Hello everyone.

Haru Mutasa is here (proof and more proof) to answer your questions on Zimbabwe.

The Al Jazeera reporter is one of a small number of international journalists reporting from the country and will be happy to answer your questions about the upcoming referendum.

Zimbabweans will vote on a new constitution on Saturday March 16, a reform set to pave the way for elections expected in June.

Haru has covered East, South and West Africa for nearly 10 years. Our correspondent was in Zimbabwe during the contested 2008 polls and has closely monitored the changes in the country since a unity government was formed in 2009.

You can follow Haru Mutasa on Twitter: @harumutasa

And you can check out some of her recent features, blogs and television reports from Zimbabwe:

*Zimbabwean comedians push the limits

*Zimbabweans find novel way of using mobiles

*Zimbabwe radios feel heat of referendum

*Zimbabwe braces for Mugabe surprises

*Zimbabwe's tough environment for aid agencies

*Another violent election in Zimbabwe?

Ask away!

EDIT: Thanks for your questions, everyone - I've really enjoyed chatting with you all! It's been a long day here, and we've got a long day tomorrow, so I'm calling it a night. Maybe I'll check in again in the morning and see if anyone has new questions! Goodnight!

Comments: 105 • Responses: 43  • Date: 

Mc2sand3s9 karma

How does your country & Tanzania plan on working together in the next decade? What will Zimbabwe be able to provide to Tanzania along with what would Zimbabwe like to receive from Tanzania?

Thank you.

HaruMutasaAJE8 karma

Zimbabwe and Tanzania have always had good diplomatic and trade relations - dating back to the liberation struggle years. On a political level, I think encouraging and increasing trade between the two countries would benefit both nations - Zimbabwe is doing well slowly in tobacco growing and agriculture... It's not yet near where it used to be before the economic crisis but it's getting there... Education exchange programmes as well.

Salacious-6 karma

I know that Zimbabwe has a lot of issues, but what do you think is the most hopeful or promising trend that shows that Zimbabwe's future might be improving?

HaruMutasaAJE10 karma

The last five years with a government of national unity has stabilised things a little bit here - I'd say it's a good sign when we see western countries looking like they want to engage in Zimbabwe again on a full time basis - the EU has eased some sanctions, Australia is doing the same... Flights to Harare are always busy with foreigners from Africa and abroad looking to invest... It's no longer as isolated as it was in 2008... There is hope that could improve the economy in the long term if politics don't get in the way.

freemarket276 karma

Does Mugabe and/or his government mistreat or deny rights to citizens in Zimbabwe?

HaruMutasaAJE9 karma

Zimbabwe, like many young democracies in Africa has to deal with issues of human rights violations etc. There have been many claims and counter claims.

I have seen when I am out reporting things that shouldn't be allowed to happen in any country, and sometimes it is alleged ZANU PF is involved. They always deny it, and the opposition and human rights groups don't believe them.

The police and the army are still controlled by ZANU PF. But I have to add, other groups like the MDC and other opposition parties are not angels either. There have been cases of ZANU PF supporters being the target of victimisation - though it seems the number of cases reported are fewer.

freemarket276 karma

Why do you call Zimbabwe a "young democracy"? What, if anything, is democratic about the political system in the country? Does Mugabe regularly run for reelection and does he win a majority of the actual votes?

HaruMutasaAJE4 karma

Alright, wrong word to use... I meant a young country in terms of when it got independence compared to the USA etc - and even some other African countries.

Africa has a long way to go politically, but I believe we will get there.

Mugabe has run for president every election, and the opposition and the international community doubt he wins by a majority of the actual votes cast. The contested 2008 poll is a good example.

freemarket275 karma

Does China have an influence on public policy in Zimbabwe?

HaruMutasaAJE5 karma

China's influence in Africa is huge and Zimbabwe is no exception. They are everywhere and have particular interest in the recently discovered diamond mines.

