had been depositing 65% of their foreign reserves in the French Treasury in Paris - thanks to an archaic colonial arrangement linking their local currency. The CFA franc, to the French franc and now the euro." Later on, it is learned that "another 20% of reserves go to cover financial liabilities. So 65+20=85% what remind for the Africans? 15% thank you.

    Andrew what you think about what is going on in Eygpt? where is your western media? should we expect to hear you like how we heard you soooooooooooo much on Iran last time?

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