Do they have an influence on public policy? My guess is as good as yours. They are very much at home here, and the ZANU PF - half of the government - makes no secret of the friendship the two countries have.

tsoka5 karma

Given that the constitution document was available for only one month was that enough time for the people to really understand its provisions and we hear there is a discrepancy between the full document and the edited one

HaruMutasaAJE6 karma

There are people here who say it was not enough time. From what I saw during the community referendum meetings, politicians would tell people key points of what's in the document then advise them to vote yes. There is a feeling by some here there was not enough time and most ordinary Zimbabweans have not read it.

freemarket275 karma

Why do international journalists appear to go so easy on China? In many if not all of the world's troublespots, when you look at the matter, China is there supporting the dictator or corrupt regime in charge. China supports Sudan, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Venezuela. I don't have specifics so I welcome you telling me why I am wrong. But if George Bush and Dick Cheney were causing all of these problems the international press would never let the public hear the end of what was being done to make the world a more unsafe place. Are journalists afraid of being critical of China?

HaruMutasaAJE6 karma

I think journalists try to criticise China when something happens, but it is not easy getting factual credible information. It's a challenge journalists - local and international - face reporting stories all over the world.

But you are right, perhaps we should try harder to do stories that highlight what is not right in this world.

DoubtOfAShadow4 karma

What's the #1 thing you think people that don't know much of anything about Zimbabwe should know about Zimbabwe?

HaruMutasaAJE12 karma

it's a beautiful country and the people are very friendly. It has a lot of mineral resources and is very rich. there is no reason for poverty levels to be so high.

People are hard workers and most are educated

it's the political climate that needs to be made better

schaver4 karma

I know this isn't really fair, maybe even a little racist, but I think of pretty much all African countries as being pervasively destitute -- it was honestly a surprise to me that there are enough monied people there to support regular malls.

I realize this is an enormous(ly ignorant) question, but I was wondering if you could explain more about the economic crisis? Is it just an extension of the recent global recession, or is it more protracted? Like I said I'd just figured these countries and everyone in them had been poor forever. Thanks so much for doing this AMA!

HaruMutasaAJE4 karma

Most African countries have enough natural resources to build their own infrastructure and deal with poverty. But there are many reasons why things haven't happened. Colonialism played a role, then after countries became independent corruption and civil wars didnt help matters.

In Zimbabwe it's a bit different - all the above factors played a role but when Mugabe and ZANU PF seized white owned farms that angered many western countries, countries Zimbabwe relied on for donor money and aid. Economic policies adopted later also made things worse.

the economy hit rock bottom by 2008.

it's trying to recover and the west is slowly doing business and re-establishing diplomatic ties with Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe's land reform programme and economic policies are meant to empower the black population - and i na perfect world they could work - but they need the buy in of the international community which has it's own interests in Africa.

but corruotion in Zimbabwe and Africa needs to be addressed if the continent and its people are going to prosper

yeouinaru1 karma


HaruMutasaAJE1 karma

There is that sentiment in Zimbabwe, and politicians use it a lot during election time to get votes.

But most people are not naïve, they know the country is rich in resources and they know there are many reasons for it.

Corruption, bureaucratic red tape, colonialism had a part to play in it as well.

yeouinaru1 karma


HaruMutasaAJE2 karma

i hope so too

satuon1 karma

Hi, thanks for the AMA. How many years has it been since colonialism is considered to have ended in Zimbabwe? Why is it affecting it even now? Or is more like a useful scapegoat for the government, a catch-all excuse?

HaruMutasaAJE1 karma

Colonialism ended in 1980, after Zimbabwe got independence from Britain.

it's the legacy of colonial rule that still affects some parts of Zimbabwe - during colonialism black Zimbabweans go an inferior education and services....there has been some improvement since 1980, but the country still has a long way to go.

yes, politicans do use colonialism as an excuse to hide some of their own failures. the younger generation - those born from the late 1970s don't remember the war and so don't really identify with struggle politics. so it's not so easy to mislead voters anymore

BrutalCassius3 karma

What impact to development-oriented NGOs have in Zimbabwe?

HaruMutasaAJE3 karma

They play a huge role, especially on the humanitarian front. Since independence in 1980, they have helped with education, health, infrastructure development etc.

When the economy was at its worst, they kept things going, helping people in need - especially in the rural areas. They don't always have an easy time here, because some ZANU PF officials believe some of them are out to effect regime change.

jandkjandjansdjkan3 karma

Oh thats awesome I just heard about this on AJ

Someone in opposition to the constitution said that it would mostly act to increase the powers of the PM yet the report also mentioned that the PM was advocating limited terms for his office. What specific powers would the new constitution grant the PM?

HaruMutasaAJE2 karma

There is no provision for the post of PM in the draft constitution. It's the president and two vice presidents.

If Tsvangirai does not win this election - and there is no power sharing deal like the last time - he may be out.

BadProfessor693 karma

What is going on with the hand-cranked radio seizures (reported in another reddit post)?

HaruMutasaAJE5 karma

The police say these radios were smuggled into the country without paying customs duty, and are being distributed to people in the rural areas to listen to broadcasts from the UK and the US that are anti-Robert Mugabe

Aid agencies say the radios are meant to educate people ahead of the referendum and election later this year. The police have been confiscating them - and arresting anyone seen distributing them.

BadProfessor692 karma

HaruMutasaAJE3 karma

about the children, it's what the reporters found in their research. I haven't been to that part of the country to see for myself how true it is. I might head out there soon and give you feedback

About the power shift - all i can say is it could be a very interesting election this year. ZANU PF has made it clear they don't want to share power with the MDC anymore.....how far and what each side is willing to do to stay in power is what Zimbabweans will be watching closely

Rumang3 karma

I have a question why is when ever you report from Zimbabwe it seems you show the worst parts of it.

Do you think there will be violence in this election as in 2008 ?

HaruMutasaAJE3 karma

Fair question - and there are many times we ask ourselves the same thing as a team.

We try to tell things differently, show different places, not just the townships. For example, we did a story this week on mobile technology in Zimbabwe and how people in Zimbabwe are getting connected more - and how, in the future, it could make communicating and doing business easier.

But we can't escape the fact that all is not 100 percent in Zimbabwe, and we cant just churn out positive news and ignore stories that need to be told - and help people who don't have a voice to tell their story.

I think there will be some violence this year during the presidential election, I am just not sure if it will be what we saw in 2008. Most Zimbabweans do not want that to happen.

cmongler3 karma

Hi Haru,

How long do you foresee that Zimbabwe needs to revive its currency? Then again, besides national pride, is there any reason for Zimbabwe to have its own currency?

HaruMutasaAJE4 karma

in a perfect world most people are disappointed the Zimbabwe dollar is no longer in circulation. It's a national pride thing

BUT, if you ask on the street, there is a feeling it is too soon to bring it back. The currency had become practically worthless, was constantly devaluing and was difficult to do business with.

the US dollar meant people could trade with other countries, goods and supplies could be brought in and it stabilised the economy slightly.

there is a feeling a return to the Zim dollar now would be disaster.

nkude2 karma

Assuming that Zimbabweans vote yes as urged by their political parties and the MDC-T wins successfully the presidential in mid year this year as wished by the international community, do you think Zimbabwe economy can recover and be strong as it was before the collapse. If so what was missing?

HaruMutasaAJE3 karma

Zimbabwe's economy can recover if the right policies are implemented and if corruption is dealt with.

It also needs the international community to be willing to do business with Zimbabwe - and remove sanctions for example.

We don't know who will win this year's election, we can only speculate, but the only way to grow the economy is attract foreign direct investment, which hopefully with revive the industrial sector and create jobs.

It's the economic policies that need to be fine tuned - finding a balance between empowering the indigenous people of Zimbabwe as well as embracing investment.

abrodsk2 karma

Does Robert Mugabe have a clear succession plan for when he dies, or do you think ZANU-PF will slowly collapse without Mugabe's mentorship?

HaruMutasaAJE4 karma

That's something that a lot of people are talking/speculating about. He is 89 and there are concerns about his health. ZANU PF is plagued by infighting and there are several factions, with two main ones: the Mujuru and the Mnangagwa.

He has not named a clear successor.

In a perfect world, the party is meant to sort the matter out amicably and it has its party constitution, but there are people vying to lead the party, people who feel the old man has been around for too long, and they want their turn.

So could there be problems, yes there could be, and the party could implode - most Zimbabweans are aware of that... But there is a chance the succession process will go smoothly. He hasn't officially named anyone yet, but anything is possible and Mugabe is full of surprises.

But then again, even if he does name someone to succeed him, there is no guarantee everyone in the party will agree with his choice.

abrodsk2 karma

Thank you for the response! Very fascinating. What would you say is the main differences between the Mujuru and Mnangagwa factions? Is it mainly personal, that is, the leaders of these factions agree on the same set of principles but have different leadership styles, or is it political?

HaruMutasaAJE3 karma

There really isn't much difference ideologically - for example, both sides agree growing the economy is the way to go, and that is the priority of most people in the power sharing government now.

I think it's about power and control - what all politics is really about, at the end of the day.

Trying2BaWiseGuy2 karma

Have you ever felt as though your life might be in danger while working in Zimbabwe? What about elsewhere in Africa?

HaruMutasaAJE4 karma

I used to feel very uncomfortable in 2007/2008 during the political violence and contested presidential election. It was especially dangerous working in the rural areas, where you would run into youth often drunk and angry, from both ZANU PF and MDC. Journalists were targets; journalists were beaten and some went missing. I have been arrested several times, the cameraman beaten.

In the five years of the unity government, it hasn't been perfect, but it's been slightly easier. I haven't been bothered as much, people don't always ask to see my press card as often and ordinary Zimbabweans are more comfortable talking about certain things.

I am worried about elections year. Things are slowly heating up on the ground.

Elsewhere in Africa, the civil war in Ivory Coast in 2011 was when I felt the most concerned about my safety - always afraid a stray bullet could hit you.

Pocketcheeze2 karma

Thanks for doing this ama.

I live in the TRNC (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus) and we have a sizeable Zimbobwaian population here in my university. It seems that students from there seem to be in complete denial of their country's poverty, political coruptness and low standard of living. The students come from higher income families so this maybe why. My question is ; Are wealthier families completley oblivious/in denial of the country's social ills? And what can be done to close the gaping income gap?

HaruMutasaAJE2 karma

There is a widening gap between the rich and the poor in Zimbabwe. In the affluent areas, you get huge mansions, upmarket malls and shops. In the poor areas - urban and rural - you see people are struggling.

Most Zimbabweans know there are inequality levels in the country, but it's a society where you worry about yourself and your family.

Job creation can help improve things. 80 percent of people aren't formally employed because there aren't any jobs. Industries have closed down due to the economic crisis and the economy isn't growing fast enough. Create jobs, people earn an income and hopefully provide a better life for their families.

nkude2 karma

Is voting in Zimbabwe Based on ethnicity or policies offered by political parties? If so which are the main ethnic groups and what divides them? Does the new constitution respect and recognize small tribes?

HaruMutasaAJE2 karma

The main ethnic group are the Shonas, followed by the Ndebeles.

Some people vote on ethnic lines but it's not a big deal here - for many it's about what political parties have to offer or are promising them at election time.

The new constitution does respect and recognise small tribes. For example, in all government offices, books have to be written in the main languages and the minority languages as well.

But, of course, there are some minority groups who feel they aren't being fairly represented. In some ways they are justified for saying this, in some ways they are not.

dberesheim2 karma

What is the difference between these two groups? On what basis are they distinguished from each other?

HaruMutasaAJE2 karma

which groups - the yes and no vote or zanu pf and mdc?

dberesheim2 karma

I'm sorry, I meant the Shonas and Ndebles.

HaruMutasaAJE2 karma

no big difference.

Many people inter marry.

at the end of the day everyone is Zimbabweans. Some of the older generation take it more seriously, but it's not a huge issue with the youth

dberesheim2 karma

Then who created that distinction?

HaruMutasaAJE2 karma

it's historical - even before the place was colonised by the British.

The Shonas were generally from the area, the Ndebeles came from what is now South Africa. They feld to Zimbabwe durign tribal clashes and settled in Matabeleland province in Zimbabwe.

When the colonial borders were drawn up, the Shonas and Ndebeles became part of Zimbabwe and became Zimbabweans

vaMukanya2 karma

Do you think groups advocating for a 'NO' vote such as the NCA have managed to sufficiently mobilised for this

HaruMutasaAJE2 karma

They have tried - but their resources are limited.

People like Lovemore Madhuku have gone to court several times to try and stop the referendum from taking place, but haven't succeeded.

It's been made difficult by officials who want a YES vote - so they haven't had much air play on state-owned radio stations or television, and when they put up posters they are often torn down...

If either the MDC or ZANU PF party was campaigning for NO then it would have been easier for them, but they are too small a number to do much on their own.

vaMukanya2 karma

Given Zimbabwe's history and problems, do you think if this constitution is adopted it will usher in a new dispensation as in 'free & fair' elections, security sector reform and rule of law?

HaruMutasaAJE2 karma

I really don't know, Zimbabwe has been full of surprises in the last 33 years.

A man clued up on constitutional matters, Lovemore Madhuku, believes most Zimbabweans are ignorant on the contents of the draft constitution.

He says that over 50% of the content in the draft constitution is not new and the draft charter is not “very different from the Lancaster House Constitution”.

According to the draft document, the president is not compelled to appear before parliament and answer questions. He has no limit on the number of ministers he should appoint and he still has a lot of influence in appointing commissioners, ambassadors, security chiefs, the attorney-general - and has the final say over appointment of judges.

It may be more of the same, or we could see changes in Zimbabwe.

The run up to the presidential election later this year will give us an idea of which way things are going.

dberesheim2 karma

I'm interested in how you work. You've mentioned in the past members of the press were targets of violence, and it sounds like even today people are hesitant to talk about certain topics. How do you consistently gather information? And do you have total autonomy, working in Zimbabwe or are there other people employed Al-Jazeera, along with facilities? I am curious to understand how your relationship with Al-Jazeera works.

HaruMutasaAJE2 karma

There is an Al Jazeera office in Harare, the capital. We are accredited to work here.

Working here has its good days and bad days - but since the unity government was formed five years ago, levels of intimidation against journalists are there, but not as frequent.

That could change, the closer we get to the presidential election.

We are free to move around, but there are areas we do certain security checks before going in, because they are tense and dangerous. The state does not like us very much, but they let us work for now.

peecepype2 karma

I suppose in a country where most people must worry first about the survival of themselves and their families, other considerations take a back seat. However, climate change has and will have ramifications for Zimbabwe as well as the rest of the world. What is the environmental outlook for the country? Have programs been initiated to ensure that, as it develops, Zimbabwe will not follow in the footsteps of other fossil-fuel-guzzling, pollution-emitting countries such as the U.S. and China?

HaruMutasaAJE2 karma

Very good question.........there is a ministry of environmental affairs and the Minister Francis Nhema is very passionate about environmetal issues.

the state broadcaster has a weekly show on the environment and climate change and it is on the government's agenda.

yes most people worry about feeding their families, for example in the rural area many people cut down trees for firewood, inconsistent rainfall means some rivers are drying up. Climate change is starting to affect peoples' lives and slowly society is learning more about it and how to combat it

Aviri2 karma

Do you expect any major change from the status quo, and if so what changes can you see occurring after the voting. Not just the changes in the constitution but its effect on the country.

HaruMutasaAJE2 karma

to be honest, i will be able to answer that after the referendum and during the build up to the election. One of the key issues is security sector reform - and it seems that will still be controlled by ZANU PF.

According to the draft document the President is not compelled to appear before Parliament and answer questions. He has no limit on the number of ministers he should appoint and he still has a lot of influence in appointing commissioners, ambassadors, security chiefs, the Attorney-General and has the final say over appointment of judges.

Mugabe still has an immense amount of power if he wins this year's election.......it depends on how he uses it.

the ordinary Zimbabwean wants the economy to improve and jobs created.....

BygmesterFinnegan2 karma

Do you think that "the powers that be" in the modern world really want Africa to be seen on par with Europe or Asia? I just get a sense that the status quo is just fine with them.

HaruMutasaAJE2 karma

it seems the status quo is fine with a lot of nations.

But Africa is changing, standing up for itself, more and more countries trying to hold free and fair elections and engaging with the developed world ...... the next decade will be exciting for the continent.

_valtiel_2 karma

Wow, you're beautiful.

HaruMutasaAJE1 karma

Thaank you

hudsterboy1 karma

Do you think that Lindsey Lohan can turn her career around?

HaruMutasaAJE3 karma

anything is possible

polymath9091 karma

How is the business environment in Zimbabwe?how much does the business community affect the politics in the country?

HaruMutasaAJE1 karma

business is slowly trying to recover after more than a decade of economic decline. Many countries are startingto ocme back and look at investment options in Zimbabwe. The country is rich in natural resources that aren't being fully exploited. The infrastructure, which took a knock in the last ten years is still considered one of the best in Africa. But government policies can make it difficult for people to do business here like the indigenisation policy which which requires foreign owned companies to give 51 percent ownership to black Zimbabweans

joybob1 karma

as a reporter for al jareeza how did you become a al jareeza reporter? how much experience did you need? and do they send you out (traveling) often?

HaruMutasaAJE1 karma

When aljazeera english was starting up, I met some of the bosses in Harare, had an interview and was offered a position in Nairobi back in 2005

I had a few yers experience at that time.

I do travel in Africa and I enjoy it

_ruaridh1 karma

As a british creative writing/journalism student, what is the best way for me to achieve employment and/or an internship in Zimbabwe or other African countries for a publication would you say?

HaruMutasaAJE1 karma

I suggest you identify which organisation you want to work for. Send them an email.

Bear in mind some won't be able to pay you, so you will need to make sure you can suport yourself while in africa.

Try publications in kenya as the media environment is more free there and you having a british passport makes it easier to get in and you don't need to get accreditation.

In zimbabwe you will need to apply for media accreditation, which isn't easy.

Good luck

huzayfa1 karma

Do you have to work in Qatar? how is it?

HaruMutasaAJE2 karma

I have never had to work in Qatar, I have visited several times for training.....it's a great place, I like it

DerpMatt0 karma

Did you exchange anything into Zimbabwe dollars?

HaruMutasaAJE3 karma

People do not use the Zimbabwe dollar anymore... It was last used almost five years ago. People use the US dollar, the South African rand, the Botswana Pula... Using multiple currencies has helped stabilise things a little bit... The Zim dollar had become worthless and caused a lot of headaches for many people. I dug out an old 10,000 Zimbabwe dollar bill today... Took me back to five years ago when the economy hit rock bottom.

Digitus_Impudicus2 karma

Interesting. Does the government pay its employee in US dollars or some foreign currency?

HaruMutasaAJE3 karma

everyone is paid in US dollars......it's the prefered currency.

In areas close to the South African border yo uwill find the Rand being used.....but the US dollar is king here

The--Truth0 karma

Why do Al Jazeera lie so much about what is really happening in Syria and so Anti-Assad.

HaruMutasaAJE7 karma

i am afraid i can't answer that, i report only on Africa at the moment

freemarket27-2 karma

Do you have any knowledge, opinion on whether Iran will acquire nuclear weapons? How would its neighboring countries respond?

HaruMutasaAJE4 karma

i am sorry i don't. I report on Africa. it is an interesting topic though, and one to watch in the future